Saturday, October 15, 2016

Perspective

Is it really morally superior to simply wash one's hands of the matter when presented with a situation where neither of two choices is really good and just let the chips fall where they may even though it will likely lead to the greater evil prevailing?

When a greater evil comes to pass, when you had a chance to at least try to limit the evil, do we really want to say that we did nothing to stop it, and then pridefully claim that our hands are clean as we pat ourselves on the back for how morally pure we are?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Interview with Pope Benedict - March 16, 2016

Pope Benedict XVI recently gave the following interview to Jacques Servais:

Your Holiness, the question posed this year as part of the symposium promoted by the rectorate of the Gesù (the residence for Jesuit seminarians in Rome) is that of justification by faith. The last volume of your collected works (gs iv) highlights your resolute affirmation: “The Christian faith is not an idea, but a life”. Commenting on the famous Pauline affirmation in Romans 3:28, you mentioned, in this regard, a twofold transcendence: “Faith is a gift to believers communicated through the community, which for its part is the result of God’s gift” (‘Glaube ist Gabe durch die Gemeinschaft; die sich selbst gegeben wird’, gs iv, 512). Could you explain what you meant by that statement, taking into account of course the fact that the aim of these days of study is to clarify pastoral theology and vivify the spiritual experience of the faithful?
The question concerns what faith is and how one comes to believe. On the one hand, faith is a profoundly personal contact with God, which touches me in my innermost being and places me in front of the living God in absolute immediacy in such a way that I can speak with Him, love Him and enter into communion with Him. But at the same time this reality which is so fundamentally personal also inseparably pertains to the community. It is an essential part of faith that I be introduced into the “we” of the children of God, into the pilgrim community of brothers and sisters. The encounter with God means also, at the same time, that I myself become open, torn from my closed solitude and received into the living community of the Church. That living community is also a mediator of my encounter with God, although that encounter touches my heart in an entirely personal way.

Faith comes from hearing (fides ex auditu), as St Paul teaches us. Listening, in turn, always implies a partner. Faith is not a product of reflection and it is not an attempt to penetrate the depths of my own being. Both of these things may be present, but they remain insufficient without the “listening” through which God, from without, from a story He Himself created, challenges me. In order for me to believe, I need witnesses who have met God and make Him accessible to me.

In my article on baptism I spoke of the double transcendence of the community, in this way once again bringing out an important element: the faith community does not create itself. It is not an assembly of men who have some ideas in common and who decide to work for the spread of such ideas. Then everything would be based on one’s own decision and, in the final analysis, on the principle that the majority rules, which ultimately would be based on human opinion. A Church built in this way cannot be for me the guarantor of eternal life nor require me to make decisions that cause me to suffer and are contrary to my desires. No, the Church is not self-made, she was created by God and she is continuously formed by Him. This finds expression in the sacraments, above all in that of Baptism: I do not come into the Church through a bureaucratic act but through a sacrament. And this is to say that I am welcomed into a community that did not originate in itself and is projected beyond itself.

The ministry that aims to form the spiritual experience of the faithful must proceed from these fundamental givens. It needs to abandon the idea of a self-made Church and to make it clear that the Church becomes a community through the communion of the Body of Christ. It must bring people to an encounter with Jesus Christ and into His presence in the sacrament.
When you were Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, commenting on the Joint Declaration of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the Doctrine of Justification of 31 October 1999, you pointed out a difference of mentality in relation to Luther and the question of salvation and blessedness as he had posed it. Luther’s religious experience was dominated by terror before the wrath of God, a feeling quite alien to modern men, who instead sense the absence of God (see your article in ‘Communio’ 2000, 430). For them, the problem is not so much how to obtain eternal life, but rather how to ensure, in the precarious conditions of our world, a certain balance of fully human life. Can the teaching of St Paul of justification by faith, in this new context, reach the “religious” experience or at least the “elementary” experience of our contemporaries?
First of all, I want to emphasize once again what I wrote in Communio 2000 on the issue of justification. Today, compared to the time of Luther and to the classical perspective of the Christian faith, things are in a certain sense inverted, or rather, man no longer believes he needs justification before God, but rather he is of the opinion that it is God who must justify himself because of all the horrible things in the world and the misery of human beings, all of which ultimately depends on Him. In this regard, I find it significant that a Catholic theologian could profess even in a direct and formal way this inverted position: that Christ did not suffer for the sins of men, but rather, as it were, to “cancel out the faults of God”. Even if most Christians today would not share such a drastic reversal of our faith, we could say that all of this reveals an underlying trend of our times. When Johann Baptist Metz argues that theology today must be “sensitive to theodicy” (German: theodizee empfindlich), this highlights the same problem in a positive way. Even rescinding such a radical contestation of the Church’s understanding of the relationship between God and man, mankind today, in a very general way, has the sense that God cannot allow the majority of humanity to be damned. In this sense, the concern for the personal salvation of souls typical of past times has for the most part disappeared.

However, in my opinion, there continues to exist, in another way, the perception that we are in need of grace and forgiveness. For me, a “sign of the times” is the fact that the notion that God’s mercy should be more and more central and dominant — starting with Sr Faustina, whose visions in various ways deeply reflect the image of God held by people today and their desire for divine goodness. Pope John Paul II was deeply imbued with this impulse, even if it did not always emerge explicitly. But it is certainly not by chance that his last book, published just before his death, speaks of God’s mercy. Starting from the experiences which, from the earliest years of life, exposed him to all of man’s cruelty, he affirms that mercy is the only true and ultimate effective reaction against the power of evil. Only where there is mercy does cruelty end, do evil and violence end. Pope Francis is totally in agreement with this line. His pastoral practice is expressed in the very fact that he continually speaks to us of God’s mercy. It is mercy that moves us toward God, while justice only frightens us before Him. In my view, this makes it clear that, under a veneer of self-assuredness and self-righteousness, mankind today hides a deep awareness of its wounds and unworthiness before God. Mankind is waiting for mercy.

It is certainly no coincidence that the parable of the Good Samaritan is particularly attractive to contemporary man. And not just because that parable strongly emphasizes the social dimension of Christian existence, nor only because in it the Samaritan, the non-religious man, in comparison with the representatives of religion seems, so to speak, as one who acts in true conformity with God, while the official representatives of religion seem, as it were, immune to God. This clearly pleases modern man. But it seems just as important to me, however, that men deep in their hearts expect that the Samaritan will come to their aid; that he will bend down to them, anoint their wounds, care for them and carry them to safety. In the final analysis, they know that they need God’s mercy and his tenderness. In the hardness of a technological world where feelings no longer count for anything, nevertheless, there is a growing expectation of a saving love, that is freely-given. It seems to me that in the theme of divine mercy the meaning of justification by faith is expressed in a new way. Starting from the mercy of God, which everyone is looking for, it is possible even today to interpret anew the fundamental nucleus of the doctrine of justification and have it appear again in all its relevance.

When Anselm says that Christ had to die on the cross in order to remedy the infinite offense that had been committed against God, and in this way to restore the shattered order, he uses a language that is difficult for modern man to accept (cf. gs iv 215.ss). Expressing oneself in this way, one risks projecting onto God an image of a God of wrath, relentless toward the sin of man, with feelings of violence and aggression comparable to what we can experience ourselves. How is it possible to speak of God’s justice without potentially undermining the certainty, firmly established among the faithful, that the Christian God is a God “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4)?
The conceptuality of St Anselm has now become for us incomprehensible. It is our task to try to understand anew the truth that lies behind this mode of expression. For my part I offer three points of view on this perspective:

a) the contrast between the Father, who insists in an absolute way on justice, and the Son who obeys the Father and, in obeying, accepts the cruel demands of justice, is not only incomprehensible today, but, from the standpoint of Trinitarian theology, is in itself all wrong. The Father and the Son are one and therefore their will is ab intrinseco one. When in the Garden of Olives, the Son struggles with the will of the Father, it is not a matter of accepting for himself some cruel disposition of God, but rather of attracting humanity into the will of God itself. We will have to come back again, later, to the relationship of the two wills of the Father and of the Son.

b) So why the cross and the atonement? Somehow today, in the contortions of modern thought mentioned above, the answer to these questions can be formulated in a new way. Let’s place ourselves before the obscene amount of evil, violence, falsehood, hatred, cruelty and arrogance that infect and destroy the whole world. This mass of evil cannot simply be declared non-existent, not even by God. It must be cleansed, reworked and overcome. Ancient Israel was convinced that daily sacrifice for sins and above all the great liturgy of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) were necessary as a counterweight to the mass of evil in the world and that only through such rebalancing could the world, as it were, remain bearable. Once the sacrifices in the temple disappeared, one had to wonder what could be set against the higher powers of evil, how a counterweight could be found. The Christians knew that the destroyed temple was replaced by the resurrected body of the crucified Lord and in His radical and immeasurable love was created a counterweight to the immeasurable presence of evil. Indeed, they knew that the offerings presented up until then could only be conceived of as a gesture of longing for a genuine counterweight. They also knew that before the excessive power of evil only an infinite love could suffice, only an infinite atonement. They knew that the crucified and risen Christ is a power that can counter the power of evil and save the world.

And on this basis they could even understand the meaning of their own suffering as integrated into the suffering love of Christ and as part of the redemptive power of such love. Above I quoted the theologian for whom God had to suffer for his sins in regard to the world. Now, due to this reversal of perspective, the following truths emerge: God simply cannot leave “as is” the mass of evil that comes from the freedom that He Himself has granted. He alone, by coming to share in the world’s suffering, can redeem the world.

c) Based on these premises, the relationship between the Father and the Son becomes more comprehensible. I would use a passage from a book by Henri de Lubac on Origen which I find very clear on the subject: “The Redeemer came into the world out of compassion for mankind. He took upon Himself our passions even before being crucified, indeed even before descending to assume our flesh: had He not experienced them beforehand, He would not have come to partake of our human life. But what was this suffering that he endured in advance for us? It was the passion of love. But the Father himself, the God of the universe, He who is overflowing with forbearance, patience, mercy and compassion, does He too not suffer in a certain sense? ‘The Lord your God, in fact, has taken upon Himself your ways as the one who takes upon himself his son’ (cf. Deut 1:31). God thus takes upon Himself our customs as the Son of God took upon Himself our sufferings. The Father Himself is not without passion! If He is invoked, then He knows mercy and compassion. He perceives a suffering of love” (Homilies on Ezekiel 6:6).

In some parts of Germany there was a very moving devotion that contemplated the Not Gottes (“poverty of God”). For my part, that leads me to see an impressive image of the suffering Father, who, as Father, inwardly shares the sufferings of the Son. And the image of the “throne of grace” is also part of this devotion: the Father supports the cross and the crucified one, bends lovingly down to him and the two are, as it were, one on the cross. So in a grand and pure way, one perceives there what God’s mercy means, what God’s participation in human suffering means. It is not a matter of a cruel justice, nor of the Father’s fanaticism, but rather of the truth and the reality of creation: the true intimate overcoming of evil that ultimately can be realized only in the suffering of love.

In the ‘Spiritual Exercises’, Ignatius of Loyola does not use the Old Testament images of vengeance, as opposed to Paul (cf. 2 Thess 1:5-9); nevertheless he invites us to contemplate how men, until the Incarnation, “descended into hell” (cf. Spiritual Exercises n. 102; ds iv, 376) and to consider the example of the “countless others who ended up there for far fewer sins than I have committed” (cf. Spiritual Exercises, n. 52). It is in this spirit that St Francis Xavier lived his pastoral work, convinced he had to try to save as many “infidels” as possible from the terrible fate of eternal damnation. The teaching, formalized in the Council of Trent, in the passage regarding the judgment of good and evil, later radicalized by the Jansenists, was taken up in a much more restrained way in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. § 5 633, 1037). Can it be said on this point that, in recent decades, there has been a kind of “development of dogma” that the Catechism absolutely must take into account?
There is no doubt that on this point we are faced with a profound evolution of dogma. While the fathers and theologians of the Middle Ages could still have been of the opinion that, essentially, the whole human race had become Catholic and that by that time paganism existed only on the margins, the discovery of the New World at the beginning of the modern era radically changed perspectives. In the second half of the last century it was fully affirmed: the realization that God cannot abandon all the unbaptized to damnation and that mere natural happiness cannot represent a real answer to the question of human existence. If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost — and this explains their missionary commitment — in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was definitively abandoned.

From this came a profound crisis that was twofold. On the one hand this seems to remove all motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince people to accept the Christian faith when they can save themselves without it? But among Christians too an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If people can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why Christians should be bound by the requirements of Christian faith and morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith has no motive.

Lately several attempts have been formulated with the purpose of reconciling the universal necessity of the Christian faith with the possibility of salvation without it. Here I will mention two: first, Karl Rahner’s well-known thesis of anonymous Christians. He maintains that the basic and essential act at the root of Christian existence, which is decisive for salvation, in the transcendental structure of our consciousness, consists in the opening to the Other, to unity with God. In this vision, the Christian faith would raise to consciousness what is structural in man as such. Thus, when a man accepts himself in his essential being, he fulfills the essence of being a Christian without knowing what it is in a conceptual way. The Christian, therefore, coincides with the human and, in this sense, every man who accepts himself is a Christian even if he does not know it. It is true that this theory is fascinating, but it reduces Christianity itself to a purely conscious presentation of what a human being is in himself and therefore overlooks the drama of change and renewal that is central to Christianity.

Even less acceptable is the solution proposed by the pluralistic theories of religion, according to which all religions, each in their own way, would be means to salvation and in this sense, in their effects must be considered equivalent. The kind of critique of religion used in the Old Testament is, in the New Testament and in the early Church, essentially more realistic, more concrete and truer in its examination of the various religions. Such a simplistic reception is not proportionate to the magnitude of the issue.

Let us recall, lastly and above all, Henri de Lubac and with him several other theologians who laboured over the concept of vicarious substitution. For them the “pro-existence” (“being-for”) of Christ would be an expression of the fundamental figure of Christian life and of the Church as such. It’s true that this doesn’t completely resolve the problem, but it seems to me that in reality this essential insight touches the life of every single Christian. Christ, insofar as he is unique, was and is for all people and Christians, whom St Paul magnificently describes as His body in the world. They participate in this being-for. Christians, so to speak, do not exist for themselves, but, along with Christ, they exist for others. That does not mean some kind of special ticket to eternal beatitude, but rather it is a vocation to build together, as a whole. What a person needs in the order of salvation is an interior openness to God, an interior expectation for and adherence to Him. And this in turn means that we together with the Lord whom we have encountered go forth to others and seek to render visible the coming of God in Christ. It is possible to explain this being-for in a more abstract way. It is important to mankind that there be truth in it, that it be believed and practiced. That one suffers for it. That one loves. These realities penetrate with their light into the world as such and support it. I think that in this present situation what the Lord said to Abraham becomes for us ever more clear and understandable, that is, that ten righteous men would have sufficed to save a city, but that it would self-destruct if that small number were not reached. It is clear that we need further reflection on the matter as a whole.

In the eyes of many secular humanists, marked by the atheism of the 19th and 20th centuries, as you have noted, it is God — if He exists — not man who should be held accountable for injustice, for the suffering of the innocent, for the cynicism of power we are witnessing, powerless, in the world and in world history (cf. ‘Spe Salvi’, n. 42).... In your book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, you echo what for them — and for us — is a scandal: “The reality of injustice, of evil, cannot be simply ignored, simply set aside. It absolutely must be overcome and conquered. Only in this way is there really mercy” (‘Jesus of Nazareth’, vol. ii, page 153, quoting 2 Tim 2:13). Is the sacrament of confession one of the places where the evil done can be “remedied”? If so, how?
I have already tried to expose as a whole the main points related to this issue in my answer to your third question. The counterweight to the dominion of evil can consist in the first place only in the divine-human love of Jesus Christ that is always greater than any possible power of evil. But it is necessary that we include ourselves within this answer that God gives us through Jesus Christ. Even if the individual is responsible for a fragment of evil, and therefore is an accomplice of its power, together with Christ he can nevertheless “complete what is lacking in his sufferings” (cf. Col 1:24).

The sacrament of penance certainly has an important role in this field. It means that we always allow ourselves to be molded and transformed by Christ and that we pass continuously from the side of him who destroys to the side of Him who saves.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Truth is Truth

The sun still rises in the east. Blue is still blue. Two plus two are still four. And the conjugal union of a man and woman is still the only relationship that is capable as constituting marriage.

Truth does not change.

The question is -- Do you stand for truth? Or do you bend to legal fictions? Will you marvel at the emperor's pretend clothes?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Of Gods and Men

Trailer --



Father Barron on Of Gods and Men --

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blessed Pope John Paul II



Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us, as we implore the other saints to pray for you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Truth has sprung out of the earth

Urbi et Orbi Message of Pope Benedict XVI
Christmas Day 2012
“Veritas de terra orta est!” – “Truth has sprung out of the earth” (Ps 85:12).

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, a happy Christmas to you and your families!

In this Year of Faith, I express my Christmas greetings and good wishes in these words taken from one of the Psalms: “Truth has sprung out of the earth.” Actually, in the text of the Psalm, these words are in the future:
“Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, /and justice shall look down from heaven. / The Lord himself will give his benefits; / our land shall yield its increase. / Justice shall walk before him, / and salvation, along the way of his steps” (Ps 85:11-14).
Today these prophetic words have been fulfilled! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth do indeed meet; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven.

Saint Augustine explains with admirable brevity: “What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth … truth has been born of the Virgin Mary” (En. in Ps. 84:13). And in a Christmas sermon he says that
“in this yearly feast we celebrate that day when the prophecy was fulfilled: ‘truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven’. The Truth, which is in the bosom of the Father has sprung out of the earth, to be in the womb of a mother too. The Truth which rules the whole world has sprung out of the earth, to be held in the arms of a woman ... The Truth which heaven cannot contain has sprung out of the earth, to be laid in a manger. For whose benefit did so lofty a God become so lowly? Certainly not for his own, but for our great benefit, if we believe” (Sermones, 185, 1).
“If we believe.” Here we see the power of faith! God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family.

And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him. Porta fidei! The door of faith! We could be frightened by this, our inverse omnipotence. This human ability to be closed to God can make us fearful. But see the reality which chases away this gloomy thought, the hope that conquers fear: truth has sprung up! God is born!

“The earth has yielded its fruits” (Ps 67:7). Yes, there is a good earth, a healthy earth, an earth freed of all selfishness and all lack of openness. In this world there is a good soil which God has prepared, that he might come to dwell among us. A dwelling place for his presence in the world. This good earth exists, and today too, in 2012, from this earth truth has sprung up! Consequently, there is hope in the world, a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations. Truth has sprung up, bringing kindness, justice and peace.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Episode Five of Catholicism:
The Indispensible Men – Peter, Paul and the Missionary Adventure

This Thursday, December 13, 2012, Cinema Catechism returns with a showing of Episode Five of Fr. Barron's Catholicism series, The Indispensible Men – Peter, Paul and the Missionary Adventure, together with further discussion and reflections on these remarkable men and the spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Go and make disciples of all nations!”
World Youth Day 2013

In December, Cinema Catechism will be showing The Indispensible Men – Peter, Paul and the Missionary Adventure, Episode Five of Father Robert Barron's Catholicism series. As is especially emphasized in the New Evangelization, ours is not a faith that we are expected to selfishly keep to ourselves. Rather, we are called by Jesus to receive the power of the Holy Spirit in order to go and be His witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8), as happened with the Apostles at Pentecost and as happened with our own young people at Blessed Sacrament who received the Sacrament of Confirmation this past Monday.

This was the theme of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, and Pope Benedict has decided to revisit it for the upcoming World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro during the Year of Faith. During His ministry, the disciples of Jesus enthusiastically went out to preach that the Kingdom of God was at hand. (Lk 10:1-17) Yet when He was arrested, most of the Apostles ran and went into hiding, fearing that they too might be arrested and executed. Even after He rose, the Apostles largely remained inside, keeping a low profile. It was during this time after His Resurrection that Jesus called them to a certain mountain in Galilee.
When they saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Mt 28:17-20)
They saw the Risen Christ, but still there was this measure of doubt, they still had this measure of fear that they had after His arrest and Passion -- they were not yet ready or prepared to fulfill their mission. Instead, after His ascension to heaven, they stayed in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, as Jesus had instructed them to do.

Yet despite this fear and doubt and hesitancy, once the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, once they received His graces, their hesitancy and doubt were gone, and Peter immediately went out into the street and began to fearlessly proclaim the Good News of the redemption of man by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, of which they were witnesses. And many were made disciples and baptized right there and then.
Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to the people . . . "Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. . . . God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. . . .

"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call." He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. (Acts 2:14, 22-24, 32, 38-41)
Then and for the rest of his life Peter proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, the former Saul of Tarsus, a zealous persecutor of the Church, was converted to the Love and Truth of Jesus and he became instead a zealous promoter of the Christian faith. Peter and Paul each traveled extensively, preaching and making disciples of all nations before both coming to Rome, where they made the ultimate witness of Jesus Christ, the witness of the martyr.

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses." "Go and make disciples of all nations."

These were not words directed only to the Apostles of 2,000 years ago, but they are directed to all the faithful of Jesus Christ, to all of His disciples. All of us have this duty -- this honor -- to be His servants in the work of salvation; all of us are called to be His witnesses to go and make disciples of all nations. Such a mission is not easy, but we take heart in knowing that, although ascended to heaven, Jesus is with us always, He walks with us along this journey, the Holy Spirit fills our hearts so that His Truth and Love might shine and act through us so that all men and women, boys and girls, might know Him.

"Go and make disciples of all nations!"
Message of Pope Benedict for World Youth Day 2013
Dear young friends,

I greet all of you with great joy and affection. I am sure that many of you returned from World Youth Day in Madrid all the more “planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). This year in our Dioceses we celebrated the joy of being Christians, taking as our theme: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). And now we are preparing for the next World Youth Day, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2013.

Before all else, I invite you once more to take part in this important event. The celebrated statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking that beautiful Brazilian city will be an eloquent symbol for us. Christ’s open arms are a sign of his willingness to embrace all those who come to him, and his heart represents his immense love for everyone and for each of you. Let yourselves be drawn to Christ! Experience this encounter along with all the other young people who will converge on Rio for the next World Youth Day! Accept Christ’s love and you will be the witnesses so needed by our world.

I invite you to prepare for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro by meditating even now on the theme of the meeting: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19). This is the great missionary mandate that Christ gave the whole Church, and today, two thousand years later, it remains as urgent as ever. This mandate should resound powerfully in your hearts. The year of preparation for the gathering in Rio coincides with the Year of Faith, which began with the Synod of Bishops devoted to “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. I am happy that you too, dear young people, are involved in this missionary outreach on the part of the whole Church. To make Christ known is the most precious gift that you can give to others.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Handmaid of the Lord:
Mother of God, Daughter of her Son

A. The Major Marian Doctrines
(1) Immaculate Conception – “Full of Grace”
Mary is the “New Eve,” who was redeemed and given the life of grace from the first moment of her conception, so that she was preserved from Original Sin or other sin in her life. The grace won by Christ on the Cross was applied to Mary in anticipation of this saving event. In this way, Mary could be a proper and pure “living temple” for the Son of God in her womb. "She is the living house of God, who does not dwell in buildings of stone but in the heart of living man." – Pope Benedict XVI. It was this fullness of grace that gave Mary the total freedom, unimpaired by the errors of sin, to say “yes” to God at the Annunciation and throughout her life.

(2) Ever Virgin
The virgin birth of Jesus goes beyond merely demonstrating that the true Father of Jesus is God, not a man. Mary gave herself to God completely, in the entirety of her being, soul and body, including her perpetual virginity. This means that Mary was a virgin before the conception and birth of Jesus, during these events, and after these events. At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church, our pure and holy mother of all on earth.

(3) Theotókos, the Mother of God
Mary is not merely mother of Jesus in His humanity or merely mother of the Christ, but is rightly called the Mother of God because Jesus is one, both fully human and fully God. The Lord dwelling within her, she is a living temple and Ark of the Covenant.

(4) Bodily Assumption into Heaven
At the end of her earthly life, Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. She did not experience the corruption of the grave. Jesus being eternal, just as He is forever on the Cross, so too is He forever in the womb of Mary, and she is forever joined to Christ, so that if He is in heaven in the entirety of His being, soul and body, so too must Mary be in heaven in the entirety of her being, soul and body. The bodily assumption of Mary also points the way to all the faithful in the resurrection of the body.
B. Mother of the Church, wholly united with her Son
(1) The Annunciation
"This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God's relationship with his people. During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel's message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said ‘yes.’” – Pope Benedict XVI
In Jesus, God literally merged into mankind, becoming small, defenseless, and vulnerable while dwelling within the Virgin Mary’s womb, in the most intimate of relationships. Just as the first Eve was formed out of the first Adam, so Jesus, Son of God and the new Adam, was formed out of the new Eve, flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone.

(2) The Nativity of Our Lord
In the birth of Jesus, we not only see a God who has made Himself small, we see a God who has a face, and it is the face of His mother, Mary, who had carried Him in her womb. To show that such an intimate relationship with Jesus was not meant to be Mary's alone, to show that all the faithful are called to intimately receive Him into our own bodies, the newborn Jesus was placed in a manger. As with the straw that was food for the animals, so too Jesus is shown to be food for us in the Eucharist. And by becoming small in this way, the all-powerful God who needs nothing chose to need us, chose to need our help in bringing about the salvation of man.

(3) The Hidden Life of the Holy Family
The persons closest to Jesus are Mary and Joseph, who raised Jesus, fed Him, clothed Him, taught Him, including instruction in the Faith, and who comforted Him when He needed comforting. They devoted the entirety of their lives to guarding and protecting Jesus, and thereby join in His mission of redemption.

(4) Wedding at Cana
Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, by becoming His mother, became our mother too. As our Mother, like at Cana when the wine ran out, Mary is sensitive and attentive to our needs, and she intercedes and asks her Son to provide for us. (Jn. 2:1-5)

(5) Mother of Sorrows – Mother of Mercy
When the baby Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Temple, the righteous Simeon came to Mary and prophesied that a “sword would pierce her heart,” that is, she would know sorrow. Indeed, soon thereafter, Herod sought to kill Jesus and they were forced to flee to Egypt. During the Passion of her Son, Mary and faithfully persevered in her union with Him. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of His suffering, joining herself with His sacrifice in her mother's heart.

(6) Pentecost and the Early Church
Mary is the New Eve, the mother of all who live according to the life of grace. Jesus gave Mary to His followers to be our mother. She is the mother of the Church. Mary was present, praying with the Apostles and other disciples at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the faithful and the Church was born. “Mary is so interwoven in the great mystery of the Church that she and the Church are inseparable, just as she and Christ are inseparable. Mary mirrors the Church, anticipates the Church in her person, and in all the turbulence that affects the suffering, struggling Church she always remains the Star of salvation.” – Pope Benedict XVI

(7) Mary and Us
“Dear young people, we too must remain faithful to the ‘yes’ that we have given to the Lord's offer of friendship. We know that He will never abandon us. We know that He will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord's ‘proposal’ in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother's love she shields us from harm.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Episode Four of Catholicism:
Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast - Mary, the Mother of God

This Thursday, November 8, 2012, Cinema Catechism returns with a showing of Episode Four of Fr. Barron's Catholicism series, Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast - Mary, the Mother of God, together with further discussion and reflections on Immaculate Mary, the Virgin Mother, assumed body and soul into heaven: the New Eve, Full of Grace, who carries the Lord within her and points us toward her Son while also pointing us toward our true selves, the people that God intended and intends for us to be in the fullness of Love and Truth.



The Inexhaustibly Rich Figure of Mary
Fr. Robert Barron
Word on Fire Catholic Ministries
Mary is a rich and multivalent figure in all of the Gospels. In Luke’s infancy narrative, she emerges as the spokesperson for ancient Israel, speaking, in her Magnificat, in the words and cadences of Hannah; and as the recipient of an angelic announcement of a miraculous birth, she calls to mind not only Hannah but also Sarah and the mother of Samson as well. In Matthew’s Christmas account, she is compelled to go into exile in Egypt and is then called back to her home, recapitulating thereby the journey of Israel from slavery to freedom. She is thus the symbolic embodiment of faithful and patient Israel, longing for deliverance. In John’s Gospel, she is, above all, mother—the physical mother of Jesus and, through him, the mother of all who would come to new life in him. As mother of the Lord, she is, once again, Israel, that entire series of events and system of ideas from which Jesus emerged and in terms of which he alone becomes intelligible. Hans Urs von Balthasar comments in the same vein that Mary effectively awakened the messianic consciousness of Jesus through her recounting of the story of Israel to her son. So in the Cana narrative, Mary will speak the pain and hope of the chosen people, scattered and longing for union.

(excerpted from: Robert Barron, The Priority of Christ)


Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints' Day

Throughout the liturgical year, the Church observes feast days for the various saints individually. We celebrate today the Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of "Obligation," rejoicing in the Lord with a festival in honor of the entire multitude of the faithful who now live with and in Him in heaven, including the canonized saints and those whose names are known only to God.

In our previous post at Adoramus Te, the blog of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Santo Subito: Answering the Call to be a Saint, we discussed the universal call to holiness, how we are all called to be a saint. Many people resist this call, believing it to be a great burden, a cumbersome obligation that they are not at all comfortable with. Sure, they would like to go to heaven -- and they expect that they will go to heaven -- but they are rather hesitant to fully embrace the holy life now or even aspire to it; they fully expect to receive God's grace of salvation at the end, even if they are not all that enamored of seeking and accepting His grace now. They believe that the road to sainthood will be too arduous and difficult and deprive them of their freedom.

But the call to sainthood is neither a burden nor a cumbersome obligation. Rather, it is a call to set down one's burdens and to embrace authentic freedom. The call to sainthood is nothing other than a call to be true to the person that you were made to be, one who loves God and others in truth.
Sometimes, people think that holiness is a privileged condition reserved for the few elect. Actually, becoming holy is every Christian's task, indeed, we could say, every person's! The Apostle writes that God has always blessed us and has chosen us in Christ "that we should be holy and blameless before him...in love" (Eph 1:3-5). All human beings are therefore called to holiness, which ultimately consists in living as children of God, in that "likeness" with him in accordance with which they were created. All human beings are children of God and all must become what they are by means of the demanding process of freedom. God invites everyone to belong to his holy people. (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 1 November 2007)
The call to holiness is a call to stop wandering in the desert and finally accept God's invitation to enter into the Promised Land. Yes, it will be difficult (love always is), but it is what were made for, that is the meaning of life: to love and be loved in truth -- a love that is so full that we enter into communion with God and others, and so dynamic and fruitful that life is made ever new in Him.

This Year of Faith provides a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the saints while seeking to be one ourselves by conforming our lives every more closely to the Lord. This might include learning more about those saints whose names we took in Baptism and/or Confirmation, those saints whose feast day we celebrate on a particular day, those saints for whom we already have a certain affection, and those saints who we know little or nothing about.

Where might one go to learn more about particular saints and sainthood in general?

Many books on the lives of the saints have been published and are available in libraries and bookstores. There are also many sources available on the Internet:
Catholic Community Forum
Catholic Culture (you'll need to know the saint's feastday or do a name search to get the information)
Catholic Information Network
Catholic Online
Magnificat
New Advent
Wednesday Audiences of Pope Benedict, Catechesis on the Saints

Litany of the Saints at the funeral for Blessed Pope John Paul II



(cross-posted at Adoramus Te)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Her Immaculate Heart Will Triumph

Today is the 13th day of October, the day that Our Lady of Fatima made her final appearance to the humble shepherd children Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, the day that a reported 70,000 people witnessed the "Miracle of the Sun." At that time, 1917, the world was suffering horribly in the slaughter of so many millions of people in World War I and our Lady warned of even worse horrors and death in a war that was to follow. Nevertheless, with a call for prayer and penance, she promised that her Immaculate Heart would triumph in the end. This is a very important thing to keep in mind as we engage in the New Evangelization.

People have generally interpreted this warning of a greater war as referring to World War II, but since the "third secret" of Fatima was disclosed, we can understand the warning in even broader terms, that is, in long-term historical and eschatological terms, especially with respect to the Church and the faithful. Sister Lucia reports this third part of the vision, which had been revealed to her on July 13, 1917, in these words:
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!'

And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions.

Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
Tuy-3-1-1944
Blessed Pope John Paul II was shot, yet saved from death, on May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first apparition. He famously attributed his survival of the shooting to Our Lady of Fatima, saying that one hand fired the gun, but another one guided the bullet.

As with interpreting the warning of a greater war to mean World War II, people have generally interpreted John Paul II as being the bishop dressed in white who is shot. But again, we can understand it in a broader sense. "We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete," Pope Benedict said during a visit to Fatima on May 13, 2010. Rather, humanity will continue to endure great hardship and suffering, hence the urgent need of the Church to offer people hope and proclaim "Repent and believe the Good News" of Jesus Christ (Mk 1:15). The faithful of the Church especially will suffer hardships, persecutions, and even martyrdom in professing Christ, as promised by Jesus Himself and as made clear in the Book of Revelation.

Although the whole purpose of the New Evangelization is to try to find more effective ways to proclaim the Gospel and spread the faith, starting with ourselves, so that we might help the Lord in the work of salvation, converting repentent hearts to His Love and Truth, the fact is that the world is often resistant to the light of love and truth. We are often resistant to it ourselves. And many times the response to our proposal is not merely polite rejection, but persecution. So we ought not be discouraged if we are rebuffed, but instead expect that such things will happen, and we must avoid the temptation of looking for immediate "success" in large numbers.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, "No slave is greater than his master." If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (Jn 15:19-20)

They will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. And then many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. (Mt 24:9-13)
We ought to expect persecution in response to the New Evangelization. Indeed, hardships are already imposed upon the faithful throughout the world because of that faith -- the 20th century saw more Christian martyrs than any century before it -- and here in the United States, we might not be facing death, but most certainly we are afflicted with persecution of economic, legal, and political natures.

Yet, "blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of [Jesus]." (Mt 5:11) We have hope, real hope, which makes it possible to even rejoice in persecution and suffering.
Let us now examine more closely the single images [of the vision in the third secret of Fatima]. The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This represents the threat of judgment which looms over the world. Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword.

The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of destruction — the splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance. In this way, the importance of human freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed. Indeed, the whole point of the vision is to bring freedom onto the scene and to steer freedom in a positive direction. The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Theological Commentary on Fatima)
There is great hardship and suffering in the world. Yet, we do not despair because Jesus came to save us from death and destruction. Evil and suffering, while common throughout human history, will not have the last word. It is not set in stone that mankind will forever suffer. We have hope. Not the "hope" of wishes and grasping at straws, but of trustworthy confidence and assured expectation of salvation. (Spe Salvi)

We are asked to help Jesus in the work of salvation, which means enduring the Passion, it means embracing the Cross, but it is through the Passion and the Cross that suffering and death are transformed to joy and eternal life. In walking the way of the Cross with Him, taking upon ourselves what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ and suffering with Him (Col 1:24), we are comforted by being accompanied by our Blessed Mother, just as she accompanied her Son in sorrow. Mary points to her Son, exhorting people to pray and repent, to "do whatever He tells you" so that your hardship might be turned to joy. (Jn 2:5)
Let us now consider the individual images which follow in the text of the "secret." The place of the action is described in three symbols: a steep mountain, a great city reduced to ruins and finally a large rough-hewn cross. The mountain and city symbolize the arena of human history: history as an arduous ascent to the summit, history as the arena of human creativity and social harmony, but at the same time a place of destruction, where man actually destroys the fruits of his own work. The city can be the place of communion and progress, but also of danger and the most extreme menace. On the mountain stands the cross—the goal and guide of history. The cross transforms destruction into salvation; it stands as a sign of history's misery but also as a promise for history.

At this point human persons appear: the Bishop dressed in white ("we had the impression that it was the Holy Father" [Sister Lucia later said]), other Bishops, priests, men and women Religious, and men and women of different ranks and social positions. The Pope seems to precede the others, trembling and suffering because of all the horrors around him. Not only do the houses of the city lie half in ruins, but he makes his way among the corpses of the dead. The Church's path is thus described as a Via Crucis, as a journey through a time of violence, destruction and persecution. The history of an entire century can be seen represented in this image. Just as the places of the earth are synthetically described in the two images of the mountain and the city, and are directed towards the cross, so too time is presented in a compressed way. In the vision we can recognize the last century as a century of martyrs, a century of suffering and persecution for the Church, a century of World Wars and the many local wars which filled the last fifty years and have inflicted unprecedented forms of cruelty. In the “mirror” of this vision we see passing before us the witnesses of the faith decade by decade. . . .

In the vision, the Pope too is killed along with the martyrs. When, after the attempted assassination on 13 May 1981, the Holy Father [Pope John Paul] had the text of the third part of the "secret" brought to him, was it not inevitable that he should see in it his own fate? He had been very close to death, and he himself explained his survival in the following words: "... it was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death" (13 May 1994). That here "a mother's hand" had deflected the fateful bullet only shows once more that there is no immutable destiny, that faith and prayer are forces which can influence history and that in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies.

The concluding part of the "secret" uses images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith. It is a consoling vision, which seeks to open a history of blood and tears to the healing power of God. Beneath the arms of the cross, angels gather up the blood of the martyrs, and with it they give life to the souls making their way to God. Here, the blood of Christ and the blood of the martyrs are considered as one: the blood of the martyrs runs down from the arms of the cross. . . .

Therefore, the vision of the third part of the "secret," so distressing at first, concludes with an image of hope: no suffering is in vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a sign-post for man in his search for God. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Theological Commentary on Fatima)
As in Revelation, the ultimate message of Fatima is this: Humanity will necessarily suffer great hardship in this world, but God has not abandoned us.

The Lady in white, clothed as with the sun, asks us to help her Son in the work of salvation, including prayer, penance, and redemptive suffering, not merely for ourselves, but for the salvation of others, for their conversion away from sin to embracing holiness. The faithful will suffer and even be hated and persecuted for this, but all this is beatitude (Mt. 5:3-10). We can expect a degree of suffering and persecution if we dare to engage with the world in the New Evangelization. Yet, in the end, notwithstanding all of the great evils that are thrust upon us, her Immaculate Heart will triumph.

The Immaculate Mother of God walks with us and with her pure Virgin heart, a heart full of the love and grace of God, she guides us to her Son. Our Lady of Fatima is Our Lady of hope, with her we have the comfort and assurance that good will prevail, that Love and Truth will triumph.
The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time.

The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: "In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Theological Commentary on Fatima)



The 13th Day (2009) a film by Ian and Dominic Higgins
In a world torn apart by persecution, war and oppression, 3 children were chosen to offer a message of hope to the world. Based on the memoirs of the oldest Seer, Lucia Santos, and many thousands of independent eye-witness accounts, The 13th Day dramatizes the TRUE story of three young shepherds who experienced six interactive apparitions with a “Lady from Heaven” between May and October 1917, which culminated into the final prophesized Miracle. . . . Stylistically beautiful and technically innovative, writer-directors Ian & Dominic Higgins use state-of-the-art digital effects to create stunning images of the visions and the final miracle that have never before been fully realized on screen. Shot on location in Portugal and in the UK, 13th Day Films worked with a cast of over 250 to re-create the scenes of the 70,000 strong crowds, and 3 Portuguese children play the iconic roles of the Seers. Witness the greatest miracle of the 20th Century, and experience the incredible, emotionally-charged and often harrowing world of three young children whose choice to remain loyal to their beliefs, even in the face of death, would inspire thousands.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Credo Domine, adauge nobis fidem!

Credo Domine, adauge nobis fidem!
(I believe, Lord, increase our faith)
Official Hymn for the Year of Faith
Pilgrims we, full of expectation,
searching in the darkness.
Lord, you come, revealing the Father,
You for us are Son of the Most High.
Credo Domine, credo!
With the saints who are walking with us,
O Lord, we ask:
Adauge, adauge nobis fidem!
Credo Domine, adauge nobis fidem!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cardinal Wuerl: “The New Evangelization is the opportunity for everyone to speak on their love of Christ, to speak the message to everyone around them and to invite them back to the experience of Christ and His Church.”




One of the tasks of the Synod of Bishops is to determine exactly what is meant by "the New Evangelization." As noted in the posts below, the term has been used in slightly different ways through the years, but much of that difficulty, if there is a difficulty, is because so many of the various elements of the transmission of the faith are interrelated -- given the mission of the Church, to re-evangelize ourselves is necessarily to prepare us to evangelize to others, each having a greater or lesser degree of openness to the Good News. Cardinal Wuerl spoke on this preliminary question during his address at the opening session of the Synod and, thanks to the diligent efforts of Rocco Palmo, we have early access to his remarks.

Report of Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Relator General for the Synod on the New Evangelization
Opening Session, 8 October 2012
It is a great honor for me to serve as the Relator General at this Synod and I am grateful to our Holy Father for this privilege. As we begin our deliberations on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, I want to touch on a number of points that I hope will help focus our discussion and provide some themes for reflection. . . .

In my observations, I include the following points:
(1) What or Who it is we proclaim – the Word of God;
(2) recent resources to help us in our task;
(3) particular circumstances of our day that render this Synod necessary;
(4) elements of the New Evangelization;
(5) some theological principles for the New Evangelization;
(6) qualities of the new evangelizers; and finally,
(7) charisms of the Church today to assist in the task of the New Evangelization.

Pope Benedict Addresses the First Session of the Synod on the New Evangelization



Sunday, October 7, 2012

Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelization



Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops
7 October 2012
With this solemn concelebration we open the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. This theme reflects a programmatic direction for the life of the Church, its members, families, its communities and institutions. And this outline is reinforced by the fact that it coincides with the beginning of the Year of Faith, starting on 11 October, on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. . . .

The readings for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word propose to us two principal points of reflection: the first on matrimony, which I will touch shortly; and the second on Jesus Christ, which I will discuss now. We do not have time to comment upon the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews but, at the beginning of this Synodal Assembly, we ought to welcome the invitation to fix our gaze upon the Lord Jesus, “crowned with glory and honour, because of the suffering of death (2:9). The word of God places us before the glorious One who was crucified, so that our whole lives, and in particular the commitment of this Synodal session, will take place in the sight of him and in the light of his mystery. In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation. My dear Brother Bishops, starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace.

I would now like briefly to examine the new evangelization, and its relation to ordinary evangelization and the mission ad Gentes. The Church exists to evangelize. Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, his disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere. With time, these became well-organized churches with many faithful. At various times in history, divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in Church’s evangelizing activity. We need only think of the evangelization of the Anglo-Saxon peoples or the Slavs, or the transmission of the faith on the continent of America, or the missionary undertakings among the peoples of Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Donald Cardinal Wuerl on the "Tsunami of Secularism" and the New Evangelization



Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, has been appointed to the very important position of Relator General for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. He explains, in the video above, what a synod is generally, and what the Church hopes to accomplish in the upcoming synod on the New Evangelization.

What is a relator? John Allen presents this useful summary:
In every synod, the key figure is the relator, or general secretary, who organizes the work, supervises preparation of all the documents, and delivers two key reports before and after the synod deliberations. The first one sets the tone, while the second sums everything up.

It's a much-watched job, in part because the last two popes in a row first came to prominence as a synod relator. Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland held the job for the 1974 synod on evangelization, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany did so for the 1980 synod on the family, a performance that sealed John Paul II's determination to bring him to Rome as his doctrinal czar.

This time around, the relator is Wuerl, 72, himself frequently mentioned as a candidate for a senior Vatican job. In 2010, Wuerl published a pastoral letter on the new evangelization said to have left a very positive impression on Benedict XVI.

Beyond Salvation: Becoming One with the Lord

I know we have spoken at length about this (although John Paul II took over 100 general audience talks and multiple documents to fully set out the teaching, which George Weigel famously called "a kind of theological time bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences, sometime in the third millennium of the Church," that is, as part of the New Evangelization (Witness to Hope, p. 343)), but before concluding our consideration of the kinds of relationship we ought to have with Jesus, certain questions arise with respect to this notion of a "spousal relationship" with the Lord:

Why? What's the purpose in that? And isn't the idea more than a bit disrespectful and arrogant, if not blasphemous, seeking to drag the Almighty God down to our low level rather than our getting on our knees and bowing down in worship as we should, not even daring to raise our eyes to look upon His majesty?

Let me answer these questions with another question: Why did God become man?

To save us, of course, to reconcile us to God following the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. The name Jesus (Joshua or Yeshua in Hebrew) means "God saves." Jesus is our Savior, but redemption and salvation are not the only reasons for God becoming man.

The Lord is also Emmanuel, God with us. It seems that He became man also because He loves us and wanted to join us to Him more fully for its own sake. In other words, we are all called to a spousal-type of relationship with the Lord. Each of us is called to be joined with the Bridegroom Emmanuel. This is not to drag God down into the gutter with us, but to raise us up out of the muck to the sanctity which He always intended for us.

Pope Benedict speaks of the Annunciation as a marriage proposal --
This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God’s relationship with His people. During the Old Testament, God revealed Himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said, Yes. (Angelus, World Youth Day 2008, 20 July 2008)
There is much to consider in the Pope's words here -- that Jesus wanted to "marry" humanity. God wanted to establish, not merely a parental relationship with us, but a spousal relationship as well, the fullness of love in a communion of persons that is by its nature both unitive and fruitful. In love, He wanted to join fully with humanity, not merely spiritually, which is only partially, but in the fullness of our being, spirit and body, two become one, wholly apart from the issue of salvation. (See also CCC 456 et seq.)

We have need of a savior, of course, because of mankind rejecting God. Early on, Adam and Eve, not satisfied with being mere creatures, ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge because they wanted to be like gods themselves. It was this Original Sin that ushered in death -- real death, not merely death of the physical body, but eternal death -- because the very nature of sin is to separate us from God, who is Life itself. Consequently, because He loves us, God sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, who is the salvation of the world.

The irony of Adam and Eve sinning by wanting to be like gods (which ultimately is the root of every sin that we commit) is that it didn't have to be that way. It did not have to be a sin. The irony is that God Himself wants us to be like gods! (CCC 460)

As St. Athanasius wrote, "The Son of God became man so that we might become God." (De Incarnatione Verbi Dei 54, 3: PG 25, 192B) Likewise, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that He, made man, might make men gods." (Opusc. 57, 1-4)

The problem is that we (mankind) wanted and want to be gods on our own terms. We want to be gods by our own will, by our own doing. We want our divinity to be self-actualized, without the involvement of He who is already God.

God does want us to be "gods," but He wants us to be gods on His terms, He wants us to be gods by His doing. Not because He is a "jealous God" who can't bear to have competition, but because He is Truth. He is the One and only God, thus, only He can make us like "gods."

For us to be gods on our own, by our own doing (or for us to be our own saviors, to attain salvation all by our own merits) would not be consistent with truth, it would be a lie, it would be contrary to the very idea of God. No, to be true, man can become gods only by the action of the God who is Truth.

We can become gods only by God joining us to Himself, by Him taking us unto Himself in the entirety of our being -- our soul joined to His Spirit, our body joined to His Body -- so that we are in Him and He is in us to such a degree that we truly are a loving communion of persons, no longer separate and apart, but two become one, not merely in a symbolic or poetic sense, but in a very real, authentic and true sense. In other words, since the word "marry" means to combine or join two things together so as to become one, we can become gods only by being so in and through Him, by God "marrying" us to Himself, by our having a "spousal" relationship with the Lord.

This is the eschatological destiny of the faithful. (Rev 19:7-9, 21; Eph 5:31-32) "Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ." (CCC 1026) Beyond salvation is sanctification, being made pure and holy so that we might be perfectly incorporated into the Lord, joined as one with He who is pure and holy Love and Truth and Life.

"Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect," Jesus said. Only God is perfect, but by joining fully in communion with Him, in allowing ourselves to be truly sanctified by the Spirit of Sanctification, one with Him, we can be made perfect as commanded by Jesus. The Lord does not demand the impossible of us, He makes the "impossible" possible. He makes us imperfect humans perfect -- the Bridegroom and only the Bridegroom, by joining us to Him, makes us like gods.

This is the ultimate eternal relationship with the Lord that we are called to, a relationship whereby
"totality embraces us and we embrace totality . . . It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time — the before and after — no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy." (Spe Salvi 12)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Having a Parent-Child Relationship with God

Below we discuss Having a Spousal Relationship with Christ, borrowing heavily from Blessed Pope John Paul II's theology of the body. All of us -- men and women, those with a vocation to human married life, both those who have already married and those single people who have not yet married, those with a vocation to the religious life, and even those persons with a same sex attraction -- are called to have a spousal-type of love and relationship with the Lord, especially in the eschatological destiny of the faithful.

But what are some of the other relationships that we can have or should have with the Lord?

In addition to our having a personal spousal relationship with the Lord, individually and in communion with the whole Church as the Bride, since the other faithful have a spousal relationship with Him, we are also often described as wedding guests, where we rejoice at the nuptial union of the Lamb and His Bride.

One of the most obvious forms of relationship, of course, is the parent-child relationship, the relationship that Jesus invites us to have with God by calling Him "Father." Indeed, in the original Aramaic, Jesus uses the more affectionate and intimate word used by children of "Abba". Related to this very intimate paternal relationship is the more formal relationship of Creator and creature, the Omnipotent and the limited, dependent, and lowly. We are His children, His creation.

However, Jesus is the Son of God. So, if He is the Son and we are also children of God, then that would indicate a fraternal relationship with the Lord, one of brother-brother and brother-sister. Beyond the intimacy of a familial relationship, there is also the close relationship of friends, with Jesus famously teaching that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend. (Jn 15:13-15)

Then there are the other relationships described in scripture, such as master-servant, with we faithful being workers in the vineyard of the Lord. When He was not called "master," by the Apostles and other disciples, Jesus was often called "Rabbi," demonstrating a teacher-student relationship. At times, Jesus goes beyond mere teaching and instead He takes on the character of teaching with authority, that is, acting as lawgiver. This would also be related to the relationship of Judge and accused, whereby we will stand before Jesus in judgment of our lives, as well as Jesus being Christ the King, with us as His faithful subjects.

One of the obligations of a good sovereign king, of course, is the protection of the kingdom and the people, so we see also the relationship of Good Shepherd and His sheep. If we stray from the flock and become lost, then Jesus the Shepherd will come and find us. Related to His taking care of the sheep is the physician-patient relationship, whereby Jesus not only performed many medical healings during His ministry, but He seeks to heal us as well from our injuries and diseases of sin and suffering. As the Bread of Life and the Eternal Living Water (Jn 6:35 and 4:10-14), he sustains us who are hungry and thirsty.

So which of these is the relationship that we ought to have with Jesus? The right answer is all of them. Our relationship with Jesus Christ ought to encompass all good and right kinds of relationship. We can see this illustrated in our postures at Mass. At times, we stand as a sign of respect in our prayers. During the period of instruction, when listening to the scriptures and the homily, we sit (standing, of course, in respect for the Gospel). While Jesus is always present in Spirit, when He enters the Mass in the Blessed Sacrament, His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, it is right and proper that we should kneel. Each of these postures indicate the various types of relationship with Him, some of them rather close, some of them maintaining a respectful distance.

However, the Mass culminates with what kind of posture? Our receiving His Body into our own. A more intimate encounter you cannot describe, to have one person literally inside another. This is the kind of intimate touching that you see in only two relationships -- the spousal and the maternal.

Which brings us to the one other relationship that I would like to focus on in particular, and that is the parental-child relationship. By this I am not referring to the Father-children of God relationship, but the relationship that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has with the Lord.

If you were to picture Jesus appearing before you right now, what would He look like? Most people who answer that question say that He would be rather muscular, with dark hair and a beard, some might say He looks suspiciously like Jim Caviezel. But most everyone always describes a fully-grown adult Jesus. Throughout the year, when we think of Christ, we invariably think of Him during His ministry, Passion, Resurrection, or reigning up there in heaven. A couple of times during Advent and Christmastime, we speak of "baby Jesus," but there is often still a disconnect -- we think that the "real" Jesus is the adult whose words we know.

But there is great value in reflecting upon Jesus the baby. Just as there is great value in reflecting upon Jesus as the God/Man, fully God, yet fully a man, there is also great value in reflecting upon Jesus as the God/Baby, fully God, yet fully a tiny, defenseless, needy baby.

And there is value in a pregnant woman looking down to see the baby in her own womb, or a man looking upon the womb of his wife, putting themselves in the places of Mary and Joseph, embracing the not-yet-born Jesus with their hands. And, later, holding the newborn Jesus in their loving arms.

Especially for the New Evangelization, this is the Jesus we should reflect upon, in addition to reflecting upon the usual waiting for the (adult) bridegroom/master/king to arrive. As all-powerful as the Creator of the Universe is, Jesus the God/Baby teaches us that it is part of His plan to need our help, that He is relying on us to help Him, to feed Him, to clothe Him, to protect Him, to love Him. This is implicit in the whole idea of the Church - whose mission is to help Him - but the Baby Jesus places it in stark, tangible form. The Almighty makes Himself a baby so that we might welcome Him and love Him, and thereby love others.

Likewise, it is appropriate and helpful to consider the Baby Jesus in the context of our new life in the Faith by virtue of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, by which we receive the many graces we will need to engage in this work of evangelization. Whereas Baptism is about personal redemption and initiation into the Church, Confirmation is about sanctification and joining in the Church's mission of being a witness for Christ, that is, loving Him and helping Him. Having received the fullness of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, we are now better prepared to take the precious baby into our arms, to love and nurture Him and, like the shepherds and magi who will appear later, to make a gift to Him of ourselves.

And so, where do we see Christ at this moment? Yes, He is the King, but He is also the Baby. Right now, He is the baby in the womb, the God who is literally drawing on the human flesh and life of Mary for His own (human) survival. The baby who needs her, the baby who needs us.

As with the spousal relationship, which we are invited to now, but looks forward to our eschatological destiny in the New Jerusalem, we ought to focus our attention in the New Evangelization on a child-parent relationship, where we become like Mary and Joseph, allowing ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit so as to become pregnant with Jesus in the wombs of our hearts, and to thereafter carry Him in our arms wherever we go, so that others might come to know Him when we visit them, as so that they might hear Him speak to them, as Elizabeth and John the Baptist "heard" Jesus "speaking" from the womb of Mary at the Visitation.

God Comes to Us as a Baby in Need of Our Help
Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
Midnight Mass, Christmas 2006
“Be not afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you glad tidings of great joy that will be for all the people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:10-11)

Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care; a child born in a stable, who therefore lies not in a cradle but in a manger. God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. . . .

God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that He makes Himself small for us. This is how He reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby, defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with His strength. He takes away our fear of His greatness. He asks for our love: so He makes Himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into His feelings, His thoughts and His will – we learn to live with Him and to practice with Him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made Himself small so that we could understand Him, welcome Him, and love Him. . . .

"God made His Word short, He abbreviated it" (Is 10:23; Rom 9:28). The Fathers of the early Church interpreted this in two ways. The Son Himself is the Word, the Logos; the eternal Word became small – small enough to fit into a manger. He became a child, so that the Word could be grasped by us. In this way God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way He teaches us to love the weak. . . .

And so we come to the second meaning . . . The Word which God speaks to us in Sacred Scripture had become long in the course of the centuries. It became long and complex, not just for the simple and unlettered, but even more so for those versed in Sacred Scripture . . . Jesus "abbreviated" the Word – He showed us once more its deeper simplicity and unity. Everything taught by the Law and the Prophets is summed up, He says, in the command: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:37-40). This is everything – the whole faith is contained in this one act of love which embraces God and humanity. . .

God is no longer distant. He is no longer unknown. He is no longer beyond the reach of our heart. He has become a child for us, and in so doing He has dispelled all doubt. He has become our neighbor, restoring in this way the image of man, whom we often find so hard to love. For us, God has become a gift. He has given Himself. He has entered time for us. He who is the Eternal One, above time, He has assumed our time and raised it to himself on high. . . .

And so, finally, we find yet a third meaning in the saying that the Word became "brief" and "small". . . . Man, in order to live, needs bread, the fruit of the earth and of his labor. But he does not live by bread alone. He needs nourishment for his soul: he needs meaning that can fill his life. Thus, for the Fathers, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ Himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how He became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, He gives us Himself.

Fr. Barron on Seven Great Qualities of a New Evangelist