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Archive for July, 2009

Beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman Announced

John Henry Newman (1801-1890), an English convert and cardinal, will be beatified on March 2, 2010 in Birmingham, England on the feat of St. Athanasius. The pope signed the decree authorizing the beatification earlier this year after Vatican medical and theological experts approved the 2001 miraculous healing through Newman’s intercession of Deacon John Sullivan of Marshfield, MA., who was ” bent double” by a severe spinal condition. Here is an excerpt from The Servant of God Newman’s poetic hand:

For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often.

Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man’s religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. Religion is in no sense the bond of society.

Biglietto Speech, 1879

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Real Persecution, Real Perspective

For the past couple of weeks we have been hearing a recurring theme of rejection in the Gospel readings:

“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.” Mk 6:4

Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.” Mk 6:10-11

and this morning:

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Mt 11:23

Hearts were hardened and ears were closed to the message of Jesus from Jesus Himself! Jesus faced the ultimate rejection of His message and paid the price–the price of our redemption–with His life. It is not surprising that we see countless evidence of our own world rejecting the message of Christ and His Church. We’ll talk about evidence in the the Church in the United States where our Catholic Identity is being attacked and undermined–and even redefined–from within and without. But throughout the world the Church is being overtly persecuted and nary a news story is to be found:

  • In South Africa on June 5th Fr. Ernst Plochl, a Marianhill Missionary, was gunned down. On February 27th Fr. Daniel Metsela Mahula was killed by hitchhikers and on March 10th Fr. Lionel Sham was abducted and murdered.
  • July 1st a group of 37 US Senators urged Vietnam’s president to free Fr. Thadeus Nguyen Ly from prison after a March 2007 conviction and 7 year sentence–after serving 16 years for speaking out on human rights violation by the government.
  • July 13th Fr. Mariano Arroyo Merino was murdered in his parish in Cuba. Just this past February a 61 year old priest, Fr. Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano was found stabbed to death on the roadside west of Havana.
  • June 13th Fr. Habacuc Hernandez Benitez, 39, Vocations Coordinator for the Diocese of Altamirano, Mexico, Eduardo Oregón Benítez, 19, and Silvestre González Cambrón, 21, both seminarians were executed on their way to a vocations seminar
  • Six churches around Baghdad were bombed yesterday in a coordinated attack killing 4 and wounding 35 others. Many of Iraq’s estimated 1 million Christians have fled the country after targeted attacks by extremists. In October, more than a thousand Iraqi families fled Mosul after they were reportedly frightened by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists, who apparently ordered them to convert to Islam or face possible death. At least 14 Christians were killed in Mosul in the first two weeks of October.
  • ongoing persecution in China, India, Muslim nations

I could go on but you get the picture. Sometimes we have the tendency in the United States to think of the Church as the “Church in the United States”. We equate the Universal Church through our own myopic vision of the Church in this country. As a result we think that the recent papal encyclical Caritas in Veritate was specifically tailored to the US economy, or the scandal at Notre Dame and outspoken pro-choice catholics resonate throughout the world. Roman Catholics in the US constitute 5.75% of the Catholic population. That is 66 million out of 1.2 Billion worldwide Catholics. The importance of issues are not diminished but pale in comparison to people’s real struggle for survival and physical persecution.

Here’s some more perspective:
There are roughly 6 Billion people in the world.
If we reduce the world’s population to 100 people, the following would be a sample:

  • 57 out of the 100: Asians
  • 21 out of the 100: Europeans
  • 14 out of the 100: North and South Americans
  • 8 out of the 100: Africans
  • 51 out of the 100: Women
  • 49 out of the 100: Men
  • 68 out of the 100: Unable to read and write
  • 6 out of the 100: Would own and control almost 50% of the world’s wealth
  • All 6 would be US citizens
  • 1 out of the 100: Just born
  • 1 out of the 100: About to die
  • 1 out of the 100: Ever been to college
  • 1 child dies every 5 seconds from hunger

Let us pray for those who are persecuted and share in the suffering of Christ, and let us pray for the Church that hearts will be softened and ears may be opened to hear her message.


St. Benedict, Father of Western Monasticism


Benedict was born in Nursia, in Umbria, and studied in Rome; but he was unable to stomach the dissolute life of the city, and he became a solitary hermit at Subiaco. His reputation spread, and some monks asked him to be their abbot, but they did not like the discipline he imposed and tried to poison him. Benedict organized various small communities of monks and nuns in various places, including the great monastery of Monte Cassino. He drew up a set of rules to guide the communal life of monasteries, and, though not the first monastic rule ever, the Rule of Benedict has proved so wise and balanced that it has served as the foundation of practically every attempt at communal living ever since.

From the Rule of Benedict, abbot
Put Christ before everything
Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection; that he, who has honoured us by counting us among his children, may never be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always serve him with the good things he has given us in such a way that he may never – as an angry father disinherits his sons or even like a master who inspires fear – grow impatient with our sins and consign us to everlasting punishment, like wicked servants who would not follow him to glory.
So we should at long last rouse ourselves, prompted by the words of Scripture: Now is the time for us to rise from sleep. Our eyes should be open to the God-given light, and we should listen in wonderment to the message of the divine voice as it daily cries out: Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts; and again: If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. And what does the Spirit say? Come my sons, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Hurry, while you have the light of life, so that death’s darkness may not overtake you.
And the Lord as he seeks the one who will do his work among the throng of people to whom he makes that appeal, says again: Which of you wants to live to the full; who loves long life and the enjoyment of prosperity? And, if when you hear this you say, I do, God says to you: If you desire true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceit; turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things my eyes will be upon you and my ears will be attentive to your prayers; and before you call upon my name I shall say to you: Behold, I am here. What could be more delightful, dearest brothers, than the voice of our Lord’s invitation to us? In his loving kindness he reveals to us the way of life.
And so, girded with faith and the performance of good works, let us follow in his paths by the guidance of the Gospel; then we shall deserve to see him who has called us into his kingdom. If we wish to attain a dwelling-place in his kingdom we shall not reach it unless we hasten there by our good deeds.
Just as there exists an evil fervour, a bitter spirit, which divides us from God and leads us to hell, so there is a good fervour which sets us apart from evil inclinations and leads us toward God and eternal life. Monks should put this fervour into practice with an overflowing love: that is, they should surpass each other in mutual esteem, accept their weaknesses, either of body or of behaviour, with the utmost patience; and vie with each other in acceding to requests. No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another. They should display brotherly love in a chaste manner; fear God in a spirit of love; revere their abbot with a genuine and submissive affection. Let them put Christ before all else; and may he lead us all to everlasting life.

Concluding Prayer
O God, the world had fallen flat in the dust but your Son’s humility stood it upright once more.
Fill your faithful people with a holy joy:
take those whom you have torn away from slavery to sin
and make them rejoice eternally.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
Amen.

"Yes We Vatican!"

Some highlights of what was said during the meeting have filtered down from Vatican Radio and official press statements. (Blog title comes from a witnessed banner in the Vatican press office by a French correspondent.)

In the course of their cordial exchanges, the conversation turned first of all to questions which are in the interests of all and which constitute a great challenge for the future of every nation and for the true progress of peoples, such as the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience. (According to the radio update, President Obama “reiterated his commitment to reducing the incidence of abortions”)
Reference was also made to immigration with particular attention to the matter of reuniting families.

The meeting focused as well upon matters of international politics, especially in light of the outcome of the G8 Summit. The conversation also dealt with the peace process in the Middle East, on which there was general agreement, and with other regional situations. Certain current issues were then considered, such as dialogue between cultures and religions, the global economic crisis and its ethical implications, food security, development aid especially for Africa and Latin America, and the problem of drug trafficking. Finally, the importance of educating young people everywhere in the value of tolerance was highlighted.”

The gifts exchanged were:

From pope to president–a framed mosaic of St. Peter’s, an autographed copy of his new encyclical Caritas in Veritate, and his 10k word apostolic letter on bioethics and stem cell research entitled Dignitatis Personae. Obama promised to read them on the plane home.

From president to pope–a stole worn by St. John Neumann, a 19th-century Redemptorist priest who is the patron saint of sick children and immigrants. Born in what is now the Czech Republic in 1811, he died in Philadelphia in 1860, was beatified in 1963, and canonized in 1977 by Paul VI.

President Obama reportedly hand delivered a sealed letter from Senator Kennedy addressed to the Holy Father and asked Pope Benedict to pray for the ailing senator. After the papal audience President Obama had a 10 minute phone conversation with Sen. Kennedy.


Pope Benedict Meets President Obama

After much anticipation in the media and enduring some of the most inane pieces of journalism and bloggery, the meeting between Pope Benedict and President Obama took place today at the Vatican. Protocol divides presidential and prime ministerial visits into three categories with an increasing degree of ceremony: private visit, official visit and state visit. Today’s meeting with President Obama was considered private.

Obama arrived at the Vatican shortly before 4 p.m., and a squad of Swiss Guards saluted him in the St. Damasus Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. First greeted by U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household, he was accompanied to a meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. This usually occurs after the meeting with the pope but for undisclosed reasons it occurred first. After a private discussion with Pope Benedict, Obama introduced the First Lady and his two children to the pope. A group photo, pope and president exchange gifts and the first family will leave for the airport. The whole affair took an hour.

Wild prognostication has been proffered about a “frank discussion” and “common ground” as people on all sides look to have their expectation met as to the outcome of this meeting. So far we know the President told the Pope it was a great honor to meet him and they spoke about the G8 Summit. No surprises there for the sensible. We’ll be looking out for how this meeting is spun to bolster agendas. In the meantime here is a BBC video:


http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/emp/external/player.swf


Saint John of Cologne, Dominican Martyr

I couldn’t let this go by since I have always been drawn to this painting. Ripped from CSVF Blog:
Today is the feast of St. John of Cologne, a Dominican martyr of the sixteenth century. His story is a remarkable one.
By 1572, the Netherlands had fallen culturally and politically into Protestant hands, and Catholics of the country became objects of persecution for Lutherans and Calvinists alike. As town after town fell to Protestant control, the Catholic clergy of the area were arrested and often tortured. The goal of this mistreatment was not death but apostasy.
In June of 1572, the town of Gorcum (modern Gorinchem, 20 miles west of Rotterdam) fell into the hands of Calvinist pirates, and immediately they arrested nine Franciscan priests. Later, two Franciscan lay brothers, three secular priests, and an Augustinian canon were also arrested. Eventually four more priests were added to their number. These included two Norbertines, another secular priest, and John of Cologne, a Dominican friar working outside of Gorcum. After hearing of the arrests of the Franciscans, John disguised himself and traveled to Gorcum to console his brother priests with the sacraments. He was eventually caught and imprisoned with them.
The pirates demanded that these nineteen priests and religious deny the Real Presence and the authority of the Pope. They refused, much to their captors’ distress. Despite a plea for leniency from William of Orange, the Dutch prince and leader of the Protestant rebellion, the Calvinists transferred their prisoners to nearby Brielle, where days later the priests and religious were martyred outside of town in a dilapidated shed. Their bodies were horrifically desecrated both before and after their deaths.
One of the secular priests killed was notorious for his unchastity. When accused of this by his captors, he offered his famous reply, “Fornicator I always was, but heretic I never was.”
The nineteen martyrs of Gorcum were beatified by Pope Clement X in 1675, and canonized by Blessed Pius IX in 1865. Their relics are kept in the Franciscan church in Brussels.
For more on the Martyrs of Gorcum, click here.
Loving God,
your holy martyrs, John and his companions,
have shown us a wonderful example of faith and fortitude.
By their witness and example
may we stand fast against the assault of the world
and persevere in confessing the true faith.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.


Pope Benedict Publishes New Encyclical