It was the month of Nisan. The Book of Exodus ordered that in this month the Paschal Lamb was to be selected, and four days later was to be taken to the place where it was to be sacrificed. On Palm Sunday, the Lamb was chosen by popular acclaim in Jerusalem; on Good Friday He was sacrificed.
As one looks in the ancient sculptured slabs of Assyria and Babylon, the murals of Egypt, the tombs of the Persians, and the scrolls of the Roman columns, one is struck by the majesty of kings riding in triumph on horses or chariots, and sometimes over the prostrate bodies of their foes. In contrast to this, here is One Who comes triumphant upon an ass. How Pilate, if he was looking out of his fortress that Sunday, must have been amused by the ridiculous spectacle of a man being proclaimed as a King, and yet seated on the beast that was the symbol of the outcast–a fitting vehicle for one riding into the jaws of death!
The acclaim of the people was another acknowledgment of His Divinity. Many took off their garments and spread them before Him; others cut down boughs from the olive trees and palm branches and strewed them on the way. The Apocalypse speaks of a great multitude standing before the Throne of the Lamb with palms of victory in their hands. Here the palms, so often used throughout their history to signify victory, as when Simon Maccabeus entered Jerusalem, witnessed to His victory–even before He was momentarily vanquished.
+Fulton Sheen from The Life of Christ
In the liturgical year, the conception of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. Nine months later, on December 25, we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The baby conceived on March 25 is the same baby born on December 25. His name is Jesus from the first moment of his conception, as we all know.
Cardinal Francis George, OMI (link)
“Children have the right to be conceived, … brought into the world and brought up within marriage. In societies with a noble tradition of defending the rights of all their members, one would expect this fundamental right of children to be given priority over any supposed right of adults to impose on them alternative models of family life and certainly over any supposed right to abortion. Since the family is ‘the first and indispensable teacher of peace’, the most reliable promoter of social cohesion and the best school of the virtues of good citizenship, it is in the interests of all, and especially of governments, to defend and promote stable family life”.
Pope Benedict XVI to Scandinavian Bishops (25 March 2010)
The Bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin, has not shied away from defending Catholic beliefs in calling out Catholic politicians or weighing in on controversial issues such as immigration and “homosexual marriage”. His strong response to Congressman Kennedy’s misguided attack on the Church’s moral authority landed him in the national spotlight, making news headlines and television appearances. He has frequently stated that professing to be Catholic means something and requires something from those who call themselves Catholic.
On March 4th supporters of same-sex marriage held a rally at the Rhode Island statehouse. Present on the podium were four of the five current candidates for governor, two of whom profess to be Catholic (and pro-choice as well). First to take the mic was State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio who said, “As governor I will sign the marriage-equality bill. I also will work with the legislature to see that it gets through the legislature.” Next, Patrick Lynch, RI Attorney General, said he “would quickly put pen to paper” and sign a marriage-equality bill, and would veto a bill that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Bishop Tobin responded in a statement, “It is extremely disappointing to see Catholic politicians abandon their faith for the sake of political expediency. I would hope that as candidates and office holders, they would be able to support traditional, moral values such as the recognition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. I am hopeful that they will reconsider their position.”
The Rhode Island Catholic has links to copies of the letters Bishop Tobin sent to both Catholic candidates. The text is below [my emphasis]:
I am writing to express my profound disappointment that you participated in the recent rally at the State House and there publicly pledged to sign a bill allowing “homosexual marriage” in the State of Rhode Island should you be elected Governor.
From a practical point of view, your pledge to sign such legislation -without even knowing any of the details of the eventual legislation -is very puzzling. You’ve now put yourself in a box – pledged to sign legislation, even if the legislation that eventually emerges is seriously flawed or unacceptable for practical reasons. I wonder if you would make a similar pledge for any other piece of hypothetical legislation.
The greater concern for me, of course, is that your willingness to support -even promote- “homosexual marriage” is contrary to the obligations of the Catholic Faith you profess. The teachings of the Church on this matter have been clear and consistent.
While the Church strongly affirms and defends the human dignity and human rights of homosexual persons as beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters, the Church also teaches that homosexual activity is unnatural and immoral, a sin against human dignity and a grave offense to Almighty God. This teaching is based on the natural moral law, the Holy Scriptures and the constant tradition of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit.
The concept of so-called “gay marriage” is offensive because it amounts to public acceptance of and endorsement of immoral homosexual activity and is a blatant attempt to redefine the sacred institution of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. This traditional definition of marriage is not of human origin. It was designed by God and has been unquestioned in every culture and society from the very beginning of the human family.
I need to remind you that Catholic political leaders are not exempt from the obligations of their faith, any more than members of any other profession are exempt from their faith. Your Catholic Faith is not a private matter -to be authentic it must inform every aspect of your personal and public life. You cannot profess to be a Catholic on Sunday and then set out to promote immoral activities the rest of the week. To consider your faith a private matter without any impact on your professional life is clearly inconsistent with the teachings of Christ who taught His disciples to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” (Mt. 5: 13-14)
As your bishop I am concerned primarily for your spiritual well-being and for that reason I am obliged to remind you that your public support of “homosexual marriage” creates a grave spiritual danger for you. Someday you will stand face-to-face before the judgment seat of God and have to explain why you publicly promoted immoral sexual activity, scandalized the community and contributed to the erosion of Holy Matrimony and family life.
Lent is a time of spiritual renewal, repentance and reconciliation. In the spirit of this holy season, therefore, I plead with you to reflect upon and reconsider your stance on “homosexual marriage.” As always, I am available to discuss this matter with you personally, and I take this opportunity to extend to you and your family my prayers and blessings.
Thomas J. Tobin
Bishop of Providence
If President Obama and the Congressional leadership truly wanted health care reform, they would maintain the 33 year precedent of not forcing those who do not agree with abortion to pay for it with their tax dollars. If they respected the consciences of individuals and truly sought common ground, health care would now be law. But they see an opportunity–perhaps their only one–to expand and solidify into law what they perceive to be an absolute right, abortion. The following article is an excellent analysis:
Throwing the Bathwater Out With the Baby?
by Pat Archbold
In all the discussion about whip counts it is easy to lose sight of what really counts and what the health care debate is really all about. It should come as little surprise that this is all about abortion, or more specifically about the federal funding of abortion.
However, conversely to what the media would have you believe, it is not primarily about Bart Stupak and a handful of pro-life Democrats holding up health-care reform. Rather, it is about the leadership of the Democrat party’s willingness to sacrifice their electoral livelihoods and/or health-care “reform” in order to make sure abortion is covered.
The real truth is that if health-care reform were the true overriding objective of President Obama and the Democrat leadership in Congress, then they could have passed this bill months ago. Instead, Democrats in the Senate refused to compromise on keeping the status quo—an over three decade prohibition on federal funds for abortion. If they had crafted language similar to the Stupak amendment in the House, which merely reflects the status quo, Obamacare would now be the law of the land.
They refused. Now again in the House, Nancy Pelosi has struggled for months to find votes for the bill. Even now, the Democrat leadership would rather risk their careers and blatantly violate the Constitution rather than give in on abortion and the Stupak language. This gives proof to the lie that Obamacare does not change current law on abortion and makes inexplicable the willingness of some Catholics to blindly accept this falsehood.
This bill is all about funding abortion. The Democrats understand that this may be the one chance in the next decade to get this done and they will not sacrifice it. They will sacrifice the Constitution and their own jobs, but not federally funded abortion.
I am not the only one who thinks so. Bart Stupak appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s show last night and stated that the Democrats know this is their opportunity. The Democrats have made clear they intend to throw out the baby, the only question is whether they are willing to throw out the bathwater to do it. It seems the answer is yes.
You can shout that it is “40 year old news” or “nothing we haven’t heard before”. You can complain about anti-Catholic bigotry by the New York Times because Catholic scandal is a page one story but they didn’t report about the Orthodox Rabbi in New York who was convicted this past week of 10 counts of child molestation. You can cite statistics that show the vast majority of child sexual abuse happens within families or by non-celibate, heterosexual men. You can qualify terms by identifying the majority of sexual abusers as ephebophiles, not pedophiles, since most victims were post-pubescent. Why all of these may be true, they only succeed in making the Church appear as though it is deflecting the main issue or somehow mitigating its offenses. So how does the Church respond? Anyone in public relations (and possessing common sense) knows you have to ‘get out in front of the story’.
Why didn’t the bishops in Europe and throughout the world learn the difficult lessons their brother bishops in the United States learned beginning in 2002? Why would they not have immediately begun to draft an equivalent of the Dallas Charter, as imperfect as it is, in their own dioceses? Did they think they just dodged the bullet? Naive in thinking there were no instances of sexual crimes among their clergy? Or worse, were they simply hoping the information would not go public–in other words: covering up.
Shortly after the scandal in Ireland made international headlines, Pope Benedict summoned the bishops of Ireland to the Vatican for a “summit“. The outcome of this meeting is soon to be published in a pastoral letter from the Holy Father to the people of Ireland. Who is next? The Germans? The Dutch? We haven’t seen any headlines from Brazil yet…maybe them? What I believe needs to be done is similar to what the Holy Father did with the prelates of Ireland–but for the entire Church. Church Councils have been summoned for less of a crisis than this! Bishops are fairly autonomous in governing their dioceses, and this may explain why responsibility for past crimes does not rest with the Pope. However, while the sheer number of abusers and abuse cases may be comparatively low in number, there is not a diocese in the world immune. Therefore the need for a universal response rests with the pope.
George Weigel best analyzed the clergy sexual abuse crisis in his book The Courage to Be Catholic. In it he stated the cause of the crisis is not celibacy, homosexuality, pedophilia but a crisis in fidelity to Christ. Amen! Pope Benedict is attempting to heal the crisis of fidelity through The Year for Priests and Liturgical renewal. I don’t doubt he had the crisis in mind when he called for the Year for Priests with the theme “Fidelity of Christ, Fidelity of the Priest”. My fear, however is that unless Pope Benedict universally and publicly addresses this ongoing crisis, the Church will be further damaged over a longer period of time by the trickling stream of scandal and accusations of complicity for many popes to come.
The following column by the Archbishop of Denver succinctly articulates–from a Catholic perspective–the deficiencies of the health care legislation as it stands today:
The following column is scheduled to be published in the March 17, 2010 issue of the Denver Catholic Register.
Catholics, Health Care and the Senate’s bad bill
My former classmate is the Dominican interviewed in this spot on Eucharistic Adoration for students at the Angelicum in Rome.
How important a role do we allow God to play in our daily life? During the season of Lent we reflect on our relationship with God and how receptive we are to His limitless love for us. We focus on those things that obscure and damage this relationship and take the necessary ‘corrective measures’ to re-orient our lives toward Him and reflect that love to others. Penance, fasting and abstinence are effective tools we can use to accomplish personal conversion and extend God’s love to others. Alms-giving allows us to help those beyond our reach by assisting others in utilizing their own efforts and talents to bring God’s love to others.
I have written before about Fr. Tom’s Kids and the Dominican Mission in East Africa. Fr. Martin Martiny, OP (my former classmate) has written an “update” on the incredible work being done by the Dominican priests and sisters, bringing Christ’s love to a small part of the world that knows none. Please read the letter below–perhaps you may be inspired to send some alms their way.
7 March 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Die when I may, I want it said of me that I plucked a weed and planted a flower wherever I thought a flower would grow.”
We Dominican Friars have no illusions here in the midst of the rainy season in Kisumu, Kenya that our actions will save the world from the ravages of poverty, HIV, typhoid, malaria, war, rape, polygamy…. We are confident, nonetheless, that we can plant a few flowers, and sow and nurture the seeds of the faith in a part of the world where beauty and faith are most in need.
As a Dominican priest and missionary, I, Fr. Martin Martiny, serve with my brother and sister Dominicans, along the shores of Lake Victoria, the source of the White Nile amongst a community of Kenyans who are mostly of the Luo tribe. As a Dominican family, we are teaching, preaching, serving as chaplains at a local university, running a primary/secondary school called Our Lady of Grace, and a program of focused charity called Fr. Tom’s Kids, in honor of Fr. Tom Health who was killed in a robbery in 2005 and who had a great devotion to the youths of the area.
Our Lady of Grace school offers daily Mass and is home to the only chapel in a high school in this archdiocese with the Blessed Sacrament in permanent repose. We have around 220 full time students, almost all of them boarders and none of them able to pay the fees necessary to go to school. Today, we have about 70 kids attending Our Lady of Grace whose sponsors have been unable to continue their contributions. Undesignated donations have enabled us to keep all of them so far but it has been ‘a close run thing’, as Wellington described the battle of Waterloo. Even in the midst of the financial challenges, we have continued to accept the cases of kids who are really impossible to turn away.
Recently, Dominican sisters brought us out of the blue, 5 kids whom they could no longer assist. One is a small girl who is just about completely blind, another is a healthy and cheerful dwarf, and three others are suffering from rather severe physical handicaps—missing hands, feet, or a substantially shortened leg. We could not in good faith take the girl going blind; but were able to get her into a school for the blind run by Franciscan sisters about 45 minutes from here. The rest we did accept as an act of faith and we are feeling our way to how we can best help them. So far we just treat them like any other students and they seem to be thriving under these circumstances. None of these kids, however, has a sponsor; so….
We have also accepted responsibility for a young boy whose bone marrow has essentially shut down. He has been in and out of the hospital because he has almost no platelets and a far below minimum level of blood cells. We, with the help of a local couple, are keeping him in school while keeping an eye on him. There is no good reason why he is able to go to school. By all rights an infection should have already taken him away. We have placed him under the spiritual protection of Mother Rose Hawthorne, the founder of the Hawthorne Dominicans, and to date he remains in school as an actively participating student. This is Wycliff, for whom some of you have offered prayers.
We do not, moreover, send away young girls who get pregnant—where would we send them? We do our best to avoid making them feel rejected. Most come from incredibly challenging backgrounds and have suffered severe humiliation and extraordinary emotional harm in their earliest years. We stress patience and kindness in the midst of personal self-discipline.
We have one girl who was brought at the age of 12 by a religious sister and relative. She was a total orphan and had bounced from relative to relative all of her life. No one would accept responsibility for her for longer than a few days. She was, consequently, starved for love and respect at the same time she had never had anyone demand that she live by rules and guidelines. She was okay at first; then became wild and kept running away. Eventually, I had to call in her grandfather and tell him we could not help her if she was always running away. We do not run a prison. The grandfather took her home; but she essentially was without any supervision.
Although she was not ours, I continued to send for her about every month or so to see how she was doing—not well. Eventually, she showed up at my office beaten, covered with dirt, wearing torn clothing and smelling like a polecat. She was just exhausted and at the end of her tether. We talked for a while. I asked if she was pregnant. She said she did not know. I sent her up to get a bath and afterwards we talked some more. We gave her a pregnancy test. She was a thirteen year old positive for motherhood and negative for all the local diseases. She was also in shock. The father, in his mid twenties, disappeared, of course, from the picture. We did not send her away and did our best to reassure her that she remains our daughter. She eventually gave birth to a daughter, Clare Siena Shakira, and is now reenrolled in primary school grade 6. Her determination to complete school and to be a good mother is impressive, although we have to remind ourselves now and again that she is still only 15 years old.
We are purchasing Catholic bibles for our religion program. Believe it or not, one cannot get a Revised Standard Version of the bible with the Apocrypha in Kenya. We would like to get 100 copies of the Good News for the primary and another 136 copies of the RSV for the secondary students—both with the Apocrypha. Few, if any, Catholic schools in Kenya use the Catholic version of the bible because it either doesn’t exist in the RSV for high school or it is more expensive in the Good News Version. The missing 7 books, however, are important in teaching about marriage and about the Resurrection, just to mention two areas.
So these are some of the challenges we face in trying to preach Christ to the locals here and my less than brief introduction to Our Lady of Grace School and Fr. Tom’s Kids in Kisumu, Kenya. We ask for your continuing prayers and are grateful to all our benefactors.
Fr. L. Martin Martiny, O.P.
In the latest installment of his Without a Doubt column entitled The Death of a Priest, Bishop Tobin of Providence talks about the recent passing of four priests in his diocese and offers a reflection on the lasting legacy of faithful priests. It is worth a read. He aptly points out that “when a priest dies, he doesn’t leave a lot behind, at least not in earthly terms. He leaves no children or grandchildren, often not a lot of material possessions, and not even a large hole in the fabric of the Church. The mission of the Church continues beyond the life of any one individual; other priests went before him, and others will come after him to carry on the work of the Lord.” In the eyes of the world a priest leaves no lasting legacy on the world. What the priest of God does leave behind however, “is far more valuable than the passing things of this world. He leaves behind the witness of a good life that was informed and directed by the love of God. He leaves behind an example of generous sacrifice and commitment that made a positive difference for others. And he leaves behind a legacy of faith, hope and love in the people he served, planting in them the very seeds of eternal life.”
This post mortem analysis (pun intended) is well articulated, but it does not mention the penultimate stage of life…the dying. Perhaps the greatest sacrifice of priestly celibacy is not the mastery of the lower virtues but the privation of children-and in particular the blessing of children and family at one’s bedside while dying. But just think about it. What a blessing it is to have family and especially your children at your bedside, sitting with you, praying for you and on your behalf. Religious priests (by this I mean those priests who are members of a religious order or congregation) have the blessing of community life. When they approach the end of their journey, they are comforted by their brothers and have their community to pray with them and for them. But what about the diocesan priest? He most likely would have served alone as pastor, retired alone, and would have been predeceased by his parents. I have witnessed this first hand and have a friend who is presently experiencing this with his uncle, who is a priest. Each night he visits to pray a rosary and read Compline aloud. The discomfort and restlessness subsides, only to resume after the Nunc dimittis. Wouldn’t it be a blessing, a corporal work of mercy, fraternal charity for his brother priests to pray at his bedside for just an hour a day. In a diocese with some 400 priests, it would require just one hour–once a year–to pray beside a dying brother with the knowledge that this would be reciprocated when it is your time.
Bishop Tobin writes: “In his sacramental ministry a priest has welcomed individuals into the Church and touched them with the grace of God in the Sacrament of Baptism. He has celebrated Holy Mass a thousand times, offering thanksgiving to the Lord on behalf of God’s People and making God present among them in the Eucharist. He has forgiven the sins of God’s people, freeing them from guilt, and giving them the blessed opportunity to make a new beginning. He has prepared couples for Holy Matrimony, witnessing their vows on behalf of the Church and bestowing God’s blessings as they begin their journey together. He has accompanied frightened, vulnerable people during times of illness, anointing them with oil, assuring them of the presence and compassion of Christ. He has celebrated many funerals, sending holy souls to eternal life with the prayers of the Church and giving comfort and hope to those who mourn the loss of their loved ones.” They deserve a better send off.
In this Year for Priests: Pray for all living priests that they renew their commitment to Christ’s Sacred Heart; pray for priests who approach the end of their life that they may know the comfort of fraternal love; and pray for those priests who have died that their lasting legacy may gain them eternal reward.
Here’s a reminder for Thursday :
During the Year for Priests which began on June 19, 2009 and will end on June 19, 2010, the gift of special Indulgences is granted as described in the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, published on 12 May. The instructions for priests and for the faithful are as follows:
A. Truly repentant priests who, on any day, devoutly recite at least morning Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed for public adoration or replaced in the tabernacle, and who, after the example of St John Mary Vianney, offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the sacraments, especially Confession, are mercifully granted in God the Plenary Indulgence which they may also apply to their deceased brethren in suffrage, if, in conformity with the current norms, they receive sacramental confession and the Eucharistic banquet and pray for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions.
Furthermore the Partial Indulgence is granted to priests who may apply it to their deceased confreres every time that they devoutly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a holy life and to carry out in a holy manner the offices entrusted to them.
B. The Plenary Indulgence is granted to all the faithful who are truly repentant who, in church or in chapel, devoutly attend the divine Sacrifice of Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest, for the priests of the Church, and any other good work which they have done on that day, so that he may sanctify them and form them in accordance with His Heart, as long as they have made expiation for their sins through sacramental confession and prayed in accordance with the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions: on the days in which the Year for Priests begins and ends, on the day of the 150th anniversary of the pious passing of St John Mary Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month or on any other day established by the local Ordinaries for the benefit of the faithful.