Archive for the ‘Pope Benedict XVI’ Category

O God, we praise thee!

October 11, 2009

DamienIconSing a Te Deum (the traditional Catholic hymn of joy and thanksgiving) today, at least in spirit.  The Church has given us 5 new saints.  And even President Obama (who was born in Hawaii) has weighed in on the occasion. 

Here’s the President’s statement, as it appears at

I wish to express my deep admiration for the life of Blessed Damien de Veuster, who will be canonized on Sunday by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I also want to convey my best wishes to the Kingdom of Belgium and its people, who are proud to count Fr. Damien among their great citizens.

Fr. Damien has also earned a special place in the hearts of Hawaiians. I recall many stories from my youth about his tireless work there to care for those suffering from leprosy who had been cast out. Following in the steps of Jesus’ ministry to the lepers, Fr. Damien challenged the stigmatizing effects of disease, giving voice to the voiceless and ultimately sacrificing his own life to bring dignity to so many.

In our own time as millions around the world suffer from disease, especially the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we should draw on the example of Fr. Damien’s resolve in answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick.

I offer my prayers as people of all faiths join the Holy Father and millions of Catholics around the world in celebrating Fr. Damien’s extraordinary life and witness.

I’ve written a few posts on both St. Damien of Molokia and St. Jeanne Jugan on this blog before, so I’d invite you to check them out — on Damien here and Jeanne here.

Note: I’ll be talking about the new saints with Gud Lloyd on his SIRIUS satellite radio show, “Seize the Day,” tomorrow at 8 am.

Here’s coverage worth a look:

The Associated Press article includes this great quotation from the homily: “Their perfection, in the logic of a faith that is humanly incomprehensible at times, consists in no longer placing themselves at the center, but choosing to go against the flow and live according to the Gospel.”

This is cool: A newly-formed parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit (a merger of three previous parishes) is being named St. Damien of Molokai parish.

Obama’s comment on the canonization has brought more attention to it.  For example, ABC News and U.S New and World Report noticed.

The governor of Hawaii issued a formal proclamation of Damien Day.

Hawaii Magazine has much more extensive coverage, including a slideshow of some of Damien personal effects. jeanne_jugan_300

Ann Rodgers, an excellent religion reporter in Pittsburgh (I’m a western PA native), focuses on Jeanne Jugan because her Little Sisters of the Poor have a home for the elderly there.  A snipet:

The sisters who beg are better known than the James P. Wall Memorial Home itself, which many people assume is for aging nuns. It’s not, and its residents don’t even have to be Catholic.

The sole requirements are to be older than age 60 — most residents arrive in their 80s — and in financial need. Residents pay what they can afford. There are long waiting lists for the apartments, assisted living and nursing units.

In the chapel is a stained glass window of St. Jeanne cradling an elderly woman in her arms. Beneath are her words, “The poor are our Lord.” The sisters teach all staff members and volunteers to treat residents as they would Jesus himself. When in doubt, they ask “What would Jeanne Jugan do?”

 Zenit’s bio of Jeanne is good, too.  It includes some of the dramatic details of her story:

The community elected her as its first superior, a post she held for only two weeks as Father Le Pailleur decided to revoke the election. Years later the priest ordered her to live a more retired life, involved only in domestic tasks, and removed from her benefactors, a decision she accepted without protest. She lived in this way for 27 years.
“She put into practice the dictum that ‘your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing,’ to the point of disappearing into the group of which she was really the founder,” said the postulator.
Blessed Marie de la Croix, as she was called after entering religious life, died in August 1879 when the congregation had some 2,488 women religious and 177 homes for the elderly. Months earlier, Pope Leo XIII had approved the congregation’s statutes.
The future saint was recognized as the official founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor only at the beginning of the 20th century, when members of the order decided to write the history of the community, said Father Vito.
“She never rebelled against her marginalization; on the contrary, she dedicated herself more intensely to her congregation,” the priest affirmed.

 UPDATE: St. Damien and his life’s work was the topic of the lead editorial in yesterday’s New York Times.


‘One of Australia’s True Heroes’: Blessed Mary MacKillop

August 7, 2009

mary_mackillop_2Tomorrow is the feast of Blessed Mary MacKillop, and the 100th anniversary of her death.  She became better known to Catholics around the world last year, when Pope Benedict XVI made a visit to her tomb during the World Youth Day events held in Sydney and commented publicly about how impressed he is by her story.  But she was already a hero to many, many  Australians, both inside and out of the Church Church:

“In the vastness of the Australian continent, Blessed Mary MacKillop was not daunted by the great desert, the immense expanses of the outback, nor by the spiritual ‘wilderness’ which affected so many of her fellow citizens. Rather she boldly prepared the way of the Lord in the most trying situations,” the pontiff said.

“With gentleness, courage and compassion, she was a herald of the Good News among the isolated ‘battlers’ and the urban slum-dwellers. Mother Mary of the Cross knew that behind the ignorance, misery and suffering which she encountered there were people, men and women, young and old, yearning for God and his righteousness.”

Thousands are expected in North Sydney at Mary MacKillop Place, a spiritual, cultural and hospitality center at whose chapel the tomb of the holy woman is located. Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, will concelebrate a Mass at St. Mary’s Church to mark the feast day.

Sr. Brigette Sipa, Director of the Mary MacKillop Center, said it was unlikely that Pope Benedict XVI would announce Mary’s canonization on her feast day, a news report from the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn says. However, she added that the day was still significant and an opportunity “to remember and pay respects to one of Australia’s true heroes.”  (source)

More recently, there has been a bit of a dust-up over some comments that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made leading up to his visit to the Vatican last month.  He said he wanted to encourage the Pope to canonize MacKillop, which led many to gnash their teeth about mixing Church and State.  Seemed silly to me.  It seems rather obvious that, as an Australian politician, Rudd recognizes that a new Australian saint could result in a good shot in the arm for his nation’s economy — or even simpler, the guy just wanted something to talk about with the Pope. 

I’m sure Mary is comfortable with the controversy still swirling around her.  She knew a good bit of it in her own day. 

Blessed Mary MacKillop, pray for us!

His guardian dear

July 30, 2009

pope castHey, the Pope was talking guardian angels yesterday (and even Drudge linkled to it!).  Not in general, but about his own.  Can you imagine being an angel and getting that assignment from the Boss?  Well, I suppose he kept the same angel he had, so I should say, Can you imagine the human you’re “assigned” suddenly becoming Pope?  The pressure!  Does a promotion come with that, say from Cherubim to Seraphim?

Further, can you imagine the scene in the angelic locker room after something like the Pope’s recent accident happens?  The ribbing the Pope’s angel would take from the other angels?  A demotion?  And if a guardian angel is in deep hot water, does that mean we should be praying for him and not just to him?

I gotta ask Mike Aquilina about this!

Why I’m not a fan of the ‘Usus Antiquior’

July 28, 2009

elevationoftheeucharist_ql2xIt invites division.

I say this as someone who has long been very sympathetic to the “reform of the reform” movement.  I’ve studied the books by Ratzinger and Crouan, Gamber and NicholsLang and Reid.  Most of those authors’ books are on my bookshelf, marked up with my highlighter marker.  I stop by the NLM blog almost daily, WDTPRS less often but occasionally.  I interviewed Alcuin Reid for an article marking the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the liturgical movement that will be published soon in Our Sunday Visitor, because I thought his viewpoint would be a worthwhile one (I was right).  I get the criticisms.

I just don’t think the introduction of the 1962 rite as the “usus antiquior,” available for broad use, is the answer.  I think the division mentioned here will grow.  Most people are not liturgical scholars who can understand and articulate all of the fine distinctions and nuances of the relationship between the “old use” and the “new use.”  They’ll see the separation, and sense that a choice for the old is a choice against the new. 

“But,” I can imagine the objection, “the history of the Church is full of the use of various rites in various times and places.  Many rites are in use around the world today.  Are you suggesting that the very existence of all of them ‘invites division’?” 

No.  Those cases are all different.  As far as I know, the situation that we find ourselves in now, with Summorum Pontificum (so why, by the way, is this not available on the Vatican website in English? am I missing something?), is a rather unique one — two specific “uses” approved for use by people of the same rite.  I know there have been other “uses,” but as I understand it (and admittedly, I’m no expert) these were local variations of the Roman rite that developed during the Middle Ages.  Two uses were never used side by side in the same locality. 

Another (pseudo-) objection I imagine being raised: “Oh, well, there’s no division now is there?  What with all the anger and resentment by those who long for a return to the Eucharist celebrated with dignity and splendor, and the utter goofiness that is tolerated and promoted in so many parishes and dioceses.  What could possibly be worse than what we have now?”

And my answer to that is, if my wife and I are having major problems, the answer is not to buy a set of two double beds.  No, we need to work on it, talk about it, even if that’s hard and takes a while.

I think it would have been a better idea for Pope Benedict to focus on reforming the way we all celebrate Mass.  That might have simply meant continuing to form the Catholic people, particularly priests, to celebrate the liturgy with respect, reverence, dignity, awe, etc., and to reject abuses and irreverence.  This has been the approach up to now.  I think it’s fair to say it was John Paul II’s approach (traditionalists insert snide comment here about indigenous dances at papal masses).  Many have noted that this was working, and in my opinion, quite well.  Much of the goofiness that was commonplace 25 years ago is still around, but more on the fringes, and in my view, destined to go the way of the dinosaurs.  I mean, have you met any seminarians lately?  These guys are duro — often moreso than I’m comfortable with, but let me tell you, Piero Marini they ain’t. 

He might also have gone so far as to introduce significant changes that he sees fit, perhaps reversing some of the innovations that were introduced following the Council.  Back to Latin?  Altars facing east?  One Eucharistic prayer rather than 13?  He’s the Pope, after all, he could do it. 

I think any of that would be better than what we have, which amounts to the beginnings of division into two camps.  The best that we can hope for, in my opinion, is that one camp will remain small, but that its existence will be salt in the leaven of liturgical reform in the Roman rite as it’s celebrated by the rest of us.  In that regard, I wish the usus antiquior movement well; I hope it makes a big splash in the wider Church.  I just think that splash could have been brought on in ways other than the Summorum Pontificum approach.

I should note, credit is due in some of these thoughts to the work of John Baldovin, whose book Reforming the Liturgy is helpful and interesting.  He also has a good article, “Reflections on Summorum Pontificum,” in the March 2009 issue of Worship.

Is Caritas in Veritate poorly written? (updated)

July 18, 2009

Peter Steinfels has a piece about Caritas in Veritate in yesterday’s New York Times.  He basically asks the question, Why is the thing so hard to read?  Actually, Steinfels asks why it’s “so poorly written.”

Working busily on a companion guide to the thing, I had asked this question myself already (and commented on the fact here), though I guess I was thinking more that it was hard reading than poor writing (but I can live putting it either way).  My basic answer has been: it’s the subject matter.  Reading about economics and business ethics is just not as much of a grabber (to me anyway) as the Eucharist and the value of human life.  But I suppose that only goes so far.  Let’s face it, Populorum Progressio is not as difficult. Maybe it is more than the fact that it’s a hard topic.

Steinfels suggests three answers: 1. It’s an encyclical.  (Not a good answer, because this one is obviously more difficult than most.)  2. It’s the work of many hands.  (Not a good answer, because so are most encyclicals — as he acknowledges.)  3.) The Pope tries to cover too much ground.  As Steinfels puts it:

“Caritas in Veritate” is a document about human nature and the Trinity and the current economic crisis and inequality and the energy problem. It argues a link between Catholic teaching on sexuality and life issues like abortion and Catholic stances on social issues like poverty and the environment.

It carries on an internal Catholic debate about continuity versus discontinuity in interpreting church teaching. It even offers a tantalizing glimpse at a new variation on markets, profits and the relationships between economics and politics.

This seems to make the most sense of the three, I guess.  But even with this, some good rewriting and editing could have solved a lot.  I know in my own work, once I’ve written something, I need to stop, step away (at least mentally, though literally getting away from it for a few days  is better) and then almost sneak up on it, approach it as a reader who has never seen it before.  Is it clear, understandable, interesting, etc, to someone who’s not in my own head? (And that, of course, is why blogging is generally not a forum for stellar writing.  We write the first draft and publish at the click of a button!)

It seems like this is the step that was missing in the drafting of CiV.  I doesn’t seem like they asked themselves, Are the people — remember, it’s not addressed only to bishops or theologians, but “all people of good will” — going to be able to get this?

Anyway, Jody Bottum, whose work I admire, suggests at the First Things blog that Steinfels’ asking this question is akin to George Wiegel’s earlier criticisms.   But that’s disingenuous.  Weigel, of course, was not “pilloried” (as he puts it) because he said the encyclical is poorly written.  Rather, he used this fact as an excuse to suggest readers could disregard major sections of it as not worth our attention.  There’s a big difference there.

UPDATE: Someone has now put it all far better than I did in the comments to the post — second one down.  Well said, Mr. Martens

Weighty Praise

July 15, 2009

Caritas in Veritate “is without doubt the most articulate, comprehensive and thoughtful response to the financial crisis that has yet appeared.”

Says who?  A Goldman-Sachs exec.

And he says more:

[I]t makes the [British] Government’s White Paper on financial reforms published two days later look embarrassingly one-dimensional and colourless.


Pope Benedict’s words are not just platitudes. They affect every person at work every day.

That last bit contra the suggestion that there are some encyclicals that the regular folks just don’t need to bother with. 

And he does more than speak in broad praise.  He identifies “six major ways to make global capitalism more human,” as suggested by CiV.

Check out the whole article.  Brian Saint-Paul at the Ignatius Insight blog pointed it out.

Digging in

July 7, 2009

You know by now that Pope Benedict’s third encyclical, Caritas in Veritatis, appeared today.  It’s an interesting and sometimes difficult read.  I read through it today and look forward to spending some quality time with the letter in the days and weeks ahead. 

I also got a chance to peruse some of the commentary that’s already floating around the web.  I found these four in particular worth a look.  Of course, there’s probably some other good stuff out there that I’ve missed.

James Martin, SJ

John L. Allen, Jr.

George Weigel

reaction to George Weigel

The piece by Weigel (whose work I usually enjoy) was the very first one I found today.  My first reaction was to feel a bit of resentment at Weigel’s suggestion that he (and a few degreed Vaticanologists) know which sections of the new encyclical (or any encyclical) I should really pay attention to and which parts I can safely ignore because they were included so that the Pope could keep the peace in the offices at the Vatican.  The way Weigel casts doubt on sections of the encyclical that he clearly would prefer not to see in there is worth at least the raising of a dubious eyebrow.  But that fourth link I’ve provided above articulates this with such sharp wit — I laughed out loud in front of my screen several times.  (And one of the comments to the post made me chuckle, too:  “I think this may be the first time the historical-critical method has been used to tease out the “real” meaning of a religious document on the very day it was published.”) 

(UPDATE: Another strong reaction to the Weigel piece here.  The comments to it are also worth looking at.)

(UPDATE 2: Whoa. There is no shortage of people voicing their disappointment with George Weigel’s NRO piece.)

Of course, there’s no substitute for reading the encyclical itself.  Like so much of Benedict’s work, though, it’s not always easy reading.  (With this in mind, Pauline Books will soon be publishing my Your Guide to Caritas in Veritate: Charity in the Truth.  Keep an eye out.)

CiV Backgrounder

July 1, 2009

Today the Vatican officially set a publication date for Caritas in Veritate: Tuesday, July 7, at 11:30 am. 

CNS’s Carol Glatz has a good backgrounder today.  It includes a good explanation of Catholic Social Teaching and the encyclicals that have expressed it:

Instead of focusing on theological beliefs, the social encyclicals written by most modern-day popes have tried to shape the way Christians and all people of good will can better serve the common good. Each social encyclical was unique in that it sought to respond to the most pressing social realities at the time.

Also a good summary of the social encyclicals of the past 100+ years.   It’s important, because it’s the context within which this encyclical falls.

(Sidenote: I’m happy to see Evangelium Vitae included in the list of social encyclicals.  It’s often not, but I always do when I teach on the topic of CST.  It highlights that the abortion issue is a human rights issue, not simply a religious one.)

He Signed It

June 29, 2009

Sts-Peter-and-PaulThe Pope announced today (during his brief address following the praying of the Angelus, which followed the tradition pallium Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul) that he has signed Caritas in Veritate.  The encyclical, Pope Benedict’s third, will be released to the public on July 6 or 7 (an Italian paper, Corriere della Serra, reports). 

The long-awaited document will be the latest installment in the Church’s rich tradition of applying moral principles to various social issues.  Collectively, this is known as Catholic Social Teaching

The report in Corriere della Serra includes a peek at few paragraphs of the new encyclical.  A clip from the CNA report, taking off from the CdS report:

According to the Pope, the current crisis has been sparked by “a deficit of ethics in the economic structures.” A reform of the current system, therefore, will require “a common code” based on “the truth from both faith and reason,” capable of providing “the light through which the human intelligence arrives at natural and supernatural truth of charity.”

Vecchi claims that the Pope will recall the “social responsibility of private companies,” but also underscore that “true development is impossible without honest men, without financial operators and politicians who strongly feel in their own consciences the call to [serve] the common good.”

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ll be preparing a study companion to the document, to be published by Pauline Books and Media, along the lines of my Your Guide to Spe Salvi: Saved in Hope.  To make the companion to the new encyclical as timely as possible, we’ve already done the preparatory paperwork on the project (truth be told, it’s been done for over a year — that offers an illustration of how long the publication of this encyclical has been on the horizon!) and I’ve agreed to turn in a completed manuscipt in about a month.  (Thank heavens I’m on summer vacation from work.)

Can’t wait to dive in!

(Thanks to Whispers for pointing out the news.)

Caritas in Veritate – coming next week?

June 24, 2009

Magister also reports that it looks like the Pope’s next encyclical will be signed by him next week.