By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pauline Year Closes

[Emphasis added by blogger]

VATICAN CITY, 28 JUN 2009 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his private study to pray the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

Before the Marian prayer, the Pope spoke of the Pauline Year, due to come to an end this evening in a ceremony at the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. "It has been", he said, "a true period of grace during which, through pilgrimages, catecheses, numerous publications and various other initiatives, the figure of St. Paul has been presented afresh to the entire Church, and his powerful message has revived a passion for Christ and the Gospel in Christian communities everywhere".

Pope Benedict then went on to refer to the newly-inaugurated Year for Priests, called to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the "Cure of Ars", and the aim of which "is to help promote the commitment to interior renewal among all priests", that they may provide "stronger and more incisive evangelical witness in today's world"

In this context, said the Pope, the Apostle Paul "represents a magnificent model to be imitated ... in love for Christ, in zeal for announcing the Gospel, in dedication to communities, in elaborating effective summaries of pastoral theology. St. Paul was an example of a priest completely identified with his ministry - as the holy 'Cure of Ars' would also be - aware he was bearing a priceless treasure - that is the message of salvation - though carrying it in a clay jar'".

"'The love of Christ possesses us', the Apostle wrote", Benedict XVI concluded, "and this could well be a motto for priests, whom the Spirit has 'captivated' to make them faithful administrators of the mysteries of God".

ANG/PRIESTS/... VIS 090630 (310)

[Emphasis added by blogger]

VATICAN CITY, 28 JUN 2009 (VIS) - This evening in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Holy Father presided at first Vespers for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles. The ceremony, which officially closed the Pauline Year, was also attended by a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, headed by His Eminence Emmanuel, metropolitan of France.

Benedict XVI, standing before the sarcophagus of the Apostle Paul which lies under the main altar, recalled how a recent scientific analysis of the tomb had revealed the presence of a costly purple linen fabric, grains of incense and bone fragments which a carbon-14 test has dated to the first or second centuries. "This", he said, "seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul, and it fills our heart with profound emotion".

Paul, said the Holy Father, remains the "'Master of the Gentiles' who wished to carry the message of the risen Christ to all men and women, because Christ has known and loved them all, He died and rose again for them all". In his Letter to the Romans the Apostle makes it clear "that with Christ a new way of venerating God, a new form of worship, has begun. ... It is no longer things that are offered to God, it is our very lives that must become praise of God".

This Letter uses two decisive words, "transformation and renewal", said the Pope and he went on: "We must become new men and new women, transformed in a new way of existence. The world is always seeking novelty because, quite rightly, it is always discontented with concrete reality. Paul tells us that the world cannot be renewed without new men and women. ... The Apostle exhorts us to non-conformity. In this Letter he tells us not to succumb to the blueprint of the current age".

Paul explains this process more clearly "saying that we become new if we transform our way of thinking" and that "such renewal must be complete. ... The mind of old man, the common way of thinking, generally aims at possession, wellbeing, influence, success, fame and so on. But this has too limited a scope; in the final analysis, it is the 'self' that remains at the centre of the world. We must learn to think more deeply, ... we must learn to understand God's will so that it moulds our own will, so that we ourselves want what God wants, so that we recognise that what God wants is beautiful and good".

In his Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle says that "with Christ we must reach adulthood, mature humanity. ... Paul wants Christians to have 'responsible' faith, 'adult' faith. The phrase 'adult faith' has become a common slogan over recent decades. It is often understood as the attitude of those who no longer listen to the Church and her pastors, but autonomously choose what they wish to believe and not to believe: a sort of 'do-it-yourself' faith. This is also presented as the 'courage' to go against the Magisterium of the Church. The truth, however, is that it requires no courage because one is always certain of garnering public sympathy.

"What does require courage", he added, "is to adhere to the faith of the Church even if this contradicts the blueprint of the modern world. It is the 'non-conformity' of faith that Paul calls 'adult faith'. What he considers childlike is to charge after all the winds and currents of the age".

The Holy Father went on: "Part of adult faith, for example, is commitment to the inviolability of human life from the very first moment, thus radically opposing the principle of violence by defending the most helpless human creatures. Part of adult faith is recognising lifelong marriage between a man and a woman, as ordained by God and re-established by Christ. Adult faith does not allow itself to be blown here and there by the slightest breeze".

"Yet Paul does not limit himself to mere negation, he leads us on to the great 'yes'. ... The new way of thinking that faith has given us is primarily directed towards truth. The power of evil is falsehood. The power of faith, the power of God, is truth. ... God makes Himself visible to us in the face of Jesus Christ. And looking at Christ we recognise another thing: that truth and charity are inseparable".

"The Apostle tells us that, by working according to truth in charity, we contribute to ensuring that everything - the universe - develops towards Christ. On the basis of his faith, Paul is not simply concerned for our personal rectitude or for the growth of the Church. ... The ultimate goal of Christ's work is the universe, the transformation of the universe, of the entire human world, of all creation. Those who, together with Christ, serve the truth in charity contribute to the true progress of the world".

Finally, Benedict XVI recalled how in the Letter to the Ephesians the Apostle speaks of the need to strengthen "'inner being'. ... The inner vacuum - the weakness of inner being - is one of the great problems of our age", he said. "Inner life must be strengthened: the perception of the heart, the capacity to see and understand the world and mankind from within, with the heart. We need a reason illuminated by the heart so as to learn to act according to the truth in charity".


Monday, June 29, 2009

Looking Like Paul's Remains

Scientific testing seems to confirm that the remains in Rome's Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls are likely those of St. Paul. See Foxnews link.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Somewhat Sporadic Posting in July

Due to some summer writing projects, blog posting will be relatively sporadic during the month of July. But, to paraphrase General MacArthur, we shall return.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Christus Versus Populum ("Christ Toward the People")

In the interminable liturgical "wars" (which, by the way, Screwtape is happy to encourage), there is a continual debate as to whether the priest should face the people during the consecration (celebration versus populum or toward the people) or toward the liturgical east (ad orientem). Some of this debate is, at times, tied to the idea that somehow the Extraordinary Form (commonly mislabeled the "Tridentine Mass") of the Roman Rite is superior to the post-Vatican II or ordinary form of the Roman Rite, because in the Extraordinary Form the priest consecrates while facing away from the people. Let me be clear that in my view both forms of the one Roman Rite are perfectly appropriate, although I personally favor the Ordinary Form as an appropriate and welcome renewal of the liturgy as envisioned by the assembled bishops of Vatican II and by the subsequent General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

Having said all of that by way of meticulous introduction, let me get to my point today: there is a tendency to mischaracterize celebration toward the people (versus populum) as if the priest and the people are turning away from the Lord. I submit that this tendency is a theologically baseless (and unfairly tendentious) description of celebration versus populum. To be fair to one's "opponents," one should try to follow the example of Aquinas in generously presenting the views of the other side. A fair, theologically serious presentation of celebration versus populum would point out that what we are really talking about is Christus versus populum ("Christ toward the people"). Too often, in liturgical discussions, we neglect to ask the "who" question--in this case, the "who" question is: Who is turning toward the people? Christus. Christ. (In a similar way, some who love to talk about the "Spirit of the Liturgy" fail to ask who is the Spirit of the liturgy. Answer: the Holy Spirit, an answer that usually introduces an entirely new and invigorating dimension to such, often tiresome discussions.)

Contrary to the usually trope of attack used by some, the people are not interested in looking at the face of the celebrating human priest nor in having that same merely human priest look at them. Rather, devout Catholics are looking at the Eucharistic elements, the host and the chalice, when celebration is versus populum--and, once the elements are consecrated, Jesus, under the appearances of bread and wine, is facing them. So a proper theological understanding of celebration toward the people is not a matter of an allegedly enclosed circle in which the ordained priest and the congregation supposedly enjoy looking at each other's faces. Celebration versus populum is rather a matter of the Eucharistic Jesus turning toward the people so that the mutual gaze between Him and His people takes place in the liturgy (recall the famous anecdote from the Curé d'Ars recounted in footnote 12 of the Pope's recent June 16th Letter proclaiming a Year for Priests.). Viewing celebration versus populum in this deeper theological way is a good way to escape the dead end of liturgical arguments and of thus disappointing Screwtape's hopes for further division and distraction in a very challenging world.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How To Obey the Pope

Recently, I quoted a crucial paragraph from the letter written by Pope Benedict XVI to all priests worldwide for the Year for Priests that has just been inaugurated. In that letter, the Pope urges, invites, and, in so many words, commands all Catholic priests worldwide to "discover with faith, recognise with joy and foster diligently the many and varied charismatic gifts of the laity, whether these be of a humble or more exalted kind " [the Pope is quoting from a Vatican II document; see appendix at the end of this post].

Some clergy will ignore the Pope because they are used to doing so--this group could include those who are theologically liberal and so are accustomed to ignoring the Pope or those in the schismatic traditionalist sector who also, ironically like their liberal brethren, are accustomed to ignoring the Pope. Then, there will be some clergy who pride themselves on orthodoxy and are fans of the Pope but are, illogically and unbiblically, hostile to anything called charismatic. It will not be surprising if some of those in this latter group will also find a way to justify ignoring the papal directive to discover, recognize, and foster the varied charismatic gifts. Yet, I also think that the Pope's leadership on this point will begin to open hearts and minds among more clergy concerning the co-essential charismatic dimension of the Church that has been ignored for too long by those who should be least excused from ignoring it.

Recently, I attended a Mass in a major Detroit suburb focused on healing. The event was a prime example of how the clergy can discover, recognize, and foster the varied charismatic gifts of the laity. The evening began with sacramental Confession (individualized, of course) made available to those attending. Then, there was a period of praise and worship in the church before Mass, that including some singing in tongues. Then the priest left the confessional and began the Mass, which included liturgical prayers for healing. After the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and adored. Then, people lined up to be blessed by the priest using the monstrance as he commanded each person to be healed in the name of Jesus. Some individuals softly fell to the ground as this happened; this phenomenon is called resting in the Spirit and is a means by which the Lord heals people. Individuals also had the option to receive prayer ministry at different places in the church from lay people. The lay people were affiliated with the church's local charismatic prayer group which sponsored the Mass for healing.

Here, in a suburban church, we see the clergy and the laity working together and exercising the charisms in seamless unity with the sacraments. This event happened on June 17th, one day after the date of the Pope's letter commanding all priests to do the same. One parish responded almost instantaneously. May many others do so so that the People of God may be fed, healed, and built up by the charisms that the Lord so generously bestows, even today, as he did in the first centuries of the Catholic Church. Amen.

Appendix: Below is the Pope's directive to all priests worldwide on this matter from his letter inaugurating the Year for Priests:

In this context of a spirituality nourished by the practice of the evangelical counsels, I would like to invite all priests, during this Year dedicated to them, to welcome the new springtime which the Spirit is now bringing about in the Church, not least through the ecclesial movements and the new communities. "In his gifts the Spirit is multifaceted. ... He breathes where He wills. He does so unexpectedly, in unexpected places, and in ways previously unheard of, ... but he also shows us that He works with a view to the one body and in the unity of the one body". In this regard, the statement of the Decree "Presbyterorum Ordinis" continues to be timely: "While testing the spirits to discover if they be of God, priests must discover with faith, recognise with joy and foster diligently the many and varied charismatic gifts of the laity, whether these be of a humble or more exalted kind". These gifts, which awaken in many people the desire for a deeper spiritual life, can benefit not only the lay faithful but the clergy as well. The communion between ordained and charismatic ministries can provide "a helpful impulse to a renewed commitment by the Church in proclaiming and bearing witness to the Gospel of hope and charity in every corner of the world". I would also like to add, echoing the Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis" of Pope John Paul II, that the ordained ministry has a radical "communitarian form" and can be exercised only in the communion of priests with their bishop. This communion between priests and their bishop, grounded in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and made manifest in Eucharistic concelebration, needs to be translated into various concrete expressions of an effective and affective priestly fraternity. Only thus will priests be able to live fully the gift of celibacy and build thriving Christian communities in which the miracles which accompanied the first preaching of the Gospel can be repeated.

Source link [emphasis added by blogger].

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Servant of the Word

[Emphasis added by blogger]

VATICAN CITY, 24 JUN 2009 (VIS) - During today's general audience, held in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused his remarks on the Year for Priests which he inaugurated last Friday, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and day of prayer for the sanctification of the clergy, and which is intended to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney.

"Why a Year for Priests?" the Pope asked. "And why should it recall the holy 'Cure of Ars' who apparently did nothing out of the ordinary?"

The Holy Father went on to explain how "Divine Providence ordained that the figure [of St. John May Vianney] should be associated with that of St. Paul" because, "although the two saints followed very different life paths, ... these exists nonetheless a fundamental factor that unites them: their total identification with their ministry, their communion with Christ".

"The aim of this Year for Priests", he went on, "is to support each priest's struggle towards spiritual perfection, 'upon which the effectiveness of his ministry particularly depends', and to help priests, and with them the entire People of God, to rediscover and revive an awareness of the extraordinary and indispensable gift of Grace which the ordained ministry represents, for the person who receives it, for the entire Church, and for the world which would be lost without the real presence of Christ".

"Although the historical and social conditions in which the 'Cure of Ars' worked have changed, it is right to ask how priests can imitate him by identifying themselves with their ministry in modern globalised societies", said the Pope.

"In a world in which the common view of life leaves ever less space for the sacred, in place of which 'functionality' becomes the only decisive category, the Catholic concept of priesthood could risk losing its due regard, sometimes even in the ecclesial conscience".

The Holy Father identified two conceptions of the priesthood, "which do not in fact contradict one another". On the one hand "a social-functional conception which identifies the essence of priesthood with the concept of 'service'. ... On the other hand there is a sacramental-ontological conception" which sees priestly ministry "as determined by a gift called Sacrament, granted by the Lord through the mediation of the Church".

"What", the Pope asked, "does it mean for priests to evangelise? In what does the primacy of announcement exist? ... Announcement coincides with the person of Christ", he said, "a priest cannot consider himself as 'master' of the Word, but as its servant".

[Blogger comment: The Pharisees who opposed Jesus (not all did) ended up thinking themselves masters of the Torah, of the Law, rather than its servants. That danger exists today for the ordained and also for us laity. The evangelizer--both clerical and lay--is always the servant of the Word, never the master "hammering" others or even patronizing others. The Word is agape, and His messengers cannot contradict His very nature. See this link for more on the Pharisees.]

"Only participation in Christ's sacrifice, in His 'chenosi', ... and docile obedience to the Church ... makes announcement authentic. ... Priests are Christ's servants, in the sense that their existence, ontologically configured to Him, have an essentially relational character. The priest is in Christ, for Christ and with Christ at the service of humankind. Precisely because he belongs to Christ, the priest is radically at the service of man".

Benedict XVI concluded by expressing the hope that "the Year for Priests may lead all the clergy to identify themselves completely with Christ Who died and rose again, so that, imitating St. John the Baptist, they may be ready 'to diminish' that He may grow; and that, following the example of the 'Cure of Ars', they may be constantly and profoundly aware of their mission, which is both sign and presence of the infinite mercy of God".

AG/YEAR FOR PRIESTS/... VIS 090624 (580)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Heart of the Matter

[Emphasis added by blogger]

VATICAN CITY, 20 JUN 2009 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. yesterday, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Pope inaugurated the year for Priests, which has been called to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney. Among those attending Vespers in the Vatican Basilica were large numbers of priests and seminarians from Rome.

Before the celebration began, the Pope prayed in front of the relics of the holy "Cure of Ars", brought to Rome by Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars.

In his homily the Holy Father explained how "the Heart of Jesus expresses the essential core of Christianity: the fact that all the revolutionary novelty of the Gospel was revealed and given to us in Christ: that is, the Love that saves us and causes us, even now, to live in God's eternity".

"His Divine Heart appeals to our hearts and invites us to emerge from our own selves, to abandon our human security and entrust ourselves to Him and, following His example, to make of ourselves an unreserved gift of love.

[Blogger comment: It's a scary thing to do, yet we are called to venture forth from the ramparts of safety with which we surround our ego. Too often, they are ramparts of vanity and self-pride. To love as Jesus did is to risk rejection and even humiliation. He did it anyway. We should do it anyway because there is no person for whose life the answer is not Jesus.]

"If it is true that Jesus' call to 'abide in His love' applies to all the baptised", Benedict XVI added, "then on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, day of the sanctification of the clergy, that call sounds out with even greater force for us as priests, and particularly this evening at the beginning of the Year for Priests".

The mission of priests is "indispensable for the Church and for the world", said the Pope. It "requires complete faithfulness to Christ and constant union with Him. In other words, it requires us to tend constantly towards sanctity, like St. John Mary Vianney".

"Allowing oneself to be completely conquered by Christ: this was the aim of St. Paul's entire life, to which we have been dedicating our attention during the Pauline Year that is now drawing to a close; this was also the goal of the entire ministry of the holy 'Cure of Ars', to whom we will particularly address ourselves during the Year for Priests. May this also be the main objective of each one of us".

In order to be ministers of the Gospel "study is certainly useful, as is careful and permanent pastoral formation, but what is even more necessary is the 'science of love' which can be learned only 'heart to heart' with Christ. It is He, in fact, Who calls us to break the bread of His love in order to remit sins and guide the flock in His name. ... Only in this way will we be able to co-operate effectively in the mysterious 'plan of the Father' which consists in 'making Christ the heart of the world'. This plan is achieved in history as, little by little, Jesus becomes the Heart of human hearts, beginning with those called to be closest to him: that is, priests".

[Blogger Comment: The worst priest I ever met failed miserably precisely in this aspect: he claimed to know a lot about doctrine and languages (and, even here, he woefully overestimated his knowledge and the appropriate degree of certainty), but sorely and manifestly lacked in plain love, in the fruits of the Spirit of patience, gentleness, kindness, and self-control. It was a disaster that I hope has since been ameliorated.]

"Even our shortcomings, our limitations and weaknesses must lead us back to the heart of Jesus", said Pope Benedict. "If it is true that sinners, by contemplating His Heart, must learn the necessary 'suffering of sins' that leads them back to the Father, this holds even truer for ministers in holy orders. In this context, how can we forget that nothing makes the Church, Body of Christ, suffer so much as this sins of her pastors, above all of those who become 'stealers of sheep', either by misleading them into a private doctrine or binding them with bonds of sin and death? Dear priests, the call to conversion and the recourse to Divine Mercy apply to us too. We too, with heartfelt humility, must ask the Heart of Jesus to preserve us from the terrible risk of harming the very people whom we are required to save".

[Blogger comment: The shame of foisting "private doctrine" on others is not limited to the all-too-common, stereotypical situation of the theologically liberal cleric. I have seen such imposing of "private doctrine" also among those who claim to be the most orthodox of the orthodox--for example, treating as dogmatically defined matters that in fact have not been dogmatically defined; attacking out of ignorance, fear, and erroneous interpretation papally endorsed movements such as the Charismatic Renewal and taking great pride in those very attacks; and imposing a strange, suffocating scrupulosity on the faithful based on extreme views on liturgical matters. And, of course, the private doctrine of the extreme traditionalists that the post-Vatican II Mass is either invalid or inferior is another blatant example of misleading the flock.]

The Holy Father invited his audience to cultivate the same feelings for "the dignity of priests" as those felt by the "Cure of Ars", in order to "accomplish our mission with generosity and dedication, and to maintain an authentic 'fear of God' in our hearts: the fear that, by our negligence or sin, we deprive the souls entrusted to us from such goodness, or that we may - God forbid! - do damage to them.

"The Church", the Pope added, concluding his homily, "needs holy priests, ministers who help the faithful experience the merciful love of the Lord and who are themselves convinced witnesses of that love".

The ceremony concluded with adoration and Eucharistic blessing.