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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Life in the Spirit Seminar: Detroit Area (St. Lawrence Catholic Church, Utica, Michigan)


LIFE IN THE SPIRIT SEMINAR

The Little Flock Prayer Group is sponsoring a Life in the Spirit Seminar.

We will be using the “The New Life in the Spirit Seminarseries.

WHAT IS IT?

We have received the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. The Life in the Spirit series is an opportunity to see our life’s journey in the Holy Spirit. We come to know more fully who the Holy Spirit is and how we need to surrender ourselves to Him and allow Him to guide and define our lives so we can live the life we have been called to live and be the person God created us to be.

WHEN IS IT?

Six Week Seminar

Thursday 4-15-10 through 5-20-10

7:30 pm to approx. 9:30 pm

WHERE IS IT?

St. Lawrence Catholic Church, Utica - Youth Room

COST - $13-15 for supplies (If you are unable to pay, please attend at no cost)

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

Anyone who feels they are missing something in their life. Anyone who wants a deeper walk with Jesus. Anyone who is searching for a deeper understanding of the love of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. (This is also a good time of renewal for those who have previously completed a Life in the Spirit Seminar)

FOR INFORMATION CALL:

Jim or Shirley Brodi 586-739-3802, Kathleen Wesley 586-286-7253,

Bob Hurlbert 586-412-1029, or Mary Sackey 586-731-4914

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Great Francis

FRANCIS OF ASSISI, A GIANT OF SANCTITY


VATICAN CITY, 27 JAN 2010 (VIS) - Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during the general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, to St. Francis of Assisi (1181/82-1226), a "true 'giant' of sanctity who continues to enthral many people of all ages and religious beliefs".


Francis, the Pope explained, was born into a rich family and passed a carefree youth. At the age of twenty he took part in a military campaign and was taken prisoner. On his return to Assisi he began a process of spiritual conversion that gradually led him to abandon worldly life. In the hermitage of St. Damian, Francis had a vision of Christ, Who spoke to him from the crucifix inviting him to repair His Church.


This call "contains a profound symbolism", said the Holy Father, because the ruinous condition of the hermitage also represented "the dramatic and disquieting situation of the Church at that time, with her superficial faith that neither formed nor transformed life, her clergy little committed to its duties, ... and the interior decay of her unity due to the rise of heretical movements. Yet nonetheless, at the middle of that Church in ruins was the Crucifix, which spoke and called for renewal, which called Francis".


Pope Benedict also remarked upon the coincidence between that event in Francis' life and the dream of Pope Innocent III in the same year of 1207. The Pope had dreamt that the basilica of St. John Lateran was about to collapse, and a "small and insignificant" friar held it up to prevent its fall. Pope Innocent recognised the friar in Francis, who came to see him in Rome two years later.


"Innocent III", said Benedict XVI, "was a powerful Pontiff, who possessed profound theological culture as well as great political power, but it was not he who renewed the Church. It was the 'small and insignificant' friar, it was Francis, called by God. Yet it is important to recall that Francis did not renew the Church without the Pope or against the Pope, but in communion with him. The two things went together: Peter's Successor, the bishops and the Church founded on apostolic succession, and the new charism that the Spirit had created at that moment to renew the Church".


Having renounced his paternal inheritance in 1208, the saint elected to live in poverty and dedicate himself to preaching. A year later, accompanied by his first followers, he travelled to Rome to present his project for a new form of Christian life to Pope Innocent III.


Referring then to the philosophical debate concerning, on the one hand, the Francis of tradition and, on the other, the Francis some scholars define as historical, the Pope explained that the saint "wished to follow the Word of Christ ... in all its radical truth", but at the same time "he was aware that Christ is never 'mine' but 'ours', that 'I' can never possess Him, that 'I' can never rebuild against the Church, her will and her teaching".


It is also true that at first Francis "did not wish to create a new order" with all the due canonical procedures. However, not without disappointment, he came to understand "that everything must have its order and that the law of the Church is necessary to give form to renewal. Thus he entered ... with all his heart into communion with the Church, with the Pope and the bishops".


The Holy Father recalled how St. Clare also joined the school of St. Francis, and he praised the fruits that the Second Order of St. Francis, the Poor Clares, has brought to the Church. He then went on to speak of Francis' 1219 voyage to Egypt, where he met the Sultan Melek-el-Kamel and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "In an age marked by an ongoing conflict between Christianity and Islam, Francis, armed only with the faith and his personal gentleness, effectively followed the path of dialogue.... His is a model which even today must inspire relations between Christian and Muslims: promote dialogue in truth, in reciprocal respect and mutual understanding".


The Pope also referred to the possibility that Francis might have visited the Holy Land and pointed out that the saint's spiritual children have made the Holy Places a privileged place for their mission. "I think with gratitude", he said, "of the great merits of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land".


Francis, who died in 1226, "lying on the bare earth" of the Porziuncola, "represents an 'alter Christus'", and this "was, in fact, his ideal, ... to imitate Christ's virtues. In particular, he wished to give fundamental value to interior and exterior poverty, also teaching this to his spiritual children. ... The witness of Francis, who loved poverty in order to follow Christ with complete devotion and freedom, continues to be, also for us today, an invitation to cultivate interior poverty so as to develop our trust in God, with a sober lifestyle and a detachment from material goods.


"In Francis", the Pope added, "love for Christ was expressed in a special way in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist". He also mentioned the saint's great admiration for priests "because they have received the gift of consecrating the Eucharist. ... Let us never forget", he said, "that the sanctity of the Eucharist requires us to be pure, to live in a manner coherent with the Mystery we celebrate".


Another characteristic of the saint's spirituality was "the sense of universal fraternity and love for nature which inspired him to write the 'Laudes Creaturarum'. This is a very relevant message because ... the only form of sustainable development is that which respects creation and does not harm the environment", and "even the construction of lasting peace is linked to respect for the environment. Francis reminds us that that the creation reflects the wisdom and benevolence of the Creator".


The Holy Father concluded by describing Francis as "a great saint and a joyful man. ... There exists, in fact, an intimate and indissoluble bond between sanctity and joy. A French author once wrote that only one sadness exists in the world: that of not being saints".

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jews and Christians: An Unbreakable and Unique Intimacy

VISIT TO THE SYNAGOGUE OF ROME

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Sunday, 17 January 2010

(Video)

"What marvels the Lord worked for them!
What marvels the Lord worked for us:
Indeed we were glad" (Ps 126)

"How good and how pleasant it is
when brothers live in unity" (Ps 133)

Dear Chief Rabbi
of the Jewish Community of Rome,
President of the Union of Italian
Jewish Communities,
President of the Jewish Community
of Rome,
Rabbis,
Distinguished Authorities,
Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

[Bold textual emphasis added by this blogger]

1. At the beginning of this encounter in the Great Synagogue of the Jews of Rome, the Psalms which we have heard suggest to us the right spiritual attitude in which to experience this particular and happy moment of grace: the praise of the Lord, who has worked marvels for us and has gathered us in his Hèsed, his merciful love, and thanksgiving to him for granting us this opportunity to come together to strengthen the bonds which unite us and to continue to travel together along the path of reconciliation and fraternity. I wish to express first of all my sincere gratitude to you, Chief Rabbi, Doctor Riccardo Di Segni, for your invitation and for the thoughtful words which you have addressed to me. I wish to thank also the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Mr Renzo Gattegna, and the President of the Jewish Community of Rome, Mr Riccardo Pacifici, for their courteous greetings. My thoughts go to the Authorities and to all present, and they extend in a special way to the entire Jewish Community of Rome and to all who have worked to bring about this moment of encounter and friendship which we now share.

When he came among you for the first time, as a Christian and as Pope, my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, almost 24 years ago, wanted to make a decisive contribution to strengthening the good relations between our two communities, so as to overcome every misconception and prejudice. My visit forms a part of the journey already begun, to confirm and deepen it. With sentiments of heartfelt appreciation, I come among you to express to you the esteem and the affection which the Bishop and the Church of Rome, as well as the entire Catholic Church, have towards this Community and all Jewish communities around the world.

2. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council has represented for Catholics a clear landmark to which constant reference is made in our attitude and our relations with the Jewish people, marking a new and significant stage. The Council gave a strong impetus to our irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship, a journey which has been deepened and developed in the last forty years, through important steps and significant gestures. Among them, I should mention once again the historic visit by my Venerable Predecessor to this Synagogue on 13 April 1986, the numerous meetings he had with Jewish representatives, both here in Rome and during his Apostolic Visits throughout the world, the Jubilee Pilgrimage which he made to the Holy Land in the year 2000, the various documents of the Holy See which, following the Second Vatican Council's Declaration Nostra Aetate, have made helpful contributions to the increasingly close relations between Catholics and Jews. I too, in the course of my Pontificate, have wanted to demonstrate my closeness to and my affection for the people of the Covenant. I cherish in my heart each moment of the pilgrimage that I had the joy of making to the Holy Land in May of last year, along with the memories of numerous meetings with Jewish Communities and Organizations, in particular my visits to the Synagogues of Cologne and New York.

Furthermore, the Church has not failed to deplore the failings of her sons and daughters, begging forgiveness for all that could in any way have contributed to the scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism (cf. Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, 16 March 1998). May these wounds be healed forever! The heartfelt prayer which Pope John Paul II offered at the Western Wall on 26 March 2000comes back to my mind, and it calls forth a profound echo in our hearts: "God of our Fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant".


3. The passage of time allows us to recognize in the Twentieth Century a truly tragic period for humanity: ferocious wars that sowed destruction, death and suffering like never before; frightening ideologies, rooted in the idolatry of man, of race, and of the State, which led to brother killing brother. The singular and deeply disturbing drama of the Shoah represents, as it were, the most extreme point on the path of hatred that begins when man forgets his Creator and places himself at the centre of the universe. As I noted during my visit of 28 May 2006 to the Auschwitz Concentration camp, which is still profoundly impressed upon my memory, "the rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people", and, essentially, "by wiping out this people, they intended to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that remain eternally valid" (Discourse at Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp: The Teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, II, 1 [2006], p. 727).

Here in this place, how could we not remember the Roman Jews who were snatched from their homes, before these very walls, and who with tremendous brutality were killed at Auschwitz? How could one ever forget their faces, their names, their tears, the desperation faced by these men, women and children? The extermination of the people of the Covenant of Moses, at first announced, then systematically programmed and put into practice in Europe under the Nazi regime, on that day tragically reached as far as Rome. Unfortunately, many remained indifferent, but many, including Italian Catholics, sustained by their faith and by Christian teaching, reacted with courage, often at risk of their lives, opening their arms to assist the Jewish fugitives who were being hunted down, and earning perennial gratitude. The Apostolic See itself provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way.

The memory of these events compels us to strengthen the bonds that unite us so that our mutual understanding, respect and acceptance may always increase.

4. Our closeness and spiritual fraternity find in the Holy Bible in Hebrew Sifre Qodesh or "Book of Holiness" their most stable and lasting foundation, which constantly reminds us of our common roots, our history and the rich spiritual patrimony that we share. It is in pondering her own mystery that the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant, discovers her own profound bond with the Jews, who were chosen by the Lord before all others to receive his word (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 839). "The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs and of their race, according to the flesh is the Christ' (Rom 9: 4-5), "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!' (Rom 11: 29)" (Ibid).

5. Many lessons may be learnt from our common heritage derived from the Law and the Prophets. I would like to recall some of them: first of all, the solidarity which binds the Church to the Jewish people "at the level of their spiritual identity", which offers Christians the opportunity to promote "a renewed respect for the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament" (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish people and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, 2001, pp. 12 and 55); the centrality of the Decalogue as a common ethical message of permanent value for Israel, for the Church, for non-believers and for all of humanity; the task of preparing or ushering in the Kingdom of the Most High in the "care for creation" entrusted by God to man for him to cultivate and to care for responsibly (cf. Gen 2: 15).

6. In particular, the Decalogue the "Ten Words" or Ten Commandments (cf. Ex 20: 1-17; Dt 5: 1-21) which comes from the Torah of Moses, is a shining light for ethical principles, hope and dialogue, a guiding star of faith and morals for the people of God, and it also enlightens and guides the path of Christians. It constitutes a beacon and a norm of life in justice and love, a "great ethical code" for all humanity. The "Ten Commandments" shed light on good and evil, on truth and falsehood, on justice and injustice, and they match the criteria of every human person's right conscience. Jesus himself recalled this frequently, underlining the need for active commitment in living the way of the Commandments: "If you wish to enter into life, observe the Commandments" (Mt 19: 17). From this perspective, there are several possible areas of cooperation and witness. I would like to recall three that are especially important for our time.

The "Ten Commandments" require that we recognize the one Lord, against the temptation to construct other idols, to make golden calves. In our world there are many who do not know God or who consider him superfluous, without relevance for their lives; hence, other new gods have been fabricated to whom man bows down. Reawakening in our society openness to the transcendent dimension, witnessing to the one God, is a precious service which Jews and Christians can and must offer together.

The "Ten Commandments" call us to respect life and to protect it against every injustice and abuse, recognizing the worth of each human person, created in the image and likeness of God. How often, in every part of the world, near and far, the dignity, the freedom and the rights of human beings are trampled upon! Bearing witness together to the supreme value of life against all selfishness, is an important contribution to a new world where justice and peace reign, a world marked by that "shalom" which the lawgivers, the prophets and the sages of Israel longed to see.

The "Ten Commandments" call us to preserve and to promote the sanctity of the family, in which the personal and reciprocal, faithful and definitive "Yes" of man and woman makes room for the future, for the authentic humanity of each, and makes them open, at the same time, to the gift of new life. To witness that the family continues to be the essential cell of society and the basic environment in which human virtues are learned and practised is a precious service offered in the construction of a world with a more human face.

7. As Moses taught in the Shema (cf. Dt 6: 5; Lev 19: 34) and as Jesus reaffirms in the Gospel (cf. Mk 12: 19-31), all of the Commandments are summed up in the love of God and loving-kindness towards one's neighbour. This Rule urges Jews and Christians to exercise, in our time, a special generosity towards the poor, towards women and children, strangers, the sick, the weak and the needy. In the Jewish tradition there is a wonderful saying of the Fathers of Israel: "Simon the Just often said: The world is founded on three things: the Torah, worship, and acts of mercy" (Avoth 1: 2). In exercising justice and mercy, Jews and Christians are called to announce and to bear witness to the coming Kingdom of the Most High, for which we pray and work in hope each day.

8. On this path we can walk together, aware of the differences that exist between us, but also aware of the fact that when we succeed in uniting our hearts and our hands in response to the Lord's call, his light comes closer and shines on all the peoples of the world. The progress made in the last forty years by the International Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations and, in more recent years, by the Mixed Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and of the Holy See, is a sign of our common will to continue an open and sincere dialogue. Tomorrow here in Rome, in fact, the Mixed Commission will hold its ninth meeting, on "Catholic and Jewish Teaching on Creation and the Environment"; we wish them a profitable dialogue on such a timely and important theme.

9. Christians and Jews share to a great extent a common spiritual patrimony, they pray to the same Lord, they have the same roots, and yet they often remain unknown to each other. It is our duty, in response to God's call, to strive to keep open the space for dialogue, for reciprocal respect, for growth in friendship, for a common witness in the face of the challenges of our time, which invite us to cooperate for the good of humanity in this world created by God, the Omnipotent and Merciful.

10. Finally, I offer a particular reflection on this, our city of Rome, where, for nearly two millennia, as Pope John Paul ii said, the Catholic Community with its Bishop and the Jewish Community with its Chief Rabbi have lived side by side. May this proximity be animated by a growing fraternal love, expressed also in closer cooperation, so that we may offer a valid contribution to solving the problems and difficulties that we still face.

I beg from the Lord the precious gift of peace in the world, above all in the Holy Land. During my pilgrimage there last May, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I prayed to Him who can do all things, asking: "Send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family; stir the hearts of those who call upon your name, to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion" (Prayer at the Western Wall of Jerusalem, 12 May 2009).

I give thanks and praise to God once again for this encounter, asking him to strengthen our fraternal bonds and to deepen our mutual understanding.

[“O praise the Lord, all you nations,
acclaim him, all you peoples.
Strong is his love for us,
He is faithful forever.
Alleluia” (Ps 117)]

Monday, January 18, 2010

Upending the Flat, Straight Line

See full size image
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a Muslim informational event at the invitation of a friend. I went to listen and to observe. It was a warm, friendly, respectful gathering where I as a Catholic was cordially welcomed as a guest. The speaker (who was, by the way, very impressive, reasonable, and insightful) was presenting a basic introduction to Islam that assumed no prior knowledge. His remarks confirmed for me what many of us already knew: that Islam views itself as the latest, fullest, most universal, and final revelation of the God of Abraham. That was no surprise. The speaker even drew the analogy between the finality of Islamic revelation and the way we speak of the latest version of software. In other words, if Judaism and Christianity were Versions 1.0 and 2.0, respectively, then Islam was Final and Complete Version 3.0. Period.

Of course, as everyone knows, for a Christian, this linear, successive approach culminating with Islam does not correspond to our belief. If you picture pre-Christian revelation as a horizontal straight line, we view the event of the Incarnation (of God's becoming human) as such a major, world-shaking event that the previously flat straight line shoots up to infinity, much like two perpendicular lines at a corner as pictured above. With the Incarnation, we enter a new level, a new dimension. After the scandalously astounding event of the Incarnation, of God's freely choosing to humble himself out of love and become human, it is no longer possible to simply lengthen the straight horizontal line to reach an endpoint. (See St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians 2:5-11, below.) From the Christian point of view, the Incarnation makes that straight, horizontal line shoot upward, with no horizontal closure possible.



Philippians 2 (English Standard Version):

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [1] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, [2] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti

Haiti is about 80% Catholic. Already, Catholic dioceses are authorizing special monetary collections from Catholics for the relief effort. I need not say more to any of my readers. Below is the Vatican communique:

CO-ORDINATION OF CHURCH'S EFFORTS FOR HAITI EARTHQUAKE

VATICAN CITY, 15 JAN 2010 (VIS) - The following communique was released yesterday afternoon:

"In the hours following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, the Holy Father made an appeal far the mobilisation of spiritual and material assistance, declaring that 'the Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population'.

"As with other tragedies, Catholics are already being zealous in providing tangible aid. Several Catholic agencies are at work and are sending manpower, which is especially urgent. The Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum', in direct contact with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international humanitarian agency of the bishops of the United States, has asked it to co-ordinate the relief efforts at this stage. The 300 plus on-the-ground personnel, who have long been active in Haiti, and the past experience, expertise and resources of CRS will enable prompt and effective co-ordination of the Church's efforts, which, in the words of Pope Benedict, must be generous and concrete to meet the pressing needs of our Haitian brothers and sisters".

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Take Bible Survey

The Society of Biblical Literature is the leading academic organization for scholars and students of the Bible. It is nondenominational. The Society has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop a website to inform the general public about research and information relating to the Bible. The Society is seeking input from the general public as it develops the website. You can take the survey at this link and help influence what this site will offer to the public in the future.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Magnificent Testimony to Life and Love

Recently, a friend informed me that she successfully adopted a baby boy from China. She is a very strong Catholic Christian and has just proven it. I told her, only slightly tongue in cheek, that her ticket to heaven was "punched."

Why do such acts by her and many other Christians (not to exclude non-Christians who also do the same) impress me so much?

1. China has an inhuman population control policy based on abortion. These adoptions are a great testimony against that great and powerful evil.

2. These acts of generosity and love demonstrate that the facile assumption of many with compulsive anti-American sentiments that America is a racist nation is just plainly out of date for most of the newer and even older generations. Just look at who was just elected President. But hard proof will always fail to convince those who need to tear down America to feel good about themselves and their own failures and mediocrity. The old-fashioned word for this type of anti-Americanism is envy.

3. But, most important by far, is this fact: God is love. He is gift. He gave and continues to give Himself through his Son Jesus on the Cross for each of us. Now, being made part of the Son in our Baptism, we in turn give ourselves to and for others. We love because we were first loved even and especially when we did not deserve it. My friend just opened her arms wide to another, just as Jesus always stretches his arms wide on the wooden cross on that lonely hill of Calvary for her, for me, and for you, regardless of current religious affiliation or lack thereof. The arms are always inviting each of us to more of what is true life. Do not turn your back on the more, the great Christian "plus," for which you were created.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Epiphany Homily from Pope

Go to the Zenit.org link for the full text. Here is an excerpt that takes aim at how our supposed intellectual certainties can keep us from seeing the truth about the world and about ourselves [emphasis below added by blogger]:

Although the few of Bethlehem have become many, believers in Jesus Christ always seem to be few. Many have seen the star, but few have understood its message. Scripture scholars of Jesus' time knew the word of God perfectly. They were able to say without any difficulty what was to be found in Scripture regarding the place in which the Messiah would be born, but, as St. Augustine says, "as the milestones (that indicate the way), they remained inert and immovable" (Sermo 199. In Epiphania Domini, 1, 2).

Hence, we can ask ourselves: What is the reason that some see and others do not? What is it that opens the eyes and heart? What is missing in those who remain indifferent, from those who indicate the way but do not move? We can answer: the excessive certainty in themselves, the pretension of knowing reality perfectly, the presumption of already having formulated a definitive judgment on things, thus making their hearts closed and insensitive to the novelty of God. They are certain of the idea they have of the world and do not let themselves be moved in their deepest being by the adventure of a God who wants to meet them. They place more confidence in themselves than in him, and they do not consider it possible that God, being so great, can make himself small, that he can really come close to us.



Blogger Comment: God becoming human is always a scandal. But our God is not the God of the philosophers, but rather the God of salvation history who reveals himself as he sees fit, even if such revelation does not fit our preconceptions of what is fitting to the all-powerful God. Who are we to constrain how He chooses to reveal himself? God is not a mathematical equation or model who must fit our logical parameters. Rather, we are the ones who must fit His parameters.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

When "We" Make God an Ineffective Drug

I recall the comment of a friend that coffee is really used as a sort of "drug" --frankly, for the record, I do not see anything harmful in coffee at all when used within reasonable limits (in addition more and more medical research seems to be saying that coffee is in fact beneficial to one's health--but, then again, just wait for the next round of studies!). The offhand coffee comment led me to think how so many of us use "God" himself as an ineffective drug in the sense of something we use to make us feel and appear good without actually making us good or better. We may tend to use "God" as a placebo that gives us the illusion that we are admirable people when we in fact persist in living as very unadmirable, disordered personalities.

And so you have people who view themselves (and even may have some close to them confirm it who also share the same illusion) as very compassionate persons but whom many others experience as tremendously arrogant or even as just plain nasty in personality. They and their close followers are in a state of denial. Others view themselves as very close to God but practice a rudeness and lack of respect for others that many a civilized atheist would not dare to practice. Still others strongly condemn alleged "self-will" in others while, ironically, becoming angry and intolerant when others freely express their honest views and opinions, as is their right and often their obligation.

If the Church is a hospital for the sick, then it is incumbent on the sick who enter the hospital to get treatment. In a medical hospital, it would be silly for the sick simply to loiter around in the lobby or vestibule without checking in for treatment. Yet, we have not a few people in churches and other religious places who are in but never really check in for treatment, for the healing offered by Jesus. To make matters even worse, some who simply come in to loiter in our churches without getting treatment seek to become, to continue the hospital analogy, the heads of the hospital or of some important medical department in the hospital. They are using a self-created "God" as a false drug that makes them think that they are better and that makes some naive others also share that illusion, when in fact the "loiterers" are persisting in their personality disorders.

How can we know if we are in the same boat or not? All the pious practices in the world fall in the face of a personality that is not gradually becoming more humble, less arrogant, less controlling, less focused on self-promotion, less focused on seeking the applause of others, less possessive. If the trend is toward more humility, less pride, and less of a need to be the center of attention, then we are following the real God who has revealed himself as the God who humbled himself to become human, to give up and cede power, and to die on a cross. If that trend is non-detectable by others who are not under our thumbs, then we may very well be as irrational as the sick person who says that he is in the hospital but who never actually checks in for treatment and yet may even seek to become the head of surgery.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Camino a Santiago (The Way to Santiago)


MESSAGE FOR THE OPENING OF THE COMPOSTELA HOLY YEAR

VATICAN CITY, 31 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Pope has sent a Message to Archbishop Julian Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, for the solemn opening of the Compostela Holy Year which took place this evening in the cathedral of Santiago. The Holy Year is celebrated in years in which the feast of the Apostle James (25 July) falls on a Sunday.

In the message, which Archbishop Barrio read out during the course of the Eucharistic celebration that followed the opening of the Holy Door, Benedict XVI writes that the theme of this latest Compostela Holy year - "On pilgrimage towards the light" - and the pastoral letter written for the occasion - "Pilgrims of faith and witnesses of the risen Christ" - are in faithful keeping with tradition and "re-present that tradition as a call to evangelisation to the men and women of today, recalling the essentially pilgrim nature of the Church and of Christians in this world".

"Pilgrims, open to wonder and to transcendence, must allow themselves to be instructed by the Word of God so as to divest their faith of ungrounded beliefs and fears", the Pope writes. "This is what the Lord did with His disciples who, dazed and discouraged, travelled the road to Emmaus".

The Holy Father asks God "to accompany pilgrims, to make Himself known and enter their hearts. ... This is the true goal, the grace which the mere physical journeying of the Way cannot achieve alone, and which leads pilgrims to become witnesses before others to the fact that Christ lives and is our undying hope of salvation".

"During this Holy Year, in keeping with the current Year for Priests, a decisive role falls to the clergy, whose spirit of welcome and commitment to the faithful and to pilgrims has to be particularly generous", writes Pope Benedict. In this context he calls on priests to pay particular heed to "the administration of the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, because the most sought-after, valuable and characteristic element of the Holy Year is forgiveness and the encounter with the living Christ".

Benedict XVI likewise expresses his "particular closeness to the pilgrims who are arriving and will continue to arrive in Santiago", inviting them "to treasure the profound experiences of faith, charity and fraternity they encounter on their journey, and to seek especially to live the Way as an interior experience, responding to the call that the Lord makes to each one of them".

"I invite them too", he concludes, "as they say their prayers, not to forget those who were unable to accompany them, their families and friends, the sick and the needy, emigrants, those whose faith is fragile and the People of God with their pastors".

Blogger Comment:

Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain was the third pilgrimage site of all Christendom in the Middle Ages, after Jerusalem and Rome. Many today are making the pilgrimage either by modern means of travel or by literally and arduously walking the Road to Santiago from various points in Europe. I have a special affection for this great pilgrimage site since my own family roots are in that particular region of Spain (known as Galicia, with its own Romance language in addition to Castilian or Spanish). Fr. Dave Pivonka, T.O.R., of Franciscan University, Steubenville, has written about his own experiences on the Way to Santiago (book link). I have not read the book, but others have liked it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010

May you join the prayer of Jabez, as I will, for this New Year:

10 Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.

---1 Chronicles 4:10 (ESV; emphasis added)