Fr. Frank Pavone, Archbishop Dolan, Final Report on Women Religious: My thoughts

I seldom post on current hot issues that have to do with specific persons. The last time I did, I got zillions of comments most which left me regretting the catalzying post at the time.

Today, if you have been perusing the blogosphere or the Catholic press web sites, a couple of things are bantered about. The first is the Vatican’s release of the Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America    http://vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/12/16/0963/02078.html

The second being the reports that Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York is cutting ties with Fr. Frank Pavone’s organization Priests for Lifehttp://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=23496)

I leave the reader to click on over to the links to read for themselves their content. I do not wish to comment on them specifically, but offer, briefly, thoughts that come to me after having read them .

Thought number one: Power and Authority. How must we, as Catholics, understand power and authority, then live in accord with that understanding? Certainly, power, by definition, is the ability to create change. God has ultimate power, for from nothing he creates all that is good. God alone is the source of all power of whatever sort. Without God-given power, we can do nothing. Yet God gives us power to be exercised in obedience to the truth and for the common good of all. God shares with us his power so we might participate in his creative acts and to builid up the Kingdom here on earth. God shares his power with us because he wished us to share in his image and likeness. Authority is related and similar, no? I have authority when I am given the right and responsibility to exercise power. Think of these examples. You may have the power to abort a child, but you have no authority to do so; you have not been given the right to exercise your life-taking power.

So, in reading the accounts of the religious women and Priests for Life today, I am left wondering how power and authority have been understood by the players involved. Has power usurpt authority? Just because someone can (has power) doesn’t mean they should (have authority) to do so.

Thought number two: Obedience. How do we understand obedience, as Catholics? As you probably know, the word obedience derives from the Latin verb obedire which means  to listen. Listen. What does it mean to be an obedient son or daughter of the Church? It means we must listen! This is a lot harder than we think. We come into religious discussions (especially discussion involving religious power and authority) with so many filters and baggage. Listening is so difficult, and so obedience is also difficult. Throw into the mix money and you can end up with a lot of deafness and disobedience. Tell me how easy it is to be obedient when you have money tied up in something for which others call you into account, or when you have such a brilliant blinding cause that others ask you to step away from it in humilty? Not easy at all. To whom do clerics promise respect and obedience (read here: recognition of legitimate authority and power)? Their bishop. To whom do religious men and women owe obedience and respect? To the diocesan bishop if they be institutes of diocesan right or the Holy See itself. Both the local bishop and the Holy Father are obliged to be obedient to Jesus and the Church, from whom they have received power and authority.

My dear people, let us be obedient sons and daughters! Let us be very respectful of the enormous power with which we have been entrusted as sons and daughters of God, and even more cognizant of the limited authority which we enjoy to exercise that power. Authority is limited by office, by circumstances, and by our humility. Even if we believe our cause is preeminently right, we never abdicate our obedience to that cause. We obey not a cause or an ideal. Rather, we obey and respect persons whose job it is to exercise legitimate power for the common good.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Religious Life, Virtues | Leave a comment

Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, 2014

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless each of you!

Third Sunday of Advent 2014

Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, 2014

Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11; 1 Thes 5: 16-24; John 1: 6-8, 19-28

December 13/14, 2014

Jesus is coming! He is definitely coming. If this is not good news, then what is? If the coming of Jesus does not bring joy to your heart, then what will? There is no doubt about it, he will be coming soon and we will not be able on that day to mistake him for something or someone else. Jesus will come in all his glory, and then we will see him clearly, and know ourselves well.

Jesus has already come as a baby in a manger, born of a virgin mother and a divine Father, born in Bethlehem of Judea under the reign of Caesar Augustus over 2000 years ago and now he continually comes into our lives and our world each and every moment of each and every day, although in a rather hidden way, a way that requires faith to see. But when he comes again someday in the future, someday, sometime, whether we are ready or not, we will that day recognize him clearly; we won’t be able to ignore him or be confused about him. He will come in unmistakable glory and the last influence of sin in the world will be destroyed and Satan and all his lies will be completely exposed. There will be no more confusion; no more uncertainty; no more not recognizing Jesus. We will recognize who he is and we will know perfectly well who we are.

But until then, we walk by faith, not by sight, so we can get confused about ourselves and Jesus, just like the people in the Gospel today.

John the Baptist knew who he was and who he was not. He knew he wasn‘t the Prophet, or Elijah, or the Messiah. Because he had this humility, he was able to recognize Jesus when he came. He was able to say, “Look! There is the Lamb of God! Go to him!”

It was John’s humility, his self-knowledge, and his faith that gave him clear sight. One greater than him was coming. A greater one, of whom John said he wasn’t worthy to untie his sandal straps. A man who untied sandals back then was considered a slave. An abject slave. Yet John was saying he wasn’t even worthy of that in the sight of the Messiah. In John’s opinion he was only a lonely voice in the wilderness, crying out. John knew himself, and he knew and recognized Jesus when he came. Because of that, Jesus said John was the greatest man born of a man and woman who ever lived. Do we know who we are and who Jesus is? Most of us will probably have to say, “Not really. I know about Jesus but I don’t see him very clearly.”

If we don’t embrace our humility, and humility is actually another way of saying “knowing ourselves well,” both our gifts and talents as well as

our shortcomings and failures, if we don’t have humility, if we don’t know ourselves well, then we will get all self-concerned and worried and everything will be about us, and if that happens, then we won’t recognize Jesus when he comes to us.

Indeed, there is one among us now whom we do not recognize. If only we would recognize him! With John the Baptist we could then say to the entire world:

Look! There is the Lamb of God! Look! There is Jesus!

The Spirit of God has anointed you! You have been anointed to know Jesus and to point out his coming to others, to bring glad tidings to the poor, to bring good news to the people, to heal men and women whose hearts are broken, to free those held captive. The only way of doing all that is to know Jesus Christ coming into the world, and to remain firmly attached to his Body, the Church, and to eat his Body and drink his Blood.

My friends, this is a great joy! God will be the joy of your soul. Jesus alone, in the power of the Spirit and sent by the Father, comes with that joy. There is no one else who can give you joy. The Lord is in a certain sense pure joy. The world cannot give it. Satan cannot give it. But Jesus can and his Holy Church does. This is the “Joy of the Gospel” of which our Holy Father so often speaks. 

Joyful people recognize the presence of Jesus Christ in the world. Sour and discouraged people do not.

 Don’t quench the Spirit of God, we are told in our second reading today. Don’t quench the Spirit who brings you joy, a joy of the Gospel which clarifies our sight, sharpens our vision so we like John can know who we are and who Jesus is and when he comes, and how he comes into our lives and our world, and we can point him out to others and lead them to his community of believers, his Holy Church.

To know Jesus is to know ourselves. To point Jesus out to others is the work of every man and woman who calls himself Christian. Let us, in what remains of Advent, recognize the Lord’s coming, prepare well, and lead others to him.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 2nd Week of Advent, 2014

In our first reading this morning from the prophet Isaiah we hear expressed a basic aspect of our faith, which is that after man’s fall to sin in the Garden we had descended so far into the depths of sin, so far from his original design and plan for our dignity that only the coming of God himself into our world as man to redeem that which he assumed by his incarnation, i.e., human nature, only by his life, death and resurrection, could we once again be raised to the heights of God himself.

The depths to which we had fallen was to be radically changed. We were to be taken to the inexpressible heights of divine sonship.

This is why Isaiah is able to say of Israel (and we by extension) “worm Israel; maggot Jerusalem.” It is also why he immediately adds, “I (God) will help you!” It is also why Jesus himself said in today’s Gospel that John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born of a woman, yet the least in the Kingdom of God, the least of all men and women baptized into the Body of Christ is greater than John.

O, the depths to which we fell and the heights to which we are now called in Jesus Christ our Lord!

God loves us so much! He loves us so much that he humbled himself to take us who had fallen so low and raise us up to such dignity. He loves us so much that he wanted us to see his face through the face of his son Jesus. He loves us so much that he wanted to show us the way back to him, to his presence, to the original dignity which was part of his plan for us.

This is the great hope of Advent, for we know that God has come into our lives and into our world with the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and we now hope for his coming again at a time when he will take once again this lowly body of ours and raise it up in glory, a glory we will enjoy with him, if we are faithful to him.

Yes, we can this day pray with our Blessed Mother Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. From this day forward, all generations will call me blessed!”

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Quote for the Day

“Be kindly disposed toward the poor, the wretched and afflicted; help them as much as you can and console them.” — St. Louis IX, SFO

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Quote for the Day

(Writing about peace of heart.)

“New, immobile in the face of terrors,

And faithless to allurements,

Peace that the world mocks,

But cannot snatch away.” – Alessandro Manzoni, “La Pentecoste”

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Quote for the Day

“Violence is unworthy of man. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings. Violence is a crime against humanity, for it destroys the very fabric of society.” — Pope St. John Paul II

Posted in Ethics and Morality, General Interest, Popes, Saints and Prophets, Social Doctrine of the Church | 1 Comment

Archbishop Carlson Calls for Peace after Fergeson

Archbishop Carlson from St. Louis has issued a plea for peace following the unrest and rioting in nearby Fergeson, Missouri. His words are incisive, and for all of us, a call to the Gospel.

Here is the link to the three minute video released by the Archdiocese of St. Louis:

http://bcove.me/bcykox0b

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Holy Father’s Words to the European Parliment

Yesterday, the Holy Father addressed the European Parliment in Stratsbourg, France. His words are noteworthy, and I present them to you via the Vatican’s Sala Stampa.

I hope you take the time to read and consider.

 

Mr Secretary General, Madame President
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to address this solemn session which brings together a significant representation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, representatives of member States, the Judges of the European Court of Human Rights as well as the members of the various institutions which make up the Council of Europe. Practically all of Europe is present in this hall, with its peoples, its languages, its cultural and religious expressions, all of which constitute the richness of this continent. I am especially grateful to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, for his gracious invitation and for his kind words of welcome. I greet Madame Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly. To all of you I offer my heartfelt thanks for your work and for your contribution to peace in Europe through the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

This year the Council of Europe celebrates its sixty-fifth anniversary. It was the intention of its founders that the Council would respond to a yearning for unity which, from antiquity, has characterized the life of the continent. Frequently, however, in the course of the centuries, the pretension to power has led to the dominance of particularist movements. We need but consider the fact that, ten years before the Treaty instituting the Council of Europe was signed in London (5 May 1949), there broke out the most lethal and destructive conflict in the memory of these lands. The divisions it created long continued, as the so-called Iron Curtain split the continent into two, from the Baltic Sea to the Gulf of Trieste. The dream of the founders was to rebuild Europe in a spirit of mutual service which today too, in a world more prone to make demands than to serve, must be the cornerstone of the Council of Europe’s mission on behalf of peace, freedom and human dignity.

The royal road to peace – and to avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two World Wars of the last century – is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be embraced. This entails an ongoing process which may never be considered fully completed. This is precisely what the founders grasped. They understood that peace was a good which must continually be attained, one which calls for constant vigilance. They realized that wars arise from the effort to occupy spaces, to crystallize ongoing processes and to attempt to halt them. Instead, the founders sought peace, which can be achieved only when we are constantly open to initiating processes and carrying them forward.

Consequently, the founders voiced their desire to advance slowly but surely with the passage of time, since is it is precisely time which governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return. Building peace calls for giving priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups, who can then develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events1.

That is why the founders established this body as a permanent institution. Pope Paul VI, several years later, had occasion to observe that “the institutions which in the juridical order and in international society have the task and merit of proclaiming and preserving peace, will attain their lofty goal only if they remain continually active, if they are capable of creating peace, making peace, at every moment”2. What is called for is a constant work of humanization, for “it is not enough to contain wars, to suspend conflicts… An imposed peace, a utilitarian and provisional peace, is not enough. Progress must be made towards a peace which is loved, free and fraternal, founded, that is, on a reconciliation of hearts”3; in other words, to encourage processes calmly, yet with clear convictions and tenacity.

Achieving the good of peace first calls for educating to peace, banishing a culture of conflict aimed at fear of others, marginalizing those who think or live differently than ourselves. It is true that conflict cannot be ignored or concealed; it has to be faced. But if it paralyzes us, we lose perspective, our horizons shrink and we grasp only a part of reality. When we fail to move forward in a situation of conflict, we lose our sense of the profound unity of reality4, we halt history and we become enmeshed in useless disputes.

Tragically, peace continues all too often to be violated. This is the case in so many parts of the world where conflicts of various sorts continue to fester. It is also the case here in Europe, where tensions continue to exist. How great a toll of suffering and death is still being exacted on this continent, which yearns for peace yet so easily falls back into the temptations of the past! That is why the efforts of the Council of Europe to seek a political solution to current crises is so significant and encouraging.

Yet peace is put to the test by other forms of conflict, such as religious and international terrorism, which displays deep disdain for human life and indiscriminately reaps innocent victims. This phenomenon is unfortunately bankrolled by a frequently unchecked traffic in weapons. The Church is convinced that “the arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured5“. Peace is also violated by trafficking in human beings, the new slavery of our age, which turns persons into merchandise for trade and deprives its victims of all dignity. Not infrequently we see how interconnected these phenomena are. The Council of Europe, through its Committees and Expert Groups, has an important and significant role to play in combating these forms of inhumanity.

This being said, peace is not merely the absence of war, conflicts and tensions. In the Christian vision, peace is at once a gift of God and the fruit of free and reasonable human acts aimed at pursuing the common good in truth and love. “This rational and moral order is based on a conscientious decision by men and women to seek harmony in their mutual relationships, with respect for justice for everyone”6.

How then do we pursue the ambitious goal of peace?

The path chosen by the Council of Europe is above all that of promoting human rights, together with the growth of democracy and the rule of law. This is a particularly valuable undertaking, with significant ethical and social implications, since the development of our societies and their peaceful future coexistence depends on a correct understanding of these terms and constant reflection on them. This reflection is one of the great contributions which Europe has offered, and continues to offer, to the entire world.

In your presence today, then, I feel obliged to stress the importance of Europe’s continuing responsibility to contribute to the cultural development of humanity. I would like to do so by using an image drawn from a twentieth-century Italian poet, Clemente Rebora. In one of his poems7, Rebora describes a poplar tree, its branches reaching up to the sky, buffeted by the wind, while its trunk remains firmly planted on deep roots sinking into the earth. In a certain sense, we can consider Europe in the light of this image.

Throughout its history, Europe has always reached for the heights, aiming at new and ambitious goals, driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, development, progress, peace and unity. But the advance of thought, culture, and scientific discovery is entirely due to the solidity of the trunk and the depth of the roots which nourish it. Once those roots are lost, the trunk slowly withers from within and the branches – once flourishing and erect – bow to the earth and fall. This is perhaps among the most baffling paradoxes for a narrowly scientific mentality: in order to progress towards the future we need the past, we need profound roots. We also need the courage not to flee from the present and its challenges. We need memory, courage, a sound and humane utopian vision.

Rebora notes, on the one hand, that “the trunk sinks its roots where it is most true8“. The roots are nourished by truth, which is the sustenance, the vital lymph, of any society which would be truly free, human and fraternal. On the other hand, truth appeals to conscience, which cannot be reduced to a form of conditioning. Conscience is capable of recognizing its own dignity and being open to the absolute; it thus gives rise to fundamental decisions guided by the pursuit of the good, for others and for one’s self; it is itself the locus of responsible freedom.9

It also needs to be kept in mind that apart from the pursuit of truth, each individual becomes the criterion for measuring himself and his own actions. The way is thus opened to a subjectivistic assertion of rights, so that the concept of human rights, which has an intrinsically universal import, is replaced by an individualistic conception of rights. This leads to an effective lack of concern for others and favours that globalization of indifference born of selfishness, the result of a conception of man incapable of embracing the truth and living an authentic social dimension.

This kind of individualism leads to human impoverishment and cultural aridity, since it effectively cuts off the nourishing roots on which the tree grows. Indifferent individualism leads to the cult of opulence reflected in the throwaway culture all around us. We have a surfeit of unnecessary things, but we no longer have the capacity to build authentic human relationships marked by truth and mutual respect. And so today we are presented with the image of a Europe which is hurt, not only by its many past ordeals, but also by present-day crises which it no longer seems capable of facing with its former vitality and energy; a Europe which is a bit tired and pessimistic, which feels besieged by events and winds of change coming from other continents.

To Europe we can put the question: “Where is your vigour? Where is that idealism which inspired and ennobled your history? Where is your spirit of curiosity and enterprise? Where is your thirst for truth, a thirst which hitherto you have passionately shared with the world?

The future of the continent will depend on the answer to these questions. Returning to Rebora’s image of the tree, a trunk without roots can continue to have the appearance of life, even as it grows hollow within and eventually dies. Europe should reflect on whether its immense human, artistic, technical, social, political, economic and religious patrimony is simply an artefact of the past, or whether it is still capable of inspiring culture and displaying its treasures to mankind as a whole. In providing an answer to this question, the Council of Europe with its institutions has a role of primary importance.

I think particularly of the role of the European Court of Human Rights, which in some way represents the conscience of Europe with regard to those rights. I express my hope that this conscience will continue to mature, not through a simple consensus between parties, but as the result of efforts to build on those deep roots which are the bases on which the founders of contemporary Europe determined to build.

These roots need to be sought, found and maintained by a daily exercise of memory, for they represent the genetic patrimony of Europe. At the same time there are present challenges facing the continent. These summon us to continual creativity in ensuring that the roots continue to bear fruit today and in the realization of our vision for the future. Allow me to mention only two aspects of this vision: the challenge of multipolarity and the challenge of transversality.

The history of Europe might lead us to think somewhat naïvely of the continent as bipolar, or at most tripolar (as in the ancient conception of Rome-Byzantium-Moscow), and thus to interpret the present and to look to the future on the basis of this schema, which is a simplification born of pretentions to power.

But this is not the case today, and we can legitimately speak of a “multipolar” Europe. Its tensions – whether constructive or divisive – are situated between multiple cultural, religious and political poles. Europe today confronts the challenge of “globalizing”, but in a creative way, this multipolarity. Nor are cultures necessarily identified with individual countries: some countries have a variety of cultures and some cultures are expressed in a variety of countries. The same holds true for political, religious, and social aggregations.

Creatively globalizing multipolarity, and I wish to stress this creativity, calls for striving to create a constructive harmony, one free of those pretensions to power which, while appearing from a pragmatic standpoint to make things easier, end up destroying the cultural and religious distinctiveness of peoples.

To speak of European multipolarity is to speak of peoples which are born, grow and look to the future. The task of globalizing Europe’s multipolarity cannot be conceived by appealing to the image of a sphere – in which all is equal and ordered, but proves reductive inasmuch as every point is equidistant from the centre – but rather, by the image of a polyhedron, in which the harmonic unity of the whole preserves the particularity of each of the parts. Today Europe is multipolar in its relationships and its intentions; it is impossible to imagine or to build Europe without fully taking into account this multipolar reality.

The second challenge which I would like to mention is transversality. Here I would begin with my own experience: in my meetings with political leaders from various European countries, I have observed that the younger politicians view reality differently than their older colleagues. They may appear to be saying the same things, but their approach is different. The lyrics are the same but the music is different. This is evident in younger politicians from various parties. This empirical fact points to a reality of present-day Europe which cannot be overlooked in efforts to unite the continent and to guide its future: we need to take into account this transversality encountered in every sector. To do so requires engaging in dialogue, including intergenerational dialogue. Were we to define the continent today, we should speak of a Europe in dialogue, one which puts a transversality of opinions and reflections at the service of a harmonious union of peoples.

To embark upon this path of transversal communication requires not only generational empathy, but also an historic methodology of growth. In Europe’s present political situation, merely internal dialogue between the organizations (whether political, religious or cultural) to which one belongs, ends up being unproductive. Our times demand the ability to break out of the structures which “contain” our identity and to encounter others, for the sake of making that identity more solid and fruitful in the fraternal exchange of transversality. A Europe which can only dialogue with limited groups stops halfway; it needs that youthful spirit which can rise to the challenge of transversality.

In light of all this, I am gratified by the desire of the Council of Europe to invest in intercultural dialogue, including its religious dimension, through the Exchange on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue. Here is a valuable opportunity for open, respectful and enriching exchange between persons and groups of different origins and ethnic, linguistic and religious traditions, in a spirit of understanding and mutual respect.

These meetings appear particularly important in the current multicultural and multipolar context, for finding a distinctive physiognomy capable of skilfully linking the European identity forged over the course of centuries to the expectations and aspirations of other peoples who are now making their appearance on the continent.

This way of thinking also casts light on the contribution which Christianity can offer to the cultural and social development of Europe today within the context of a correct relationship between religion and society. In the Christian vision, faith and reason, religion and society, are called to enlighten and support one another, and, whenever necessary, to purify one another from ideological extremes. European society as a whole cannot fail to benefit from a renewed interplay between these two sectors, whether to confront a form of religious fundamentalism which is above all inimical to God, or to remedy a reductive rationality which does no honour to man.

There are in fact a number of pressing issues which I am convinced can lead to mutual enrichment, issues on which the Catholic Church – particularly through the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE) – can cooperate with the Council of Europe and offer an essential contribution. First and foremost there is, in view of what I have said above, the area of ethical reflection on human rights, which your Organization is often called to consider. I think in particular of the issues linked to the protection of human life, sensitive issues that demand a careful study which takes into account the truth of the entire human being, without being restricted to specific medical, scientific or juridic aspects.

Similarly, the contemporary world offers a number of other challenges requiring careful study and a common commitment, beginning with the welcoming of migrants, who immediately require the essentials of subsistence, but more importantly a recognition of their dignity as persons. Then too, there is the grave problem of labour, chiefly because of the high rate of young adults unemployed in many countries – a veritable mortgage on the future – but also for the issue of the dignity of work.

It is my profound hope that the foundations will be laid for a new social and economic cooperation, free of ideological pressures, capable of confronting a globalized world while at the same time encouraging that sense of solidarity and mutual charity which has been a distinctive feature of Europe, thanks to the generous efforts of hundreds of men and women – some of whom the Catholic Church considers saints – who over the centuries have worked to develop the continent, both by entrepreneurial activity and by works of education, welfare, and human promotion. These works, above all, represent an important point of reference for the many poor people living in Europe. How many of them there are in our streets! They ask not only for the food they need for survival, which is the most elementary of rights, but also for a renewed appreciation of the value of their own life, which poverty obscures, and a rediscovery of the dignity conferred by work.

Finally, among the issues calling for our reflection and our cooperation is the defence of the environment, of this beloved planet earth. It is the greatest resource which God has given us and is at our disposal not to be disfigured, exploited, and degraded, but so that, in the enjoyment of its boundless beauty, we can live in this world with dignity.

Mr Secretary General, Madame President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Pope Paul VI called the Church an “expert in humanity”10. In this world, following the example of Christ and despite the sins of her sons and daughters, the Church seeks nothing other than to serve and to bear witness to the truth11. This spirit alone guides us in supporting the progress of humanity.

In this spirit, the Holy See intends to continue its cooperation with the Council of Europe, which today plays a fundamental role in shaping the mentality of future generations of Europeans. This calls for mutual engagement in a far-ranging reflection aimed at creating a sort of new agorá, in which all civic and religious groups can enter into free exchange, while respecting the separation of sectors and the diversity of positions, an exchange inspired purely by the desire of truth and the advancement of the common good. For culture is always born of reciprocal encounter which seeks to stimulate the intellectual riches and creativity of those who take part in it; this is not only a good in itself, it is also something beautiful. My hope is that Europe, by rediscovering the legacy of its history and the depth of its roots, and by embracing its lively multipolarity and the phenomenon of a transversality in dialogue, will rediscover that youthfulness of spirit which has made this continent fruitful and great.

Thank you!

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2 and a half million children live in shelters, on the streets or in cars – Fides News Agency

Read the following article. We are talking about the United States. Do not forget these people.

2 and a half million children live in shelters, on the streets or in cars – Fides News Agency.

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Quote for the Day

“Jesus is the perfect child of God. In his life and in his love, in the way he related to God and in the way he related to his sisters and brothers, we find our deepest meaning as human beings.” — Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Year II

Here is my homily from this morning. God bless you!

The Holy Spirit inspired St. Luke to write the Gospel as a description of Jesus journeying to Jerusalem, step by step approaching the Holy City in which he would suffer, die and rise again. This morining, we hear of Jesus finally catching sight of Jerusalem (whose name means city of peace) and what does he do? He weeps. He weeps because the people to whom he was sent to bring freedom and peace failed to recognize him or accept him, and great calamity would befall them, as in fact in history we know did occur.

Jesus wept for love of his people. He was their visitation, and they failed to recognize him, failed to recognize that he was the Messiah, their savior and redeemer. The time of their visitation was near, and they would fail to recognize and accept.

We here this morning call ourselves Christians. We bear the name of Christ. We need to ask ourselves whether we recognize the time of our visitation from God. We need to ask ourselves whether we accept the coming of Jesus into our lives and our communities. Jesus makes his journey, step by step, into our lives also. Does he weep for us because we fail to recognize and accept him?

We will never find peace if we fail to recognize and accept Jesus and His body.

Yes, God loves each of us completely. Totally. He comes to us with an abundance of grace and love and presence. Do we truly recognize the time of our visitation?

May we this day be open to the coming of the Lord into our lives. May we find peace in the presence of Jesus Christ, who comes to redeem and grace us with his presence.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Wednesday, 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Year II

Here is my homily from last night’s Mass. God bless all!

If tonight’s Gospel sounds familiar, it should. Last Sunday’s Gospel was from Matthew in which we heard the same parable we hear tonight from St. Luke. God gifts his people and expects us to use the gifts given to benefit the Kingdom of God.

These two raccountings of the parable teach us two basic realities of our relationship with God, I believe.

The first is God loves each of us completely. Yes, God loves each and every one of you totally! It is easy to think that He must love someone to whom He has given “ten gold coins” more than He loves someone to whom He gave only two, but this is only a human way of understanding God’s love. God loves each of us and gives each of us everything we need. There is no limit to God’s love for us, only our capacity to receive that love. There is no cause, then, for jealousy or rivalry among us. There is no need to get ahead of someone else, or to compete with someone spiritually. We cannot earn God’s love because He freely gives it to each of us, and He gives it fully.

The second is this: Sin never has the last say in our lives, excepting if we draw our last breath rejecting God’s love and grace. We all sin. We all fail to fully appreciate, accept and use the gifts and graces that God gives us. We all say, “No” to God’s will more often than we want to admit, but these sins do not define us unless and until the moment of our death we reject God’s love. Only then will sin define us and we are then cast into the darkness forever. The Gospel reminds us of this also. It is difficult to read or to hear.

Let us, sometime this evening before retiring for the night, spend some time trying to appreciate God’s complete love for us. Let us be open to experiencing His love and His presence in our lives. And let us praise Him for this love!

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Francis speaks of deacons again!!

The Holy Father once again mentioned deacons directly in his Wednesday General Audience today! Deo Gratias. He did so last week also, which is so welcomed by us deacons who long for a connection to his heart and to know of his thoughts about us.

Here is the English translation provided bey the Vatican News Service

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning,

In preceding catecheses on the Church, we pointed out how the Lord continues to shepherd his flock through the ministry of bishops, assisted by priests and deacons. It is in them that Jesus makes himself present, in the power of his Spirit, and continues to serve the Church, nourishing within her faith, hope and the witness of love. These ministers are thus a great gift of the Lord for every Christian community and for the whole of the Church, as they are a living sign of the presence of his love.

Today we want to ask ourselves: what is asked of these ministers of the Church, in order that they may live out their service in a genuine and fruitful way.

1. In the “Pastoral Letters” sent to his disciples, Timothy and Titus, the Apostle Paul carefully pauses on the figures of bishop, priest and deacon, — also on the figures of the faithful, the elderly and young people. He pauses on a description of each state of a Christian in the Church, delineating for the bishops, priests and deacons what they are called to and what prerogatives must be acknowledged in those chosen and invested with these ministries. Today it is emblematic that, along with the gifts inherent in the faith and in spiritual life — which cannot be overlooked, for they are life itself — some exquisitely human qualities are listed: acceptance, temperance, patience, meekness, trustworthiness, goodness of heart. This is the alphabet, the basic grammar, of every ministry! It must be the basic grammar of every bishop, priest and deacon. Yes, for without this beautiful and genuine predisposition, to meet, to know, to dialogue, to appreciate and to relate with brothers in a respectful and sincere way — it is not possible to offer truly joyous and credible service and testimony.

2. There is then the basic conduct which Paul recommends to his disciples and, as a result, to all those who are called to pastoral ministry, be they bishops, priests, presbyters or deacons. The Apostle says that the gift which has been received must be continually rekindled (cf. 1 Tm 4:14; 2 Tm 1:6). This means that there must always be a profound awareness that one is not bishop, priest or deacon because he is more intelligent, worthier or better than other men; he is such only pursuant to a gift, a gift of love bestowed by God, through the power of his Spirit, for the good of his people. This awareness is very important and constitutes a grace to ask for every day! Indeed, a Pastor who is cognizant that his ministry springs only from the heart of God can never assume an authoritarian attitude, as if everyone were at his feet and the community were his property, his personal kingdom.

3. The awareness that everything is a gift, everything is grace, also helps a Pastor not to fall into the temptation of placing himself at the centre of attention and trusting only in himself. They are the temptations of vanity, pride, sufficiency, arrogance. There would be problems if a bishop, a priest or a deacon thought he knew everything, that he always had the right answer for everything and did not need anyone. On the contrary, awareness that he, as the first recipient of the mercy and compassion of God, should lead a minister of the Church to always be humble and sympathetic with respect to others. Also, in the awareness of being called to bravely guard the faith entrusted (cf. 1 Tm 6:20), he shall listen to the people. He is in fact cognizant of always having something to learn, even from those who may still be far from the faith and from the Church. With his confreres, then, all this must lead to taking on a new attitude marked by sharing, joint responsibility and communion.

Dear friends, we must always be grateful to the Lord, for in the person and in the ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, he continues to guide and shape his Church, making her grow along the path of holiness. At the same time, we must continue to pray, that the Pastors of our communities can be living images of the communion and of the love of God.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!

Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran

November 8/9, 2014

Ez 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 Cor 3: 9c-11, 16-17; John 2: 13-22

 We celebrate today the feast of the Dedication of Arch-basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. St. John Lateran is the Pope’s cathedral because it is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.

St. John Lateran is the oldest existing Christian church in the world. The land on which it is built was given to the Church in 313 by Emperor Constantine, the first emperor of Rome to become Christian. The pope of the time build a basilica on that site, the mosaics of the main sanctuary arch are said to have been preserved from the barbarians when they invaded and destroyed Rome in the 400s, mosaics you can still marvel at in today’s basilica. The original basilica was ransacked by the Vandals and restored by Pope St. Gregory the Great in 460. This basilica was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 896, built again only to be destroyed by fire, rebuilt and destroyed once again by fire. Finally, the present basilica was built in 1360 by Pope Urban V. If you go to St. John Lateran, you can see wood from the table that St. Peter used to say Mass, and elsewhere a cedar table which tradition says was the table used by Jesus at the Last Supper.

Yes, while we celebrate the dedication of a particular church in Rome, the pope’s cathedral, we are reminded in our readings today that we in truth are celebrating something far more important. Church buildings, as we know if we look at the history of St. John Lateran, are often destroyed and rebuilt. What Jesus tells us there is a truer temple for which he burned with zeal. Our reading tells us that this temple becomes for us a source, a reason for faith, for belief in the words Jesus has spoken. What temple was Jesus referring to?

This temple is his body that would be killed and he would raise up in three days and become the source of faith for us! This temple is his body and blood, his soul and his divinity, i.e., the Eucharist. This temple is his mystical body the Church on earth and in heaven. This temple is the “Father’s house” the dwelling place of God! This temple is a source of life for all. This temple bears fruit, good fruit, for all to eat. This temple is medicine for body and soul we are told. This temple is a source of life-giving water.

This temple is the Body of Christ. We too are this temple because God lives in each of us!

The Spirit of God dwells in us. If we believe that God lives within us, that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, dwelling places of the Father, then we have a lot of questions to answer.

How can we destroy one another by words or deeds if God lives in us? How can we wage war against each other if God lives in us? How can we kill the innocent, destroy the unborn or neglect the elderly if we believe that God lives in us? How can we play God and take the lives of criminals if we believe God dwells in us? How can we deprive the poor of what is necessary for a dignified life if we believe God lives in us? How can we deny medical care to the aged? How can we abuse our spouses or our children? How can we reject the immigrant or the alien in our midst, if we believe what Jesus has taught which is that God lives in us?

Jesus tells us that the human person is sacred. The human body and soul are holy, for they are true temples of God, dedicated to him.

We must be careful for as we heard in our readings, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person, for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”

I don’t think it is possible to walk into a beautiful church building, whether St. John Lateran or any other church, and enter it with real recognition of God’s presence, if we do not believe that the human person is sacred, a temple of the Father.

I don’t think we can fully worship God at Mass, or pray reverently to him in private, if we are violent to ourselves or others. I don’t think we really accept the Real Presence of Jesus, his body and blood, soul and divinity, in the Eucharist if we do not recognize his living presence in the human person.

John Henry Newman, the famous English bishop in the 1800s, wrote an article entitled, “The Venture of Faith”. Newman posed the question: “What have we ventured for the faith?” In other words, what have we risked, put on the line, because we claim to believe what Jesus Christ taught?

Yes, it is easy to enjoy the beautiful words of Jesus, the general encouragements to love God and neighbor. What happens though when we are challenged to apply those words to real life? Don’t we often cringe? If a preacher challenges us, don’t we often think, “He’s going too far!” and we pull back, we risk less, venture less even though we claim to believe?

Newman challenges us to put into practice the teachings of Jesus, and today Jesus teaches us that he is the true temple of God, and that we are his Body, his Mystical Body, in whom the Trinity dwells by virtue of our baptisms.

Yes, today we remember the Dedication of the Cathedral of Rome, St. John Lateran. We also remember that we too are dedicated temples of God’s presence.

We are what we ultimately celebrate today. May we reverence one another.

 

 

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Holy Father’s Words to Deacons, Priests, and Bishops

The Holy Father directly spoke of deacons last Wednesday during his General Audience. He rarely mentions deacons, and those of us who have been called to the diaconate have been a bit confused as to his silence (see previous  posts). His comments on Wednesday were a welcomed relief.  Thank you, Holy Father! We deacons stand ready to serve you and our bishops!

His comments are welcomed, not only because he speaks of deacons along with priests and bishops, but also because of some of the divisive stories that the secular press, and others, are putting out there about bishops opposing the Holy Father and the “threat” of schism.

All of us in Holy Orders are to be one in collaboration in building the Body of Christ. We deacons are sent forth by our bishops to do just that, and we present ourselves to the Holy Father in respect and obedience.

Here is his talk. The original language was Italian. The English translation below is from the Vatican Information Service.

Dear Brothers and Sisters Good day,

We heard the things that the Apostle Paul says to the Bishop Titus, how many virtues we bishops must have, we all heard no? And it’s not easy, it’s not easy because we are sinners. But we entrust ourselves to your prayers so that we can at least hope to be closer to the things that the Apostle Paul advises for all Bishops.  Do you agree? Will you pray for us?

We have already had occasion to point out, in the previous reflections, how the Holy Spirit has always filled the Church with an abundance of gifts. Now, in the power and grace of his Spirit, Christ does not fail to give rise to the ordained ministries, in order to build up the Christian community as His body. Among these ministries, that of the bishop stands out. In the Bishop, assisted by priests and deacons, it is Christ himself who is present and who continues to take care of his Church, ensuring his protection and guidance.

In the presence and ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, we can recognize the true face of the Church: she is our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church. And really, through these brothers chosen by the Lord and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, the Church exercises her motherhood: she generates us in Baptism as Christians, when we are born again in Christ; she watches over our growth in the faith; she accompanies us into the arms of the Father, to receive His forgiveness; she prepares us for the Eucharistic table, where she nourishes us with the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus; she calls upon us the blessing of God and the power of His Spirit, sustaining us throughout the course of our life and envelops us with her tenderness and warmth, especially in the most delicate moments of trial, suffering and death.

The Church’s motherhood is particularly expressed in particular in the person of the bishop and in his ministry. In fact, as Jesus chose the Apostles and sent them out to preach the Gospel and shepherd his flock, so the bishops, their successors, are placed at the head of the Christian community, as guarantor of their faith and as a living sign of the presence of the Lord among them. We understand, therefore, that it is not a position of prestige, an honorary role. The Bishop is not an honorary role it is a service.  Jesus wanted it this way. There should not be room in the church for a worldly mentality. A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an ‘ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop’. There should be no place for such a mentality in the Church. The Bishop serves, it is not a position of honor, to boast about. Being Bishop means keeping ever present the example of Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, came not to be served but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45), and to give His life for His sheep (cf. Jn 10:11). The Bishops who are Saints – and there are many in the history of the Church – show us that one does not seek this ministry, one does not ask for it, it cannot be bought, one accepts it in obedience, not in an attempt to climb higher but to lower oneself, just as Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient unto to death, even death on a cross”(Phil 2,8).

It is sad when we see a man who seeks this office and does all he can to get it and when he gets it does not serve, instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity.

 There is another precious element that deserves to be highlighted. When Jesus chose and called the Apostles, he thought of them not as separate one from another, each on their own, but together, that they might be with Him, united as one family. The Bishops too are a single college, gathered around the Pope, who is the guardian and guarantor of this profound communion that was so dear to Jesus and His apostles themselves. How beautiful it is, then, when the bishops, with the Pope express this collegiality! And try to be the servants of the faithful, the servants of the Church! We recently experienced this in the Assembly of the Synod on the Family. Just think of all the Bishops throughout the world who, despite living in places, cultures, sensibilities and traditions that are different and distant from each other, – One bishop the other day told me that to come to Rome it took a flight of 30 hours – even distant from each other, when bishops feel part of each other and become an expression of the intimate bond, in Christ, in their communities . And in the common ecclesial prayer all Bishops together listen to the Lord and the Spirit, thus being able to pay greater attention to man and the signs of the times (cf. Conc. Ecumenical Council. Vat. II, Const. Gaudium et Spes, 4 ).

Dear friends, all of this makes us understand why the Christian communities recognize the Bishop as a great gift, and are called to nurture a sincere and profound communion with him, starting with the priests and deacons. There is no healthy Church if the faithful priests, deacons are not united around their bishop.  This Church not united around their bishop is a sick Church. Jesus wanted this union, of all faithful with the Bishop.  The priests and deacons too. And this in the knowledge that it is in the Bishop that the relationship of each Church with the Apostles is visible and with all the other communities, united with their bishops and the Pope in the One Church of the Lord Jesus, that is our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church.

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