Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Have a Surreal Halloween

Halloween originally was a pagan holiday that likely linked to the a feast for the  Celtic God Samhain, which was Old Irish for “Summer’s End”.  Other historians associated it with Paternalia, the feast for the dead to commemorate Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruits and seeds. Either way, the festivals  recognized the fruits of the harvest and the unsettling change to the fallow fields of winter. Catholics tried to convert the pagan holiday into Halloween (Old Scottish for “All Hallows Eve”) in the 16th Century which evoked influences from purgatory.

Some traditions of celebrating Halloween readily spread through North America, like going door to door “guising”, but in the New World children did not beg for sustenance for All Saints Day or prayers for All Souls Day but “trick or treating” in costumes to get sweets.  As Erma Bombeck wryly put it “A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween”.  Back in Scotland, it was a tradition to carve images in turnips.  Those celebrating Halloween in the New World continued this tradition but they used the more plentiful and larger pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns.

 In the last twenty years, Halloween has also transitioned to being a secular pagan festival for adults, as it is the third busiest night at bars behind New Years Eve and St. Patrick’s Day.  So many adults now delight in donning costumes and spending an evening posing in another guise.

Surrealism is a style that juxtaposes familiar subjects in unconventional settings, hence it lends itself to the fantasy and phantasmagoria of Halloween.  Those who are not Salvador Dalí devotees might conclude that much of his oeuvre was Halloween-esque.  As Dalí himself once mused:  “I have Dalinian thought: the one thing the world will never have enough of is the outrageous.”


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Celebrating St. Crispin's Day

He that shall live this day, and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’ Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’ Henry V, Act 4
Even though the feast of Saints Crispinus and Crispianus was removed from post Vatican II calendars due to the dubious veracity of the twin martyrs' deaths, it is still worth commemorating St. Crispin's Day. The Battle of Agincourt in 1415 was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army during the Hundred Year War.  While the King Henry V triumphed by employing numerous English and Welsh longbow archers.  The battle was made famous by William Shakespeare's drama in 1599, in which King Henry  heroically urges his troops to be a "band of brothers" to stand together in the forthcoming fight. The St. Crispin's speech has been cinematically portrayed several times, including in the 1994 Danny DeVito comedy Renaissance Man.


 If that stirring speech extolling valor and fraternal loyalty can give class to a screwball comedy, then we ought to still commemorate St.  Crispin's Day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pope John Paul II on Faith

John Paul II

Today is the liturgical feast day for Pope St. John Paul II.   It is worth remembering the encouraging words that the new pope uttered during his installation in 1978.  The exhortation to "Open the doors wide to Christ" was delivered to a Church which was adjusting to the changes of Vatican II and world in upheaval.

O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that the blessed John Paul II
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Billy Graham on Character


 On October 11th, 2012, GOP Presidential Nominee Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) visited Billy Graham in his home in western North Carolina.

 During the 30 minute meeting with the 94 year old Reverend Graham and his son Franklin Graham, Mr. Romney asked for their prayers while the elder Graham recognized the Governor's values and high moral convictions.

Billy Graham  Mitt Romney
[L] Gov. Mitt Romney and [R] Rev. Billy Graham
Shortly after the meeting, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association dropped language on its website referring to Mormonism as a cult.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Terrifying Knowledge

Malala Yousafzai is a ninth grade girl from Pakistan  who so vexed the Taliban that her attack on a school bus caused her to be medivaced to Britain because of the seriousness of her injuries. 

This is all because Malala is being educated and can be branded with "Western Values" (like being an educated woman). 

Malala's attack shocked sensibilities throughout the world.  Alas, Madonna used Malala's attack as a cause celebre for the 53 year old Material Girl to strip tease "in honor" of the injured Pashtun teen.  Alas, terrifying carnal knowledge was on display at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

May Malala heal from her injuries  and may those who hurt her eventually recover from their cranial rectal inversions.  

h/t: Pat Bagley 

St. Teresa of Avila on Theology

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Religious Breakdown Among Democrats

This Pew Research Poll highlights several interesting facets of the Democrat coalition.  Less than 6 in 10 Democrats seem to belong to belong to Christian Churches.  When the White Evangelical sliver is factored out, less than half of Democrats self-identify as traditional main-line Protestants and Catholics. Amongst people that Pew surveyed, just 29% thought that Democrats were more friendly towards religion. This reaction may have reflected the  vehement reaction among Democrat delegates against inclusion of the last minute face saving God and Jerusalem plank in the party platform in Charlotte.

Another remarkable feature is the size of the “Nones”. USA Today reports in the general survey (not by party breakdown) the unaffiliated account for 19.6%.  This is misleading because it groups together atheists (2.4%) and agnostics (3.2%) as well as the religiously unaffiliated (13.9%).  While they may be overlap in affinities, the religiously unaffiliated label themselves believing in God (68%), claim a deep connection with earth and nature 58% and consider themselves “spiritual but not religious (37%).

Putting on the partisan filter, more than 60% of the religiously unaffiliated consider themselves as Democrats or leaning Democrat.   When considered by party breakdown 24% of all registered Democrats surveyed were “Nones”.   The survey says that the unaffiliated skew overwhelmingly liberal on social issues like abortion in which 73% religiously unaffiliated prefer unfettered abortion “rights”. But religiously unaffiliated are not are clear cut liberal on economic issues, as 52% say that they prefer smaller government.

It would seem that religiously unaffiliated are chary about  authoritarianism stemming from the Church yet they claim to keep a personal spiritual element.  Perhaps this can be explained as the ethic underpinning of  "ecumenical niceness" that Charles Murray describes in his recent sociological study "Coming Apart" (2012).

As their liberal social inclinations are delineated, this can be understood as favoring “social justice” which would track the social gospel message that progressive Protestants championed in the early 20th Century but without all of the “churchy” stuff.  Since sine qua non the religiously unaffiliated do not belong to a church, these good deeds can be accomplished by civic organizations as well as through government programs.

To give a cautionary note to the trend of Nones, it is important to remember how often in the 20th century that secularized societies concerned about social justice devolved into fascistic and communist spheres.  And as the recent University of Chicago survey indicates, countries experienced with that atheistic  path do not have robust blossoming of believers once the socialist behemoth is eradicated.  It is logical to deduce that once the inculcation and inculturations of believers is effectively vanquished, these societies lack the believers as well as the ecclesiastical infrastructure to do social works apart from the state.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

VP Debate Key Catholic Question

Perhaps you did not hear this as Vice Presidential Debate Moderator Martha Raddatz changed the subject again for Mr. Biden.

Celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Vatican II

Pope John XXIII at Vatican II
Fifty years ago today, Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).  It surprised many that this “caretaker” papacy would launch such a sweeping endeavor as Vatican II.  In fact, Pope Blessed John XIII died on third of the way into the conclave, but he believed that the Roman Catholic Church required aggiornamento or “updating”.

Having been born towards the conclusion on Vatican II, I have no personal recollections of the way the Church was prior to Vatican II.  My cursory knowledge as a child caused me to conclude that Vatican II translated the mass into the local languages (vernacular) and stopped the use of High Altars with the priest's back to the congregation. I was aware of people who were put off by the Novus Ordo liturgy and longed for the Tridentine  rituals, but that just seemed like an old translation.  It was only when I started to study Vatican II that I had a better appreciation for the fruits of the council and how strongly disappointment remains from the right and the left today.

Bishops meeting in Plenary Session of Vatican II
Over three years, some 2800 bishops from 116 countries met, debated (in Latin) and produced 16 documents.  Instead of automatically taking the preparation work from a cautious curia, the Council regrouped in geographical zones and requested a thorough re-thinking of the Council’s agenda.  But regional politics was serendipitously curtailed by seating, which was by seniority rather than delegations.

Unlike other councils, Vatican II did not define any dogma or pronounce anything anathematic.  The documents used word of persuasion and inclusion, like People of God or “brothers and sisters” rather than top down neo-scholastic theological statements.

 While keeping true to the essence of the Church in scripture, holy tradition and the Magisterium, Vatican II renewed the vision of what it means to be Church.

 Lumen Gentium calls the church to be the light of the world and source of salvation.  Lumen Gentium recognized the importance off family as the “domestic church” which provides the strong foundation of faith for sharing with the world.

Sacrosantum Concilium recognized the Eucharist as being the foundation of the Church, for in Holy Communion Catholics encounter the person of Christ and it is the main source of God’s grace.  

The Second Vatican Council spurred liturgical reforms which had been brewing in the church for years. This involved more than just worshiping in the vernacular.  It involved a whole new calendar and lectionary which refocused Sundays as “little Easters” telling salvific history through scriptural readings throughout the year rather than focusing on myriad Saintly feast days.  The scriptural readings read significantly more scripture over three year cycles.  Moreover, Vatican II desired the active participation of the People of God.

In fact, the entire emphasize shifted from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (re-creating Calvary) to re-creating the Last Supper (convivium).  While Vatican II did not espouse new theological doctrine per se, this reflects the “spirit of Vatican II” which shifted in focus in faith from the Messiah’s suffering on the cross and dying for our sins to understanding Eucharist as the perfect sacrifice of free will to our Father’s plan  which is made perpetual through the wonder of Jesus’ resurrection as embodied in Communion.

While the sung Tridentine High Mass has its beauty when it has an inspired choir and a priest who does liturgy well. I recently was blessed to worship in an Extraordinary Form  Requiem Mass for March For Life founder Nellie Gray. It sounded heaven but  I experienced how it was a challenge for  much of the congregation to follow along in Latin, and there were few, if any, moments of participation from the Congregation.   But the Novus Ordo liturgy involved the faithful in their common tongue with expanded hymnals and wider selections of readings. The People of God are now lectors as well as communion ministers and the dialogue within the mass encourages eager and active  worship in communion, thereby being another manifestation of Christ.

Vatican II also revolutionized how the Catholic Church interacted with others in the world. Gaudium et Spes dealing with the Church and the modern world, recognizes that the Church shares the same joys and the same suffering with the world.

Pope Paul VI & Orthodox Metropolitan Meliton of Heliopolis (1965)
 Voices from other faiths were heard and heeded during the Second Vatican Council, particularly on the Lectionary.  It was a wonderful fruit of ecumenism that many mainline Protestant faiths revised their lectionary to roughly parallel the Roman liturgical calendar so the divided brothers and sisters in Christ  were nearly worshiping off the same page.

It is inconceivable to a Vatican II baby that prior to the aggiornamento, but per John O'Malley, S.J. Catholics were not only forbidden to pray with those of other faiths but were also inculcated with contempt. Vatican II fostered friendly relations with our divided brothers and sisters from Orthodox and Protestant Christianity.  Moreover, Vatican II condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and demanded respect for all from Abrahamic faiths, like Islam as well as Judaism.

So why is there still controversy a half century after Vatican II?  One can reasonably understand why traditionalist would bristle at all of the change. While sedevacantists may not be pleased unless we all travel back in time to January 1959 when Pope Blessed John XXIII announced his intention to hold the Second Vatican Council.  But Pope Saint Pius V did not bind his successors to never change the 1570 Tridentine Rite liturgy, as Popes have supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary powers.  While Pope Paul VI did promulgate the Missa Romanum in 1969, several other Popes had modified the Tridentine Rite before without controversy. Aside from the changes in language and  emphasis in worship, the changes in the Lectionary took away from the tried and true rhythm of the Tridentine worship year and deemphasized Saints day in general Sunday worship.

Scott Hahn’s scholarship on Episcopal Attitudes to Liturgical Change on the Eve of Vatican II indicates that the impetus to change was not the majority opinion immediately prior to the Second Vatican Council.  Hahn suggest that only 29% of the bishops wanted extensive change to the liturgy.  Most of those advocates for change came from Protestant dominanted regions, or as Father Ralph Wiltgen, S.V.D titled his book on Vatican II “The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber”.  It should be noted that Pope Benedict XVI (nee Joseph Ratzinger) was a theological consultant (peritus) who was a proponent of the Nouvelle Théologie.

But it is puzzling to discover discordant voices from the left at the notion of Vatican II.  A parish study group considering Vatican II documents that leaned left sounded more like Catholic version of Anger Management.  Nearly all of the two score of participants could vividly remember the innovations of Vatican II, but this group felt that the Church had not changed enough.  In addition, they were worried about retrenchment from current Pope Benedict XVI.  What was more surprising were some vitriolic voices against the legacy of Pope Blessed John Paul II.

Part of this can be attributed to the governance of Second Vatican Council. The published documents were the work of many hands and the resulting consensus language rarely sounds poetic.  While the rules governing Vatican II required 2/3rds super-majority for passage.  But Pope Blessed John XXIII’s successor Pope Paul VI wanted Vatican II documents to have an appearance of near unanimity, so the published documents are full of concessions and sometimes contradictions in short proximity to each other.

Although the Second Vatican Council did not strictly espouse a new theology, the Nouvelle Théologie hermaneutic which opened the church was embued throughout the documents, but not a systematic theology.  Consequently, when liturgical changes to Vatican II were introduced, there was some ambiguity in its implementation. This is certainly seen in the English translation of the Novus Ordo Mass (1969).  The translation methodology of Comme le prévoit (1969) uses the principle of dynamic equivalence  to convey the overall sense and meaning of the text in idiomatic English.  A sense of casual colloquialness can be associated with the “And also with you” response to the invocation of the Holy Spirit five times within the liturgy.  But the 1973 approved ICEL English translation allowed for many equivalents at the discretion of the Presider.  This flexibility bothered even a staunch liberal liturgical innovator like former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembrand Cardinal Weakland who decried injecting so many ideosyncratic mannerisms into the liturgy that becomes so colloquial that it is unbefitting of the liturgical movement.

The English Speaking Liturgical translators (ICEL) had prepared a new translation in 1998 which sought to redress shortcomings in the 1973 translation, but was a marriage of both dynamic and static translation.  The new missal required the blessing from Rome, but the Vatican sat on approving the text for four years before rejecting it in favor of the more static translation embraced in Liturgicum Authenticum (2001).   Aside from the unfamiliar language as part of the new translation (e.g. consubstantial, incarnate), the 2011 missal does not allow for Presiders to improvise.  So traditionalists, who take umbrage at the Novus Ordo and any translation continue to be upset, but Pope John Paul II’s requirements for a new Lectionary displeased liturgical liberals too.  After nearly a year has passed, the People of God seem to have made peace with the new translation, though fewer people can recite by rote memory and some get stuck on the new words. Although the new missal is an internal church conflict a half century after the council, it has its roots in “the spirit of Vatican II”.

Another challenge for the faithful with appreciating the legacy of Vatican II is understanding the theology which purportedly underlies the documents.  It is said that the importance of salvation history is the resurrection instead of the bloody sacrifice of Calvary.  That much I appreciate although I wonder if it minimizes the sacrificial hermanuetic, particularly of the bloodless lamb sacrifice for the salvation for God’s people.  But former Georgetown University Theology Chair Anthony Tambasco goes further in asserting that is was Christ’s perfect submission to God’s will which redeemed humanity, not the replacement expiation of sin.  In fact, Tambasco recently asserted that had Jesus died a married man in bed, he still would have redeemed humanity by his perfect submission to His Father’s plan.

When challenged to show chapter and verse from the Second Vatican Council documents, the answer was that it is all throughout them, without pointing to anything in particular. This kind of reminds a political junkie about campaigning on "Hope" and "Change" and people insert whatever they want into those broad bromides. Such an airy fairy answer was not pleasing to those schooled in neo-scholastic theology ala the Baltimore Catechism.  Nor did this take jibe with my reading of excerpts of Vatican II documents.

Perhaps this is why Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged Catholics during this Year of Faith to review reading Vatican II documents. For the faithful who take up this challenge, the Church offers a plenary indulgence for those who do so in a prayerful manner.


 We should appreciate the Golden Anniversary of Vatican II for breathing new life in updating the Catholic Church. But we should not ignore traditions which have sustained the faithful, like the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine) Mass as well as Anglican patrimony.  The Second Vatican Council shaped by the passionate pleas of Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV, who urged reconciliation with our Orthodox brothers while retaining the Eastern lung of Christianity’s culture, language and traditions.  Furthermore, we should continue to embrace the call for all Catholics to be priests, prophets and king by actively participating in the liturgy and spreading God’s transforming love into the world via the New Evangelization.

Dr. Seuss on Life

Dr Seuss

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Patrick Henry on Foundational Values

Post Scriptus:  A reader pointed out a piece from SNOPES which challenges the attribution of Patrick Henry to this comment.  Other sources, like Wallbuilders consider this quote unconfirmed from primary sources but reflecting the founder's personal predilections.

Whether or not Patrick Henry uttered this pithy phrase, it does reflect this thinkers understanding of the ideal of the American Republic, which was founded by spiritual leaders from different religious persuasions which established a pluralistic polity which welcomes all creeds and those of no creed.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

William Blake on Faith

William Blake

Commemorating Our Lady of Victory

O Victorious Lady, Thou who has ever such powerful influence with Thy Divine Son, in conquering the hardest of hearts, intercede for those for whom we pray, that their hearts being softened by the ways of Divine Grace, they may return to the unity of the true Faith, through Christ, our Lord. Amen      

As today is a Sunday, the church celebrates the Lord's Day rather than feast days.  But today is also the anniversary of Our Lady of Victory. In 1571, the Turks had amassed a large fleet for an invasion of Italy. Pope St. Pius V blessed a pre-emptive strike by a small fleet led by Don Juan of Austuria (the bastard son of the King of Spain) near the Gulf of Lepanto to save Western civilization. The two greatest naval forces ever assembled — 280 ships in the Turkish Armada, some 212 on the Christian side. Turkish Admiral Ali Pasha was so confident that he sailed proudly at the center of his own Armada, bringing with him on vessels just to his rear his entire fortune, and even a part of his harem.

 There seemed little hopes for the Christian armada. The pope requested that the faithful say the rosary for the victory of the Christian fleet. The passion for defending their own civilization against ruthless invaders also strengthened the muscles of those engaged in the close, bloody, violent hand-fighting when one vessel came alongside another.

The Christian fleet were aided by cannon power. Don Juan aimed his own galley directly at the heart of the Turkish armada, directly at the clearly colored sails of the Ali Pasha’s galley, with its great green flag, inscribed 28,000 times with the name of Allah in gold. Pasha was captured by Don Juan.

 The Christian victory was far more complete than anyone had dreamed. The victory seemed to many quite miraculous, and victory was immediately attributed to Our Lady Queen of the Rosary — soon to be called by a new title, Our Lady Queen of Victory. In 1573, the feast name was changed to "Our Lady of the Rosary."  Pope Pius X changed the feast day to October 7th to restore the celebration of the liturgy on Sundays.


 Earlier this year, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops orchestrated "The Fortnight for Freedom", two weeks of education, prayer and fasting to celebrate America's Constitutional First Freedom, the freedom of religious expression. In addition, many Christians are engaged in 40 days of prayer and fasting for America. The victory of the Battle of Lepanto ought to be another encouraging example on the power of prayer.

 h/t: National Review Online

Monday, October 1, 2012

Celebrating the Red Mass

[L] Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and [R] Chief Justice John Roberts at 2012 Red Mass

On the day before the start of new Supreme Court term, six justices attended the Red Mass at St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington, DC. The Red Mass harkens on a Roman Catholic tradition which began in the High Middle Ages, where the Church asks for guidance by the Holy Spirit to come upon all who seek justice. The Red Mass derives its name from the red vestments worn by the clergy during the liturgy, which recalls the Holy Spirit’s tongues of fire which came upon the Apostles at Pentecost.

 The Archdiocese of Washington and the John Carroll Society have sponsored a Red Mass in Washington since 1953. This year Chief Justice John Roberts along with Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan attended. It should be noted that Justices Breyer and Kagan are Jewish but they clearly attended to respect the concept and supporting religious plurality in America.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio at St. Peters Tomb
The Mass was celebrated by Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl. However the homily was given by Archdiocese for the Military Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the prelate charged with shepherding the spiritual welfare for the 1.5 million Americans serving overseas in the military or government service.

 Archbishop Broglio’s homily included some scriptural exegesis to the readings at Mass and delved into some Catholic culture as he recognized Saints’ Day. But Broglio embraced the mantle of the New Evangelization and dared to echo themes from the Fortnight for Freedom of religious liberties, the latter may touch upon issues that the High Court will soon tackle.

 Here is the written text of Archbishop Broglio’s Red Mass homily:

The author A.J. Cronin told the story of a district nurse he knew during the time he practiced medicine.  She covered a ten-mile district by herself, was extremely capable and generous with her time.  She was patient and cheerful.  Her salary was insignificant and late one night after a particularly strenuous day, Dr. Cronin suggested that she demand a higher salary.  “God knows you are worth it”, he added.  Her reply was classic, “if God knows I’m worth it, that is all that matters to me”.
Indeed if we live and work with the confidence that we are inserted into the Lord’s plan, then that is all that matters.  Is that not what the word of God tells us this morning at the 60th annual Red Mass as the readings invite us to be open to the Spirit of God, beg His blessing on a new judicial year, and strive to be instruments of a new evangelization.
The passage from the Book of Numbers is fascinating.  The Lord has guided the Chosen People out of Egypt and through the desert, but there is a structure and a system to govern them.  Seventy elders are chosen to help Moses with the task of judging, but Eldad and Medad miss the installation.  Still they receive the gift and the mission.
To Joshua’s concern about a possible challenge to Moses’ leadership, he explains that the divine gift is not limited by place, but attached to the person, wherever he or she might be found. The sovereign liberty of God determines how He will act and that obliges the believer of all times to question the temptation to close God within the narrow spaces of a justice which assigns itself the task of protecting the presumed rights of God while trampling upon those of his or her brothers and sisters.

Of course, you and I live in a world of forms, ID’s, procedures, and verification.  One commentator on this passage suggested that in the near future in order to die you will have to fill out the appropriate form, and perhaps a diligent clerk will tell you to save the receipt to present to St. Peter at the Gates of Paradise. Moses’ wish is the better course: “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!” 
His invitation is to look for the evidence of the good, of truth, and of the beautiful in another.  There is not a monopoly of the Spirit, but rather an abundance of gifts to be used to build up the Body of Christ.  
How appropriate it is to speak about that abundance on September 30th when we would normally celebrate St. Jerome, a learned doctor of the Church who was first charged to translate the Bible from its original languages to the vernacular Latin.  His talents were used to make the Word of God accessible to the ordinary folk.
We remember him and remain inspired by his quest for learning as we gather as a community of faith to beg an abundance of blessings upon the women and men of our judiciary and the legal profession.  
 It is a moment to pause and pray for those who serve our Country and foster justice for all.  We know that a believing community engages in prayer for the needs of all, but especially for those who face arduous tasks. Indeed “Justice is radically intolerant of injustice; justice seeks out injustice to destroy it.  To emphasize security at the expense of eradicating injustice creates a fool’s paradise.”
 The Romans put it more succinctly: “Justitia non novit patrem nec matrem; solum veritatem spectat justitia.” Justice knows neither father nor mother; justice looks to the truth alone. For that reason we are here primarily to pray with you and for you as you execute the daunting task assigned to you at various levels.  

We beg a blessing for all of you and for all of those who assist you in this important ministry.  We invoke the only Just One so that He might inspire all that you do.  We recognize “that those who involve themselves with human law are doing God’s work.  You are called to be involved with the same matters with which the Lord God is involved in relationship with His creation.”

We have heard the question posed by the Apostles just before the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven.  Their vision was of a political reality alone: the end of Roman rule and the independence of the Chosen People.  It was a vision firmly anchored in this world alone.  They would need the gift of the Holy Spirit so as to purify their goals, understand their mission correctly and be able to accomplish it.

So we pray for all of those gathered here that they might welcome the strength of the Holy Spirit and the interior dynamism with which He fills our hearts. We do so just before the beginning of the Year of Faith given to us by the Holy Father, because there is a “need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.”

The mission is always audacious, but it is possible with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We are instruments in the hands of the Lord and so we pray to be ever open to His presence. The message is filled with hope: not only for eternal life, but also for the graces necessary so that our lives are truly noble, worthy of God, and of the vocation He has given us.

We speak so often of the new evangelization, because we recognize that we must be its instruments in all that we do. The faith we hold in our hearts must motivate the decisions, the words, and the commitment of our everyday existence.  That existence is extraordinary, because it is infused with divine grace.  

St. Thomas More said that he died the good servant of the King, but the faithful servant of God first.  We, too, are faithful citizens only when we embrace the fullness of the principles of our faith and allow them to enliven and fortify our contributions to the life of the Nation. Or to draw on the eloquence of the Archbishop of Baltimore in a paraphrase: we must be loyal Americans by being a bold and courageous men and women of faith and conviction regarding the ethical norms that guide society and its choices.

There is so much that we bring to the discourse of our society.  Our faith expresses itself in worship, but also in witness.  From the beginning the Church has been active in society to make a contribution, especially to the care of the poor, but also to education.  The first universities grew out of the monasteries.  We cannot separate who we are from how we live.

 To quote Father Alfred Delp, a Jesuit condemned to death by the Nazis, “Futility or ineffectiveness do not dispense one from speaking the truth, declaring what is right and just…Woe if the prophets are mute out of fear that their word might not be heeded.”

I am reminded of my first year as a seminarian in Rome.  An important 19th Century Justice Department building was closed because it was unsafe.  It seemed to be sinking into the ground.  Yet the Colosseum, Pantheon, and the ruins of the Roman Forum were all still standing and could be visited.  It was a good reminder that not everything contemporary is good and that stable foundations are essential.  Our society must also rest on stable, clear foundations.  Otherwise, we run the risk of sinking into the mire of one popular sound byte after another!

Last January the Holy Father recalled for the Bishops of this region that consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good and the conditions for human flourishing are at the heart of every culture.  “In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God.”

Cronin’s nurse knew that, as well.  She recognized that the ultimate value was the eternal judgment rendered by Almighty God.  “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
h/t: Whispers In the Loggia