Thursday, February 19, 2009

Support Fr. Tim

Fr. Tim Finnigan over at the Hermeneutic of Continuity has a copy of Elena Curti's (the Tablet a.k.a. 'the Bitter Pill') article about his parish and his interpolated response. His is a humble, moderate and balanced response as befits a Catholic pastor. It's a shame that a Catholic periodical couldn't be bothered to take a more balanced and sympathetic view of what priests like Fr. Tim are trying to do - restore solemnity and beauty to the Liturgy, to the worship of God. Hasn't it occurred to them that 40 years of liberalism has not just gotten us nowhere, it has lead us well away from the true path; a radical pro-abortionist in the White House elected by substantial numbers of Catholic voters should be screaming that out to us! All Fr. Tim is trying to do is co-operate with the Holy Father and help restore the Church's Liturgy to what it should be and in this way give people the most truly beautiful way to heaven ever. Go visit his site and drop him a few words of support and then back that up by keeping him in your prayers. If we don't look after our own who will we look after?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Guess what I found?

Over at the Vatican's website, in the Secret Archives, you can see the Letter of Byzantine Emperor John Comnenus II to Pope Callistus II written, it seems, in gold on vellum. There are also the seals of the John Paleologus one of the last of the Byzantine Emperors. Go and have a look.

Chinese Catholics under Pressure;

In an article at Sandro Magister's website we get the sad news of the continuing struggles and sufferings of the Catholic Church in China. It reminds me of the story of the conflicts in the early Church when the state actively intervened, sometimes on the side of orthodoxy but often against it, and many bishops vacillated in their loyalty and orthodoxy. At that time great theologian-bishops like Gregory Nazianzen and Basil of Caesarea stood up for the truth. In our own day many heresies threaten the Church; liturgical heresies, that the worship of God ought to be community-centred or ecclesial heresies that the Church is an entirely or largely a human construct and not of Divine origin or that she should shape herself to the ideologies of modern society. At root all these heresies are a rejection of the God who makes covenants with His people, who enters history in His Son and redeems man raising Him up an uniting him with the Divine Nature in the fullness of the Trinity. Let us pray with the Pope for the ship of Peter and for Peter's successor that he will not fail but will strengthen his brother bishops and all the faithful to resist the lies and assaults of the enemy.

For those who accuse the Holy Father and the Church of Anti-Semitism

From Sandro Magister:
The Catholic Church, the Jews, and the Holocaust

"I too am preparing to visit Israel..." The complete text of the pope's speech to members of the "Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations", received at the Vatican on February 12, 2009

by Benedeict XVI

Dear friends, I am pleased to welcome all of you today, and I thank Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Mr Alan Solow for the greetings they have addressed to me on your behalf. I well recall the various occasions, during my visit to the United States last year, when I was able to meet some of you in Washington D.C. and New York. Rabbi Schneier, you graciously received me at Park East Synagogue just hours before your celebration of Pesah. Now, I am glad to have this opportunity to offer you hospitality here in my own home. Such meetings as this enable us to demonstrate our respect for one another. I want you to know that you are all most welcome here today in the house of Peter, the home of the Pope.

I look back with gratitude to the various opportunities I have had over many years to spend time in the company of my Jewish friends. My visits to your communities in Washington and New York, though brief, were experiences of fraternal esteem and sincere friendship.

So too was my visit to the Synagogue in Cologne, the first such visit in my Pontificate. It was very moving for me to spend those moments with the Jewish community in the city I know so well, the city which was home to the earliest Jewish settlement in Germany, its roots reaching back to the time of the Roman Empire.

A year later, in May 2006, I visited the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. What words can adequately convey that profoundly moving experience? As I walked through the entrance to that place of horror, the scene of such untold suffering, I meditated on the countless number of prisoners, so many of them Jews, who had trodden that same path into captivity at Auschwitz and in all the other prison camps. Those children of Abraham, grief-stricken and degraded, had little to sustain them beyond their faith in the God of their fathers, a faith that we Christians share with you, our brothers and sisters. How can we begin to grasp the enormity of what took place in those infamous prisons? The entire human race feels deep shame at the savage brutality shown to your people at that time. Allow me to recall what I said on that sombre occasion: "The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm, ‘We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter’, were fulfilled in a terrifying way."

Our meeting today occurs in the context of your visit to Italy in conjunction with your annual Leadership Mission to Israel. I too am preparing to visit Israel, a land which is holy for Christians as well as Jews, since the roots of our faith are to be found there. Indeed, the Church draws its sustenance from the root of that good olive tree, the people of Israel, onto which have been grafted the wild olive branches of the Gentiles (cf. Rom 11: 17-24). From the earliest days of Christianity, our identity and every aspect of our life and worship have been intimately bound up with the ancient religion of our fathers in faith.

The two-thousand-year history of the relationship between Judaism and the Church has passed through many different phases, some of them painful to recall. Now that we are able to meet in a spirit of reconciliation, we must not allow past difficulties to hold us back from extending to one another the hand of friendship. Indeed, what family is there that has not been troubled by tensions of one kind or another? The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration "Nostra Aetate" marked a milestone in the journey towards reconciliation, and clearly outlined the principles that have governed the Church’s approach to Christian-Jewish relations ever since.

The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities. If there is one particular image which encapsulates this commitment, it is the moment when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pleading for God’s forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer. I now make his prayer my own: "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" (26 March 2000).

The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah was a crime against God and against humanity. This should be clear to everyone, especially to those standing in the tradition of the Holy Scriptures, according to which every human being is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27). It is beyond question that any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable. Recently, in a public audience, I reaffirmed that the Shoah must be "a warning for all against forgetfulness, denial or reductionism, because violence committed against one single human being is violence against all" (January 28, 2009).

This terrible chapter in our history must never be forgotten. Remembrance – it is rightly said – is "memoria futuri", a warning to us for the future, and a summons to strive for reconciliation. To remember is to do everything in our power to prevent any recurrence of such a catastrophe within the human family by building bridges of lasting friendship. It is my fervent prayer that the memory of this appalling crime will strengthen our determination to heal the wounds that for too long have sullied relations between Christians and Jews. It is my heartfelt desire that the friendship we now enjoy will grow ever stronger, so that the Church’s irrevocable commitment to respectful and harmonious relations with the people of the Covenant will bear fruit in abundance.


The earlier documents and statements regarding the Jews mentioned by Benedict XVI in this speech:

> The decree "Nostra Aetate" from Vatican Council II

> John Paul II in Jerusalem, March 26, 2000

> Benedict XVI in Cologne, August 19, 2005

> Benedict XVI in Auschwitz-Birkenau, May 28, 2006

> Benedict XVI in Washington, April 17, 2008

> Benedict XVI in New York, April 18, 2008

> Benedict XVI in Rome, January 28, 2009


As Rabbi Yehuda Levin recently said it is the left-wing, liberal side of the Church that is leading the assault on the Pope. Now that the Jewish community is getting the full picture they must continue alone but in the process exposing themselves for what they are - followers of ideologies incompatible with the Gospel.

Holy Father asks for prayers for 'Ship of Peter'

Zenit has this report:
Pope Urges Prayers for "Ship of Peter"

Says It's Not Always Smooth Sailing

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is urging the faithful to pray that God continues to watch over the "Ship of Peter," as its not always smooth sailing for the tiny state.

The Pope said this Thursday evening at the end of a concert held in Paul VI Hall commemorating the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Vatican City State.

Our Lady's Choral Society and the RTE Concert Orchestra, both from Dublin, Ireland, played the "Messiah" by Georg Friedrich Handel.

"This concert," the Pontiff said, "which celebrates such a significant anniversary for Vatican City State, is one of a series of events organized for this occasion on the theme: 'A Small Territory for a Great Mission.'"

"I would like to thank all the people who have contributed to solemnize such an important moment for the Catholic Church," the Holy Father continued. "Commemorating 80 years of the 'Civitas Vaticana,' we feel the need to pay homage to all the past and present protagonists of these eight decades of history of this small parcel of land."

Benedict XVI recalled Pius XI, "who, in announcing the signing of the Lateran Pacts and, especially, the foundation of Vatican City State, chose to use an expression of St. Francis of Assisi. He said that the new sovereign status was for the Church, as it had been for St. Francis, 'just enough body to hold the soul together.'"

"Let us ask the Lord, Who guides the fortunes of the 'Ship of Peter' among the not-always easy events of history, to continue to watch over this small state," the Pope continued.

"Above all," he urged, "let us ask him to help, with the power of his Spirit, Peter's Successor who stands at the helm of this ship, that he may faithfully and effectively undertake his ministry as the foundation of unity of the Catholic Church, which has its visible center in the Vatican whence it expands to all the corners of the earth."

I had heard Our Lady's Choral Society from Dublin, directed by Proinnsias O'Duinn (pronounced Prun-she-ass O Din only the last vowel in Proinnsias is long) were singing in Rome and I am delighted that it was part of the celebrations of the foundation of the Vatican State. There's a video report at

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cyril and Methodius

Cyril and Methodius are now co-Patrons of Europe with Benedict. The account given in the modern Roman Breviary of the death of Cyril in Rome I find very moving, especially the Pope's order that he be given the honours due a Pope by Greeks and Romans. Below is the prayer Cyril prayed shortly before he died:
"O Lord, my God, you have created all the angelic ranks and spiritual powers. You have spread out the heavens and made firm the earth, bringing into existence from nothing all that exists. You always hear the prayers of those who do your will, who revere you and keep your commandments. Hear my prayer and keep safe your faithful flock over which you set me, your foolish and unworthy servant.
Free your people from the impious malice of those unbelievers who blaspheme against you. Make your Church grow in number, and gather all its members into unity. Make them a chosen people, of one mind in your true faith and orthodox profession of it; breathe the word of your teaching into their hearts. For it is a gracious favour from you that you have accepted us to preach the gospel of your Church by encouraging people to do good works and by doing what pleases you.
I return to you as your own those whom you gave me. Rule them with your right hand; keep them under the shadow of your wings, that they all may praise and glorify your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen."
He was forty-two when he died. Let us be united with these two heroes of the faith in their desire for unity in orthodoxy and love. Today begins the novena for our Holy Father and I believe there is no better day than today for it to begin. The icon in mosaic of Cyril and Methodius is in the church of San Clemente, not far from the Collosseum, Rome, and was presented in memory of these two great saints by the Eastern Rite Churches (not sure whether Greek Catholic or Orthodox). The tomb of Cyril is under San Clemente.
The other image, top, is of Cyril from a fresco under San Clemente.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr

I often tell congregations, when I get to preach on the feast of a martyr, that martyrs do not suddenly decide to start witnessing to the Lord unto death. They do not suddenly find themselves in conflict with the enemies of the Gospel. Long before they are called to make the ultimate sacrifice they witness to Christ on a daily basis, living the Gospel whole-heartedly. I have by my bedside an old booklet, lent me by a fellow Capuchin, on the mother of Maria Goretti and her account of her daughter. Maria lived her faith with total devotion, despite her few years and in the face of continuous attempts to get her to compromise that faith, long before she was finally attacked and killed. Blaise was no exception. He too lived the Gospel first before he gave his life for it. The martyr is an exile from the world long before his or her body leaves it. As our world changes, recession bites, governments enact unjust, and evil laws, intruding on privacy or using public funds to promote the destruction of life we too are called to stand up for Christ on a daily basis, to witness to Him. Maybe, one day, we may be asked to give the ultimate witness. Less than 200 years ago priests were hunted here in Ireland and Catholicism was a repressed faith. People gave their lives for it. Are we to be the generation that fails the test?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Coronation of Patriarch Kirill

Go over to the Moscow Patriarchate and have a look at the photos of the Coronation of Patriarch Kirill. Words fail me! Such magnificence and beauty in a liturgy! Truly they know how to give glory to God. Thanks to the New Liturgical Movement for the link.

Interesting Video on the Coronation in 1917 of Patriarch Tikhon

Watching this video reminded me that the Church is always suffering somewhere. Russia has suffered since the eruption of the Bolshevic revolution just as the Orthodox Church was begining to regain her independence. May the blood of her martyrs, their witness and their intercession gain for Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox a new spring.

Vocations to the Dominican Sisters

Creative Minority Report has a beautiful video from the enclosed Dominican Sisters of Summit, New Jersey, in the US. Well worth a viewing - you'll find it very rewarding. Visit their blog here.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time; St. Brigid Secondary Patron of Ireland

Of course Brigid is not celebrated this year but I did give her a mention in the Eucharistic Prayer. Some time ago I watched a TV program called "Digging for Jesus". At first I thought this would be another Christ-bashing exercise and the presenter was a sceptic or at least he started out that way. As he went around interviewing archaeologists in the Holy Land he was shocked to discover that they had no problem with the historicity of the Gospels. Their 'digging' confirmed that the Gospel authors knew the geography and culture of first century Palestine very well. They had discovered what they believed to be the High Priest's house not too far from the Temple among other previously unknown buildings. This leads me to today's Gospel. Jesus never comes right out and says "I am God; I am the Second Person of the Holy Trinity". Instead it is what He does and how He teaches, 'with authority' that point to His true identity. He calls Himself the healer of Israel, the Bridegroom, and the Shepherd all of which are symbols of God's relationship to Israel. He heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, makes the deaf hear, casts out demons and raises the dead. Finally, as John records, He tells them "Before Abraham was, I am". While not being as explicitly a claim to Divinity as we might think it is a claim to pre-existence and the next best thing. We have to the witness of those who followed and knew Him. They were prepared to endure years of hardship, rejection, persecution and even torture and death to spread His Gospel. They had little material reward, suffered hunger, thirst and poverty to bring others to Jesus. They believed Him because they saw Him risen from the dead. They understood the Divine plan and handed it on to us through the Church. In the midst of world that is always changing, with economies in crisis, and nations in turmoil, with wars and rumours of wars, one firm anchor holds fast: Christ the Eternal Word and Image of the Father. When we are built on Him we cannot be shaken.
Brigid was one lady who built on Christ. Miracle-worker, foundress and abbess of a monastery for women and men, peacemaker and evangelist for a new faith she must have been an extraordinary woman. Her cross, famous throughout Ireland, was woven from straw as she nursed her pagan father in his last illness. Her blue cloak is apparently preserved in Belgium. Her impact on Ireland was so great she became known as Mary of the Gael (Irish). She died in 525. Beannachtaí Lá Féile Bríd!


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