Saturday, December 21, 2013

Robbing the poor to pay "hired guns": Can a "poor Church for the poor" afford the luxury of consultants?

Remarkable this commentary by John L. Allen, Jr., whom nearly everyone agrees is no reactionary "hidebound traditionalist".
"The pontiff who famously longs for a 'poor Church for the poor' and who rails against 'trickle-down' economics is also the Pope who's created a boom market for 'God's consultants.' Before the Francis reform is finished, there might not be a systems analyst, management expert or financial guru left on earth who doesn't have a contract in Rome... To date, no one at the Vatican has said out loud how much they're shelling out for the services of this new batch of consultants." —John Allen, Jr., Vatican correspondent for the US-based National Catholic Reporter, in an article today entitled "Thoughts on the rise of 'God's Consultants'"

Pray for our Holy Father, that his goals of caring with greater generosity for the poor and reforming the Church may be compatible and practically achievable.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Buon Natale 2014 / Merry Christmas 2014: "God is in love with our littleness and is made tenderness toward every fragility""In the account of the birth of Jesus, when the angel announced to the shepherds that the Redeemer was born they said to them: 'This will be a sign for you, you will find a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger...' This is the sign: the total abasement of God. The sign is that, this night, God is in love with our littleness and  is made tenderness, tenderness toward every fragility, toward every suffering, toward every anxiety, toward every search, toward every limit. The sign which is the tenderness of God and the message for which everyone searches who feels disoriented, also those who are enemies of Jesus and who search in the depths of the soul, is this: they seek the tenderness of God. God made tenderness, God who caresses our misery, God enamored of our littleness."

- Jorge Mario Bergoglio, homily for vigil of Christmas, 24 December 2004

«Nel racconto della nascita di Gesù, quando gli angeli annunciano ai pastori che è nato il Redentore dicono loro: “Questo sarà per voi il segno, troverete un bambino appena nato avvolto in fasce, che giace in una mangiatoia…”. Questo è il segno: l’abbassamento totale di Dio. Il segno è che, questa notte, Dio si è innamorato della nostra piccolezza e si è fatto tenerezza, tenerezza verso ogni fragilità, verso ogni sofferenza, verso ogni angoscia, verso ogni ricerca, verso ogni limite. Il segno è la tenerezza di Dio e il messaggio che cercavano tutti coloro che sentivano disorientati, anche quelli che erano nemici di Gesù e lo cercavano dal profondo dell’anima, era questo: cercavano la tenerezza di Dio. Dio fatto tenerezza, Dio che accarezza la nostra miseria, Dio innamorato della nostra piccolezza»

- Jorge Mario Bergoglio, omelia della veglia di Natale, 24 dicembre 2004

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio"

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. Ámen. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Former Anglican Priest and Army Chaplain Ordained Catholic

Former Anglican Priest and U.S. Army Chaplain Ordained Catholic in Holy Mass at National Shrine

Jerry Sherbourne is ordained following two-year formation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Father Jerry Sherbourne, an active-duty U.S. Army Chaplain, and former Anglican priest, was ordained a Catholic priest Sunday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Through the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the imposition of hands, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D.,  ordained him during a 10:00 a.m. Mass.

Father Sherbourne becomes a Catholic priest, incardinated in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a special Church jurisdiction established by Pope Benedict XVI for those of the Anglican heritage entering full communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining distinctive elements of their theological, spiritual, and liturgical patrimony.

In preparation for his transition from Anglican to Catholic, Father Sherbourne underwent a two-year formation program approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy See, a process that included his ordination as a transitional Catholic deacon. A married father of six, he also received a dispensation from Pope Francis to be a priest without embracing celibacy. Father Sherbourne and his wife Heather live with their family in north Alabama where he currently serves as deputy Garrison chaplain at Redstone Arsenal.

Originally from Massachusetts, Father Sherbourne, was ordained an Anglican priest in 2000 and has been a U.S. Army chaplain since 2005. In his military career, Major Sherbourne has served at Fort Campbell, Fort Benning, Fort Jackson, Fort Sam Houson, and Fort Bragg. He served on deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Father Sherbourne says he decided to become Catholic following a conversion experience during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. He told The Redstone Rocket that he and a fellow serviceman were talking with a Catholic priest when the serviceman asked the priest to explain the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Catholic teaching that the Virgin Mary was conceived free from original sin. Sherbourne said he “groaned inwardly,” wishing his comrade had asked “anything but that, a concept he thought he understood well and did not believe in.” But to his surprise, the priest replied, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s all very biblical. What does “Hail Mary, full of grace mean?” Father Sherbourne told The Rocket it was like a light went off in his head. “All of a sudden I realized, ‘Wow, that could be true.’”

Of his ordination to the Catholic priesthood, Father Sherbourne said:

“All these years I’ve been waiting for this. It’s just wonderful for me, even as a deacon, to be up around the altar. It’s my environment. It’s what God made me to do. It’s like being finally home, like a fish in the water I was meant to swim in for the first time.”

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pope Francis is not "polite"

By Father Kevin M. Cusick
You’re shocked, I know. “What do you mean, Pope Francis is not polite?” you ask. On the other hand if you agree with me it may mean you also misunderstand. What do I mean by saying, “Pope Francis is not polite”? Pope Francis does not act or speak with regard to social conventions or human respect but instead puts in first place his unique role of teaching and speaking for God as a prophet for the world. Pope Francis is not “polite” because the love of Christ and truth comes before people’s feelings.
Pope Francis is also a tease. When I was in Rome at a Wednesday audience and asked a woman from Argentina who stood closer to the Pope to present my gift of a zucchetto in exchange for the one he was wearing, he took his off and began to compare the two. “I don’t know if this is the right size,” he said. "Where did you get this? I don't this is the right size,” he said while I responded, “Holy Father, it’s the right size”, in Italian. Eventually after spending some time egging me on he put my zucchetto on briefly and then gave it back to me, a relic to bring back from Rome. My theory is that he could not pass up the chance to tease a priest, with some help from the unsuspecting woman from his home country. In the end, everyone went away happy, but most of all pleased with Pope Francis. One of the most compelling things about him is his sense of comfort with himself and with others, a real sign of the presence of God in his life and the source of his mission as supreme pontiff.
All teasing aside, however, the mission of Pope Francis is a very serious one for as pastor of the world he is responsible for the salvation of souls. As the most visible presence on the internet and perhaps the most talked about person this year he certainly has the attention of the world. One of the reasons for this is that he isn’t concerned about being polite: he doesn’t consider the potential reactions or feelings of others a reason to use less pointed words in his preaching and teaching. For this reason he has faced some strongly negative reactions on the part of some traditionalists. We can suppose that some liberals or progressives may be also unhappy as they become aware that Pope Francis is not going to change moral teachings or the deposit of faith. Those who believe such can change do not understand the Faith. We certainly must pray that Pope Francis will be able to help them as well.
What has changed is style, as with every change in Church leadership. Pope Francis’ style is more accessible, less studied or academic, more spontaneous. This has weaknesses as well as strengths. We see the strength of Pope Francis’ approach in the great crowds of pilgrims who overflow Piazza San Pietro on Wednesdays for the general audience and on Sundays for the Angelus prayer and message. Pope Francis’ almost daily teachings from Casa Santa Marta in his celebration of Mass result in “mass” Tweets and internet buzz which spreads his teaching beyond the faithful around the world to the curious, the unbelievers and the skeptics. The Pope’s very public dialogs with atheists and others outside the Church set an example for apologetics and evangelization.
Above all else, it is Divine Providence which sends us Pope Francis at this moment. It is not possible for any pope to be anyone’s “perfect” pope because it is not possible for such a person ever to exist. Not even Jesus Christ Himself, perfect God and perfect Man, was able to please all His hearers and for this reason was put to death on the Cross. The pope is an imperfect human instrument in the hands of the perfect God. Let us pray for him that he will continue to call others and enable others to open their minds and hearts to the one true God who has perfectly revealed Himself in Jesus Christ and continues to do so through the Church which Pope Francis leads.
(Follow Father Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism.)
Meeting Christ in the Liturgy for the Second Sunday of Advent
“Repent” (Matthew 3, 1ff)
The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit isconversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. ‘Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.” (CCC 1989)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Synopsis of the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’

Vatican City, ( |
The following is a brief synopsis of Evangelii Gaudium, the first Apostolic Exhortation written by Pope Francis.
* * *
The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Thus begins the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, by which Pope Francis develops the theme of the proclamation of the Gospel in the contemporary world, drawn from, among other sources, the contribution of the work of the Synod held in the Vatican, from 7 to 28 October 2012, on the theme The new evangelization for the transmission of the faith. I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Churchs journey in years to come (1). It is a heartfelt appeal to all baptized persons to bring Christs love to others, permanently in a state of mission (25), conquering the great danger in todays world, that of an individualist desolation and anguish (2).

The Pope invites the reader to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, finding new avenues and new paths of creativity, without enclosing Jesus in dull categories (11). There is a need for a pastoral and missionary conversion, which cannot leave things as they presently are (25) and a renewal of ecclesiastical structures to enable them to become more mission-oriented (27). The Pontiff also considers a conversion of the papacy to help make this ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization. The hope that the Episcopal Conferences might contribute to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit, he states, has not been fully realized (32). A sound decentralization is necessary (16). In this renewal, the Church should not be afraid to re-examine certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some of which have deep historical roots (43).

A sign of Gods openness is that our church doors should always be open so that those who seek God will not find a closed door; nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness (47). He repeats that he prefers a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us it is the fact that many of our brothers and sisters are living without the friendship of Jesus Christ (49).

The Pope indicates the temptations which affect pastoral workers (77): individualism, a crisis of identity and a cooling of fervour (78). The greatest threat of all is the grey pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, which in reality faith is wearing down (83). He warns against defeatism (84), urging Christians to be signs of hope (86), bringing about a revolution of tenderness (88). It is necessary to seek refuge from the spirituality of well-being detached from responsibility for our brothers and sisters (90) and to vanquish the spiritual worldliness that consists of seeking not the Lords glory but human glory and well-being (93). The Pope speaks of the many who feel superior to others because they remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyses and classifies others (94). And those who have an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Churchs prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on the needs of the people (95). This is a tremendous corruption disguised as a good God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings! (97).

He appeals to ecclesial communities not to fall prey to envy and jealousy: How many wars take place within the people of God and in our different communities! (98). Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act? (100). He highlights the need to promote the growth of the responsibility of the laity, often kept away from decision-making by an excessive clericalism (102). He adds that there is a need for still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church, in particular in the various settings where important decisions are made (103). Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected cannot be lightly evaded (104). The young should exercise greater leadership (106). With regard to the scarcity of vocations in many places, he emphasizes that seminaries cannot accept candidates on the basis of any motivation whatsoever (107).

With regard to the theme of inculturation, he remarks that Christianity does not have simply one cultural expression and that the face of the Church is varied (116). We cannot demand that peoples of every continent, in expressing their Christian faith, imitate modes of expression which European nations developed at a particular moment of their history (118). The Pope reiterates that underlying popular piety is an active evangelizing power (126) and encourages the research of theologians, reminding them however that the Church and theology exist to evangelize and urges them not to be content with a desk-bound theology (133).

He focuses somewhat meticulously, on the homily, since many concerns have been expressed about this important ministry and we cannot simply ignore them (135). The homily should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture (138); it should be a heart-to-heart communication and avoid purely moralistic or doctrinaire preaching (142). He highlights the importance of preparation: a preacher who does not prepare is not spiritual; he is dishonest and irresponsible (145). Preaching should always be positive in order always to offer hope and does not leave us trapped in negativity (159). The approach to the proclamation of the Gospel should have positive characteristics: approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome, which is non-judgmental (165).

In relation to the challenges of the contemporary world, the Pope denounces the current economic system as unjust at its root (59). Such an economy kills because the law of the survival of the fittest prevails. The current culture of the disposable has created something new: the excluded are not the exploited but the outcast, the leftovers (53). A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, of an autonomy of the market in which financial speculation and widespread corruption and self-serving tax-evasion reign (56). He also denounces attacks on religious freedom and the new persecutions directed against Christians. In many places the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism (61). The family, the Pope continues, is experiencing a profound cultural crisis. Reiterating the indispensable contribution of marriage to society (66), he underlines that the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which distorts family bonds (67).

He re-emphasizes the profound connection between evangelization and human advancement (178) and the right of pastors to offer opinions on all that affects peoples lives (182). No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. He quotes John Paul II, who said that the Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice (183). For the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a sociological one. This is why I want a Church that is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us (198). As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved no solution will be found for this worlds problems (202). Politics, although often denigrated, he affirms, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity. I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the lives of the poor! (205). He adds an admonition: Any Church community, if it believes it can forget about the poor, runs the risk of breaking down.

The Pope urges care for the weakest members of society: the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned and migrants, for whom the Pope exhorts a generous openness (210). He speaks about the victims of trafficking and new forms of slavery: This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity (211). Doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence (212). Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity (213). The Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question it is not progressive to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life (214). The Pope makes an appeal for respect for all creation: we are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live (216).

With regard to the theme of peace, the Pope affirms that a prophetic voice must be raised against attempts at false reconciliation to silence or appease the poor, while others refuse to renounce their privileges (218). For the construction of a society in peace, justice and fraternity he indicates four principles (221): Time is greater than space (222) means working slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results (223). Unity prevails over conflict (226) means a diversified and life-giving unity (228). Realities are more important than ideas (231) means avoiding reducing politics or faith to rhetoric (232). The whole is greater than the part means bringing together globalization and localization (234).

Evangelization also involves the path of dialogue, the Pope continues, which opens the Church to collaboration with all political, social, religious and cultural spheres (238). Ecumenism is an indispensable path to evangelization. Mutual enrichment is important: we can learn so much from one another! For example in the dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we Catholics have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of Episcopal collegiality and their experience of synodality (246); dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus disciples (248); interreligious dialogue, which must be conducted clear and joyful in ones own identity, is a necessary condition for peace in the world and does not obscure evangelization (250-251); in our times, our relationship with the followers of Islam has taken on great importance (252). The Pope humbly entreats those countries of Islamic tradition to guarantee religious freedom to Christians, also in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries! Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism he urges us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence (253). And against the attempt to private religions in some contexts, he affirms that the respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be arbitrarily imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing majority or ignores the wealth of religious traditions (255). He then repeats the importance of dialogue and alliance between believers and non-believers (257).

The final chapter is dedicated to spirit-filled evangelizers, who are those who are fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit and who have the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition (259). These are evangelizers who pray and work (262), in the knowledge that mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people (268): Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others (270). He explains: In our dealings with the world, we are told to give reasons for our hope, but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns (271). Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary (272); if I can help at least one person to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life (274). The Pope urges us not to be discouraged before failure or scarce results, since fruitfulness is often invisible, elusive and unquantifiable; we must know only that our commitment is necessary (279). The exhortation concludes with a prayer to Mary, Mother of Evangelization. There is a Marian style to the Churchs work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness (288).

(November 26, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.

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