Saturday, January 18, 2014

Judgment of the Pope on the apparitions of Medjugorje is near

The judgment of the Pope on the apparitions of Medjugorje is near.

Thursday, at the Vatican, was received the Bosnian cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Sarajevo. As of yesterday, also in Rome was cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagabria. Croatian sources have explained afterward that the dossier worked on for some time by the commission guided by Camillo Ruini has been placed on Francis' table. With the seals on the case, to make clear the delicate nature of the contents and the importance of the material. Four years of work for the group of theologians, doctors, and experts in mariology instituted by Benedict XVI is called to say if the apparitions of the the Madonna on the little hill in a town of Herzegovina might be supernatural. The incident has gone forward for more than thirty years, and from Rome still has not come a definitive answer.

Pope Francis spoke on so-called visionaries such as at Medjugorge last November 14 at Domus Sanctae Martae: "Curiosity pushes us to want to hear the Lord is here or there, or to make us say, 'But I know a visionary, a visionary, that receives letters from the Madonna, messages from the Madonna.' But the Madonna is a Mother. She is not a mailroom supervisor of the postal service, to send messages every day. This novelty estranges from the Gospel, from peace and wisdom, form the glory of God, the beauty of God." Because "Jesus says that the Reign of God does not come in a way to attract attention: it comes though wisdom."

Il giudizio del Papa sulle apparizioni di Medjugorje si avvicina. Giovedì, in Vaticano, è stato ricevuto il cardinale bosniaco Vinko Puljic, arcivescovo di Sarajevo. Da ieri, è a Roma anche il cardinale Josip Bozanic, arcivescovo di Zagabria. Fonti croate hanno poi spiegato che il dossier su cui lavora da tempo la commissione guidata da Camillo Ruini sta per essere posato sul tavolo di Francesco. Con i sigilli del caso, a rimarcare la delicatezza del contenuto e l’importanza della materia. Quattro anni di lavoro per il gruppo di teologi, medici, psicologi ed esperti di mariologia istituito da Benedetto XVI e chiamato a dire se nelle apparizioni della Madonna sulla collinetta di un paesino dell’Erzegovina ci sia del soprannaturale. La vicenda va avanti da più di un trentennio, e da Roma non è ancora giunta una risposta definitiva.

 Si esprimeva così, il 14 novembre scorso, a Santa Marta: “La curiosità ci spinge a voler sentire che il Signore è qua oppure è là; o ci fa dire: ‘Ma io conosco un veggente, una veggente, che riceve lettere della Madonna, messaggi dalla Madonna’. Ma la Madonna è Madre! Non è un capoufficio della Posta, per inviare messaggi tutti i giorni. Queste novità allontanano dal Vangelo, dalla pace e dalla sapienza, dalla gloria di Dio, dalla bellezza di Dio”. Perché “Gesù dice che il Regno di Dio non viene in modo da attirare l’attenzione: viene nella saggezza”.

Source: di Matteo Matzuzzi   –   @matteomatzuzzi

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Vatican City, (VIS) – Following is the presentation of the International Theological Commission's new document, “God, the Trinity, and the Unity of Humanity: Christian Monotheism and its Opposition to Violence”.

“The theological reflection presented here seeks to investigate various aspects of Christian discourse about God which, in the modern context, require specific theological clarification. The immediate reason for this clarification is the theory, variously argued, according to which there is a necessary link between monotheism and the wars of religion. Discussion of this connection has demonstrated a number of misunderstandings of religious doctrine, to such an extent as to obscure authentic Christian thought about the one God.”
“The purpose of this reflection can be summed up in a two-fold question: (a) How can Catholic theology respond critically to the cultural and political opinion which sees an intrinsic link between monotheism and violence? (b) How can the purity of religious faith in the one God be recognised as the principle and source of love between human beings?”

“Our reflection takes the form of a reasoned testimony, not an apologetic argument. The Christian faith, in fact, sees the incitement of violence in the name of God as the greatest corruption of religion. Christianity reaches this conviction from the revelation of God’s own life, which is brought to us by Jesus Christ. The Church of believers is well aware that witnessing to this faith demands a permanent readiness for conversion: which also implies a certain parrhesia, a courageous frankness in self-criticism.”

“In Chapter I, 'Suspicions Regarding Monotheism', we seek to clarify the theme of religious 'monotheism' as it is understood in various contexts of modern political philosophy. We are aware of the evolution that has resulted in a highly differentiated spectrum of theoretical positions nowadays, ranging from the classical background of so called humanistic atheism to more recent forms of religious agnosticism and political laicism. Our reflection seeks first of all to show that the notion of monotheism, which is certainly significant in the history of our culture, is nevertheless too generic when it is used as an indication of equivalence between the historical religions which confess the oneness of God (namely Judaism, Islam and Christianity). Secondly, we formulate our critical reservations with regard to a cultural simplification which reduces the alternatives to a choice between a necessarily violent monotheism and a presumptively tolerant polytheism.”
“In this reflection, we are sustained throughout by the conviction, which we believe is shared by the vast majority of our contemporaries, both believers and non-believers, that inter-religious wars and also wars in the name of religion are simply senseless.”

“As Catholic theologians, we then seek to illustrate, on the basis of the truth of Jesus Christ, the relationship between the revelation of God and a non-violent humanism. We do so by reconsidering various aspects of Christian doctrine particularly helpful for illuminating the modern discussion: regarding the proper understanding of the Trinitarian confession of the one God, and regarding the implications of the revelation of Christ for the redemption of the bond between human beings.”

“In Chapter II, 'God’s Initiative in the Human Journey', we interrogate the biblical witness, with particular attention to the issue of its “difficult pages”: in other words, those in which the revelation of God is involved with forms of violence between human beings. We seek to identify the reference points which the same scriptural tradition highlights?within itself?for the interpretation of the Word of God. On the basis of that investigation, we offer an outline of an anthropological and Christological framing of developments of interpretation that were driven by the actual historical circumstances.”

“In Chapter III, 'God Who Saves us from Violence', we propose a deeper understanding of the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, as the key to the reconciliation of human beings. Oikonomia is essential here in the determination of theologia. The revelation inscribed in the event of Jesus Christ, which universally manifests the love of God, enables the religious justification of violence to be neutralised on the basis of the Christological and Trinitarian truth of God.”

“In Chapter IV, 'Faith Faced with the Full Force of Reason', we strive to illustrate the approximations and philosophical implications of thought about God. Various points of discussion with modern atheism, broadly channelled into the theses of a radical anthropological naturalism, are considered first of all. Then?also for the benefit of interreligious comparison with regard to monotheism?we offer a sort of philosophical-theological meditation on the integration of the revelation of the intimately relational disposition of God and the traditional conception of God’s absolute simplicity.”

“Finally, in Chapter V, 'The Children of God Scattered and Gathered', we summarise the specifically Christian elements which determine the Church’s task of witnessing to the reconciliation both of God and humanity and of human beings with one another. Christian revelation purifies religion, by restoring to the latter its fundamental role in the human search for meaning. For that reason, in our invitation to reflection we are very conscious of the particular need?especially in today’s cultural context?always to treat together the theological content and the historical development of the Christian revelation of God.”

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Priest Writes to the Pope Just Before Dying at Age 31. Here's What His Letter Said...

The Rev. Fabrizio De Michino was born in Naples on 8 September 1982. Nearly 3,000 people gathered in Ponticelli to bid him a final farewell at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Snows, where he served as a parochial vicar. Fr. Fabrizio suffered greatly in his last few months, which he lived with great faith and with strength of mind. He always had a smile and words of comfort for his family and friends, who were with him until the very end.

Aleteia is pleased to offer the following letter, which Fr. Fabrizio sent to the Pope shortly before his passing.

To His Holiness, Pope Francis

Holy Father,

In the daily prayers that I offer to God, I do not cease to pray for you and the ministry that the Lord himself has entrusted you with, so that you might always have the strength and joy to proclaim the beautiful news of the Gospel.

My name is Fabrizio De Michino, and I am a young priest of the Archdiocese of Naples. I am 31, and have been a priest for five years. I serve in the Archdiocesan Seminary as an educator in diaconal formation as well as in a parish in Ponticelli, located on the outskirts of Naples.The parish, which recalls the miracle that happened on Esquiline Hill, is named in honor of Our Lady of the Snows, and in 2014 it will celebrate the centenary of the coronation of its wooden statue, which dates back to 1500 – an image that is very dear to all the inhabitants of the parish.

Ponticelli is degraded by poverty and high crime, but every day I truly discover the beauty of the Lord’s goodness on those who trust in him and the Blessed Virgin.

I, too, have been able to grow in my love for our Heavenly Mother during my time at this parish, while also experiencing her closeness and protection in the face of my adversities.Unfortunately, over the past three years, I have been fighting a rare disease – a tumor located just inside my heart, which within the past month has metastasized to my liver and spleen. But throughout these difficult years, I have never lost the joy of being a preacher of the Gospel. Even in my fatigue, I perceive a strength that does not come from me, but from God – a strength that allows me to continue on in my ministry. There is a scriptural passage from Ezekiel that accompanies me and instills in me a confidence in the strength of the Lord: “I will give you a new heart; I will place in you a new spirit. I will tear out your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez. 36:26).

During this time, I have felt the close presence of my bishop, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, who supports me constantly, though sometimes he tells me to rest so that I might not become too fatigued.

I thank God also for my family and friends, and for my fellow priests, who sustain me while I undergo my various therapies, sharing with me these inevitable moments of suffering. My doctors also give me great support, and seem to do the impossible to find the right treatments for me.

Holy Father, I'm beginning to lengthen myself too much, but I just want to tell you that I offer all this to the Lord for the good of his Church – and for you, in a special way, so that the Lord will bless you and be with you always in this ministry of service and love.

I beseech you to include me in your prayers. I ask the Lord every day to help me to do his will, always and everywhere. I do not ask God for my healing, but rather the strength and joy to remain a true witness to his love and a priest in the model of his own heart.

Assured of your fatherly prayers, I greet you devotedly, Don Fabrizio De Michino

Source: Aleteia  09.01.2014

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"Rebuilt": A Catholic reviews the book and the parish

"My house will be rebuilt in you with joy." Book of Psalms

Several months ago I was asked by my pastor to read the book Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter by co-authors Michael White  and Tom Corcoran
as part of an exercise in discernment for a parish council retreat.

As I recall, some of the key things that were emphasized in the book were liturgical orthodoxy, excellent preaching, a welcoming environment, a clean church, parking attendants, high quality music and a focus on reaching out to a non-practicing Protestant or lapsed Catholic character called “Timonium Tim” who was central to the mission and service of the church.

After reading the book I had a strong desire to attend Mass at the Church of the Nativity (CON) in order to reconcile my impressions from the book with the reality on the ground in Timonium.  I am a cradle Catholic who had a significant experience with learning about and owning my faith through a period of discernment and conversion in my early 20’s when I considered leaving the Church for a Baptist congregation.

 My family recently had the opportunity to attend a 9:00 a.m. Sunday Mass at CON. I was joined by my wife and four youngest children that day.  As we rounded the corner on the church driveway the parking lot attendants were there to greet us as promised!  There were friendly greeters at the door, which is a common sight at Catholic parishes these days. When we entered the building we saw an unmanned reception desk which I expected because recalling that the book described having a place where new folks could stop and ask questions and receive information about the parish. To my recollection the book didn’t describe the church sanctuary other than to say they had to work with what they inherited – a typical 50’s building.  Even so, I was slightly surprised at the austerity of the space. Somewhat dark – a brick box with carpeting throughout.

For some reason I was not surprised by the lack of kneelers or the fact that there was no tabernacle in sight.  There were large screens up high on the front wall of the space, an elevated, carpeted altar platform with a table, a simple ambo and a chair or chairs off to the side for the priest celebrant. The altar servers sat down on the left out of sight.  Behind the table against the back wall were two sound system monitor units on the floor and above that a spotlighted crucifix which was the only object with religious significance in sight. Suspended above the table altar was a sort of baldacchino with no religious imagery or markings.  Though I did not spend a significant amount of time looking around I did not any statuary or Stations of the Cross.

We entered the worship space to the low tones of the seated and socializing congregation.  We found a pew near the front and knelt on the carpet to pray momentarily and prepare for Mass. This was uncomfortable physically and out of place within the context as there were no kneelers and the ambience had the feel of a social setting more than an encouragement to personal devotion.  I also noticed at this point that there were no papers or books of any kind in the pew – continuing the theme of austerity.  The Mass began with music from the band and the entrance of the priest with two altar servers in cassock and surplice, neither bearing a processional crucifix.

As I expected from descriptions in the book, the band was excellent, playing praise type music of the highest quality, and as the Mass unfolded the lead singer obviously had the duty to lead the congregation in prayers as well as songs.  For some reason the large screens were not in use and so even though we were encouraged to join in the opening song we could not because we didn’t know the words. The opening song was somewhat long and so the priest went down off the altar and shook hands with some of the congregation after arriving at the altar.

My general impression of the Mass was that it was respectful and of good quality.  As I expected from the book, the Sanctus and Kyrie were sung in Latin in traditional tones which was good. Regrettably, the priest celebrant was not the Pastor, Father Michael White, and so I was not able to assess his preaching which is something that was strongly emphasized in the book.  However, the priest celebrant, whose name I do not know,  preached a good homily that related to the Gospel. As mentioned before there were no kneelers and so we knelt on the floor during the consecration but remained standing with the congregation after the Sanctus. At the Sign of Peace we were warmly greeted by those around us as was expected.

At communion time, I looked up from my preparation prayer to see a plethora of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC) who had appeared from where I could not tell, each with a ciboria.  They had not gone onto the altar platform at all, which I saw as a plus, however I am not sure when or where they got the sacred hosts from since they didn’t seem to have been consecrated by the priest and the tabernacle was nowhere in sight.  Holy Communion was only distributed in one species (a plus) and went VERY fast due to the number of EMHCs and the fact that the sacred vessels all disappeared rapidly after communion.  In fact, in a few short moments after I had received communion and knelt down to say my thanksgiving we were rising for the closing prayer and the priest was processing out.  I literally still had unconsumed fragments of the host in my mouth when the priest was walking out.

My compliments on a respectful Mass, a clean church, a good homily and very high quality music. Also, in CON’s defense, a single visit on a Sunday morning doesn’t tell one enough about a parish to make a good assessment.  One needs to answer other questions such as, are there active small prayer groups? Is there a good bible study program? How many are in the line at confession on Saturday afternoon? With that proviso here are some closing thoughts, observations and questions.

If we pray as we believe then we can learn about what we believe from our positions and postures during the Mass. How do new folks learn the prayers, positions and postures of the congregation at a Catholic Mass without an instructional prayer book? For example, the congregation doesn’t know to make a profound bow during the creed if they are not instructed; no one made a sign of reverence before receiving communion.  How can one participate in the music of the Mass without a song book if the big screens are not being utilized?

Many parishes have protracted problems with EMHCs despite and after extensive and repeated training, including their simultaneous communication of the sacred host with the priest on the altar, so my compliments go to CON for efficiency and discretion in this area.

CON has no Catholic art or statuary in the sanctuary.  I liken this to going on a trip and staying in a “suites” –type hotel with impersonal furniture and generic art on the walls versus staying in a friend’s home. Real family homes have furniture and art with personal relevance; they have pictures of family and deceased relatives on the wall to reverence their memory.  In a Catholic church we help to enculturate the faithful with “pictures” of our heavenly loved ones, statues of Mary and Joseph, through art and statuary. Upon entering a Catholic church one should feel the comfortable familiarity of a Catholic family home, not the generic austerity of a hotel room.

Finally, and most importantly, how do we cultivate a sense of prayerfulness and nourish an interior life if there is no time for personal prayer at Mass?  At CON there were no kneelers and the pre-Mass environment was discouraging of prayerful preparation.  There was no silence after communion and no time before or after communion for preparation or thanksgiving due to the incredible efficiency and speediness of the process of the distribution of communion.

Of course, after Mass, the parish was typical in that general socializing erupted even though CON has some great gathering spaces outside the sanctuary for that purpose. Is CON nurturing Catholics in a strong interior life? Are CON parishioners growing in the CATHOLIC faith and maturity in that faith?  Are CON parishioners being challenged and made uncomfortable and encouraged to “do the hard stuff” that Catholics are called to do? How is “Timonium Tim” doing several years down the road? Is CON a gateway church that brings in Protestants and lapsed Catholics and helps to cultivate a deep, adult and abiding Catholic faith?

By P of Catonsville, MD

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