Monday, February 29, 2016

Richard Rohr 1 - The Shape of the Universe Is Love

Monday, February 29, 2016

In the beginning Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, "Let us make humanity in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves" (Genesis 1:26). The use of the plural pronoun here seems to be an amazing, deep time intuition of what some would later call the Trinity--the revelation of the nature of God as community, as relationship itself, a Mystery of perfect giving and perfect receiving, both within God and outside of God.  "Reality as communion" became the template and pattern for our entire universe, from atoms to galaxies. The first philosophical problem of "the one and the many" was already overcome in God; and we found ourselves to be both monotheists and Trinitarians at the same time. It is one participatory universe of many diverse things in love with one another.

Physicists, molecular biologists, astronomers, and other scientists are often more attuned to this universal pattern than many Christian believers. Paleontologist and Jesuit mystic, Teilhard de Chardin, said it well: "The physical structure of the universe is love." [1] For a contemporary and creative presentation with the same message, read William Paul Young's inspired novel, The Shack. Who would have thought that someone could make the doctrine of the Trinity a mystery novel and a page turner? It has now sold 40 forty million copies worldwide.

According to Genesis 1:26, God isn't looking for servants, slaves, or contestants to jump correctly through some arbitrary hoops. God simply wants mirroring images of God to live on this earth and to make the divine visible. That is, of course, the way love works. It always overflows, reproduces, and multiplies itself. God is saying, as it were, "All I want are icons and mirrors out there who will communicate who I am, and what I'm about." The experience of election, belovedness, and chosenness is the typical beginning of this re-imaging process. Then "We, with our unveiled faces gradually receive the brightness of the Lord, and we grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect" (2 Corinthians3:18). You must first surrender to the image within yourself before you will then naturally pass it on--and then you become a very usable two-way mirror.

Henceforth, all your moral behavior is simply "the imitation of God." First observe what God is doing all the time and everywhere, and then do the same thing (Ephesians 5:1). And what does God do? God does what God is: Love. The logic is then quite different than the retributive justice story line most of us were given. Henceforth, it is not "those who do it right go to heaven later," but "those who receive and reflect me are in heaven now." This is God's unimaginable restorative justice. God does not love you if and when you change. God loves you so that you can change. That is the true story line of the Gospel.

Blood of Martyrs, Seed of Christian Unity

Today Again, Blood of Martyrs Is Seed of Christian Unity, Says Pope

By Deborah Castellano Lubov on Feb 29, 2016
Pope with Matthias I
What unites us is greater than what divides us.
Pope Francis stressed this to the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Pope Matthias I, when he received him in audience in the Vatican this morning.
The Patriarch has been in Rome since Friday and departs today. His visit has included visiting the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the tomb of the Apostle Peter, and celebrating Mass with Rome’s large Ethiopian community in the chapel of the Urbanian College.
The Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia has some 35 million faithful. Its relations with the Catholic Church are cordial and increasingly close, especially after the first visit of the then-Patriarch Abuna Paulos to Pope John Paul II in 1993.
In his address, the Pope pointed out that the Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia and Roman Catholic Church “have almost everything in common,” for we share one faith, one Baptism, and one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“We are brothers and sisters in Christ,” Francis said, adding, “As has often been observed, what unites us is greater than what divides us.”
He also reflected on how shared sufferings have enabled Christians, otherwise divided in so many ways, to grow closer to one another.

Seed of unity

“Just as in the early Church the shedding of the blood of martyrs became the seed of new Christians, so today the blood of the many martyrs of all the Churches has become the seed of Christian unity,” he said.
“The ecumenism of the martyrs is a summons to us, here and now, to advance on the path to ever greater unity,” he said, recalling how their Church has been one of martyrs.
“We cannot fail, yet again,” Francis declared, “to implore those who govern the world’s political and economic life to promote a peaceful coexistence based on reciprocal respect and reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and solidarity.”
Pope Francis praised Ethiopia’s great efforts to improve the living conditions of its people and to build an ever more just society, including by valuing women and their contributions.
The Holy Father concluded, praying that the Holy Spirit “continue to enlighten us and guide our steps towards harmony and peace.”

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Church Begins to Breathe With Both Lungs - Again

The root of secularism and clericalism in the West is the split between Eastern and Western Christianity in 1054. It was a momentous break in the gift of self that is Christian Faith. The continued blindness of Islam with regard to the divinity of Jesus Christ also derives from this split in Christianity. The Face of the Transfigured Christ disappeared.  And all other global conflicts, the Protestant Reformation breaking from Rome, the clerical bureaucratization and monarchical model that has plagued the Catholic Church plus the consequent world wars - all derive  from this schism in the body of Christ. As Christ said: “that they be perfected in unity, and that the world may know that thou has sent me...” (Jn. 17, 24).

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Hence the importance of the unexpected meeting of Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in the Havana airport on February 12, 2016. Francis doesn’t go for the kill, but plants a seed with daring and sense of speed and opportunity. I repeat posting the common statement for the unbelievable significance of it. It harkens back to Francis’ remark in the September 2013 interview:  “We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes. We must initiate processes rather than occupy spaces. God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history. This gives priority to actions that give birth to new historical dynamics. And it requires patience, waiting.”

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Consider again John Paul II’s statement in “Ut Unum Sint” #94-96:
94. This service of unity, rooted in the action of divine mercy, is entrusted within the College of Bishops to one among those who have received from the Spirit the task, not of exercising power over the people—as the rulers of the Gentiles and their great men do (cf. Mt 20:25; Mk 10:42)—but of leading them towards peaceful pastures. This task can require the offering of one's own life (cf. Jn 10:11-18). Saint Augustine, after showing that Christ is "the one Shepherd, in whose unity all are one", goes on to exhort: "May all shepherds thus be one in the one Shepherd; may they let the one voice of the Shepherd be heard; may the sheep hear this voice and follow their Shepherd, not this shepherd or that, but the only one; in him may they all let one voice be heard and not a babble of voices ... the voice free of all division, purified of all heresy, that the sheep hear".151 The mission of the Bishop of Rome within the College of all the Pastors consists precisely in "keeping watch" (episkopein), like a sentinel, so that, through the efforts of the Pastors, the true voice of Christ the Shepherd may be heard in all the particular Churches. In this way, in each of the particular Churches entrusted to those Pastors, the una, sancta, catholica et apostolica Ecclesia is made present. All the Churches are in full and visible communion, because all the Pastors are in communion with Peter and therefore united in Christ.
With the power and the authority without which such an office would be illusory, the Bishop of Rome must ensure the communion of all the Churches. For this reason, he is the first servant of unity. This primacy is exercised on various levels, including vigilance over the handing down of the Word, the celebration of the Liturgy and the Sacraments, the Church's mission, discipline and the Christian life. It is the responsibility of the Successor of Peter to recall the requirements of the common good of the Church, should anyone be tempted to overlook it in the pursuit of personal interests. He has the duty to admonish, to caution and to declare at times that this or that opinion being circulated is irreconcilable with the unity of faith. When circumstances require it, he speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him. He can also—under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican Council— declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith.152 By thus bearing witness to the truth, he serves unity.
95. All this however must always be done in communion. When the Catholic Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Rome corresponds to the will of Christ, she does not separate this office from the mission entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also "vicars and ambassadors of Christ".153 The Bishop of Rome is a member of the "College", and the Bishops are his brothers in the ministry.
Whatever relates to the unity of all Christian communities clearly forms part of the concerns of the primacy. As Bishop of Rome I am fully aware, as I have reaffirmed in the present Encyclical Letter, that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue of God's faithfulness, his Spirit dwells. I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation. For a whole millennium Christians were united in "a brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life ... If disagreements in belief and discipline arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consent as moderator".154
In this way the primacy exercised its office of unity. When addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Dimitrios I, I acknowledged my awareness that "for a great variety of reasons, and against the will of all concerned, what should have been a service sometimes manifested itself in a very different light. But ... it is out of a desire to obey the will of Christ truly that I recognize that as Bishop of Rome I am called to exercise that ministry ... I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek—together, of course—the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned".155
96. This is an immense task, which we cannot refuse and which I cannot carry out by myself. Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ for his Church and allowing ourselves to be deeply moved by his plea "that they may all be one ... so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17:21)?

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After John Paul II on a new way of exercising the papacy to bring about Christian unity and global conversion, consider the remarks of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium #32-33:

32. Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization. Pope John Paul II asked for help in finding “a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation”.[35] We have made little progress in this regard. The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion. The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position “to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”.[36] Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated.[37] Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.
33. Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear. The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.

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And now consider the following achievement:

The Common Statement of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill 

(Full Text)

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2016 - since 1054

"It Is With Joy That We Have Met Like Brothers"

Released by the Holy See immediately upon its signing in Havana, below is the official English text of today's Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia following the first-ever meeting between the heads of Christianity's two largest branches.
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The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2Jn12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf.1Pet3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table.

At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action.

We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action.

We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1Pet4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1Cor14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes.

Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith.

Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions.

Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side.

Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom.

It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities.

While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1Cor1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf.Gen4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt5:14,16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1Cor6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world.

urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm15:5).

Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk12:32)!
Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1Pet2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!

Bishop of Rome
Pope of the Catholic Church

Patriarch of Moscow

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Like a Flash of Lightning

One of the key visuals in the story of the Transfiguration is the divine light that radiates from Jesus. Matthew says, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” Luke reports, “His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” And Mark says, “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.”

This light seems to signal the beauty and radiance of a world beyond this one, a world rarely seen, and only occasionally glimpsed, amidst the griminess and ordinariness of this world.

Is this beautiful and radiant world ever seen today? Let me share a few stories with you. When I was traveling recently, I met a man who, as a young man, encountered St. Padre Pio, the famous stigmatist. He was privileged to serve his Mass. During the elevation of the host, after the consecration, this man noticed something remarkable: there was a glow around the holy man’s hands. Years later when he heard reports of “auras” he said to himself, “That’s what I saw that day.”

Malcolm Muggeridge, the English journalist and convert to Catholicism, was filming Mother Teresa for a documentary. One day, the electricity was out, and he bemoaned the fact that he had to film her without lights, convinced that the day would be lost. But when the film was developed, he noticed that the scenes were beautifully lit, and it appeared as though the light was coming from her.

And I know this might be a bit of a stretch, but there is scientific speculation that the marks on the shroud of Turin, the holy icon thought by many to be the burial shroud of Christ, were caused by a burst of radiant energy—light energy.

From the time of the earliest disciples, the holy followers of Jesus were pictured with halos above their heads. What is a halo if it is not the divine light breaking into our world today?

Blogger: St. Josemaria Escriva saw the light of the star of the vocation on the foreheads of some of his sons.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Antonin Scalia with his wife, Maureen, and children before his swearing in as a Justice of
the US Supreme Court in 1986. Photograph: Bob Daugherty/AP via The Guardian

In his remarks upon the shocking and unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama paid tribute to his many professional accomplishments, but he ended his statement with a comment on Scalia’s personal life. He remarked on Scalia’s “loving family,” which he called “a beautiful symbol of a life well lived.” And he thanked them “for sharing Justice Scalia with our country.”
Indeed, there was much sharing to be done, as Scalia was the father to nine children and grandfather to thirty-six. Revered on the right, and respected on the left, Justice Scalia was considered by many on all sides of political issues to be one of the greatest legal minds of his day, possibly in American history. Most of the coverage of his life has focused on that or on the brewing political storm that will inevitably surround the process for eventually replacing him.
But amid all that, we should not lose sight of what Justice Scalia had to teach us about the family. Here are seven lessons we can draw from his full and vibrant family life:

1. Family is an accomplishment in its own right. It was actually Justice Scalia’s wife, Maureen, who responded to the question in a CBS 60 Minutes interview, “Why so many children?” by joking that she and her husband are “both overachievers.” Her joke contained an important point: raising a family is noble work, and children are a magnificent accomplishment. Mrs. Scalia’s answer was brilliant; she matched him by placing the work of childrearing on par with sitting on the highest court in America.
No doubt, she and Justice Scalia would agree with what Leon Kass put so magnificently in a 2012 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, when he said:
We human beings are at work not only when we are occupationally working. We are also deeply at work in the activities of love and friendship, and especially when we are actively engaged in family life, the domain of private life in which Americans find the most meaning.
Couples like the Scalias help today’s couples to re-think the meaning of work in their lives by reminding us that a couple’s most intimate and important work is to build a family
2. You don’t need to be over-involved. Despite having nine children, Justice Scaliasaid he “didn’t go to the soccer games and the piano recitals and things.” He said, “You know my parents never did it for me. And I didn’t take it personally. ‘Oh Daddy, come to my softball game.’ No, I mean, it’s my softball game. He had his work. I got my softball game.” He turned out just fine, as did his own children, who count among them multiple lawyers, a poet, a priest, and a lieutenant colonel in the Army. Helicopter parents, take note.

3. Children are not an impediment to success. Admittedly, the pull between professional aspirations and raising a family looks different for men and women, but these days, the notion that kids are a drag on career is a line doled out without any gender discrimination. In fact the opposite has been found for men: having children correlates with higher earnings for men if they share a household, and one study found that men with children are the most sought-after job applicants.

4. It matters who you marry. The findings that a man’s career is often boosted by having children requires an important caveat: it also depends on that man’s wife. It’s important to marry someone who views the marriage as a partnership, both the professional and the personal aspects of it, and Justice Scalia clearly chose a woman who was his match. They met while he was a Harvard Law School student, and she was a student at Radcliffe, which was the women’s arm of Harvard at the time. Their shared faith, intellect, and commitment to certain issues in the American political and legal realm gave them a strong foundation for a long and happy marriage. Of his wife, Justice Scalia once joked that, “[Maureen] says she could have married so-and-so… And of course the reason she didn’t was that ‘so-and-so [was] wishy-washy.’” To which she replied, “This is absolutely true. He will say, ‘You would have been bored.’ I say, ‘Oh, that’s right!’ I would have been bored.”

5. Have a sense of humor. It’s impossible to imagine a boring moment with Justice Scalia, who will be forever remembered for his wit and humor. His sense of humor did not stop with his family. He famously joked, “In a big family the first child is kind of like the first pancake. If it’s not perfect, that’s OK. There are a lot more coming along.” An ability to laugh seems a prerequisite for having a large family, or a family of any size, which is bound to run into road bumps along the way.

6. Faith matters. Justice Scalia and his wife shared a commitment to their Roman Catholic faith. He ardently defended the important role that religion plays in public life, but he was also clearly committed to nurturing it in his private life. His faith shaped his family culture, about which he once said, “We had our own culture. The first thing you’ve got to teach your kids is what my parents used to tell me all the time: ‘You’re not everybody else. We have our own standards and they aren’t the standards of the world in all respects, and the sooner you learn that the better.’” Faith offers a family cohesion around which to build that culture; it clearly did for the Scalias.

7. We are not bound by our own childhoods. Little attention is given to the fact that Justice Scalia was an only child. He grew up with no siblings or cousins. And yet he leaves behind a very large family. He a reminder of the human freedom we have in forming families of our own, and he and his wife are an example of great generosity with that freedom.

The life of Justice Antonin Scalia leaves an enormous mark on so many aspects of American public life. The noble family life he lived ought to be included in the list of qualities that make him a man worth emulating. His family is indeed a symbol of a life well-lived, one we can all aspire to.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Thomas Adams (Great Grandson of John)

"The Purpose of education is to discover your gift. The purpoe of life is to give it away" - in his "Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres"

Friendly Critique of Bishop Barron's Separation of Work and Prayer

Bishop Robert Barron: "Where is Your Mountain?"

As we continue our meditations, especially focusing on the Transfiguration, I would like to reflect on prayer. Studies show that prayer is a very common, popular activity. Even many people who profess no belief in God still pray!

But what precisely is prayer—or better, what ought it to be? The Transfiguration is extremely instructive. We hear that Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him “up the mountain to pray.” Now, as we’ve said before, mountains are standard Biblical places of encounter with God. The idea was that the higher you go, the closer you come to God.

We don’t have to be literal about this, but we should unpack its symbolic sense. In order to commune with God, you have to step out of your every day, workaday world. The mountain symbolizes transcendence, otherness, the realm of God. If people say, “I pray on the go” or “my work is my prayer,” they’re not really people of prayer.

Your mountain could be church, a special room in your house, the car, or a corner of the natural world. But it has to be someplace where you have stepped out of your ordinary business. And you have to take the time to do it. Jesus and his friends literally stepped away in order to pray.

The text then says, “While he was praying, his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white” (Luke 9:29). The reference here is to Moses whose face was transfigured after he communed with God on Mt. Sinai. But the luminosity is meant in general to signal the invasion of God.

In the depths of prayer, when you have achieved a communion with the Lord, the light of God’s presence is kindled deep inside of you, at the very core of your existence. And then it begins to radiate out through the whole of your being. That’s why it is so important that Luke mentions the clothing of Jesus becoming dazzling white. Clothes evoke one’s contact with the outside world.

The God discovered in prayer should radiate out through you to the world, so that you become a source of illumination. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Friendly Critique of: "you have to step out of your every day, workaday world. The mountain symbolizes transcendence, otherness, the realm of God. If people say, 'I pray on the go' or 'my work is my prayer,' they’re not really people of prayer.

"Your mountain could be church, a special room in your house, the car, or a corner of the natural world. But it has to be someplace where you have stepped out of your ordinary business. And you have to take the time to do it. Jesus and his friends literally stepped away in order to pray."

Blogger: Bishop Barron has all the tools to conclude differently. He has consistently presented the deepest meaning of reality (taken from Col. 1, 15-19 and John 1, 4) to be the very Person of Jesus Christ [See his "The Priority of Christ," Brazos Press, (2007) 133-135]. And he has understood that Person to be constitutively relational to the Father. He has interpreted the Thomistic meaning of Being as "Esse" to be the metaphysical rendering of reality as constitutively relational. Hence, he has the tools to interpret work both in Adam and in Christ crucified as the total gift of self - or prayer. That is, work in itself can, and must become, prayer as self-gift to the Father in the service of others. It is a misunderstanding of his total intellectual achievement to separate them.
   True, as created and finite, we need to separate ourselves from daily work and ordinary business and life to concentrate and intensify the relation to Christ and the Father in solitude at  particular and regular intervals. But, it is an error to separate ordinary life from contemplative and mystical achievement on principle. 

Opus Dei's Pontfical Approval - 2/24/1947. The Way Is Now Open For Universal Extension to the Church [Vatican II].

1943 was all about the discovery and approval of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross on the local diocesan level. “On November 8, 1946, Fr. Josemaria once again left Spain for Rome… (H)e passed through Barcelona where he again entrusted to our Lady of Ransom the negotiations awaiting him in the Eternal City to win pontifical approval….

“Once in Rome, he resumed conversations with members of the Roman Curia to expedite a juridical framework suitable for papal approval of the Work… (O)n the feast of the Immaculate Conception he was received in audience by Pope Pius XII. On the 16th he wrote again to those in Madrid: ‘Do not forget that it has been during the octave of the feast of the Immaculate Conception that the solution in Rome began to jell’…

“On February 2, 1947, Pope Pius XII gave his consent to the apostolic constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia. Thus a juridical framework was established within which it was possible to proceed to the pontifical approval of Opus Dei. On February 14 the ‘Congress’ of the Sacred Congregation for Religious… voted favorably on this proposal. The Roman Pontiff in an audience granted to Cardinal Lavitrano on February 24 ratified their opinion. Thus Opus Dei with the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross was approved as a Secular Institute of pontifical right together with its constitutions. The decision of Pius XII was formalized in the Decretum laudis, entitled Primum Institutum and dated February 24, 1947… Opus Dei was thus given its international charter. But he [Escriva] doesn’t hide the need to take further steps along the juridical path.”
Implementation For the Universal Church

That done, the way was now open for the Second Vatican Council (as will become evident in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium - The People of God) that was an epistemological turn from object to subject to affirm the radical equality of both lay faithful and ministerial priests in the Church, all with an equal call to sanctity, and yet with essentially different ways of sharing in the one priesthood of Christ (LG #10). I offer the mind of D. Alvaro del Portillo on the common legal status of all the faithful [as “other Christs”] in the Church:

Vatican II (Lumen Gentium): 
The Key to the Radical Equality of All the Baptized:“The basis of this whole problem and the key to its solution lies in one incontrovertible fact, emphasized with unprecedented vigour by the Second Vatican Council, namely that all persons who belong to the Church have a common fundamental legal status, because they all share one and the same basic theological condition land belong to the same primary common category. All the faithful, from the Pope to the child who has just been baptized, share one and the same vocation, the same faith, the same faith, the same Spirit, the same grace. They are all in need of appropriate sacramental and spiritual aids; they must all live a full Christian life, following the same evangelical teachings; they must all lead a basic personal life of piety – that of children of God, brothers and disciples of Christ – which is obligatory for them before and above any specific distinction which may arise from their different functions within the Church. The all have an active and appropriate share – within the inevitable plurality of ministries – the single mission of Christ and of the Church. Therefore it follows logically that within the Church all members have certain fundamental rights and obligations in common.”[2]

The Final Juridical Step: The Personal Prelature

The Final Step: The Prelature as guardian of 1) the oneness of the subjective vocation of both laity and priests forming a "communio": each, being sacramentally irreducible [by Baptism and Orders], makes the total gift of self being dynamized to do so by the pastoral charity (fatherhood) of the Prelate; and 2) secularity as “characteristic” whereby the world of work and family is the occasion of the self-giving.The Conciliar Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis #10 reads: “Where the nature of the apostolate demands this, not only the proper distribution of priests should be made easier but also the carrying out of special pastoral projects for the benefit of different social groups in any region or among any race in any part of the world. For this purpose there can with advantages be set up some international seminaries, special dioceses, or personal prelatures and other institutions to which, by methods to be decided for the individual undertaking and always without prejudice of the rights of the local ordinaries, priests can be attached or incardinated for the common good of the whole Church.”

On August 6, 1966, Paul VI wrote the Apostolic Letter Ecclesiae Sanctae for the implementation of, in our case, Presbyterorum Ordinins #10: It read:

“There is no reason why laymen, whether celibate or married, should not dedicate their professional service, through contracts with the prelature, to its works and enterprises.

“Such prelatures shall not be erected without first hearing the views of the episcopal conferences of the territory in which they will serve. In the exercise of their function care is to be shown that the rights of the local ordinaries are not infringed and that close relations are kept with the episcopal conferences at all times.”John Paul II erects Opus Dei as a personal prelature: November 28, 1982: Apostolic Constitution Ut Sit of universal extension.

[1] Rodriguez, Illanes… “The Canonical Path of Opus Dei” Four Courts Press (1994) 167-168.
[2] Alvaro del Portillo, “Faithful and Laity in the Church,” Ecclesia Press (Shannon, Ireland) (1972) 19.

    Today - February 24, 2016] is the day – February 24, 1947 - that Opus Dei was granted pontifical approval de iure as a Secular Institute. In fact, the figure of the Secular Institute (of which Opus Dei was the first and only one at that moment) was the juridical conceit that uncomfortably gave Opus Dei a legal place to stand in the Church where canonical religious orders of consecrated life prior to that time constituted ways of sanctification. Such a state of affairs was not acceptable to the charism received by St. Josemaria since he was given to understand by the Lord that there was a unity of vocation for laity and ministerial priests characterized by secularity whereby ordinary work was the occasion and means of identification with Jesus Christ, nay. of being Christ.

     Opus Dei was in fact a way of sanctity, a fullness of vocation, but in the exercise of work as ministerial priest or laymen. The secular world was the occasion of mastering self (the Cross) to get possession of self in order to make the gift of self. The vocation was one (the same for all) because evryone is a self ["I"] who is the "object" given. Therefore, it did not matter whether it is male, female, layman, priest, doing this or that objectively as work. The ["I"] is the subjet giving and the object given. The subject – person - is the receiver and protagonist of the vocation.

And so, there were two dimensions that had to be accounted for: 1) the oneness of vocation, and 2) the secularity insofar as work had to be the means that the “I,” or self, exercised its Christic dimension by going out of self. The ordinary secular world of work (the "body") is not only the occasion, but also the "stuff" that is determined and personalized to become gift to God and others. It is the "I" of Christ crucified as Object. Hence, the excellence of the objective work enters the same eqation with the gift of the self. [See JPII's "Letter to Artists"].