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A celebration of beauty, truth, and goodness, and, of course, love...and perhaps a little nastiness

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Saturday, November 23, 2002
Holy See's Message to Muslims at End of Ramadan
From the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- On the occasion of the end of the month of Ramadan, ('Id al-Fitr, 1423 A.H. / A.D. 2002), the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sent a congratulatory message to Muslims, entitled "Christians and Muslims and the Ways to Peace."

Here is the text of the Message, signed by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council.

Christians and Muslims and the Ways to Peace

Dear Muslims Friends,

1. It is a pleasure for me to address you on the occasion of 'Id al-Fitr, which concludes the month of Ramadan, in order to offer you friendly greetings on behalf of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and indeed on behalf of the whole Catholic Church.

We are happy to receive an increasing number of replies to our Message and also greetings on the occasion of our own festivities, especially Christmas. We note too with pleasure that in many places, at the local level, contacts between Christians and Muslims are intensifying.

2. You are well aware, dear friends, how acute has become the question of peace in our world today. Situations where war prevails are like an open wound in the heart of humanity, above all those conflicts which have been going on for many years, whether in the Middle East, in Africa or in Asia. In several countries such conflicts result in numerous innocent victims, leading the population to despair of peace returning to their land in the near future.

3. The origin of the causes of conflict is often to be located in hearts which refuse to be open to God. Such hearts are characterized by egoism, by an immoderate desire for power, domination and wealth, at the expense of others and without any attention to the cry of distress of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace. While the ultimate causes of wars are well known, we need above all to explore together the ways to peace.

4. As believers in the One God we see it as our duty to strive to bring about peace. Christians and Muslims, we believe that peace is above all a gift from God. This is why our two communities pray for peace; it is something they are always called to do. As you know, Pope John Paul II invited representatives of different religions to come to Assisi, the city of St Francis, on 24 January 2002, in order to pray and to commit themselves to peace in the world. Many Muslims, coming from different countries, contributed to the success of this day. All those present were exhorted not to allow the flame of hope, symbolized by the lamp held by each official representative, to be extinguished. Our Council, for its part, is examining the best way to fulfill this commitment.

5. In bringing about peace, and maintaining it, religions have an important role to play, one which in these days more than ever is being recognized by civil society and by Governments. In this respect, education is a domain in which religions can make a particular contribution. We are indeed convinced that the ways of peace include education, for through it one can learn to recognize one's own identity and that of the other. This identity will be clarified without coming into opposition with that of our brothers and sisters, as if humanity could be made up of antagonistic factions. Peace necessarily entails an approach to the human person in truth and justice. Education for peace also involves recognition and acceptance of diversity, just as it includes learning about crisis management, in order to prevent crises from degenerating into conflicts. We are happy to see that in several countries there is increased collaboration in this field among Muslims and Christians, especially as regards the equitable revision of text-books for schools.

6. It is at what is a very special time for you, the month of Ramadan in which fasting, prayer and solidarity bring you interior peace, that I am sharing with you these reflections on the ways to peace. I express to you, therefore, good wishes of peace, peace in your hearts, in your families and in your respective countries, and I invoke upon you the Blessing of the God of Peace.

Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald

The Prophecy of Hilaire Belloc

More Muslims attend mosque than Christians church in some European cities

"May not Islam rise again?"

"In a sense the question is already answered because Islam has never departed."

"It still commands the fixed loyalty and unquestioning adhesion of all the millions between the Atlantic and the Indus and further afield throughout scattered communities of further Asia. But I ask the question in the sense: 'Will not perhaps the temporal power of Islam return and with it the menace of an armed Mohammedan world which will shake the dominion of Europeans - still nominally Christian - and reappear again as the prime enemy of our civilization? The future always comes as a surprise but political wisdom consists in attempting at least some partial judgment of what that surprise may be."

"And for my part I cannot but believe that a main unexpected thing in the future is the return of Islam. Since religion is at the root of all political movements and changes and since we have here a very great religion physically paralysed, but morally intensely alive, we are in the presence of an unstable equilibrium which cannot remain permanently unstable."

Hilaire Belloc, "The Great Heresies," (1938)

For years now I have seen this resurrection of Islam and have believed it a burning issue of our times. Reading the papers today (and everyday!) brings Belloc's prophetic words quoted above (and a few others as well) to mind. I am not sure if it was Belloc who said this (maybe it was Chesterton?): "The final battle will be between the Cross and the Crescent." Right now, things aren't looking too good for the Cross....

Fire! Blaise Pascal's Memorial

One of the greatest and most influential Christians of all ages, Blaise Pascal, had a "spiritual awakening" on November 11th, 1654. Pascal, the scientist and mathematician, had a flashing moment of "conversion" which he memorialized in what has come to be known as The Memorial. Pascal attempted to convey something of the magnitude and intensity of this searing experience in words, and this Memorial meant so much to Pascal that he sewed the parchment on which it was written to his clothes so it was always with him and near his heart. It is a joy to post, once again, the text of this beautiful testimony to the Reality of God's Grace in Christ:

The year of grace 1654,

Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement, pope and martyr, and others in the martyrology.
Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, martyr, and others.
From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight,


GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel:
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day's exercise on the earth.
May I not forget your words. Amen.

Friday, November 22, 2002
Orthodox and Catholic Theologians meet

OTTAWA, ONT [SCOBA] -- The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has met for the first time in Canada. It convened at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, from October 31 to November 2, 2002, under the auspices of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). This 63rd meeting of the Consultation was co-chaired by Metropolitan Maximos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

To commemorate this historic occasion, the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies invited Rev. Thomas FitzGerald, the Orthodox Co-Secretary of the Consultation and Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, to give a lecture at the University on the evening of October 31 entitled, "The Catholic-Orthodox Dialogues: Perspectives on the Eucharist."

..The main focus of this meeting was a continued examination of the filioque question. The original version of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that dates from the 4th century and is still used by the Orthodox states that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father." The word filioque ("and from the Son") was later added to the Latin version of this Creed used in the West, so that the phrase would read that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son." This modification appeared in some areas of western Europe as early as the 5th century but was accepted in Rome only in the 11th century. This change in the wording of the Creed and the underlying variations in understanding the origin and procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity have long been considered a church-dividing issue between our two communions. The Consultation has been studying this question since 1999 in the hope of eventually releasing an agreed statement. During the first session of this meeting two papers were presented: "The Council of Constantinople, 879-880," by Dr. Robert Haddad, and "The Status of the Councils of II Lyons and Florence in Modern Catholic Thought," by Rev. John Long, SJ. Two other sessions were devoted to discussion of the first draft of a prospective agreed statement.

The Consultation members also discussed major events in the lives of the two churches that had taken place since the last meeting. These included the meeting of US Catholic Bishops in Dallas in June, the visit of Romanian Patriarch Teoctist to Rome, autonomy for the Antiochian Archdiocese, the Israeli government's non-recognition of Patriarch Irinaios of Jerusalem, the situation of the Catholic Church in Russia and relations between the Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, Orthodox participation in the World Council of Churches, the Clergy/Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the proposed new Archdiocesan Charter, developments in SCOBA, the document Reflections on Covenant and Mission produced by the dialogue between the USCCB and the National Council of Synagogues, the election and enthronization of Metropolitan Herman of the OCA, the Joint Declaration on Environmental Ethics signed by the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch, the visit of a Constantinopolitan delegation to Rome for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul last June, the enthronization of a new Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Missionary Archdiocese in America and Canada, the October meeting of the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, and the Byzantine Spirituality Conference that was held in Pittsburgh on October 5.

On November 1 Archbishop Pilarczyk presided over a morning Eucharist for All Saint's Day in the chapel of Saint Paul Seminary. It was attended by the members of the Consultation as well as the seminarians and priests and brothers of the Oblate community.

..In addition to the two co-chairmen, the Orthodox members of the Consultation include Rev. Thomas FitzGerald (Secretary), Archbishop Peter of New York, Rev. Nicholas Apostola, Prof. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Rev. Alkiviadis Calivas, Rev. James Dutko, Prof. John Erickson, Rev. Alexander Golitzin, Rev. Emmanuel Gratsias, Dr. Robert Haddad, Rev. Paul Schnierla, Rev. Robert Stephanopoulos. Staff: Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, General Secretary of SCOBA and Fr. Gregory Havrilak of the office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, SCOBA. The additional Catholic members are Rev. Brian Daley, SJ (secretary), Msgr. Frederick McManus, Prof. Thomas Bird, Rev. Peter Galadza, Msgr. John D. Faris, Rev. John Galvin, Sr. Jean Goulet, CSC, Rev. Sidney Griffith, ST, Rev. John Long, SJ, Rev. David Petras, Prof. Robin Darling Young, and Rev. Ronald Roberson, CSP (staff).

For anyone interested in the "filioque" I have on my website what I believe is the most extensive resource on the web around this fascinating and controversial theme at The Filioque / And the Son Page.

RJN's Feast

Those who subscribe to First Things magazine often begin reading it at the end first - to read Richard John Neuhaus' fascinating reflections and ramblings in his The Public Square. Luckily for non-subscribers this feature is posted on the First Things website some time after the publication has gone out. November's Public Square is a feast! Read about Gary Wills and Rod Dreher, read more reflections on Scandaltime, read about the new Archbishop of Canterbury and much much more. Father Neuhaus is "a national treasure!"

Today in Church History

November 22, 1963: British scholar and author C.S. Lewis dies, the very same day as Aldous Huxley and John F. Kennedy.

Thursday, November 21, 2002
Voice of the Faithful Statement of Beliefs

The following VOTF Statement of Beliefs was approved unanimously by the Executive Committee of Voice of the Faithful prior to its presentation to and unanimous approval by the Representative Council, which remanded the Statement for review by the Parish Voice affiliates. The Statement was also reviewed by Rev. Ladislaus Orsy, S.J., a canon lawyer and theological advisor to Voice of the Faithful.

VOTF Statement of Beliefs

"We believe in the unity of the Paschal Mystery: the life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
"We love and support the Roman Catholic Church.
"We accept the teaching authority of the Church, including the role of bishops and the pre-eminent role of the Pope as the primary teachers and the leaders of the Church.
"We believe what the Catholic Church believes.
"We believe that sexual abuse by clergy, the treatment of those abused, and the way some bishops dealt with abusers have revealed flaws that require renewal in the human, institutional aspect of our Church.
"We hold that the laity has the dignity, the intelligence, and the responsibility (even the obligation) to assist bishops in trying to discern where God is calling us today and to cooperate in the decision-making processes of the Church in a meaningful way.
"We believe that the documents of the Vatican II Council illuminate the pathway for lay involvement in the Church.
"We believe that the ecumenical dialog between our Church and other faiths should serve as a model for bishops to engage in meaningful dialog with the lay faithful of our Church.
"We support collaboration among the bishops, other clergy, and the laity in strengthening the unity of our Church."

From the VOTF website.

"In the Dominican Tradition"

In my Listing of some Catholic Blogs, I give John DaFiesole's Disputations with my own comment added: "balanced commentary in the Dominican tradition." Whenever I visit this blog I somehow feel the presence of The Angelic Doctor himself. Thanks, John, for the wisdom of the saints "in the Dominican Tradition."

Today in Church History

November 21, 1964: The third session of Vatican II closes with the approval of The Constitutions on the Church and on the Sacred Liturgy, and the Decrees on Ecumenism and on the Eastern Churches. (And I remember those exciting days and the hopes awakened - and the unpredictable unfolding as the years went on).

Presentation of the Mother of God

This is one of the twelve major feasts of the Byzantine Churches, but it is celebrated as a "Memorial" in the Roman Rite as well. Here are some of the Byzantine Prayers for this feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple:

Today is the preludeof the benevolence of God,
and the herald of the salvation of mankind,
for the Virgin openly appears in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all.
Let us also with full voice exclaim to her: Hail, fulfillment of the Creator's plan.

The most pure temple of the Savior,
the richest palace and the treasury of the glory of God,
today enters into the house of the Lord,
bringing grace which is in the Spirit of God.
The angels of God sing to her: this is the heavenly tabernacle.

Saint Therese Continues Her Amazing Journey Around the World

Catholic worshippers carry the relics of French Saint Therese through St Joseph's Cathedral in Baghdad. Iraq, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2002. The relics arrived earlier in the day by plane from Lebanon after touring the Mediterranean country for 77 days.

The "tour" of the relics of Saint Therese has been a phenomenon of our times. Millions upon millions have turned out to venerate this little saint. Over a million did so in the US; and there was a huge turnout in Canada. In Ireland a third of the population came to venerate. Millions in the Philippines and really everywhere. Therese continues to be the "hidden evangelist" - mostly unnoticed by the media and even Church bureaucrats. But she does indeed spend her eternity doing good and bestowing a shower of roses.

How grateful I am that I was able to venerate her relics when she came to Baltimore. I hope many of you did so, too, in your own area. She is simply amazing!

OK Now

The difficulty mentioned below seems to have passed. Breathing OK now. Thank God. Thank you for any prayers and, of course, your prayers are always welcome. (I still try to pray daily for all who visit this blog and who have made an entry in the GuestMap - so sign and get "double" prayers!).

Request for prayers

Not feeling well; real trouble breathing. Scary! Hoping it passes so I don't have to call 911. Pray! Thank you and God richly bless you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

MOSCOW, NOV. 19, 2002 (Zenit.org).- For the first time since the end of the Soviet regime, a Catholic priest is being regularly questioned by an officer of the FSB - the former KGB - "to discuss the prevention of religious extremism," Keston News reports.

The officer is asking about the activity of the Catholic Church "within the Moscow Patriarchate in particular," the England-based service said.

The FSB agent is also reportedly asking for the names of teachers in higher educational institutions frequenting Omsk's Catholic parish. He has also asked the priest about the German Catholic charitable foundation Renovabis, according to Keston.

The FSB officer then politely invited the priest to contact him should he receive "threats from extremists" and subsequently telephoned him every month to ask about his church's activity.

In September, according to the priest, the officer asked about the Catholic Church's missionary plans in Omsk region.

"From this I understood that the era of freedom is over," commented the priest. "Again someone looking over my shoulder. I don't like it."

Welcome to St Blog's

On the Ragged Edge - A Catholic Perspective - Larry Kropp
Conversations That Matter - a communal lectio divina blog - Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S., and others.
Non Omnis Moriar - Martin Farkus
Regina Coeli - Gwen

The Church: From Paradox to Mystery

What a paradox indeed this Church of ours presents! How real a paradox! What a wealth of contrasting aspects her history offers, each refusing to be neatly catalogued! Soon to reach her two-thousandth birthday she can look behind her to such a succession of changes, developments, crises, metamorphoses. And even today, in a world tending more and more to uniformity, how great the distance - and sometimes the abyss that separates Christian communities in different countries in their mentalities, their ways of living and thinking about the faith (not to speak of the ruptures caused by schism).

Moreover, have we not found individuals and groups, at the same time and in the same place, declaring their utter devotion and allegiance to the Church and, with equal energy, their almost total opposition to one another? Little wonder that an acute observer was recently moved to remark that professing Catholicism, far from being a principle of unity, was much more likely to be one of division.

The Church ... I begin my personal search, but where shall I find her? What are the features of her countenance? With all these disparate elements, can she in fact be said to have a countenance? I believe so; she is complexio oppositorum. But even so, at first sight I must surely admit that the resounding clash of the opposite hides the unity of the complexio. Or is this merely the inevitable result of regarding her successively from different points of view? Or is the truth of the matter that she embraces each of the incompatibles?

I am told that she is holy, yet I see her full of sinners. I am told of her mission to raise man above earthly cares, to remind him of his heavenly vocation, yet I see her endlessly busy with the temporal things of this earth, almost if she wished to install us permanently here.

I am assured that as she is universal, as open as intelligence or divine charity, yet so often her members, as if under some compulsion, huddle together in closed enclaves, just like human beings everywhere. She is called immutable, the reliable lynch-pin in the chaos of history, and yet look now! - under our very eyes, the rapidity of her renewal in our time alarms many of her own members.

Yes, a paradox is this Church of ours! I have played no cheap rhetorical trick. A paradox of a Church for paradoxical mankind and one that on occasion adapts only too much to the exigencies of the latter! She espouses its characteristics with all the attendant complexities and illogicalities-with the endless contradictions that are in man. We see this in every age, and the critics and the pamphleteers - a proliferating breed, alas - have a joyous time of it, rubbing it all in. Since the early days, indeed while she was taking the first halting steps outside the confines of Jerusalem, the Church was reflecting the traits - the miseries - of mankind.

But we must focus our attention a little more carefully and bypass the quantitative illusion that always hides the essential. The essential is never perceived in sheer multiplicity or in first impressions. In this way we shall perceive the paradox proper to the Church and it is this paradox which will introduce us to the mystery.

The Church is at once human and divine, at once a gift from above and a product of this earth. She is composed of men each of whom resists with all the weight of a laggard and wounded nature the life the Church strives to infuse. She is orientated towards the past, which contains a memorial she well knows is never past; she tends towards the future, elated by the hope of an ineffable consummation of whose nature no sensible sign gives a hint.

Destined in her present form to leave all behind as ‘the image of this world', she is destined in her innermost nature to remain intact for the day when what she is will be manifested. Multiple or multiform, she is nonetheless one, of a most active and demanding unity. She is a people, the great anonymous crowd and still - there is no other word - the most personal of beings. Catholic, that is, universal, she wishes her members to be open to everything and yet she herself is never fully open but when she is withdrawn to the intimacy of her interior life and in the silence of adoration.

She is humble and she is majestic. She professes a capacity to absorb every culture, to raise up their highest values; at the same time we see her claim for her own the homes and hearts of the poor, the undistinguished, the simple and destitute masses. Not for an instant does she cease - and her immortality assures continuity - to contemplate him who is at once crucified and resurrected, the man of sorrows and lord of glory, vanquished by, but Savior of, the world. He is her bloodied spouse and her triumphant master. From his generous heart, ever open and yet always infinitely secret, she has received her existence and the life it is her wish to communicate to all.

From The Church: From Paradox to Mystery
by Henri de Lubac, SJ

Fort Tobacco Carmel

Yesterday I dropped off my roses to be made into a rosary at the Fort Tobacco Carmel, the first in the US (discontinued at one point and restarted a while back). It is a beautiful setting and the whole atmosphere seems lovely and radiant. You don't get to see the nuns; they are very cloistered! I get a real sense of the verse from The Song of Songs: "My spouse is a garden enclosed."

But the voice of the nun who spoke with me through the grill and turntable was joyous and welcoming. As it turned out I had attended the Solemn Profession of this very nun some years ago on my only other visit to this Carmel. That was a memorable, overwhelmingly beautiful experience.

The countryside was still filled with color yesterday and the sun shone for a good part of our trip. Stopped a few other places and had a fantastic dinner at The Golden Corral (which has an early bird special - less than $5 for seniors - 55 or older - and so I happily treated the 2 others with me, since for 3 of us it was under $15!!!). If you like lots of choices of foods, and lots of it - try the Golden Corral, if they are in your area. (I have noticed we are living now in "the age of the buffet" - more and more of them are sprouting up much to my own delight).

It's not always easy balancing things like visits to the poor Carmelites and the lavish fare of another buffet.... but somehow I keep trying! :-)

Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Roses to Rosary

As some may recall I was overwhelmed this year on the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux by receiving a dozen beautiful red roses. And the accompanying note just said "from Therese." (I have since tracked down the sender - and as you read this: how can I sufficiently thank you? But I have one idea...).

Someone informed me that the Carmelites of Port Tobacco make rosaries out of roses. So today I take a "day trip" and go visit the Carmel, bringing my dried roses for what may be my last rosary. I love the very thought of it: rosary beads from roses! And from these most special roses that came, in an hour of need, as a sign of God's Providence and Mercy and Love.

My idea of some expressed gratitude to the person Saint Therese used in getting these roses to me is this: to remember you in every praying with this new rosary. I also hope to remember the kind anonymous donors who sent, in the same time of need, that money "for a vacation", which I took, and loved! Still haven't been able to track these down....

I won't be "blogging" much today since I will shortly be on the road. My trip today is signed with gratitude and hope. Thank you all!

Monday, November 18, 2002
The Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul

grchristmed.jpg (16253 bytes)Today on the feast of the dedication of the Roman Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, I renew my faith. With St Peter I say: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." With St Paul I confess that you, O Christ, "have loved me and given yourself for me." I confess that you, O Christ, are the Son of the Living God and that you are risen from the dead and that all things will be reconciled in you.

I renew, too, my faith in your Church, founded on Peter the Rock and the preaching of Paul the Apostle to the nations. May they intercede for me and for all your Church, for all the world. Amen.

Long vs. Short Form of gospel: A disagreement

There are many wonderful dimensions to the reformed liturgy stemming from Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium and its implementation. There are some aspects, however, which I question and would see as less than faithful to the text and spirit of SC and which could have problematic results (I have questions, for example, with the revision of the liturgical calendar).

One problematic area, for me, is the choice given, quite often, of an option between a long and short form of the Sunday gospel. For one thing, often enough, the long form isn't all that long to begin with! Secondly, often enough, some significant passages are omitted in the short form and the text loses some of its richness and power - and even sometimes important dimensions of its teachings.

Let me give yesterday's long and short forms to see what I am talking about:

Gospel (long form)
Mt 25:14-30 or 25:14-15, 19-21

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one --
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master's money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
'Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
'Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.'
His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"

or (short form)

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one --
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'"

In the short form, notice how much is lost. The editing "spin" would seem to eliminate anything "negative" or "judgmental" and to just keep in the "postiive" and "sunshine".....(now I am all in favor of being positive and focussing on the joy; however, I realize that there is a flip side to all of this and I need to know that and hear it over and over).

I hope in any upcoming revision of the liturgy the option for the short form of the gospel is eliminated totally. Let's all of us Roman Rite Catholics hear the same gospel - in its fulness - on Sundays throughout the whole world!

Which form did your own parish use?

Birthday of Jacques Maritain

This great Catholic convert, philospher, theologian, mystic was born on Nov. 18, 1882. His contribution to Catholic thought and "ethos" is remarkable - in part, due to his brilliance; in part, due to the radiance of his holiness. Along with his wife Raissa, some think Jacques is canonizable. He ended his brilliant career as a Little Brother of Jesus after the spirit of Charles de Foucauld. He blessed us by his life. May his memory be eternal!

"If Christians were to renounce the desire for sanctity... that would be an ultimate betrayal against God and against the world" - JM

In Brief: Ecclesiastical Secrets

A book review of David Alvarez's Spies in the Vatican: Espionage and Intrigue from Napoleon to the Holocaust.

Sunday, November 17, 2002
I love my parish!

For many reasons....

Today for the seamless rendition of the choir, during communion, of Mozart's Ave Verum. No other piece of music seems to lift the veil into heaven, so to speak.

And for reading the long form of the gospel and not the short form (more on that option tomorrow, God willing!).

For the warmth of the people and the beauty that surrounds it all.


Reading some Catholic blogs this morning, the Lord's Day, I grow discouraged. It seems to me that Sunday isn't any different than any other day for some - same bad news, same pointing to "scandals", same tone and contour as any other day of the week. I know I am old-fashioned. For me, Sunday is still a special day, given over to celebrating the Resurrection of Our Lord from the dead. I know, too, that I consider myself more an "evangelist" than a "reporter." Yet I can't help but see the erosion of the "holiness" of the Lord's Day as another sign of the worldiness that eats away at the Catholic spirit.

As one blogger put it recently: We live in a country in a time that is great need of the love of Christ. Forget the bishops - unless they need some fraternal correction - and just get on with it. The world needs Christ. Let's get to work.

May the blogger who wrote those fine words follow through! May all bloggers follow through! May I follow through! Yes, the world needs Christ desperately. It doesn't need more bad news, more criticism of "the others", more negativity. It needs Joy and HOPE (see post below for a Sunday reflection on Hope).

Hope and Youthfulness

A Sunday Reflection from Joseph Pieper

Supernatural hope, then, which embraces not only the firm expectation itself, but also the living source of this expectation, is able to rejuvenate and give new vigor even to natural hope. "Rejuvenate" is precisely the right word here. Youth and hope are ordered to one another in manifold ways. They belong together in the natural as well as in the supernatural sphere. The figure of youth is the eternal symbol of hope, just as it is the symbol of magnanimity.

Natural hope blossoms with the strength of youth and withers when youth withers. "Youth is a cause of hope. For youth, the future is long and the past is short." (St Thomas, Summa I, II, 40, 6). On the other hand, it is above all when life grows short that hope grows weary; the "not yet" is turned into the has-been, and old age turns, not to the "not yet", but to memories of what is "no more".

For supernatural hope, the opposite is true: not only is it not bound to natural youth; it is actually rooted in a much more substantial youthfulness. It bestows on mankind a "not yet" that is entirely superior to and distinct from the failing strength of man's natural hope. Hence it gives man such a "long" future that the past seems "short" however long and rich his life. The theological virtue of hope is the power to wait patiently for a "not yet" that is the more immeasurably distant from us the more closely we approach it.

The supernatural vitality of hope overflows, moreover, and sheds its light also upon the rejuvenated powers of natural hope. The lives of countless saints attest to this truly astonishing fact. It seems surprising, however, how seldom the enchanting youthfulness of our great saints is noticed; especially of those saints who were active in the world as builders and founders. There is hardly anything comparable to just this youthfulness of the saint that testifies so challengingly to the fact that is surely most relevant for contemporarv man: that, in the most literal sense of these words, nothing more eminently preserves and founds "eternal youth" than the theological virtue of hope.

It alone can bestow on man the certain possession of that aspiration that is at once relaxed and disciplined, that adaptability and readiness, that strong-hearted freshness, that resilient joy, that steady preseverance in trust that so distinguish the young and make them lovable.

We must not regard this as a fatal concession to the Zeitgeist. As Saint Augustine so aptly says: "God is younger than all else" (De genesi, liber VIII, caput 26, 48, col. 392, PL 34).

The gift of youth that supernatural hope bestows on man leaves its mark on human nature at a much deeper level than does natural youth. Despite its very visible effect in the natural sphere, the Christian's supernaturally grounded youthfulness lives from a root that penetrates into an area of human nature that the powers of natural hope are unable to reach. This is so because the supernatural youthfulness emanates from participation in the life of God, who is closer and more intimate to us than we are to ourselves.

For this reason, the youthfulness of the individual who longs for eternal life is fundamentally imperishable. It cannot be touched by aging or disappointment; it proves itself above all in the face of the withering of natural youth and in temptations to despair. Saint Paul says, "Even though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor 4:16).

But there are no other words in Holy Scripture or in human speech as a whole that let resound as triumphantly the youthfulness of one who remains firm in hope against all destruction and through a veil of tears as do those of the patient Job: "Although he should slay me, I will trust in him..." (Job 13:15).

This whole book about hope revolves around this sentence because I believe it is vitally important for an age from whose despair there seems to issue a forced and superficial cult of youthfulness to have a glimpse of the highest pinnacle to which the hope-filled youthfulness of those who entrust themselves to God can soar.

Job's words cut the foundation, moreover, from under a misapprehension that can, in fact, be critical in a catastrophic age, namely, the mistaken assumption that the substance of natural hope can be encompassed by supernatural hope even from below (instead of from above); in other words, that the fulfillment of supernatural hope must occur through the fulfillment of natural hope. It might be well, at a time when temptations to despair abound, for a Christianity that labors hard to hold high the banner of hope in eternal life to help its "younger generation" to read and, above all, to understand Job's words at an early age.

Nonetheless, this chapter will conclude with the verses that occur at the end of the fortieth chapter, the famous chapter that contains the message of salvation, of the Book of Isaiah, the book of the hope and consolation of Israel - the verses that begin with the Advent Consolamini: "Be comforted, be comforted, my people" (Is 40:1). These verses - the German mystics would call them a jubilus - read as follows: "But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Is 40:31)

excerpted from "On Hope" by Joseph Pieper (Ignatius)

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