A Catholic Blog for Lovers

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

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Saturday, June 19, 2004

I am thinking of doing an exposé of exposers.

Some Catholics seem, of late, to be obsessed with the sexual sins of priests and the ineptness and, in the opinion of some of them, the sheer evil of the bishops - and seem to take a morose delight in exposing them to all the world.

I would like to research the lives of these critics to see if they have more material possessions than they need. These, according to St. Basil the Great, belong to the poor and not to them (but watch carefully now for the "nuancing" in this instance and the "mitigating circumstances" in this instance). According to the fathers of the Church, to have more than is needed is to be stealing from the poor.

Jesus says: woe to you rich! You already have your reward.

Are the exposers poor (go to inner cities or Latin America to answer that)?

But it is the poor who are blessed; not the rich. (Watch carefully, too, for the nuancing and mitigating circumstances in this instance as well).

Jesus spends a lot more time denouncing the dangers of riches than in denouncing sins of the flesh. Yes, he is STRONG indeed about those who harm the little ones. But he is STRONG, too, about those who are "rich" and live in comfort while others are begging for scraps from their tables. "Woe to you who are rich!" "It is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle." Chesterton said that we have spent 19 centuries trying to decrease the size of the camel and increase the size of the eye of a needle! I suppose we can update that and say we've been doing it for 20 centuries.

Now if truth be told, I am guilty in both of these areas - and many others as well. Thus I know that my work is about me and my own conversion and about my own need of the Mercies of the Lord which are never spent and never exhausted, but new each morning.

So I do not, I hope, take glee in the sins of others nor do I care to expose the sins of others (despite this "threat!"). I do not, I hope, think it my own place to keep harping on the sins of others. I have enough of my own to repent of and make amends for.

I am hardly above the poverty line, counting all my income. But I am richer than most in the world and have more than I can need. Thus I live by Mercy!

The exposers and those who seem to take delight in the exposure of the clergy's failures and sins may need to take a deeper look into their own conformity to the gospels and the evangelic message of JESUS CHRIST.

(Perhaps some will wish to divest themselves of some of their unnecessary possessions and material resources - remember I am POOR!!!!).

My point: no one is without fault and sin. No one of us lives by anything other than God's Mercy.

Be merciful even as God is merciful to us.

Judge not lest you be judged.

Carry one another's burdens and thus you will fulfill the law of Christ.


Catholics in Political Life

The statement, "Catholics in Political Life," was adopted by a vote of 183-6. It came after the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians made an extensive interim report at the USCCB's special assembly, held in Denver, June 14-19, 2004

We speak as bishops, as teachers of the Catholic faith and of the moral law. We have the duty to teach about human life and dignity, marriage and family, war and peace, the needs of the poor and the demands of justice. Today we continue our efforts to teach on a uniquely important matter that has recently been a source of concern for Catholics and others.

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church from the very beginning, founded on her understanding of her Lord’s own witness to the sacredness of human life, that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified. If those who perform an abortion and those who cooperate willingly in the action are fully aware of the objective evil of what they do, they are guilty of grave sin and thereby separate themselves from God’s grace. This is the constant and received teaching of the Church. It is, as well, the conviction of many other people of good will.

To make such intrinsically evil actions legal is itself wrong. This is the point most recently highlighted in official Catholic teaching. The legal system as such can be said to cooperate in evil when it fails to protect the lives of those who have no protection except the law. In the United States of America, abortion on demand has been made a constitutional right by a decision of the Supreme Court. Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice. Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good.

As our conference has insisted in Faithful Citizenship, Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.

Our obligation as bishops at this time is to teach clearly. It is with pastoral solicitude for everyone involved in the political process that we will also counsel Catholic public officials that their acting consistently to support abortion on demand risks making them cooperators in evil in a public manner. We will persist in this duty to counsel, in the hope that the scandal of their cooperating in evil can be resolved by the proper formation of their consciences.

Having received an extensive interim report from the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, and looking forward to the full report, we highlight several points from the interim report that suggest some directions for our efforts:

-We need to continue to teach clearly and help other Catholic leaders to teach clearly on our unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Our teaching on human life and dignity should be reflected in our parishes and our educational, health care and human service ministries.

-We need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended. This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially Catholic public officials. We welcome conversation initiated by political leaders themselves.

-Catholics need to act in support of these principles and policies in public life. It is the particular vocation of the laity to transform the world. We have to encourage this vocation and do more to bring all believers to this mission. As bishops, we do not endorse or oppose candidates. Rather, we seek to form the consciences of our people so that they can examine the positions of candidates and make choices based on Catholic moral and social teaching.

-The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

-We commit ourselves to maintain communication with public officials who make decisions every day that touch issues of human life and dignity.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholic life. Therefore, like every Catholic generation before us, we must be guided by the words of St. Paul, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27). This means that all must examine their consciences as to their worthiness to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. This examination includes fidelity to the moral teaching of the Church in personal and public life.

The question has been raised as to whether the denial of Holy Communion to some Catholics in political life is necessary because of their public support for abortion on demand. Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment on a matter of this seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action. Nevertheless, we all share an unequivocal commitment to protect human life and dignity and to preach the Gospel in difficult times.

The polarizing tendencies of election-year politics can lead to circumstances in which Catholic teaching and sacramental practice can be misused for political ends. Respect for the Holy Eucharist, in particular, demands that it be received worthily and that it be seen as the source for our common mission in the world.

Can't you just feel the love?

Can't you just picture the salivating?

And the waiting in joyless hope for yet more bad news and more scandal?

And the delectatio morosa?

I hope those who seem so eager for the exposure of more sins and scandals enjoy their summer of wallowing and offended righteousness and dreariness. Let them take joy in the revelation of yet more scandals affecting the very Church who nourishes them with the sacraments and Body and Blood of the LORD and brings them the forgiveness of Christ for their own sins (if they have any of their own, that is).

To the rest, have a glorious, relaxing, fun-filled summer in the presence of loved ones and of the LORD in the communion of saints that is one of the great gifts of the Catholic faith. During these hot (for most of us) days, know the joy of believing and the joy of living.

And let's pray for each other.

Today in Christian history

June 19, 325: Bishop Hosius of Cordova, a delegate at the Council of Nicea, and presiding prelate, announces the "Nicene Creed." Countering Arius, who taught that "there was a time when the Son was not," the creed describes Christ as "God from very God, begotten not made".

June 19, 1566: James VI of Scotland, who later became King James I of England, is born. He wrote treatises on the divine right of kings, witchcraft, biblical themes, and set into motion a translation of the Bible known as the King James Version.

June 19, 1623: Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and scientist as well as a fervent believer and Catholic (and "Jansenist" sympathizer), is born.

June 19, 1834: Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers and orators of the nineteenth century, is born.

June 19, 1977: Pope Paul VI canonized John Nepomucene Neumann, the first American-born male saint. As fourth Bishop of the Philadelphia Diocese, Neumann is remembered for developing the parochial school system. Neumann was the first Redemptorist professed in America.

June 19, 1987: The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a Louisiana law requiring public schools to teach creationism if they taught evolution.

Friday, June 18, 2004
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Behold the Heart that has so loved you!

Father of mercies and God of all consolation, You gave us the loving Heart of your own beloved Son, because of the boundless love by which You have loved us, which no tongue can describe. May we render You a love that is perfect with hearts made one with His. Grant, we pray, that our hearts may be brought to perfect unity: each heart with the other and all hearts with the Heart of Jesus....and may the rightful yearnings of our hearts find fulfillment through Him: Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

(Collect from St John Eudes' Mass, Gaudeamus, 1668)

Thursday, June 17, 2004
Vincent McNabb OP: died June 17, 1943

Vincent McNabb OP painted by Hugh McDonald

I almost forgot to post something in honor of one of my mentors in faith, whose anniversary of death is today: the great Dominican, Father Vincent McNabb OP. I have a webpage in his honor and I invite you to visit it and browse around and learn a bit more about this unique priest and prophet - praised so highly by both Chesterton and Belloc (see website). Here is one of my favorite selections from Father Vincent, that has helped me more than once (and I have posted it more than once on my website as well, but perhaps the newer readers have never encountered this prayer yet).

"Lord Jesus, Save Me!

"Lord Jesus, the one whom Thou lovest is sick" (Jn 11:3).
The one whom Thou lovest is strayed.
I have lost Thee.
I cannot find Thee.
Find me.
Seek me.
I cannot find Thee.
I have lost my way.
Thou art the Way.
Find me, or I am utterly lost.
Thou lovest me.
I do not know if I love Thee;
but I know Thou lovest me.
I do not plead my love, but Thine.
I do not plead my strength, but Thine.
I do not plead my deed, but Thine.
The one whom Thou lovest is sick.
I dare not say:
The one who loves Thee is sick.
My sickness is that I do not love Thee.
That is the source of my sickness which is approaching death.
I am sinking.
Raise me.
Come to me upon the waters.
Lord Jesus, "the one whom Thou lovest is sick."

- Vincent McNabb, O.P.

Another Trip: Jekyll Island, Georgia

After the difficulties I experienced at the higher elevation of Yellowstone National Park (but it was a glorious week!), we decided to cancel our June trip to Lake Tahoe, California, since Lake Tahoe is about 6200 ft above sea level and didn't want to risk that again (though I did alright in Salt Lake City at about 5000 ft).

For a sort of "consolation trip" we decided to book a package deal for Jekyll Island, Georgia for 4 days, 3 nights. We will leave early on Tuesday, June 22nd, and return late Friday, June 25th, God willing. I am hoping for a relaxing, refreshing few days at the sea and enjoying the natural beauty and the flora and fauna of the Barrier Islands of Georgia. And I am hoping, too, on Friday to visit the beautiful city of St. Augustine, Florida, with its old cathedral and Spanish heritage. I was there many years ago and loved it and am eager for a return visit.

And to think: 3 years ago at this time I was in a hospital bed and would continue in the hospital and nursing home until August 14th (and I had gone to the Emergency Room on March 16th!). I thought I would never get out of bed again or at least never out of a chair. And now, while I am disabled and limited, I am traveling more than I ever have in all my life and life is precious and good and wonderful. How good it is to have received a surprise gift of a new lease on life itself.

I remain eternally grateful to those who helped me so: the doctors and nurses and staffs, those who prayed so hard for me, those who visited and expressed their love, my family and friends, who really are the best in the world!

How have I deserved all of this anyway?

I haven't.


Praised be Jesus Christ.

YOU ARE PETER: An Orthodox Reflection on the Exercise of Papal Primacy by Olivier Clement
This is a remarkable book! Olivier Clement brings to bear on this theme of the Petrine Office the fullness of the Eastern Orthodox tradition and a largehearted openness to the fullness of the Catholic tradition. No wonder the Pope asked Clement to write the meditations on the Stations of the Cross the Pope used for a Good Friday in Rome. Clement attempts to bridge the gap, so to speak, between east and west. It is interesting that it was after this book was first published in the original French edition that the Pope made his request to Clement!

Clement writes this warm book as a response to the request made by the Pope in his encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" for a dialog about the exercise of the Papal Office in the Church. I highly recommend this book to those interested in the reestablishment of full communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. While one many not agree completely with all the comments and opinions of Clement, I think most will find much that resonates deeply within, and flowing from the wellspring of joy and hope.

A nice touch: the English edition is published by the Focolare movement's publishing house "New City Press."

You can order it here: YOU ARE PETER: An Orthodox Reflection on the Exercise of Papal Primacy by Olivier Clement

Today in Christian history

June 17, 1703: John Wesley, founder of Methodism, is born in Epworth, England, to parents Samuel and Susanna. Though Methodism's emphasis on grace and instantaneous (often emotional) conversion marked a radical departure from high church tradition, Wesley always considered himself an Anglican.

June 17, 1818: Charles Gounod, the French composer of much sacred music, was born. Some of his better known pieces are his "Ave Maria" (Bach-Gounod) and his St. Cecilia Mass. In my opinion, Gounod's music is reverent and warm and "devotional" in the best sense of that word. And beautiful!

June 17, 1963: The U.S. Supreme Court rules 8-1 that states cannot require the recitation of the Lord's Prayer or Bible verses in public schools.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Michael Novak on the "Communion and Politics" Issue

Novak strikes me as a well informed, balanced voice.

Welcome to St Blog's

On Pilgrimage in Oklahoma City - Robert Waldrop
Discerning my Vocation in the Catholic Church - Andrew
St. Philip's Square - (Father) Michael Darcy
Secular Seculorum - Christian


Written by John Henry Newman, 171 years ago today

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom -
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home -
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene - one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Today in Christian history

June 16, 1654: Queen Christina, a convert to Catholicism, abdicated her Swedish throne to devote the remainder of her life to religion and art.

June 16, 1833: Still Anglican John Henry Newman, while traveling on a ship from Italy to France, penned the words to the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light.”

June 16, 1846: Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti is named Pope Pius IX. This remarkable Pope is remembered for his 31-year pontificate — the longest in history — for his declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and for the First Vatican Council's declaration of the infallibility of the pope. He was recently beatified along with his great admirer, Pope John XXIII.

June 16, 1855: William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, marry, having fallen in love the first night they met. William had escorted Catherine home, and she later wrote, "Before we reached my home, we both felt as though we had been made for each other".

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Another aren't we wonderful? parish

From Richard John Neuhaus' May "Public Square"

It is no little thing when one Sunday’s church bulletin can reflect the innumerable wonders of renewal. A friend picked up the other day the bulletin of St. Francis Xavier Church, which is around the corner on West 16th Street. It includes the parish mission statement: “We, the Church of St. Francis Xavier, are a prophetic Roman Catholic community. . . .” Not any old Roman Catholic Church, mind you, but a community, and a prophetic one at that.

It goes on to say that “Jesus Christ is recognized as Companion in our journey and made present by. . . .” Then follow all the wonderful things the community is and does to make its Companion present. I used to dislike the old language about the priest “confecting” the presence of Christ in the Mass. In English, the word puts the focus on what the priest is doing rather than on what Christ is doing. But that is nothing compared to the amazing people of St. Francis Xavier who confect the presence of the Companion by being their own deliriously wonderful selves—“we commit ourselves to the spirit of inclusion and collaboration,” “[we are] a community where injustice in all its forms is challenged, where the alienated and the marginalized find a home,” and so forth. True, it is all about them, but then they really are very, very good people. They are even, it appears, bringing about the Second Coming.

The mission statement concludes: “Standing together as a people of hope, we seek to realize the Reign of God.” Forget what the Companion said about nobody knowing the day or the hour. The days and hours are clearly posted at St. Francis Xavier. On the second Friday of the month is the meeting of “Catholic Lesbians.” “Gay and Lesbian Catholics” is scheduled for the first and third Fridays. (I suppose one has to go to the meetings to discover the difference between Catholic Lesbians and Lesbian Catholics.)

For some reason no time is specified for “Love Makes a Family,” a support group for gays and lesbians “dealing with family issues.” But the first and third Wednesdays are for “Young Adult Gays and Lesbians.” (Young being defined as 21-35, which seems somewhat discriminatory. Are the Jesuits at St. Francis neglecting teenagers?)

The bulletin contains a reflection on the Companion’s Sermon on the Mount, titled “Grace is Energizing.” The conclusion: “‘Be who you are,’ Jesus is saying. ‘Be the person you are created to be.’ ‘Be fully yourself. . . . Don’t give away this power to be yourself, don’t deny my grace to you. Instead, come home to yourselves.’ It was quite a sermon, wasn’t it?’” Right. No wonder they crucified him. Telling people how simply wonderful they are is not easy, but a prophetic community is marked by the courage to pander.

There is also Bible study at St. Francis Xavier. A series is announced on the creation accounts in Genesis where people will be “discovering surprises and deep wisdom along the way.” “For instance, did you know that the phrase describing Eve as Adam’s ‘helpmate’ can more accurately be translated as ‘someone to guide as his leader.’” No, I didn’t know that, but then I studied Hebrew the old fashioned way. At St. Francis Xavier it’s different: “We’ll read the scriptural narrative in English and in the original Hebrew — no previous experience necessary!” That way there are a lot more surprises along the way.

Church gives pre-election scorecard

"As legislative elections loom, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference is sending letters to all 710 parishes in the state urging Catholics to "share their profound disappointment" with lawmakers who did not vote to ban gay marriage earlier this year.

The mailings, issued by the lobbyist for the state's Catholic bishops, also prodded Catholics to offer their ''highest praise" for lawmakers who opposed gay marriage during this spring's Constitutional Convention, saying they acted "so courageously in favor of traditional marriage."

While the letters made no reference to Election Day, they are arriving just five months before all 200 seats in the House and Senate are up for grabs on Nov. 2. The mailings did not endorse particular lawmakers or compare incumbent legislators to their opponents, but they follow earlier attempts by the bishops and the conference to influence the Legislature on gay marriage..."

Today in Christian history

June 15, 1215: King John signs the Magna Carta, which begins, "The Church of England shall be free.

June 15, 1520: In the Papal Bull "Exsurge Domine," Leo X condemns Martin Luther on 41 of counts of heresy, branding him an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church. "Exsurge Domine" is from the Vulgate Bible, "rise up, O Lord". The opening lines of this Papal Bull are: "Rise up, Lord, rise up, Peter, rise up, Paul, rise up, all saints, for a wild boar has invaded your vineyard…"

Monday, June 14, 2004

Auctioning off the original "Big Book" of Alchoholics Anonymous

The Big Book is like the Bible of A.A. and one of the most important books written in the 20th century

In June 10, 1935, Robert Smith, a physician from Akron, Ohio, took his last drink. He and William Wilson, better known as Dr. Bob and Bill W., had no idea that the date would later mark the beginning of what some consider one of the most important movements in the 20th century: Alcoholics Anonymous. Wilson later wrote an account of their philosophy — that only an alcoholic could help another alcoholic quit drinking — and the lives of other alcoholics that is referred to as the Big Book, the movement's bible.

Now Sotheby's is planning to auction what it says is Wilson's master copy of the working draft of "Alcoholics Anonymous," the Big Book's disarmingly straightforward official title. Its value has been estimated by the auction house as $300,000 to $500,000. The sale, scheduled for Friday, has created excited speculation among collectors and scholars about who will buy it, and a debate about its value and rightful place...

..It's basically priceless," he said of the document being sold by Sotheby's. Susan Cheever, the author of "My Name Is Bill" (Simon & Schuster, 2004), a biography of Wilson, agreed. "This is one of the 10 or 20 most important books written in the 20th century, probably the most important nonfiction book," she said. "This guy, with `Dr. Bob,' figured out how to save alcoholics. They changed the way we think about human nature."

Double Standards in Saudi Arabia

One of my favorite bloggers, with his usual insight and humor, points to a glaring double standard in Saudi Arabia. If you visit this blog, browse around and check the archives. This guy is good!

Why I Became a Catholic

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

The difficulty of explaining Why I Became a Catholic is that there are 10,000 reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.

As, for example,

(1) it is the only thing that really prevents sin from being a secret.

(2) It is the only thing in which the superior cannot be superior; in the sense of being supercilious.

(3) It is the only thing that frees a man from the degradation of being a child of his age.

(4) It is the only thing that talks as if it were the truth; as if it were a real messenger refusing to tamper with a real message.

(5) It is the only type of Christianity that really contains every type of man; even the respectable man.

(6) It is the only large attempt to change the world from the inside; working through wills and not laws; and so on..."

Today in Christian history

June 14, 847: Methodius, an Eastern church leader who fought vigorously for icons to be preserved and venerated, dies of dropsy. He had earlier survived seven years of imprisonment with a decaying corpse, as ordered by officials under iconoclastic Emperor Theophilus. Upon Theophilus's death his wife, Theodora, took Methodius's side, and he was named Patriarch of Constantinople.

June 14, 1936: English writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton dies at age 62. Authors from T.S. Eliot (who penned his obituary) to H.G. Wells, a longtime friend and debating opponent, expressed their grief. After the funeral, Pope Pius XI declared the rotund writer (a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism) Defender of the Faith. He is known as "the apostle of common sense" and as a promoter of "the romance of orthodoxy." G. K. Chesterton was a large man with a large impact lasting until today.

"A Sort of Great Pentecost Has Opened Over Switzerland"

A long piece but filled with hope!

BERN, Switzerland, JUNE 13, 2004 (Zenit.org).- An organizer of John Paul II's recent trip to Bern said that only the Pope was capable of gathering all Swiss Catholics, who have been very divided for decades.

Father Nicolas Buttet, founder the Eucharistein Community, who took part in the preparation and development of the Holy Father's June 5-6 visit, told ZENIT the trip represents a milestone in the history of Christianity in Switzerland.

Q: What was the context of the Pope's visit?

Father Buttet: The context of this visit was quite a contentious, extremely divided Switzerland. The situation posed problems. Just before his arrival, priests and lay people asked the Pope not to come.

Questions regarding condoms, the ordination of married men, the ordination of women priests, and other issues had also arisen.

It is true that the Pope's first visit to Switzerland 20 years earlier had been received with relative indifference. It was, therefore, a highly risky trip -- to the point that there was hesitation in putting the Holy Father's name in posters to invite young people to this meeting of the Catholic youth of Switzerland.

Some priests had written in newspapers that this visit was not welcome. The media viewed the trip with circumspection. The Federation of Protestant Churches of Switzerland [FPCS] had also expressed great reservations in regard to the Holy Father's presence in Switzerland.

The FPCS criticized the fact that the Swiss federal government was establishing an inadmissible inequality of treatment among the confessions. There was, therefore, an atmosphere of tension from within and from without.

Having clarified this, it must be said that many young people who have attended World Youth Days were enthusiastic. Without their determination, the visit could not have taken place, for lack of an invitation to the Pope.

Q: What happened when the Pope arrived?

Father Buttet: The Pope's arrival changed the situation completely. The president of the confederation, who is an extraordinary man, committed himself firmly to this visit. He emphasized the fact that the Holy Father would launch a message of commitment for Swiss youth.

In this way, he welcomed the Holy Father and attended all the great events of this visit. He criticized the discourtesy of priests who appealed publicly for the Holy Father to resign. This attitude caused him to be the target of some attacks, but it was a testimony of political welcome of great magnitude.

With the passing of time, the number increased of young people who confirmed their attendance. Beyond all predictions, 14,000 youths invaded the federal capital. It was something unthinkable.

Weeks before, officials thought that some 3,000 would attend. Some priests totally boycotted the visit.

Q: How can this completely unexpected response be explained?

Father Buttet: Several things must be said. There certainly was a special action of the Holy Spirit, who was able to move and gather these young people.

Yes, I firmly believe that the throng that invaded Bern was really a call of the Holy Spirit to the hearts of young people.

In the last two to three days before the Pope's arrival, there were between 2,500 and 3,000 new inscriptions. Not even the police expected all these people; they did not provide a sufficient number of gates to guarantee control.

Undoubtedly the Holy Spirit wanted the show the Catholic Church in Switzerland that the only way to be united is to gather around the Vicar of Christ. ... It was something that was forgotten in our country!

We realized again that it is the Pope who attracts young people, and that it was not simply a meeting of Catholic youth. Peter is truly the element of unity, and I think that this is the lesson the Church in Switzerland can draw from this event.

The Mass on Sunday gave the same prophetic sign: The number of participants was twice as many as expected. Having heard the protesters so much, one ended up almost by thinking that that was what was normal.

A People of God of all ages, languages, nationalities, and social origins gathered to rise and proclaim their faith in the Church of Jesus Christ, led by Peter.

Q: Will Switzerland be able to follow up on what it has experienced? Will it be able to respond to young people's expectations?

Father Buttet: I think that an extraordinary change has taken place -- a complete media change in the state of mind.

All newspapers dedicated at least three full pages to the event, when before there were only some insets, small, discreet headings, and many doubts.

One newspaper spoke of "indifference" between Rome and Switzerland on the day the Pope was arriving in Switzerland; at the end of the visit the newspaper wrote about the people's love for the Holy Father and the Church.

There was a kind of visibility for the Catholic Church in Switzerland which has grown in self-awareness, as it has understood that it has a role to play and that the People of God expect a clear message.

It was impressive that the majority of the applause took place in decisive moments of the Holy Father's address.

For example, the sacrament of confession is often abandoned, being replaced by collective absolution. When the Pope said to the young people "go meet with a priest to ask for God's forgiveness," they applauded.

When he spoke about a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the young people applauded.

The bishop of Basel, Monsignor Kurt Koch, who is certainly the one who suffers most from the tensions in the Church in Switzerland, received an ovation.

There has been a realization that there really is a People of God faithful to the Church and to the magisterium. It seems that the media and the Church have emerged from lethargy. There had been a sort of pessimistic environment, and a loss of energy to evangelize.

From my point of view, this new awareness will not die down that rapidly. On one hand, and first of all, because it is not emotional, but is framed rather in an awakening of faith.

On the other, there is a whole team of priests and a young generation, a team of pastoral assistants, who have prepared this meeting, who prepare the World Youth Days and who participate, therefore, in this synergy of youth pastoral care in Switzerland. This element is also new.

Switzerland has taken a long time to enter into the dynamics of the World Youth Days, but I think that now it has.

Monsignor Denis Theurillat, the bishop in the episcopal conference who is in charge of youth pastoral care, has understood the importance of his mission and spares no time or energy to promote this pastoral program.

Therefore, there is now more clearly, as opposed to the Pope's first visit 20 years ago, a capacity and a will to taken advantage of the occasion and to make the seeds flower that were sown in this visit.

Q: Relations with Protestants have been difficult ...

Father Buttet: The Protestants had quite painful reactions from several points of view.

First of all, in regard to the appointment of the ambassador to the Holy See. Worldwide, 173 countries have relations with the Holy See, including Muslim countries; yet our country, which is Christian, did not have full relations with the Holy See.

The fact that the federal authority has decided to establish relations caused a reaction among Protestants that reveals a 19th-century mentality, which is lamentable.

Then there was the refusal to attend the Sunday Mass with the pretext that there was no intercommunion. It is a lack of respect for the Catholic identity, as it is something that has always been true, as the Catholic Church has not changed its view on this matter since the 16th century and it is not going to change.

But I think that these harsh reactions are also an opportunity.

The Pope's visit has made evident the difficulties of an ambiguous and at times poorly understood ecumenism. John Paul II has insisted on the urgent need to commit our efforts in the service of the unity of the Church.

The fact of recalling the truth of ecumenism -- exactly how it must be lived in truth and in charity -- is a grace. I hope that in this way we will be able to grow in a mature, adult ecumenism, that is, an ecumenism in which we dare to speak with clarity and in which we are able to respect differences.

This will free us from an adolescent ecumenism, that is, in which the criterion is not truth but mimicry.

This visit has manifested grave gaps and important deviations in Switzerland and has clarified the situation.

From my point of view, these public positions of the Federation of Protestant Churches of Switzerland might serve to begin again with a responsible ecumenism. We must applaud the fact that a pastor was present in Saturday's vigil and rejoice because he was able to address a message to young people.

However, there has been a violent reaction in some evangelical environments. They were distributing pamphlets everywhere, asking people to leave the Catholic Church, the "great prostitute," speaking of the Pope as the devil. This attitude of lack of respect must be profoundly examined in our relations with our evangelical brothers and sisters.

Q: In conclusion: how will the Catholic Church in Switzerland be after this visit?

Father Buttet: During this visit there was a sort of sacramental presence of St. Peter which has opened the doors of grace. There is a spiritual, supernatural mystery.

There is something that is visible and something that is invisible. I think that the Holy Father's suffering, as it is a fact that he was suffering, will bring fruits, as in a certain sense Paul says: "I complete in my flesh what is lacking in the passion of Christ for his body which is the Church."

Beyond the emotion, there has been a sort of great Pentecost that has opened over Switzerland, which no longer knew quite what to do, a Church closed in on itself, which ceaselessly revised its structures, a rich Church, which could not find the way out on its own without the gust of that fresh air that came from outside.

All of a sudden, we have realized that the Pope's visit was capable of uniting the four linguistic regions, the three great cultural regions, the different tendencies that coexist legitimately in the Church.

Old and new communities, parishes, have come together in one act of thanksgiving and I think that this event gives back hope to this Church that is in Switzerland.

It is my heartfelt hope that it will be able to begin evangelization again with boldness. I think we can say that the event of Pentecost was experienced in Bern on that Sunday of the Most Holy Trinity.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Body of Christ. Amen. This is Jesus Christ in the fulness of His Divinity and Humanity. Amen! I believe.

The Body of Christ. Amen. This is who I am. "You become what you receive" (St Augustine). Amen! I will accept the challenge to be Christ for others!

The Body of Christ. Amen. This is the Whole Christ: Christ in His Body, in His brothers and sisters, especially in the poor and suffering. Amen! I will open my heart to Christ in His many disguises!

The Body of Christ: the sacrament of unity and Christ-like love, a call to forgiveness and unity, the challenge to become, like Jesus, a servant with basin and towel. Amen!

Today in Christian history

June 13, 1231: Anthony of Padua dies at age 36. His mentor, Francis of Assisi, wrote early in his ministry, "It pleases me that you teach sacred theology to the brothers, as long as — in the words of the Rule — you 'do not extinguish the Spirit of prayer and devotion' with study of this kind." With this blessing, Anthony went on to a life of teaching and preaching, becoming the most popular and effective preacher of his day. Saint Anthony is a Doctor of the Universal Church and one of the most popular of Catholic saints. Many pray to him for lost items (e.g. Something lost/ can't be found/ dear Saint Anthony/ look around).

June 13, 1525: German reformer Martin Luther marries Katherine von Bora, 16 years his younger, having sneaked her and several other nuns out of their Cistercian convent in empty herring barrels two years earlier. Many viewed the marriage, which lasted 21 happy years and bore six children, as a scandal.

June 13, 1893: Dorothy Sayers, English mystery writer and apologist, is born in Oxford, England. "Man is never truly himself except when he is actively creating something," she once said. One of my own favorite Sayers quote: "We have declawed the Lion of Judah and turned Him into a fitting household pet for blue-haired ladies and pale-faced curates."

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