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In a way, it’s nice to be able to look back on a normal month. No papal resignation, no sede vacante, no conclave, no new Pope (well, the latter is not entirely true…). A fairly average number of 8,378 views in April reflects this. Not to say there weren’t any events and posts that did not draw attention…
1: Countdown to papal Twitter launch: 843
2: Léonard’s example in the face of insanity: 290
3: What to learn from the attack on Abp. Léonard: 181
4: A Catholic queen for the Netherlands? & Before Sacra Liturgia, Bishop Rey explains why liturgy matters: 93
5: Six years ago today: 75
6: Papal prayers for a new King: 66
7: Sacra Liturgia 2013 – why liturgy matters: 65
8: Pope Francis and “God spray”: 64
9: The fall of Cardinal Piacenza: 50
10: Synod of Bishops – day nine: 48
And, as ever, the tin cup still rattles, time still equals money and the Pope is, indeed, still Catholic. Don’t forget to support this blog with asmall donation of whichever size you prefer:
Back in 2007, tonight was the eve of Easter, and in the evening I received no less than three sacraments. Six years of being a part of Christ’s mystical body, and still not a regret in sight.
“To have faith means: to make GOD great, to let HIM be great. I see this as the first and most important task for us Christians in our country’s present and its future. That is the most important service which we, as Church, have to offer the people.
Dear fathers, dear mothers, let God be great amid your family, so that your children can grow up in the security of His love.
Dear priests and religious, who have come in such great numbers, who give a witness of the Gospel by your way of life: strengthen the people in the faith and be bridge builders with me for God’s presence in our entire world.
Dear sisters and brothers, who do your work as craftsmen, industrial labourers, farmers, civil servants, politicians, entrepeneurs or whatever: let God be great in your daily work, to the glory of God and the good of the people.
Through your Baptism and Confirmation you all share in the life of Christ and in His mission as teacher, shepherd and priest. He has called and enabled us all to witness of Him; and especially where the Lord has placed us: in our jobs, our families, in business, in public life and indeed also in the office of bishop: various services, one mission, to make sure that God is made great. In this shared concern we are all Church!
As your new bishop, I am willing to lead in prayer and as first evangeliser. But I need you, I need you all. It is not possible with you.”
A passage from the closing remarks of Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer at the end of the Mass in which he was consecrated and installed as the 78th bishop of Regensburg, yesterday. Doing the honours as consecrating bishop was Munich’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, with Archbishop Gerhard Müller (emeritus of Regensburg) and Bishop František Radkovsky (ordinary of the neighbouring Czech Diocese of Plzeň) serving as co-consecrators.
More than 4,000 faithful, among them 400 priests, were present in the cathedral of St. Peter, as well as the basilica of the Nativity of Our Lady to the Ancient Chapel and the church of St. Johann, where a live broadcast of the three-hour Mass was shown. It was also shown live on Bavarian television.
In the wake of renewed media attention for that strange and imaginary concept of ‘debaptising’, and following the Church celebrating the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday, some words by our Holy Father on, you guessed it, Baptism:
“Dear brothers and sisters, what occurs in the Baptism that in a few moments I will administer to your children? It is this: they will be forever united in a profound way with Jesus, in the mystery of this power of his, that is in the mystery of his death, which is the font of life, to participate in his resurrection, to be reborn in a new life. This is the wonder that today is repeated also for your children: receiving Baptism they are reborn as children of God, participants in the filial relation of Jesus with the Father, able to turn toward God calling him “Abbà, Father” with complete confidence. Upon your children too the heavens have opened, and God says: these are my children, children in whom I am pleased. Inserted in this relation and liberated from original sin, they become members of the one body that is the Church and are now able to live in the fullness of their vocation to sanctity so as to have the possibility of eternal life, obtained for us by Jesus’ resurrection.”
Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words in his homily fo the Mass in which he baptised 20 children, an annual tradition on the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism. One of the things we can infer from this is that Baptism is so very much more than a membership act. Having oneself removed from the Church’s records does not break the seal of Baptism, and one will forever remain one of God’s adopted children, adopted out of His own free will. The doors to God are always open, and our “vocation to sanctity” within the “one body that is the Church” remains forever. Whether we’re in a parish’s records or not.
Because of its importance, remaining at the top of the blog for now: what the pope really said in his Christmas address to the Curia.
In the Dutch media today, the first reports came in that the pope didn’t actually say anything about homosexuals or gay marriage. This after gay rights association COC asked the government to take steps against the Holy See, a number of Catholics quite loudly announced they were now ‘de-baptised’ and some even suggested we should stop sending flowers to the Vatican for Easter…
Much damage has been done, not least in the hearts of people, faithful and others, who assumed they could take media reports seriously… Sadly this was not so, as preconceptions and agendas took precedence over factual reporting. As the issue remains current (strikingly enough, mostly in the Netherlands), this post will remain at the top of my blog, in order to easily access the text of Pope Benedict’s address.
Edit [3 January]: Although most of the initial debate and outrage has died down, it is clear that much ignorance about what the pope actually said, coupled with unawareness of the meaning of what he did say, still exists. In part, this is due to people, unavoidably, forming opinions which they have no reason to change, but a significant cause is also the failure of the Church herself to be clear or to clarify, or, if necessary, to protest strongly. I don’t think the Holy See should have come out with any fo the kind since the outrage is quite exclusive to the Netherlands. But the authorities within the Netherlands should have done more than a single five-line statement with links to the English text and the Dutch translation available at rkdocumenten.nl. While availability of the texts is important (hence my own translation linked above), it is not enough to explain and clarify the lies and faulty assumptions in media reports.
I found that many people still act surprised when informed that the media reports were, in fact, completely incorrect. A sure sign that not only we, as Catholic faithful, must enter into debate and conversation about these topics, but that the institutional Church as a whole should do likewise. I think the latter dropped the ball here.
And so ends the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, or the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation, as it is referred to in a rather handier fashion. A closing Mass yesterday wrapped up the three weeks of deliberations that, for now, resulted in a Message (available in Dutch as well) as composed by the commission chaired by Cardinal Betori and Cardinal-designate Tagle, and a set of 58 propositions to the Holy Father, which the latter will craft into a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, which will probably see the light of day in a year or more. This will the final and concluding document of the Synod Assembly, but of course there is no reason before waiting to reflect on what has already been said and proposed, or to put some of it in practice. Because words are all fine, but if they don’t become reality, there is little point to them.
Reflecting, like I did in my previous blog post, on blind Bartimaeus, Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily, referred to what St. Augustine said about this Biblical character, that he was a man fallen from prosperity into misfortune:
“This interpretation, that Bartimaeus was a man who had fallen from a condition of “great prosperity”, causes us to think. It invites us to reflect on the fact that our lives contain precious riches that we can lose, and I am not speaking of material riches here. From this perspective, Bartimaeus could represent those who live in regions that were evangelized long ago, where the light of faith has grown dim and people have drifted away from God, no longer considering him relevant for their lives. These people have therefore lost a precious treasure, they have “fallen” from a lofty dignity – not financially or in terms of earthly power, but in a Christian sense – their lives have lost a secure and sound direction and they have become, often unconsciously, beggars for the meaning of existence. They are the many in need of a new evangelization, that is, a new encounter with Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1), who can open their eyes afresh and teach them the path. It is significant that the liturgy puts the Gospel of Bartimaeus before us today, as we conclude the Synodal Assembly on the New Evangelization. This biblical passage has something particular to say to us as we grapple with the urgent need to proclaim Christ anew in places where the light of faith has been weakened, in places where the fire of God is more like smouldering cinders, crying out to be stirred up, so that they can become a living flame that gives light and heat to the whole house.”
And, I can’t help but thinking, is the Holy Father perhaps thinking along similar lines as the late Cardinal Martini, when he speaks about “smouldering cinders”, under ashes or not?
Pope Benedict mentions three pastoral themes that apparently struck him during the Synod’s proceedings (and the Holy Father himself was perhaps one of the most active participants, taking copious notes during the interventions and being far more than just a presiding pope): the importance of the sacraments of initiation; the Missio ad gentes; and the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism. All are important themes for the new evangelisation.
And perhaps Bartimaeus, although never canonised – in fact, nothing is known of him beyond his appearance in the Gospel of Mark – can still be something of a patron for the new evangelisation, for as the Holy Father says:
“Dear brothers and sisters, Bartimaeus, on regaining his sight from Jesus, joined the crowd of disciples, which must certainly have included others like him, who had been healed by the Master. New evangelizers are like that: people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ. And characteristic of them all is a joyful heart that cries out with the Psalmist: “What marvels the Lord worked for us: indeed we were glad” (Ps 125:3).”
The first stage of the Synod is slowing coming to an end. Wednesday was the last day largely devoted to interventions from the Synod fathers. There will be a final chance to intervene in Friday’s second session, but the time has come to get to work with the contributions made in the interventions and the ensuing discussions.
In yesterday’s morning session 25 Synod fathers and 2 auditors intervened. Here are some notable contributions.
Bishop Charles Drennan, of Palmerston North in New Zealand, outlines four points in which schools are important for the new evangelisation:
1. The encounter with Jesus Christ: befriending the Risen Lord, will see our schools animate with prayer, liturgy, the respect that stems from relating to others as brothers and sisters in Christ, and charitable service.
2. The diakonia of truth: in societies where the winds of relativism and individualism leave the tragic debris of moral confusion and crushed aspiration, our schools stand out as beacons of hope. Knowing the loving truth of Jesus and his Gospel – creative and life-changing, performative not just informative (cf. Spe Salvi, 2) – leads our young to discover the good: the path of inner peace, inner beauty and respect of self and other.
3. The spirit of wisdom: an antidote to the superficiality and triviality which can entrap the young and a foundation from which to strengthen the art of discernment and critique.
4. The sense of belonging to God’s people: identity and conviction are galvanized when the school reverberates with the Church’s ecclesial life of faith. Essential, is a manifest appreciation of the significance of the Day of the Lord and participation at Holy Mass.
These four points are clearly not a reality in many parts of the world, even in Catholic countries and schools, but they point in the right direction of what Catholic schools can be.
George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney in Australia, addressed the issue of penance and fasting.
“Recently I hosted a dinner to celebrate the breaking of the Ramadan fast. The Sunni mufti was on my left, the head of the Shiites on my right, with Jewish representatives adjacent. The topic of the night became fasting and penance.
It quickly emerged that the only group who fasted less than our Latin Church was some Protestants. It would be a break from Jewish and Christian tradition if this ancient practice disappeared. I commend the English bishops for reintroducing the traditional Friday abstinence.”
Bishop Raphaël Guilavogui, of N’Zérékoré in Guinea, called for a very practical measure to better facilitate the new evangelisation:
“With the concern for a pastoral of proximity, the Conference of Bishops of Guinea asked the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples for the creation of new dioceses in Guinea.”
Guinea’s Catholics, no more than a quarter of a million, are currently spread out across three dioceses (map at left). With so few faithful it is easy to imagine that it is a challenge for the bishops to be permanently close to their flock.
Archbishop Petro Malchuk, bishop of Kyiv-Zhytomyr in Ukraine, gives the reason to evangelise:
“Here is the reason for being for an evangelizer - to prepare and accompany he who seeks Jesus to the encounter with Him. This is exactly what Andrew did: he immediately led his brother to the Messiah, saying that he had encountered He whom we have awaited for centuries. An encounter with a living God, an entirely original and transforming experience which restores everything to its place, overturns from head to foot. Immediately, there is the need to proclaim a reality, which filled with joy, is liberating and salvific. John the Evangelist will remember about this his first encounter with the Master for his entire life: when he wrote the Gospel he was over ninety years old; this marked the beginning of a new day.”
In the afternoon, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the general relator of the Synod, read the Relatio post disceptationem, a summary of the points made in the interventions. Seven auditors offered final interventions after this reading.
Francisco Gómez Argüello Wirtz, co-founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, pointed out the responsibility of those who have already been baptised:
“Faith comes from listening and today we find ourselves in a secularized society that has closed its ears.
If we want to evangelize, we need to give the signs that open the ears of contemporary man. But how can a Christian community reach this stature of loving faith in the dimension of the Cross and perfect unity? Here we find the need for the post-baptismal catechumenate to make faith grow.”