Kneeling before the child – Bishop Schwaderlapp strikes again

Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp does it again. Recently, he spoke about the erosion of faith, and in his homily for the feast of the Epiphany he outlines an attitude to counter that. Taking the example of the Magi, he explains the importance of kneveling; not just the physical action, but the inner attitude of faith it both signifies and nourishes.

Read the entire homily in the original German via the link above. I share the part in which Bishop Schwaderlapp discusses the concept of kneeling below.

schwaderlapp“”They found the child there, with his mother Mary, and fell down to worship him” (Matt. 2:11). The unified translation states that they “paid homage”, but that is too weak. This is about worship. The three Magi understood what even the Apostles understood only gradually. The child is not only just a child, but is at the same time also God. It is the God-man. They knelt before they child, and only before the child, dear sisters and brothers. They did not kneel for the power of Herod, but they avoided him and went back to their country by another way. They did not kneel for their wealth, but presented it as a gift for the divine child. And they did not kneel down for their own convenience, but went on their way to the God-child – an arduous way.

He who kneels before the child does not bow down for the powerful! He who kneels before the child does not bow down for wealth and its temptations! He who kneels before the child does not bind himself to his own selfishness!

“They fell down and worshipped him!” How is that with us? Dear sisters and brothers, it always depresses me a little, when now and then – unfortunately, more and more often – I notice in parishes that kneeling is seemingly out of fashion. And this new “fashion” does not end with the fulltime employees. A Belgian priest, who has been working in our diocese for decades, told me, “When we removed the kneelers in my country, the crisis really began”.

Dear sisters and brothers, kneeling by itself is no solution to any crisis, but without kneeling no crisis will be resolved! The Magi show us what it is about. It is about kneeling before the child, so that we do not bow down before all fears, powers and everything that depresses and holds us down, that we find in him the support and strength to tackle what can be tackled.

Let us ask ourselves: do we kneel? Do we do it again and again? Or do we too forget it? A priest or bishop is also not immune for this. It is easy to preach about kneed, piety and worship. And yet it is a great temptation, in the bustle of daily life, to pass by the manger of Bethlehem. Let Christ not be left out! Kneel down before him, for he is the source of everything that is new, the source of faith, source of comfort and source of truth.”

The faithful of Cologne would be loath to see their auxiliary bishop go, but in Aachen, Limburg and Dresden-Meißen they are looking for a new bishop…

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A time of change: Epiphany

“After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, suddenly some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east asking, ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’
When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea, for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the leaders of Judah, for from you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared and sent them on to Bethlehem with the words, ‘Go and find out all about the child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’
Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were given a warning in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.”

Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12

epiphany-tript

While it is the heart of today’s Gospel and solemnity, we don’t find out a much about the encounter of the wise men with the infant Lord Jesus. They saw the child and His mother, knelt down in homage and offered Him gifts. That’s it. But the feast of the Epiphany isn’t in the first place about the Magi anyway: it’s about Christ, and his revelation to the world.

This revelation is twofold: the Lord is shown to the world, personified in the Magi, but the world first had to come to the Lord. In a sense, both Lord and world are revealed simultaneously.

But this world which is revealed to the Lord is one already changed by Him. The Magi were inspired to find the newly born Christ, and they set out from their comforts to face perils, not least in the person of Herod, but ultimately to find what had urged them to leave home in the first place.

The Epiphany of the Lord is a time of change. He is revealed to a world looking for answers, wanting to find out what drives it onwards. This changed world, changed from staid comfort to inspired searching and openness to the – until now – unknown Messiah is revealed to Him as His world, His people.

We are His people if we go out and look for Him, to find what drives us, what motivates us to act and to find our place in a new world.

Behind the Gänswein consecration

gänswein Although much of the attention was on the prefect of the house, there was more in today’s ceremonies at St. Peter’s Basilica.

It was the Gänswein Show, certainly, but not only that. The popular new Prefect of the Papal Household was made an archbishop yesterday, but so were three others: Fortunatus Nwachukwu, the former Head of  Protocol at the Secretariat of State who will take up duties as Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua; Nicolas Thevenin, formerly a Protonotary in the Apostolic Household and now the new Nuncio to Guatemala; and Angelo Zani, the new Secretary for the Congregation for Catholic Education.

The four new archbishops were consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI, with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Zenon Grocholewski serving as co-consecrators. And it is from the former of these that the meat of the day comes: like previous Epiphany homilies, this year‘s again strongly ties the office of bishops into the feast of the Epiphany. Taking the Epiphany as the feast of the destination of the pilgrimage of the people of God, the Pope writes, “It is the task of the Bishop in this pilgrimage not merely to walk beside the others, but to go before them, showing the way.”

The Holy Father than poses the concrete question of whether we can see the Magi as examples of “what a Bishop is and how he is to carry out his task.”

“Here we come to the question: What sort of man must he be, upon whom hands are laid in episcopal ordination in the Church of Jesus Christ? We can say that he must above all be a man concerned for God, for only then will he also be truly concerned about men. Inversely, we could also say that a Bishop must be a man concerned for others, one who is concerned about what happens to them. He must be a man for others. But he can only truly be so if he is a man seized by God, if concern for God has also become for him concern for God’s creature who is man. Like the Wise Men from the East, a Bishop must not be someone who merely does his job and is content with that. No, he must be gripped by God’s concern for men and women. He must in some way think and feel with God. Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God’s own restlessness for us. Since God is concerned about us, he follows us even to the crib, even to the Cross. “Thou with weary steps hast sought me, crucified hast dearly bought me, may thy pains not be in vain”, the Church prays in the Dies Irae. The restlessness of men for God and hence the restlessness of God for men must unsettle the Bishop. This is what we mean when we say that, above all else, the Bishop must be a man of faith. For faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth and love. On this pilgrimage the Bishop must go ahead, he must be the guide pointing out to men and women the way to faith, hope and love.”

epiphany consecration

There’s plenty more food for thought, and not only for bishops, in the homily. Read the English text via the link above, or a Dutch translation via RKDocumenten.nl here.

‘Bel Giorgio’ takes over the household

In a move that was expected since last month’s consistory, Pope Benedict XVI appointed his private secretary, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, as prefect of the Papal Household. He succeeds Cardinal James Harvey, who was assigned to become the archpriest of the basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls with his creation as cardinal.

gänswein

Undoubtedly one of the most visible and definitely the most popular curial prelates, ‘Gorgeous George’ will simultaneously be elevated to the dignity of archbishop.

Archbishop-elect Gänswein has been the closest daily collaborator of the Holy Father since before the latter’s election as pope. As prefect he will be responsible for all audiences of the pope, as well as all travels within Italy and all major events that the pope participates in. There is no indication that he will cease to be the pope’s personal secretary, though, so for the time being at least, Archbishop Gänswein will be pulling double-duty.

The new archbishop, who will be given the titular see of Urbs Salvia, is noted for his careful performance of his duty, a testament to German pünktlichkeit  and thoroughness perhaps. It has, in any case, now led to his even greater influence in the closest circles around the pope, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Pope Benedict does not seem to be the kind of man who needs dozens of people around him at any time, instead preferring the simple company of a few trusted collaborators.

A date for Gänswein’s consecration has not been announced, but it is a safe bet that it will take place on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January, when the pope generally consecrates a number of bishops himself.

Photo credit: Alessandra Tarantino, PA

Stats for January 2012

To properly start the new year, the visitors of this blog must’ve thought it a good idea to break the record of last October and grace the blog with no less than 6,870 visits. But there were events and topics to match such a score: the upcoming consistory, the continuing abuse crisis, the Year of Faith and the installation of Bishop Liesen all drew much attention. And so did some older posts (including one dating back to January of 2010). Without much further ado, here’s the top 10:

1: Stilte en Woord: Weg van Evangelisatie: 276
2: With apologies for being late, Pope Benedict announces 22 new cardinals: 73
3: Just because everyone does it, does not make it right – Dominican provincial writes to the archbishop: 65
4: Het Probleem Medjugorje: 52
5: Not a representative of the people – Abp. Léonard can’t catch a break: 46
6: “The Belgian Church has been too passive”: 40
7: The added value of bishops resigning: 39
8: Father Bodar returns to ‘s Hertogenbosch & Pope announces Year of Faith, issues Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei”: 36
9: Cardinals according to John Allen: 34
10: Red Dawn Epiphany?: 33

“The great star, the true supernova” – Pope Benedict on the feast of Epiphany

Every year on the feast of Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor, ordains several new bishops himself. These are almost always bishops who will be working in the Holy See’s diplomatic corps. Yesterday, two men where ordained in St. Peter’s: Archbishop Charles Brown, the new Nuncio to Ireland, and Archbishop Marek Solczynski, who will be the Nuncio in Georgia and Armenia.

The pope’s homily, available in Dutch here, is once more an excellent reflection on the nature of the feast and what is has to  say about the ministry of bishops. A worthwhile read, which also delves into the Magi and the incarnation of God.

Archbishop Brown and the holy father after the former's consecration

Photo credit: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

With apologies for being late, Pope Benedict announces 22 new cardinals

After a busy morning in which he consecrated Archbishops Charles Brown and Marek Solczyński during today’s Epiphany Mass, the Holy Father appeared a bit later than usual for his noon Angelus address. He quickly moved to the big event that was already causing a considerable buzz among Catholics – journalists and otherwise – on Twitter: the announcement of a consistory on 18 February in which no less than 22 new cardinals – among them 18 electors – will be created.

Soon swapping the purple for red, Archbishop Eijk will be in need of a new official portrait

There are a few big names in the list, but standing out for us here in the Netherlands is that of Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk. Three years after his arrival in Utrecht, he will become the metropolitan see’s fifth cardinal in a row. Turning 59 in June, Cardinal-designate Eijk will be able to participate in at least two conclaves, I would think (unless the sucessor of Pope Benedict will pull a JPII and remain on the seat of St. Peter for 20 years or more).

The selection of Archbishop Eijk was not unexpected. His name was already mentioned in the run-up to the November 2010 consistory, but the 80th birthday of Cardinal Simonis, the only Dutch elector, cleared the way for Eijk to succeed him in the College of Cardinals. With the title of cardinal comes, of course, a title church in Rome and a whole bag of expectations. And certainly the local media, which has been seeing the Church and the archbishop in the light of the abuse crisis, will be asking a whole heap of questions about Eijk’s suitability for the red hat. But these are questions being asked too late. A candidate’s suitability as cardinal flows from his suitability as bishop or priest. Added to that is the issue of the College of Cardinals reflecting the world Church and the importance of a see or curial position reflected in a cardinal title. The Archdiocese of Utrecht under the guidance of Archbishop Eijk is, in the mind of the pope and most likely also in light of the future, deserving of a cardinal at the helm.

Here is the full list of future cardinals:

  • Fernando Filoni, 65, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People
  • João Bráz de Aviz, 64, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Manuel Monteiro de Castro, 73, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary (only appointed as such yesterday!)
  • Giuseppe Bertello, 69, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State
  • Domenico Calcagno, 69, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of theApostolic See
  • Giuseppe Versaldi, 68, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
  • Santos Abril y Castelló, 76, Vice-Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber and Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
  • Edwin Frederick O’Brien, 72, Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
  • Antonio Maria Vegliò, 74, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Francesco Coccopalmerio, 73, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • Giuseppe Betori, 65, Archbishop of Firenze
  • George Alencherry, 66, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly
  • Thomas Christopher Collins, 65, Archbishop of Toronto
  • Willem Jacobus Eijk, 58, Archbishop of Utrecht
  • John Tong Hon, 72, Bishop of Hong Kong
  • Rainer Maria Woelki, 55, Archbishop of Berlin (the youngest member of the College of Cardinals)
  • Timothy Michael Dolan, 62, Archbishop of New York
  • Dominik Jaroslav Duka, 68, Archbishop of Prague
  • Prosper Grech, 86, Priest of the Order of St. Augustine
  • Karl Josef Becker, 83, Priest of the Society of Jesus
  • Lucian Muresan, 80, Major Archbishop of Fagaras si Alba Iulia (Romanian)
  • Julien Ries, 91, Priest of Namur, Belgium

This consistory is a fairly Italian affair. With 7 new cardinals, Italy easily overtakes the United States and Germany, which each gain two cardinals (Dolan and O’Brien; Woelki and Becker), Brazil (Bráz de Aviz), Portugal (Monteiro de Castro), Spain (Abril y Castelló), India (Alencherry), Canada (Collins), the Netherlands (Eijk), China (Tong Hon), the Czech Republic (Duka), Malta (Grech), Romania (Muresan) and Belgium (Ries) each have one new cardinal.

Four of the cardinal-designates: Filoni, Ries, Woelki and Duka