Catholic Church: April 2005 Archives

Puzzling Progressivism

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I am a little puzzled about the reaction of most progressives to Pope Benedict XVI.

If we look at it closely, the worst we could possibly expect was more of the same. The better view is that moving from previous position to Pope would give him a chance to exercise greater pastoral care and we might see less of the same.

If they thought they were going to get:
(1) optional celibacy
(2) ordination of women
(3) ordination of/marriage of gays

then I would say that their idealism got the best of them. I don't think it would much have mattered who was Pope, these things were not in the offing. The relaxation of optional celibacy is something that may come about in the near future. I don't see much hope for the ordination of women for a very long time, and as to the third group I don't hold out much hope of that either.

So why is Benedict XVI so difficult to endure? If anything, as Pope he is lilkely to loosen up. After 25-26 years as bad cop he'll get to play good Cop and find another person to take up his role.

In addition, and this is not to be taken that I wish the Holy Father any harm, his reign is likely to be somewhat shorter than that of his predecessor. My guess is somewhere in the 3-10 year range, but it depends on how his health holds up under the pressure of being pontiff.

So, in short, nothing has changed, it isn't any worse than it was, and now that the Pope is not in the role of enforcement, you're likely to see much better.

Finally, if one regards it rightly, the Holy Spirit has spoken. We don't know what this enigmatic form of speech may mean for the church, but we can rest assured, that it was the decision of the Holy Spirit, and therefore politics and preferences aside, it is right for the Church at this time, for whatever reason. Hold onto that trust, stay the course. All manner of things will be well. The Church is still the Church and it is still home--it has not changed from the Church of God, nor is it likely to. Take heart.

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Pope Benedict XVI

And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ and you will find true life. Amen.

And so, he continues the message of John Paul the Great, even as he moves in his own way. Through the prayers of John Paul the Great may we see Benedict grow in love and in his ability to understand, unite, and shepherd the people of God.

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I just wanted to be able to find this again without looking all over for it.

Nods to Mr. Core and to Lofted Nest.

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Okay, we're less than two days into the new pontificate and I find myself having to retract my statements.

Obviously, this statement from the homily this morning

Dear Ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II.

indicates that work has already begun on the beatification and eventual canonization of John Paul the Great.

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On Our Holy Father


Long may he live and teach.

Very honestly, I have no way to say anything at all about the new Pope. I've not read sufficiently in his own work and the distortions of the media now and before simply don't allow me to have a handle on this man. But I look forward to teaching and to being blessed by a great man who, to all appearences, lives what he believes. That, to me, is a greater witness than any number of words. And it is in that that I find the fuel for the canonization of John Paul the Great. I'll leave it to others to decide whether or not he is a doctor of the Church and defender of the faith. He was to me first and foremost an example of what I should be. So I pray with the present pope. May he show me another distinct and beautiful version of the same. I need it impressed upon me that the Saints are not stamped out like cookie cutter images of one another. Each Saint expresses Jesus in a unique way. With John Paul, it was in his constant exhortation, "Be not afraid," and in the unique way he showed us in his own life how to do that. In Mother Teresa it was in her profound love for every one of God's Children. John Paul had that as well, he expressed it differently.

For me the Pope need not necessarily be a fantastic teacher (although from those who know him better, I have no reason to assume that this one will fail in that regard) but he ideally should be an example of holiness, a person to look upon and to seek to emulate, if not in every respect, at least in some of the things he does. These are high expectations, but even in the least worthy of Popes, I believe they have been fulfilled. He need not be a "superpope" but it would be nice if he were an extraordinary example of charity and concern for one's fellow travellers.

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The Holy Spirit Has Spoken

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After the announcement today of Pope Benedict XVI many of those in my office wanted my take on it.

One person asked me, "Do you approve?"

My response, "What's to approve? The Holy Spirit has spoken." For the good of the Church and for the good of all. I don't know what this papacy holds, but I trust that the Holy Spirit will never leave God's Church unprotected or led astray.

It seems odd to ask me if I approve. There are many who may have good reason to do so, but who am I that I should pass judgment on the Holy Spirit's work? It is not up to me to approve or disapprove, but merely to humbly, gratefully, and joyfully accept. Or perhaps not. I think my attitude was inspired by one person I know who said with an ominous glowering, "I knew it would be him even though I hoped it would not." I am surprised by the news and overjoyed at having a new leader. I am grateful that it happened so quickly and I stand ready to be the servant of the servant of the servants of God. May God bless him richly in teaching and in health.

Many years to him, may he prosper and the Holy Catholic church with him.

Now, onto my real agenda--how long must I wait until the process for John Paul the Great is begun and ended?

Oh, and by the way, nothing written here should be interpreted as disapproving of those who hold other views or attitudes. This is a season for joy not contention. I was just sharing some thoughts I had when asked about this.

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Habemus Papam

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Don't know who, yet. But we have a Pope. Thanks be to God!

Moments Later: Rumor has it that it is Cardinal Ratzinger who will be Pope Benedict XVI

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Reporting on the Conclave

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I strictly limit the amount of news I listen to. On the way into work in the morning I listen to NPR and get my "updates."

What I find curious is the language used to convey the results of the conclave. This morning the reporter said something like, "The Cardinals have once again failed to elect a Pope."

It struck me as an unduly negative way to report the results. Is it actually a "failure" or is it rather part of a continuous progression toward success. Is it not sufficient to say that "The Cardinals have not yet chosen a new Pope." Somehow "failed" sounds as though they should have been able to do this by now, and we are, after all, only at the second round of voting. If we were eighteen or nineteen days into it, I could see "failed." But I prefer to think of it in this way, "The Holy Spirit is moving toward the selection of a new Pope." Obviously that would not do for secular reporters, but it remains my preferred way to think about what is actually happening.

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Youthful Misconceptions

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When I was very young, before I was a Catholic, I remember people talking about how you would know when a new Pope had been elected. Here's a wonderful misconception for you. The person explaining said that after the Cardinals voted they burned the ballots and if the smoke that came out of chimney was black, they had to vote again, and if it was white then the Holy Spirit had chosen a Pope. Both he and I were under the impression that the Holy Spirit changed the color of the smoke "on the fly" as it were. Nice if true, but alas, the reality is much more mundane.

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The Conclave

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There are many avidly watching, many who wish to know more about how it works, many who speculate as to who will be Pope. But I am mysteriously utterly unconcerned, almost to the point of disinterest. I suspect because it will be known soon enough, and, whoever it is, the Holy Spirit will have guided--God will have spoken. So I join my prayers to those of all others who pray for the success of the conclave and the wise judgment of those who must make a decision. I have no favorites, I have no concerns. God is with the Church now and will be until the end of time.

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Last week, returning from Dallas, I had to attend the evening Mass at my parish. This was something I truly dreaded and looked forward to. I really enjoy evening masses. I find them calming and beautiful, But the evening Mass at my parish is a youth mass, and that can mean anything from dreadful to merely bad depening upon who they get to read, etc.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the evening mass was indeed wonderful . Not calming after the difficult weekend, but vibrant and joyous. I thought Samuel would really like to attend a Mass like this.

Now, I suppose what I experienced last night would constitute a nightmare for most of St. Blogs. But for me, it was the vestibule to heaven. The songs were simple, but faith-filled and orthodox. There were not dubious propositions about who was God and who was worshipping. The music ministry was loud and joyous and the congregation joined in forcefully.

The Gloria was done to a calypso beat and tune that had me believing that I was really born in the wrong place. The recessional was a piece modelled on American Gospel music. The readers were wonderful and Father was in rare form with his homily. Best of all, I was awake, alert, and aware. As anyone who knows me well can tell you, I am NOT a morning person. Morning mass intrudes upon my consciousness. I love it, but I'm not really all there for it. In the evening, I'm there. I can hear and see and touch and smell God.

Anyway, this was John Paul the Great's little gift to me. Samuel bebopped and hopped around to the music and really enjoyed the Mass as well. I know that enjoyment is not what the Mass is about; however, when you are a little one, it helps enormously to have some reason for being involved. So, while it isn't high Latin or great chant, it does just fine for me. Just as in San Antonio, I really enjoyed the 2:00 mariachi Mass. See--I was just born in the wrong place for my tastes.

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One thing I am tired of is being told that there is something wrong with mourning the loss of our Holy Father. Yes, we can rejoice that he has joined the heavenly host; but that does not preclude a deep sense of loss ourselves. Over the last several days, I've had several very holy, very wise, very faithful admirers of our great Holy Father tell me that it is wrong to mourn his death.

Wrong or not, I must be true to who I am. And, perhaps selfishly, I mourn the fact that John Paul II is not with us in body to lead us and guide us. I rejoice that he has been relieved of the earthly burdens that weighed upon his last years. I rejoice that he is with God. I rejoice that he will continue to pray for us and seek guidance for us.

But the reality is, unfortunately, I did not know how much I loved him until I no longer had him with me. And now, I mourn his loss and I am not ashamed of it. I am comforted that there is some hope that I may see him once again, but for the present, I mourn the passing of a great man, a great mind, a great heart, a great spirit, a great servant, a great example to us all.

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One of the most important things I learned from the pontificate, the writings, and the life of Pope John Paul II is about loving God.

At one time there used to be a dichotomy, a kind of question, as to how one learned to love God. There was one school that said, "First we love, then we know." and another school that said, "First we know, then we love." What John Paul the Great taught me is that it is not sequential, it is simultaneous. We love and we know at the same time. The two actions are interpenetrating and mutually reinforcing. You cannot have one without the other. They are representative of the "trinity of the body"--body (or heart), mind, and soul.

As a result, is it not possible to know with merely the mind, the heart must also be involved. And it is not possible to love with merely the heart; the mind must be involved. The heart without the mind is the tenderness that leads to the gas chambers; the mind without the heart is the legal system that destroyed Terry Schiavo. One without the other is only half human, never realizing our full potential.

Loving God requires that we know Him with heart and mind together and that we love Him with heart and mind together. Surely there are times when one faculty is ascendant in either knowledge or love; but they are always working together. Indeed they cannot work apart. Knowledge is always informed by love, by sympathy, by compassionate understanding; and love is always informed by deeper knowledge, by seeing what is really there, by intellectual understanding of what we love.

Throughout his pontificate Pope John Paul II showed me these two faculties constantly in operation. His magnificent encyclicals are beautiful minglings of heart and head knowledge, heart and head love. As a result they are not always satisfying to those who demand a rigorous logic in their approach to theology--there is entirely too much reliance upon metaphor and analogy for their comfort. Further, they tend to be disconcerting to those who want to love without thinking about it; the Pope demands a certain intellectual rigor to be understood.

His actions, many of them criticized during his reign show the same dichotomy. There are a great many who criticized the liturgy for the canonization of St. Juan Diego because so many native dancers and rituals were incorporated into the Mass. And yet, it is the heart that became briefly ascendant there with the consent of the head acknowledging the individual differences in cultures.

You could look at any of a myriad of actions taken during this papacy and see in them this deep intertwining of head and heart, knowledge and love. Pope John Paul the Great brought them to their natural synthesis, their fusion, their integration as parts of a person. We are not merely intellect, nor emotion, nor spirit. We are individual trinities, individual reflections of God in our integration, even though we often ignore or deny it. Pope John Paul the Great with his theology of body, with his encyclicals, his pontificate, and his life, showed us this again and again. He led by example, he taught by being. It will take us a long time to synthesize and to integrate all that he has to say.

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Poetry of John Paul II

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One of the things I love about John Paul II is that if his words do not move you in the encyclicals and the addresses and the letters, there is still more to read and by which to be moved.

Girl Disappointed in Love
Karol Wotyla, Bishop of Krakow

With mercury we measure pain
as we measure the heat of bodies and air;
but this is not how to discover our limits--
you think you are the center of things.
If you could only grasp that you are not:
the center is He,
and He, too, finds no love---
why don't you see?
The human heart--what is it for?
Cosmic temperature. Heart. Mercury.

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than the one immediately below. Go and enjoy

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Words of the Holy Father


from Veritatis Splendor

The splendour of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: "Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord" (Ps 4:6).

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Why I Love My Pastor

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Today we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday in the presence of the Holy Father AND Father's homily this evening was beyond wonderful. He rejoiced that the Holy Father has gone to his reward and our betterment. He shared also that he was ordained by Pope John Paul II and given the commission to "Keep the faith."

But more than that, he spoke about the days to come--about who will succeed John Paul II. And his exhortation to us all--trust the Holy Spirit that has preserved the Church thus far. He will continue to guide the Bride of Christ in the way she should go. It doesn't matter who comes next. Let us just take a moment to say goodbye and be thankful for all we have been given.

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Tomorrow every parish will celebrate a memorial Mass at seven in the evening. May the good Lord tire of hearing his name on our lips and offer us the consolation of His Holy Spirit.

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No, I'm not trying to be presumptuous. I am merely predicting that in years to come, in years I hope to see, the Church will officially pronounce on the greatness of the man--the soundness of his thought, the depth and breadth of his heart, the warmth of his compassion and humanity. Throughout his pontificate he tried to teach me, "Be not afraid"--words directly from our Savior. What I could not learn through his words, let me learn from his life and death.

The Church, individually and corporately will survive, indeed it will be strengthened by his passing into the celestial abode. The world will not be shaken, it will continue in its present path, but I pray that this pontificate does not end with him, but that it becomes a rich and fruitful vine, strengthened by the living Martyrdom of one of the great people of our time.

How I long to say with the whole Church, "Pope St John Paul the Great, pray for us." Privately, I commit myself and my family to him and to his message. It was written as for me personally, now I must learn to live it. Such is the only fitting memorial for so holy, so singular a man. I thank God that I have had the privilege to live in the time of such a man.

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John Paul II is the only Pope I've known as a Catholic. HIs death is, to me, similar to what Peter's death must have been like to the early Christians.

As a result, my sorrow over this loss is greater than any since I lost my own mother 11 years ago. He is the father of my faith and a father in the ways of being a Catholic Man.

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I have such mixed reactions to the death of this great man. First I am personally saddened. This is a result of my own great selfishness. Thank goodness God is merciful; had it been up to me, I would have held on to him forever.

I am also overjoyed that another great Saint has entered the courts of heaven and stands before God praying for us all. He will stand in my devotion like St. John of the Cross, for he precedes St. John in importance. He brought me into the fullness of faith and kept me firmly there.

Heaven rejoices at this new birth--the birth into eternity of a great soul. Thank you Lord for lending him to us, no matter that the duration was too short for some of us.

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Just as we are often asked where we were when Martin Luther King was assassinated or when the Berlin Wall fell--(the answers to both of which for me were something like, in front of the television set), I will remember the circumstances of learning about the Holy Father's death because they were among the very happiest possible for such a sad event.

This afternoon I had occasion to meet with three of the loveliest, kindest, most hospitable ladies I could ever hope to meet. I met Julie Davis of Happy Catholic and MamaT and Smockmama of Summa Mamas. Nothing could have prepared me for this meeting, for as delighted as I already was with these ladies, the experience in real life greatly exceeded my expectations. As positive as my view had been, the real expreience of meeting these great people was something I was utterly unprepared for. We met and talked as though we had known each other for centuries. We fell right into talking and sharing and laughing, and crying--all in the middle of a very public restaurant! God has really blessed me in such beautiful people and friends. There are no words to express my gratitude for being in such company at so difficult a time. I think at the time, I was stunned into a sort of numbness that only now is thawing in tears. Hopefully they will help to alleviate the congestion that has overwhelmed me since my arrival in Dallas so that my head does not explode on the descent into Orlando.

Smock, MamaT, Julie--y'all rock! Our meeting was the highlight of the trip, exceeding even the marvels of the Forbidden City exhibition at the museum. Thank you for taking the time to come and see me. If you're ever down my way, drop me a line and we'll meet--perhaps at some tacky venue like Gatorland (and perhaps I'll finally get to meet the elusive Mr. Luse). God bless you all for the help and support you offered this stranger far from home when such a traumatic thing occurred. It gave me a real sense of the family of the Catholic Church and of Catholic bloggers. Thank you.

For Julie's version--see this It was truly a blessing of a day!

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Perhaps it is too early to share this, and yet I cannot help but think that the Pope himself would have been amused and gratified by it.

Linda spent much of the afternoon in tears over the death of the Holy Father. Naturally, this distressed Samuel who asked why whe was crying. Linda told him that the Pope had died. Samuel asked, "What's a Pope."

Linda told him that just as Father Garcia was the priest for his Church, the Pope was the priest for all of the Church, he was Fr. Garcia's big boss.

Samuel's answer was to say, "Can I be Pope?"

Such a simple answer. But what is beautiful, and wonderful, and amusing about it, is this--just as John Paul II is the skiing, hiking, vibrant Pope, Samuel, whatever name he might take would be our first all tap-danicing, all piano-playing Pope.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Catholic Church category from April 2005.

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