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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Vocations and Tradition





August 11, 2009
New Nuns and Priests Seen Opting for Tradition

A new study of Roman Catholic nuns and priests in the United States shows that an aging, predominantly white generation is being succeeded by a smaller group of more racially and ethnically diverse recruits who are attracted to the religious orders that practice traditional prayer rituals and wear habits.

The study found that the graying of American nuns and priests was even more pronounced than many Catholics had realized. Ninety-one percent of nuns and 75 percent of priests are 60 or older, and most of the rest are at least 50.

They are the generation defined by the Second Vatican Council, of the 1960s, which modernized the church and many of its religious orders. Many nuns gave up their habits, moved out of convents, earned higher educational degrees and went to work in the professions and in community service. The study confirms what has long been suspected: that these more modern religious orders are attracting the fewest new members.

The study was already well under way when the Vatican announced this year that it was conducting two investigations of American nuns. One, taking up many of the same questions as the new report, is an “apostolic visitation” of all women’s religious orders in the United States. The other is a doctrinal investigation of the umbrella group that represents a majority of American nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The new study, being released on Tuesday, was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, for the National Religious Vocation Conference, which is looking for ways for the church to attract and retain new nuns and priests. It was financed by an anonymous donor.

“We’ve heard anecdotally that the youngest people coming to religious life are distinctive, and they really are,” said Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. “They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together, praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say fidelity to the church is important to them. And they really are looking for communities where members wear habits.”

Of the new priests and nuns who recently joined religious orders, two-thirds chose orders that wear a habit all the time or regularly during prayer or ministry, the study found.

The study also showed that whites account for 94 percent of current nuns and priests but only 58 percent of those in the process of joining orders.

Asians and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately represented among the newcomers, accounting for 14 percent, far above their 3 percent share of the Catholic population in the United States, Sister Bendyna said.

Hispanics are 21 percent of the newcomers, compared with only 3 percent of the current priests and nuns.

Of women who recently entered religious orders, the average age is 32; for men, it is 30. But retaining new recruits is a challenge. About half of those who have entered religious orders since 1990 have not stayed, and almost all who left did so before making their final vows.

“People come to religious life because they feel they’re being called,” said Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, adding that the purpose of the church’s training process “is to discern that call before a commitment is made.” So “it’s not surprising,” he said, “that you would have people that would leave.”
h/t Cathcon

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Holy Spirit and the Liturgy



Just before the Second Vatican Council was opened, Pope John XXIII said a prayer on Vatican Radio asking God to send his Spirit on the Church, bringing about a new Pentecost. With this in mind, one of the most significant moves in the liturgical renewal of the Church after Vatican II was the composition of new Eucharistic prayers with their double epiclesis.

In reality, the liturgy exists at three levels: there is the Liturgy of Heaven, the Liturgy of the Church and the Liturgy of the Heart; and it is the Holy Spirit who is the unifying factor within each as well as the Person who unites all three in Christ as a single reality which is the Church. In heaven, the Father gives himself completely to the Son, and the Son gives himself totally to the Father; and this mutual Love of the Father for the Son and Son for the Father is the Holy Spirit, the hypostasis of Love. By his Incarnation, the Son is united to creation; and the Holy Spirit unites the angels and saints to him as one single self-offering of praise and thanksgiving to the Father. They are so united to Christ that they continually receive the gift of divine life which the Son receives from the Father so that they too are sons and daughters of the Father This eternal activity is the eternal Liturgy of heaven.

The same Holy Spirit is sent down on the Christian community, making it Christ’s body, turning its sacred texts into Christ’s word, its offerings into Christ’s body and blood, its sacraments into actions of Christ, it members – as far as they allow him – into saints. Christ is present in the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit; and this synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church is what gives the liturgy its special character and authority. We are placed in the context in which the Spirit so unites us to Christ that his self-offering becomes ours, and we receive in Christ the divine life from the Father. Hence, we are brought together so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a perfect offering may be made to the glory of the Father’s name. This activity together with the other sacraments and with the divine office which sanctifies the Christian’s day is called the Liturgy of the Church.

The Holy Spirit does not just sanctify our external actions and social relationships: the love of God is poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rm 5, 5). St Paul does not live, but Christ lives in him (Gal. 2, 20) He prays, “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rm 15, 13). With Christ whom we receive in communion living in us by the power of the Spirit, “when we cry, “Abba, Father”, it is the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him” (Rm 8, 15-17; Gal. 4,6) This activity of the Holy Spirit within us, making us one with Christ at the very centre of our being can be called liturgy of the heart. To the extent that our lives are in synergy with the Holy Spirit, our whole life becomes a prayer of repentance, intercession, praise and thanksgiving. To the same extent, we participate authentically in the liturgy of the Church which is both a reflection of, and a participation in the liturgy of heaven. We are fully participating in the Mass because we are living it, not only externally by joining in the responses and actions of the liturgy, but in the depths of our heart. Therefore we do not oppose individualistic prayer with communal prayer: one cannot do without the other, and it is the Holy Spirit who unites them by making both the prayer of Christ...

The Eucharistic prayers show us two movements of the Spirit: the movement downwards, in which the Father sends the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and us into his body, and the upward movement of us, united to Christ, offering all honour and glory to the Father within the inner sanctuary of heaven. In the first, Christ is revealed to us as the human face of God; and, in the second, he is shown to be the acceptable face of all humanity at the very heart of the Blessed Trinity.
We shall now look at the downward movement (epiclesis) in the Mass. In the next article we shall look at the upward movement (doxology) and how the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Mass affects the Church and the world.

Let us remember one important point before we proceed. We know that the apostles and disciples became the Church at Pentecost, and we know from St Paul that, “We who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (I Cor. 10, 16-17). As the Church is essentially the body of Christ, if there is a sense in which the Eucharist makes the Church, then the Mass is our Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit is extremely active throughout, and not just at the epiclesis. The problem for us, then, is how to celebrate in such a way as to help those taking part be on the same wave-length as the Holy Spirit.

The Third Eucharistic Prayer opens with the statement that all life and holiness comes from the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. This is the context in which the priest asks the Father to make the bread and wine holy by the power of the Spirit, so that they may become Christ’s body and blood. Later, after the words of institution, which in the Latin Rite are the moment of consecration, the priest asks that those who are nourished by Christ’s body and blood may also be filled with his Holy Spirit so that we become one body, one spirit with him.

In the early Church, receiving the Holy Spirit was especially associated with the blood of Christ. According to Leviticus, “The life of the flesh is in the blood,” (Lev.17,11), so that people did believe that, as Christ’s human life was contained in his blood, at least symbolically-, so his divine Spirit would also be in the blood. When St Paul says that we all drink of the same Spirit, I have a strong suspicion that he is talking about the chalice. Here is a passage from a very early homily inspired by Hippolytus:

We are fed with the bread from heaven, our thirst is quenched with the cup of joy, the chalice afire with the Spirit, the blood wholly warmed from on high by the Spirit.

St Ephraem also associates receiving the Holy Spirit with communion:

Fire and the Spirit are in our baptism. In the bread and the cup also are fire and the Spirit.

If the Word was made flesh and lived, died and rose again in Palestine, the Holy Spirit gave his human, naturally restricted life a direct relationship with people of all times and places. Thus Christ could bear our sufferings and sins, and those of the whole race. The Holy Spirit bridges time and place, and unites heaven and earth, without destroying the distinctions and differences. Thus, when the Church remembers the Last Supper, it is as though we were there, and Christ’s words, “This is my body … this is my blood” consecrate our own bread and wine. When the Church remembers his death, our sacrifice becomes identical with his. When the Church remembers his resurrection, we are united to Christ in heaven, share in his new life, and are brought through the veil, which is Christ’s body, into the presence of his Father as his sons and daughters (Hb 10, 19-20). The Holy Spirit also bridges the gap between us as a Eucharistic assembly and all other Christians, so that we are united to the whole Church of every place and every generation, and each Mass is an act of the whole Church in heaven and on earth. Finally, the Holy Spirit gives to each of us our role in the Church (charisma) and inwardly transforms us, little by little, into the image of the Son (sanctity). All this happens because of the Holy Spirit who comes down on the Church in the Eucharist. Moreover, without the Catholic Mass, no charismatic prayer group would be able to function, and no Protestant one either.

The Mass is the source of all the Church’s activity and the goal to which everything tends: all because of the Holy Spirit. Because of the Holy Spirit, the liturgy transcends the difference between heaven and earth, public ceremony and private prayer in the intimacy of the heart, because he is present and active at all these levels, bringing them together and uniting them in a single reality which is Christ. Because Christ identifies his prayer with ours, and we identify our prayer with his, we participate by prayer in the life of the Blessed Trinity, and our lives have a divine as well as a human dimension: we are truly sons and daughters of God.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Abbot Primate's Circular Letter




Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Peace reigns in Sant'Anselmo. The academic year ended on 29th June. The professors and students left for the holidays. P. Juan Javier Flores, the new Rector has taken up office and the new Prior, Fr Elias Lorenzo is learning Italian. Here only a small group remains to keep things going during the Summer heat. Our building- and renovation-projects continue: roofs, the installation of an internet system throughout the house, a new electrical plant and, not least, planning of the new aula. All of these matters were gone through once again at the joint meeting in June of my Council and the Finance Commission for Sant'Anselmo.

At the beginning of July I was in China and North Korea. In North Korea I signed a contract for the establishment of an out-patients clinic at our hospital. I have postponed until next year a journey planned for the first half of August. This will give me the chance to rest a little, to replenish my resources and deal with the mound of correspondence that has accumulated. Even though I spend the whole day at my desk I find time in the evening for a few lengths of the swimming-pool.

I am writing this letter mainly to make up for a major omission in my last letter. When drawing up the list of topics to be mentioned in a letter one always forgets something no matter how careful one is. I am sorry about this but to err is human. I am referring to the canonisation on 26th April last of St. Bernard Tolomei, the founder of Monte Oliveto and with it of the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation. During a time of monastic renewal St. Bernard Tolomei withdrew with his companions from Sienna to Monte Oliveto in the year 1313 and founded his community based on the Rule of St. Benedict. He died of the plague which he contracted through his self-sacrificing service of those stricken with this disease. His canonisaiton was long overdue given the great deal of good done in the Church throughout the centuries by his foundation, now spread beyond Europe to America, Africa and Asia. I am thinking too of the many Olivetan women who work most fruitfully in Switzerland and in South Korea. Even in China it has been possible to re-establish the former community at Yanji. It is really astonishing what one man, who wants to follow Christ and can inspire others to do so, can achieve over the centuries. Our congratulations are due to Abbot General Michelangelo Tiribilli, his community and Congregation and to all Olivetan women, on this canonisation which also reflects some of its glory on the wider Benedictine family. At the end of the canonisation the Holy Father said that the Benedictine life is of great significance for the Church. Let us hope that our other Benedictine beati will be recognised by the Universal Church by being canonised.

There is a second matter to which I should like to refer. For many years we have had excellent contacts and a spiritual dialogue with Buddhist monks and monasteries. In the past 30 years our group DID-MID has done much to foster mutual understanding and esteem. In the meantime Islam throught the world is becoming ever stronger and more self-conscious. We cannot close our eyes to this reality. This dialogue has become very important for the Holy Father. Some time ago I asked Dom Timothy Wright, the former Abbot of Ampleforth, on the basis of his earlier experiences with Iranian theologians, to investigate what is already happening on our side in the matter of Christian-Islamic dialogue and how we can help this. The DIM-MID group will discuss this at their annual meeting at the end of August in Trondheim in Norway. With this letter I am enclosing a letter from Abbot Timothy which includes a short questionnaire. I am aware that very few questionnaires have any chance of being answered but I should be most grateful if you could send some answers to Fr William Skudlarek, the General Secretary of DIM. His address is printed on the questionnaire.

In the last week of September I shall be at the annual Synod of Abbots President which is being held at the Abbey of Waegwan in South Korea. Waegwan is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Benedictine presence in Korea as well as the dedication of the new monastery which replaces the one that was largely destroyed by fire in the night from Holy Thursday to Good Friday, 2007. Our Benedictine history is closely linked with that of the Korean Church and the fortunes of the Korean people. However, we will be missing one familar face: Abbot Clemens Lashofer of Göttweig, who since 1982 as Abbot President of the Austrian Congregation, shared responsibility for the Confederation and for Sant'Anselmo. On 21st July in the presence of 45 abbots and a score of bishops he was laid to rest. His motto was, 'Obviam Christo Domino – to meet Christ the Lord'. May Christ fulfill his hope.

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. This is deeply monastic feast: the transfigured Christ who lives among us. We can too easily forget this in the cares of everyday living. May our gaze constantly be opened to this reality. The transfigured Christ is now living among us. He strengthens our following of him, he is our goal and our hope.

I fraternal union and with heartfelt greetings from a warm and sunny Rome,

Sincerely,

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Abbot Primate Notker

Rome, Sant'Anselmo, 6th August, 2009

Feast of the Transfiguration

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