"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

Thursday 29 September 2011


Solemn Profession of Dom Paul Lyons
29th September 2011

            Dear Br. Paul, you have just asked for God’s merciful love and to share in the monastic way of life in this community. What a beautiful prayer this it, to ask for God’s merciful love and that you might share in the monastic way of live in this, the monastic community in which your Benedictine vocation has been fostered and nurtured. What a lovely way in which to ask the good Lord for all that is dearest to your heart. I hope you will repeat it every day of your life and on your deathbed, for most surely the purpose and goal of your solemn profession today is to live a holy life in order to die a holy death. That really says it all, though I am sure that you would like me to say just a bit more this morning.

            Today we are celebrating the feast of St Michael and All Angels, which is the dedication of our monastery and abbey church. The readings from the Book of Daniel, the Apocalypse and the Gospel of John spoke to us in distinctive ways about visions of angels, visions which are reflected wherever you look in this church. I doubt there are “ten thousand times ten thousand” but there’s a goodly number. Wherever you look there are angels. The verse from Psalm 137 we sang as the response, “In the presence of the angels I will bless you, O Lord,” is an excellent description of our life at Belmont.

Central to our life, and the life of any Benedictine monastery, is prayer, liturgical prayer celebrated together in community and contemplative or mental prayer alone and in the silence of your cell. In all forms of prayer it is the angels who accompany and encourage us: at times they even help us to sing in tune! In fact, the Church’s liturgy is a real participation in the liturgy of heaven, that divine praise which the angels share with the saints for all eternity. In the monastic life God invites us to catch a glimpse of heaven, just as Peter, James and John did when they were taken up by the Lord to the mountain of the Transfiguration. If the thought of joining the select company of the inner Three is too daunting, then why not join the peasant shepherd boys, who heard the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest,” and ran to see the Christ Child in the manger.

This is the great mystery of our faith, that almighty God, who is the source and sustainer of all that is, opens his arms and takes us to himself and allows us to see the light of heaven even as we journey through this vale of tears. As you stand on the brink and prepare to take the plunge, think of two wonderful scenes from the Gospel:

According to John, at the Last Supper Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” These words are directed to you, dear Paul, in a very special way. Your coming to the monastery and persevering in the monastic life has been an act of love and an act of obedience. It will not go unrewarded. And if you are faithful unto death, your reward will be much greater. In this life it is faith and hope that tell you, “God is with you. He is in you.” In heaven you will see God face to face and you will, at last, know and love yourself, even as he knows and loves you. You, Paul, are the home of the Holy Trinity, your heart God’s throne, you live in the presence of the angels. May your life become and remain a sacrifice of praise, a sacrifice that will make you holy even as God your Father is holy.

In the Gospel of Luke, Cleopas and his companion, two of the many followers of Jesus, meet an unknown traveller on the road to Emmaus. They talk about recent events in Jerusalem and about the death of Jesus, who, they thought, might be the Messiah. The stranger begins to explain the scriptures to them. So enthralled are they that when they arrive home they invite him in, “Stay with us. It is almost evening and the day nearly over.” When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognised him, but he was gone. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us, while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” Paul, do you not recognise the Lord Jesus every time we celebrate Mass? And does your heart not burn within you every time you hear his word and in your daily Lectio Divina meet with Jesus who opens the scriptures to you? What an enormous privilege it is for us to be monks. What an extraordinary opportunity he has given us to walk with him in the Easter light.

Today your strongest feeling must be that of gratitude. Who am I, Lord, that you have deigned to look on me and call me to this life? Is it any wonder that you ask for God’s merciful love and to share in the monastic way of life in this community? But there is something more.

Among the first monks in the Egyptian Desert one of the many ways they used to describe their life was “angelicos bios”, the Angelic Life. Not only did they compare themselves to the early Christian Church in Jerusalem by describing their way of life as the Apostolic Life, by which they understood life in community, having all things in common, koinonia, hence the Coenobitic Life. An important aspect of this life in common was work, for they lived by the work of their hands, sharing the proceeds. They tried to serve one another with loving patience, and not only their fellow monks but also guests and those in need, seeking to serve Christ alone and in their neighbour see his face.
They also spoke of the Angelic Life because they saw themselves as living like the angels in several ways. To begin with and most obviously, like the angels in heaven they sang God’s praises day and night, practising ceaseless prayer. Then there was the prophetic aspect of their lives. They saw themselves as a sign to the world of the reality of God and of the spiritual world. By the integrity and austerity of their lives, by living according to Gospel values and the evangelical counsels they were a sign of contradiction not only to the world but to a Church which had lost its initial fervour, fidelity and bite. The call to the Angelic Life would also manifest itself in the mission of the Church to go out and preach the Good News, the word of God, for they alone were free from family ties and obligations. In fact, right up to the advent of the Mendicant Orders in the Middle Ages, it was monks and even nuns who were the Church’s missionaries, and this is true all over the monastic world from Ireland to Armenia. Mission, of course, is integral to the Benedictine vocation and has marked much of the history of Belmont and the English Benedictine Congregation, not to mention our present day commitment to pastoral and missionary work. Finally, the angels are pure and chaste and live for God alone. He is their only love in whom alone can all else be truly loved. In spite of our weaknesses and infidelities, we seek, through God’s grace, to conform our lives to the simplicity, beauty and chastity of the angels. So it is every aspect of the Angelic Life to which we adhere by the vows we take in imitation of Christ our Lord, who was obedient even unto death and death on a cross.

Dear Paul, to conclude: Let the cross be the sign of your stability, rooted as your life is in the Passion of Christ. Let your guardian angel guide you along the pathway of daily conversion, as your life is conformed by conversation morum to Christ our Saviour. Let obedience be the beginning and the end of your life’s commitment to God in the monastic life. And may we, your brethren, join with you, through the intercession of the Angels and the Saints, in praying for God’s loving mercy and the grace to share fully in the monastic life of this wonderful community at Belmont. Amen

[Irenikon] Nice, from Garrison Keillor, here thanks to Rdr James

 This from todays' Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" might be of interest to some:

 In the Christian world, today is Michaelmas, feast day of the archangel Michael, which was a very important day in times past, falling near the equinox and so marking the fast darkening of the days in the northern world, the boundary of what was and what is to be. Today was the end of the harvest and the time for farm folk to calculate how many animals they could afford to feed through the winter and which would be sold or slaughtered. It was the end of the fishing season, the beginning of hunting, the time to pick apples and make cider. Today was a day for settling rents and accounts, which farmers often paid for with a brace of birds from the flocks hatched that spring. Geese were given to the poor and their plucked down sold for the filling of mattresses and pillows.

 Michaelmas was the time of the traditional printer's celebration, the wayzgoose, the day on which printers broke from their work to form the last of their pulp into paper with which to cover their open windows against the coming cold — the original solution for those who could not afford glass yet had more than nothing — and the advent of days spent working by candlelight. In the past, the traditional Michaelmas meal would have been a roast stubble goose — the large gray geese that many of us only get to admire at our local state and county fairs. Today, when most poultry comes from the grocery store in parts and wrapped in plastic, a roast goose can be a difficult luxury to obtain, but any homey, unfussy meal is a fine substitute — especially with a posy of Michaelmas daisies or purple asters on the table.

 In folklore, it is said that when Michael cast the Devil from Heaven, the fallen angel landed on a patch of blackberry brambles and so returns this day every year to spit upon the plant that tortured him. For this reason, blackberries would not be eaten after today, and so folks would gather them in masses on Michaelmas to put into pies and crumbles and preserves. And they would bake St. Michael's bannocks, a large, flat scone of oats and barley and rye, baked on a hot griddle and then eaten with butter or honey or a pot of blackberry preserves. Whether you recognize Michaelmas or not, you can still greet what comes with the symbols of today: gloves, for open-handedness and generosity; and ginger to keep you warm and well in the coming cold. © 2011 American Public Media 480 Cedar Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101 USA

Wednesday 28 September 2011

We are all
the early Church
Dear Cardinals, Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Representatives of Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches!
It is a great joy for me that we have come together here today.  From my heart I thank all of you for coming and for the possibility of this friendly exchange.  I offer a particular word of thanks to you, dear Metropolitan Augoustinos for your profound words.  I was especially moved by what you said about the Mother of God and about the saints who encompass and unite all the centuries.  And I willingly repeat in this setting what I have said elsewhere: among Christian Churches and communities, it is undoubtedly the Orthodox who are theologically closest to us; Catholics and Orthodox have maintained the same basic structure inherited from the ancient Church; in this sense we are all the early Church that is still present and new.  And so we dare to hope, even if humanly speaking constantly new difficulties arise, that the day may still be not too far away when we may once again celebrate the Eucharist together (cf. Light of the World.  A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 86).

With interest and sympathy the Catholic Church – and I personally – follow the development of Orthodox communities in Western Europe, which in recent decades have grown remarkably.  In Germany today, as I have learned, there are approximately 1.6 million Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians.  They have become a constitutive part of society that helps bring alive the treasury of the Christian cultures and the Christian faith of Europe.  I welcome the increase of pan-Orthodox cooperation, which has made significant progress in recent years.  The founding of Orthodox Episcopal Conferences in places where the Orthodox Churches exist in the Diaspora – of which you spoke to us – is an expression of the consolidation of intra-Orthodox relations.  I am pleased that this step has been taken in Germany in the past year.  May the work of these Episcopal Conferences strengthen the bond between the Orthodox Churches and hasten the progress of efforts to establish a pan-Orthodox council.

Since the time when I was a professor in Bonn and especially while I was Archbishop of Munich and Freising, I have come to know and love Orthodoxy more and more through my personal friendships with representatives of the Orthodox Churches.  At that time the Joint Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference and the Orthodox Church also began its work.  Since then, through its texts on pastoral and practical questions, it has furthered mutual understanding and contributed to the consolidation and further development of Catholic-Orthodox relations in Germany. 

Equally important is the ongoing work to clarify theological differences, because the resolution of these questions is indispensable for restoration of the full unity that we hope and pray for.  We know that above all it is the question of primacy that we must continue patiently and humbly struggling to understand aright.  In this regard, I think that the ideas put forward by Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical Ut Unum Sint (no. 95) on the distinction between the nature and form of the exercise of primacy can yield further fruitful discussion points.

I also express my appreciation of the work of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.  I am glad, distinguished Eminences and Delegates of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, that you are here representing the Churches that are taking part in this dialogue.  The results so far obtained allow us to grow in mutual understanding and to draw closer to one another.

In the present climate, in which many would like, as it were, to “liberate” public life from God, the Christian Churches in Germany – including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians – are walking side by side along the path of peaceful witness for understanding and solidarity among peoples, on the basis of their faith in the one God and Father of all.  At the same time they continue to place the miracle of God’s incarnation at the centre of their proclamation. Realizing that on this mystery all human dignity depends, they speak up jointly for the protection of human life from conception to natural death.  Faith in God, the Creator of life, and unconditional adherence to the dignity of every human being strengthen faithful Christians to oppose vigorously every manipulative and selective intervention in the area of human life.  Knowing too the value of marriage and the family, we as Christians attach great importance to defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation.  Here the common engagement of Christians, including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, makes a valuable contribution to building up a society equipped for the future, in which the human person is given the respect which is his due.

Finally, I would like to direct our gaze towards Mary – you presented her to us as the Panagia – and she is also the Hodegetria, the “Guide along the Way”, who is also venerated in the West under the title “Our Lady of the Way”.  The Most Holy Trinity has given the Virgin Mother Mary to mankind, that she might guide us through history with her intercession and point out to us the way towards fulfilment.  To her we entrust ourselves and our prayer that we may become a community ever more intimately united in Christ, to the praise and glory of his name.  May God bless you all!  Thank you..


Thanks to St Elias Greek Catholic Church (click)

 In Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic practice, the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-creating Cross commemorates both the finding of the True Cross in 326 and its recovery from the Persians in 628, and is considered to be one of the Great Feasts of the church year.

 September 14 is always a fast day, even if it falls on Saturday or Sunday, and the eating of meat, dairy products and fish is prohibited. The Feast of the Exaltation has a one-day Forefeast and an eight-day Afterfeast. The Saturday and Sunday before and after September 14 are also commemorated with special Epistle and Gospel readings about the Cross at the Divine Liturgy. During the All-Night Vigil on the Eve of the Feast, a cross is placed on the Holy Table (altar) where it reposes during the Vigil. The cross is placed on a tray that has been covered with an Aër (liturgical veil) and decorated with fresh basil leaves and flowers, and a candle burns before it. The cross reposes on the "High Place" of the Holy Table, where the Gospel Book normally lies.

 Those portions of the Vigil which would normally take place before the Icon of the Feast (the chanting of the Polyeleos and the Matins Gospel) instead take place in front of the Holy Table. One of the high points of the celebration is when, after the Great Doxology, the priest or bishop brings the Cross out of the sanctuary. He sets the cross on a table (tetrapod or analogion) in the center of the temple (nave of the church) as the choir sings of the festal Troparion of the Cross: "Save, O Lord, Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance, granting unto the faithful victory over adversaries, and by the power of Thy Cross, do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth."

 In cathedrals and monasteries, a special "Exaltation" is performed by the bishop or abbot, standing in the center of the church. This consists of his taking the cross in his hands and raising it above his head. He makes an exclamation, to which the choir responds, chanting, Kyrie eleison ("Lord, have mercy") 100 times. As they chant, he makes the sign of the cross with it three times, then slowly bows down to the ground, and stands up again raising the cross above his head as before. This process is repeated four more times to the four points of the compass.[3] Then, whether the special Exaltation has been performed or not, the clergy and the members of the congregation prostrate themselves on the ground as all sing, "Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify" three times (at the words "Thy holy Resurrection" all stand up again). Then all come forward to venerate the cross and receive the priest's blessing (see Veneration of the Cross, below). During the veneration, stichera are chanted by the choir. The cross will remain in the center of the temple throughout the Afterfeast, and the faithful will venerate it whenever they enter or leave the church.

 Finally, on the Apodosis of the Feast, the priest and deacon will cense around the cross, there will be a final veneration of the cross, and then they will solemnly bring the cross back into the sanctuary through the Holy Doors. This same pattern of bringing out the cross, veneration, and returning the cross at the end of the celebration is repeated at a number of the lesser Feasts of the Cross mentioned below. (SOURCE: Wikipedia) at 9:34 AM 0 comments Links to this

THIS IS THE CELEBRATION OF THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS IN THE FAMOUS OPTINA CLOISTER You are advised to click the little square on the bottom right of each video so that you can see them full screen.

Tuesday 27 September 2011


Friday, September 23, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI gave a much anticipated address today to representatives of the Protestant EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland) at the former Augustinian Convent in Erfurt, where Martin Luther spent many years before his break with the Catholic Church. He then gave another address at the same location at an ecumencial prayer service. 

Although fairly short, the first address is quintessential Ratzinger/Benedict: personal, thoughful, embracing, and challenging, all at once. And is often the case with Benedict, he did not make his points with stark declarations, but with difficult questions. In fact, an entire paragraph of the address was taken up with a series of interrelated questions:

“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. Insofar as people today believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbour – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – this burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.

By highlighting such essential questions, Benedict points out that authentic ecumenical dialogue (which he clearly and firmly believes must be at the service of unity and not just an exercise in facile conversation) should be rooted in asking the right questions about fundamental truths: the nature of God, the nature of grace and faith, and what it means to be a Christian, especially in a culture that is essentially post-Christian. And this means, of course, focusing on the person of Jesus Christ, without whom unity is both pointless and unobtainable:

Another important point: God, the one God, creator of heaven and earth, is no mere philosophical hypothesis regarding the origins of the universe. This God has a face, and he has spoken to us. He became one of us in the man Jesus Christ – who is both true God and true man. Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: “What promotes Christ’s cause” was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.

Throughout his public life as priest, archbishop, cardinal, and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger has not shied away from the fact that real and serious divisions exist between Catholics and Protestants (more on that below). But as Pope, as Vicar of Jesus Christ, he is mindful to emphasize the proper priorities for ecumenism and to indicate the way forward, mindful that union will only be possible through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. Today, for instance, he said that

the first and most important thing for ecumenism is that we keep in view just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularization – everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task. It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds. The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world, as we bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ in this world as our undying foundation.

And then, in his address given later at the Ecumenical Prayer Service he again focused on the need for common witness to the share belief in the Triune God, giver of Life and author of Love:

Our fundamental unity comes from the fact that we believe in God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth.  And that we confess that he is the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The highest unity is not the solitude of a monad, but rather a unity born of love.  We believe in God – the real God.  We believe that God spoke to us and became one of us.  To bear witness to this living God is our common task at the present time.

Benedict is, I'm confident,A very mindful that Christ told Peter, "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lk 22:32)—and that non-Catholic Christians are indeed brothers, even if separated brothers who are not in perfect and full communion. His words of encouragement are part and parcel of his consistent message, in this trip to Germany and in other such trips to other countries, that choosing life without God is to actually choose death, wittingly or otherwise. So he said today, at the prayer service:

But the more the world withdraws from God, the clearer it becomes that man, in his hubris of power, in his emptiness of heart and in his longing for satisfaction and happiness, increasingly loses his life.  A thirst for the infinite is indelibly present in human beings. Man was created to have a relationship with God; we need him.  Our primary ecumenical service at this hour must be to bear common witness to the presence of the living God and in this way to give the world the answer which it needs.  Naturally, an absolutely central part of this fundamental witness to God is a witness to Jesus Christ, true man and true God, who lived in our midst, suffered and died for us and, in his resurrection, flung open the gates of death.

Christians can easily lose sight of this need to witness, especially when they allow the world to set the agenda, frame the questions, and control the culture. And so Benedict addresses the problem of

the secularized context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith. God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past. Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? Naturally faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this. This is a key ecumenical task.

There are, in essence, two paths for Protestant denominations to pursue today. The first is the path of capitulation, which has been embraced by a growing number of mainline Protestant groups, who are increasingly as faddish as they are irrelevant, as obsessed with being politically-correct as they are apparently blind to their own denominational deaths. The second is the path of catholicism, which involves a renewed (or completely new) interest in Church history, tradition and Tradition, liturgy, patristics, ancient devotions, and the historical witness of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

An obvious example of both can be seen in the Anglican communion. Some Anglicans are (knowingly?) intent on sinking the ship as quickly as possible with the picks of sexual perversion and the axes of anti-doctrinal self-indulgence. But others are looking to Rome and realizing that the Holy Father and the bark of Peter have provided a safe harbor and a means not just of escape from a flailing faith but the fulfillment of a faith seeking communion. 

Benedict said, "A self-made faith is worthless.  Faith is not something we work out intellectually and negotiate between us.  It is the foundation for our lives.  Unity grows not by the weighing of benefits and drawbacks but only by entering ever more deeply into the faith in our thoughts and in our lives." One thing that continually impresses me about the Holy Father is his ability to avoid two temptations: the temptation to live in the past to the detriment of truly living today, and the temptation to live as if the past has no true meaning for us today. This has, in fact, always been the case. It is readly evident in a 1984 interview, "Luther and the Unity of the Churches" (Communio; Fall 1984. Available as a PDF file.; it is included in the book, Church, Ecumenism, & Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology), in which Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made a number of important remarks and observations about Martin Luther; in fact, I think it is key reading for anyone who wants some essential background to Benedict's statements in Germany. 

In that interview, Ratzinger talked about the complexity of Luther, and distinguished between Luther the catechist, hymnist, and liturgical reformer, and Luther the radical and revolutionary polemicist against Rome. "It would be desirable," he said, "to keep in mind Luther's piety when reading his polemical works and the revolutionary background when dealing with issues concerning the Church." In other words, Ratzinger has always been interested in the whole Luther, not just one dimension or aspect of his huge and difficult personality. Then there is this fascinating question and answer, which I quote at length, that makes reference to Blessed John Paul II's trip to Germany in 1980:

Question: Would it be realistic for the Catholic Church to lift Luther's excommunication on the basis of the results of more recent scholarship?

Cardinal Ratzinger: In order to do full justice to this question one must differentiate between excommunication as a judicial measure on the part of the legal community of the Church against a certain person, and the factual reasons which led to such a step. Since the Church's jurisdiction naturally only extends to the living, the excommunication of a person ends with his death. Consequently, any questions dealing with the lifting of Luther's excommunication become moot: Luther's excommunication terminated with his death because judgment after death is reserved to God alone. Luther's excommunication does not have to be lifted; it has long since ceased to exist. 

However, it is an entirely different matter when we ask if Luther's proposed teachings still separate the churches and thus preclude joint communion. Our ecumenical discussions center on this question. The inter-faith commission instituted following the Pope's visit to Germany will specifically direct its attention to the problem of the exclusions in the sixteenth century and their continued validity, that is, the possibility of moving beyond them. To be sure, one must keep in mind that there exist not only Catholic anathemas against Luther's teachings but also Luther's own definitive rejections of Catholic articles of faith which culminate in Luther's verdict that we will remain eternally separate. It is not necessary to borrow Luther's angry response to the Council of Trent in order to prove the definiteness of his rejection of anything Catholic: ". . . we should take him-the pope, the cardinals, and whatever riffraff belongs to His Idolatrous and Papal Holiness-and (as blasphemers) tear out their tongues from the back, and nail them on the gallows . . . . Then one could allow them to hold a council, or as many as they wanted, on the gallows, or in hell among all the devils." After his final break with the Church, Luther not only categorically rejected the papacy but he also deemed the Catholic teachings about the eucharist (mass) as idolatry because he interpreted the mass as a relapse into the Law and, thus, a denial of the Gospel. To explain all these contradictions as misunderstandings seems to me like a form of rationalistic arrogance which cannot do any justice to the impassioned struggle of those men as well as the importance of the realities in question. The real issue can only lie in how far we are today able to go beyond the positions of those days and how we can arrive at insights which will overcome the past. To put it differently: unity demands new steps. It cannot be achieved by means of interpretative tricks. If separation occurred as a result of contrary religious insights which could locate no space within the traditional teachings of the Church, it will not be possible to create a unity by means of doctrine and discussion alone, but only with the help of religious strength. Indifference appears only on the surface to be a unifying link.

Ratinzger mentions a point that is, it seems to me, one of the biggest bones of contention he has with Luther: the reformer's rejection of the Mass as sacrifice and, further, his belief that the Mass is idolatrous in nature. It's not surprising, needless to say, that this is upsetting to a Catholic. But it particularly galling to Ratzinger, I suggest, because his ecclesiology is so eucharistic-centered, a topic that he has taken up in several essays and books (for example, Called to Communion, The Feast of Faith, Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church As Communion, and The Spirit of the Liturgy). In a 2001 lecture, "Theology of the Liturgy", Ratzinger noted that even some Catholic theologians (he specifically mentions  speak positively of Luther's "conclusions" that the sacrifice of the Mass is "the greatest and most appalling horror" and a "damnable impiety". He then stated, with a bit of an edge:

I certainly don't need to say that I am not one of the "numerous Catholics" who consider it the most appalling horror and damnable impiety to speak of the sacrifice of the Mass. It goes without saying that the writer did not mention my book on the spirit of the liturgy, which analyses the idea of sacrifice in detail. ... A sizable party of catholic liturgists seems to have practically arrived at the conclusion that Luther, rather than Trent, was substantially right in the sixteenth century debate; one can detect much the same position in the post conciliar discussions on the Priesthood.

And, a bit later, he connected the matter of the sacrifice of the Mass to the "principle presuppositions" about the authority of Scripture and how it is to be read, understood, and interpreted. Catholics read Scripture, said Ratzinger,

in the living community of the Church, and therefore on the basis of the fundamental decisions thanks to which it has become historically efficacious, namely, those which laid the foundations of the Church. One must not separate the text from this living context. In this sense, Scripture and Tradition form an inseparable whole, and it is this that Luther, at the dawn of the awakening of historical awareness, could not see. He believed that a text could only have one meaning, but such univocity does not exist, and modern historiography has long since abandoned the idea. That in the nascent Church, the Eucharist was, from the beginning, understood as a sacrifice, even in a text such as the Didache, which is so difficult and marginal vis-à-vis the great Tradition, is an interpretative key of primary importance.

Simply put, once the authority of the Church is jettisoned, or at least pushed to the side, the door is open for all sorts of errors, mistakes, and heresies. But Ratzinger doesn't believe that Luther set out to be rid of the authority of the Church; rather, Luther's eventual disregard for that authority came from his beliefs about the essential issues of faith and the nature of God. In the 1984 interview, Ratzinger said:

It seems to me that the basic feature is the fear of God by which Luther's very existence was struck down, torn between God's calling and the realization of his own sinfulness, so much so that God appears to him sub contrario, as the opposite of Himself, i.e., as the Devil who wants to destroy man. To break free of this fear of God becomes the real issue of redemption. Redemption is realized the moment faith appears as the rescue from the demands of self-justification, that is, as a personal certainty of salvation. This "axis" of the concept of faith is explained very clearly in Luther's Little Catechism: "I believe that God created me. . . . I believe that Jesus Christ . . . is my Lord who saved me . . . in order that I may be His . . . and serve Him forever in justice and innocence forever." Faith assures, above all, the certainty of one's own salvation. The personal certainty of redemption becomes the center of Luther's ideas. Without it, there would be no salvation. Thus, the importance of the three divine virtues, faith, hope, and love, to a Christian formula of existence undergoes a significant change: the certainties of hope and faith, though hitherto essentially different, become identical.

This, as he explained, is quite different from the Catholic understanding of faith, hope, and love. "Luther's insistence on 'by faith alone' clearly and exactly excludes love from the question of salvation. Love belongs to the realm of 'works' and, thus, becomes 'profane.'" Faith for Luther is not about the "commununal belief of the entire church"; it is radically interior and individualistic. The relationship between church and Scripture is skewed, and "Scripture becomes an independent measure of church and tradition. This in turn raises the question of the canonicity and the unity of Scripture."

My perception is that Benedict, in his two brief addresses today, was intent on focusing on the fact that Luther often asked the right questions about matters that are always relevant to all men, and, more implicitly, that while Luther rightly saw faith in Jesus Christ as the answer, that faith cannot be separated from the theological virtue of love, nor can it be separated from the Church, the Body of Christ, which is where full communion with God is found. Or, in Benedict's words, at today's first ecumenical gathering:

“What promotes Christ’s cause” was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.

And, from the second gathering: "The highest unity is not the solitude of a monad, but rather a unity born of love."

Finally, here is a passage from "Unitatis Redintegratio", Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism, that quite nicely sums up many of the themes touched upon above:

What has revealed the love of God among us is that the Father has sent into the world His only-begotten Son, so that, being made man, He might by His redemption give new life to the entire human race and unify it. Before offering Himself up as a spotless victim upon the altar, Christ prayed to His Father for all who believe in Him: "that they all may be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that thou has sent me". In His Church He instituted the wonderful sacrament of the Eucharist by which the unity of His Church is both signified and made a reality. He gave His followers a new commandment to love one another, and promised the Spirit, their Advocate, who, as Lord and life-giver, should remain with them forever.

On Ignatius Insight and Insight Scoop:

From Sandra Magister of Chiesa:

Universal and ecumenical. For a church that is "catholic" and "one." This is the twofold horizon that the bishop of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople wanted to give to the Pauline Year, proclaimed together by the respective Churches of Rome and of the East. At the Mass celebrated on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the two successors of the apostles entered together into the basilica of St. Peter's; together they went up to the altar, preceded by a Latin deacon and by an Orthodox one, carrying the book of the Gospels; together they listened to the chanting of the Gospel in Latin and in Greek; together they delivered the homily, first the patriarch and then the pope, after a brief introduction by the latter; together they recited the Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol in the original Greek, according to the liturgical use of the Byzantine Churches; they exchanged the kiss of peace, and at the end they blessed the faithful together. Never before now – after almost a thousand years of schism between East and West – had a liturgy so visibly oriented to unity been celebrated by the bishop of Rome and by the patriarch of Constantinople.

The relationship with the Protestant communities remains deeper in the shadows for now. But the Pauline Year could be rich in significance for the dialogue with these communities as well. The leading thinkers of the Reformation – from Luther and Calvin to Karl Barth, Rudolph Bultmann, and Paul Tillich – elaborated their thought beginning above all with the Letter of Paul to the Romans.

And the contribution that the Pauline Year could make to dialogue with the Jews is no less relevant. Paul was an observant Jew and a rabbi, before falling down blinded by Christ on the road to Damascus. And his conversion to the Risen One never meant, for him, breaking with his original faith. The promise of God to Abraham and the covenant on Sinai were always for Paul one and the same with the "new and eternal" covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus. Joseph Ratzinger has written memorable pages on this unity between the Old and New Testament, in his book "Jesus of Nazareth."

Read the entire piece.

Speaking of Benedict and ecumenism, Ignatius Press has recently published an important collection of lectures and papers by Joseph Ratzinger, titled Church, Ecumenism, & Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology.(click) From the description:

This work A the most discussed topics of the life of the Church, treated with unique frankness and depth by the Church’s spiritual and theological leader. In this collection of essays, theologian Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, tackles three major issues in the Church today—the nature of the Church, the pursuit of Christian unity, and the relationship of Christianity to the secular/political power.

The first part of the book explores Vatican II's teaching on the Church, what it means to call the Church "the People of God", the role of the Pope, and the Synod of Bishops. In part two, Ratzinger frankly assesses the ecumenical movement—its achievements, problems, and principles for authentic progress toward Christian unity. In the third part of the work, Ratzinger discusses both fundamental questions and particular issues concerning the Church, the state and human fulfillment in the Age to come. What does the Bible say about faith and politics? How should the Church work in pluralistics societies? What are the problems with Liberation Theology? How should we understand freedom in the Church and in society?

And here is short list of some of the key works on ecumenism from Joseph Raztinger.

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I'm studying in Germany, and last Sunday after Mass, I tuned into Bavarian television (Bayerische Rundfunk) and lo-and-behold, there was the Mass televised directly from the Vatican. BR is acutally *proud* of their Catholic heritage still, and so features things like this all the time. I got to see the Easter Procession from the Colliseum also when that happened.

Anyways, I was floored to see the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch as co-celebrant... floored! All I could think is "Thank God for B16, this is revolutionary!" I must admit, I'm quite romantic about the possibility of an East-West Recommunion, but I don't care. It's a beautiful dream. I'll take the beauty of the Eastern Orthodox rites over the silliness of most Protestant denominations any day. We should be focused on the pious East, not the recalcitrant West.

We Catholics could learn something from these people too. I've traveled through much of Eastern Europe, and I'm astonished at how religion is still so relatively public. It's not in-your-face and domineering, it's just *there,* as it should be. Monks and nuns everywhere, Crucifixes and Icons, beautiful churches and active monastery's... I've never felt so heartened about the future of Christianity than when I was in these countries. It was like living in civilization again instead of in the shiny and plastic "Brave New World" that seems to be popping up like a cancer everywhere.

Posted by: Telemachus | Thursday, July 03, 20

Sunday 25 September 2011




Saturday 24 September 2011

IESU COMMUNIO: A Remarkable Story

Ven y Veras: A Vibrant Women’s Religious Community Invites Spain to Rediscover the Source of Life and Love (for source,click on title)


MADRID –  There are few things that can rouse a Spaniard out of the house before 9 a.m. on a weekend. Surprisingly, one of those is a group of religious nuns in denim habits.
On any given weekend, groups from around Spain rise early and drive to La Aguilera, a small town outside the northern city of Burgos. There, the Iesu Communio sisters receive visitors in a modern, circular meeting room built especially for this purpose. Visitors arrive to sounds of the sisters singing “Ven y Veras” (“Come and you will see”) in perfect, acapella harmony.  Coming face-to-face with 196 radiant nuns standing in choral formation and singing of the source of their joy is enough to make many visitors ask, “Where do I sign up?”

The pull these sisters have is all the more surprising when considering Spain’s otherwise bleak religious landscape. A 2010 study done by the Fundacion SM, a social agency belonging to the Marianists, showed that 53.5 percent of young Spaniards between the ages of 15 and 24 identify themselves as Catholic. Yet of those Catholic youth, only 6.8 percent go to Mass once a week. The majority of the Iesu Communio sisters, on the other hand, fall within that age cohort, with just a handful over 40.

For the slim minority of young, Catholic Spaniards who practice their faith, it isn’t always easy. Anti-church sentiments run deep in Spain, often coming to a head very publicly. During Holy Week this year, the Madrid Association of Atheists and Freethinkers announced it would hold its own version of Spain's traditional Holy Week procession, carrying profaned versions of traditional Holy Week devotional statues through Madrid. The city stepped in and prohibited the procession, but the group marched through downtown Madrid in May instead, protesting what it claims are unfair advantages given to the Catholic Church in Spain.

Likewise, when Pope Benedict XVI visited Compostela and Barcelona in the fall of 2010, a group called “Yo no te espero,” or “I'm not waiting for you,” protested the trip. That same group has launched several campaigns against the pope and this year’s World Youth Day in Madrid via their Facebook page, including a boycott of World Youth Day’s corporate sponsors, a “gay kiss mob” meant to coincide with the pope’s arrival at Puerta de Alcala, and a drive to flood government representatives with letters, faxes and e-mails protesting World Youth Day.

Calm amid the Storm

Back in La Aguilera, however, the complicated relationship between society and church could not seem further removed.
“It's not because we live in a bubble outside the world,” the sisters explained. “Our lives are just as full of trials and challenges. It's only because of Christ; we are all here because of Christ, and none of us would be able to live this life without him.”

The Iesu Communio sisters have lived in the modern world, studied, worked and dated, yet despite it all, felt a “thirst” in their hearts.
“I had everything and nothing,” one sister said. “I had a loving family, I was at the end of my university studies, I had a boyfriend, a large group of friends I went out with regularly, lots of things to do, but I felt empty.”
She said she had always been involved in her parish, including playing in the church choir, but her sense of emptiness led her to abandon the Church.
“Finally, one day after many days of doing nothing, like all my friends, I couldn't take it anymore,” she continued. “I went out and started walking toward my church. Sure enough God met me halfway; when I got there, one of the priests was there as if he was waiting for me. He greeted me and we started talking. He asked me about my life, what I thought about God, about the Church, about people in the Church, and my answers weren't very positive.”
The priest had a sister in a monastic community, and he arranged for a visit to her community.
There, she said, “I was surprised to come face-to-face with a young woman behind the grill who seemed truly happy and free, depsite the physical barriers. That stayed with me. I wanted that joy too.”

Fittingly, many of the sisters say they discovered their vocation through participating in a World Youth Day. During a recent visit to the community by volunteers from World Youth Day Madrid, one sister stood up and shared her own experience with the visitors.
“I know you're caught up in the details right now and worrying about how it's all going to come together, but what changed my life at the World Youth Day in Paris wasn't the details,” she said. “It was coming face to face with thousands of other young people who are filled with Christ, who are living their life for him and are happy. I never knew it was possible to live like that, and I wanted it too.”

Another sister spoke of finding her vocation two years ago amid the spiritual preparations for this year’s World Youth Day.
“I was part of the group that went to Rome to receive the [World Youth Day] cross from the German delegation on Palm Sunday 2009,” she said. “When I felt the weight of that cross on my shoulders, I suddenly realized that what I thought could be the Lord speaking to my heart was the Lord calling me. The reality of that call hit me with the weight of the cross, and I said yes.” 
Franciscan Roots

The Iesu Communio sisters started out as Poor Clares living in a convent in Lerma, Spain, just outside Burgos. By the early 1980s, there just over twenty sisters in the community – all older women.  The community had not welcomed a new vocation in 26 years.

It was at that time Maria José Bersoza, an 18-year-old woman from Burgos, discovered her vocation to the religious life. Her brother, a seminarian, was the one to take her to the Poor Clares in Lerma, though he didn't think she would find their life well suited to her and was prepared to bring her home. She stayed on, becoming Sister Veronica, and at the age of 28, she was named Novice Mistress in 1994.

A strange thing happened soon after: Vocations started arriving. First it was just one or two, but the new sisters kept coming, and in increasing numbers. By 2000, there were 50 sisters in the community; by 2009 they numbered 130 and needed a new home.

It was then that the sisters approached the Vatican, asking that the community be split between two convents – one in Lerma and one in La Aguilera. Cardinal Franc Rode, then prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life and Societies of Apostolic Life, gave his permission and asked the sisters to define the form of community life to which they felt they were being called.

The traditional life of the Poor Clares didn't quite fit these younger sisters anymore. Poor Clare communities tend to be on the smaller side; when they get large, they split into smaller communities in order to maintain a sense of living in a family. While they can receive visitors, it's not usual to see an entire Poor Clare community meeting guests all at once the way Iesu Communio does. A key part of the Iesu Communio identity is receiving guests in their “locutorio” as a way to show them Christ and what it looks like to be totally in love with the Lord.

However, like their Poor Clare cousins, the Iesu Communio sisters are contemplative. They pray specifically for young men and women who are thirsting for something more, that they will meet Christ and turn their lives over to him. The sisters also do daily work in their garden, maintaining their home and spending several hours a day in choir practice. (The results are evident in the stunning, prayerful choral performance with which they treat their guests.) The sisters sell CDs of their music at a small gift store attached to their convent, along with sweets and cakes that they produce themselves. They live off the revenue from those sales, as well as donations from supporters.

In December 2010, the Vatican announced its approval of the constitution the sisters had proposed, along with their new name, “Iesu Communio” – a reflection of their charism to seek communion with Christ and the Church.  The following February, 177 sisters received their new habits and crosses during a Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Burgos. Sister Veronica was now Mother Veronica, superior of the new community.
The community continues to grow rapidly – already, the “new” convent at La Aguilera is getting too small, and construction is underway on larger facilities, as fast as finances will allow. Nearby parishes often organize visits to the community, and despite the congregation's policy of avoiding media coverage, word of the community has spread quickly throughout Spain and beyond – attracting vocations from as far as Poland and Brazil.
The faithful of Burgos now wait to see what will happen in the next chapter of “their” Iesu Communio sisters.


In Monks and Mermaids we like to inform you about new monastic ventures and new forms of monastic living.   This is because, from the very beginning in the Egyptian desert, monasticism has always been a movement rather than an institution, a charismatic activity that reaches beyond itself to the ever merciful but demanding Presence of Christ through whom we participate in the life of the Blessed Trinity.   Utterly consistent in its principles but utterly varied in the forms it takes, it gives witness to the Church and to the World that God is present and worth seeking.

One difference between this community and the Brothers and Sisters of Bethlehem, of Jerusalem and of St John is that, while I can imagine myself at least trying to live their kind of lives, I couldn't possibly even imagine finding a niche in the community of Iesu Communio.   It is all those gestures, those smiles, that bobbing up and down, that happiness on demand.   Even when I am intensely happy, any attempt to express that happiness in the way they do simply adds embarrassment to the happiness, and I would inwardly freeze.

That may lead you to think that I am against the Charismatic Renewal and against these good sisters of Iesu Communio; but I am not.  Indeed, I confess that I joined the Charismatic Renewal in the very early seventies, along with several other members of my community, rubbed shoulders with the likes of Kevin Ranaghan and Francis McNutt when they came to England.   I preached a charismatic retreat on BBC television, was for nearly seven years parish priest of a charismatic parish in Peru and spiritual director for one year of a community of charismatic seminarians.  I have known many people who dance around in the way they do, but who are of deep, authentic classical Catholic holiness; and I have seen that there was a direct connection between their prancing around and their spirituality.  In the BBC retreat, I said, believed and still believe that the Charismatic Renewal  and the introduction of new eucharistic prayers in which the Father is asked to send the Holy Spirit on the bread and wine and on the congregation are all of a piece and that the Charismatic Renewal is one of God's answers  to that invocation in the new eucharistic prayers.   This is based on close observation and participation, albeit uncomfortably, in charismatic activities.   The Charismatic Renewal led me to St Seraphim of Sarov and the Desert Fathers, to silence and the Jesus Prayer, to a renewal of my own monastic life.   I am grateful and do not knock practices which are not for me and are not according to my tastes or vocation.

Kevin Ranaghan used to say that the Charismatic Movement is like the Biblical Movement and the Liturgical Movement.  It is aimed at renewing an aspect of Catholic life that had become neglected and then to disappear.   In that spirit, many Catholics, like the monks and nuns of Jerusalem and Iesu Communio do not go around saying they are charismatic, even if they have been deeply influenced and blessed by the movement.  They are simply Catholics who, like other Catholics not connected with the movement, try to live by the Spirit.

In that spirit, I recommend this community to you.   It is another sign of intense Catholic life, a community renewed in the monastic spirit, in the words of the Jerusalem monastic family, "in the heart of God and in the heart of the world",  If you can join in, "Blessed be God!", and if you can't, also bless God, because he probably has something else for you.

(InfoCatólica) (click) It was Bishop Gil Hellin, archbishop of Burgos, who confirmed the news to the nuns. They have issued a statement attesting to having learned of the Pope's decision. The Sisters of Lerma and La Aguilera have issued the following statement:

[indent]"Given the many requests of information we receive, we confirm that we received verbal notification of the decision of His Holiness Benedict XVI to approve our own way of life and build our community as a new female religious institute of pontifical right, which will be called "Iesu Communio". We are awaiting to get the relevant documents, so at this time we are unable to provide more detailed information.

This decision comes after the study, by the competent bodies of the Roman Curia, of the documentation presented by the Archbishop of Burgos, Bishop Francisco Gil Hellin, in response to a request by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life. The Congregation had encouraged the community in 2009 to seek to clearly define the lifestyle to which they felt called by God. The Archbishop also received verbal communication about the papal decree, and he shared the news with us immediately.

So far the logic and necessary reserve has been kept as this matter is subject to consideration and decision by the Holy See. The approval that has just become known to us bears the joyful news and the strong responsibility of confirming us in the life that God had stirred among us for a long time. He is the protagonist of everything and we trust Him to bring to fruition the life that has begun.

After sharing the news, and as we await the moment when we will make the official documents public, we want to express our joy and our thanksgiving to God, to the Church for her motherly care, and to our beloved Holy Father and our Archbishop.

We are thanks to Christ and the Church!

Community of Sisters Lerma-La Aguilera "

[/indent]Already in June 2009, Cardinal Rode, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, had approved the creaión of two different locations for one monastery, La Aguilera and Lerma. In a letter to Sister Veronica Berzosa, Abbess of Lerma, the Cardinal expressed his confidence that the nuns would reach clarity on the way to go:

"Reverend Mother:

This Congregation has carefully considered your request of May 15, so that you can remain a unique community of nuns residing in two separate houses: the sanctuary of San Pedro Regalado in La Aguilera and the Monastery of the Ascension of the Lord in Lerma. Indeed, having greatly increased the number of Sisters in the cloistered contemplative community, most of the nuns should move to La Aguilera, which would host the Abbess, the initial formation, and the infirmary, while a good number would continue continue the traditional activities of the monastery in Lerma. To kick off this new phase it has been chosen a strong and significant moment: the retreat led by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., Preacher of the Papal Household.

We have to say that the request is very unique, as it's otherwise exceptional the situation that the Monastery is living, with 130 sisters, of which about 60 are in basic training. For this reason the Congregation has decided to approve the request, in the expectation that the Community will serenely reach greater clarity on what they feel called upon to perform.

Thus, it is granted, for now, the special power of remaining a single monastery "of the Ascension of the Lord" in La Aguilera-Lerma. The Community will move into two houses, with one government, and one novitiate. There will be only one conventual Chapter, to be held. with regard to common issues, in two separate locations under the chairmanship of the Abbess or the Vicar or a delegate; while the most important issues like elections or the decision of a new foundation, will be dealt with in a plenary session once a triennium.

This is granted for three years, with the request to submit annually a relationship to this Congregation. Meanwhile it will be convenient to work on a solution that falls within the norm.

Entrusting to the prayers of this community the service of this Congregation for Consecrated Life, we wish you all well with the most cordial greetings in the Lord." 

[/indent]The approval of this new religious institution could enhance what has been known in Spain and the rest of the world as the miracle of Lerma .

These Poor Clare Nuns were bursting with vocations and had requested the Vatican for permission to continue as one community and one monastery although in two geographical locations relatively close to each other. This was granted as an extraordinary provisional measure for three years so that meanwhile the Sisters would have the chance to clarify their future.

These Poor Clare Nuns didn't want to just repeat the same way of living the life, and whatever is the way they live it they wanted to test it before making it public and requesting for Papal approval. This is what has just happened now even though we don't have the details because the Nuns themselves haven't yet received the actual documents from Rome.

The clear fact is that they have been approved as a new Religious Institute of Pontifical Right for Women by Pope Benedict on December 4. There is huge expectation in Spain to get to know more about their life and charism.

Mother Veronica Berzosa, the young Abbess, is now also Mother Foundress. She has not been accessible to the media, and that's a "sin" not easily forgiven in our time of instant communication and everything out in the open.

Let us rejoice with this new life for the Church from the tree of the Poor Clares Order, and give God thanks for them as we pray for the transition and new beginning ahead. 


Tuesday March 29, 2011
source: Carrera Hacia Christo (click)

Last Sunday we were about 500 people in the parlour of the Sisters of La Aguilera, Iesu Communio (Burgos). The sisters had removed all the large furniture to make room for us and make us comfortable.

Outside it was raining, windy and quite cold. Within, God's Grace also rained without stopping; the wind that blew was the Holy Spirit, but it was not cold because these women have the fire of love in them and radiate it without stopping.
We come from many places, mostly around Madrid. We were from different ecclesial realities, mainly from Opus Dei and the Neocatechumenal Way, although there were also Guadalupana families, and from the Verbum Dei, Communion and Liberation, Cursillo, etc.. But above all Christians, members of the Catholic Church without distinction. A people united in one body, with Christ the head.
Two Sisters made their  initiation into the Consecrated Life". After more than a year spent as postulants, they were to become novices in the new Institute "Iesu Comunio". Maribel and Ruth shared with us what God was doing in their lives: their call, their vocation, and their life in Iesu Communio. Some of the other 192 sisters also shared their experiences.. Mother Veronica and Mother Blanca spoke to us too.
For about an hour and a half we were together, and the presence of the Spirit was among us all. This, perhaps,should have been sufficient, but it was just the "appetizer". We had to be ready for the big moment which was nothing less than the Eucharist: Christ's real presence with us through his Body and his Blood.
Five priests who were closely connected with the two sisters concelebrated at the Mass. . The rite began with the initiation of them both into the religious life.  It was a simple rite, but full of signs. They were happy, and we felt their happiness from our pews.. They were in love with the True Love..the Mistress of postulants presented them to Mother Veronica, who has filed a brief dialogue with them in which they pronounced the formula of Initiation to the Novitiate. Then they received the veil, a  light blue scarf blue, knotted behind.   They were handed the Constitutions of the new Institute and received the medal. The medal has an image of the Pieta with the expression "Stabat" and has a teardrop shape. In response, we all cried: Amen, amen, amen. Three times AMEN.
Each of the 190 Sisters embraced them; and this sign ended the initial rite.

The Liturgy of the Word of the Third Sunday of Lent seemed chosen for the occasion. The call of Jesus to the Samaritan woman: "Give me a drink" was just right for these sisters ... In fact, the oratory is dominated by the phrase "I have thirst" next to the cross.

The readings were read by two relations of the novices:: Maribel's brother and the mother of Ruth.
The homily was great, well prepared and very well delivered, so much so that Mother Veronica has kept a copy.  The sermon was given by Father Fran.
Maribel and Ruth brought the offerings to the altar and the Eucharistic liturgy begun.   The priests and the newly clothed received Communion under both species, while the rest received only  the body of Christ.
The two postrated themselves on the ground together with Mother Veronica while communion was being distributed ; while the brothers of Maribel  sang a beautiful song in honour of the Eucharist. I think the most memorable picture of the whole day is that of Mother with her daughters prostrate on the ground, praying to Christ whom they had received into themselves.
After the blessing the novices addressed a few words of thanks to all those present, their families first, and everyone else. They talked briefly about their feelings at that time and explained to us the role of the Virgin who presides in the chapel.  They invited us into the embrace of the Bella Pastora, to give her our prayer.
First they have done with Father Fran, and then with their parents and the rest of their families. Then a long line of worshipers was formed to kiss the Virgin, to pray, and to place themselves in her lap. 
We returned to the parlour to say goodbye to them and each has made the trip back to his house. All loaded with cakes and sweets which the nuns had so lovingly prepared, and loaded also with Christ, with Grace of God, and the Holy Spirit.

I regret to say that I could not be objective in this "post" for very obvious reasons Ruth is my daughter, thanks be to God. But while not bearing my name or that of my wife, Maribel is also my daughter and each of the 192 Sisters Iesu Communio. Therefore I ask your pardon, dear readers


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