One thing that annoys me is the wide contrast that is drawn between Popes Benedict and Francis. Before he was called to Rome, Ratzinger's preferred mode of transport was a bicycle; but he wasn't popular, so it was ignored by the press. When he came to Lima as papal representative, he went to an official function in Villa Salvador, a poor area of the city, not by car, but by public bus; but he wasn't popular, and it was ignored by the press. When he worked as a cardinal in Rome, he preferred to walk to his office. One day, a young couple went up to him and said that they wanted a photograph. It never occurred to him that they wanted his photograph. He said, "Certainly," and took the camera from the man and told them to stand closer to one another. It was only when he had taken the photograph that they made it clear that they wanted to take a photo of him; but he wasn't popular, and such stories were ignored by the press. Below, he is in a question and answer session with ordinary priests; and it seems to be forgotten too easily how he impressed the English in his visit to the country. In his interview he is seen to have identical views on evangelisation, attracting people by "the good, the true and the beautiful; and there are many other points at which they hold identical positions.
Of course, there are differences. If there had been none, one pope would not have resigned and the other taken over. One is an academic, while the other is a pastor,bearing the smell of the streets. One was a major contributor to Vatican II, but had been hurt by the aftermath; while the other was inspired by the work of Ratzinger &Co. in the council. Perhaps, it seems, the greatest difference was that the Church organisation needed a thorough overhaul according to the mind of Vatican II - collegiality was needed at diocesan, national, regional and universal levels to provide a balance for the primatial power of the Pope as expressed in Vatican I; and Benedict lacked the inclination, and even possibly the ability to bring this about; while Pope Francis was already an advocate of such a move, as Fr Joseph Ratzinger had been during the Council. He, therefore, humbly resigned: he saw that the change could no longer be put off.
The whole affair shows the world, not a battle fought between "conservatives" and "liberals" - let us leave that kind of interpretation to the likes of Michael Voris - but the undulating lights and shadows in the "epiphany of holiness" as expounded by the two popes. - Fr David.
The beauty of art and of music. The wonders of sanctity. The splendor of creation. This is how Benedict XVI defends the truth of Christianity, in a question-and-answer session with the priests of Brixen
ROMA, August 11, 2008 – Just like every summer, this year Benedict XVI met with priests of the area where he is spending his vacation. For an open question-and-answer discussion.
The meeting took place on the morning of Wednesday, August 6, in the cathedral of Brixen, at the foot of the Alps, a few miles from the Austrian border. The pope replied to six questions, speaking partly in German and partly in Italian, the two official languages of the region. The meeting was held behind closed doors, without any journalists present. The complete transcript of the conversation was released two days later by the Vatican press office.
The pope was asked about a wide variety of topics. Some of them were highly charged. One priest asked whether it is right to continue administering the sacraments to those who are clearly far from the faith. In his response, the pope confessed that as a young man he was "rather strict," but he then understood that "we must instead follow the example of the Lord, who was a Lord of mercy, very open with sinners."
Another asked whether the shortage of priests does not require facing the questions of celibacy, the ordination of "viri probati," the admission of women to the ministries. And the pope forcefully defended celibacy as a sign of "making oneself available to the Lord in the completeness of one's being, and therefore totally available to men."
Here below, two of the six questions and answers are reproduced. The first is about the connection between reason and beauty, with evocative references to art, music, the liturgy. The second is on the safeguarding of creation.
1. "All great works of art are an epiphany of God"
Q: Holy Father, my name is Willibald Hopfgartner, and I am a Franciscan. In your address in Regensburg, you emphasized the substantial connection between the divine Spirit and human reason. On the other hand, you have also always emphasized the importance of art and beauty. So then, together with conceptual dialogue about God in theology, should there not always be a new presentation of the aesthetic experience of the faith within the Church, through proclamation and the liturgy?
A: Yes, I think that the two things go together: reason, precision, honesty in the reflection on truth, and beauty. A form of reason that in any way wanted to strip itself of beauty would be depleted, it would be blind. Only when the two are united do they form the whole, and this union is important precisely for the faith. Faith must constantly confront the challenges of the mindset of this age, so that it may not seem a sort of irrational mythology that we keep alive, but may truly be an answer to the great questions; so that it may not be merely a habit, but the truth, as Tertullian once said.
In his first letter, St. Peter wrote the phrase that the medieval theologians took as the legitimization, almost as the mandate for their theological work: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" – an apologia for the "logos" of hope, meaning a transformation of the "logos," the reason for hope, into an apologia, an answer addressed to men. He was clearly convinced of the fact that faith is "logos," that it is a form of reason, a light issuing from the creating Light, and not a hodgepodge resulting from our own thought. This is why it is universal, and for this reason it can be communicated to all.
But this creating "Logos" is not a merely technical "logos." It is broader than this, it is a "logos" that is love, and therefore to be expressed in beauty and goodness. And in reality, for me art and the saints are the greatest apologia for our faith.
The arguments presented by reason are absolutely important and indispensable, but there always remains some disagreement somewhere. If, instead, we look at the saints, this great luminous arc that God has set across history, we see that here there is truly a power of goodness that lasts over the millennia, here there is truly light from light.
And in the same way, if we contemplate the created beauties of the faith, these simply are, I would say, the living proof of faith. Take this beautiful cathedral: it is a living proclamation! It speaks to us on its own, and beginning with the beauty of the cathedral we are able to proclaim in a visible way God, Christ and all of his mysteries: here these have taken shape, and are gazing back at us. All of the great works of art, the cathedrals – the Gothic cathedrals, and the splendid Baroque churches – all of them are a luminous sign of God, and therefore truly a manifestation, an epiphany of God.
Christianity involves precisely this epiphany: that God has become a veiled Epiphany, he appears and shines. We have just listened to the sound of the organ in all its splendor, and I think that the great music born within the Church is an audible and perceptible rendering of the truth of our faith: from Gregorian chant to the music of the cathedrals to Palestrina and his era, to Bach and then to Mozart and Bruckner, and so on... Listening to all of these great works – the Passions by Bach, his Mass in B minor, and the great spiritual compositions of 16th century polyphony, of the Viennese school, of all of this music, even by minor composers – suddenly we feel: it is true! Wherever things like these are created, there is Truth.
Without an intuition capable of discovering the true creative center of the world, this beauty cannot be created. For this reason, I think that we must always act in such a way that these two things go together, we must present them together. When, in our own time, we discuss the reasonableness of the faith, we are discussing precisely the fact that reason does not end where experimental discoveries end, it does not end in positivism; the theory of evolution sees the truth, but sees only half of it: it does not see that behind this is the Spirit of creation. We are fighting for the expansion of reason, and therefore for a form of reason that, exactly to the point, is open to beauty as well, and does not have to leave it aside as something completely different and irrational.
Christian art is a rational form of art – we think of Gothic art, great music, or the Baroque art right here – but this is the artistic expression of a much broader form of reason, in which the heart and reason come together. This is the point. This, I think, is in some way the proof of the truth of Christianity: the heart and reason come together, beauty and truth touch. And to the extent that we are able to live in the beauty of truth, so much more will faith again be able to be creative, in our own time as well, and to express itself in a convincing artistic form.
2. "The earth is waiting for men who will care for it as the work of the Creator"
Q: Holy Father, my name is Karl Golser, I am a professor of moral theology in Brixen, and also director of the institute for justice, peace, and the safeguarding of creation. I enjoy remembering the time when I was able to work with you at the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. [...] What can we do to bring a greater sense of responsibility toward creation into the life of the Christian communities? How can we arrive at seeing creation and redemption increasingly as a whole?
A: I also think that there must be new emphasis on the unbreakable bond between creation and redemption. In recent decades, the doctrine on creation had almost disappeared from theology, it was almost imperceptible. Now we are aware of the damage that this causes. The Redeemer is the Creator, and if we do not proclaim God in his total greatness – as Creator and as Redeemer – we also deprive redemption of value. In fact, if God has nothing to say in creation, if he is simply relegated to being part of history, how can he really understand our entire life? How can he truly bring salvation to man in his entirety, and to the world as a whole?
This is why, for me, the renewal of doctrine on creation and a new understanding of the inseparability of creation and redemption are extremely important. We must recognize again: He is the "Creator Spiritus," the Reason that is in the beginning and from which everything is born, and of which our own reason is nothing but a spark. And it is He, the Creator himself, who also entered into history and is able to enter into history and act within it precisely because He is the God of the whole, and not only of a part. If we recognize this, it obviously follows that redemption, being Christians, or simply the Christian faith always and in any case mean responsibility toward creation.
Twenty or thirty years ago, Christians were accused – I don't know whether this accusation is still maintained – of being the real ones responsible for the destruction of creation, because the words contained in Genesis – "Subdue the earth" – were thought to have led to this arrogance toward creation, the consequences of which we are experiencing today. I think that we must again learn to understand this accusation in all its falsehood: as long as the earth was considered the creation of God, the task of "subduing it" was never understood as an order to enslave it, but rather as the task of being guardians of creation and of developing its gifts; of actively cooperating in God's work, in the evolution that He set in motion in the world, so that the gifts of creation may be treasured instead of trampled upon and destroyed.
If we observe what was born around the monasteries, how little paradises, oases of creation, were born and continue to be born in those places, it becomes evident that all of this is not only a matter of words, but wherever the Word of the Creator has been understood correctly, where life has been lived together with the Creator and Redeemer, there one finds efforts to protect creation, and not to destroy it.
Chapter 8 of the letter to the Romans also fits into this context, where it says that creation suffers and groans because of the subjection in which it finds itself as it awaits the revelation of the children of God: it will feel free when creatures, when men come who are children of God and will treat it beginning from God.
I believe that this is precisely the reality that we are witnessing today: creation is groaning – we can perceive this, we can almost hear it – and is waiting for human persons to look at it from God's standpoint. The brutal consumption of creation begins where God is not, where the material has become only material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate standard, where everything is simply our property, and we consume it only for ourselves. And the waste of creation begins where we no longer recognize any standard above ourselves, but see only ourselves; it begins where there no longer exists any dimension of life beyond death, where we must hoard everything in this life and possess life in the maximum intensity possible, where we must possess everything it is possible to possess.
I believe, therefore, that real and efficient measures against the waste and destruction of creation can be realized and developed, understood and lived only where creation is considered from the standpoint of God; where life is considered beginning from God, and has greater dimensions – in responsibility before God – and one day will be given to us by God in its fullness, and never taken away: by giving life away, we receive it.
Thus, I believe, we must try by every means at our disposal to present the faith in public, especially where there is an existing sensitivity toward it. And I think that the sensation that the world may be slipping away from us – because we ourselves are driving it away – and the sense of being oppressed by the problems of creation, precisely this gives us the right opportunity in which our faith can speak publicly and be considered as a constructive contribution.
In fact, this is not a matter of simply finding technologies to prevent damage, although it is important to find alternative sources of energy and other such things. All of this will not be enough if we ourselves do not find a new lifestyle, a discipline that includes sacrifice, the discipline of acknowledging others, to whom creation belongs just as much as it does to us who are able to make use of it more easily; a discipline of responsibility toward the future of others and toward our own future, because it is responsibility before Him who is our Judge, and who as Judge is our Redeemer, but is also truly our Judge.
I therefore think that it is necessary, in any case, to put these two dimensions together – creation and redemption, earthly life and eternal life, responsibility toward creation and responsibility toward others and toward the future – and that it is our task to participate to this effect in a clear and decisive manner in public opinion.
In order to be listened to, we must at the same time demonstrate by our own example, with our own lifestyle, that we are speaking about a message in which we ourselves believe, and according to which it is possible to live. And we want to ask the Lord to help us all to live the faith, the responsibility for the faith, in such a way that our lifestyle becomes a witness, and then to speak in such a way that our words are credible messengers of faith as guidance for our time.
Eight Gems from Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium
by STEPHEN BEALE on DECEMBER 9, 2013 ·
my source: Catholic Exchange
If Pope Francis winds up becoming one of our most popular popes, he might also become one of the most misunderstood.
His new apostolic exhortation, Evanglii Gaudium, is a sweeping 224-page meditation on the state of the Church and its role in the world that touches on wide range of topics, from boring homilies and the brutalities of human trafficking to how to lead a true virtue-driven life. But most media coverage so far has seized upon just a few choice lines that have been deemed insufficiently capitalism-friendly, to the expense of his real message.
Evangelii Gaudium outlines Francis’ vision in now-familiar terms. He seems concerned the Church is becoming more judgmental than merciful. He wants a Church that has the outgoing spirit of the pilgrim, always willing to joyfully bring the gospel to the ends of the earth—as opposed to a Church closed in on itself, languishing in the dull ennui of institutional inertia as history passes it by. And he worries that some Catholics have become too attached to the external forms of the faith, while their hearts have grown cold. (We read again about the ‘obsession’ with the ‘disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines’ and the ‘neo-Pelagianism’ of traditionalist Catholics.) Within his treatment of these broader themes, are numerous insights into the spiritual life and the challenges of the modern era. Here are eight:
1. God’s inexhaustible mercy. One of the most important themes of Evangelii Gaudium is mercy, which Francis reminds us was viewed by St. Thomas Aquinas as the greatest of virtues (as far as external works are concerned). Evangelii Gaudium issues a passionate call for us to renew our commitment to mercy. Not only are we called to practice mercy, but also we are urged to not tire of seeking mercy from God: “How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy,” Francis writes, citing Matthew 18:22, where Christ urges His disciples to forgive others “seventy times seven.” It is in this context, perhaps, that we should read the pope’s comments on Holy Communion: “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”
2. Genuine religion is incarnate. “Genuine forms of popular religiosity are incarnate, since they are born of the incarnation of Christian faith in popular culture. For this reason they entail a personal relationship, not with vague spiritual energies or powers, but with God, with Christ, with Mary, with the saints. These devotions are fleshy, they have a face. They are capable of fostering relationships and not just enabling escapism,” Francis writes. This fundamental characteristic of Catholic faith is a vital antidote to the two extremes so common in our culture: on the one hand, the materialist gospel of health and wealth, and, on the other, those forms of spirituality that seek total detachment from the body and deny the good of the created world.
3. Faith is always a cross. “Faith always remains something of a cross; it retains a certain obscurity which does not detract from the firmness of its assent. Some things are understood and appreciated only from the standpoint of this assent, which is a sister to love, beyond the level of clear reasons and arguments,” Francis reminds us. This powerfully echoes Galatians 2:19, where St. Paul tells us that he has been crucified with Christ so that now it is Christ Who lives in him, and Colossians 3:3 where he applies this to us: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
4. The way of beauty. Those of us distressed by the ugliness of post-Vatican II churches, the crass populism of guitar Masses, and the general crisis in Catholic art, will be encouraged by Francis’ reaffirmation of the importance of beauty in evangelization: “Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis). Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus.” Let’s hope the pope explores this theme further in the future.
5. The ‘revolution of tenderness.’ Another great theme of Evangelii Gaudium is Francis’ emphasis on our divine call to live in community with others—a message that is sorely needed in a time when so many are drawn into what could be described as the ‘interactive solitude’ of virtual communities. The fact that we have been created in the image of Trinity—the perfect divine communion—reminds all of us that we are meant to live in communion with others, that no is saved alone, Francis reminds us. This call to community is also rooted in the Incarnation and the crucifixion: “True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.”
6. Humility before Scripture. An entire section of the exhortation is loaded with tons of practical advice for homilists, including exhortations against sermons that too long or too boring. There’s a lot of wisdom here that speaks to the rest of us as well, particularly in how we ought to approach the study of the Scriptures. Whenever we attempt to discern the meaning of a text, Francis says we are practicing “reverence for the truth,” which he defines as “the humility of heart which recognizes that we are neither its masters or owners, but its guardians, heralds, and servants.” Scripture should not be portrayed in homilies as a behavioral code of conduct or a catalogue of “abstract truths or cold syllogisms,” he adds. Instead, homilies should “communicate the beauty of the images to encourage the practice of good” so the faithful “sense that each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand.”
7. The most vulnerable—the unborn. Francis offers this refreshing (and reassuring) rebuke to those who would emphasis the Church’s teachings on the poor at the expense of its pro-life message: “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. … Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. … Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems.” He adds: “Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. … This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations.’ It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”
8. The wounds of Christ. Near the end of the exhortation, the pope offers this convicting interpretation of how we can live out devotion to the Five Sacred Wounds in our works of mercy: “Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness.”
JESUS IS EPIPHANY: THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD'S LOVE by Pope Francis
Pope Francis greeted tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered on a bright crisp day in St Peter’s Square today, for the recitation of the Angelus Prayer and to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany.
In his address, the Pope referred to Pope Benedict Emeritus’s book, 'Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives' which he said “magnificently” recounts the biblical coming of the Magi from the East to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Christ Child. The Epiphany, Pope Francis said, marks the first “manifestation” of Christ to the people and as a consequence, points to the universal salvation brought by Jesus.
In today’s feast, we see a “dual movement,” the Pope noted: of God who comes “towards the world, towards humanity” and of men who seek closeness to God: “the religions, the search for truth, the way of people towards peace, justice, liberty.”
God loves us: “we are His children; He loves us and He wants to liberate us from evil, from sickness, from death, and take us to His home in His Kingdom.” We too, the Pope said, are attracted by “goodness, truth, life and happiness and beauty.”
And as the two sides attract, Jesus is our point of encounter with the Lord. as His love incarnate. Pope Francis said.
Had the Magi not seen the Star pointing them to Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem, they would never have left, the Pope mused. “Light precedes us, the truth precedes us, beauty precedes us. God precedes us: it is grace; and this grace appears in Jesus. He is the Epiphany, the manifestation of God’s love.”
Departing from his notes, the Pope appealed “sincerely” and “respectfully” to those who “feel far from God and from the Church” and to “those who are fearful and indifferent: the Lord is calling you too.” The Lord is calling you to be a part of His people and He does it with great respect and love.”
“The Lord does not proselytize; He gives love,” reaffirmed the Pope. “And this love seeks you and waits for you, you who at this moment do not believe or are far away. And this is the love of God.”
Pope Francis prayed that “all the Church” may be steeped in “the joy of evangelizing” invoking the aid of the Virgin Mary so that “we can all be disciple-missionaries, small stars that reflect His light.”
Following the recital of the Angelus, Pope Francis gave greetings to the Churches of the East who tomorrow will celebrate Christmas. He prayed that all will be “reinforced in faith, hope and charity” and the Lord will “give comfort” to Christian communities and to the Churches undergoing “trial.”
The Pope recalled that the Epiphany is the missionary day for children organized by the Pontifical office for Holy Childhood and thanked young people and children whose “gestures of solidarity” towards other children “widen the horizons of their fraternity.”
Pentecost and Creation by Fr Stephen Freeman
Earth is a wondrous place – no matter where we go – how deep, how far, how high, how hot, how inhospitable – in this place we find life. Everywhere we look on our nearest neighbor – Mars – we find – no life. We want to find life. We hope to find life. We theorize life. But we have yet to find it.
There is something about life, at least in our earthly experience, that is inexorable. Any individual case of life may be fragile, but life itself endures. In the Genesis account we are told that God blessed this planet and said:
Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:11-12 NKJ)
Note that the account does not say that God said “Let there be life!” and life just appeared…(Boom! Trees!) But that He blessed this place and commanded that it bring forth grass… herbs… trees… according to their kind… and it was so!
The feast of Pentecost in Eastern tradition, celebrates the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church as Christians do across the world. However, there is a strange aspect to the Eastern version of the feast (or so it might seem). The Feast focuses as much on the Holy Spirit’s work in Creation as it does on the Spirit’s work in the Church. The Church is decorated in green. In Russian tradition, branches of birch are brought into the Church; fresh green grass is placed on the floor; flowers are everywhere. In Soviet times a secular version of the festival remained, called the Day of Trees.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church is not something separate from Creation – nor are the trees a distraction from the Church. They are, together, a proper reminder of the role God’s Spirit plays always, everywhere. He is the “Lord and Giver of Life.”
Just as the Spirit moved over the face of the waters in the beginning of creation, so He moves over the face of all things at all times, bringing forth life and all good things. Though I am frequently assaulted with bouts of pessimism, despairing over various aspects of our distorted civilization, the truth is that like the planet itself, civilization with its drive for beauty and order seem inexorable. The history of humanity is not the story of a fall from a great civilization with increasing instances of barbarism and cave dwelling. Great civilizations have risen and fallen, but civilizations continue to occur. Some may already have begun in the ruins that surround us now.
The story told in Scripture is not the story of collapse and decay. There are certainly dire warnings of terrible trials and great catastrophes. But these things do not reveal the mystery of God’s will. These things are cracks in the pavement while life continues to burst forth:
God has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth– in Him (Eph. 1:9-10).
What appeared as tongues of flame upon the heads of the disciples at Pentecost was a manifestation of this Divine Purpose at work. With the sound of a mighty rushing wind, the Holy Spirit filled the room. The fullness of the Church burst into the streets proclaiming the Gospel in a multitude of languages. Being birthed in Jerusalem was the New Jerusalem, where there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female. Instead there is the fullness that fills all things bringing forth all things in one – in the One Christ Himself.
The voice of Pentecost is the voice of creation’s groans being transformed into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Stones cry out, trees clap their hands and the song of creation rejoices in the One Christ.