Sunday, December 22, 2013

St Catherine of Genoa and Advent

In Advent the Church gives us saints and prophets to point the way to Jesus: Isaiah, John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Joseph, and of course Mary, the Mother of God. But for me, this Advent St Catherine of Genoa popped up. I started to wonder, "What does she have to do with Advent?"

It goes back to her profound conversion experience. God let her see her sins for what they really are--and she recoiled in horror. But at the same time he completely overpowered her with the most intense realization of his love for her. She could only keep repeating, "Oh Love! No more sin, no more sin!" She saw sin as the evil it is because it drives us away from God, who is Pure Love.

And really, isn't this experience what Advent is all about? God comes to us--as a baby. Babies normally evoke love. Jesus came to love us, not just with an ordinary love, but with the amazing and infinite love of God. In light of that, standing before the Christmas creche, can't we only throw ourselves into the arms of God, receive his love, and leave sin behind?

St Leo the Great put it like this: "Today our Savior is born; let us rejoice.... No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no one free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness.. . .
"Christian, remember your dignity! Now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition... Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ."
(Sermon 1 for the Nativity of the Lord)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Catherine of Genoa is an intriguing saint

I've been intrigued by what I've been reading about St Catherine of Genoa. She was quite an interesting saint. From a wealthy Italian family, she was married at the age of 16 to Giuliano Adorno. He was an unfaithful wastrel who gambled away the family fortune.

For ten years she suffered in this miserable marriage. For relief Catherine turned to worldly pursuits, but these left her depressed and unhappy. In March 1473 she had the conversion experience I described in my previous post. 

Her profound interior life led her to the heights of mysticism. All the while, she was the director of the large Pammatone Hospital in Genoa, where her husband, who had also converted, joined her. Together they cared for the poor and the sick. Her teachings on the spiritual life were collected by her followers and published after her death (in 1510).


Catherine is best known for her teachings on purgatory, which she sees not as an exterior fire but an inner one. The soul’s ardent love for God burns like a fire, until all the remnants of sin are removed. She reminds us, who live in an age that takes sin lightly, of the pressing need to repent of our sins and do penance for them.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

St Catherine of Genoa and the Illumination of Conscience

Recently I read the account of St. Catherine of Genoa's conversion experience.
Up to then she was not a great sinner, but an ordinary Catholic probably like a lot of us.
One day she went to confession and suddenly she was struck by a tremendous awareness of two things: her own sinfulness, and God's overpowering love for her. She was so greatly shaken that she couldn't continue the confession and excused herself.

It took her a few days to get over what she felt from this experience. On the one hand, she had an incredible awareness of her sins. She could only say after this, "No more world, no more sin!" She saw her interior state with a special divine light, a light that God gave her. As a poor comparison, think of a room you normally go in that seems clean. Then a ray of light comes in and you can see the dust floating around in the air and the streaks on the windows, things you didn't notice before.

On the other hand, she had an absolutely overpowering experience of God's love. I think it would not be possible for us to truly grasp our sins unless God also gives us that experience of his love. Only when we know that God loves us totally can we face our own reality. Catherine said, "Oh Love! no more sin, no more sin!"

After a few days she went back to confession. We can imagine that this confession was completely different from any other one she had made until then. It marked the turning point of her life.

Her experience could be called an illumination of conscience. It's a special grace God sometimes gives to those he especially wants to call to conversion. St. Paul also experienced something like that on his way to Damascus. It shook him up too and he also spent three days recovering from it. But the root of this illumination is always love. We can't bear the sight of our sins unless God's love sustains us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Daily routines of the saints: Thomas Aquinas

I've been working on a project related to St. Thomas and one thing that amazes me about him is his tremendous productivity. He died when he was only 49, and allowing him time to grow up, he crammed into 30 years what most of us couldn't do in 100.

The Summa Theologiae is huge but it's only one of his works. Besides that, he wrote the Summa Contra Gentiles, the Compendium of Theology, many commentaries on Aristotle, on books of Scripture, besides many other smaller works (treatises, letters, liturgical work, etc.) That's only his writing. He also taught full time courses at the university of Paris and in Naples, he instructed the young Dominicans, attended the Dominicans general chapters, preached, consulted with people, etc. So how did he do it?

He didn't waste a minute. His biographers tell us this was his daily schedule:

1. He celebrated Mass early in the morning.
2. He stayed in chapel to attend a second Mass celebrated by another priest.
3. Then he went to teach.
4. After that, he began to write and would dictate to his secretaries, sometimes to three or even four at the same time. (Though it sounds incredible to us, it is well verified historically that Thomas had the ability to dictate on several topics at once. His mind was amazing.)
5. Only then did he go to eat.
6. Then he went back to his room where he "attended to divine things until rest time. After rest, he began again to write, and it was thus that he ordered his whole life to God." (From Bartholomew of Capua's life of St. Thomas, quoted on p. 244 of Saint Thomas Aquinas, vol. 1, The Person and His Work by Jean-Pierre Torrell, OP).


What a schedule! While he may have varied it from time to time, what's certain is that he always worked hard. I'd just like to note a few things.

1. He gave prayer pride of place. He started his day with prayer and no doubt prayer was woven throughout his day as well.

2. He was focused on his goals. As a Dominican friar, his goal first of all was to serve and glorify God. Then his goal was to contemplate so that he could share with others the fruit of his contemplation. As a religious, he lived out the charism of his founder, Saint Dominic.

3. No doubt he also followed the schedule of the friary he lived in, when times of common prayer were called for, community meetings, etc. He knew what he was about. He seems like a man in a hurry. In fact, his handwriting bears that out. It looks like scribbling, (the littera inintelligibilis) done by a man who was in a hurry to finish his earthly work so that he could meet his God.


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Saint John of Damascus

Feast day: December 4



Saint John of Damascus (c. 645-c. 749)


Born in Syria to Christian parents, John was an outstanding theologian who wrote many important works. He received a good education, became a monk, and was ordained a priest. When a major controversy broke out over the veneration of sacred images, John wrote in vigorous defense of them against the iconoclasts. The emperor, Leo III, was a principal opponent of sacred images. In other areas of theology, John carefully studied previous Church writers and gathered a treasury of their teachings. He is also an important writer in the field of Marian theology.  His sermons on the Assumption of Mary testify to the development of this doctrine. Besides all this, his masterful work An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith became an important source for later writers. The great medieval theologians, including Thomas Aquinas, often relied on it in developing their own teachings.
John was not only a theologian but a poet who wrote many beautiful hymns. After a very fruitful life of teaching and pastoral work, John died in his monastery, Mar Saba, near Jerusalem. He was popularly acknowledged as a saint. In 1883 Pope Leo XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.


Reflection

By his hymns and his eloquent defense of icons, Saint John testifies to the role of beauty in our faith and worship. Christian art and music not only enrich our understanding and practice of our faith, but they also enrich our culture. What are some ways I can incorporate more beauty in my life?

Prayer

Saint John of Damascus, intercede for us that we may always cherish the gift of faith. Help us to know how to express our faith in works of art and beauty.




© 2013 Daughters of Saint Paul



Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The difference between "credere in Deum" and "credere Deum"

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis mentions a distinction between two types of faith. In no. 124 he talks about popular piety:

"Nor is it [popular piety] devoid of content; rather it discovers and expresses that content more by way of symbols than by discursive reasoning, and in the act of faith greater accent is placed on credere in Deum than on credere Deum." 

What is the difference between them? A note here references St. Thomas on faith.

Briefly, "credere in Deum" is a living faith (what Thomas would call a formed faith). It's a faith  that works through love, a faith that is not a dead letter for the person who has it, but one that urges them ever closer to God. It means to believe in God not just in an abstract intellectual way, but with love, with our whole will.

"Credere Deum" instead refers to the content of faith. It's the "what" we believe. That's very important too, and we need to know the content of our faith. But it needs to be completed by the "credere in Deum" that moves us to love God and show our faith in the way we live.

For example, Catholics who believe in what the Church teaches about the Mass and the sacraments, but never go to Mass, have credere Deum but not credere in Deum. In terms of our own spiritual life, the more we can move from credere Deum to credere in Deum, the holier we will become.

So in the context of this part of the letter, I think Francis is saying that authentic popular piety is linked with a real living out of faith. It leads to a loving, dynamic faith, one that doesn't stop at only marking out the limits of what we believe, but leads to a faith that changes our lives.


The reference is to the Summa, II-II, q. 2, article 2.






Saturday, November 30, 2013

Evangelii Gaudium On Homilies

This quote from Pope Francis about homilies really made me laugh; he says things you wouldn't expect a pope to say.


"We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them!"   (no. 135).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pope Francis and Saint Thomas

I'm working on getting the new document The Joy of the Gospel ready for publication (release date Jan. 1).
I noticed that Pope Francis has 13 footnotes from works of St. Thomas. That caught my interest. Pope Benedict, by comparison, didn't quote from St. Thomas too much. Of course St Augustine is Benedict's favorite.

This is an aspect of Francis that I need to find out more about.
Pope Francis' style didn't lead me to expect that he would be drawn to Thomas.

I will post more on this after I read the quotes in context.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Don't miss out on this



What if I told you that there is one spiritual practice that, if done well, could put you on the fast track to holiness?
And what if that practice is something that is easily available, yet neglected by most Catholics?
What if this one practice could go a long way to heal your relationships, with God and with others. Would you be interested?

Would you take advantage of this great secret?


The secret is the sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes, confession is the great secret to holiness. Why? Because it strikes at the heart of the one thing that most holds us back from loving God and others—sin.

Confession has many benefits. But the biggest benefit of all is that in confession, our sins are forgiven.
The great thing about confession is that we can know for certain that our sins are gone. That’s because we have the assurance of Jesus himself, and the power of the sacrament. Jesus said to the apostles on the evening of the first Easter: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:23). That power which Jesus gave to the apostles has been passed on in the Church, to every priest. 

All we have to do is repent and confess. Some people go through life burdened by guilt because they can’t forgive themselves for something. That’s tragic. Those kinds of thoughts are blocks to receiving God’s forgiveness through this sacrament. So take advantage of this sacrament that can transform your life.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No one can will for me

In Love and Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla talks about the nature of the human person. As spiritual and bodily beings, we have the gifts of reason and free will.

He makes a crucial point: No one can will for me -- no one, not even God.

Yes, it's such a mystery that God does not force us to choose him. KW says, "If God intends to direct man to some ends, first and foremost he lets him know these ends, so that man can make them his own and strive for them on his own.

"In this, among others, lies the deepest logic of Revelation: God lets man know the supernatural end, but the decision to strive for this end, its choice, is left to man's freedom. Therefore, God does not save man against his will" (p. 11).

God invites, sometimes he even cajoles, but he never forces us. What an amazing mystery. It also throws light on the problem of evil and sin, because God doesn't force us to be good.

It is up to each one of us to choose God and goodness. No one else can do it for me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What do you hope for?

In today's reading from Romans, St Paul says something that at one level seems obvious, yet is so profound. He says we can only hope for what we don't yet have.
"Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Rom 8:24-25).

It's easy to get discouraged in life when we don't have what we hope for. We can start to think we'll never get it.

We need many things in our earthly life, and it is fine to hope for them. But the virtue of hope is really about one thing: eternal life. In another word: heaven.

Our day to day life has so many demands and needs that have to be met. All those are important--but only relatively so. Ultimately, everything that happens to  us, everything we do, how we help others, etc., makes sense in light of heaven.

That's how we can get through sufferings and trials. Nobody likes them. But they'll pass. We won't be sick forever. Someday we'll find the job we need.  Someday that relationship will be healed. And even if what seems to be the ultimate disaster happens--we die--that's all the more reason for hope. Death is our gateway to eternal life. Like St Paul says in another place, if we hope in Christ only for this life, we are fools.

Hope is the great secret of the Christian. We hope for what we do not yet possess, confident that in due time we will reach that goal.

"I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed in us" (Rom 8:18).

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Singing Nun---Jeanine Deckers

Today would have been the 80th birthday of Jeanine Deckers, aka The Singing Nun. She was a "one hit wonder" when Dominique soared to the top of the charts after she appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1963.

In real life, her story was quite tragic. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for her, perhaps because she was caught up in the winds of change that swept through the Church after Vatican II, and she seems to  have come out the worse for it.

After she left the convent, she became a struggling artist and never really went anywhere with her music. She attempted to start a school for struggling kids at one point, but the venture went under. After the Belgian government came after her claiming she owed back taxes for Dominique, she faced financial ruin. Under all the pressure she tragically took her own life at the age of 52.

In an attempt to raise funds, she came out with a disco version of Dominique in which she sings the song as she wanders through the ruins of an ancient cathedral somewhere in Belgium or France. This image of a long-faded star singing in the ruins is like an icon of the decline of faith in our time. It's rather sad. But the Church in some way lives out the mysteries of the life of Jesus. In some ages, the way of the cross and the crucifixion dominate. In others, the resurrection. The Church has certainly been walking the way of the cross as faith seems to be evaporating in so many hearts. But despite it all, we always have hope because Calvary always leads to Easter--always.


Clip of the original Dominique here.

Clip of the disco version in the ruined cathedral here.

Despite the brokenness of her life, and indeed perhaps even because of it, I firmly believe that Jesus had mercy on her soul and she came to a place of salvation. The later tragedies of her life cannot change the reality that her song about St. Dominic caused many to praise God, even if they didn't quite realize what they were singing.

May she rest in peace.



Dominique, nique, nique s'en allait tout simplement
Routier pauvre et chantant
En tous chemins, en tous lieux, il ne parle que du bon Dieu,
Il ne parle que du bon Dieu.


A l'e poque ou Jean-sans-Terre de' Angleterre etait Roi
Dominique, notre Pere, combattit les Albigeois
Repeat first 4 lines: Chorus

Ni chameau, ni diligence il parcout l'Europe a pied
Scandinavie ou Provence dans la sainte pauvrete
Refrain

Enflamma de toute ecole filles et garcons pleins d'ardeur
Et pour semer la Parole inventa les Freres-Precheurs
Refrain

Chez Dominique et ses freres le pain s'en vint a manquer
Et deux anges se presenterent portant de grands pains dores
Refrain

Dominique vit en reve les precheurs du monde entier
Sous le manteau de la Vierge en grand nombre rassembles
Refrain

Dominique, mon bon Pere, garde-nous simples et gais
Pour annoncer a nos freres la Vie et la Verite
Refrain
 

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Rosary

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was established by Pope Pius V, a Dominican, in thanksgiving for the victory of Lepanto.

The rosary is a very important prayer, even more so today when faith is threatened by so many things in our secular culture: a growing atheism, secularism, and humanism that seeks to order human society without God.

Genesis 3:15, a text called the Proto-evangelium because it is the first announcement of the Good News, has often been read in the Church in the light of Mary's role. The woman spoken of there will crush the head of Satan:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel."

Think about that. God himself has put enmity between Satan and Mary. So Mary has a particular power in crushing the forces of evil. That's why the rosary is a powerful prayer. When we pray it, we are stepping into that divinely established way that God wants to protect his children and defeat Satan.

On the feast of the Assumption last August, Pope Francis spoke about this too:



"Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the rosary – but listen carefully: the Rosary. Do you pray the Rosary every day? But I’m not sure you do [the people shout “Yes!”]… Really? Well, prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this “suffering” dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle."

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Pope Francis and Palm Sunday

A lot of discussion has arisen about Pope Francis' recent interviews. Whatever you think about it, a lot of people are confused. Two things are good to keep in mind.

1. When Pope Benedict wrote his book on Jesus, he said that it was not a work of the magisterium and so "Everyone, then, is free to contradict me." That is important to remember when it comes to non-magisterial statements of the pope. An off-the-cuff interview falls into that category. So it's healthy that Catholics are debating what Francis said and sometimes disagreeing with it. He is not speaking infallibly in these interviews.

2. I started to notice that a lot of praise was coming to Francis from unusual quarters, that is, from people who are generally not on board with Church teaching. In other words, the world has been praising him. But some of that praise is coming to him for the wrong reasons.
Some people think that he is softening the Church's teaching on the hard issues, like abortion, contraception, and same-sex unions. Actually, he is not. But that is the perception. And in the media, perception often counts more than the truth.

I think it is a lot like Palm Sunday. The crowds who turned out to praise Jesus would, just a few days later, shout violently, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Why? Because they were praising Jesus for the wrong reasons. Perhaps they thought he would overturn the hated Roman government and be a political Messiah. But as soon as they realized Jesus was not following their agenda, they turned on him.

The same thing will happen to Francis. Once the world and the media start to realize that he is not soft-pedaling the hard teachings of the Gospel, they will turn on him too. The day will come when Francis has to proclaim some of those hard truths, and many who praise him now will turn away. And such it has to be.

Jesus said, "I have chosen you out of the world--therefore the world hates you" (Jn 15:19).  If the world didn't hate the Church, if its shepherds only accommodated the worlds' demands, we would really be in trouble. Jesus was very stark: "If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. . . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you." (Jn 15:18-20).

That's why I feel uneasy when the world treats the pope like a rock star. He's not meant to be a rock star. He is the Rock of Peter, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Right now Francis is living his Palm Sunday moment. But just as assuredly his Good Friday will come, when he will have to climb his own Mount Calvary. Let us pray for him!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pope Benedict and Francis

In 2006, Pope Benedict in meeting with the Swiss bishops said something very similar to what Francis said in his interview. I don't remember NARAL and similar groups hailing him for this. Could it be that the media have put Francis in a box, just like they put Benedict in a box, and read him only through that lens? But it certainly seems like Francis isn't going to stay in anybody's box.

Here's Benedict:

Let us return, therefore, to the subject of "God". The words of St Ignatius spring to mind: "The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power (Epistula ad Romanos 3, 3). We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.
I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.
If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith - a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.
In this perspective I would now like to continue by completing last Tuesday's reflections and to stress once again: what matters above all is to tend one's personal relationship with God, with that God who revealed himself to us in Christ.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pope Francis' Interview

If you've seen news stories about the Pope's interview yesterday, please go to the source and read what he actually said. Some news stories about it are giving a totally misleading spin. For example, in our local paper, the writer put "small-minded rules" in the same sentence with abortion, contraception, and same-sex unions, as if the pope said these things don't matter. Far from it! He said nothing of the sort. Here is the quote about the "small-minded rules," followed by how the church's ministers need to strike the right balance -- in dealing with people -- between a harsh rigorism and a lax attitude. I didn't see any news stories quoting his words that ministers are wrong to simply dismiss real sins as if they don't matter:

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sr Susan Helen, RIP


This morning at 9:15 Sr Susan passed away after a series of health issues.
She was one of the most cheerful persons I've ever known, who had a great sense of humor. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and despite the pain she often had (despite medications) she didn't let it get her down. She was very witty and always had a great answer.

She was the formator of the junior professed shortly after I made my first vows. She would often speak about turning obstacles into opportunities, especially in the mission.

As her health declined she would sometimes ask me to do  some things like take her to the drugstore or other errands. She was always so grateful for everything anyone did for her. She used to sometimes come up to me in chapel and slip a small bag with a chocolate candy bar in my pew. She would take note of what the sisters liked and would try to get it for them when she could.

But above all she was a dedicated religious sister who loved her community and her mission. She wrote many books over the years, especially lives of the saints. May she rest in peace enjoying her well deserved eternal reward.

"Come, enter into the joy of the Master!"

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The shock of the Incarnation

Once in a while it's good to let the mysteries of the faith shock us a little.
Last night I happened to read something about the Incarnation in St. Thomas, where he speaks about whether it was fitting for God to become man.
One short sentence suddenly jumped off the page and left me shocked:

"It was fitting that God, by reason of his infinite goodness, should unite it [human flesh] to himself for man's salvation."

Yes, in Jesus Christ, God united human flesh to himself. This is something we're taught as Catholics from our childhood. And it's easy to get used to it and forget how astounding it truly is.

All I could do was go to chapel and sit there for a while, just letting it sink in. And then pray.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Waldstein on TOB

We just had a TOB retreat led by Michael Waldstein (who translated Man and Woman He Created Them). It was a great experience to be able to pray over the important ideas in TOB.

One idea is the connection between the divine indwelling and the virtue of purity. The Holy Spirit dwells in us like a temple, and brings his 7 gifts. The one that relates most to purity is the gift of piety or reverence--in this case, reverence for one's own body.

Purity is the glory of God in the human body.


Friday, July 05, 2013

Pope Francis on Faith

In his new encyclical on faith released today, Pope Francis speaks of faith as a
""supernatural infused virtue." It's good to get this reminder that above all, faith is a virtue. As a supernatural virtue, it's a gift of God. We can't give it to ourselves, nor can we acquire it by any human effort.

As a virtue, faith transforms us. Francis also stresses that faith works through love.
It is only through love that we can really believe, because faith enables us to entrust ourselves to God.

We will be publishing this important new document very soon. Check our website for details: www.pauline.org

Friday, May 17, 2013

A good reason for intercession of saints

May is the month of Mary, and a question that often comes up is about the intercession of Mary and the saints. People often ask what's the point of it, since we can pray directly to God.

Yes, we can and certainly do pray directly to God. So it's not a matter or either/or.
It's a both/and.

St. Thomas makes an interesting point about this. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but basically he says that we can become like God in two ways. First, because God is good, we become like him by being good. Second, because God is the cause of goodness in creatures, we become like God by bringing goodness to others, by doing good. (Summa Theol., I, q. 103, a. 4).

That second point is the key thing in regard to the intercession of the saints. By praying for us, they play a role in bringing goodness to us. It's part of God's plan. It's more perfect for us to reflect God's goodness by doing good, rather than simply by being good. We're meant to be active, to reach out, to help others, and that reflects God. The intercession of the saints does precisely that.

When you think about it, isn't that how God acts in regard to other things? Couldn't he have just directly created all the people he wants, instead of having them come into the world through their parents? Sure, he has the power to do that if desired. But by giving parents a role in procreation, God is acting through them to bring goodness to others. And the parents play a very important role.

And that's good for us, because it's an important part of the way we become holy. We reflect these two aspects of God by both being good and doing good.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pope Francis: Nuns should be mothers, not old maids

I love Pope Francis and the way he speaks in such a down-to-earth way.
On May 8 he met with a group of sisters, and told them frankly:


La consacrata è madre, deve essere madre e non “zitella”! Scusatemi se parlo così, ma è importante questa maternità della vita consacrata, questa fecondità! 

My rough translation: "The consecrated women is a mother; she must be a mother and not an old maid! (zitella). Excuse me for speaking like this, but this maternity of the consecrated life, this fruitfulness, is so important!"

In his simple way, he's essentially saying the same thing that Pope John Paul often talked about. To be happy in life, we must make a "sincere gift of self," and give ourselves in love to others. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

On civility

Today when I was out driving I made a slight error that delayed another car for about 10 seconds. The woman driving it let out a flood of profanity at me (and yes, she knew I was a nun and even called me a blankety-blank nun, among various other obscenities). I didn't respond but just drove away.

Have we as a society lost our sense of civility? Evidence certainly suggests that we have at least to some extent, as for example the increase of road rage incidents, etc. Yet when we lose civility, we lose an important part of the glue that holds societies together. Being courteous benefits all of us and can even prevent car accidents.

Here are a few other thoughts that came to me about this incident.

1. I said to the sister with me, "Whoa! Aren't you glad we don't have to live with her."  Community life has its ups and downs, of course, and no community is perfect. But this incident made me feel very grateful that I do live in a wonderful community of dedicated, loving, and happy sisters. It is a joy that I can sometimes take for granted.

2. But the reality is that a lot of people do have to live in difficult situations, with difficult people who are sometimes just downright nasty. And that's very hard to bear. It's not just verbal abuse but domestic violence and sexual abuse as well. Maybe that woman is angry because she's had to endure something like that.

3. It was very clear to me that I didn't cause her anger; it came out of her spontaneously. As Jesus said in the Gospel, "Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Lk 6:45). When we inadvertently make a mistake and someone gets angry at us, it helps to remember that God doesn't treat us that way. God doesn't get angry at us for our mistakes and sins but always calls us to conversion.

3. I read somewhere a powerful thought that some people have no one to pray for them. Perhaps God puts a difficult person in our path because that person needs prayers. We don't know, but prayer can only help. So I've been praying for that woman today, and if you feel so inspired, maybe you could send up a Hail Mary for her too.


How do you react to road rage?


Monday, March 18, 2013

St. Joseph, the Pope, and the Year of Faith



In this critical year of faith we should pay more attention to St. Joseph, because through him God will provide a way to overcome the famine of faith. The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis can remind us of similarities to St. Joseph: their dreams, their chastity, their wise stewardship. The Joseph of Genesis wisely managed the resources of Egypt, so that when famine struck the country, it was well provided for: “All the world came to Joseph to obtain rations of grain, for famine had gripped the whole world” (Gen 41:57).

In re-reading this story recently, I was reminded of another type of famine, not of bread but of the word of God: “Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the Lord of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).

Certainly we’re living in a time when faith seems to be losing the battle against a tide of secularism, atheism, and unbelief. While many people retain a vibrant faith, the decline in Mass attendance, marriage rates, and participation in church life is evident. We’re in a famine of faith. Pope Benedict XVI called us to a Year of Faith in order to meet that challenge and forge ahead with the New Evangelization. So what role does St. Joseph play in this?

Genesis recounts that “Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them” (Gen 41:55). That phrase evokes Cana, when Mary referred the stewards to Jesus and said, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Joseph provided the people with grain, and Jesus turned water into wine: bread and wine, the elements of the Eucharist. Reading the story of Joseph in Genesis together with Cana can help us understand why St. Joseph is patron of the universal Church. The saint of divine providence, the one we invoke for material help in terms of jobs, resources, selling a house, etc., is even more eager to provide us with the blessings of faith.

In the book of Revelation, the third horseman represents famine: “I looked, and there was a black horse, and its rider held a scale in his hand. I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures. It said, ‘A ration of wheat costs a day’s pay, and three rations of barley cost a day’s pay. But do not damage the olive oil or the wine” (Rev 6:5-6). While this book is difficult to interpret, these verses make me think of the famine of faith. Could it be that the reference to sparing the oil and the wine is a veiled reference to the fact that even in times when faith dies down, the Church will keep on providing the sacraments? The flock may grow smaller, and the demand for sacraments may be less, but the Church will always be there to offer the sacraments and nourish our faith. St. Joseph, the Church’s patron, has a role in making sure they are provided.

So it is no accident that Pope Francis is officially beginning his mandate on the feast of St. Joseph, in the Year of Faith. This Pope is remarkable for being a humble, hidden man, much like Joseph. Because of this saint’s hiddenness, we may easily forget him. But let’s ask his intercession even more now, so that in this Year of Faith the Church will truly begin to witness to the Gospel in a more effective way. St. Joseph, pray for us!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Names Pope Francis rejected

At his meeting with the journalists, the pope explained that he chose Francis after the saint of Assisi, because he was devoted to poverty and the poor, to respect for God's creation, and to peace. Then he recounted some lighter moments when other cardinals gave him some suggestions:

"Afterward, people were joking with me. 'But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…' And someone else said to me: 'No, no: your name should be Clement.' 'But why?' 'Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!' These were jokes."

Apparently Pope Francis has a good sense of humor.

Pope Francis on Pope Benedict

During his meeting with the cardinals, Pope Francis gave a beautiful testimony to Benedict:


My thoughts turn with great affection and profound gratitude to my venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI, who enriched and invigorated the Church during the years of his Pontificate by his teaching, his goodness, his leadership, his faith, his humility and his meekness. All this remains as a spiritual patrimony for us all. The Petrine ministry, lived with total dedication, found in him a wise and humble exponent, his gaze always firmly on Christ, the risen Christ, present and alive in the Eucharist. We will always accompany him with fervent prayers, with constant remembrance, with undying and affectionate gratitude. We feel that Benedict XVI has kindled a flame deep within our hearts: a flame that will continue to burn because it will be fed by his prayers, which continue to sustain the Church on her spiritual and missionary path.


Benedict's teaching, his homilies and documents, are a treasure house of wisdom we can continue to draw from.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis HABEMUS PAPAM!



Just a little over a month ago, who would have thought we would have a new Pope? And a Jesuit, and a South American at that!
When he came out on the balcony and gave that little wave of his hand, I knew right away that I would like him. He seemed a little bit shy or reserved, and then when he stood there for what seemed like a long time, without saying anything, I felt a sense of the seriousness of the task he has been given. Then later when he smiled he signaled a warmth of personality that he must have. He said at the end that tomorrow he would go to pray to Mary (I presume at a Marian shrine). So he is Marian too.

St Francis heard the words from Jesus: "Rebuild my Church!" I think that by choosing this name, our new Pope is telling us that it is time to rebuild the Church from the sin, the scandals, the apostasy. It's time to take seriously the new evangelization. May the seeds that have been sown by previous Popes, especially John Paul and Benedict, now start to bear greater fruit in this new millennium.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mary spoke Juan Diego’s language



Mary spoke to Juan Diego in his own dialect. In fact, this also occurred at other Marian apparitions. When she appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, for example, Mary did not speak in French but in the local dialect. At Guadalupe, Mary not only spoke the native language but her appearance reflected the native features, as did the way she was dressed. Mary comes to us in a way that we can understand. So when we approach Mary in prayer, we can come to her just as we are. We don’t need to put on any pretenses. If we’re down and out, we can tell her that. If we feel weighed down by sin, we can tell her that too. Whatever our condition, we can simply go to Mary and she will help us.
Once at a conference I heard an amazing testimony from a man who had converted from an extremely sinful lifestyle and had lived far from God. As a fallen-away Catholic, he had been very promiscuous, even to the point of acting in pornographic films. When the films began to involve blasphemy and sacrilege, such as desecrating the crucifix and other sacred objects, he went along with it. But he started to feel revulsion at this and wanted to change. One day, not knowing where to turn, he came across a rosary. He still remembered how to pray it, so he started to do so, one Hail Mary at a time. That was the beginning of an amazing conversion. It took time and had its ups and downs, but that one Hail Mary was the first step on his road back to God. He said that Mary cleaned him up. So no matter what state you find yourself in, don’t be afraid to turn to Mary for help. She will not let you down! Our journey back to God can begin even with one Hail Mary.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Benedict on the Prodigal Son

In 2010 Pope Benedict gave his Angelus meditation on today's Gospel, that of the prodigal son. He speaks very beautifully of how we develop our relationship with God our Father, and the stages it goes through. He mentions the delicate transition point from a childhood faith to an adult faith, which carries with it the peril of atheism. God's love always pursues us no matter what we do.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Mary's Motherly Tenderness



The beautiful story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a vivid, touching reminder of how much Mary cares about us and wants to help us in our needs. While it offers much to reflect on, here are a few points that we can apply to our own lives.


1. Mary called Juan Diego by name

Not only did Mary call him by name, but she used an affectionate term, almost a nickname, “Juanito . . . Juan Dieguito.” This shows us how tender and loving Mary is, that she not only knows each of our names but our nicknames too. This tells us that we can approach her with great confidence and love. 

In the Bible, knowing someone’s name means to really know that person. The Book of Revelation says, “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev 2:17).

Isn’t it beautiful to think that God has given each of us a special name, one that no one else knows except God and ourselves? And while this passage doesn’t specifically mention Mary, it is reasonable to think that Mary knows our special name too. This name expresses who we really are, and what we are called to do. In calling us by our special name of grace, Mary will lead us to her Son Jesus, who will fill us with graces and blessings.

More to follow...

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

"Am I Not Your Mother?" Our Lady of Guadalupe



I'm going to be blogging about some Marian topics and thought I'd start with some reflections on Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here is the story; reflections will follow.

Juan Diego was making his long trip to Mass on the cold morning of December 9, 1531. At that time in his area it was the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Suddenly he heard some strains of beautiful music. Looking up to see where it came from, Juan found himself at the top of Tepayec Hill, near Mexico City. He was startled to see a beautiful young woman there. She looked like a morena, that is, one of his own people. In his own language, Nahuatl, she called him by name, using a nickname that showed great affection: “Juanito,” she said, “Juan Dieguito, where are you going?”

Hardly knowing what to make of it all, Juan’s words tumbled out, “I am on my way to Mass.” As if to answer his unspoken question, the lady continued, “Know and understand, dearest of my children, that I am the ever-holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life, Mother of the Creator of heaven and earth.”



Mary, the Mother of God? Juan thought. How is it possible that she should come to me? Who am I? I am no one of importance! Despite his own estimation of himself, the Virgin Mary entrusted him with a great task. She told Juan that she wanted a church to be built there on that spot. Why? Mary herself told him that she wanted to “show forth all my love, compassion, assistance, and defense because I am your loving Mother: yours, and all who are with you, and of all who live in this land, and of all who love me, call to me, and trust in me. I will hear their cries and will give remedy to their sorrows and sufferings.”

Then the beautiful Lady told Juan to bring her message to the bishop. Juan did as she asked. But the bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, was skeptical that the Blessed Virgin Mary had really appeared to the humble man before him. Though he spoke kindly to Juan Diego, he was not convinced.
Downhearted, Juan Diego left the bishop’s residence. He again saw the Lady when he passed by Tepayac and was dismayed to report he had not succeeded.
But the Lady, not to be daunted, repeated her commission. Juan Diego had to go back to the bishop. So he did. After being made to wait a long time, he was finally allowed to see the bishop again, who asked Juan to bring him back some sign so that he could know for certain that the Blessed Virgin Mary had really appeared to him. So Juan went back home, wondering where this would all lead.
In the meantime, however, his uncle had fallen sick. Juan was in a hurry to go and get a priest to bring him the sacraments, so he tried to avoid seeing the Lady. He took a detour. But the Lady appeared to him anyway. Calling him “my little son,” she asked him where he was going. When he told her, the Lady reassured him that his uncle would recover. With a look of great love, Mary smiled at him and gently chided him for his doubts, “"Do not let anything afflict you, and do not be afraid of any illness, or accident, or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Do you need anything else?"
After those comforting words, Mary told Juan to gather the flowers he would find at the top of the hill and bring them to her. Flowers in December? he wondered, but he obediently did as she asked. When he arrived at the top of the hill, he couldn’t believe what he saw: beautiful Castilian roses at the peak of their bloom! He gathered as many as he could hold and brought them to the Lady, who lovingly arranged them in his tilma. She then told him to bring them to the bishop.
When he returned to the bishop’s residence, he again had to wait but finally was able to meet the bishop. When Juan opened his cloak and the beautiful roses spilled out, the bishop and others in the room were astounded at what they saw: an image of the Lady imprinted on Juan’s tilma. This image, of course, is the amazing icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron of Mexico and loving Mother of all people.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Benedict e-book from Vatican; free download

 The Vatican is offering a free e-book on their website. There are pictures and quotes, with links to the full talks. The excerpt below is from Pope Benedict's homily last year on his 85th birthday. [I didn't know that Easter Vigil used to be celebrated on Holy Saturday morning. He was born and baptized the same day.]


"The day I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. Then it was still customary to anticipate the Easter Vigil in the morning, which would still be followed by the darkness of Holy Saturday, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of light in a day of darkness, could almost be an image of the history of our times. On the one hand, there is still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ there is already the anticipation of the “yes” of God, and on the basis of this anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear him speak, and through the darkness of his absence we glimpse his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection in the middle of an evolving history is the power that points out the way to us and helps us to go forward. . .

I am now facing the last chapter of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is Risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world. And this helps me to go forward with certainty. May this help us to go forward, and at this moment I wholeheartedly thank all those who have continually helped me to perceive the “yes” of God through their faith."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Apostolica Sedes Vacans

Thus the Vatican website announces the end of one papacy, and the hope of another.

I feel sad.

It's a Holy Saturday kind of day. Still mourning over a loss, even while knowing resurrection will soon dawn.



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thank you, Pope Benedict!

Valete, Pope Benedict!     
Thank you for the gift of your pontificate!    











The Pope said today in his final general audience:



"The Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been - and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His - and He shall not let her sink."





Monday, February 25, 2013

My amazing discovery about St John Bosco and his vision of the Popes

Our convent library has the 14 volume set of The Biographical Memoirs of St. John Bosco. This is a very authoritative source for information about the saint, written by Fr. Giovanni Lemoyne (1839-1916) who knew Don Bosco and carefully chronicled his life, working from eyewitness and other reliable sources.

St. John Bosco


Vol. 7, pp 107-110, has the account of the famous dream of the two columns. It's true, of course, that such things have to be interpreted carefully. They are not meant to give us photo ops of the future, so we will know exactly what will happen. But I must confess I have gotten intrigued by Pope speculation following Benedict's resignation. And saints are good sources to go to, rather than the rather absurd speculation of most media outlets right now.

So last night I sat down with vol. 7 to read about the dream. And what I found out was rather shocking. This new information puts the dream in a completely different light. That's why it's so important to go to the primary source.

But first, here's some background about the dream. Don Bosco told it to the boys in one of his "Good Night" talks, which were spiritual pep talks he gave them at night. It was May 26, 1862. Four of the boys wrote it down and Fr Lemoyne gives the details of their names etc., which I'll skip here. Suffice it to say that the Salesians have their manuscripts which basically agree on the details. Except for one thing--the number of the popes on the ship.

Lemoyne says, "Some claimed that the popes who successively commanded the flagship were three, not two." Three popes? I never heard that before! Two of them fell while steering the ship, and then the third took over and brought it to safety.

None of the accounts of the dream that I found on the internet mentions three popes, only two.

One detail Fr Lemoyne gives is quite interesting, about a priest named Fr John Bourlot, who was present when Don Bosco gave the talk. He visited Don Bosco in 1886 (Bosco died in 1888) and reminisced about the old days. The dream came up. Fr Bourlot insisted that there were three popes and said, "When the first was struck down, the captains of the other ships exclaimed, 'Let's hurry! We can quickly replace him' whereas when they gathered a second time they did not say that. While Canon Bourlot was speaking, the author of these Memoirs was talking with the one next to him at the table. Noticing this, Don Bosco said to him, 'Listen carefully to what Fr Bourlot is saying.' "

Fr Lemoyne writes, referring to himself in the third person, "When he replied that he was well acquainted with the matter, thanks to the manuscripts in his possession, and that he believed there had been two popes--no more--on the flagship, Don Bosco rejoined, 'You know nothing at all!'"  (That made me laugh, because I could just hear Mother Paula, who started our congregation in America, talking the same way. She was from the same Piemonte area of Italy and the people there brook no nonsense.)

Lemoyne concludes by saying that Fr Bourlot always insisted on the three popes. "In view of the above, which of the two versions is correct? Events may still resolve the doubt. We shall conclude by saying that Caesar Chiala--as he himself told us--and the three above-mentioned clerics took this dream as a genuine vision and prophecy, even though Don Bosco in telling it seemed to have no other purpose than spurring the boys to pray for the Church and the Pope and fostering their devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Mary Immaculate."

So let the speculation begin. If there were indeed three popes, perhaps John Paul II was the first one, the one who fell, then Benedict was the second one. And the third one? Will it be the next pope, the one who will safely bring the Church through persecution into an era of peace? A long conclave might give us a hint. It only took 2 days to elect Benedict, with a mere 4 ballots. What do you think?

Adopt a cardinal

Prayer is the top priority now as the cardinals prepare to gather in conclave.

Click here to "adopt" a cardinal to pray for!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Benedict: "The time of testing is here"

As Pope Benedict's pontificate runs out, his words now take on a special meaning. At his recent Angelus message he said:

“The Tempter is devious: he does not push us towards evil directly, but toward a false good, making us believe that the real things that matter are power and whatever satisfies our primary needs."

In the first volume of his work on Jesus, Benedict writes about Satan tempting Jesus. The Pope points out that in the second temptation, when Satan urged Jesus to throw himself down because certainly God would not let him get hurt, the devil quoted Psalm 91: "For to his angels he has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways."

The Pope commented that Satan presents himself here as a Scripture scholar, so the temptation is like a debate between two theologians. Then Benedict mentions a short story by the Russian writer Soloviev called "The Anti-Christ." In it, the anti-Christ is precisely that: a theologian and Scripture scholar. He even gets an honorary doctorate from the University of Tubingen. The Pope then reflects that certain types of scholarship have done great damage to faith.

What an example that is of Benedict's point at the Angelus, that the devil directs us toward a false good. Theology and Scripture study are certainly good things, but even they can be put into the service of the devil. Which is why we need to implore the grace of the Holy Spirit to know the truth and not be misled by the errors of the day. Pope Benedict has spent his life as priest, bishop, and Pope teaching the truth of the Catholic faith, the truth that brings freedom.

Bishop Emeritus of Rome

This report indicates that Pope Benedict will be called "Bishop Emeritus of Rome" after his retirement. Good to know!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A crazy idea -- or maybe not?

In thinking about who might become Pope, a crazy idea popped into my head tonight. Or maybe it's not so crazy!

Last November Pope Benedict held a consistory appointing 6 new cardinals. It surprised veteran Vatican watchers, who were not expecting it. What if Benedict, knowing he would soon resign, appointed someone he hoped might be his successor?

All the cardinals were non-Europeans.The Pope said that this shows that the Church is for "all peoples, speaks in every language... It is always the Church of Pentecost, not the Church of one continent, but of the universal Church."

The universal Church. The Church not only of the West, but of the East. So here's the crazy idea: what if the next pope were not of the Latin rite, but of an Eastern rite?  Now that would really shock the world! And what Benedict said about the Church of Pentecost is provocative. Only the Holy Spirit would inspire this.

The Church of Pentecost is the Church of unity, and while we in the West may think mainly of the split between Catholics and Protestants, the deeper breach in unity occurred with the great schism between East and West. The healing of that schism would truly be the work of the Holy Spirit.

So while this may really be a crazy idea, what if the next pope turned out to be the newly-appointed Maronite rite Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi of Lebanon? After all the startling things that have happened with the papacy recently, I wouldn't really be surprised. The Holy Spirit has done things even more shocking.

The next Pope?

Update: Someone told me the meaning of the Cardinal's name:

Bechara      "Good news" or "Annunciation"
Boutros         Peter  (!) Actually, all the Maronite patriarchs take this name
                     because Peter was head of the church at Antioch
Rahi              "Shepherd"

So, "The Annunciation of Peter the shepherd" -- how perfect is that?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Benedict: alone before God





I've been reading Pope Benedict's recent book on the infancy narratives of Jesus. He wrote something about the Annunciation that makes me think of his own life as Pope. It's about the last line of that Gospel, "And the angel departed from her." (Lk 1:38) Benedict says that Mary's great hour, her encounter with the angel that changed her whole life, comes to an end, "and she remains there alone, with the task that truly surpasses all human capacity. There are no angels standing round her."

The Pope reflects that during the many difficult moments of her life, Mary must have recalled that brief encounter with the angel and pondered it anew, especially the words, "Do not be afraid!"  "The angel departs; her mission remains, and with it matures her inner closeness to God, a closeness that in her heart she is able to see and touch." (page 37-38).

Right now there are no angels standing around Benedict either (at least visible ones, for surely there are many invisible ones). It must be a lonely task, being Pope, for despite all the crowds, all those who wave flags and cheer, at the end of the day Benedict stands alone before God. He stands alone before that God whom he has served so well. And while many of the faithful may feel lost, confused, or even abandoned by his decision, we need to respect it. We need to let him draw back the curtain on his conscience. In these days when the media is filled with speculation and stories, we need to let him stand alone before his God.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Blog Makeover

A big "thank you" to Sr. Theresa Noble, one of our novices, for giving my blog a long overdue makeover! I love it!
Be sure to check out Sr. Theresa's blog, Pursued by Truth, for her very insightful thoughts on the faith today.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Don't panic--the anti-Christ is not about to become pope

The news of Pope Benedict's resignation has sent off shock waves in the world of private prophecy conspiracy theorists. Interestingly enough, while the Catholic world has its own share of these (and I admit I am intrigued by prophecies from reputable people like saints--"Do not despise prophecy" said St. Paul in 1 Thes 5:20), most of those speculating about Peter the Roman are Protestants.

A book was published last year about this by two Protestant authors. I heard part of a radio interview about this, and they are basing themselves on the famous prophecy of St. Malachy, who supposedly had a vision of future popes and described them in cryptic Latin phrases. Pope Benedict corresponds to "the glory of the olive." (The tie-in may be that the Benedictine order has also been called the Olivetans). The next and last pope on the list is Peter the Roman.

This is where the hysteria comes in, because if he's last on the list, wouldn't that mean the end of the world is around the corner? If you search for "pope resigns" on youtube or any search engine, you will see a huge list of end-times sites that think exactly that.  But don't panic or be disturbed. Keep a few things in mind:

1. The prophecy of St. Malachy may or may not be authentic, and has been the subject of much debate. But it's probably not really very reliable, even if it is fun to speculate about.

2. Even if it were true, it has been misquoted as referring to the final persecution of the Church. But the original Latin doesn't say that; it only refers to the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church. That has happened many times before, and will likely happen often again. For a good discussion of this point see here.
It actually reads:

"In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the terrible judge will judge his people. The End."

3.  Keep in mind that some of the fundamentalists are so excited about this because they think it will spell the end of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church, which they consider to be the "whore of Babylon." They're wrong about that.

4. There's no indication in the prophecy that Peter the Roman is going to be a bad pope. On the contrary, he is said to pasture his sheep in many tribulations. So he's going to be a good pope (if the prophecy is even true, which we don't know).

5. My concern is that all this will distort some people's attitude toward the new Pope. They will only see him through the glasses of what they have already decided must be true. But God is with the Church and he will give us the good shepherd that we need.  My own view is that the next Pope will be a very holy priest and bishop. But whoever he is, he will be the vicar of Christ and our pastor and shepherd. That's enough for me!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Give up sin for Lent

In today's Office of Readings, St. Leo the Great gets right to the heart of Lent: give up sin.

He says that the main point of this season is that "the whole Church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins." To have our sins forgiven is truly a cause for joy. What a relief to have that burden lifted, the burden of our sins.

Other Lenten practices like fasting are meant to help us give up sin. Conversion from sin is an ongoing process. Even after we commit our life to the Lord, we still have to struggle against sin, not big sins perhaps, but the smaller ones that can cling to us. Maybe it's a habit of gossip, or of making cutting remarks, or laziness, or some over-indulgence.

A good Lenten practice would be to identify one of those sins that trip us up more and make an effort to root it out of our lives. That will make us more open to grace and able to receive God's love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pope Benedict and the Vision of St. John Bosco


    In light of the surprising news of Pope Benedict's resignation, I thought of the famous vision that St. John Bosco had about a future Pope. (Bosco died in 1888 and was known for having a charism of prophecy).

In a symbolic way the vision was a prophecy of the spiritual battles the Church would face against the forces of evil. The vision uses the imagery of ships, a common image for the Church as the barque of Peter. But the interesting thing about it is the way it describes the succession of two popes:


  "Suddenly the Pope falls, seriously wounded. He is instantly helped up, but struck a second time, dies. A shout of victory rises from the enemy, and wild rejoicing sweeps their ships. But no sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place. The captains of the auxiliary ships elected him so quickly that the news of the Pope's death coincides with that of his successor's election."

That last part is what never made sense to me--how could the Pope die at the same time his successor is elected?--but if this vision does indeed refer to Benedict as the dying Pope, it could possibly happen. Now, I fervently hope that it doesn't, but if it does, it would seem to be a confirmation of what Bosco says.

However, keep in mind that all such visions fall into the realm of private revelation; they are not part of the divine revelation that makes up the truth of the Catholic faith. So no one has to believe in such a vision even if it came from a saint. And being symbolic, they can be interpreted in various ways. Or maybe it refers to some future time. Still, I find it intriguing. The hopeful part is that the new Pope is the one who will successfully guide the Church through the spiritual battles into a new age of faith.



ShareThis