Thursday, February 28, 2013

Farewell of the Holy Father

The Final Wednesday Audience by His Holiness Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome were truly filled with hope. This is such a consoling farewell by a father to his children. It is likewise a wonderful act of faith professed in the Year of Faith. Christ will never abandon his flock!

Thanks to Zenit for the post:

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood!
Distinguished Authorities!
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.
A heartfelt thanks! I am truly moved! And I see the Church alive! And I think we should also thank the Creator for the beautiful weather that He is giving us today while we’re still in winter.
As the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I too feel in my heart that I must above all thank God, who guides and builds up the Church, who sows his Word and thus nourishes the faith in his People. At this moment my heart expands to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the "news" that in these years in the Petrine ministry I have been able to receive about the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love that circulates in the Body of the Church and makes it live in love, and about the hope that opens us and directs us towards the fullness of life, towards the heavenly homeland.
I feel that I carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every trip, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone in prayer to entrust them to the Lord, so that we may have full knowledge of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, and so that we may comport ourselves in a manner worthy of Him, of His love, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).
At this time, I feel great trust, because I know, all of us know, that the Word of the truth of the Gospel is the strength of the Church, it is its life. The Gospel purifies and renews, it bears fruit, wherever the community of believers listens and receives the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my trust, this is my joy.
When, on April 19 almost eight years ago, I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I felt this certainty firmly, and it has always accompanied me. At that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: Lord, why are you asking this of me and what are you asking of me? It is a great weight you are placing on my shoulders, but if this is what You ask, at your word I will let down the nets, confident that You will guide me, even with my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has truly guided me, He has been close to me, I could feel His presence every day. It has been a stretch of the Church's journey, which has had moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments; I felt like St. Peter and the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days when the fishing has been plentiful, and there were also times when the water was rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church, and the Lord seemed to sleep. But I always knew that the Lord is in the boat, and I always knew that the boat of the Church is not mine, not ours, but it is His. And He will not let her sink, it is He who leads it, certainly also through the men he has chosen, because so He has willed it. This was and is a certainty, that nothing can obscure. And that is why today my heart is filled with gratitude to God because He has never left me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.
We are in the Year of Faith, which I wanted to strengthen our faith in God in a context that seems to put it more and more into the background. I would like to invite everyone to renew their firm trust in the Lord, to trust like children in the arms of God, certain that those arms support us always and are what allow us to walk every day, even when fatigued. I would like everyone to feel loved by that God who gave his Son for us and has shown us his boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. A beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says: "I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian..." Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith; it is the most precious thing, that no one can take from us! We thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but expects that we too love Him!
But it is not only God that I want to thank at this time. A Pope is not alone in guiding the barque of Peter, even if the primary responsibility is his; and I have never felt alone in carrying the joy and weight of the Petrine ministry; the Lord has put next to me many people, with generosity and love for God and the Church, they have helped me and have been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your advice, your friendship has been precious to me; my collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State who has accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretary of State and the whole of the Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various fields, give their service to the Holy See: there are many faces who do not appear, they remain in the shadow, but precisely in this silence, in their daily work, in a spirit of faith and humility, they have been a solid and reliable support for me. A special thought to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I cannot forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in the pastoral visits, in encounters, in the audences, in my travels, I have always perceived great care and deep affection, but I also have loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every pastor, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I have remembered each of you in my prayers, with a father's heart.
I would like my greetings and my thanks, then, to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope extends to the whole world. And I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps at the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for a good communication and I thank them for their important service.
At this point I would like to thank from my heart all the many people around the world who in recent weeks have sent me touching tokens of attention, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone, now I experience this again in so great a way that it touches my heart. The Pope belongs to everyone and many people feel very close to him. It is true that I receive letters from the great ones of the world - from Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. But I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and make me feel their affection, born from being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me the way one writes, for instance, to a prince or a to great person that one does not know. They write to me as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of a very affectionate family tie. Here one can touch firsthand what the Church is - not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and to be able almost to touch with your hands the power of its truth and its love, is a source of joy, in a time when many speak of its decline. But we see how the Church is alive today!
In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its seriousness and also its novelty, but with profound peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make tough choices, difficult ones, having always before oneself the good of the Church and not oneself.
Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The seriousness of the decision also lay precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was busy always and forever with the Lord. Always - whoever assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of its private dimension. I experienced, and I am experiencing it now, that one receives life when one gives it. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion; because he no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him.
The "always" is also a "forever" - there is no return to the private sphere. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I will not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remain in a new way with the Crucified Lord. I no longer carry the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter's bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be for me a great example in this. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.
I thank each and everyone for the respect and understanding with which you have accepted this important decision. I will continue to accompany the journey of the Church through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Spouse, with which I have tried to live every day until now and with which I want to live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter: may the Lord accompany him with the light and the power of his Spirit.
Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community; we entrust ourselves to Her, with deep confidence.
Dear friends! God guides His Church, he sustaines her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, may there always be the joyous certainty that the Lord is near us, he does not abandon us, he is near us and surrounds us with his love. Thank you!
[Translation by Peter Waymel/ZENIT News Agency]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. Like Saint Paul, whose words we heard earlier, my heart is filled with thanksgiving to God who ever watches over his Church and her growth in faith and love, and I embrace all of you with joy and gratitude.
During this Year of Faith, we have been called to renew our joyful trust in the Lord’s presence in our lives and in the life of the Church. I am personally grateful for his unfailing love and guidance in the eight years since I accepted his call to serve as the Successor of Peter. I am also deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world.
The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and a deep love of Christ’s Church. I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope. In union with Mary and all the saints, let us entrust ourselves in faith and hope to God, who continues to watch over our lives and to guide the journey of the Church and our world along the paths of history.
I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!
[Original text: English]
© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana 
* * *
I extend a cordial welcome to all the Italian-speaking pilgrims. Thank you for your love and affection. Thank you! Dear friends, thank you for the past eight years among you and thank you for your participation in such great numbers at this gathering, as well as for your love and for the joy of your faith. They are feelings that I warmly reciprocate, assuring you of my prayers for you here present, for your families, for your loved ones, for beloved Italy and Rome.
My thought goes finally to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. May the Lord fill the heart of each of you with His love, dear young people, so that you may be prepared to follow him with enthusiasm; may He sustain you, dear sick people, so that you can accept with serenity the burden of suffering, and guide you, dear newlyweds, so that you make your families grow in holiness.
[Translation by Peter Waymel/ZENIT News Agency]

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Transfiguration and the Pontificate of Benedict XVI

The papacy of Pope Benedict XVI is like the Transfiguration of the Lord. At the Transfiguration, our Lord manifested his glory as God's only begotten Son - that glory which lay hidden beneath the veil of his human nature. During his pontificate, the Holy Father unveiled for us the true glory of Catholic Liturgy - that glory which, for some time, lay hidden beneath much of the confusion that occurred after the 2nd Vatican Council. For some time, the liturgy seemed to be no more than just a social assembly, a fraternal meeting of members of the Church, a fellowship and even to some extent, a show that was meant to entertain. For some time, many members of the Church lost sight of the Supernatural in the Liturgy. The Holy Father unveiled for us the  true glory of Catholic Liturgy. He reminded us that Liturgy is not about us, but about God. He reminded us that Liturgy is not some project made by some committee but a gift that we have received from God. He reminded us that Liturgy is not an exchange of pleasantries between celebrant and people but rather, it is a procession towards the Lord. He taught us that Liturgy is seeking the face of the Lord. Indeed, in the illustrious pontificate of Benedict XVI, the glory of Christ's face was once again beheld through the Liturgy.

My only worry is that at the Transfiguration, the Lord gave his disciples only a brief glimpse of his hidden glory. Will the close of Benedict's papacy also hide again the glory of the Liturgy which shone for but a brief moment? As the radiance of Christ's face will later on disappear to give way to the blood, sweat and spittle of the passion, will the same happen to the Liturgy? Will the glory of the Liturgy be covered once again with human attempts to make it more man-oriented than God-oriented? Will Liturgy be once again a project subject to the tinkering of human committees? I hope not.

But should it happen, I am confident that just as the radiance of Christ's face will reappear on a permanent basis at the Resurrection, so also will the glory and radiance of the Liturgy be made manifest again at a time we do not know. How I wish that the glory of the Liturgy which was unveiled for us by the Holy Father should never fade! How  I wish that the Benedictine Reform continues! 

This gives us reason to pray and fast even more seriously for the election of the new Pope when the Holy Father abdicates from the papal throne. Like Queen Ester and Mordecai and the Jewish People, we should fast and pray as if our lives depended on it. May the Holy Spirit appoint a Pope who would show the splendor of the Liturgy even more. Let us pray and fast as if our lives depended on it!

Pope Benedict's Legacy and the Transfiguration


Jesus took Peter, James, and John to Mount Tabor and while he was praying, he was transfigured before them. What took place was the revelation by Jesus of his glory as God’s only begotten Son: his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzlingly white. “On the transfigured face of Jesus a ray of light which he held within shines forth. This same light was to shine on Christ’s face on the day of the Resurrection. In this sense, the Transfiguration is a foretaste of the Paschal Mystery.” (Benedict XVI, 6 August 2006.) This glory of the Lord was revealed in prayer. “The Transfiguration is a prayer event” (17 February 2008.)

I find it significant that of the three disciples who were with Jesus that day, it would be Peter who would point out the beauty of what they saw. It was Peter who would say to Jesus: “Master, it is good that we are here.” It was Peter who would express the desire to linger on in that wonderful place by volunteering to build 3 tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. I find these significant because this is precisely the legacy which the Holy Father Benedict XVI is leaving us. This Pope is one who constantly invited us to seek the face of the Lord. Benedict constantly tells us that seeking the face of the Lord, desiring to know him is our daily task: “The desire to know God truly, that is, to see the face of God, is in every man, even atheists. And we perhaps unwittingly have this desire to see simply who He is, what He is, who He is for us. But this desire is realized by following Christ, so we see his back and finally also see God as a friend, his face in the face of Christ. The important thing is that we follow Christ not only when we are in need and when we find space for it in our daily affairs, but with our lives as such. The whole of life should be directed towards encountering Him, towards loving Him…” (16 January 2013)

At the very heart of the ministry of Benedict as successor of Peter is his concern that the liturgy be celebrated in the proper way. To him, “the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the center of any renewal of the Church.” “The Church stands or falls with the Liturgy.” “His profound concern is that the Church worships Almighty God correctly, and thereby be fully connected to the indispensible source which sustains and empowers Christian life, witness and mission. If the liturgy is impoverished or off-track our ability to live the Catholic faith and to evangelize suffers.” (A. Reid) “At the heart of his reform is Pope Benedict’s conviction that Catholic liturgy ‘is not about us, but about God’.” (Ibid.) Thus, the liturgy, as also the entire Christian life, must be a procession towards the Lord. It must constantly seek the face of God. The glory of Christ which was revealed at both the Transfiguration and the Paschal Mystery, is revealed to us in the Sacred Liturgy. In the Liturgy, Christ shows us the radiance of his face. And Benedict, like Peter, constantly reminds us: “It is good to be here.”

By doing so, Benedict encouraged us to look beyond this world and to look towards heaven. Our concerns should be higher than our stomachs. Our minds must not be occupied only with earthly things. “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Our minds must be elevated towards sublime things. Our hearts must seek Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith. Our eyes must constantly seek the beauty of Christ’s face. Benedict would always say: “Conversi ad Dominum” – let us turn towards the Lord. Thank you, Holy Father, for this wonderful legacy!

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Truth in Liturgy

Over the social networks, I found out that TV Masses here are shot weeks before the actual Sunday when they are supposed to be aired. A Palm Sunday Mass was offered in some church on the first week of Lent for the purpose of airing it on Palm Sunday. I am concerned about the way the Mass is treated like a TV series which may be taped many weeks before the actual airing. Is it right to shoot the Mass weeks before the actual feast?

In the liturgical reform after the second Vatican Council, there was an emphasis on the return to the "Truth of the Hours" in matters concerning the Liturgy of the Hours. This is the reform of a prevalent liturgical practice wherein the celebration of matins and lauds were anticipated on the night before (as in the case of the Tenebrae of Holy Week) or the celebration of all the hours were lumped together at the most convenient time of the priest. Also, in the 1955 reform of Holy Week, the hour of the celebration of Easter Vigil was transferred from the morning of Holy Saturday to the hours of the night. 

If the "truth of the hour" mattered, should the "truth of the day" be treated differently? The Liturgy is not a game of "make believe" but an actual encounter with the Blessed Trinity. It is not honest (and therefore not right) to offer the Mass of Palm Sunday when it is not yet Palm Sunday. Perhaps it is true that the Mass will be aired on Palm Sunday itself but when it was actually celebrated, it was not yet Palm Sunday.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI reminded us that the Liturgy is not a show. It is not meant to be a form of entertainment. Liturgy is an encounter with God.  Liturgy is prayer in Spirit and in TRUTH.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dr. Taylor Marshall | Canterbury Tales: Eleven Great Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Litu...

As the Illustrious Pontificate of Benedict XVI draws to a close, an article by Dr. Taylor Marshall of Canterbury Tales testifies to the significant contribution of this Pontificate to the re-orientation of the Liturgical Reform. Indeed, the Holy Father is leaving to us a legacy of a truly Catholic liturgical reform. In this article, he puts forward eleven quotations from the Holy Father on liturgy:

Ratzinger on the Liturgical Reformers Creating a 'Fabrication, Banal Product'
The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment. (Ratzinger in Revue Theologisches, Vol. 20, Feb. 1990, pgs. 103-104)

Ratzinger on Those Who Appreciate the Latin Mass being Wrongly Treated Like 'Lepers'
"For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 [the older Latin Mass] should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church's whole past. How can one trust her at present if things are that way?" (Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000)

Ratzinger on the Degeneration of Liturgy and 'Liturgical Fabricators'
"[W]e have a liturgy which has degenerated so that it has become a show which, with momentary success for the group of liturgical fabricators, strives to render religion interesting in the wake of the frivolities of fashion and seductive moral maxims. Consequently, the trend is the increasingly marked retreat of those who do not look to the liturgy for a spiritual show-master but for the encounter with the living God in whose presence all the 'doing' becomes insignificant since only this encounter is able to guarantee us access to the true richness of being." (Cardinal Ratzinger's preface to the French translation ofReform of the Roman Liturgy by Monsignor Klaus Gamber, 1992).

Ratzinger on the 'Disintegration of the Liturgy'
"I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extent, due to the disintegration of the liturgy." (Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977)

Ratzinger against 'Homemade Liturgy'
"It is also worth observing here that the 'creativity' involved in manufactured liturgies has a very restricted scope. It is poor indeed compared with the wealth of the received liturgy in its hundreds and thousands of years of history. Unfortunately, the originators of homemade liturgies are slower to become aware of this than the participants..." (Feast of Faith p. 67-68)

Ratzinger on the Latin Mass as the 'Holiest and Highest Possession'
“I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent.” (Ratzinger Salt of the Earth (1997)

Ratzinger on the Danger of Creative "Presiders" at the Mass

In reality what happened was that an unprecedented clericalization came on the scene. Now the priest -- the "presider", as they now prefer to call him -- becomes the real point of reference for the whole Liturgy. Everything depends on him. We have to see him, to respond to him, to be involved in what he is doing. His creativity sustains the whole thing. 

Ratzinger on the Danger of 'Creative Planning of the Liturgy'
Not surprisingly, people try to reduce this newly created role by assigning all kinds of liturgical functions to different individuals and entrusting the "creative" planning of the Liturgy to groups of people who like to, and are supposed to, "make a contribution of their own". Less and less is God in the picture. More and more important is what is done by the human beings who meet here and do not like to subject themselves to a "pre-determined pattern". (Spirit of Liturgy, ch. 3)

Ratzinger on Why the Priest Should Not Face the People During Mass
The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is locked into itself. The common turning toward the East was not a "celebration toward the wall"; it did not mean that the priest "had his back to the people": the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian Liturgy the congregation looked together "toward the Lord". (Spirit of Liturgy, ch. 3)

Ratzinger on the Priest and People Facing the Same Direction
On the other hand, a common turning to the East during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of accidentals, but of essentials. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. (Spirit of Liturgy, ch. 3)

Ratzinger on the 'Absurd Phenomenon' of Replacing the Crucifix with the Priest

Moving the altar cross to the side to give an uninterrupted view of the priest is something I regard as one of the truly absurd phenomena of recent decades. Is the cross disruptive during Mass? Is the priest more important than Our Lord? (Spirit of Liturgy, ch. 3)

Dr. Taylor Marshall | Canterbury Tales: Eleven Great Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Litu...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Quo Vadis?: The New Liturgical Movement Post-Benedict XVI

The Holy Father's Last Public Mass (Ash Wednesday 2013)

One of my apprehensions about the impending resignation of Pope Benedict from the Petrine Office is the future of the Reform of the reform of the Sacred Liturgy. I found this article in the New Liturgical Movement very insightful.

follow the link: Quo Vadis?: The New Liturgical Movement Post-Benedict XVI

The Weapons Against Evil

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry…” It was at the moment when the Lord was hungry due to fasting that the devil decided to approach and tempt him. Perhaps, he thought that the hunger would make the Lord physically weak and so, it would be easier for him to fall into temptation. However, the devil was badly mistaken. He misunderstood the dynamics between flesh and spirit which are opposed to each other. The flesh struggles against the spirit and the spirit struggles against the flesh. That is why, the weaker the flesh is, the stronger the spirit and the stronger the flesh, the weaker the spirit. It was easy to tempt Adam and Eve. After all, they were in the midst of so much comfort in the garden of Eden. Their bodies were pampered. There was so much food to eat. The will of the soul weakens when the body is very comfortable. But the Lord was in the desert and he ate nothing for 40 days. He deliberately ate nothing…is that not training in self-mastery? He could eat but he did not – and the Lord sustained this resolution for 40 days. The devil should have seen it as a sign of a very firm and resolute will. It was a will that would withstand temptations.

It would not come as a surprise that the Lord would triumph. It is not just because he is God, but his human will was firm and resolute to do the Father’s will. He has so decided to be concerned with his Father’s affairs, as he declared in the temple when he was but a boy of 12. The firmness of his will is the manifestation of self-mastery. And means to this were prayer and fasting. “Why is there so much evil in the world today? Because people have thrown away their most reliable weapon, the all-victorious weapon with which every evil, every sin, and every demon are assuredly vanquished on all battlefields. And this weapon is fasting and prayer.” (St. Justin Popovich) The Lord went into the desert to fight the devil. And he came with his weapons: the Holy Spirit, prayer, and fasting. Against such weapons, the devil did not stand a chance.

And true enough, we know why we are constantly defeated in the spiritual warfare: we have been feasting and playing instead of fasting and praying! Feasting and playing around make us vulnerable targets of the devil. He dangles before us bread, power and glory. And we easily fall for these temptations. Not setting our hearts on higher and sublime things, we settle for bread that does not satisfy, power that flees, and glory that fades. We easily forget that we are meant for greater things to which the Holy Spirit dwelling is us testifies.
We should strive to win the spiritual battle for we are soldiers of Christ. And in this struggle against sin, the first battlefield is found in ourselves. We must master ourselves. We must dominate ourselves by learning to say “no” to what we want. And the weapons we need are but within our reach: “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart – that is, the word of faith…” Prayer and fasting are means offered to us. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. Let us arise in battle, for “no one who puts his belief in him will be put to shame.”

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

ZENIT - Study: Children of Divorce Less Likely to Practice Religion

With the issue of divorce being debated on in Catholic Philippines, this article on the effect of divorce on the children's faith is worth our consideration. When divorce is legalized in the Philippines, we run the great risk of the considerable waning of the faith among our young people. I find it striking that the report says " the most important influence on young people in terms of their faith is the practice of religion by their parents." 

Also, "some interpreted their parent’s divorce as damaging their core spiritual values. They are also more likely to identify themselves as spiritual but not religious." We should really study the impact of divorce on the children before getting into it. The damage it causes is irreparable!

ZENIT - Study: Children of Divorce Less Likely to Practice Religion

Standing in the side of the Sign of Contradiction

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Familiarity breeds contempt. Perhaps this is the best explanation that can be given about the rejection which the Lord received from his neighbors in Nazareth. That his neighbors were impressed by his preaching was without any doubt. But they could not reconcile the fact that this amazing preaching came from the mouth of someone they thought they knew so well: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” In fact, this remark betrays their ignorance of the Jesus they thought they knew all so well. The truth is, Jesus is not son of Joseph for he was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Son of the Living God. He is the one in whom the Father in heaven is well pleased. However, this truth lay hidden to them – yes, in spite of the fact that they had witnessed Jesus growing from being a boy into a man. This is the consequence of Christ’s kenosis: his self-emptying. The incarnation hid his Divinity. Jesus’ Divine nature was cloaked by his humanity. This humanity of God the Son is, in fact, a scandal. When the men of the synagogue were filled with fury and rose to drive him out of the town, the words of aged Simeon came to pass: “This child is a sign that will be contradicted by many.” He is destined to be the rise and the fall of many in Israel. The rise and fall of humanity will depend on their response to the Son of God come in the flesh. “He who believes will be saved. He who will not believe will be condemned.”

Until this very day, Jesus continues to be a sign contradicted by many. He continues to infuriate many people by his teachings. He continues to divide families: two against three and three against two. This is so because he is the unbendable Truth: either you are for him or against him. The Truth that he is makes him “a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land; against kings and princes…” against false intellectuals and even powerful politicians. They will fight against him, and fiercely they really do…but they will not prevail against him. For the Truth is still the Truth even if no one believes in it…in the same way, a lie will always be a lie, even if the whole world agrees with it.

Today, powerful men bend Christ’s Truth and then disguise what they do as the way of righteousness. The political concept of “daang matuwid” is nauseating. How could contraception be righteous when in fact, it is intrinsically evil? How could divorce be righteous when in fact, it is a blatant affront to the sanctity of marriage? Where is righteousness in the use of bribery and intimidation to get a priority bill passed? And these people in power think that they can trample upon the rights of Christ with impunity. But they are badly mistaken. They will not prevail against him. Thus, we should always see to it that we be found always in the side of Christ, even if this means taking the unpopular stand. Our time is the best time to take sides with Christ. Dare to swim against the tide. Be a prophet and walk against the flow. Always look at Jesus. While the crowd rose and led him to the brow of the hill to hurl him down, Jesus passed through their midst and walked away. Dare to be different. Walk against the crowd. Walk with Jesus.

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee! 

Ash Wednesday, Temperance and Self-Mastery

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

We were all shocked by the news that last Monday, the Holy Father declared his intention to renounce his ministry as Successor of St. Peter to take effect at 8:00 pm of February 28, 2013. He cited advancement in age and poor health as reason for his retirement and so he will spend his days in prayer in a monastery in Rome. The world will definitely not understand what the Holy Father just did. After all, we live in a time when people in power hold on to what they have as long as they could. Isn’t this a reality about the political dynasties in our country? Also just think of the Arab nations that were under fire last year because of the refusal of their leaders to step down from power. And who could be more powerful than the Pope? No one is able to wield power over a billion Catholics except the Bishop of Rome. And this Pope did what many leaders would not do…to give up power in favor of a life of silence and prayer. This is an incomparable Lenten sacrifice. While we give up meals of meat today…the Pope gives up the much coveted Papal authority for the sake of silence and prayer.

Ash Wednesday, which ushers in the Lenten season, reminds us of giving up not what is superfluous but what is essential. We are encouraged by the Church to eat less, pray more and love without limits during this Lenten Season. This is really an exercise in self-mastery. We have seen in yesterday’s liturgy that God commanded Adam and Eve to have dominion over all creation. And yet, we know that eventually, they fall into sin because they have not exercised dominion over their own selves. Wanting to have more than what is allowed, our first parents lost everything: their communion with God, paradise, and even their own dignity. All was lost because they did not master themselves.

How should we understand prayer, fasting, and almsgiving? I would like to propose that we look at these spiritual exercises as part of an “apprenticeship to self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraints. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.” (CCC. 2339) Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving are means used by those who wish to remain faithful to their baptismal promises and resist temptations. These ascetic practices help develop in us the virtue of temperance, “which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason.” All the social ills of our times, be it the ecological imbalance, or political dynasties, or poverty, or even sexual promiscuity, are manifestations of our lack of temperance. We do not know how to say “no” to ourselves. Constantly giving in to what we want, we become slaves of our passions and appetites. Lent offers us the opportunity to grow in self-mastery. I want to eat but I choose to fast. I want to spend time leisurely but I choose to pray. I want to shop but I choose to give alms. If only we acquired the virtue of temperance, we would become truly more human, and eventually, be more of what we should be: image and likeness of God. Eat less. Pray more. Love without limits.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!