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Two Eyes & a Smile, Innocence & Goodness

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Photo credit: Salt + Light


Remembering Cardinal Loris Capovilla & the Saint he served so well…

St. John XXIII’s personal secretary, Cardinal Loris Capovilla died Thursday at the age of 100. It is not possible to speak of him without speaking of Pope John XIII, and to speak of them both is to speak of the Second Vatican Council. Shortly after the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II two years ago, Sebastian Gomes and I had the great privilege of spending a day in Sotto il Monte and visiting with Cardinal Capovilla. I shall never forget our lively conversation that day, as well as the day I spent last year after the October 2014 Synod of Bishops at the Vatican when I returned to Sotto il Monte to film a long interview with the Cardinal who was then 99 and still going strong.

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Photo credit: Salt + Light

During our first visit with the Cardinal in 2014, he shared with us his memories of the Second Vatican Council and where the whole idea started. A few weeks after the conclave which elected Cardinal Angelo Roncalli as Pope in 1958, Pope John XXIII called his faithful young secretary, Monsignor Capovilla, to his office in the Apostolic Palace. The Pope told him, “My desk is piling up with problems: with questions, requests, hopes. What is really necessary is a Council.”

“I kept quiet,” said Capovilla.

The Pope responded, “I have asked myself why my secretary, when I confide in him says nothing! But I know why,” he continued, “You think I’m old. You worry! You mean well, but you think I’ll make a mess out of this enormous task; that I don’t have time! Because you think like a commander, like a bank director! But that’s not the way you reason with faith. To receive a great inspiration, and regard it with admiration, and imagine your pleasure in it, is already of great merit. If God allows one to carry on with collaborators, who encourage one to move ahead, even better! And if one begins only with the first preparatory commission, that is of great merit. If one dies, another will come. It is a great honor just to begin!”

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Photo credit: CNS

Cardinal Loris continued to tell us story after story about the behind the scenes activities that led to the opening of the historic Council on October 11, 1962. The time spent with this holy, little man has left a deep and lasting impression on me, on Sebastian, and on some friends who were with us.

Capovilla also spoke with much emotion about the death of the ailing pontiff on June 3, 1963, only a few months after the Council began. On that warm, Roman June evening, only a few people were gathered around the Pope’s death bed in the Papal apartment. Capovilla told us: “I said to him, Holy Father there are only a few of us here in this room, but if you were to look out of your window onto the piazza you would see crowds of people. I thought he’d reply in his usual reserved manner, but instead he responded: “naturally that’s the way it should be because the Pope is dying, I love them, they love me.”

Cardinal Capovilla also told us the story of when he was kneeling at the bedside of the dying Pope. The Pope called him over and whispered, “When this is all over, be sure and go see your mother.”

To the end, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was a human being, more concerned with his faithfulness than his image, more concerned with those around him than with his own desires.

Pope John’s personal secretary has often highlighted how rather than cultivate nostalgia, Papa Giovanni, the new saint proclaimed by Pope Francis, look towards the future. Capovilla told me last year in our final meeting and interview:

“We are not custodians of a shrine, a reliquary or a museum. As Pope John himself said we are called to cultivate a garden where the seed of the Word, of the Word Incarnate is set in an effort to foster the Advent of a New Pentecost, a new Easter, a new Spring. Not just for our personal happiness but for the happiness of all of humanity. It’s a long journey, we are far from our final destination, one that is not there merely to safeguard but to share with the people of the world”.

St. John XXIII has gone down in history as the ordinary man who astonished the world, by launching the Catholic Church into one of its most momentous epochs by calling the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. With an infectious warmth and vision, John stressed the relevance of the church in a rapidly changing society and made the church’s deepest truths stand out in the modern world. But according to Cardinal Capovilla, his faithful and loyal secretary and friend, to describe Pope John all that one need to say is: “Two eyes and a smile, innocence and goodness”.

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Photo credit: Archives in Sotto il Monte

Cardinal Capovilla also had high praise for Pope Francis, who created him a cardinal in February 2014. Speaking to me last year about Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Cardinal Capovilla reiterated to us how much the Gospel is the good news. But he also stressed this point to us: “What is this good news? It’s that I am a son of God and God does not abandon me. It’s wonderful to hear Pope Francis say almost every day that God does not reject anyone but accepts everyone”.

Now that Loris is united with his former boss and friend, John, may the two of them intercede for us and help us to keep alive the spirit and messages of the Second Vatican Council, and may they teach us to never forget that if we wish to change the world and the Church, what is required above is a smile, innocence and goodness.

Cardinal Capovilla’s funeral will take place on Monday morning, May 30 in the parish church of Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo.  He will be laid to rest in the cemetery of the ancient Abbey of Fontanella of Sotto il Monte, close to his priest friend Fr. David Maria Turoldo.

Loris and St. John, pray for us!

Being an “expert in humanity”… is for everyone!

Subject Matters: “Experts in Humanity: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Healing”
by Josephine Lombardi, PhD
Sunday, May 29 at 8:30pmET / 5:30pm PT

This Sunday’s all-new episode of Subject Matters features a wonderful book that brings together Catholic spirituality and contemporary biology and psychology.  Theologian Josephine Lombardi takes us on a spiritual journey towards being our best selves in “Experts in Humanity: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Healing.”  Ahead of Sunday’s premiere, check out “My Take” on Professor Lombardi’s book and tune in Sunday night!

Your future depends on you knowing God and knowing yourself. This will bring you healing, and your own story of healing will inspire others to know God and to know themselves.
Experts in Humanity, p.127

 

Pope Francis’ Homily for Corpus Christi

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On Thursday, May 26, 2016, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Below, find the full text of his homily:

« Do this in remembrance of me » (1 Cor 11 :24-25).

Twice the Apostle Paul, writing to the community in Corinth, recalls this command of Jesus
in his account of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.

“Do this”. That is, take bread, give thanks and break it; take the chalice, give thanks, and
share it. Jesus gives the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the “doing” of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.

“Do this”. Jesus on a previous occasion asked his disciples to “do” what was so clear to
him, in obedience to the will of the Father. In the Gospel passage that we have just heard, Jesus
says to the disciples in front of the tired and hungry crowds: “Give them something to eat
yourselves” (Lk 9:13). Indeed, it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish. Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had. And there is another gesture: the pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people. This too is the disciples “doing” with Jesus; with him they are able to “give them something to eat”. Clearly this miracle was not intended merely to satisfy hunger for a day, but rather it signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood (cf. Jn 6:48-58). And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.

Breaking: this is the other word explaining the meaning of those words: “Do this in
remembrance of me”. Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to
break ourselves, as it were, for others. This “breaking bread” became the icon, the sign for
recognizing Christ and Christians. We think of Emmaus: they knew him “in the breaking of the
bread” (Lk 24:35). We recall the first community of Jerusalem: “They held steadfastly… to the
breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the centre
and pattern of the life of the Church. But we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous –
who have “broken” themselves, their own life, in order to “give something to eat” to their brothers and sisters. How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well! How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated! Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: “Do this in remembrance of me”.

May this action of the Eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to
Jesus’ command. An action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.


CNS photo/Paul Haring

Christ at the Heart of the Family: Chapter Three of Amoris Laetitia

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Reflecting on the Third Chapter of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family

Jesus Christ is at the heart of the family. Only in the light of his love can the love of the family be fully illuminated. This is the message of Pope Francis in the third chapter of Amoris Laetitia. He uses the chapter to “summarize the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family.” Beginning with “the gaze of Jesus,” Pope Francis calls the Church to see and follow the way of the Lord, who “looked upon the women and men whom he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps in truth, patience and mercy as he proclaimed the demands of the Kingdom of God” (Amoris Laetitia, 60).

Jesus in Marriage and the Family

Jesus is the key to understanding family life because, “The mystery of the Christian family can be fully understood only in the light of the Father’s infinite love revealed in Christ, who gave himself up for our sake and who continues to dwell in our midst” (59). From this Christ-centered perspective, the Pope examines the beauty of married life and the family that is born of its fruitfulness. In the person of Jesus Christ, God has entered the human reality and human drama. Human love and divine love have met like never before. God descends to transform human love and enables it to reach divine heights. God has taken on flesh. Love itself has become incarnate. We thus realize that, “The sacrament of marriage flows from the incarnation and the paschal mystery, whereby God showed the fullness of his love for humanity by becoming one of us. Neither of the spouses will be alone in facing whatever challenges may come their way” (74). For in the midst of Christian marriage God is always present, strengthening the love of each spouse for one another by the power of His love for each of them.

Because of God’s grace at work in the sacrament of marriage, the sexual union of man and woman becomes a path of sanctity for the spouses (74). This is because through the sacrament, Christ sanctifies the loving union of woman and man. “Only in contemplating Christ does a person come to know the deepest truth about human relationships. ‘Only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light…’” (77). Christian marriage thus consists of “mutual support on the path towards complete friendship with the Lord” (77).

The Approach of the Pastor

In the midst of this beautifully Christocentric vision, Pope Francis remains ever aware of the “imperfect” realities of modern families and marriages, Christian and non-Christian alike. Since “the light of Christ enlightens every person,” the Pope stresses that “seeing things with the eyes of Christ” means not only caring for those in good, happy, healthy family situations, but is also the basis of the Church’s pastoral care for those “who are living together, or are only married civilly, or are divorced and remarried” (78). In their pastoral care of those in “difficult situations and wounded families,” Pope Francis tells priests and bishops that “while clearly stating the Church’s teachings,” they are to “avoid judgments that do not take into account the complexity of various situations.” Moreover, pastors are “to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition” (79).

Pastors are not to be turned off by the smell of their sheep! Rather, they are to care for their lambs as they are, seeking especially those most lost and in danger. To help them in this effort, Pope Francis reasserts the principle that Saint John Paul II outlined by in Familiaris Consortio: “Pastors must know that, for the sake of the truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations” (79; cf. FC 84). The typically Ignatian principle of discernment thus emerges as a key to Francis’ pastoral approach to the family.

The Unity of Life and Love

The Holy Father likewise addresses the questions of life that arise from love in the family, specifically contraception and artificial means of procreation. Affirming that “sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman,” the Pope underlines the reality that this conjugal union is ordered “by its very nature” to procreation (80). “The child who is born ‘does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving as its fruit and fulfilment’” (80). Here the Pope beautifully states that, “From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself” (80). Pope Francis concludes that the sexual embrace of husband and wife must always remain open to the possibility of life, “even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life” (80).

Accordingly, new life finds its proper birthplace in the context of love between a man and a woman. “A child deserves to be born of that love, and not by any other means, for ‘he or she is not something owed to one, but is a gift,’ which is ‘the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of the parents” through which “man and woman share in the work of [God’s] creation” (81). Closedness to life robs the sexual union of its profound meaning. Removing the origin of life from the cradle of human love estranges it from its truest identity. The love of man and woman is meant to mirror the love of God, which is never closed in on itself, but springs forth from its very heart the beauty of new life.

In this way, love – and especially love between a man and woman – can be compared to water that overflows from a cup. The very nature of love is to overflow. If it ceases to overflow, no matter how much water is in the cup, the water will stagnate and gradually evaporate, and the cup will become dry. It no longer teems with fresh, life-giving water that flows outward beyond itself. So it is even in the spiritual life: God’s love is poured into us in order to flow out of us.

God has intended the married couple to be a fount where love overflows and gives life. God Himself is the Source of this love and the Giver of the life that flows from it. With Jesus Christ, Love incarnate, at its centre, the family is the place where, despite many difficulties, love and life overflow in abundance.

(Image: CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Sacrament of Nonviolence Makes Martyrs for the Truth

Fr Jerzy cropped

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Four Gospels tell the wonder-filled story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes that has been situated geographically at Tabgha, the place of the seven springs on the Northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Today’s Gospel looks back to the rich theology and spirituality of Israel, and also forward to contemplate the idea of life in God’s kingdom as a banquet at which the Messiah, himself, will preside.

Mark’s readers saw this incident as an anticipation of the Last Supper (14:22) and the messianic banquet, both of which were celebrated in the community’s Eucharists. Matthew’s addition of the number of people present and fed is very important, because the total figure could well have come to 20,000 or 30,000 people. Since the total Jewish population of Palestine at the time of Jesus is estimated at half a million, Jesus is presented as feeding a tenth of the population. This gives the feeding stories a social character, which makes them different from healing stories or the accounts in the other Gospels.

Luke, of all the evangelists, immediately links this feeding account with Jesus’ prediction of his passion and his instructions about bearing one’s cross daily (9:18-27). To celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Jesus (22:19) is to share not only his mission (9:1-6) but also his dedication and destiny, symbolized by the cross (9:18-27). The Eucharist is intended to nourish and strengthen us for continuing faithfully in our way of life.

Feeding the new Israel

Let us situate today’s Gospel passage (Luke 9:11-17) in Luke’s Gospel. Chapter 9 begins with the mission of the 12: they are sent to proclaim the kingdom, to have power over demons, to bring the good news to the people, and to cure their diseases. Jesus gives his disciples who have just returned from preaching and curing God’s people, a new charge: they are to feed reconstituted Israel with the Eucharist.

Luke teaches us two important lessons in today’s Gospel. First Jesus welcomes this vast crowd of common folk, even though “the Twelve” wanted to send them away. Luke’s use of ” the Twelve” to indicate a special group of disciples, is a reflection of the significance of that number in the traditions among the people of Israel. In particular, it recalls the twelve tribes of Israel. By using the term “Twelve,” Luke indicates that being chosen to serve in a particular way is not an excuse for distancing oneself from the crowd, the common people. On the contrary, the Twelve, like Jesus, must be welcoming.

Second, Jesus teaches that the disciples are to share whatever they have. In the sharing there will be more than enough. Logic and human reason say, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish.”  But Jesus asks that these meager provisions, as well as the generosity of the disciples, be stretched to their limits. Of all the evangelists, Luke stresses the fact that salvation reaches into the practical realities of human life.

The Sacrament of Nonviolence

The Eucharist sums up all the teaching, passion and death of Jesus, and his nonviolent way must be at the heart of the Eucharist. Luke’s passion narrative is about the Lamb, who goes to his death rejecting violence, loving enemies, returning good for evil, praying for his persecutors. The Eucharist, therefore, is truly the sacrament of nonviolence. The way of Jesus to conquer evil and violence must be the Christian way: the way of nonviolence, of love and forgiveness. The nonviolent way of Jesus is historically at the heart of his teaching, and at the same time at the heart of his passion and death.

Man of the Eucharist and Martyr for the Truth

We see this how this Eucharistic reality was lived out in the life of a young Polish priest, Father Jerzy Popieluszko (1947-1984) who was beatified as a martyr on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 6, 2010, in Warsaw’s Pilsudski Square. I wish to tell you a little about this remarkable priest who has been a hero and role model to me for the past many years.

Jerzy Popieluszko was born on Sept. 14, 1947, in the village of Okopy in Eastern Poland. He was from a strong Roman Catholic family. After secondary school, Jerzy entered the seminary in Warsaw, rather than the local seminary in Bialystok. His training was interrupted by two years of military service, during which he was beaten several times for living his Christian faith.

After ordination, the young priest, who never enjoyed good health, held several appointments before his final appointment to the parish of St. Stanislas Kostka in Warsaw. He worked part-time in the parish, which enabled him to work as well with medical personnel. As a result of his close work with health care personnel, he was asked to organize the medical teams during Pope John Paul II’s visits to Poland in 1979 and Warsaw in 1983.

August 1980 saw the beginning of the Solidarity trade union in Poland. Workers from the Warsaw steel plant, who were on strike in support of the shipyards on the Baltic Sea, requested a priest to say Mass for them. The lot fell to Father Jerzy. He stayed with the workers night and day. Solidarity represented for him a vision that he had first learned from St. Maximilian Kolbe: that of spiritual freedom amidst physical enslavement. It was this vision of the truth about the vocation of every man and woman, which Father Jerzy promoted amongst the workers by his presence.

On Dec. 13, 1981, the communist authorities imposed martial law, arresting many Solidarity activists and launching a program of harassment and retaliation against others. Many who had been on strike lost their jobs, and so their ability to support their families; others were beaten up on the streets and left for dead. Father Popieluszko became an important focus in a welfare program to support families affected by martial law.

He regularly attended the trials of Solidarity activists, sitting prominently in court with their families so that the prisoners could see that they were not forgotten. It was in the courtroom that he had the idea for a monthly Mass for the country, to be celebrated for all the imprisoned and their families. It was not a political demonstration — Father Popieluszko specifically asked his congregation not to display banners or chant slogans. His Masses for the Fatherland became well known not only in Warsaw, but throughout Poland, often attracting 15,000 to 20,000 people. Father Popieluszko insisted that change should be brought about peacefully; the sign of peace was one of the most poignant moments of each Mass for the country.

Father Popieluszko was neither a social nor a political activist, but a Catholic priest faithful to the Gospel. He wasn’t a forceful speaker, but someone of deep conviction and integrity. His sanctity lay in fundamental righteousness that gave people hope even in horrendous situations. He knew that all totalitarian systems are based on terror and intimidation. The Communists saw him as an enemy because he freed people from fear of the system. He exposed the hypocrisy of the Communist regime and he taught believers how to confront totalitarianism. How often Jerzy made St. Paul’s words his own in his preaching: ” Fight evil with good.”

On Oct. 19, 1984, the young priest was kidnapped by security agents on his way back to Warsaw after a visit to a parish in the neighboring town of Bydgoszcz. He was savagely beaten until he lost consciousness, and his body was tied up in such a way that he would strangle himself by moving. His weighted body was then thrown into a deep reservoir. His killers carried out their task with unprecedented brutality, which shows their hatred of the faith that the priest embodied. Jerzy’s driver, who managed to escape, told what had happened to the press. On Oct. 30, Popieluszko’s bound and gagged body was found in the freezing waters of a reservoir near Wloclawek. Fr. Jerzy’s brutal murder was widely believed to have hastened the collapse of communist rule in Poland.

Father Jerzy’s funeral was a massive public demonstration with over 400,000 people in attendance. Official delegations of Solidarity appeared from throughout the whole country for the first time since the imposition of martial law. He was buried in the front yard of his parish church of St. Stanislaw Kostka, and since that day, 17 million have visited his tomb.

Over the past 20 years, I have been privileged to pray several times at his grave in the Warsaw working suburb, and to witness the extraordinary effect that this young priest has had on so many young people. He promoted respect for human rights, for the rights of workers and the dignity of persons, all in the light of the Gospel. He practiced, for Poland and for the whole world, the virtues of courage, of fidelity to God, to the cross of Christ and the Gospel, love of God and of the homeland. He represented patriotism in the Christian sense, as a cultural and social virtue. He was deeply devoted to the Eucharist. More than 80 streets and squares in Poland have been named after Father Jerzy. Hundreds of statues and memorial plaques have been unveiled to him; some 18,000 schools, charities, youth groups and discussion clubs have been named after him.

Because the murdered priest is being proclaimed a martyr for hatred of the faith, Popieluszko’s beatification process did not require evidence of a miracle. The formal verification of a miracle is not necessary, even though many have been reported. His beatification is an example for priests, in the light of his total fidelity to Christ. Father Jerzy provides a model for us, calling us to strive that what we say and do outwardly should always agree with our inward conscience.

Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, Man of the Eucharist, Martyr for the Truth, your life was broken and shared with the multitudes. The blood of your martyrdom has become the seed of faith for your homeland and for the Church. You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek (Psalm 110). Pray for us.

[The readings for Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ are: Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17]

Deacon-structing Ordination | Part 1

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In light of the fact that last week everyone became aware that the early Church had women in the role of deacons or deaconesses (or both, we’re not sure what exactly these roles were), I have begun to deaconstructing the diaconate. But before, let’s take a little detour and look at Ordination.

It seems appropriate that as we are delving into this topic of Holy Orders, it’s the time of the year when many men are being ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood. Perhaps we should begin by keeping them in our prayers.

Today I’d like to focus on some of the basics (very basic, so I apologize if it seems simplistic) of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and it’s good to be reminded at first, that we are not just talking about priests. There are three Orders: bishops, priests and deacons. This goes back to the Acts of the Apostles.

When Jesus sent his 12 apostles to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:16-20), they took him seriously (we wouldn’t be in the Church today if it wasn’t for that): They went and made disciples everywhere. As groups of people became Christian, churches were created and elders were put in place (often with the laying on of hands) to shepherd these churches since the Apostles couldn’t be everywhere. As these churches grew in size and in region, the apostles began appointing a supervisor of the elders. This person was usually appointed by one of the apostles (again with the laying on of hands) when they visited the various churches. The supervisor was called the Episkopos which means overseer, in Greek. (We know that St. Paul writes to Timothy and Titus. They were both “overseers”.)

The episkopoi, or overseers, became what today we call bishops. As the churches continued to grow the overseers also couldn’t be everywhere and they had priests representing them in various churches (in fact, some historians will say that these original Episcopal representatives were deacons).

The word priest comes from the Greek word Presbyteroi, which was the word used for elder. (The word in Latin is sacerdos.)

There were also other ordained ministers known as diakonoi. They existed even before there were elders.

The word diakonoi literally means server (as in the ones who served the food). The appointment (ordination) of the first deacons appears in Acts 6:1-6. These seven men were ordained to beg for food for the Greek-speaking Jewish widows, who in those days, they were the most marginalised group, because the Apostles didn’t have time to do that work. Two famous Acts of the Apostles deacons are Philip and Stephen.

Deacons originally had a very specific function in the Church, which was separate from the priesthood, serving the most marginalised. As things evolved, slowly the diaconate disappeared as a separate ministry and became merely a step toward the priesthood (which is why today, all priests are first ordained to the transitional diaconate. This is very, very basic, but we will look at the history of the diaconate later in this series.) The permanent diaconate as it existed in the first couple of centuries was renewed by the Second Vatican Council and so now many dioceses have married men (like me) who are ordained as Permanent Deacons. (Note: the diaconate was renewed not because there was shortage of priests, but because there was a shortage of deacons. The Church needs both priests and deacons!)

In the first centuries, in addition to bishops, presbyters and deacons (major orders), there were also other ministers in the Church who were not ordained. We call them “minor orders”.

These included:
• Subdeacons, who helped the deacons with their duties
• Exorcists, who assisted at rituals of initiation and repentance
• Lectors, who read the scriptures during worship
• Porters, who had janitorial and guard duties and
• Acolytes, who accompanied the bishops and acted as secretaries and messengers.
(Many of these still exist in the Eastern Churches.)

As priests began to perform many of these functions, these orders also began to disappear as separate from the priesthood. Most have still not been renewed. Although, still today, before ordination to the diaconate, all candidates are installed as Lectors and Acolytes. And we know that all priests are first ordained as deacons (and all bishops are first priests).

This is probably not the best way to approach the subject, because Holy Orders is not about function, but sometimes it’s easier to understand something when we look at the function. (I do hope, as we get deeper into this that you understand Holy Orders not merely as something functional but something theological.)

The reason why the Apostles ordained deacons was so they (the Apostles) could “devote themselves to prayer and to serving the Word.” (Acts 6:4) The deacons then dedicated themselves to the work of charity. In a way, today that is still the case. The priest’s primary function is to administer the Sacraments.

I had a priest once tell me that his job was to bring God to the people and bring the people to God. This is a perfect way to look at it since that is what the Sacraments do. If we go way back to look at where our whole tradition of priesthood originates from, the Old Testament, we’ll see that this is also what the Jewish priests did. They didn’t have Sacraments, but they were mediators between God and the people.

God’s chosen people, the people of Israel was considered a “Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation”, but within the people of Israel God chose one of the twelve tribes, the Tribe of Levi (which was the tribe Moses and Aaron belonged to), and set it apart for liturgical service. God said to Moses: “Consecrate your brother Aaron and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazer and Ithamar, to be priests, to minister to me.” (See Exodus 28:1 and 30:30. For the first ever consecration or ordination of priests, look at Exodus 29)
Part of their job was to take care of the Tabernacle, the Holy place where they kept the Arc of the Covenant, which contained the Tablets of the 10 Commandments. The Tabernacle is where the Holy of Holies was. That is where God was present. The priest’s job was to act on behalf of the people in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. When Jesus came, He became the ultimate Priest, who offered the ultimate Sacrifice. So, we see Aaron’s priesthood as the priesthood of the Old Covenant and Jesus is the Priest and only Priest of the New Covenant. All priests today (and for the last 2000 years) participate in this one Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

But as we said earlier, we’re not just talking about priests: There are three Orders: The bishop represents the fullness of Christ for the Church. The priest shares in the bishop’s office; these two constitute the ministerial priesthood. The deacon is ordained to the ministry of service, not to the priesthood of Christ.

In the past when I’ve deacon-structed Sacraments (and we did this in our show In Your Faith. To understand Sacraments better, check out all our episodes in Season 2 on the seven Sacraments.), I’ve looked at what I call the “metaphysical occurrence” that takes place. With every Sacrament something that is more than physical takes place – every Sacrament effects a change and this change is not just spiritual but also physical; it is metaphysical. For example, with the Eucharist, the bread and wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ; with Marriage, the couple becomes one flesh; in Reconciliation, our sins are wiped clean.

With Holy Orders there is also a metaphysical occurrence that takes place. In simple terms, the ordained person becomes the person of Christ (Persona Christi Capitis), when he administers the Sacraments. But every also Sacrament mirrors how Christ is a Sacrament of God to the Church. In Holy Orders, Christ is ministering to our religious needs. That’s what priests, deacons and bishops do – just as Christ did. And the Sacrament of Holy Orders represents Christ the Servant, and Christ the Sacrifice and Priest.

And if you remember your catechism, a Sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible Grace so every Sacrament confers Grace. In Holy Orders, the ordained minister receives the grace to be a servant, to offer sacrifice and the grace of being the person of Christ.

Next week we’ll go a bit deeper into the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Photo Credit: Pope Francis ordains one of 19 new priests during ordination Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican on April 27, 2015. CNS/Paul Haring


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Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Behind Vatican Walls: New Custodian of the Holy Land

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(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

There is a new Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land. The Order of Friars Minor elected Father Francesco Patton, OFM as the new Custos. He replaces Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa who ended a 12 year term as Custos in April.

Father Patton is 53 years old and comes from the Trent region of Italy. He was ordained a priest in 1983. Since then he completed a licentiate in Social Communication at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome and is enrolled in the order of journalists. He has had a variety of posts within the Franciscan order and with his diocese. Most recently Fr. Patton has been Minister General (superior general) for the St. Anthony Province of the order, which includes all Franciscan Friars in northern Italy.

The Custos of the Holy Land is considered one of the Catholic ordinaries of the Middle East even though he is not ordained a bishop.His mandate lasts six years but can be extended if the Franciscans and the Holy See believe it is necessary. The Custos works with the heads of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian Churches to maintain the status quo.

In regards to the Holy Land “status quo” refers to an agreement ratified in 1852 that lays out the ownership of the various christian sanctuaries and the spaces within them. The agreement also regulates the times and durations of religious functions celebrated in those sanctuaries by the different Christian churches. Any change to the status quo agreement requires the consent of all the churches represented by the agreement.

Given that the ownership of different sanctuaries is often linked to national interests of neighbouring countries, maintaining that status quo can be quite challenging.

New Custos, New Focus, New Story

The appointment of Fr. Patton could also signal a new approach to ministering in the delicate region of the Middle East. Father Patton holds a graduate degree in journalism and social communication while past custodians had extensive backgrounds in scripture and oriental churches.

During a recent visit to the Holy Land, representatives of various church organizations in the region told me one of the biggest challenges they face is telling the story of life in the Holy Land for Christians. The world is well aware of the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq but less so about the challenges faced by Arabs, especially Arab Christians in Israel and Palestine. Various officials told me the information that makes it out to the international community about either overlooks the hardship faced by Arabs, or paints the picture of a menacing threat from which Israel needs to defend itself at all costs. There is little talk of severe water restrictions to Palestine, long waits at checkpoints, a near impossibility of getting permission to go to Jerusalem, or the seizing of land from private Palestinians for the construction of new sections of the Israeli wall. Another official told me tourists believe it is unsafe or not possible to visit Bethlehem. In reality tourism in pretty much the one industry Bethlehem has going for it.

Because of the hardships in the entire region, every year hundreds of Christian families leave the Holy Land. According to the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, if emigration continues at current rates, within 50 years there will be no Christian community in the Holy Land.

Given the need to get the full story of the Holy Land in the public eye and stay on good terms with all the key players on the ground, the appointment of a Custos with a background in Social Communication could signal a shift in approach. While theology, scripture, and historical knowledge are important, in this modern mediatic age, knowing how to shape a message and get it out into the world is just as important.

This week’s episode of Vatican Connections will be available below shortly.


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Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

 

Preview of Subject Matters Ep2 – Perspectives


Tonight on Perspectives: Best-selling authors Tom Corcoran and Fr. Michael White speak about their book series “Rebuilt” and “Rebuilding Your Message” ahead of our Sunday, May 22nd episode of Subject Matters.

Reignite your parish by “Rebuilding Your Message”, on Subject Matters

 

SebBlogSM1Every Catholic knows what life is like in the parish: a faith-filled community that sometimes struggles to share its message, bring about change, or try new things.  A new episode of Subject Matters airing this Sunday tackles the phenomenon of communication in today’s fast-paced world, including what works and what doesn’t.  Rebuilding Your Message: Practical Tools to Strengthen Your Preaching and Teaching is the latest book in a series by best-selling authors Tom Corcoran and Fr. Michael White of Timonium, Maryland.

Based on years of study and practical pastoral experience, Tom and Fr. Michael have compiled a comprehensive list of axioms that can help pastors and parishioners reflect on how they communicate their message, and more importantly, how to improve at it.  Teaching and preaching don’t just happen from the pulpit, say Tom and Fr. Michael, but also in classes and small groups, in bulletins, on the church website and social media, and through volunteers who welcome visitors through its doors.  Stagnation in the parish is not inevitable, they say, if the pastor together with the right parishioners, reflect honestly and think creatively about the core message, and what makes church matter to people today.  Tune in to Subject Matters…

Sunday, May 22nd at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
featuring “Rebuilding Your Message:
Practical Tools to Strengthen Your Preaching and Teaching”

by Tom Corcoran and Fr. Michael White

 

Five Easy Tips to Change the Way you Pray

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Praying every day can seem an ambitious task to undertake. We think it’s a practice better suited to those who have “time” like sisters, religious, priests… or our grandmothers. However, the Church tells us it’s actually meant for everyone because we are all called to holiness.

Holiness is built on a continuous friendship with God. That’s why saints are most known for their intense prayer life. They have come to know the One whom they desire to resemble most. Dom Chautard, a Trappist monk, once said that in order to sanctify the world, we must first sanctify ourselves. According to him, this begins with personal prayer.

I certainly don’t know everything when it comes to prayer – and I know very little about what it means to be a saint! But I wanted to share with you what’s helped me when it came to personal prayer time. This blog is really just the fruit of many conversations with friends or friendly priests, since we all desire to draw closer to Christ and we have all been met, one day or another, with challenges in prayer.

Desire prayer

This probably seems self-explanatory. In order to take time to pray, you sort of have to want it. There must first be a desire to stop what we’re doing, speak to God and listen to Him. The practice is simple and yet it is often the first thing we remove from our busy schedules (mea culpa!) There’s a reason why in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are told that prayer is a “battle”. In order to win that battle, we can turn to the Holy Spirit for he “helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26). We can therefore ask him to give us the desire to pray even before we begin to pray.

Know who it is you encounter in prayer

“Mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us” – Saint Teresa of Avila. Prayer should never be laborious. It should be freely given in the same way we freely make time for our friends. Saint Augustine tells us that Christ is the first to “[seek] us and [ask] us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him”.

Choose a time

This is a big one. It’s easy to say “I will pray when I have time” but there are so many times I missed out on my prayer time because I failed to set aside a specific time in the day for it. A million different excuses arose to keep me from praying. Some people choose to pray at the same time every day, which is something I’ve tried to do myself. Waking up to pray each morning helps me prepare for the day even if it is such a struggle to get out of bed when the alarm goes off. That’s what saint Josemaria Escriva called the heroic minute.

“Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a fixed time, without yielding a single minute to laziness. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day… The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body.”

But let’s be real, some of us are not morning people so praying in the morning might not be for you! Ask yourself, then, if there is a time in the day when you would be the most alert for prayer. Is it in the evening? At lunch time? If you go to Mass regularly, you could arrive a little earlier or stay a little longer to have some alone time with God. If you cannot pray at the same hour every day, you could choose at the beginning of the day when you will do it. I have often been counselled to be consistent with the length of the prayer as well. If it is 10, 15, 30 minutes or more, stay faithful to the hour and the length you have committed to. “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Again, think of it as a meeting set up with a friend!

Choose a place

Finding a good spot to pray is the easy part. Churches and chapels are not the only places where prayer can happen. I have prayed on a bus, on a plane, or even in the middle of the campus cafeteria. Some are lucky enough to find a nice chapel near their place of work or home but we don’t all have this luxury. So we do with what we have, where we are. Perhaps it is sitting on the couch or sitting at your desk in your bedroom or while sipping on a cup of coffee. I’m easily distracted so I try to find the quietest space in my apartment, which isn’t always easy when you live downtown and the windows are wide open in the summertime…

But I know I cannot wait for the perfect conditions before beginning to pray. They will never perfect. Even if there was absolute silence, distractions would surface anyway. What does the time and place you choose for prayer say about your relationship with God? A friend asked me this once and it changed my whole outlook on prayer.

Finding what works for you
And now, where to begin? Here’s a brief “how to”. Sometimes I feel somewhat useless when I first set out to pray. I have to remember that prayer should be simple and that I don’t have to be “useful” in order to have a conversation with God. The only condition required for prayer is to make ourselves available in humility. Even beginning with the Our Father can kickstart the conversation.

“[Jesus] said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:2-4).

The Church offers us thousands of ways to draw nearer to God. There are the Liturgy of the Hours, Scripture and the Sacraments (receiving the Eucharist at Mass or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament), the Rosary, Lectio Divina (divine reading of Scripture), or going through a Living with Christ missal. But we have to be careful not to fill up our time with a list of things to do.

Prayer is a conversation in which there is a time to speak, to listen and to remain in silence. There will be times when nothing happens at all, when prayer seems empty and Scripture doesn’t speak to us, as though God had just disappeared. But Saint Paul tells us to persevere. Our willingness to remain there and be available, no matter what we may “feel” or not, is enough.

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for [us] according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27)


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Emilie Callan is a producer for Sel et Lumiere. Follow her on Twitter!