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Preaching Priests and Christian Superheros

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Noel-BlogWelcome to S+L’s Weekly News Round-Up. As the Director of Marketing and Communications here at S+L, many interesting Catholic news stories and articles come across my desk on a daily basis. Some of them we’ll cover on our different television programs and others I’d like to share with you on this blog.

This blog column is where I’ll point out some of the more interesting news pieces that I’ve come across over the past week! Enjoy!

This week, I have a slew of different topics to share with you. On Saturday, we at S+L TV will be broadcasting live from El Salvador the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Now, we all have a general knowledge of the process of canonization. But there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes before the official declaration of a saint. Check out this short video on the steps of how the Catholic Church declares a saint.

Hallelujah! Actors help future priests amp up sermons. Now, we’ve all been there, that Sunday Mass when the sermon was delivered in a rather monotone manner. And although a dry sermon doesn’t in any way reduce the validity of the Mass, it’s great to hear that Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary has hired two professional actors to put priests-in-training through an acting/public speaking workshop nicknamed ‘Preaching Boot Camp.’ Read all about it here.

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Let’s talk about life in the womb for a second. Again, we all know “conceptually” what happens as a baby grows in the mother’s womb but have you even seen it presented in video? I certainly haven’t until I saw this video! 9 Months in the Womb in 4 Incredible Minutes.

If you are a big TV fan like many, there are two new ‘Catholic’ sitcoms coming out and each are garnering very different reactions. Read about it here on the Crux.

I’ve always been a big comic book and super hero fan since I was a kid. So you can image how amazed and interested I was when I recently came across this article in Relevant Magazine. It’s a definitive ranking of Christian superheroes! Superheros with names like Bibleman, Captain Salvation, Mr. Christian and The Faith Walker are definitely uber cool dudes I’d like to hang out with. Even Captain America himself believes in God:

Read all about these Christian superheroes here.

Have you ever wondered about the physical location of where Jesus was crucified, died and was buried? Today, that place would be the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha), where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried and resurrected. Although it’s on my bucket list to visit one day, it is unfortunately not in the near future. However, for the short term, I’m more than happy to settle for this amazing video tour of the inside of the church and an explanation of the site.

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Finally, after a long and stressful day, there’s nothing better than to kick back at home with a cold drink or two, or three. Here’s an interesting question – is drinking alcohol wrong? What does the Bible say? Read about it here.

Well, that’s it for me this week folks. I’d love to hear you thoughts and comments on these stories. If you have any interesting stories yourself, please feel free to send them to me!

I hope you enjoy these little stories! I certainly have. Till next week!

– Noel

 

Photo: CNS

Leadership Lessons of two Latin American Pastors: Oscar of San Salvador & Jorge of Buenos Aires (& Rome)

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In his message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 1972, Blessed Paul VI wrote: “Convinced as we all are of this irrepressible cry, why do we waste time in giving peace any other foundation than Justice? …Is it just, for example, that there should be entire populations which are not granted free and normal expression of that most jealously guarded right of the human spirit, the religious right? What authority, what ideology, what historical or civil interest can arrogantly claim a right to repress and stifle the religious sentiment in its legitimate human expression?

…The problem is extremely serious and complex; it is not for us to make it worse, or to resolve it on the practical level. …But it is precisely from this place that the invitation we give to celebrate Peace resounds as an invitation to practice Justice: “Justice will bring about Peace” (Cf: Is 32:17). We repeat this today in a more incisive and dynamic formula: “If you want Peace, work for Justice”.

I would like to share with you some thoughts on two Latin American pastors and bishops who understand very well what the above words mean. The first Latin American pastor was an Archbishop – the chief Shepherd of San Salvador – Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Goldamez, born in 1917 in the town of Ciudad Barrios, in the mountains of El Salvador near the border with Honduras. After serving as a country pastor and rector of two seminaries, he became bishop then archbishop at time of great social unrest in his country. His pulpit became a source of truth when the government censored news. Romero walked among the people and listened. “I am a shepherd,” he said, “who, with his people, has begun to learn a beautiful and difficult truth: our Christian faith requires that we submerge ourselves in this world.”

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Through his life and ministry, Archbishop Romero taught us that thinking with the Church meant to be rooted in God, loving and defending the poor, and out of fidelity, paying the price for doing so. He risked his own life as he defended the poor and oppressed. He laid down his life for his friends.

The spirituality and faith behind his struggle for life flowed from his belief in the God of the living who enters into human history to destroy the forces of death and allow the forces of life to heal, reconcile, and lift up those who walk in the valley of death. Romero taught us that poverty and death go together.

Oscar Romero’s life also speaks to us today by virtue of his untiring call for dialogue and negotiation. In a society that was terribly polarized, a society in which the usual way to relate to persons with whom one disagreed was to assassinate them, Romero always tried to open a space for communication, conversation, and understanding. In 1980, Romero brought the opposing sides of the government of El Salvador together for hours of talks, urging that the junta be given another chance. His example of bridge-building can be of particular importance to any nation today where change is often seen as a process of the oppressed taking on the pinstripes of the oppressors.

Oscar Romero’s untiring efforts on behalf of the poor give flesh and blood to the words of Mary’s Magnificat in the New Testament. In making her own the words of Hannah of the Old Testament’s prayer of praise to God, Mary reminds us that “God has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.” But God has not put the lowly up on the thrones of their oppressors! The problem is the thrones themselves that serve as a constant temptation to power, distortion, violence, abuse and manipulation. Romero’s life offers a completely different model of societal transformation. His plea for forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy is of paramount significance. Oscar Romero modeled for us the opposite of what the world models. The world thrives on manipulative, exploitative, competitive power. Romero embodied nutritive and integrative power: power on behalf of the other and a power shared with others.

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Murdered in cold blood by an assassin’s bullet as he celebrated Mass in a hospital on March 24, 1980, his last words in the sermon just minutes before his death reminded his congregation of the parable of the wheat. “Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ, will live like the grain of wheat that dies. It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies…”

Archbishop Romero defended the right of the poor to organize and he was very critical of popular organizations that became overly or one-sidedly political. His wariness of politicization is especially important to us today as many nations, groups and even elements of the Church struggle to move from being narrowly political societies to becoming civil communities and forming a civilization of love.

Oscar Romero testified that the church must be the voice of the voiceless and the incessant defender of life. The church must passionately pursue justice, but without identifying itself with any one particular party or any one particular ideology. This can be a very difficult and challenging struggle, a veritable mine field or high wire balancing act. To walk this tightrope was especially challenging in the El Salvador of the ‘70s, which was so highly politicized that people were often not seen as persons, but instead, were identified only on the basis of their belonging to political parties or organizations. 

Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande, Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Maryknoll Missionaries and the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador were pastors, university professors, teachers and lay missionaries who were brutally murdered because of the questions which they asked about justice and peace; because they sought the truth of very difficult situations of suffering and massive injustice; because they believed dearly in the value of a Catholic, critical education, which put into practice what the best elements of our Church stand for. Each person was disciple, missionary, educator and evangelist and each was killed because the education and evangelization which they shared with their students and flocks touched the enormity of human suffering and pain all around them in El Salvador.

What happened in El Salvador to these men and women and what continues to happen to similar people around the world who are authentic teachers, disciples and witnesses is not so much a barbarous and bizarre anomaly… because authentic Catholic Education, true Evangelization and missionary discipleship must educate and evangelize men and women into the disciplined sensitivity toward the suffering in the world whoever and wherever they may be. This is part of the education and evangelization called for by the Gospel. For without a specific Gospel-rooted effort to bring about such a religious and humane education and evangelization in our educational and pastoral milieus today, we will simply graduate and form people unaware of pain, suffering and the real cost of being Christian and being disciples.

Pope kisses infant during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro

The second is a Jesuit, the former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires – Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now known to us as Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome. As Cardinal Archbishop of Argentina’s capital – a diocese with more than three million inhabitants – Cardinal Bergoglio developed and implemented a pastoral missionary plan based on communion and evangelization. He had four main goals: open and brotherly communities, an informed laity playing a lead role, evangelization efforts addressed to every inhabitant of the city, and assistance to the poor and the sick. He asked priests and lay people to work closely together in the work of evangelization and education of the people. During many years of fruitful pastoral ministry, Cardinal Bergoglio insisted, “Teachers of the faith need to get out of their cave,” and the clergy “out of the sacristy.” He required parish priests to live with their people, and in the same conditions as their people, even in radical simplicity and poverty. Authentic pastors should have the “odor of the sheep” if they are to be effective and credible.

When Cardinal Bergoglio spoke of social justice, he called people first of all to pick up the Catechism and to rediscover the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. His project was and remains very simple: if you follow Christ, you understand that “trampling upon a person’s dignity is a serious sin.”

“My people are poor and I am one of them”, Cardinal Bergoglio said so often, explaining his decision to live in an apartment above a school and cook his own meals. He frequented the Villas Miserias, advised his priests to show mercy and apostolic courage and to keep their doors open to everyone. One year before his election to the See of Peter, the Cardinal wrote a pastoral letter in which he reprimanded his own priests for refusing the Sacrament of Baptism to the children of single mothers.

His life was radically changed two years ago March 13 when “Padre Jorge,” as he was known by so many in Argentina, became Pope Francis. We have all witnessed and been recipients of his Petrine Ministry for the past two years. Since his election as Bishop of Rome, he has captured the mind and heart not only of the Church but also of the world. He has not changed a single doctrine of the Church but has ushered in a way of speaking, a new style of leadership that has shaken the Church and impacted the world.

Pope Francis kisses foot of inmate at Rome prison

Some call him a revolutionary. At the heart of his message is a transformative call to reconciliation and mercy. As leader of the Catholic Church, he asks us to let go of different forms of thinking and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs. He proposes a humble way of committed people who base their lives on Gospel living. For Francis, compassion and mercy can truly change the world. This is the Christian revolution: namely a conversion to the origin of the Gospel message as a way to the future, a true revolution of tenderness and mercy.

Pope Francis’ electrifying homily to the new Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica on February 15, 2015, is one of the most significant addresses that he has given in his two-year pontificate. Centered on “the Gospel of the marginalized,” it provides a road map for Catholic Church leaders and educators. Commenting on Jesus’ cure of the leper in Mark’s Gospel, he said, “Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized!” Jesus responds “immediately” to the leper’s plea “without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences” because “for Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family!”

“This is scandalous to some people! but Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness that does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp.”

Francis finds the contemporary Church at a crossroads: “There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost.” There is “the thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person,” and “the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.”

“These two ways of thinking are present throughout the church’s history: casting off and reinstating,” Francis said. He recalled that Sts. Peter and Paul caused scandal, faced criticism, resistance and even hostility for following the path of reinstatement. Francis, and many of those who have embraced his message and strive to follow his example are also being criticized today for the same things: for not casting off but striving to reinstate those who are on the peripheries for a variety of reasons. …In healing the leper, “Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother.

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The Church of Francis is the Church of Jesus Christ

Francis wants the church to be an instrument of reconciliation and welcome, a church capable of warming hearts, a church that is not bent over on herself but always seeking those on the periphery and those who are lost, a church capable of leading people home.

Pope Francis is neither conservative nor liberal but a radical who wants to bring about a revolution of mercy. In Evangelii Gaudium, he invites and challenges all of us to move beyond our “comfort zones.” He wants us to be warm, welcoming and forgiving. He wants us to eat with tax collectors and sinners; he wants us to forgive the woman caught in adultery (while admonishing her to sin no more); he wants us to welcome and respect foreigners (even our enemies), and, above all, not to judge others. He has spoken simply, powerfully and beautifully about returning to lost unity, a desire to achieve a missing fullness, a disarming invitation to simply come together to witness to the beauty of the love of Christ. He wants to build bridges that everyone can cross. He is especially conscious of the poor and those who have been marginalized, social outcasts kept on the fringes of society.

For Pope Francis, authentic power is service: Power in the Church is not about who kisses one’s hand but how many feet one can wash in the service of Christ. Pope Francis made this clear when he visited a youth detention center on his first Holy Thursday in Rome in 2013 and chose to wash the feet of young offenders, including two young women and two Muslims. He continued that tradition last year by washing the feet of elderly women and men and those with severe handicaps. This year on Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of 12 prisoners at Rome’s Rebibbia prison – incarcerated women and men. If we do not learn this Christian rule, we will never be able to understand Jesus’ true message on power and be effective teachers, educators, pastoral workers, and agents of justice and peace.

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The Christian realism of the “Joy of the Gospel” is beyond reactionary ideology and pie-in-the sky spirituality. A little compassion can move the world, Francis says. That is the Christian revolution at the core of Francis’ Petrine ministry, a conversion to the origin of the Gospel message as a way to the future, a revolution of mercy.

Pope Francis has a passion for the poor, the immigrant, the forgotten, and the “throw-aways.” He is the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first from Latin America; these are the areas of the world where poverty is so great. Francis is inviting us to become witnesses, missionaries and disciples. That is our mission today. It is not new. Francis has brought new urgency, new passion, and I would suggest, new authenticity to this mission.

Francis of Buenos Aires (and Rome) and Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador are disciples, shepherds and missionaries, role models and Gospel witnesses, agents of reconciliation and builders of communities of faith. Francis leads the Church on earth, and Oscar watches over us from the heavenly Jerusalem. Their longing for reconciliation of the human family and their desire for justice and peace compel us to work for justice and peace in our time. Let us learn from the bold examples of these two Latin American pastors.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, is CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada and English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office.

 

S+L to Air Beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero

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On Saturday, May 23, 2015, Salt + Light will air the Beatification Mass for Archbishop Oscar Romero live from El Salvador starting at 12:00pm ET.

The Mass will presided by Cardinal Angelo Amato at Plaza de El Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador, El Salvador. Our broadcast, hosted by Alicia Ambrosio and Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann, will be in both Spanish and English on television, online and also on Roku.

To read more about Bl. Archbishop Oscar Romero, please see below:

The Transformative Leadership of Two Latin American Pastors

Archbishop Oscar Romero: Blessed and Defender of the Poor and Justice

The Mass is Ended – A Reflection on the 34th Anniversary of the Death of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador

Photo: CNS/Roberto Escobar, EPA

Set Free the Gifts of the Spirit

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Solemnity of Pentecost, Year B – Sunday, May 24, 2015

Christian theology of the Holy Spirit is rooted in Judaism. The term Spirit translates the Hebrew word (ruah) and even in the pronunciation of it we detect God’s wind and breath. The wind of God, the breath of God, the presence of God are all ways of referring to God’s presence.

The expression “Holy Spirit” was used only seven times in the Old Testament, whereas the terms “Spirit of God” or “Spirit of the Lord” occurs 67 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the very first line of the book of Genesis 1:1, God’s Spirit was gently hovering over the primordial waters waiting for the opportune moment of drawing order from that chaos.

Jesus, himself, uses the sensory image of the wind in the mysterious, nocturnal conversation with Nicodemus when he talks about the Spirit as the wind that blows where it wills [cf. John 3]. This, then, is the Spirit’s first function in the Scriptures: to be the mysterious presence of God in history, not reducible to human or earthly logic.

The second function of the Spirit in the Old Testament is that of putting things in order. The Genesis creation account [Chapter 1] reveals a descending Spirit upon this formless world and its descent produces the miracle of creation, the transformation of chaos into cosmos, of disorder, into order, of anonymity into community.

The third function of the Spirit in the Old Testament is life-giver. In Genesis 2:7, we read: “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the Spirit, the breath of life and man became a living being. As a result of this divine breath, the human creature is transformed into a living being, no longer to be simply a creature but a partner made in the image and likeness of God, with whom and to whom God speaks and confides responsibility for the world.”

The fourth function of the Holy Spirit is guide. We read in Isaiah 11: “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.” The fear of the Lord is not something that terrorizes people but could be understood as our ability to say “wow,” “awesome” before God’s handiwork and God’s creation.

The fifth function of the Spirit is healer, articulated so powerfully in the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:26-27 — “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.” The Spirit enters, recreates, restores to health and vanquishes sin.

The sixth function of the Holy Spirit is the universal principle. We read in Joel 3:1-2: “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, even upon the men-servants and the maid-servants, in those days I will pour out my spirit.” The day will come when all humanity will be truly possessed by the spirit and that day will coincide with the eagerly awaited Messianic age of which the prophets speak. It was this principle that captivated Jesus’activity and ministry in a remarkable way.

The seventh function of the Holy Spirit takes place on the feast of Pentecost when the disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The coming of the Holy Spirit signals the start of a world-wide mission for Christians beyond their geographic boundaries of Israel, first from Israel to Rome, and then from Rome then to the ends of the earth. It is a mission that overcomes human obstacles and has the Spirit as its driving force.

The Catholic Experience

The Holy Spirit makes the Christian experience truly Catholic and universal, open to all human experience. To be Catholic is to be universal and open to the world. Not only to Canada, North America Europe or Asia, or a certain familiar part of the world or segment of society, but it must be open to all, to every single person. The mind of Christ is not intended to be a selective mentality for a few but the perspective from which the whole world will be renewed and redeemed. An insight like this, the universal scope of salvation did not however come easily and without much pain and confusion.

In fact, the whole of the New Testament can be understood precisely as the emergence of the Catholic, the universal, in Christian life. Christianity, had it not moved from where it was particular and small would have just been a small modification of the Jewish experience, a subset of Jewish piety that was still focused in and around Jerusalem and the restoration of a literal kingdom of Israel. The first two generations of Christians discovered that Christianity could not be just that. Because they had received the Holy Spirit, which is the universal principle, the Holy Spirit opened peoples’ eyes to the universal import of the Christian truth and through the encounter with non-Jews who received the Holy Spirit.

The artists of the Middle Ages often contrasted the Tower of Babel with the “Tower” of the Upper Room. Babel symbolizes the divisions of people caused by sin. Pentecost stands for a hope that such separations are not a tragic necessity. The babbling mob of Babel compares poorly with the heartfelt unity of the Pentecost crowd. Babel was a mob. Pentecost was a community. A people without God lost the ability to communicate. A people suffused with the Spirit spoke heart to heart.

At Pentecost the full meaning of Jesus’life and message is poured into our hearts by the Spirit alive in the community. The New Testament seems to say that – for a fleeting moment – the nations of the earth paused from their customary strife and experienced a community caused by God. The brief and shining hour of Pentecost remains to charm and encourage us to this day.

World Youth Day

One of the finest teachings on the Holy Spirit in recent times took place during the prayer vigil at World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia. The Saturday evening event at the Randwick Racecourse began in darkness, gradually illuminated by torches borne by dancers on the podium, representing the opening to the Holy Spirit.

“Tonight we focus our attention on how to become witnesses,” Benedict XVI told the young people in his address. “You are already well aware that our Christian witness is offered to a world which in many ways is fragile. The unity of God’s creation is weakened by wounds that run particularly deep when social relations break apart, or when the human spirit is all but crushed through the exploitation and abuse of persons. Indeed, society today is being fragmented by a way of thinking that is inherently shortsighted, because it disregards the full horizon of truth, the truth about God and about us. By its nature, relativism fails to see the whole picture. It ignores the very principles which enable us to live and flourish in unity, order and harmony.”

Yet, the Pope went on, “such attempts to construct unity in fact undermine it. To separate the Holy Spirit from Christ present in the Church’s institutional structure would compromise the unity of the Christian community, which is precisely the Spirit’s gift! […] Unfortunately the temptation to ‘go it alone’ persists. Some today portray their local community as somehow separate from the so-called institutional Church, by speaking of the former as flexible and open to the Spirit and the latter as rigid and devoid of the Spirit.”

“Let us invoke the Holy Spirit: He is the artisan of God’s works,” the Pope concluded. “Let His gifts shape you! Just as the Church travels the same journey with all humanity, so too you are called to exercise the Spirit’s gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life. Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sport, music and art. Let it be sustained by prayer and nurtured by the Sacraments. […] In the end, life is not about accumulation. It is much more than success. To be truly alive is to be transformed from within, open to the energy of God’s love. In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities and nations. Set free the gifts! Let wisdom, courage, awe and reverence be the marks of greatness!”

Come Holy Spirit!

We read in the gospels “the one whom the Father will send will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has said to us” [John 14:26]. This act of reminding and recalling is stated very clearly in the Catechism of The Catholic Church [No. 1099]: “The Holy Spirit is the Church’s living memory.”  On this great feast and birth of the Church, let us pray for the gift of memory, and for the courage to move from the empowering mystery of the Upper Room to the reality of daily life.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
And kindle in us the fire of your Love!

Lord, send us your Spirit,
And renew the face of the earth…
The face of our Church, the face of our communities,
Our own faces, our own hearts. Amen.

[The readings for the solemnity of Pentecost are: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Galatians 5:16-25; and John 20:19-23 or John 15:26-27; 16:12-15]

(Image: “Pentecost” by Jean Restout)

Pope Francis’ Regina Coeli Address: Appeal for Peace in Burundi

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Pope Francis appealed on Sunday (May 17th) for an end to the violence in Burundi and urged its people to act responsibly for the good of the nation. Burundi saw an attempted coup earlier this week and has been the scene of violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the president. The Pope’s appeal for peace in Burundi came during his address just before the recitation of the traditional Easter Marian prayer, the Regina Coeli. Below, please find Vatican Radio’s translation of Pope Francis’ remarks ahead of the Regina Coeli:

Dear brothers and sisters,

At the end of this celebration, I want to greet all of you who have come to pay homage to the new Saints, in a particular way the official Delegations from Palestine, France, Italy, Israel, and Jordan. I greet with affection the Cardinals, Bishops, priests, as well as the spiritual daughters of the four Saints. Through their intercession, may the Lord grant a new missionary impulse to their respective countries. Inspired by their example of mercy, charity, and reconciliation, may the Christians of these lands look to the future with hope, continuing in the journey of solidarity and fraternal coexistence.

I extend my greetings to the families, the parish groups, the associations, and the schools present, especially to those being confirmed from the Archdiocese of Genoa. I address a special though to the faithful of the Czech Republic, gathered in the sanctuary of Svatý Kope?ek, near Olomouc, who today are remembering the twentieth anniversary of the visit of Saint John Paul II.

Yesterday, in Venice was the beatification of the priest Luigi Caburlotto, pastor, educator, and founder of the Daughters of Saint Joseph. Let us give thanks to God for this exemplary pastor, who led an intense spiritual and apostolic life, totally dedicated to the good of souls.

I wish to invite all you to pray for the beloved people of Burundi which is living through a delicate moment: May the Lord help all people to flee the violence and to act responsibly for the good of the nation. With filial love let us turn now to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, Queen of the Saints, and model of all Christians:

Regina coeli…

Homily of Pope Francis at the Mass of Canonization of 4 New Saints – May 17, 2015

Palestinian Saints 2015

Pope Francis canonized four women religious on Sunday, all 19th century nuns who worked in education. St. Marie-Alphonsine and St. Mary of Jesus Crucified were from the territory that made up historical Palestine; St. Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve was a French nun and foundress; and St. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception came from Italy. Below, please find the full English translation of Pope Francis’ homily for Holy Mass for the VII Sunday of Easter with the Rite of Canonization:

The Acts of the Apostles have set before us the early Church as she elects the man whom God called to take the place of Judas in the college of the Apostles. It is has to do not with a job, but with service. Indeed, Matthias, on whom the choice falls, receives a mission which Peter defines in these words: “One of these men… must become a witness with us to his resurrection,” the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:21-23). In this way Peter sums up what it means to be part of the Twelve: it means to be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. The fact that he says “with us” brings us to realize that the mission of proclaiming the risen Christ is not an individual undertaking: it is to be carried out in common, with the apostolic college and with the community. The Apostles had a direct and overwhelming experience of the resurrection; they were eyewitnesses to that event. Thanks to their authoritative testimony, many people came to believe; from faith in the risen Lord, Christian communities were born and are born continually.  We too, today, base our faith in the risen Lord on the witness of the Apostles, which has come down to us through the mission of the Church.  Our faith is firmly linked to their testimony, as to a nun broken chain which spans the centuries, made up not only by the successors of the Apostles, but also by succeeding generations of Christians. Like the Apostles, each one of Christ’s followers is called to become a witness to his resurrection, above all in those human  settings  where  forgetfulness  of  God  and  human disorientation are most evident.

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If this is to happen, we need to remain in the risen Christ and in his love, as the First Letter of Saint John has reminded us: “He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn4:16).  Jesus had repeated insistently to his disciples: “Abide in me… Abide in my love” (Jn 15:4, 9). This is the secret of the saints: abiding in Christ, joined to him like branches to the vine, in order to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:1-8). And this fruit is none other than love.  This love shines forth in the testimony of Sister Jeanne Émilie de Villeneuve, who consecrated her life to God and to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the exploited, becoming for them and for all a concrete sign of the Lord’s merciful love.

A relationship with the risen Jesus is – so to speak – the “atmosphere” in which Christians live, and in which they find the strength to remain faithful to the Gospel, even amid obstacles and misunderstandings. “Abiding in love”: this is what Sister Maria Cristina Brando also did.  She was completely given over to ardent love for the Lord.  From prayer and her intimate encounter with the risen Jesus present in the Eucharist, she received strength to endure suffering and to give herself, as bread which is broken, to many people who had wandered far from God and yet hungered for authentic love.

Relic Palestinian nun

An essential aspect of witness to the risen Lord is unity among ourselves, his disciples, in the image of his own unity with the Father.  Today too, in the Gospel, we heard Jesus’ prayer on the eve of his passion: “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11). From this eternal love between the Father and the Son, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), our mission and our fraternal communion draw strength; this love is the ever-flowing source of our joy in following the Lord along the path of his poverty, his virginity and his obedience; and this same love calls us to cultivate contemplative prayer. Sister Mariam Baouardy experienced this in an outstanding way. Poor and uneducated, she was able to counsel others and provide theological explanations with extreme clarity, the fruit of her constant converse with the Holy Spirit.  Her docility to the Holy Spirit made her also a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world. So too, Sister Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas came to understand clearly what it means to radiate the love of God in the apostolate, and to be a witness to meekness and unity. She shows us the importance of becoming responsible for one another, of living lives of service one to another.

To abide in God and in his love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all. This is what the four women Saints canonized today did. Their luminous example challenges us in our lives as Christians. How do I bear witness to the risen Christ?  This is a question we have to ask ourselves. How do I abide in him?  How do I dwell in his love?  Am I capable of “sowing” in my family, in my workplace and in my community, the seed of that unity which he has bestowed on us by giving us a share in the life of the Trinity?

When we return home today, let us take with us the joy of this encounter with the risen Lord. Let us cultivate in our hearts the commitment to abide in God’s love.  Let us remain united to him and among ourselves, and follow in the footsteps of these four women, models of sanctity whom the Church invites us to imitate.

Abbas Palestinian Canonization

 

Deacon-structing Heaven

heaven
I was at the March for Life last Thursday, on the day that most places around the world celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. Here in Canada we celebrate it today, the Sunday after the 6th Sunday in Easter.
After the March, as I was reflecting about it, I started thinking about how the life in the womb can be described in relation to our life, as our life can be related to life after death. If our lives on earth are but a preparation for the Life to come; that is sort of what life in the womb is: a preparation for life after the womb.

It’s not a perfect analogy – but I was thinking about that because of the Ascension. I was thinking about the relationship of this life to the Life to come.

So, let me ask you this: What is your idea of Heaven? Is it an idyllic place? Is it always sunny? Is there a beach? Is there no traffic and no pollution? Are there birds singing? Is it quiet and peaceful? Is your family there?

I once read about a woman who hoped to see her late husband in Heaven. A friend however told her: “But you’ll be so happy looking at God you won’t even notice your husband.” This woman was voicing her hope of reunion but her friend was echoing the Church’s teaching that Heaven’s joy is focused on enjoying the “beatific vision,” seeing God face-to-face. I wonder who is right: The woman, her friend, or both of them.

We don’t have any details of life in Heaven. Nobody has ever come back to tell us what it’s like. But we do have some informed speculation. For one, Jesus spent a lot of time trying to explain to his disciples what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Think “the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed” (Mt 13:31; Luke 13:19; or “a wedding banquet.” (Mt 22:2)

In the New Testament, Heaven is referred to as “the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:3); “the Kingdom of the Father” (Mt. 13:43); “the House of the Father” (Jn 14:2); “Paradise” (2 Cor. 12:4); “glorious inheritance” (Eph. 1:18) and “eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15).

And we know that according to the Gospel of Luke, Heaven (or at least “Paradise”) is the Kingdom where Jesus went after his death on the cross. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, one of the criminals hanging on the cross beside him kept mocking him but the other criminal rebuked him saying, “Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we are getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

So, perhaps we do know more about Heaven than we think. Still, can we say we know exactly what Heaven is? The Church teaches that “The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life (CCC#1020). It also teaches that those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ (CCC#1023).
Heaven is not a physical place. Heaven is a state of being one with God. When we learn about the Ascension of Jesus – while we can believe that Jesus really did physically ascend – we are not referring to a physical action. Heaven is not up in the skies somewhere. Ascension into Heaven is a coming into unity with God where we belong. St. Athanasius is known for saying that “God became man so that man might become god.” It sounds heretical and new age, but that is what we believe: That the temporal will become eternal; the physical will become spiritual and the human will become divine. That is Heaven. Heaven is “a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit.” It is the fulfillment of God’s desire to be one with each person as God is one with Himself in the Trinity (CCC#1023-29).

And Heaven includes all of Creation. All material Creation will not be “deleted” in Heaven; it will be “completed” in Heaven. We believe in the “resurrection of the body.” That means that in Heaven we will have bodies. That is what we see with Jesus being resurrected in a new body and also ascending to the Father in a physical body. After the resurrection Jesus ate and the disciples touched him. At the same time, the resurrected Jesus didn’t seem to be confined by time and space. So perhaps in Heaven we will be with our bodies, but it will be different. Here on earth we have a physical body, but in Heaven, we will have a spiritual body.

But no one knows what it means to have a spiritual body. Will we have emotions? Is Eric Clapton right to sing that there tears in Heaven? Are there calories in Heaven? Will I have hair in Heaven?

What we do know is that God intends for us to be in union with Him. That is why we are created. God is creating us to go to Heaven and be with Him.

What do you think? Write to me and share your thoughts.

And come back next week and we’ll look at other fun things like judgment, purgatory and hell.

PedroGM1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes apart a particular topic, 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 @deaconpedrogm

The Church in the Digital Age

White smoke billows from chimney of Sistine Chapel after cardinals elected new pope

For an institution that still uses smoke signals to communicate the election of a new leader one wonders how the Church will respond to the challenges of the digital age? When I reflect on this topic, I can’t help but remember when the good old Pope Benedict launched News.va. That’s right, in case you’ve forgotten, it was Pope Benedict’s finger that launched NEWS.VA.

Isn’t there something incredible about an image of a Council Father, like Pope Benedict, launching a news portal via an ipad. Two worlds literally meeting at the tip of a finger. Reminds me of the scene of Adam and God in the Sistine chapel.

In light of the World Communications Day, I caught up with Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, Author of Connected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age to share some insights with us:

Daniella Zsupan-Jerome
Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome with iPad that Pope Benedict used to launch @Pontifex

Today we celebrate the 49th World Day for Social Communications. Any thoughts on the Pope’s Message?

I recommend praying with this beautiful document. It invites us into the family of Jesus to re-learn some of the beauty and richness of human communication. The meditation on the Annunciation and the Visitation are especially profound as Pope Francis leads us to recognize how communication itself was made sacred in the Word becoming flesh through the yes of Mary. True to form, Pope Francis guides us from meditation to recognition in our own lives: to the reality of our own families and how communication emerges and grows from this basic human experience. I love his reflection on the womb as “the first school of communication” where the encounter between mother and child, “so intimately related while still distinct from each other, an encounter so full of promise, is our first experience of communication.”

I also appreciate the challenge he names regarding digital culture: “The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information.” He is calling us back to encounter here, back to recognizing the person in front of us, back to the basic posture of relationship that we are made for in the image and likeness of God. He challenges us here I think to think creatively and faithfully about how to do this in and through digital communication.

The Church in many places seems to still prefer analogue communication like radio (or smoke signals), are we ready for the digital age?

One of the reasons I love the Roman Catholic Church is because of its long-history of being “multimedia” as well as its beautiful theology of communication. Our theology set us up to think in terms of mediation, sacramentality, and grace present in and through something that conveys or carries it. We think of God’s relationship with us as God’s self-communication. We consider Christ as the Word Incarnate. We live empowered by the Spirit who has given us the ability to speak. All of these are a solid foundation for thinking about communication today.
The Catholic tradition is a multimedia tradition: we honor the body as our primary medium, we embrace the stuff of the earth as our sacramental symbols, we have a long history of art, performance, music, manuscript, print and even electronic media to illuminate, educate and inspire. All this makes us not only ready for digital culture, but sets us in a position of thought-leadership in terms of how to do this well.

Ok, what are some of the practical implications for priestly and lay formation?

If we are living in a digital culture, then it is important to begin to think in cultural terms, rather than simply about specific tools, skills or platforms to use in ministry. For ministerial formation, this means thinking more broadly. For priestly formation, it raises questions about how to teach, govern and sanctify digital culture, or more specifically, the people we are called to serve in our digital culture. For the lay minister, it is about how to live a baptismal call to share the Gospel, to be a communicator of Good News in the digital age, whether at home, at work, in our social and professional contexts. For both lay and priestly formation, this brings an intentionality to communication, and engenders communication that is, at its core, an act of giving oneself in love. Even when it comes to a text or tweet, this is possible.

Pope Francis seems to be a pretty savvy communicator, judging from his twitter followers and famous selfies, anything we can learn from him?

Openness to learning and trying something new, courage to look “human” while doing it, and the commitment to seek encounter with people through the screen, especially those who need healing and reconciliation the most.

In your book you made an interesting observation about the location of the Media on the Council Father’s agenda. Mind letting us in on that ‘Conciliar joke’?

At the first session of the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers placed the discussion on Inter Mirifica (Decree on Mass Media) intentionally following the discussions on the liturgy and revelation, and preceding forthcoming discussions on Christian unity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the church. Wedged between these heavier topics, the discussion on the topic of social communication was anticipated to be lighter, even called an “opportunity for relaxation” by Cardinal Cento, the president of the commission that oversaw the preparation of the schema on this topic. I am not sure how relaxing the discussion was, even if it dealt with the media. Over two and a half days, fifty-four Council Fathers gave a verbal address and an additional forty-three submitted written feedback. This sounds like work.

Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus featuring an interview with Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome!

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

 

 

 

Behind Vatican Walls: Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez

FrGutierrez

Caritas Internationalis began its general assembly in Rome this week. The keynote speaker for the weeklong meeting is Father Gustavo Gutierrez, the Peruvian priest commonly considered the “father” of Liberation Theology. At a press conference before the start of the meeting Fr. Gutierrez spoke about why the Church and Caritas devote attention and resources to helping the poor. Of course Fr. Gutierrez was also asked several questions about Liberation Theology and his relationship with the Vatican. Here is a summary of some of his comments.

Speaking in Spanish and Italian Fr. Gutierrez answered several questions about theology, Liberation Theology, his relationship with the Vatican, and the work of helping the poor.

When asked about the role of theology, Fr. Gutierrez answered:

“There can be no charity without justice. Theological reflection must be tied to people’s daily life. Theology is not a religious mysticism but a reflection on the practice of charity, compassion, mercy and justice. Seen this way theology can help give a certain vision to those who are engaged in the practical work of justice and charity. It’s a modest role.”

He followed that by adding, “For the Christian the important thing is to follow Jesus and put into practice what he teaches, what we call spirituality. Theology is a secondary thing, less important than living the faith – but it is necessary because it helps make the practice of faith more effective. It helps, modestly.”

He emphasized his point saying, “Theology is not secondary in a derogatory sense, but I mean to say if I had not spoken of theology in the last 40 years I would still be Christian.”

Inevitably Fr. Gutierrez was asked about the Vatican’s position towards liberation theology. His answer:

“Liberation Theology was never condemned, never. If anyone said that, it was not true. There was dialogue with the congregation [for the doctrine of the faith] about Liberation Theology, a critical dialogue, that is true.”

Asked whether his appearance at the Vatican was a rehabilitation of Liberation Theology Fr. Gutierrez answered just as directly:

“Rehabilitation is not the exact word to use. At this moment the climate around this theology is different, that is true. But to say it is a rehabilitation means that as some point there was a ‘dis’ habilitation and this was never the case. It is just another time. What is important is a rehabilitation of the Gospel.”

***

On Thursday Caritas members elected Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as the new president of the international confederation.

Watch Vatican Connections:

Photo – CNS/Paul Haring

AliciaEvery 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.

Helping us see things a bit more clearly: remembering the late Cardinal George

+georgeCheridan and Sebastian pose with Cardinal George at his residence following an interview for The Church Alive series in 2012.

It’s been one month since the death of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and personal stories and reflections continue to be shared across the media by people all over the world who either knew him or recognized his great contributions to the American Church and beyond.

I was not close to the Cardinal, but I did have the chance to meet him a number of times and on one occasion do an extended interview with him for S+L (the interview appeared in various episodes of The Church Alive).  So, I’m not surprised that people continue to write about him in the weeks after his death—a trend that will continue I’m sure.  Those who had the opportunity to meet him know that despite his small and fragile stature he was a giant of a man in so many ways, and the depth and richness of his Christian life warrant our enduring admiration and gratitude.

Allow me—a passerby of sorts—to contribute to the amassing collection of memories of Cardinal George and share the experience of our first meeting that remains fixed in my mind.

It was the spring of 2012 and I was part of an S+L team at DePaul University covering World Catholicism Week.  Connected to the trip was an arranged interview with Cardinal George at the historic Archbishop’s residence at 1555 North State Parkway just off Lincoln Park.

It was near the beginning of my time at S+L and the interview was my first “big one”.  I knew the Cardinal by reputation only: a brilliant and piercing intellect matched only by his personal warmth and gentleness.  I knew less about the residence and when we arrived with the help of GPS we looked at each other in daunting disbelief.

We did have an appointment, but I remember approaching the front door feeling like Frodo Baggins and co. outside the sealed walls of Moria.  We hesitatingly pressed the doorbell and a few moments later the door was slowly opened by a very serious-looking security guard (btw, we didn’t need to say “mellon”, the Elvish word for “friend”).

He didn’t say much but gestured us in, with cameras and lights in tow, and took us to an elegant room on the same floor in the north-east corner of the house.  We began setting up and about 10 minutes later the Cardinal limped in—he suffered from polio from age 13—and welcomed us to his home.

He was soft-spoken off camera and very gracious.  He asked us how long it would take to set up and when we told him about fifteen minutes he excused himself to take care of a few other business items.

When he returned, we told him a bit about our vision for The Church Alive series and he said, “very good, very good,” and sat down.  He was particularly interested in our episode on Catholic education, a subject that was very dear to him and a longtime focus of his episcopal ministry.

We had two things in mind when we prepared the questions for the interview.  First, because the show was about the new evangelization we knew we had to get back to basics, the fundamental principles of the Catholic faith.  Second, we were looking at the big picture, that is, how those fundamental principles could be arranged in a comprehensive and comprehensible way for people today.  So we focused on the Church’s understanding of things like education, religious liberty, the role of the media and, of course, politics.

For me sitting opposite the Cardinal, the interview was like travelling through hyperspace.  I was prepared, but it was one of the few times in my career that I became lost, in the best sense of the word, in the responses of my guest.  He answered very complex questions immediately, as though they required little reflection, but used language that was simple and direct, like a calculator.  He was precise, eager to go straight to the heart of the matter without wasting breath on peripheral considerations.

We had been talking about a force at work in the society, both in Canada and the US, seeking to purge all education of religious influence, and at one point I asked him what makes a Catholic education unique (as opposed to a secular or public education).  Very assuredly the Cardinal said:

“Well a Catholic school is the only place where you can have a serious conversation. You can talk about God; you can’t do that in a government school. You can talk about our future, not only here but after this life—who are we therefore? Why do we regard people as ends and not as means? What is the source of human dignity? You can’t raise those questions in a government school. And so they’re not free. We’re free.”

Later when I had time to review and process the interview, it struck me that he had this unique ability to remove the fog of complexity surrounding very significant issues and provide a rational and progressive (in the sense of forward-thinking) response.  To link the issue of what can be discussed in a school with the issue of freedom of thought and speech is enormously consequential.  A cry for the removal of religious matter from the education of young people is narrow and restrictive; it is precisely the opposite of freedom, and that’s why the Church opposes it.

Such was the ability of Cardinal Francis George to suddenly and unexpectedly open our minds and spark our imaginations.  After the interview he showed us a few monuments in the historic house and we took some photographs together.  He sent his best wishes to the S+L staff and encouraged us in our work.  We left on an intellectual high and confident in the direction we were taking our new TV series.

There is a lot of great content in The Church Alive, but the Cardinal’s contribution was singularly profound, in my opinion.  I’m grateful for having had the chance to interview him on that occasion; I will never forget that hour in which the fog was lifted and I was able to see things a little more clearly thanks to him.

May he rest in peace.

SebastianGOn Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.