December 28, 2011 by 1 Comment
The death of Vaclav Havel, the political dissident turned national leader and international hero has touched the world. Havel died Sunday December 18 at his weekend home in the northern Czech Republic. The 75-year-old former chain-smoker had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his time in prison. He was born October 5, 1936, in Prague, the child of a wealthy family that lost extensive property to communist nationalization in 1948. Havel was denied a formal education, eventually earning a degree at night school and starting out in theater as a stagehand. His political activism began in January 1977, when he co-authored the human rights manifesto Charter 77, and the cause drew widening attention in the West. Havel was detained countless times and spent four years in communist jails. His letters from prison to his first wife were among his best-known works. "Letters to Olga" blended deep philosophy with a stream of stern advice to the spouse he saw as his mentor and best friend. The events of August 1988 — the 20th anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion — first suggested that Havel and his friends might one day replace the apparatchiks who jailed them. Havel's arrest in January 1989 at another street protest and his subsequent trial generated anger at home and abroad. Pressure for change was so strong that the communists released him in May of that same year. That fall, communism began to collapse across Eastern Europe, and in November the Berlin Wall fell. Eight days later, police brutally broke up a demonstration by thousands of Prague students. This was the signal that Havel and his countrymen had awaited. Within 48 hours, a broad new opposition movement was founded, and a day later, hundreds of thousands of Czechs and Slovaks took to the streets. In three heady weeks, communist rule was broken. On December 29, 1989, Havel was elected Czechoslovakia's president by the country's still-communist parliament. Three days later, he told the nation in a televised New Year's address: "Out of gifted and sovereign people, the regime made us little screws in a monstrously big, rattling and stinking machine." The end of Czechoslovakia's totalitarian regime was called the Velvet Revolution because of how smooth the transition seemed: Communism dead in a matter of weeks, without a shot fired. But for Vaclav Havel, it was a moment he helped pay for with decades of suffering and struggle. As president of Czechoslovakia, Havel continued to combine his political, dissident and artistic sensibilities. He insisted on writing his own speeches, conceiving many of them as philosophical and literary works, in which he not only criticized the dehumanized technology of modern politics, but also repeatedly appealed to Czechs not to fall prey to consumerism and mindless party politics. He continued to be regarded a moral voice as he decried the shortcomings of his society under democracy, but eventually bent to the dictates of convention and power. His watchwords — "what the heart thinks, the tongue speaks" — had to be modified for day-to-day politics. In July 1992, it became clear that the Czechoslovak federation was heading for a split. He considered the breakup a personal failure, though years later he would conclude that it was for the best. Havel resigned as president, but he remained popular and was elected president of the new Czech Republic uncontested, even though the job held great immense prestige but little power. Media criticism, once unthinkable, became unrelenting. Serious newspapers questioned his political visions; tabloids focused mainly on his private life. Havel left office in 2003. Havel was small, but his presence and wit could fill a room. Even late in life, he retained a certain impishness and boyish grin, shifting easily from philosophy to jokes or plain old Prague gossip. The former president of the Czech Republic was one of my heroes and one of the last of a now-extinct breed of political leaders who could lead effectively in extraordinary times because their first commitment was to common decency and the common good, not to possessing power. If the world is to make it through its various crises successfully, the legacy of Vaclav Havel must remain alive. That unforgettable fall of 1989 in Rome I shall never forget those historic days of the fall of 1989, having experienced them up close as I pursued my graduate studies in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. I knew that I was living through some very historic moments as we watched the Iron Curtain come crashing down. I wrote down these sayings of Havel during those momentous years following the Velvet Revolution and they continue to inspire me. One of my favorite descriptions of hope is from Vaclav Havel. Havel described this great Christian virtue with these words: “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” He also wrote: “The hope of the world lies in the rehabilitation of the living human being, not just the body but also the soul.” On vision, Havel wrote: “Vision is not enough – it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred," Havel famously said. It became his revolutionary motto, which he said he always strove to live by. “I am not sure I know what a miracle is…” In April 1990, the new president of then newly-liberated Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, caught this dimension of Blessed John Paul II’s remarkable life when he welcomed the pope to Prague with these profoundly moving words: “I am not sure I know what a miracle is. In spite of this, I dare say that, at this moment, I am participating in a miracle: the man who six months ago was arrested as an enemy of the state stands here today as the president of that state, and bids welcome to the first pontiff in the history of the Catholic Church to set foot in this land… “I am not sure that I know what a miracle is. In spite of this, I dare say that at this moment I am participating in a miracle: in a country devastated by the ideology of hatred, the messenger of love has arrived; in a country devastated by the government of the ignorant, the living symbol of culture has arrived; in a country that, until a short time ago, was devastated by the idea of confrontation and division in the world, the messenger of peace, dialogue, mutual tolerance, esteem and calm understanding, the messenger of fraternal unity in diversity has arrived. “During these long decades, the Spirit was banished from our country. I have the honor of witnessing the moment in which its soil is kissed by the apostle of spirituality.” “Welcome to Czechoslovakia, Your Holiness.” During that same historic Papal Visit to Prague in April 1990, President Vaclav Havel welcomed John Paul II to a gathering of the cultural and non-Catholic leaders by reminding him of a line from a poem written by then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla when he was Archbishop of Cracow in 1974. Havel spoke these moving words: "In one of your poems you asked: 'Can history ever run counter to conscience?' What you intended to say in that exclamation is clear: that history cannot run counter to conscience forever. You were right and with you all those who did not lose hope." President Havel understood what had happened in his country as the victory of conscience over history. In an article appearing in The New York Times on March 1, 1992, Havel wrote that Communism was defeated by "life, by the human spirit, by conscience, by the resistance of Being and man to manipulation." He warned, however, that Communism's fundamental error, to reject the centrality of conscience as the key to human history, continues to threaten us with destruction. "We are looking for new scientific recipes, new ideologies, new control systems, new institutions, new instruments to eliminate the dreadful consequences of our previous recipes, ideologies, control systems, institutions, and instruments . . . We are looking for an objective way out of the crisis of objectivism." One of liberty’s great heroes Even out of office, Havel remained a world figure. Among the many honors he received was the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award, bestowed on him by President George W. Bush for being "one of liberty's great heroes." Havel was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and collected dozens of other accolades worldwide for his efforts as a global ambassador of conscience, defending the downtrodden from Darfur to Myanmar. Over the past few years, Vaclav Havel saw the global economic crisis as a warning not to abandon basic human values in the scramble to prosper. In the last years of his presidency, Havel’s political opponents ridiculed him as a naïve moralist. Many ordinary Czechs, on the other hand, had come to dislike him not only for what seemed like relentless moralizing, but also because he reflected back to them their own lack of courage during the Communist regime. Though he enjoyed respect and admiration abroad, if only for continuing his fight against human-right abuses around the world, his popularity at home was shaken. But not anymore. Czechs have become terribly dissatisfied with the current political system’s omnipresent corruption and other failings, have increasingly come to appreciate the importance of Vaclav Havel’s moral appeals. In his death, he is being lionized as someone who foresaw many current problems, and not only at home: while still president, he repeatedly called attention to the self-destructive forces of industrial civilization and global capitalism. Havel’s decency What is it that made Havel exceptional? The answer is simple: decency. He was a decent, principled man. He did not fight against communism because of some hidden personal agenda, but simply because it was, in his view, an indecent, immoral system. Acting on such beliefs in his political career made him a politician of the kind that the contemporary world no longer sees. Perhaps that is why, as the world — and Europe in particular — faces a period of profound crisis, the clarity and courageous language that would bring about meaningful change is missing. Havel’s life a miracle On Friday December 23, 2011, a state funeral was held for Vaclav Havel in Prague’s majestic Cathedral of Saint Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert. Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka, who is also the Primate of Bohemia, spoke these moving words about Havel: “Where death comes and orders a man to cease, his statements are heard strongly. And so when someone leaves, the moments emerge that we have spent together. Both are given a new meaning. Vaclav, I clearly hear you words pronounced to welcome Pope John Paul II: “I don’t know if I know what a miracle is, but the fact that you are here is a miracle.” Your whole life was a miracle. Against all expectations almost all of your dreams were fulfilled: fall of the inanimate Husák’s regime protected by the Soviet Army, restoration of independence and democracy. But they were not dreams; they were your innermost desires. When I now hear your words: “Truth and love must prevail over lies and hate,” it is clear to me that you were not agnostic as it may have seemed, and to many it will seem further on. Truth and love were those desires of your heart. You believed in them, and against everything and everybody what historically surrounded us, you trusted in them. This was giving you courage and trust in the future. The whole mystery of your bravery and persistence is hidden in that innermost belief of yours. And I see this as the most precious thing that you have done for us. You have awakened hope in a wearied nation and united it by this. It is not accidental, but inevitably natural, that in the last days of your life you said that we would not have to worry about the next year or even the crisis, if we are united. …May Saint Agnes [of Bohemia] accompany you – kind and most sympathetic with anyone who suffers injustice – to the kingdom of Truth and Love, where reigns the One who Is – as you said during our last encounter. In the last weeks of this life you spoke about him as the true God. May he protect us against lies and hatred and lead us through history on the paths of peace.” Benedict’s response to Havel’s death Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, on the death of former president Vaclav Havel. In the text, the Pope expressed his nearness to those attending his funeral, joining them in "commending the soul of the deceased to the infinite mercy of our heavenly Father" and recalling Vaclav Havel's courage in the defence of "human rights at a time when these were systematically denied to the people of your country". He paid tribute to his "visionary leadership in forging a new democratic policy after the fall of the previous regime" and gave thanks to God "for the freedom that the people of the Czech Republic now enjoy". May Vaclav Havel rest in peace and intercede for Europe. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
December 17, 2011 by Leave a Comment
Text of the homily of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Funeral of His Eminence John Cardinal Foley Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul Philadelphia, December 16, 2011
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us!" It is the celebration of that mystery of the Incarnation that we await this Advent season, as we long to hear those inspired poetic lines from the Prologue of the Gospel of John the Evangelist on Christmas morning. It is the mystery of the ongoing Incarnation, especially manifest in the life and ministry of John Patrick Foley, that unites us in grateful, reverent, supplicant prayer this Advent afternoon. Early last Sunday morning, I had just begun the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when I took a call from Cardinal Justin Rigali, who, with characteristic thoughtfulness, telephoned to tell me of the passing of Cardinal John Patrick Foley.Photos by Nancy Wiechec of Catholic News Service, Washington. Used with permission. When I then returned to my breviary, it was this line from St. Augustine, the second lesson for that day's office, that greeted me: "John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts but for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives forever." What do you say we pay our friend Cardinal Foley one final tribute and concentrate right now, as he would plead for us to do, not upon him, but upon the Eternal Word, the Word made flesh, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word. Because, love for Jesus and His Church was indeed the passion of John Patrick Foley's life, the only dictionary required to translate the meaning of the life and ministry of this remarkably lovable, simple, humble, wise, holy man. It was into the dying and rising of Jesus that John Foley was baptized, as St. Paul teaches us in today's Liturgy of the Word; It was with the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist that John Foley was daily nourished; It was on the lap of the bride of Christ, Holy Mother Church, so alive in the vibrant and coherent Catholic culture of this great archdiocese he so cherished, that John Foley was raised, formed, and educated; It was into the priesthood of Jesus Christ that John Foley was ordained, assuming, not only in soul but in his very person, reconfigurment to Jesus Christ the Head and Shepherd of the Church; It was as a successor to the apostles, the intimate friends of this Jesus, that he was consecrated as a bishop; It was to the service of the Church universal, the Mystical Body of Christ, under the pastorate of the successor of St. Peter, that John Patrick Foley served most famously the last twenty-seven years; And it is now to the tender and unfailing mercy of this Jesus that, with immense love and gratitude, we commend this loyal son of the Church. Yes, love for Jesus and His Church was indeed the passion of his life. The Eternal Word was incarnate in Jesus Christ; "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." That mystery of the Incarnation continues in and through the Church. But John Foley, ever the philosopher and debater, would remind us of the last part of this syllogism: each of us is also called to continue the mystery of the Incarnation through His Church in our own lives. As God asked the Virgin of Nazareth, to whom Cardinal Foley had such filial devotion, at the Annunciation, so does God still ask each of us: "Will you give my Son flesh? Will you supply the Eternal Word with a human nature? Will you allow the Incarnation to go on?" We genuflect at the reply of Mary: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Be it done unto me according to Thy Word!" And this afternoon we praise God's grace and mercy for the humble, obedient reply of John Foley: a yes for seventy-six years; a yes to what he described as "God's whisper" to him to become a priest; a yes to God's plan in recent years that entailed the splinters of the cross as he gradually bowed to leukemia. Cardinal Foley, effective pedagogue that he was, would remind us of the scholastic maxim that grace builds on nature. And what an appealing nature John Foley provided to God so the Incarnation might continue! A courtesy that was so impeccable and the thoughtfulness that was so unfailing that we might not be surprised to find his photograph in the "pictionary" for the entry on "gentleman." A natural sense of humor that was so spontaneous that I once told him, "John, if I did not know for a fact that you were a teetotaler, I'd swear you had a couple shots under your filattata before breakfast every morning!" A holiness in "His Foleyness" that was evident without being overbearing; A depth to his intellect which could express itself with warmth and childlikeness; A sparkle in his eye, smile on his lips, lilt to his laugh... and one too many puns! All a nature upon which God's grace built, and which God's Word assumed, to keep the mystery of the Incarnation going. Priests and people of this noble Archdiocese of Philadelphia, this only child of John and Regina Foley considered you his family; never did he stop bragging about this Archdiocese of Philadelphia, (as much as we begged him to!); to you go our condolences for this "death in the family;" hold your heads high! A local Church that can give us the likes of such a noble, gentle man, whose "message went out to all the world," is a Church which can endure and come out even stronger in the face of woe and tears. The "Vatican's Voice of Christmas" may now be silent; but the Incarnation that made radiant the darkness of that night called silent will never go still, because the example of friends such as John Patrick Foley inspires us to emulate him and his Regina, Mary, in providing God a human nature. "John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts but for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives forever."
December 15, 2011 by Leave a Comment
On Friday, Dec. 16th, Cardinal John Patrick Foley will be laid to rest in his native Philadelphia. Salt + Light will bring you live coverage of the funeral service from Philadelphia’s Cathedral, the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Our coverage of the Funeral Mass begins at 2:00pm ET. Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, Archbishop of Baltimore and Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem will be the main celebrant. Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who is Archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will give the homily. Following the Mass, Cardinal Foley’s body will be entombed in the crypt of the Cathedral Basilica. Cardinal Foley was known as the “voice of Christmas Eve Mass”, providing live commentary for American broadcasts of midnight Mass from the Vatican. He led the Pontifical Council for Social Communication for over 23 years, helping draft documents about ethics in advertising, social media, and the internet. Cardinal Foley was a great friend of Salt + Light and will be deeply missed. He passed away on Sunday, December 11th at the age of 76 after a long battle with leukemia.
December 13, 2011 by Leave a Comment
Tonight on Perspectives: We bring you details surrounding Cardinal John Foley's funeral, Pope Benedict receives a special invitation to visit Switzerland and Catholics in Saskatoon have a reason to rejoice.
September 2, 2011 by 2 Comments
He was an apostle who lived by his simple motto: Jesus is Lord. This is how the Archbishop of Toronto described his predecessor, the late Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, in his homily on Wednesday morning. Archbishop Thomas Collins presided over the Cardinal’s funeral in St. Michael's Cathedral. The Cathedral was overflowing with 1000 mourners. Representatives of all levels of government attended, including the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and the federal finance minister. Toronto mayor Rob Ford issued a statement describing the Cardinal as “a caring, compassionate resident of our city.” He noted his role in hosting World Youth Day in 2002, which “stands out as a cultural milestone in our city’s history.” Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty added that the Cardinal lived “with devotion, conviction, and to the fullest.” Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal was among the over 30 Canadian bishops who paid their respects. The president of the Slovenian bishops’ conference was also present, owing to Cardinal Ambrozic’s place of birth. After the funeral, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa remarked that the Cardinal was particularly reflective of the city he shepherded, due to his immigrant roots. “He was someone who suffered the ravages of the Second World War,” remembered Archbishop Prendergast. “He was a displaced person with all of the stigma attached to that. But he was also a man of great faith. He saw the Lord calling him and he said yes.” Cardinal Ambrozic led the Archdiocese of Toronto for 16 years prior to his retirement in 2006. In his final years, he suffered from a rare degenerative condition called progressive supranuclear palsy. Since his death on Friday, family, friends and fellow clergy have been reflecting on his legacy. He was a gifted academic who taught Scripture, but he was also private and didn't seek out recognition. “He loved Christ, so he got on with the job,” recalled Suzanne Scorsone, the former director of communications for the archdiocese. He was “somewhat reluctant” to accept his appointment as a bishop, she told reporters, since he “wasn’t looking for dignities or honours.” Though he attempted to keep his acts of charity private, the Cardinal was known to volunteer at a homeless shelter incognito. He also anonymously funded bursaries for university students. His service was perhaps best characterized by his singular focus. This was reflected in the prayer card distributed at his funeral, which reads, “It is Jesus to whom we look. It is Jesus whom we imitate. It is Jesus whom we follow.”
August 31, 2011 by 1 Comment
This morning, the Archbishop of Toronto presided at the funeral of his predecessor, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic. Archbishop Thomas Collins delivered the following homily to the congregation of over 1000 faithful who attended.
On this mountain, the Lord Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food. On this mountain he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations. The Lord God will destroy death forever; he will wipe away the tears from every cheek.These words console us in this time of sorrow, but they also remind us of the mission of spiritual leader which Cardinal Ambrozic so faithfully exercised for so many years in his vocation as priest and bishop. Today we thank God for the blessings of his ministry among us, as he shared the vision that gives meaning to life, and that gives hope on the earthly journey. Through his apostolic ministry, in a world that often does not pay attention to the divine message of salvation, the Cardinal, like Isaiah, proclaimed: “See, this is our God, in whom we hope for salvation.” For a disciple of Christ, and surely for an apostle of Christ, the vision of hope is made manifest above all in the love of Jesus. The Cardinal chose as his motto the simple ancient Christian proclamation: “Jesus is Lord.” In Jesus we find consolation in sorrow, and hope in the midst of the daily struggle. As St Paul says in the second reading of today’s Mass:Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord.One who lives by the motto “Jesus is Lord”, as did the Cardinal, as should we all, is given a perspective that makes it possible to see clearly what is real and what is not. All the stormy waves on the surface of the sea cannot overwhelm one who is governed by the deep conviction that “Jesus is Lord.” From that conviction comes the wisdom to see the truth, and the courage to proclaim it. Life, even a long life by earthly standards, is too short for any of one of us to waste it on what is superficial. The Cardinal was deep, not superficial, because of his simple dedication to Jesus, the Lord. He once wrote:It is Jesus to whom we look. It is Jesus whom we imitate. It is Jesus whom we follow. It is Jesus who is with us so we can be with him. Yes, we work with others. Yes, we learn from others. But in Jesus we find our ultimate identity and purpose. He is the Alpha and the Omega for each one of us and for every human being.As we celebrate this Holy Eucharist, and at this solemn moment reflect more deeply than we usually do, amid the distracting bustle of life, on the things that matter, and on the things that do not, on what is profound and on what is superficial, we do well to ponder the guiding principle of Cardinal Ambrozic’s life: “Jesus is Lord.” He lived according to that as a disciple, and proclaimed that as an apostle and pastor. It is the simple vision of the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus Our Lord. That vision is expressed bluntly in the opening words of the Gospel of Mark, most straightforward of all the Gospels, to which Cardinal Ambrozic specially dedicated his scholarly work: “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” There is nothing fancy in that, but in those words we find direction for life. In dutiful service, we are daily to follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Cardinal received many honours during his life, and played an important role in the universal Church as a Cardinal, most notably in his participation in the Conclave that elected Pope Benedict. In 2002 he welcomed the world to Toronto at World Youth Day. But the vision of hope that he lived and proclaimed was expressed more quietly and more profoundly through a life of daily fidelity to his mission as disciple, pastor, and apostle. He once wrote of what he expected in a priest: “I look for a simple readiness to sacrifice, a simple readiness to give of oneself .” Whatever one’s vocation, that simple spirit of unobtrusive fidelity is the best way to proclaim: “Jesus is Lord.” The Lord is found not in the thunder or in the lightening, but in the still small voice of a sacrificial life. In today’s Gospel, from the Gospel of Mark, we read of the way in which Jesus the Lord ended his time on earth in suffering, but as Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome sorrowfully approach the tomb to offer him the customary rites of burial, they see a young man who confounds and comforts them with the words: “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” Jesus is Lord, not a past memory but a living presence, he who rules the universe and pleads for us before the Heavenly Father as our great High Priest to whose service Cardinal Ambrozic dedicated his life. Today we pray that as we sadly ponder the reality of earthly death we may gain wisdom of heart, to see more clearly how we should fill each precious moment of our own brief passage through this world with the love of God and of neighbour, with quiet, faithful service, every step of the way. We pray for Cardinal Ambrozic, for God’s mercy upon him, and for the repose of his soul. We thank God for the gift of the Cardinal’s earthly life, for his love of family and friends, for his sacrificial service as a priest of Jesus Christ. He does not merely live on in memory, for he is with the Lord, but we do remember him with love, and seek to live more truly as Christians by imitating his selfless dedication. Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.