English   ·   Français   ·   Italiano     ·   中文    

Why going on a pilgrimage is worth every penny

New documentary 'Camino' follows hikers' trek from France to famed pilgrimage site in Spain

I came across an article the other day that indicated there’s research that suggests that experiences, not things, make us happier.

Turns out there are a few reasons for this – the value of experience increases over time, and it’s something that people share, and even bad experiences (apparently) are valued more over the course of time because they become good stories.

Reflecting on this research, what immediately popped into my mind was pilgrimages. Because it really doesn’t matter how terrible the accommodations or the inevitable logistical fiascos may be because, in the end, it is overcoming these trials or bad experiences, like the saints before us, that makes these journeys, these experiences, worthwhile.

To quote St. John Paul II, “For the Church, pilgrimages, in all their multiple aspects, have always been a gift of grace.”

The best part is that you don’t always have to be trekking halfway across the world to go on a good pilgrimage. There are many spots close to home that you can enjoy. One place in particular, which I thought I’d share with you, is a stunning exhibit of the life of St. John Paul II that allows pilgrims to immerse themselves in his life and teachings.

I caught up with Dr. Jem Sullivan, Director of Research and Education for the Saint John Paul II National Shrine to learn more.

_MB29793

The permanent exhibit is dedicated to preserving the legacy of St John Paul II – why is that important and what are some of the unique features of the exhibit?

Saint John Paul II is the “pope of the family,” as noted by Pope Francis when he canonized him a saint of the Church in 2014. Pope John Paul II’s clear and courageous witness to the gift and sanctity of the family continues to be among his most enduring legacies.

The exhibit is meant to be both an informative and a transformative experience that invites pilgrims to become part of the “spiritual family” of Saint John Paul II by walking in the footsteps of one of the great saints of our time.

Saint John Paul II’s entire life was an embodiment of his fearless preaching of the Gospel. From his early experiences of family, and his personal and physical sufferings, he showed the world that it is possible to live a fully human life through the power of faith in Jesus Christ.

_MB20526

Many people considered Pope John Paul an important player on the world stage, how does the exhibit explore this?

The permanent exhibit  explores the impact of his teachings and witness to the dignity of the human person through an extraordinary collection of photos, quotes, short films, personal interviews, artifacts, and original works of art.

Pilgrims can view his handwritten notes of his 1979 speech to the United Nations on display in the exhibit, and be inspired by his 1995 address to the United Nations when he said that, “…the answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty.” (John Paul II, Address to the United Nations, October 5, 1995).

_MB20352-001

How has John Paul’s life personally had an impact on who you are today?

As a young student of theology and philosophy in the 1980s and 1990s, I had the privilege of reading and reflecting on the writings of Pope John Paul II. The pope’s first encyclical, Redeemer of Man, and his writings on catechesis, evangelization, and art made a deep impression on me and was a guide to the subsequent intellectual paths I would take during my graduate and doctoral studies.

_MB20496 (1)

The pope radiated the love of God in a way that had a strong impact on my faith and life, as a wife and mother, and as a catechist, teacher, and professor. His love for Christ was a powerful example of Christian discipleship that encouraged me to serve the Church over the past twenty years. I took to heart Saint John Paul II’s call and challenge to grow daily in prayer and holiness of life, and to “not be afraid” to give one’s life in service of Christ and His Church. His saintly witness and example of Christian discipleship was among the reasons I was led to serve through catechesis, evangelization, and the renewal of culture and art for the past two decades.

_

So this summer consider visiting this stunning exhibit to learn about a hero, live his life and share in something which will inspire you, challenge you and leave you grateful for his witness.

What could make you happier?

Exhibit photos courtesy of: Matthew Barrick, Barrick Photography and CNS.

 

 


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.

.

Watch S+L TV Special – The Ecology Encyclical: Care for Our Common Home

ecology-blog-image-610x343

The highly anticipated teaching document of Pope Francis on ecology has arrived. How does it build on the teachings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict the XVI? What does it say about climate change? What does it say about poverty and those most affected by ecological destruction around the world?

Join host Sebastian Gomes for a panel discussion on the major themes and reactions to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. Guests include: Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, English language assistant to the Director of the Holy See Press Office; Mardi Tindal, immediate past moderator of the United Church of Canada; Alicia Ambrosio, producer and journalist for S+L TV.

Watch the full video of the show below.

John Paul II, A Saint for Canada

Father Karol Wojtyla reading in canoe in 1955

I once had a teacher who knew exactly how to keep her students focused during the day. She promised us that if we were very good, she would read us a few pages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. She would only have to give the gentlest reminder that we would not have time for The Hobbit and there would be a swift end to our cavorting and carrying-on. As you can imagine, she had us eating out of her hand.

My love for a great story has continued, and I’ve found that the best stories are always those “based on a true story”. At Salt + Light we have a storytelling ritual, you could say, and Fr. Thomas Rosica is one of the best storytellers I know. Whenever Fr. Rosica returns to the office from a trip, he gathers everyone to celebrate Mass, and following that it’s time for our meeting around the conference table. After we have prayed and he has given us all a little token from his travels -usually a prayer card, a spiritual booklet, or some chocolates- he settles down to tell us about everything that happened.  As I said, Fr. Tom Rosica is a masterful storyteller. By the time the meeting has concluded, we feel as if we have lived through it all – the highs and the lows: the lost luggage, the inevitable poor internet connection fiascos, the exceptional encounters, the developments, and the messages of encouragement.

My favourite stories, however, are the ones where he tells us of his encounters with Pope John Paul II. These stories are an incredible source of insight.  Sure, there’s something to be learned from reading great encyclicals, but to know a person firsthand and to get a sense of who he was and why he did what he did – this can only be imparted through personal experience; anything else simply doesn’t have the same impact. Moreover, Fr. Rosica’s stories are always full of meaning. Significant dates in history have moods and feelings attached to them, and there’s always a deep sense of what these things mean for us and for the world. As a scripture scholar, Fr. Rosica’s biblical imagination imbues his commentary on events with a profound love of scriptural images and also a great sense of humour.

Not everyone has the opportunity to listen to these stories firsthand, but you will certainly feel as if you are sitting around the Salt + Light conference table when you pick up the new release  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada. It’s a short book that can be read at a leisurely pace in a few hours. Filled with Fr. Rosica’s personal reflections on Pope John Paul II,  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada is a delight that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the saint and what he means for us in Canada.

To get a taste of what you can expect, you’re invited to watch Catholic FOCUS featuring John Paul II.

Photo description: Father Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, is pictured reading in a kayak in this photo dated from 1955. Three years later, he was on the water with friends when he learned he had been called to Warsaw for the announcement that he was to be made a bishop. (CNS photo)

 


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.

 

The development equation: church teaching on the New Evangelization

Frank_Evangelization

When we talk about a development in church tradition or teaching, we are talking about a phenomenon that has taken place within Christianity from the very beginning. Even the varying articulations of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that we find in the four Gospels represent a development as such: the written narratives were built on the oral tradition of the first Christian communities that was built on the witness of the Apostles that was built on the experience and teachings of Jesus. (The 1964 instruction by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on The Historical Truth of the Gospels is an excellent tool for understanding this three-stage development.)

More recently, since the election of Pope Francis, there has been much discussion about possible development in the areas of the church’s pastoral response to divorced and remarried Catholics and its teaching on the environment.  The Pope’s forthcoming encyclical and the October general Synod of Bishops on the family will serve to clarify these heated discussions.

There is another area of the church’s teaching that may be less “juicy” then the above mentioned but still provokes this discussion of development. It is the church’s contemporary tagline, “the New Evangelization.” Everyone in the Catholic world has heard about it and a lot of great work is being done at the grassroots level to put it into action.

It is a decidedly modern initiative, based on the church’s experience of the realities of our present time. It can be traced back to Vatican Council II, but Pope John Paul II conceived of it, Pope Benedict XVI refined and promoted it—especially through the 2012 Synod—and now Pope Francis has effectively put it into action.

Interestingly, Pope Francis has not spoken much about “the New Evangelization,” though anyone who listened to what Pope Benedict said about it can see the obvious parallels between the words of one pope and the actions of another.

But last week Pope Francis met with the staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and shared his thoughts on the subject:

            “This is what people today expect from the Church: that she be able to walk with them offering the company of the witness of faith, which renders one in solidarity with all, in particular with those most alone and marginalized. How many poor—also poor in the faith—await the Gospel that liberates! How many men and women, in the existential peripheries generated by the consumer, atheist society, await our closeness and our solidarity! The Gospel is the proclamation of the love of God that, in Jesus Christ, calls us to participate in his life. Hence, the New Evangelization is this: to be aware of the merciful love of the Father so that we also become instruments of salvation for our brothers.

This rich description of the New Evangelization represents a deepening of previously articulated magisterial teachings. We can clearly see the “Francis” accents: emphasis on the poor, on accompanying people and on the mercy of God.  These are matters of emphasis, yes, but also of development. And taken together with the reflections of Pope Benedict and JPII, a clearer picture of this thing we call “the New Evangelization” takes shape.

It was JPII who recognized the need for a re-articulation of the fundamentals of the faith in a rapidly changing modern world. It was Benedict who explicitly linked the content of the New Evangelization with the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  Now Francis has put his finger—as he often does—on the heart of the matter, namely, an experience of God’s mercy.

We can say that all the pieces seem to have come together. Back in 1962 Pope John XXIII opened the Vatican Council by shifting the emphasis from an attitude of condemnation to one of mercy, saying nowadays, “The Bride of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.” Francis has said essentially the same thing.

 In all of this we can see an organic development in the church’s teaching on evangelization in the world today.  As pieces fall into place a more complete picture emerges. There is a pattern within this process of development that always considers these three variables: 1) how the truth of the Gospel can be 2) interpreted in light of the particular historical moment 3) over a period of time. This is the “equation” for development in the church and it is a fascinating thing to watch at this particular historical moment.


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.

Behind Vatican Walls: Pope Francis to Visit Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia_Pope

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia – Herzegovina, June 6. The one day trip is packed full significant meetings. Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told journalists this week it would be “notevolissimo” or “highly noteworthy” if the Holy Father arrives at the Sarajevo airport on time at the end of his visit. The visit is set to be noteworthy even without Pope Francis pulling off a timekeeping miracle.

In 1994 St. Pope John Paul II decided to visit the war-ravaged city. The United Nations agreed to provide the pope’s flight. Despite the ongoing fighting the pope was firm in his resolve to visit. Just days before his scheduled trip, fighting intensified in Sarajevo and UN planes carrying supplies to the area were shot at. The UN cancelled its flights and the pope had to cancel his visit.

The pope was finally able to visit Sarajevo in 1997, just two years after the war ended. Despite an end to the fighting, the situation was still not good – especially for Catholics. In 1997, Catholic News Service reported that Catholics who held state jobs lost those positions and were discriminated against in housing and relocation programs. In a meeting with the bishops of Bosnia Herzegovina, St. John Paul II told the bishops not to be “intimidated by any earthly power” but instead use any legitimate means at their disposal to speak out against such discrimination. During that same visit the pope met with Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox leaders. The Bosnian Mufti – Mustafa Cercic announced afterwards that he would call on Muslims to begin a dialogue with Catholics.

In short, the visit of St. John Paul II seemed like a shot in the arm for a nation struggling to find itself again after a war, and for Catholics who had not seen much improvement in their situation two years after the fighting ended.

Pope Francis’ visit to the city comes 20 years after Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian presidents signed the peace agreement known as the Dayton Accords. While the immediate after-effects of war are long gone, reports indicate that division along ethnic lines still exist in Bosnian-Herzegovinian society. His visit, however, has excited citizens of all ethnic and religious groups. In the town of Zavidovici, a Bosnian Muslim woodcarver offered to carve a chair for the pope. The project was financed by the local Catholic parish.

Interreligious dialogue and Ecumenism will be a key theme of this visit: the pope will meet with leaders of other religions and Christian confessions, and he will visit a youth centre that brings together young people of all religious backgrounds. The centre is dedicated to St. John Paul II.

Below is the full itinerary of Pope Francis’ visit to Sarajevo:

9:00 am – Arrival at International Airport in Sarajevo

9:30 am – Welcome Ceremony, private visit with Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Meeting with local civil authorities

11:00 am – Mass at Koševo Olympic Stadium

1:15 pm – Lunch with Bishops of Bosnia Herzegovina

4:20 pm – Meeting with men and women religious at Sacred Heart Cathedral

5:30 pm – Interreligious and Ecumenical meeting at Franciscan International Student Centre

6:30 pm – Meeting with youth at St. John Paul II youth centre

7:45 pm – Farewell Ceremony at International Airport

8:00 pm – Departure for Rome

***

This week, the Institute for Works of Religions, commonly known as the Vatican Bank, released its annual report for 2014. The report is available in English on IOR’s website.

Watch this week’s Vatican Connections below:

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.

Photo: CNS/Fehim Demir, EPA

Behind Vatican Walls: Papal Photographer

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 3.40.55 PM

It’s March 11, 1956 like many other young men at the time, a 16-year-old was getting ready to start his first day of work. This young man was born and raised in Rome’s Borgo neighbourhood. He really hadn’t had much chance to ever leave that neighbourhood. What’s more, his new job would only take him around the corner. His new job was at the L’Osservatore Romano Photo Service, just inside the Vatican walls he walked by every day. This young man could never have imagined that his new job would eventually take him around the world, camera in hand, to photograph six popes.

That 16-year-old boy was Arturo Mari. Today he is known as “the pope’s photographer” even though he gave up that job in 2007.

Mari learned the art and skill of photography as a young boy. At the age of six he would follow his father – and amater photographer – into the darkroom and help develop photos. He honed his skill and his eye at the Vatican newspaper’s photo desk. His first assignment: capturing an image of Pope Pius XII being carried on the “sedia gestatoria”, wearing the papal tiara, during a beatification ceremony. He took the photo and – as per protocol – quickly stepped back into the shadows.

He must have done well because he lasted through the rest of Pius XII’s papacy. He was still around when John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. When Paul VI started making trips abroad, Mari was right there documenting his voyages. By the time Karol Wojtyla was elected pope, Mari was the official papal photographer.

“I lived side by side with that man from the first day [of his pontificate] to the last,” Mari told Salt and Light in a recent interview. Never was there a dull moment.

The long hours with nary a sick day or day off taken, meant Mari was witness to some of the moments that defined the papacy of John Paul II: in 1981 when the pope was shot in St. Peter’s Square, Mari kept snapping away. Some years later, in Italian media interviews, he said “I don’t remember how I took those photos.” In fact, the only time Mari attended a Vatican event without his camera in hand was in 2007 when his son, Juan Carlos, was ordained a priest by Pope Benedict XVI.

It was that same year Mari finally retired passing on the job of Papal Photographer to his nephew, Francesco Sforza who learned the craft acting as his uncle’s shadow.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections here:

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 Connection. Already watched the program? come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issues, headline or person.

A Lion of the American Church: Thoughts on the Passing of Cardinal George

Francis_George_1

By Very Rev. Robert Barron

Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry,Word on Fire, and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary. He is the creator of the award winning documentary series, “Catholicism”  and “Catholicism:The New Evangelization.

Cardinal Francis George, who died last week at the age of 78, was obviously a man of enormous accomplishment and influence. He was a Cardinal of the Roman Church, a past president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archbishop of one of the largest and most complicated archdioceses in the world, and the intellectual leader of the American Church. A number of American bishops have told me that when Cardinal George spoke at the Bishops’ meetings, the entire room would fall silent and everyone would listen.

But to understand this great man, I think we have to go back in imagination to when he was a kid from St. Pascal’s parish on the Northwest side of Chicago, who liked to ride his bike and run around with his friends and who was an accomplished pianist and painter as well. At the age of thirteen, that young man was stricken with polio, a disease which nearly killed him and left him severely disabled. Running, bike riding, painting, and piano playing were forever behind him. I’m sure he was tempted to give up and withdraw into himself, but young Francis George, despite his handicap, pushed ahead with single-minded determination. The deepest longing of his heart was to become a priest, and this led him to apply to Quigley Seminary. Convinced that this boy with crutches and a brace couldn’t make the difficult commute every day or keep up with the demands of the school, the officials at Quigley turned him away. Undeterred, he applied to join the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary congregation. Recognizing his enormous promise and inner strength, they took him in.

I bring us back to this moment of the Cardinal’s life, for it sheds light on two essential features of his personality. First, he was a man who never gave up. I had the privilege of living with Cardinal George for six years and thus I was able to see his life close-up. He had an absolutely punishing schedule, which had him going morning, noon, and night, practically every day of the week: administrative meetings, private conversations, banquets, liturgies, social functions, public speeches, etc. Never once, in all the years I lived with him, did I ever hear Cardinal George complain about what he was obliged to do. He simply went ahead, not grimly but with a sense of purpose. When he first spoke to the priests of the Archdiocese as our Archbishop, he said, “Never feel sorry for yourself!” That piece of advice came, you could tell, from the gut.

Second, his identity as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate deeply marked him as a man of mission. The OMI’s are a missionary congregation, whose work takes them all over the world, from Africa and Asia to Latin America, the Yukon, and Alaska—not to mention Texas and Belleville, Illinois. When he was a novice and young OMI seminarian in Belleville, Francis George heard the stories of missioners from the far reaches of the globe, and he imbibed their adventurous spirit. As the vicar general of his order, he undertook travels to six continents, dozens of countries, visiting with thousands of OMI evangelist priests. I was continually amazed at his detailed knowledge of the politics, culture, and history of almost any country or region you could name. It was born of lots of direct experience.

This missionary consciousness is precisely what informed the intellectual and pastoral project that was closest to his heart, namely, the evangelization of the contemporary culture. In this, he showed himself a disciple of his great mentor Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II. What Cardinal George brought rather uniquely to the table in this regard was a particularly clear grasp of the philosophical underpinnings of the Western and especially American cultural matrix. Cardinal George often signaled his impatience with the term “counter-cultural” in regard to the Church’s attitude vis-à-vis the ambient culture. His concern is that this can suggest a simple animosity, whereas the successful evangelist must love the culture he is endeavoring to address. But he saw a deeper problem as well, namely, that, strictly speaking, it is impossible to be thoroughly counter-cultural, since such an attitude would set one, finally, against oneself. It would be a bit like a fish adamantly insisting that he swims athwart the ocean. Therefore, the one who would proclaim the Gospel in the contemporary American setting must appreciate that the American culture is sown liberally with semina verbi (seeds of the Word).

The first of these, in Cardinal George’s judgment, is the modern sense of freedom and its accompanying rights. Following the prompts of Immanuel Kant, modern political theorists have held that all human beings possess a dignity which dictates that they should never be treated merely as a means but always as an end. It is interesting to note that the young Karol Wojtyla, in his early work in philosophical ethics, put a great premium on this second form of the Kantian categorical imperative. What Cardinal George has helped us see is that, at its best, this modern stress is grounded in a fundamentally theological understanding of the human person as a creature of God. Were the human being construed simply as an accidental product of the evolutionary process, then he would not enjoy the irreducible dignity that is assumed by Kant. Indeed, Kant’s contemporary Thomas Jefferson rather clearly indicated that his understanding of human rights was conditioned by the Christian theological heritage when he specified that those rights are granted, not by the state, but by the Creator.

The Kantian-Jeffersonian philosophical anthropology must be distinguished, Cardinal George insisted, from Thomas Hobbes’ account. On the Hobbesian reading, rights are grounded, not so much in divine intentionality, but in the unavoidability of desire. Hobbes opined—and John Locke essentially followed him—that we have a right to those things that we cannot not desire. For Hobbes this meant the sustenance of biological life and the avoidance of violent death, whereas for Locke, it was somewhat broadened to mean life, liberty, and property. The problem is that Hobbes’s interpretation is thoroughly non-theological and his consequent understanding of the purpose of government is non-teleological, purely protective rather than directive. Government exists, not for the achievement of the common good, but for the mutual protection of the citizens. That the Hobbesian strain found its way into the American political imagination is clear from Jefferson’s refusal to characterize the nature of happiness, even as he insisted on the universal right to pursue it. In a word, therefore, the Church can and must affirm, at least in its basic form, the Kantian understanding of freedom and rights, even as it can and must stand against the purely secularist Hobbesian notion.

Cardinal George knew that the prime spokesperson for this deft act of affirmation and negation was Pope John Paul II, who emerged, in the late twentieth-century, as the most articulate and vociferous defender of human rights on the world stage. The Cardinal drew attention to a speech that the Pope made in Philadelphia in 1979. John Paul sang the praises of our Declaration of Independence, with its stress on God-given rights, but he filled in the theological background by referencing the Genesis account of our creation in the image and likeness of God. Pressing well past any sort of Hobbesian secularism and utilitarianism, the Pope insisted that Jefferson’s ideal should inspire Americans to build a society that is marked by its care for the weakest and most vulnerable, especially the aged and the unborn.

The second major feature of modernity that Cardinal George identified is an extreme valorization of the physical sciences, or in his own words, “the imposing of scientific method as the point of contact between human beings and the world and society into which they are born.” The founders of modernity appreciated the sciences not only for their descriptive and predictive powers, but also for their liberating potential. Bacon, Descartes, Leibniz, Newton, Kant, and many others, held that the mastery over nature provided by burgeoning physics, chemistry, medicine, etc. would free the human race from its age-old captivity to sickness and the strictures of time and space. But what this led to—and I see it practically every day in my evangelical work—was the development of a “scientism” which, as a matter of ideological conviction, excludes non-scientific or extra-scientific ways of knowing, including and especially religious ways. The scientistic attitude has also obscured the undeniably theological foundations for the scientific enterprise, namely the assumptions that the world is not God (and hence can be analyzed) and that the world is stamped, in every detail, by intelligibility. Both of these assumptions are predicated upon the doctrine of creation, which the founders of modern science took in, along with their astronomy, mathematics, and physics, at church-sponsored universities. In the measure that the sciences flow from and rest upon the properly theological presumptions that non-divine universe is well-ordered and intelligible, Catholic theology can involve itself in a very fruitful dialogue with them; but in the measure that scientism comes to hold sway, the Church must resist.

One of Cardinal George’s most memorable remarks is that liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project. It is important that we parse his words here carefully. By “liberal Catholicism” he means an approach to the Catholic faith that takes seriously the positive achievements of the modern culture. In this sense, Lacordaire, Lord Acton, Lamennais, von Dollinger, and Newman were all liberal Catholics—and their successors would include De Lubac, Rahner, Guardini, Ratzinger, and Congar. One of the permanent achievements of the liberal Catholic project, in Cardinal George’s judgment, is “restoring to the center of the Church’s consciousness the Gospel’s assertion that Christ has set us free, but also for the insight and analysis that enabled the Church herself to break free of the conservative social structures in which she had become imprisoned.” In the 1950’s Hans Urs von Balthasar called, in a similar vein, for a “razing of the bastions,” behind which the church had been crouching, in order to let out the life that she had preserved. And this is very much in line with Vatican II’s limited accommodation to modernity in service of the evangelical mission. Liberal Catholicism also took into account the second great achievement of modernity, stressing that certain doctrinal formulations and Biblical interpretations had to be reassessed in light of the findings of modern science. One thinks in this context of the vociferous interventions, made by a number of bishops on the Council floor at Vatican II, concerning certain naïvely literalistic readings of the Old Testament.

All of this assimilation of the best of the modern represents the permanent achievement of Catholic liberalism, and this is why Cardinal George never argued that liberalism is simply a failed or useless project. He said it was anexhausted project, parasitical on a substance that no longer exists. What are the signs of exhaustion? The Cardinal explains that the liberal project has gone off the rails inasmuch as it “seems to interpret the Council as a mandate to change whatever in the Church clashes with modern society,” as though, in the words of the notorious slogan from the 1960’s, “the world sets the agenda for the Church.” If the Church only provides vaguely religious motivation for the mission and work of the secular society, then the Church has lost its soul, devolving into a cheerleader for modernity. The other principal sign of the exhaustion of the liberal project is its hyper-stress on freedom as self-assertion and self-definition. In Cardinal George’s words: “the cultural fault line lies in a willingness to sacrifice even the Gospel truth in order to safeguard personal freedom construed as choice.” We might suggest that another shadow side of Catholic liberalism is a tendency to accept the scientific vision of reality as so normative that the properly supernatural is called into question. We see this both in a reduction of religion to ethics and the building of the kingdom on earth, as well as in extreme forms of historical critical biblical interpretation that rule out the supernatural as a matter of principle.

What is too often overlooked—especially in liberal circles—is that Cardinal George was just as impatient with certain forms of conservative Catholicism. Correctly perceiving that authentic Catholicism clashes with key elements of modern culture, some conservatives instinctively reached back to earlier cultural instantiations of Catholicism and absolutized them. They failed thereby to realize that robust Catholicism is, in Cardinal George’s words, “radical in its critique of any society,” be it second-century Rome, eighteenth-century France, or the America of the 1950’s. What he proposed, finally, was neither liberal nor conservative Catholicism, but “simply Catholicism,” by which he meant the faith in its fullness, mediated through the successors of the Apostles.

At the heart of this Catholicism in full is relationality. Cardinal George has often pointed out that Catholic ontology is inescapably relational, since it is grounded in the Creator God who is, himself, a communion of subsistent relations. More to it, the Creator, making the universe, ex nihilo, does not stand over and against his creatures in a standard “being-to-being” rapport; rather, his creative act here and now constitutes the to-be of creatures, so that every finite thing is a relation to God. Aquinas expressed this when he said that creation is “a kind of relation to the Creator, with freshness of being.”  This metaphysics of relationality stands in sharp distinction to the typically modern and nominalist ontology of individual things, which gave rise to the Hobbesian and Lockean political philosophy sketched above, whereby social relations are not natural but rather artificial and contractual. Since grace rests upon and elevates nature, we should not be surprised that the Church is marked by an even more radical relationality. Through the power of Christ, who is the Incarnation of the subsistent relation of the Trinity, creation is given the opportunity of participating in the divine life. This participation, made possible through grace, is far more intense than the relationship that ordinarily obtains between God and creatures and among creatures themselves, and Catholic ecclesiology expresses that intensity through a whole set of images: bride, body, mother, temple, etc.

In Cardinal George’s striking language: “the Church is aware of herself as vital, and so calls herself a body. The Church is aware of herself as personal, and so calls herself a bride who surrenders to Christ. The Church is aware of herself as a subject, as an active, abiding presence that mediates a believer’s experience, and so calls herself mother. The Church is aware of herself as integrated, and so describes herself as a temple of the Holy Spirit.” Notice please the words being used here: vital, personal, present, surrendering, mother, integrated. They all speak of participation, interconnection, relationship, what Cardinal George calls esse per (being through). This is the living organism of the Church which relates in a complex way to the culture, assimilating and elevating what it can and resisting what it must. This is simply Catholicism.

Cardinal George was a spiritual father to me. In his determination, his pastoral devotion, his deep intelligence, his kindness of heart, he mediated the Holy Spirit. For this I will always be personally grateful to him. I believe that the entire Church, too, owes him a debt of gratitude for reminding us who we are and what our mission is.

Please join us in prayer:

Francis_George

January 16, 1937 – April 17, 

Prayer for Francis Cardinal George

O God of consolation,
our hearts are heavy
as we acknowledge our great sense of loss.

We look to you for comfort and solace
at the passing of your servant, Francis George.
Welcome him into the warmth of your embrace
and renew in us the consolation and hope of eternal life with you.

Even in times of doubt,
we know that your care reaches
into the depths of our hearts.
May the legacy of Cardinal George continue to inspire us
to be a holy people of love and compassion.

We ask this in the name of the One who came
to destroy sin and death,
your merciful Son, Jesus Christ,
who is Lord for ever and ever.

Amen.

Remembering Cardinal George: Chicago’s Archbishop celebrates 50 years of priestly ordination

Cardinal_George_1

This post was originally published on December 18, 2013, when Cardinal Francis George celebrated 50 years of priestly ordination. 

Ad multos annos, Cardinal Francis George, OMI
Chicago’s Archbishop celebrates 50 years of priestly ordination

By Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

Today Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago celebrates his 50th Anniversary of priestly ordination. Sebastian Gomes and I will be present for the Eucharistic celebration in Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral as well as at the dinner to follow in the Windy City’s Drake Hotel.

Francis Eugene George was born in Chicago in 1937.  He entered the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1963.  He served his Oblate Congregation as Provincial Superior of the Midwestern US Province from 1973-1974, and was then elected the following year, at age 37, as Vicar General of his international Congregation, a position which he held in Rome from 1974-1986.  From 1987-1990, he served as the Coordinator of the Circle of Fellows at the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Faith and Culture.  The Church recognized his remarkable qualities when Pope John Paul II named him Bishop of Yakima, Washington in 1990.  In 1996, he was appointed Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, a position he held for less than one year.  In April 1987, the Pope appointed him to the very important See of Chicago in the USA to succeed the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.  George was the  first native Chicagoan to be Archbishop of that city.  In February 1998, Francis George was created Cardinal priest by Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Francis George is a philosopher and theologian, a man who possesses the rather remarkable qualities of a warm, humble gentleman, a distinguished scholar and  a listening, compassionate, shepherd and faithful servant.  He has been an outstanding, gifted, leader of the Universal Church who has become an articulate teacher and pastor to people far beyond the confines of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Cardinal George has been a very good friend for many years, and a great supporter of our work at Salt and Light Catholic Television Network from the very beginning.  My friendship with him was born in Rome in 1985 when I first met him at the Oblate Generalate on Via Aurelia.  I was a newly ordained deacon and had accompanied my Basilian confrère Cardinal George Flahiff to the Extraordinary Synod on Vatican II and a special meeting of  the College of Cardinals.  The Oblates extended hospitality to us for the duration of the meetings and the kindness of then Fr. Francis George. Vicar General of his Religious Congregation, left a lasting impression upon me.  Several years later, in February 1994, our paths crossed again when Fr. George, now bishop of Yakima, Washington arrived in Jerusalem to take part in an international conference Religious Leadership in Secular Society. I was attending that conference as graduate student at Jerusalem’s Ecole Biblique et Archéologique Française.  We renewed our friendship and spent some memorable moments together in the Holy City.

Over the past 29 years, our paths have crossed many times, including Cardinal George’s memorable visit to the Newman Centre Catholic Mission at the University of Toronto in 1998 and his great lecture on the Papacy.  We have been together at World Youth Days, congresses, assemblies and conventions of all kinds, and at the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church in 2008.

During that Synod, the Cardinal gave a very eloquent address on the theme of reclaiming our biblical roots.  Synod Fathers had grappled with the fact that many of us had lost touch with the world of Scripture and of how important it was to see the hand of providence in life’s events. Cardinal George, in his role as then President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke of the “lived contexts in which believers hear the Word of God and the need for pastoral attention to conversion of the imagination, the intellect and the will.”

I still remember Cardinal George’s pointed words:“Western culture has been historically shaped in conversation with the Bible,” he said. “References to ‘the prodigal son’ or ‘the Good Samaritan’ or ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ could be taken for granted as images popularly recognizable.   …This familiarity, that has now largely disappeared from popular imagination, disappeared a generation ago from the world of art and theatre.”

“Behind this loss of biblical images lies the loss of a sense and an image of God as an actor in human history,” Cardinal George continued. “In Scripture, God is both the principal author and the principal actor. In Scripture, we encounter the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.   …Our people, for the most part, do not live confidently in the biblical world of active spirit, of angels and demons, of the search for God’s will and God’s intentions in the midst of this world governed by God’s providence.”

“Scripture takes on the genre of fantasy fiction, and the biblical world becomes an uninhabitable embarrassment.”

“A love of Scripture,” Cardinal George said, “feeds the desire to worship in spirit and in truth, and, in turn, our worship gives God the opportunity to transform us more profoundly into the image of Christ.”

In a recent interview with Chicago’s Catholic newspaper, Cardinal George, reflecting on his priestly and episcopal ministry, said:

“What I would try to do is avoid mistakes I’ve made; but in terms in what I’ve done, it’s been what I’ve been told to do and I did it. The fundamental evangelical virtue is the obedience of faith in charity. Christ was obedient unto death. We don’t talk about obedience, but in fact we are all obedient to God or else we’re on our own, which is a way of saying we are sinners. If you’re in touch with God, you’re obedient to God. I’ve tried to be obedient to the Lord’s will as expressed by the church.”

The Cardinal has appeared in numerous interviews, programs and series of Salt and Light Television over the past decade. His intelligent, articulate reflections on so many topics have inspired our entire team and countless viewers of our programming.  We will long remember his warm hospitality to our crew when they filmed an extensive interview with the Cardinal at his Chicago residence for our major series “The Church Alive” several years ago.

Cardinal George’s WITNESS interview, gives us some great insights into his depth of knowledge and love of the Church.

You can watch that interview here:

I have learned much from this great shepherd, teacher and friend.  May the Lord grant him health, happiness and peace on this momentous occasion of 50 years of priestly ministry.

A few of Cardinal George’s favorite things

Favorite saints? St. Francis is my patron. I was taught to love him by the Franciscan sisters who taught me in grade school, so I’ve always had a devotion to him. My mother had a great devotion to St. Anthony, whom I pray to also when I lose something. St. Therese of Lisieux is the patroness of the missions. She had a great influence on Oblate missionaries. And I suppose the most important one for all of us of course is the Blessed Virgin Mary. I’ve always felt very protected by her. She was the mother of Christ and therefore our mother too.

Favorite prayers? I like to say the Memorare. The most important prayer is the Lord’s own, the Our Father. There’s a prayer also that is in 17th century French spirituality that isn’t perhaps so well known. “Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in your servants.” It’s a classical prayer, a short one, but I say it every morning at the end of meditation because it expresses who we are, united to Christ in Mary, and how we are expected to transform our lives day by day. So beyond that, every priest prays the office for his people, and the Psalms, the Psalms are tremendously important as prayers. They express so many sentiments that are always part of one’s relationship to God, even though they are 3,000 years old. The Mass of course is the most important prayer that the church has — a great gift.

Prayer for the archdiocese? Every day I pray for people who ask me to pray for them, especially the sick. My prayer is simply that we be a praying people, close to the Lord, and let him direct us. What we have to do is keep the infrastructure strong so that the ministries can be effective, but after that, it’s individuals who are living their life in the world who are to be the agents for converting the world. The purpose of the church is to convert the world to its Savior. I would hope that everything we do in the archdiocese would be oriented toward that goal more and more clearly.

What do you want your legacy as a priest to be? I’ve been a priest for 50 years. All that I would hope people would remember is, “He tried to be a good priest.” That’s what my father told me when I told him I wanted to be a priest: “If you’re going to be a priest, be a good one.” So I would hope that people would remember that I tried to be a good priest and a good bishop, and that’s enough.

Source: Office for Radio and Television, Archdiocese of Chicago

Photo: CNS/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World

Canadian Premiere of John Paul II in America

jpII_documentary_blog

Canadian Premiere on Salt + Light
Sunday April 12, at 9pm ET / 6pm PT

A new Knights of Columbus produced documentary on St. John Paul II and his relationship with North and South America will air April 12 on Salt + Light.

John Paul II in America: Uniting a Continent explores how the papacy of St. John Paul II left an indelible mark on the American continent. Driven by his singular conviction of a “United American Continent” under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, John Paul II’s papal travels from Argentina to Alaska generated massive crowds, shaped an entire generation and ultimately changed the course of history.

Narrated by actor Andy Garcia, the film features rare archival footage and insightful analysis from leading figures, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, John Paul II biographer George Weigel and former Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls. Viewers will be both intrigued and moved by the documentary’s unprecedented framework for understanding one of the giant figures of our times.

Blessed Marcel Callo 1921-1945

marcel_callo_610x343

Today is 70th anniversary of death of Blessed Marcel Callo who was one of the patron blesseds and saints of World Youth Day 2002.

Marcel Callo was born on December 6, 1921, in Rennes, France, being one of nine children. He was a happy child, who was known to be a leader and a perfectionist. He helped with his household chores and he helped take care of his younger siblings. After completing his primary studies, he became an apprentice to a printer around age 13. He did not like associating with fellow workers who swore and told many improper stories. He preferred accompanying good Catholic friends who belonged to the JOC, Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne (Young Christian Worker). He had a good sense of humor and would like to wrestle, play football, ping pong, cards and bridge.

When Marcel was 20 he fell in love with Marguerite Derniaux. He did not degrade women like his fellow worker but instead had deep respect for women. He said, “I am not one to amuse myself with the heart of a lady, since my love is pure and noble. If I have waited until 20 years old to go out with a young lady, it is because I knew that I wanted to find real love. One must master his heart before he can give it to the one that is chosen for him by Christ.” It took him about one year to declare his love to Marguerite and an additional four months before they first kissed. After being engaged, they imposed a strict spiritual rule of life which included praying the same prayers and going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist as often as they could.

blog 2On March 8, 1943, the war (World War II) had gripped their city of Rennes. That day his sister, Madeleine was killed by one of the bombs that leveled her building. When the Germans later occupied France, Marcel was ordered and deported to Zella-Mehlis, Germany to the S.T.O.,Service du Travail Obligatoire (Service of Obligatory Work). If he did not comply, his family would be arrested, so he went.

Once there, he worked in a factory that produced bombs that would be used against his own countrymen. After three months or so of missing his family and missing Mass (there was no Catholic church in that town), Marcel became seriously depressed. He later found a room where Mass was offered on Sunday. This helped change his disposition. He reported that, “Finally Christ reacted. He made me to understand that the depression was not good. I had to keep busy with my friends and then joy and relief would come back to me.”

With his morale and hope restored, he cared for his deported friends. He organized a group of Christian workers who did activities together like play sports or cards. He also organized a theatrical group. He galvanized his friends despite him suffering from painful boils, headaches and infected teeth. For his French friends, he arranged a Mass to be celebrated in their native tongue. Eventually, his religious activities attracted unwanted attention from the German officials. The Germans arrested Marcel on April 19, 1944 saying that, “Monsieur is too much of a Catholic.”

The Germans interrogated Marcel. He admitted his Catholic activities and was imprisoned in Gotha. He secretly received the Eucharist while in prison and continued to pray and help his companions. He was considered dangerous to the Germans and was moved to a different prison at Mathausen. He suffered from various ailments such as bronchitis, malnutrition, dysentery, fever, swelling, and generalized weakness. He never complained. Despite his suffering, he encouraged his companions by saying, “It is in prayer that we find our strength.” He died on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1945. The date was exactly two years from the day he left home.Pope John Paul II beautified Marcel Callo on October 4, 1987 along with two Italian martyrs, Antonio Mesina and Pierina Morosini.

Courtesty of: http://www.savior.org/saints/callo.htm