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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Imagination


"The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work," wrote Tolkien, "unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like "religion", to cults or practices, in the Imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism."

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973)

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament ... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth ... which every man's heart desires"

 JRR Tolkien

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks to US bishops of Region II – Vatican Radio

Letter from Papa!

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 07:16 AM PST

Pope Benedict XVI and friend

"Only through such interior renewal will we be able to discern and meet the spiritual needs of our age with the ageless truth of the Gospel." 

Many of you have shared with me your concern about the grave challenges to a consistent Christian witness presented by an increasingly secularized society. I consider it significant, however, that there is also an increased sense of concern on the part of many men and women, whatever their religious or political views, for the future of our democratic societies. 

They see a troubling breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life, and a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of wide-ranging societal changes. Despite attempts to still the Church’s voice in the public square, many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance in meeting this far-reaching crisis.

The present moment can thus be seen, in positive terms, as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free. 

At the same time, the seriousness of the challenges which the Church in America, under your leadership, is called to confront in the near future cannot be underestimated. The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularized culture also affect the lives of believers, leading at times to that “quiet attrition” from the Church which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit. 

Immersed in this culture, believers are daily beset by the objections, the troubling questions and the cynicism of a society which seems to have lost its roots, by a world in which the love of God has grown cold in so many hearts. 

Evangelization thus appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extra; we ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization. As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ’s truth. 

Only through such interior renewal will we be able to discern and meet the spiritual needs of our age with the ageless truth of the Gospel.
    

Monday, November 21, 2011

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan - Presidential Address 2011 Fall USCCB

2011 Fall Meeting - Presidential Address

Presidential Address

Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York
General Meeting - November 14, 2011
"Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!"
My brother bishops:it is with that stunningly simple exhortation of Blessed Pope John II that I begin my remarks to you this morning.
"Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!"
You and I have as our sacred duty, arising from our intimate sacramental union with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to love, cherish, care for, protect, unite in truth, love, and faith . . .to shepherd . . .His Church.
You and I believe with all our heart and soul that Christ and His Church are one.
That truth has been passed on to us from our predecessors, the apostles, especially St. Paul, who learned that equation on the Road to Damascus, who teaches so tenderly that the Church is the bride of Christ, that the Church is the body of Christ, that Christ and His Church are one.
That truth has been defended by bishops before us, sometimes and yet even today, at the cost of "dungeon, fire, and sword."
That truth -- that He, Christ, and she, His Church, are one -- moistens our eyes and puts a lump in our throat as we whisper with De Lubac, "For what would I ever know of Him, without her?"
Each year we return to this premier see of John Carroll to gather as brothers in service to Him and to her.We do business, follow the agenda, vote on documents, renew priorities and hear information reports.
But, one thing we can't help but remember, one lesson we knew before we got off the plane, train, or car, something we hardly needed to come to this venerable archdiocese to learn, is that "love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!"
Perhaps, brethren, our most pressing pastoral challenge today is to reclaim that truth, to restore the luster, the credibility, the beauty of the Church "ever ancient, ever new," renewing her as the face of Jesus, just as He is the face of God.Maybe our most urgent pastoral priority is to lead our people to see, meet, hear and embrace anew Jesus in and through His Church.
Because, as the chilling statistics we cannot ignore tell us, fewer and fewer of our beloved people -- to say nothing about those outside the household of the faith -- are convinced that Jesus and His Church are one.As Father Ronald Rolheiser wonders, we may be living in a post-ecclesial era, as people seem to prefer
a King but not the kingdom,
a shepherd with no flock,
to believe without belonging,
a spiritual family with God as my father, as long as I'm
the only child,
"spirituality" without religion
faith without the faithful
Christ without His Church.
So they drift from her, get mad at the Church, grow lax, join another, or just give it all up.
If this does not cause us pastors to shudder, I do not know what will.
The reasons are multiple and well-rehearsed, and we need to take them seriously.
We are quick to add that good news about the Church abounds as well, with evidence galore that the majority of God's People hold fast to the revealed wisdom that Christ and His Church are one, with particularly refreshing news that young people, new converts, and new arrivals, are still magnetized by that truth, so clear to many of us only three months ago in Madrid, or six months ago at the Easter Vigil, or daily in the wonderfully deep and radiant faith of Catholic immigrants who are still a most welcome -- -- while sadly harassed -- -- gift to the Church and the land we love.
But a pressing challenge to us it remains . . . to renew the appeal of the Church, and the Catholic conviction that Christ and His Church are one.
Next year, which we eagerly anticipate as a Year of Faith, marks a half-century since the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which showed us how the Church summons the world foreward, not backward.
Our world would often have us believe that culture is light years ahead of a languishing, moribund Church.
But, of course, we realize the opposite is the case:the Church invites the world to a fresh, original place, not a musty or outdated one.It is always a risk for the world to hear the Church, for she dares the world to "cast out to the deep," to foster and protect the inviolable dignity of the human person and human life; to acknowledge the truth about life ingrained in reason and nature; to protect marriage and family; to embrace those suffering and struggling; to prefer service to selfishness; and never to stifle the liberty to quench the deep down thirst for the divine that the poets, philosophers, and peasants of the earth know to be what really makes us genuinely human.
The Church loves God's world like His only begotten Son did.She says yes to everything that is good, decent, honorable and ennobling about the world, and only says no when the world itself negates the dignity of the human person . . .and, as Father Robert Barron reminds us, "saying 'no' to a 'no' results in a 'yes '!"
To invite our own beloved people, and the world itself, to see Jesus and His Church as one is, of course, the task of the New Evangelization.Pope Benedict will undoubtedly speak to us about this during our nearing ad limina visits, and we eagerly anticipate as well next autumn's Synod on the New Evangelization.Jesus first called fishermen and then transformed them into shepherds. The New Evangelization prompts us to reclaim the role of fishermen. Perhaps we should begin to carry fishing poles instead of croziers.
Two simple observations might be timely as we as successors of the apostles embrace this urgent task of inviting our people and our world to see Jesus and His Church as one.
First, we resist the temptation to approach the Church as merely a system of organizational energy and support that requires maintenance.
As the Holy Father remarked just recently in his homeland of Germany, "Many see only the outward form of the Church.This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to . . .evaluating and dealing, with such a complex entity of the 'Church'."
The Church we passionately love is hardly some cumbersome, outmoded club of sticklers, with a medieval bureaucracy, silly human rules on fancy letterhead, one more movement rife with squabbles, opinions, and disagreement.
The Church is Jesus -- teaching, healing, saving, serving, inviting; Jesus often "bruised, derided, cursed, defiled."
The Church is a communio, a supernatural family.Most of us, praise God, are born into it, as we are into our human families.So, the Church is in our spiritual DNA.The Church is our home, our family.
In the Power and the Glory, when the young girl asks him why he just doesn't renounce his Catholic faith, the un-named "Whisky Priest" replies:
"That's impossible!There's no way!It's out of my power."
Graham Greene narrates:"The child listened intently. She then said, 'Oh, I see, like a birthmark'."
To use a Catholic word, Bingo!Our Church is like a birthmark.Founded by Christ, the Church had her beginning at Pentecost, but her origin is from the Trinity.Yes, her beginning is in history, as was the incarnation, but her origin is outside of time.
Our urgent task to reclaim "love of Jesus and His Church as the passion of our lives" summons us not into ourselves but to Our Lord.Jesus prefers prophets, not programs; saints, not solutions; conversion of hearts, not calls to action; prayer, not protests:Verbum Dei rather than our verbage.
God calls us to be His children, saved by our oldest brother, Jesus, in a supernatural family called the Church.
Now, and here's number two: since we are a spiritual family, we should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles, problems . . . to use the talk-show vocabulary, that our supernatural family has some "dysfunction."
As Dorothy Day remarked: "The Church is the radiant bride of Christ; but her members at times act more like the scarlet woman of Babylon."
It might seem, brother bishops, that the world wants us to forget every Church-teachingexcept for the one truth our culture is exuberantly eager to embrace and trumpet:the sinfulness of her members!That's the one Catholic doctrine to which society bows its head and genuflects with crusading devotion!
We profess it, too.With contrition and deep regret, we acknowledge that the members of the Church -- starting with us -- are sinners!
One big difference:we who believe in Jesus Christ and His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church interpret the sinfulness of her members not as a reason to dismiss the Church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more!The sinfulness of the members of the Church reminds us precisely how much we need the Church.The sinfulness of her members is never an excuse, but a plea, to place ourselves at His wounded side on Calvary from which flows the sacramental life of the Church.
Like Him, she, too, has wounds. Instead of running from them, or hiding them, or denying them, she may be best showing them, like He did that first Easter night.
As Monsignor John Tracy Ellis used to introduce his courses on Church history, "Ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to discover that the Mystical Body of Christ has a lot of warts."
And we passionately love our bride with wrinkles, warts, and wounds all the more.
We bishops repent as well.At least twice a day -- at Mass, and at compline -- we ask Divine mercy.Often do we approach the Sacrament of Penance.
One thing both sides of the Catholic ideological spectrum at last agree upon is the answer to this question:who's to blame for people getting mad at or leaving the Church?Their unanimous answer?
. . . nice to meet you!We're the cause, they never tire of telling us.
Less shrill voices might comfort us by assuring us that's not true.Nice to hear . . .
But we are still sincere in often praying "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa."
As Gregory the Great observed fifteen centuries ago: "the Church is fittingly pictured as dawn . . . dawn only hints that night is over. It does not reveal the full radiance of the day. While it indeed dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it presents both of them . . . so does the Church."
Bishops, thanks for listening.
I look out at shepherds, fishermen, leaders, friends.
I look out at 300 brothers each of whom has a ring on his finger, because we're spoken for, we're married.
Our episcopal consecration has configured us so intimately to Jesus that He shares with us His bride, the Church.
There's nothing we enjoy doing more than helping our people, and everybody else, get to know Him and her better.That's our job description.
Because . . . "Love for Jesus and His Church is the passion of our lives!"
  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

When GOD Wants to Make a Man . . .


When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out—
God knows what He’s about.
—Author Unknown

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We Read To Know We Are Not Alone


WE READ TO KNOW WE ARE NOT ALONE, November 15, 2011


To those who know me, it will come as no surprise that I was on a wait list for A Year With the Angels by Mike Aquilina, as I have every one of his books!  Mike Aquilina is my favorite 'living' author and his Church Fathers and his Angels are my favorite topics!

A Year With the Angels came on the heels of A Year With the Church Fathers, also by Mike Aquilina.  The Church Fathers book was so beautifully done, cover and all, that I called the people who did the cover just to thank them for such a beautiful book.  They have done an equally beautiful cover for the Angels.  I knew the inside of the Angels would be as perfect as the Church Fathers book, because Mike Aquilina had gathered together all of the Church Fathers' writings to share with us for 365 days and would be gathering together all the writings of Angels to share with us for 365 days!  

I always say, when I arrive in heaven, I will know so many of the Saints and Fathers of the Church because I had an introduction by Mike Aquilina, who knows these men and women, these Church Fathers and Saints, as though they live on his block.  By the way, they are closer than just on his block.  He really knows them and all about them!  Thank you, Mike Aquilina, for sharing your knowledge of history and those men and women who are part of His Story.

And now thank you, Mr. A, for A Year With the Angels, the Daily Meditations with the Messengers of GOD!!

So far, while waiting for a special group of friends who are reading A Year With the Angels with me, I have "read" the Cover, by touching the beautiful indentation in the soft finish - it IS beautiful!   Then I have slowly read the Introduction, which is the best intro to a book I have read for a long time.  Mike Aquilina has done a great job!  Then, believe it or not, the "how to use this book" page and 'the notes on the text" readied me for the next 365 days.  I began reading Day 1 and read that I am not alone!  I loved this first reading, as I remembered C. S. Lewis sharing that one of his students at Oxford once said his own father, a teacher in a small village in England, had said "We read to know we are not alone!"  I have always loved that statement.  It rings truth.

I know, as we read A Year With the Angels, we will be reminded that Angels have always been with us.  We have never been alone.  The early Church knew and wrote about Angels because they knew they were never alone.  Come read with me on this journey.

FEAR - Pope Benedict XVI



Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, His name will continue to resound throughout the world.

Address at Prayer Vigil
Airport of Cuatro Vientos, Spain 
World Youth Day