February 28, 2013

What Does It Mean to "Offer Up" My Suffering?

Fr. John Bartunek and Dan Burke talk about how we can join with Christ in the redemption of the world through our suffering.

Benedict XVI’s Last Day as Pope

14:05 Benedict XVI is due to arrive in Castel Gandolfo at 17:30 (CET). 

It is still not known exactly how many cardinals will be present at the Conclave, especially as some are ill.

13.50 Benedict will send his last tweet at 17:00 (CET).

During the sede vacante period, Benedict XVI’s Twitter account will be frozen until a successor is chosen.

13:49 CTV and Telepace will give live coverage of the Pope’s departure

When Benedict XVI’s papacy comes to a formal end this evening at 20:00 (CET), “the gates to Castel Gandolfo will be drawn shut” and in the Vatican “the papal apartment and the lift that leads directly to the apartment will be sealed off, that is all as far as I know,” the director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi said during this morning’s press conference. He also said the closing of the gates at Castel Gandolfo will be broadcast live by CTV.

Media statistics:

There are 3641 journalists accredited by the Holy See Press Office, representing 968 newspapers of 61 nations, in 24 different languages. 336 journalists – 156 photographers – 2470 television networks – 231 radio stations and 115 websites. Fr. Lombardi has confirmed a visit to the Sistine Chapel before the Conclave, the news about the general congregations which will be held in the New Synod Hall and the Mass pro eligendo.

February 26, 2013

Ratzinger to Keep Papal Name Benedict XVI

Ratzinger will still be addressed as “Your Holiness” and is to be given the title “Pope Emeritus” when he steps down from the Throne of St. Peter. He will wear a simple white cassock but will no longer be able to wear the red papal shoes. The first Congregation of Cardinals will be held on 4 March

Joseph Ratzinger will be keeping his papal name when he leaves the Throne of Peter after 8 pm on 28 February: he will keep the name Benedict XVI and the title “His Holiness” and will be called 'Pope Emeritus' or 'Roman Pontiff Emeritus'.

During a press conference this morning, the Vatican’s spokesman explained that Ratzinger will continue to wear the “simple white” papal cassock, but without the shoulder cape. Fr. Lombardi also said he would no longer wear the red papal shoes. “The Pope did have a brown pair as well – the spokesman explained – and was particularly fond of a pair of shoes that were given to him as a gift in Leon, during his trip to Mexico in 2012.


Mary is the New Burning Bush

In Exodus 3:1-2 it is written: Meanwhile Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock beyond the wilderness, he came to the mountain of God, Horeb. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed.

The burning bush in which God appeared to Moses did not consume itself. This is a miracle precisely because the fire did not harm, alter or otherwise disfigure the plant in any way. Moses was rightly amazed. So to, throughout Scripture, whenever God intervenes in human affairs the people he touches are never destroyed or compromised. God never takes away free will when acting on the human stage. Just like the fire did not destroy the bush.  

Consider the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God. While consenting to be the Christ bearer in no way was her freedom or her personhood compromised. This is the case even in regard to her physical virginity. God does not destroy His chosen instruments. The virginity of Mary was preserved even in giving birth to the Savior. For some this might seem like an impossible statement. Nothing is impossible for God. Not burning bushes. Not virgin births. Mary was preserved physically just as the burning bush was preserved physically. 

Furthermore, at the conclusion of her earthly life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. The stain of sin did not enter into her being, therefore, the specter of physical decay did not touch her body. In the preservation of her free will, her perpetual virginity and her miraculous assumption, Mary is the new burning bush.   

February 25, 2013

Pope Tells Faithful God Called Him to Resign

The Pope has told an estimated 100,000 at St Peter's Square he would continue to serve the Catholic Church even after he resigns on Thursday, becoming the first pontiff in 700 years to willingly do so.

In his last Sunday blessing from a window overlooking the giant key-shaped piazza, the 85-year-old Pope said he was not "abandoning the Church" by his decision to retire to a former nunnery inside the walls of the Vatican.

To applause and cheering from the crowd, he said he had been "called" by God to devote himself to a quiet life of prayer and reflection.
"But this doesn't mean abandoning the church," he told the crowds packed into St Peter's as they held up banners which read "Grazie" (thank you) and waved flags from Italy, Brazil, Romania, France and a dozen other countries.

Three nuns in beige wimples clutched a large banner which read "Viva Il Papa", a group of French Catholics had a placard which said "Au revoir e merci" and a crowd of Mexicans in silver and black sombreros played guitar music and sang.

Dressed in white vestments and extending his arms to the faithful, Benedict said he would "continue to serve it (the Church) with the same dedication and the same love which I have tried to do so until now, but in a way more suitable to my age and to my strength."

Top Ten Myths About the Catholic Church, Part 2

10. Clerical Celibacy is a Doctrine

If the Church decides to let priests marry in the near future this myth is no doubt going to cause a great deal of damage as cries of "changed doctrine" cry through the anti-Catholic community. Simply put it is a utilitarian discipline adopted in the fourth century. The Church merely chooses clergy from men who are willing to remain celibate so that they can better dedicate themselves to the Church without as much spiritual or temporal issues and distractions.

9. The Church Sold Out By Accepting Evolution

The issue of Fundamentalism so grave that I have already dedicated an entire note to it. The simple truth is that when you have Church theologians raising the possibility of an allegorical Genesis as far back as the third century, it isn't selling out when you accept scientific evidence that confirms those ideas.

8. The Church Supported Nazi Germany

Henry IV at Canossa, Bismarck and the Kulturkampf, it is a tragedy that the Church has struggled so much with German leaders, however Hitler was not the exception to this unfortunate pattern that he's often made to be. Pope Pius XI disproved this myth when he wrote the encyclical Mit Brenneder Sorge. Saving hundreds of thousands of Jews helped out too. Could he have done more against the Holocaust? Of course, however this applies to most of not all world leaders of the time as well.

7. The Church Helped Cause the Dark Ages

User deiseach of Mike Flynn's Journal humorously phrased this myth as the idea that "Before Christianity came into power, the peasantry of Europe were discussing Catullus and Euripides as they dunged the fields; as soon as the Evil Church came along, it forcibly scooped out their brains so they couldn't even write their own names." The truth however is that the Dark Ages were caused by barbarian invasions, Catholic monasteries preserved Classical Knowledge, and when Church and State were united under Charlemagne it produced the Carolingian Renaissance.

6. Scale and Nature of the Priest Abuse Scandal

With so many pedophile priest jokes and references floating around you'd think that half the priests in the Church were caught committing these crimes. 4,392 "substantiated" accusations were made in a period of about 50 years. This makes up 4% of all priests during this time. It's an abominable scandal all right, but its been blown to mythological proportions. The percentage should also dispel notions that the scandal was caused by clerical celibacy.

5. The Crusades Were Offensive Holy Wars

Regarding the Crusades, the myth is that the Church invaded the Holy Land mainly because there were Muslims there. People here forget that the Muslims were invaders that had gotten dangerously close to Europe. When Cisterian Monk Radulf advocated that the Jews be killed, he was reproved by St. Bernard because the Jews were peaceful. When the Fourth Crusaders decided to go sack non-threatening Constantinople, the leaders were excommunicated by the pope himself.

4. Belief in God is a Matter of Faith

While this myth applies to all of Christianity, in some cases it is true, but in the case of the Catholic Church it is not. The Church has never taught that belief in God is a matter of faith. Without a doubt this myth has caused incredible damage by contributing to secularization, but it goes back way before the Secular Age or even before the rise of fideism. St. Thomas Aquinas himself wrote against the idea in Summa Theologica.

3. The Church Persecuted Galileo For Contradicting the Bible

A whole article could be written of this issue, but basically the science of the day supported geocentricism, the Reformation had caused the Church to be wary of any idea that made it seem anti-Biblical, and Galileo had not yet enough conclusive evidence for Heliocentricism to change science and exegesis. Cardinal Bellamarine explicitly stated that if better evidence came along the Church would have to get a new interpretation of those passages which seemed to support geocentricism.

2. Scale of the Inquisition

Anti-Catholics estimates of Inquisition executions range from the ignorant (about 100,000) to the insane (1,000,000+). Accepting the larger scholarly estimates (about 5000) results in about 10 deaths a year. You must remember that the Inquisition was an official judicial institution; people were tried, they weren't killed carelessly. Was there torture, abuses, injustices? Yes, but just as with the Priest scandal this has been blown incredibly out of proportion.

1. Constantine's Church

I could fill a book addressing all the myths regarding the "true" origins of the Catholic Church, but this is probably the most prevalent one, that the Church is merely the ghost of the Roman Empire. Never mind the fact that the point of the Council of Nicaea wasn't to form a Church but to solve the Arian Crisis. The papacy and Church hierarchy were all explicitly established in the historical record before Constantine ever came to power. The Catholic Church was already a prominent, steadily growing institution. The idea that Constantine founded the Church at the Council of Nicaea, rightfully earns its place as the number one myth about Catholicism.

Lenten Reflection: Doing Good Vs. Being Good

The Catholic Church from the time of Christ onward has always concerned itself with the poor. Christ Himself was born poor, lived poor and died poor. His ministry seemed to single out the impoverished. Pope Gregory the Great invited indigents to dine at the papal table. But the question of social justice has proven to be a thornier issue in modern times. Mother Teresa’s efforts to support society’s outcasts were prodigious and uncontroversial, but even she was not without her critics. The likes of Dorothy Day, and more recently, liberation theologians who take a more activist approach to social justice questions have proven more controversial.

The idea of building the “City of God” here on earth, while noble, is something only God can truly accomplish. Loosing site of this, and the humility it brings, has caused the downfall of many a social justice movement. We should not make gods out of men. We should not make idols out of causes – no matter how well intentioned they may be.

Christ saved the world by his cross. We must never loose site of this fact. We are not saved by anything we do. We cannot save others regardless of what we do. God and God alone does all the saving.

Mother Teresa was Christlike in her actions. How many social justice crusaders can say that about their efforts? How many of us can say that about our lives?

February 22, 2013

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

“The same Lord is Lord of all – enriching all who all upon him – everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”

For all of us this has been a momentous week with events from Rome and the intended abdication of Pope Benedict the XVI. Many could not make head or tail of it asking why one would want to walk away from such a position. Why desert people in need particularly when they have a hunger for his teaching and he still has so much to say? For many his influence on the world stage is second to none so why give that up? He is probably the most acknowledged teacher and for many leader in the world today.

I would want to suggest a simple truth which comes most clearly from today’s gospel and is at the heart of Lent. That truth is that life is not about me but about God’s purposes and plans. Life most certainly does not revolve around me but around God. Until we accept that our lives will remain disembodied and pained. Humanity will be fractured and broken and there will be no peace and joy in our hearts.

Lent is about discovering that truth that we are not the centre of all things but God is and he is the one that we must ask to determine our plans. For that to happen we have to go into the desert, that place of quietness and stillness. Moses and our Lord in the word of God today are to be found in the wilderness. We hear in the Gospel that the Spirit led Jesus into the dessert, in other words he goes to face temptation in obedience to the Father being led by the Spirit. It is a journey of humility and surrender and we have to surrender ourselves to God at this time to make the same journey. Let us be ready to go to that place and ask of ourselves what is fundamental, basic and necessary to our lives. It is God who wants to search us and know us and until we let that happen we will never come to know who we truly are.

Very deliberately God leads the Lord and us through the three temptations. The chocolates, alcohol, meat or marmalade we give up during the season of Lent help to remind us that the material should not determine, run or disfigure our lives. “One does not live on bread alone” but rather on every word that comes from the mouth of God. The organiser of our lives must be God’s will and work. That Benedict wants to teach us.

When the Devil showed the Lord the kingdoms of the earth he wanted him to be seduced by honour and glory. How easy it is for us as Jew, Greek, Pope, priest, postman or footballer to want honour and glory. In truth God may want our dishonour, humbling and disappointment. Remember that we are making the journey to the Passion in which the Lord is to be crushed and broken. Why should we be any different?

Finally he takes him to the top of the mountain promising that Angels will bear him up. In other words our Lord is being tempted to that most deadly of sins namely Pride. He tempts him by inviting him to become the centre of the universe. How easy it is for us to fall into that trap... 

For more visit Discover Happiness.

The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI: A Commentary By Fr. Barron

Another part of a video series from Wordonfire.org. Father Barron will be commenting on subjects from modern day culture. 

Your guide to the conclave rules

As the princes of the Church, only cardinals have the exclusive responsibility to choose a successor to the Pope. As soon the Sede Vacante begins, Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano will officially call all able-bodied cardinals to Rome. But only the ones under 80 can take part in the election.

February 11, 2013

Fasting and Abstinence During and Outside of Lent

It is a traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality that a constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God, includes some form of penance, without which the Christian is unlikely to remain on the narrow path and be saved (Jer. 18:11, 25:5; Ez. 18:30, 33:11-15; Joel 2:12; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; Acts 2:38). Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). The general law of penance, therefore, is part of the law of God for man.

The Church has specified certain forms of penance, both to ensure that the Catholic will do something, as required by divine law, while making it easy for Catholics to fulfill the obligation. Thus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics [Eastern Rite Catholics have their own penitential practices as specified by the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches].
Canon 1250 All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.
Canon 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Canon 1252 All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

Can. 1253 It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.
The Church, therefore, has two forms of official penitential practices - three if the Eucharistic fast before Communion is included.


The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Moral theologians have traditionally considered this also to forbid soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal-derived products such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste.

On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. Since this was not stated as binding under pain of sin, not to do so on a single occasion would not in itself be sinful. However, since penance is a divine command, the general refusal to do penance is certainly gravely sinful. For most people the easiest way to consistently fulfill this command is the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year which are not liturgical solemnities. When solemnities, such as the Annunciation, Assumption, All Saints etc. fall on a Friday, we neither abstain or fast.

During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere, and it is sinful not to observe this discipline without a serious reason (physical labor, pregnancy, sickness etc.).


The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

Those who are excused from fast or abstinence 

Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times. It could be modeled after abstinence and fasting. A person could, for example, multiply the number of days they abstain. Some people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives). Some religious orders, as a penance, never eat meat. Similarly, one could multiply the number of days that one fasted. The early Church had a practice of a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the Church's law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in giving up something one enjoys - candy, soft drinks, smoking, that cocktail before supper, and so on. This is left to the individual.

One final consideration. Before all else we are obliged to perform the duties of our state in life. When considering stricter practices than the norm, it is prudent to discuss the matter with one's confessor or director. Any deprivation that would seriously hinder us in carrying out our work, as students, employees or parents would be contrary to the will of God.

- Colin B. Donovan, STL