It may have been a while coming, but, surprisingly I have only recently discovered the popularity of 'urban' Monasticism and also found out what a solitary is ! Strange it's taken me this long, but delighted to have had my eyes opened to this way of life.
I stumbled across a few articles in the press about people who have been called to take up this way of life. they are interesting reading.
I love these excerpts from the 1960s film about the life of Saint Charbel. If you want more have a look at the whole film which can be viewed online by clicking here ! St Charbel deserves to be more well known in the West.
There is a widespread opinion that ministry and community are the crucible of the Christian life. Where there are signs of growth, there is true faith. This may be true in part, but the example of St Charbel reveals a ministry and spirituality lived in isolation. Find out more about him here
"Is it any wonder that I hear theologians and Priests in South America saying, "We used to serve the Church; now we serve humanity." People are going beyond the church and outgrowing it's structures everywhere. We need less of structures and more of the Gospel and it's values of justice and compassion preached and lived." Matthew Fox: Letters to Pope Francis
Vatican City - Former Pope Benedict has said he resigned after “God told me to” during what he called a “mystical experience”, a Catholic news agency reported.
Benedict, whose formal title is now Pope Emeritus, announced his shock resignation on February 11 and on February 28 became the first pontiff to step down in 600 years.
“God told me to do it,” the Zenith agency quoted Benedict as saying to a visitor to the convent in the Vatican gardens where he is living out his retirement in near isolation.
According to the agency, Benedict told his visitor, who asked to remain anonymous, that God did not speak to him in a vision but in what the former pope called “a mystical experience”.
According to Italian media, Benedict's decision to step down was influenced by the various scandals that blighted his eight-year papacy, including the arrest of his personal butler for leaking private documents alleging corruption in the Vatican.
He was succeeded by Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who was elected as the first non-European pontiff in 1 300 years.
According to the Rome-based Zenith, Benedict told his visitor that the more he observes the way Francis carries out his papal duties, the more he realised the choice was “wanted by God”.
Last Sunday, Benedict spent a day at the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, to escape the heat of the capital.
The visit indicated that the 86-year-old ex pope's health was good enough for him to travel. There had been media reports that since his resignation, Benedict's health had deteriorated dramatically. - Reuters
Anyone called to Contemplative prayer should find out more about St Charbel. There are two movies to be found on the Maronite Channel. One in colour and the other black and white, both worth watching.
This is a movie about the Lebanese Saint Sharbel covering a very tiny part of his life. He is known as the "Saint drunk in God" in reference to his deep faith, humbleness, humility. At his time in the 1800s he was very educated but he did not leave education ruin his relation with God. Saint Sharbel protect Lebanon, was a subtitle of his picture during the war.
He became a hermit in the hermitage of Saint Maron Monastery in the mountains of Lebanon (5000ft elevation). He was known for his silence and dignity. Whereever Saint Sharbel was, there was prayer or silence.
Millions of miracles were done through his intercession and letters were sent from different countries in the world to show the thanks and be an example for all believers. Many events were not recorded in this movie due to the lack of time, you can visit the monastery website for additional information in different languages: http://www.saintcharbel-annaya.com/
Why would the creator create a universe where all the parts grow and develop but not the whole ?
God is, without doubt, a great risk taker and probably that explains the endless and bizarre displays of life that we see on this earth.
God is clearly into freedom, imagination and creativity. Look at nature: we end up with every conceivable shape and colour of jellyfish, desert kangaroos that turn their urine back into liquid to nurse their young, and twenty-five hundred types of cicades, some of which appear only every seventeen years.
Who is this God? You could call God unfettered ressurection! Humans, by contrast, are preoccupied with stability, efficiency, and control, even if it means boredom and death."
Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond pg 89/90
Please don’t think me rude, but, I often wonder why groups
of people get together to chunner out the Rosary in a quasi Liturgical way
?Rules are so important.Not just the right prayer on the correct
bead, but, whether or not to include the Fatima prayer, the alternate ‘cantoring’
of the first half of each prayer and of course saying the correct mysteries on
the proper day.Who could ever pray the
glorious Mysteries on a Friday ?
To my mind the mysteries are central to the Rosary.They are a like reading a passage of
scripture or holding a dogma in your heart.We think carefully about the mystery, using our imagination and inspired
by the Holy Spirit are led into a prayerful restfulness with a still mind, “at
rest as a child in it’s mother’s arms . . . . .”
This sounds very much like the Benedictine practice of Lectio
Divina, formalised by the 12th century carthusian monk Guigo
II.St John of the Cross taught Guigo’s
method of prayer. A passage of scripture
is read, meditated upon leading to prayer and contemplation.
Lectio-Meditatio-oratio- Contemplatio.Some maintain this strict order, whilst others suggest a weaving between
the elements should not be considered second rate lectio.
Contemplative prayer has only recently been rediscovered by
the wider church, having been considered the preserve of mystics or cast aside
in favour of popular devotions arising from the Counter Reformation.
As a child I read the stories of Lourdes and Fatima where we
were asked to pray the Rosary in response to Mary’s request. I don’t think I understood it then, but now I
wonder has Mary been calling us back to renewal of the contemplative tradition
and wisdom that had been so buried and neglected in the triumphalism of the Counter
reformation and the fog of the enlightenment?
What journeys into the mystery of God will be 'present' next
time I come across a group ‘chunnering’ the Rosary.
I loved this picture I've just seen on the Pray Tell website. There's also a list by Anthony Riff OSB of what Pope Francis has done with Liturgy and Ritual since his election. It can be seen here or, though is reproduced below.
What Pope Francis Has Done
After his election, he came down from platform to greet the cardinal electors, rather than have them
come up to his level to offer obedience.He appeared on the loggia without the red cape. (The BBC report, unconfirmed, is that he said to his
aide, “No thank you, Monsignore. You put it on instead. Carnival time is over."In his greeting he referred to himself only as “bishop,” not as "pope."
He referred to Benedict as “bishop emeritus,” not “pope emeritus.”
He appeared without the stole, only putting it on to give the blessing. He then took it off in public (!), as if he couldn’t wait to get it off.
He asked for the people’s prayers before he blessed them. He doesn’t wear red shoes. Or white stockings. Or cuff links. He rode the bus back to the residence with the cardinals rather than take the papal limousine. When he went to Mary Major to pray, he declined the papal Mercedes and took a Volkswagen Passat. On his way back from Mary Major, he stopped at his pre-conclave hotel to get his luggage and pay his own bill. Though he has taken possession of the apostolic palace, he continued to receive guests at St. Martha’s House rather than the palace.
He drank Argentinian tea in public when receiving the Argentinian president – protocol is that popes
are seen publicly consuming no food or drink except the Eucharist. His first Mass with cardinals was celebrated facing the people. (Pope Benedict started this way, but then did a “reform of the reform” and celebrated at the old high altar in the Sistine Chapel facing away from the congregation. Apparently this has been reversed.He doesn’t chant the prayers, he recites them – but this could be because of an impaired lung or his singing ability. The wall of candles between celebrant and congregation, another of Pope Benedict’s “reform of the reform,” was moved away with three candles on each side of the altar.
At his inauguration Mass, photos show that the candles were originally set up across the front of the altar, but by Mass time they had been moved to the side.
The crucifix on the altar was a small one at his first Mass. He wore his own simple miter from Argentina, not the papal miter. He preached from the ambo without miter – rather like a simple parish priest. (The concelebrating cardinals gradually realized what was going on and had to remove the miters they had started to put on after the Gospel readingHe brushed aside the prepared Latin homily and preached in Italian without text. In general, less lace. His hands are folded during the liturgy, not the pious (some say prissy) way with palms together. He didn’t genuflect at the Supper Narrative of the Eucharistic Prayer – is this really because of bad knees? He asked the cardinals not to wear their red cardinals’ robes, but black. He stood on the floor of the Clementine Hall to greet the cardinals rather than sit on the throne on the platform. He called them “brother cardinals” rather than “Lord cardinals.” He bent to kiss the ring of a cardinal who kissed his ring. At his meeting with over 5,000 journalists, after Archbishop Celli introduced him, he got up to walk over to him (popes don’t do that) and thanked him. He didn’t bless the journalists like popes do, since not all of them are Catholic or believers. Instead he prayed for them in silence, then simply said “God bless you.” After the meeting with journalists, he waved away the papal limousine and walked to the Vatican residence. When he saw the papal apartments he said, “There’s room for 300 people here. I don’t need all this space.” He has yet to move into the apartments, and some wonder whether he will.
At Mass Sunday at the Vatican parish Sunday morning, he gave the Kiss of Peace to the deacons and Master of Ceremonies, not just the concelebrants. This is breaking the rules – but perhaps also a nice show of support for MC Marini, who must be reeling from all the sudden changes.
The deacon didn’t kneel before Pope Francis for the blessing before the gospel (as they did for John Paul II and Benedict XVI).
He doesn’t wear the dalmatic. Pope Benedict revived the practice, not foreseen in the reformed liturgical books, of wearing this deacon’s vestment under his papal vestments.
He doesn’t distribute Communion as the missal foresees of the celebrant, but is seated while others do so.
He listened to the words of the Patriarch of Constantinople seated on an armchair rather than the throne that is customarily used in the Clementine Hall. When he thanked Bartholomew I, he called him “my brother AndrewHe has simplified his coat of arms, keeping the miter rather than tiara (as Benedict also did) but removing the pallium from it. He is wearing a second-hand pallium. He has chosen a simple ring, re-using a ring once made for Paul VI’s secretary. Pope Benedict recently began wearing a fanon under the pallium for big feasts, but Francis did not wear it as the inauguration Mass.
He undid Pope Benedict’s decision that all the cardinals would come up to pay obedience to the Pope at his inauguration, and decided that six representatives would be enough.Rather than being seated while they came up to pay him obedience, he stood and greeted them
informally. Contrary to protocol, he has given a phone call to the Jesuit superior general, the people holding a prayer vigil outside the Buenos Aires cathedral, and the guy in Argentina who sold him his daily paper (to cancel his delivery). When he met the Jesuit general, he apologized for not keeping protocol and insisted on being treated like any other Jesuit with the “tu” informal address, rather than “Your Holiness” or “Holy Father.
He is not celebrating Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper in St. Peter’s Basilica (he hasn’t yet taken possession of his cathedral, John Lateran), but in a juvenile prison.
He celebrated an unannounced Mass at St. Martha’s with hotel workers, Vatican gardeners, and people who clean St. Peter’s square. He showed up before Mass and sat in the back row to pray a bit. In his official photograph, he signs his name simply “Franciscus” without “PP” (“pontifex pontificum”) used by previous popes.
John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has got to the bottom of the story I earlier wrote about that I had seen in yesterdays Daily Mail. The NCR article can be found here or below.
"Reports that Pope Francis has ordered Cardinal Bernard Law to stay away from the Basilica of St. Mary Major and is about to ship him off to a monastery are “completely and totally false,” according to a Vatican spokesperson.
During a press briefing on Thursday about Pope Francis’ visit to St. Mary Major, one of the four pontifical basilicas in Rome, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said that Law had briefly greeted Francis and then exited the scene.
The Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, however, reported that Francis had told Law to stop appearing in public at the basilica, where he retired as Archpriest in November 2011. The report also said that the new pope, “as his first act of purification,” is preparing to dispatch the 81-year-old Law to a cloistered monastery.
Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who’s acting as an assistant Vatican spokesperson during the papal transition, told NCR today that those reports are “completely and totally false.”
Law, of course, resigned as Archbishop of Boston in December 2002 at the peak of the sexual abuse scandals in the United States. His appointment as Archpriest of St. Mary Major in 2004 brought criticism from advocates for abuse victims. However the new pope decides to deal with Law, there’s no doubt that recovery from the abuse scandals will be high on his to-do list.
While then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio doesn’t have an extensive track record on the church’s abuse scandals, his election as pope was welcomed by the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests, largely on the strength of the fact that he doesn’t come out of the Roman Curia.
The new pope has been outspoken on the broader issue of the sexual exploitation of children in society.
“In this city, there are many girls who stop playing with dolls to enter the dump of a brothel because they were stolen, sold, betrayed,” he said in 2011, referring to Buenos Aires.
“Women and girls are kidnapped, and they are subjected to use and abuse of their body; they are destroyed in their dignity,” he said. “The flesh that Jesus assumed and died for is worth less than the flesh of a pet. A dog is cared for better than these slaves of ours, who are kicked, who are broken.” (Follow John Allen on Twitter: @JohnLAllenJr)
I'm very struck by the positive things I'm watching and hearing in the press about Pope Francis. There are a number of stories circulating about Pope Francis 'bumping' into Cardinal Bernard Law during his visit to St Mary Major. I like to take the generous view that was held by the Daily Mail. This seems so encouraging, especially as the papacy is still only hours old. The whole article can be read here, but, I have extracted just the bits about Bernard Law, who it seems Pope Francis wants him living in an enclosed monastery asap rather than enjoying the privileged position he has held at St Mary Major for a number of years ! A sign of more good things to come ? The news only gets better !
"But first days are all about making a good impression - even when you’re the Pope.
So when the appearance of a disgraced cardinal threatened to cast a shadow over his first engagement, Francis I made sure it couldn’t happen again- by banning him from his own church.
Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston in 2002, after being accused of actively covering up for a litany of paedophile priests.'
Despite the scandal which exploded to engulf the entire church, he was given an honorary position at the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, in Rome.
Though now retired, the cardinal still enjoys a grace and favour apartment in the cathedral complex.
So hearing that the new Pope was offering prayers at the very same church, it seems he couldn’t resist a discreet peak.
But when Pope Francis recognised him, he immediately ordered that Law be removed, according to Italian media reports. He went on to command: ‘He is not to come to this church any more.’
One of the new Pope’s first acts will be to arrange new ‘cloistered’ accommodation for the disgraced cardinal, the Italian daily, Il Fatto Quotidiano, reported.
The firm stance was greeted with cautious enthusiasm by campaigners for victims of sexual abuse. David Clohessey of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said: ‘If he is permanently banned we are slightly encouraged."
Is it time for Oscar Romero to be honoured by the whole church at last ? It's long overdue afterall. However, some would argue his example doesn't need canonisation in order for him to be more well known. The 24th March is the 33rd anniversary of his martydom. Now there is a Pope from South America, who knows ?
The eyes of the world are focused on Rome. The big question is who will be the next Pope. As they approach the election, reports indicate that the Cardinals are deeply concerned about scandals in the Church. But they are also concerned about two other things: about papal government and about reform.
Media reports, dealing with reform, tend to focus on clerical celibacy and on the ordination of women and on the reform of the Curia understood as putting it back in order. These are important topics but it would be a mistake to stop there. We know that there were reform movements during the period before the Reformation. Most of them failed, not so much for lack of holiness or the lack of worthy objectives, but because they failed to ask the deeper questions. They did not go far enough.
Today, if we want to deal seriously with the legacy of Vatican II and issues of reform we must have the courage to consider the deeper questions. This is not possible unless the paramount issue of the exercise of the papal office is addressed.
The papacy and the reform of the Roman Curia were taken off the agenda of the sixteenth century Council of Trent. Rome feared that discussion of the papacy or of reforming the Curia could reignite the controversy about whether a council was superior to the Pope. Vatican Council II balanced and corrected the teaching of the 19th century Vatican Council I and clearly located the papal office within the College of Bishops.
But Pope John Paul II had the courage and the vision to put it on the agenda of the Catholic, Orthodox and other Christian churches. In 1995 he called for a wide discussion of the exercise of the primacy in the encyclical letter Ut unum sint in 1995. There he forthrightly wrote, “I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility…to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”
And he asks, “Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialog on this subject…?” Then he adds this reassuring and refreshing admission, “This is an immense task which we cannot refuse and which I cannot carry out by myself.”
The Pope himself frankly admits that the exercise of the papal office needs to be reformed, he invites wide dialog on the subject and avers that he cannot do this by himself. This encyclical is the Magna Carta of papal reform.
The issue is now on the table.
Here I will just focus on collegiality, one major legacy of Vatican II, and I will give two ways in which collegiality could be improved linked to a new way of exercising the primacy.
First let me just summarize some of the highlights of the Council teaching. The Council confirmed that the Church is not a single diocese with one bishop, the Pope. It did uphold the primacy of the Pope but at the same time it affirmed, as Vatican I had done, that bishops are not mere legates of the Pope.
And just as the Pope is the successor of Peter, the College of Bishops, of which the Successor of Peter is a member, is the successor of the College of the Apostles. The Pope is a member of this College of Bishops and together they have supreme power in the Church. But a very important point in the teaching of the Council is that the collegiality of the bishops with the Pope is not the result of a juridical decree, not the result of the action of a council , and not the result of the decision of any Pope.
The collegiality of the bishops with the Pope is rooted in two things: the sacramental ordination of the bishop in which he receives the threefold office of teaching, san citifying and governing, and in the doctrinal truth that the College of Bishops is the successor to the College of the Apostles. Collegiality is therefore not a passing arrangement or the invention of Vatican II. This in summary form is the legacy of the Council.
I would say that a very large number of bishops are of the opinion that there is not any real or meaningful collegiality in the Church today.
I will illustrate this in two areas of Church life. The first is the appointment of bishops. It is very common and has been for some years that bishops of the local region have no perceptible influence on the appointment of bishops. The bishops of the region may never have heard the name of a bishop sent to their area. Often bishops submit multiple names and none of them is accepted.
A second example: the recent English version of the Sacramentary. The observations of the bishops’ conferences had little influence and at the end of the consultation with conferences a very large number of changes were made in the final text which the bishops had never seen. These policies indeed bespeak primacy, but they do not bespeak collegiality.
If, then, we ask the question, “How could we have a meaningful collegiality in the Church today?” I would mention two possibilities both of which would respond to Pope John Paul’s invitation to dialog with the Pope about the exercise of the primacy. But notice that both the possibilities I am going to mention come from the ancient practice and tradition of the Church.
I will begin by quoting a major work of Joseph Ratzinger entitled Das neue Volk Gottes (The New People of God) . In this work Ratzinger mentions a major problem in the Church about which bishops have been complaining for at least two centuries. Ratzinger calls it “excessive Roman centralization.” He ties this burdensome centralization to a phenomenon, which developed in the second millennium, the confusion of the petrine function of the Pope with the patriarchal function of the Pope.
He puts it this way, “The extreme centralization of the Catholic Church is due not simply to the Petrine office, but to its being confused with the patriarchal function…Uniformity of church law and liturgy and the appointment of bishops by Rome arose from the close union of these two offices. In the future they should be more clearly distinguished…And someday perhaps Asia and Africa should be made patriarchates distinct from the Latin church.” (This excerpt from Das neue Volk Gottes can be found in Theology Digest, 1971, 200-207
Both Ratzinger and the French theologian Yves Congar raise the problem created by confusing the petrine and patriarchal functions. The problem is that the Pope in actual fact is exercising a patriarchal role in the whole Church. The path to a solution, then, is in separating these functions and restoring the patriarchal, synodal structure in the Church
We could say, then, that one promising way of realizing the legacy of the Council in the matter of collegiality would be the creation of new patriarchates based among other things on the fact that there are two aspects to the papal office: one is the petrine function which has to do with the unity of faith and communion in the Church, the other is the patriarchal function which, though a ministry of regional communion, also involves administrative functions such as the appointment of bishops and the creation of dioceses.
The Council in fact compared modern episcopal conferences with the ancient patriarchates. Ratzinger says, “Unity of faith is the pope’s function; this does not prohibit independent administrative agencies like the ancient patriarchates.” There is no doctrine of faith nor any provision of canon law, which would prevent the creation of new patriarchal structures in the Church.
Modern episcopal conferences in the Latin Church of the west could be given the same powers and functions of patriarchates. This means that the conferences would be empowered to deal with such things as the appointment and transfer of bishops, the establishment of dioceses, questions of liturgy and other matters of Catholic practice and observance.
It goes without saying that any such provision is always within the framework of Catholic communion and unity. The Eastern Catholic patriarchates which have all these prerogatives are in l communion with the Bishop of Rome and with all the other Catholic churches. Patriarchal structures are structures in communion.
Patriarchal structures in the case of Asia and Africa would enable these churches to develop their liturgy, spirituality and practice in accord with their own cultures. There is long standing complaint from both Africa and Asia of how they feel impoverished and constrained in not being able to integrate elements of their culture into church life. For example, it is well known that although the Church has been in Japan for over 400 years, there are relatively few Catholics. Some bishops have said that this is due to the fact that they have been made to present Christ with a western face.
In addition to the idea of conferences as heirs to the ancient patriarchates, there was another imaginative idea for collegial sharing of Pope and bishops. The best remembered speech on the subject was given by the distinguished and highly respected Melkite Patriarch, Maximos IV. The Patriarch began by proposing creation of a synod made up of bishops of dioceses around the world who would take part with the Pope in the universal government of the Church. He gave doctrinal reasons underlying this along the lines of those mentioned when I spoke of collegiality.
But a very practical reason which recent problems in the Curia have brought into glaring focus emerged when the Patriarch made the point that “The Holy Father no more than any other person in the world whatever his talents, cannot govern an institution as large as the universal church just with the assistance of his own bureaucracy.”
Actually, the idea of a synod of bishops making real decisions with the Pope – a deliberative synod – is not a novel idea. For many centuries in the first millennium, the bishops of central and southern Italy met with the Pope and made important decisions of both a doctrinal and disciplinary nature.
From the middle of the eleventh century during the period of the Gregorian Reform momentous decisions were made in these synods such as the enforcement of clerical celibacy, the prohibition of lay investiture and the excommunication and deposition of Henry IV. Pope Gregory VII, among the very strong Popes of history, held synods almost every Lent. And there is no evidence of any kind that the bishops played a merely secondary or passive role in these synods. The historical Roman Synod therefore could be a model for a modern deliberative synod.
There was significant support in the Council for this kind of synod to collaborate with the Pope in the universal government of the Church. It came from the bishops of Germany and Scandinavia, more than a hundred bishops of Brazil, a number of bishops from the Philippines, several prominent French Cardinals and bishops from Indonesia and South Africa. Among American bishops who spoke on this topic was Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken of San Francisco as reported in The New York Times.
As a matter of fact, Pope Paul VI on September 15, 1965, formally established a synod of bishops and made provision for the possibility of decision-making or deliberative synod. To date, fifty years after the Council, no deliberative synod has ever been held. The synods ,which have been held since the Council , have all been advisory and not decision making.
But I repeat: in existing church law there is provision for the Pope to have a truly decision making deliberative synod. Such a synod would be made up of the presidents of episcopal conferences and of the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, in other words of bishops who have the actual day to day care of a diocese and who come from all cultures and all parts of the world.
In conclusion, then, patriarchal structures and deliberative synods are two structures, which go back to antiquity. Both these structures would be a remedy for excessive centralization. Both would be manifestations of collegiality and a witness of the Church as communion. Both would make clear the distinction between the petrine office of the Pope and the patriarchal function. Both would go a long way to addressing the long standing concerns of Asia and Africa about inculturation. Neither of these structures can be seen as an effort to diminish papal authority since the Eastern Catholic Churches have these structures, have had them from ancient times and all are in communion with the Bishop and the Church of Rome.
As I come to the end of these observations, I would like to touch on the current conclave for the election of the Pope. Various Cardinals and other commentators have made remarks about the qualities desirable in the next Pope. Some have said that he must have spiritual vision, others that he should be from this or from that continent or that he should have the capacity to deal strongly with the sex abuse issue. No one could quarrel with these requirements. But it seems to me that there are several things that need to be said.
First, how do we conceive the exercise of the papal office? If you postulate the recovery of the synodal structure in the Church and of deliberative synods, then the Catholic Church is not conceived as a world-wide diocese with a single bishop, and the distinction between the petrine office and the patriarchal function would mean that the Pope’s ministry of unity and communion would not mean the day to day government of church life in all parts of the world. Important aspects of Church life would lie within the competence of the patriarchal structures and some of them would fall to the decision of deliberative synods. The Pope would have the burden of fostering unity, collaboration and charity among all the Churches in communion and, of course, of intervening with true authority when the situation called for it.
Nevertheless a measure of management or governing responsibilities would necessarily fall on the Pope as on any bishop. In this case, it is helpful to recall a legend of St. Thomas Aquinas. A monastery could not reach a decisive vote in their effort to elect an abbot. After trying repeatedly, the monks finally decided to send a delegation to consult St. Thomas. They told him that they had three very good monks – Father Anselm was an excellent teacher and scholar, Father Bruno was a very holy man and Father Maurus was a very good administrator. St. Thomas told them, “Let the learned man teach the monks, let the holy man pray for the monks and let the administrator be the abbot.” In broad terms this conveys the truth that one virtue is not a substitute for another.
The Pope has to have some administrative ability and holiness of life does not guarantee that quality. Certainly one of the most important qualities of any leader is the knowledge of one’s own limitations. Pope Benedict XVI has given a humble and dramatic example to the Church and to future Popes of the importance of knowing the limits. Limits not just in the sense of resigning but also in the sense of asking advice and getting counsel and assistance.
There is no doubt that very large numbers of Catholics are looking at this conclave with great expectations. This conclave has potential to be one of the most critical moments in the history of the Church since the Reformation. It is my personal conviction that the Cardinals need to see themselves and the whole Catholic Church poised at moment of far-reaching consequences.
They could profitably call to mind the words of Shakespeare:
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
(Julius Caesar, Act 4)
An interesting article from UCA News, could increase the chances of my favourite for the top job - Cardinal Tagle !
Are the lamps going out over the Church?
Catholicism is under increasing threat in a fast changing world
Allwyn Fernandes, MumbaiIndia 2013-03-01 15:08:02
The Church now has no pope and Italy has no government. There is a vacuum in both. There is also a deeper vacuum at the heart of Europe itself, a concern about its own identity and survival. The term “white man’s burden” applies no more.
I watched the pope fly away into the sunset of his papacy. Two hours earlier, I had read Hans Kung in the New York Times: “If the next conclave were to elect a pope who goes down the same old road, the Church will never experience a new spring, but fall into a new Ice Age and run the danger of shrinking into an increasingly irrelevant sect.”
And the thought that came to my mind was “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.’’ It was uttered 99 years ago by British statesman,] Edward Grey, on the eve of World War One. I asked myself if it would be right to say “The lamps are going out over the Catholic Church and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” I was young when Pope John XXIII was elected pope. Suddenly, the little green Sunday missal that I used to carry to Sunday Mass with my mother, with its Latin text and an English translation was no longer relevant. In those days the priest came into the sanctuary wearing a biretta and mumbled with his back to the people. The Gregorian chants were nice, but that was all there was to it.
Will the cardinals going into the conclave and still living in medieval times (till now at least), have the courage to confront each other and tell at least those not morally fit to be there, “Too long have you sat here for any good you are doing. In the name of God, go!” History tells us that is what Winston Churchill told Neville Chamberlain on the eve of World War Two. And Chamberlain went.
The cardinals, especially those from the global South, had better rediscover their consciences and pluck up courage to tell their rich patrons from the North the same, because the world around them is crumbling. They had better wake up to it – and fast.
Last week, the British prime minister was in India “as a supplicant, not a benefactor,” said one newspaper headline. That’s why he went to Jallianwala Bagh in Punjab, the scene of a massacre of hundreds of Indians by British soldiers 100 ago. Those were the days when the sun never set on the British Empire.
The week before, the French president was also in India – for the same reason. They are all making pilgrimages to Asia these days, even to Myanmar, the new pit-stop for businessmen and politicians from the North. They are desperate for the new markets developing in Asia for the products that their own countries have rejected. Their economic salvation now depends on Asia.
Are the cardinals from Asia awake to that reality?
Since the pope’s resignation there have been several major developments. The British government’s credit rating has been downgraded and the Eurozone is in crisis. There is no light yet at the end of the tunnel. Rather, Italy is the latest to face a crisis. France is next in line.
The US system of democracy is facing its own crisis with fat cat Republicans unwilling to work with a president who wants to increase their taxes, so are willing to risk a fiscal cliff for it. The Chinese system of “Communist Party democracy” is also shaky. The Indian system has been found to be rotten to the core and even the first family is untouched. And in the Church, it is no longer rebellious laymen and women facing the men in pink and crimson fancy dress – rather, bishops are standing up to cardinals and priests against bishops. This was unthinkable a few weeks ago.
The world is changing dramatically as “disruptive innovation” shakes up every institution, causing decrepit and huge old organizations to crumble. Smaller, nimble-footed, flatter, decentralized start-ups are taking their place.
Someone had better give the cardinals in Rome an update on the world today before they start voting. Else, we will see an outdated and decayed Church imploding and, as Kung says, in danger of “shrinking into an increasingly irrelevant sect.”
God be with us and may s/he work overtime in the Sistine Chapel in the weeks ahead.
Allwyn Fernandes is a media trainer and consultant based in Mumbai. He was also the former senior editor of a leading English language daily.
I really hope these news reports are true. For far too long the church has ignored the great chasm between what it teaches about homosexuality and what happens in the real world. It's about time the church set aside its predjudice as it has with torture, burning people alive, slavery and anti-semitism.
Perhaps then a renewed and more authentic church, truer to the teaching of Jesus, could live the Good News, taking his love into a thirsty world. Would'nt that be a new second spring of hope for the church and the world ?
A 65-year-old former nurse has delivered a withering telling off to the Archbishop of Westminster – England’s most senior Catholic – for his stance on gay marriage.
The woman, who now works with animals and lives in northern England, says she has been married for 30 years but gay marriage doesn’t threaten the status of her relationship whatsoever.
And she says Archbishop Vincent Nichols and his church have become obsessed with gay sex, ignoring the real problems of society – the economy, schools, hospitals and our children’s future.
She tells him the so-called ‘Princes of the Church’ should ditch the ‘silk, the gold, the Gucci shoes, the ridiculous tall hats’ in favor of a simple pilgrim’s staff and get on with helping real people.
And she says Jesus ‘appears to have happily shared meals with prostitutes, drunkards, lepers, Gentiles and I do not doubt with people of same-sex orientation’.
Nichols has campaigned vigorously against same-sex marriage but she warns him the church’s propaganda calling homosexuality ‘disordered’ and ‘evil’ makes it impossible for the LGBT faithful to feel at home in Catholicism.
She has requested to remain anonymous but asked GSN to share her letter. We understand that she has received a reply from Nichols, but it failed to address the substance of her comments.
You can read her letter here:
I listened to your letter of Sunday 3 February in which you asked us as a matter of urgency to either send a postcard provided or write to our local MP to request him to vote against the government’s proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. I came out of the church with two thoughts and one resolve. Firstly I thought ‘Lord pity and help any gay person sitting listening to that letter’ not a word a charity or understanding did it contain. Secondly I thought or asked ‘Where in that is the love of Christ for all humankind?’ My resolve was not to contact my MP.
That decision was not made because of the tone of your letter however. I do not find it at all easy or even possible to uphold the church’s teaching on homosexuality. Among gay people of my acquaintance are those who have a deep spiritual life, to have one’s sexual orientation, an orientation that one is born with, described as an ‘objective disorder’ and to hear homosexual acts described as ‘intrinsically evil’ surely makes it almost impossible to feel at home or welcome in the church. It is utterly unrealistic to expect homosexual people to live celibate lives (We all know that many priests find this very difficult and sometimes impossible). The revelations of clerical sex abuse have led many of us to look with a very critical eye on the so-called celibate life and to realize that it has all to often lead to warped and destructive behavior.
To return to same-sex marriage, can it be abhorrent that two people of the same sex would wish to experience that emotional and physical closeness that marriage offers? We believe that God is love and so it must follow that in every loving and committed relationship God must be present – or does this, in your understanding, only apply in heterosexual relationships? Is heterosexuality more valued by God and by the church than homosexuality? You are, I suppose, aware that there are more than a few homosexual men in the priesthood and that nowadays heterosexual men are much less willing to embrace the celibate life. Is the good work done by such men less valuable in the eyes of this church? If so is it further evidence of its dysfunctional state?
I am 65 years of age and have been married for almost 30 years. I would so have appreciated an explanation from you or any of the hierarchy exactly how my long and happy marriage will be threatened by the union of gay couples. When I meet people in my day to day existence they talk about the economic climate (bad), lack of employment (bad), uncertain future for their children (bad), state of schools, hospitals (bad) – never ever has anybody expressed concern about a threat to their marriage by the proposed legalizing of same-sex marriage. You, the church, claim that marriage is the bedrock of society and indeed it is but you also seem to consider it so fragile that allowing a few gay people access to it will endanger it forever. Here the implicit homophobia cannot be ignored.
Sadly you still think your pronouncements will be accepted without question by a meek credulous herd. You have spent far too much time telling us just how sinful we are while drawing veils of respectability over your own grievous wrongdoings.
I sometimes despair of this church, this institution. It seems to me in my reading of the Gospels that Jesus had no problem whatsoever with those who were considered outsiders or exceptions. He appears to have happily shared meals with prostitutes, drunkards, lepers, Gentiles and I do not doubt with people of same-sex orientation since such an orientation has existed since time began. The church seems much happier with its version of order over compassion and love towards the so-called exceptions. It has an appalling history of excluding and torturing those who do not think or subscribe to its definition of ‘right’.
The world is facing disaster on all levels and this church, when not obsessing about matters sexual, spends an inordinate amount of time on pointless activities such as changing the liturgy back to a correct translation of the original Latin – a language not spoken by Jesus but spoken by the oppressors of his time and country. Do you imagine that this obsession with precisely translated texts will win you a single new adherent? To me, you (particularly but not exclusively the hierarchy) appear to be a frightened group of men preoccupied with titles, clothing and other religious externals. You seem, with some wonderful and brave exceptions, to pay only lip service to ecumenism and matters of social justice. I would love to see the so-called ‘Princes of the Church’ (Where did all these triumphant, utterly anti-Gospel titles you award yourselves come from?) get rid of the silk, the gold, the Gucci shoes, the ridiculous tall hats, croziers, fancy soutanes etc etc and substitute bare heads and a simple pilgrim’s staff on all liturgical occasions and that might be taken as a small outward sign of your inner acceptance of fundamental Gospel values.
I seem to have digressed somewhat but to return to where I started, same-sex marriage. I will always be unsure of the validity of any principle or opinion that makes one act in an unkind or intolerant way. Toleration, of course, has its limits, I want you to cry out against injustice and cruelty. Explain to me please exactly how marriage will be ‘changed forever’ by the proposed new laws, specifically tell me how my marriage will be threatened.
I admit that I am not very well versed on biblical texts and I know that there are those who can find a text to confirm any prejudice without having to resort to any sort of reasonable debate but surely if we accept one piece of scripture (Lev 18:22) which declares homosexuality to be an abomination, to judge what is right or wrong, we must accept them all. Following this logic we are therefore forbidden to wear garments made of two different kinds of thread (Lev 19:19), men must never have their hair trimmed especially around the temples (Lev 19:27). According to Lev 25:44 I may possess slaves provided they are purchased from neighboring nations, not sure if this applies to non-members of the EU! As for organizing the stoning of transgressors – well, a logistical nightmare!
Archbishop, we have grasped the principles of evolution, stopped burning witches and holding heresy trials, discounted the flat earth theory. Do you now think we could move the debate about equal human rights for people of same-sex orientation and also the status of women in the church on by a few millennia please?