Sunday, October 30, 2011

My heartfelt thanks to the blog RORATE CAELI for putting me onto the marvelous interview with Bishop Slattery published in the Catholic Register: Bishop Slattery Interview

Here's hoping and praying not so much for real fighters but rather that the gentle pastoral hand and heart would prevail and our people might be genuinely fed through the opportunity to worship Sundays and always in spirit and in truth.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Winning Hearts and Minds for Truth

Here's a really important book that needs to be put on college reading lists, if they still exist (must reads for any self-respecting B.A.):

And 5 Others That Didn’t Help 
Author of Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists
Copyright © 2008 by Benjamin Wiker (Kindle Edition)

Some might accuse me of the equivalent of recommending the old "Cliff Notes" as a substitute for really reading English literature, but in an age where folks don't read much if at all this might be the book that makes a difference in terms of thought and right thinking.

Deep down what moves me is the desire to find and apply the sandpaper treatment to a world's callous which continues to keep consciences or hearts numb, dead, thick, uncomprehending, indifferent to the atrocity which is abortion. Read the book as a primer for appreciating Dr. Wiker's conclusions! 

I'm only going to quote two statements out of many I highlighted for myself from those conclusions:

By following the trajectory of these books that screwed up the world, we can wonder whether the advance of “science” over theology is an unmitigated good, and whether it is really progress. Perhaps it is bringing us to a new age of technological barbarism, wherein humanity becomes ever more religiously obsessed with health and sexual pleasure as pseudo-gods, sacrificing anything and everything to these twin deities.

The ideas of God and sin might all seem too mythical for this scientific age until we recall that whether the bad thinker is Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, or Freud, the authors we’ve covered in this book were mythmakers. They were enthralled by entirely mythical states of nature, entirely fictional alternative Edens, entranced by entirely impossible utopian paradises. Tens of millions of lives were offered up to the twin fictions of an alternative Garden of Eden and an alternative paradise, each taken and presented (falsely) as scientific fact.

Wiker's great service in this book is not unlike that performed by the little boys along the road in the children's story The King's New Clothes. Dr. Wiker points a finger at what are supposed to be the reasoned pillars of common parlance and shows them to be neither, but rather a gaping abyss, which leaves us little to hope from any self-sufficient geek's laboratory and clamoring for a better life through science (when hospitals weren't so sterile you didn't catch megaviruses). 

In his Hitler chapter Dr. Wiker attributes a modicum of conscience to some of the henchmen who were carrying out the final solution. Personally, I seriously doubt if their alcohol abuse and listlessness came from qualms over what they were doing; they were lost and that is how lost people behave: killing didn't push them to despair; despairing of life and hope pushed them to kill.

The equation just does not work, minus our Creator and Redeemer.

Ad Orientem

Bishop speaks well about orientation of worship. He does so in the context of the Extraordinary Form. He speaks of worship ad Orientem as perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Extraordinary Form. Well done, Bishop!

Personally, I think we owe to our people a concerted effort to orient the Ordinary Form whenever possible. I'm waiting on the priest who originally did my chapel here in Kyiv in hopes very soon of making the small modifications to permit the orientation of this sacred space.

Not circular, but linear and focused on the Dawn from on High, Oriens, to Whom we owe our thanks and praise: many other things will fall into place once we get our focus right. We pray for each other and we live in hope.


Friday, October 21, 2011

My First Interview in Ukraine

For all my readers who are stronger in Ukrainian than I am, you might enjoy the site of Catholic Media Center. They have the distinction of publishing my first interview since I arrived in Kyiv a month ago!
Media Center Interview

The text was prepared in Italian. I am trusting and the first reviews or reactions are positive! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

do not bear the yoke with unbelievers

The passage from a letter of St. Augustine to Proba offered as the 2nd Reading for the office of this 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time encouraged me a lot this morning and provoked some rambling thoughts I'd like to share. Let me quote the part which was key in that process:
"Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: 'Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers.'
The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed. 'No eye has seen it'; it has no color. 'No ear has heard it'; it has no sound. 'It has not entered man's heart'; man's heart must enter into it.
In this faith, hope and love we pray always with unwearied desire. However, at set times and seasons we also pray to God in words, so that by these signs we may instruct ourselves and mark the progress we have made in our desire, and spur ourselves on to deepen it. The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruit. When the Apostle tells us: 'Pray without ceasing', he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it."

Beyond that first motion to, yes, aspire to increase my own desire/longing within myself for that gift which comes from God, I spent some time marveling at that motion or inclination in the lives of the mother foundresses or co-foundresses of the religious congregations of women whose acquaintance I have made in these last years, namely of the sisters in the Nunciature of Port of Spain, the Siervas Guadalupanas de Christo Sacerdote, who just 50 years ago came into being in the midst of the needs of priests in Mexico City as the solitude and suffering of priests touched the heart of Maria de Jesus del Amore Misericordoso Guiza Barragan and of my congregation here in the Nunciature of Kyiv, the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, the first community of the apostolic life of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, co-founded by Blessed Josaphata Michaelina Hordashevska, in the last decade of the 19th Century to meet (as only women could) the needs of her own poor people.

Let us say that the boundless hearts of both of these women impressed others and unleashed in girls and young women, in particular, an almost instantaneous and generous response. Both congregations, as with so many others I have not had the honor to know personally, knew a first hour and which endured for decades of rapid growth and truly fruitful apostolate. St. Augustine would identify them as women of greater and more fervent desire whose charity for others (Christ's 2nd great commandment) flowed from and complemented their love for God (Christ's 1st commandment and our salvation). In both cases or should I say always with congregations of religious dedicated to the apostolate, we're dealing with energy, with love unleashed in the midst of misery. We're dealing with a wonder so radically and so well documented in the person of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, where women not only roll up their sleeves to get a job done, but they embrace the suffering of others heedless of the consequences for themselves. They work for a purpose, they work with method, but most importantly they do all out of love. By prayer and commitment they seek first the Lord and His Kingship over their hearts and lives.

I suppose there is something of the moment in all of this and that it would be too much to expect generation upon generation, century after century to catch the living flame ignited by a founder or foundress and those initial followers. Then again, why should it not be so? Apostolic fruitfulness, when the needs to be met continue, should not flag, should it? Do hearts become smaller with the passage of time? Why do some charisms or apostolates seem to play out? Why do they no longer capture the imagination of youth? "When the Apostle tells us: 'Pray without ceasing', he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it." 

Many would say that the vocations crisis of our day must be attributed to the sterility of a society choking on its own materialistic preoccupations. Were all these young women and girls who first followed my two foundresses all half-saints with a superior prayer life? It's possible, but it's more probable that St. Augustine's scenario for hopefully growing in desire through dedication to prayer was it. In a recent interview, the Latin bishop-archbishop of Kyiv spoke of continuing formation and commitment to witnessing to the Christian life in charity amidst the people to whom he is sent as the highest priorities for priestly ministry today.

In volume II: Spouse of the Word (Explorations in Theology, Ignatius Press, 1991) Hans Urs von Balthasar examines the phenomenon of secular institutes and consecration to Christ in the world. The chapter is titled: "Toward a Theology of the Secular Institute". My own first reticence about that witness is the fact that it is lived (by definition) so uninstitutionally out there in the world. It is a celibate witness to Baptism, which honestly has all the marks of the first hour of a religious institute. Over a century ago Blessed Josaphata cooperating in creating something, yes institutional, but entirely new for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. As daring as the priests who advised her and as she herself was, I guess we have the essential pattern for witness and apostolate in the Church right there. Daring and novelty are not the components worth seeking and fostering today, but the prayerful spirit and an unceasing desire for the Bridegroom.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity is in touch with all sorts of daring and novel efforts to witness to Christ in the world. From my own little experience, I am guessing they have (perhaps in the midst of excesses) the privilege of encountering all kinds of souls in expansion, with unbounded desire to love God and neighbor. I firmly believe and hope that in the misery of our world (Wall Street protests and riots in the center of Rome, ...) there are those who have caught the flame and will gather up the man who fell among robbers and left despoiled and near death by the side of the road. It's not utopian, but it certainly is beautiful and a challenge to me to open wide my heart.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

On the Money?

 It is rare that I do not watch Fr. Robert Barron without profit, i.e. without learning, without unleashing some kind of a thought process and always for the good. His two recent videos, reflecting on lessons to be learned from the movie "Moneyball" and his thoughts especially on leadership within the Church are no exception. See: "Moneyball" Commentary  and Additional Commentary

I put comments on both, but the line of the commentary on the first was centered on some touchy North vs. South business and "wordonfire2" doesn't seem to rake in the comments... Anyway! No problem for the question of personal sanctity. I see great merit in using the notion "What do you want?" as a rudder for steering my personal ship through all sorts of straits in life. Father's suggestion that a bishop can use the same double-edged sword in exercising leadership in his diocese (come what may) is for me less helpful, if not problematic. 

The Office of Readings, 2nd Reading for this Saturday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, as drawn from an approved author in the person of Pope St. Gregory the Great, offers me solace not in answering or contradicting Fr. Barron but maybe in attempting to save his "Moneyball" paradigm for something beyond my own quest to live at one with the Lord of my life and thereby hasten His coming not only into my life but into a world for which I am called to be light and salt. And I quote:

"Look about you and see how full the world is of priests, yet in God's harvest a laborer is rarely to be found; for although we have accepted the priestly office, we do not fulfill its demands... Pray for us so that we may have the strength to work on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, and that after we have accepted the office of preaching, our silence may not condemn us before the just judge. For frequently the preacher's tongue is bound fast on account of his own wickedness; while on the other hand it sometimes happens that because of the people's sins, the word of preaching is withdrawn from those who preside over the assembly... There is something else about the life of the shepherds, dearest brothers, which discourages me greatly... I speak of our absorption in external affairs; we accept the duties of office, but by our actions we show that we are attentive to other things. We abandon the ministry of preaching and, in my opinion, are called bishops to our detriment, for we retain the honorable office but fail to practice the virtues proper to it. Those who have been entrusted to us abandon God, and we are silent. They fall into sin, and we do not extend a hand of rebuke... We are set to guard the vineyards but do not guard our own, for we get involved in irrelevant pursuits and neglect the performance of our ministry."

In a sense, my replique to Fr. Barron would be that I can only or first only ask what I want of myself as did St. Jean Marie Vianney did in embracing his parish of Ars. All that followed in terms of his spiritual fruitfulness did indeed flow from his embrace, night and day, of the Cross of the Lord Whom he sought above all else and Whom he gifted to anyone he could reach. He didn't fire anyone and he certainly did not withhold the word of preaching. That "one thing" which Jesus said no one should take from Martha's sister Mary was that "one thing" which consumed Vianney in his parish ministry, overflowing as it did to the countryside and farther afield in France.

Putting together a team is something which St. Ignatius of Loyola did and consciously, but his effort was less talent scouting and more wrestling with God. Fr. Barron, whether in the first place or not, dangles the prospect of victory out there in a manner which puzzles. Jesus gives me no other option than but to start at home confident that there is still a "beam" to be withdrawn from my own eye. My own Calvary or my personal share in Christ's is seminal. What leadership is within the Church has much to do with witness, clarity of witness, and less to do with clean edged management skills.

This reflection is a work in progress... proceed with caution!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Trust's Role in the Obedience Equation

I took some time this Sunday to listen to a YouTube video posted on 30 September of Fr. Rostand, USA District Superior, as he talked in Kansas City about the current situation between the SSPX and Rome. His tone is familiar and not without humor. He states clearly that he has not yet seen the document which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented to Bishop Fellay on 14 September. He characterizes the decision which will be facing Bishop Fellay after his society internal consultation on the document in Albano, Italy on 7 October as basically a prudential judgment on how best to serve the Church and the cause of the restoration of the tradition. The prudential part of it all really has to do with whether things have changed over the years, whether "Rome" can be trusted today, presuming that the doctrinal part is Catholic in the fullest sense of the term. Fr. Rostand invites his listeners to pray for the best decision for the Society and the Church on the part of Bishop Fellay.

Let me say that I found Fr. Rostand "upbeat" yet in no way unrealistically optimistic about the future. We haven't really asked more of anyone historically in the course of the life of the Church than we are asking today of the SSPX and, by contrast, in the past too often we have accommodated from others near folly. There has been an awful lot of intolerance shown toward people seeking the narrow way in obedience of faith over these last 4 decades in particular. On other matters also of importance of a more distant past, we need only look to the example of St. Joan of Arc and of Savonarola to know how things can go.

I don't want to enter into the material which divides or strains our relationship but only wish to say that trust is not necessarily part of the obedience equation. I disagree wholeheartedly with the very reasonable (humanly speaking) criterion that my decision in favor of communion in the fullest sense must be based on reasonable guarantees which restore my trust in the other. I'm excluding the notion that the stronger imposes the terms for peace on the weaker, while at the same time saying that in our Church economy truth may demand sacrifice of me for the sake of truth's ultimate victory. As romantic as it sounds, for Church the romantic choice to serve the common good or cause "outside of the structure" makes no sense. How do I save a marriage by refusing "bed and board"?

I remember years ago in Germany hearing the many object to a supposed or real Jesuit notion of unquestioning obedience. That is not the point. Because of the notion of office in the Church and obedience, and believing in the doctrine of indefectability, the question is whether I am big enough and at the same time small enough to embrace the consequences for me of the other's recognized authority come what may. St. Joan of Arc, pray for us! SANCTA MARIA, STELLA ORIENTIS, FILIIS TUIS ADIUVA!