“May God bless us and make his face to shine upon us.” We proclaimed these words from Psalm 66 after hearing in the first reading the ancient priestly blessing upon the people of the covenant. It is especially significant that at the start of every new year God sheds upon us, his people, the light of his Holy Name, the Name pronounced three times in the solemn form of biblical blessing. Nor is it less significant that to the Word of God – who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14) as “the true light that enlightens every man” (1:9) – is given, as today’s Gospel tells us, the Name of Jesus eight days after his birth (cf. Lk 2:21).
It is in this Name that we are gathered here today. I cordially greet all present, beginning with the Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. I greet with affection Cardinal Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Turkson, with all the officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; I am particularly grateful to them for their effort to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace, which this year has as its theme “Blessed are the Peacemakers”.
Although the world is sadly marked by “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism,” as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that “the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift. All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Mt 5:9)” (Message, 1). This beatitude “tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort … It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation” (ibid., 2, 3). Indeed, peace is the supreme good to ask as a gift from God and, at the same time, that which is to be built with our every effort.
We may ask ourselves: what is the basis, the origin, the root of peace? How can we experience that peace within ourselves, in spite of problems, darkness and anxieties? The reply is given to us by the readings of today’s liturgy. The biblical texts, especially the one just read from the Gospel of Luke, ask us to contemplate the interior peace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During the days in which “she gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2:7), many unexpected things occurred: not only the birth of the Son but, even before, the tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for a chance place to stay for the night; then the song of the angels and the unexpected visit of the shepherds. In all this, however, Mary remains even tempered, she does not get agitated, she is not overcome by events greater than herself; in silence she considers what happens, keeping it in her mind and heart, and pondering it calmly and serenely. This is the interior peace which we ought to have amid the sometimes tumultuous and confusing events of history, events whose meaning we often do not grasp and which disconcert us.
The Gospel passage finishes with a mention of the circumcision of Jesus. According to the Law of Moses, eight days after birth, baby boys were to be circumcised and then given their name. Through his messenger, God himself had said to Mary – as well as to Joseph – that the Name to be given to the child was “Jesus” (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31); and so it came to be. The Name which God had already chosen, even before the child had been conceived, is now officially conferred upon him at the moment of circumcision. This also changes Mary’s identity once and for all: she becomes “the mother of Jesus”, that is the mother of the Saviour, of Christ, of the Lord. Jesus is not a man like any other, but the Word of God, one of the Divine Persons, the Son of God: therefore the Church has given Mary the title Theotokos or Mother of God.
The first reading reminds us that peace is a gift from God and is linked to the splendour of the face of God, according to the text from the Book of Numbers, which hands down the blessing used by the priests of the People of Israel in their liturgical assemblies. This blessing repeats three times the Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time it is linked to two words indicating an action in favour of man: “The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face to shine upon you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (6:24-26). So peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favour, in which he turns towards us the splendour of his face.
For sacred Scripture, contemplating the face of God is the greatest happiness: “You gladden him with the joy of your face” (Ps 21:7). From the contemplation of the face of God are born joy, security and peace. But what does it mean concretely to contemplate the face of the Lord, as understood in the New Testament? It means knowing him directly, in so far as is possible in this life, through Jesus Christ in whom he is revealed. To rejoice in the splendour of God’s face means penetrating the mystery of his Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of his interior life and of his will, so that we can live according to his plan of love for humanity. In the second reading, taken from the Letter to the Galatians (4:4-7), Saint Paul says as much as he describes the Spirit who, in our inmost hearts, cries: “Abba! Father!” It is the cry that rises from the contemplation of the true face of God, from the revelation of the mystery of his Name. Jesus declares, “I have manifested thy name to men” (Jn 17:6). God’s Son made man has let us know the Father, he has let us know the hidden face of the Father through his visible human face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, he has led us to understand that, in him, we too are children of God, as Saint Paul says in the passage we have just heard: “The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal 4:6).
Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of our peace: the certainty of contemplating in Jesus Christ the splendour of the face of God the Father, of being sons in the Son, and thus of having, on life’s journey, the same security that a child feels in the arms of a loving and all-powerful Father. The splendour of the face of God, shining upon us and granting us peace, is the manifestation of his fatherhood: the Lord turns his face to us, he reveals himself as our Father and grants us peace. Here is the principle of that profound peace – “peace with God” – which is firmly linked to faith and grace, as Saint Paul tells the Christians of Rome (cf. Rom 5:2). Nothing can take this peace from believers, not even the difficulties and sufferings of life. Indeed, sufferings, trials and darkness do not undermine but build up our hope, a hope which does not deceive because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (5:5).
May the Virgin Mary, whom today we venerate with the title of Mother of God, help us to contemplate the face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May she sustain us and accompany us in this New Year: and may she obtain for us and for the whole world the gift of peace. Amen!
A fire destroyed a church in Juárez early Wednesday morning, but spared a Virgin of Guadalupe image, despite the fierce blaze, Juárez officials said today.
The incident took place at about 4:04 a.m. on Wednesday, at San Agustín Chapel at Paseos del Alba and Paseos del Ángel Streets, Juárez Fire Department officials said.
“The fire tore down the whole church,” said Cap. Martin Morales, of the Fire Department in Juárez, in a telephone interview.
But the fire spared a Virgin of Guadalupe image inside the church. The beloved icon, 60 centimeters tall and one meter wide, was framed in wood.
The flames destroyed other images like St. Agustín and Jesus Christ, said Efrén Matamoros, Juárez Environmental Services and Civil Defense. “We had no explanation of that,” Matamoros said. “The image had no protection at all.” The fire also destroyed 40 pews, frames and several icons. No one was hurt.
The damages were estimated at $10,000.
The fire was ruled accidental, due to an illegal connection to the electric poles in the area, firefighters said.
The parishioners are ready to rebuild the church, Matamoros said.
Everything else pales into insignificance before these three words: “Mother of God”. They are the thread which, from age to age, binds into one piece of cloth the whole tradition of the Church.
“The mother of my Lord,” says Elizabeth. “The child with his mother,” writes St Matthew. “Born of a woman,” adds St Paul. “Mary Theotokos”, that is: “Mother of God”, the inhabitants of Ephesus would cry out in the year 431, when the Council of Ephesus proclaimed the dogma. “Born of the Virgin Mary,” the Creed sings. For Jesus is only truly a man if you are truly his mother. The reality of the Word of God made flesh implies just this.
Jesus, “having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end,” St John says, speaking of the Passion; but this “to the end” was true right from the day that God took flesh in you, from the moment of your “yes” to the angel.
“Mother of God”: I would never have enough silent time to contemplate these three words. Like plants in the desert, that wait for days, perhaps even years, for a drop of rain in order to germinate, we must say them over and over again until your Son brings them to fruition in us.
All ages are amazed! “The one that the universe sings about but can never contain, is present in your womb,” Virgin Mother, “daughter of your Son, humble yet raised high more than all creatures.” You who fashioned the Christ, create his image also in me, holy Mary, Mother of God.
(Jacques Loew, o.p., Mon Dieu dont je suis sûr, Fayard-Mame, 1982, pg. 177)
For the benefit of those desiring to make the complete preparation recommended by the Saint, the Montfort Fathers in the United States have assembled in one book the various prayers and meditations conducive to an adequate preparation for total consecration to Jesus through Mary.
It is written of all men concerning God, that “They shall look on him whom they pierced.” [John 19:37]. And like the unbelieving Apostle Thomas, these hooligan’s too will drop to their knees, if not their bellies; yes, their souls as well as flesh will lie open in obedience to the all-powerful presence of the Creator of heaven and earth… They will look upon His Pierced Heart and every wound he suffered on behalf of their every transgression; and at that very moment, a great lament will take hold within their own hearts, marking them indelibly with regret–because they offended the all-holy Mother of God before her Son–the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let us pray, as surely as Mary, the Queen of Peace is, that this occurs within the lives of these vandals before The Last Judgement–that what is also written within sacred scripture, may be true of them: “He who is forgiven much, will love much.” [Luke 7:36-50]
I accept death however and whenever the Lord desires, renewing in the Immaculate Heart of Mary my “Yes” to the Divine Will.
I leave as my spiritual testament everything that is written in the book, “To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons,” and I attest that the messages contained therein were received by me under the form of interior locutions.
In a spirit of thanksgiving to Our Lord and to Our Lady, I ask that, after my funeral Mass, the Magnificat be sung by all.
I ask for a very simple funeral. In lieu of flowers, I request that works of charity be done. I desire to be buried in Dongo, in the Shrine of Our Lady of Tears, at the foot of the Altar of the Crucifix. If that is not readily available, then I ask for a temporary burial in the Chapel of the Clergy in the cemetery in Dongo.
As I have consecrated every moment of my life, in the same way I consecrate to the Immaculate Heart of Mary the moment of my passing from earth to Heaven and from time to eternity.
I thank everyone for all the good that I have received. I ask pardon if I have involuntarily offended anyone.
To all members of the Marian Movement of Priests and of the Marian Movement, I promise my special protection and a particular help from Heaven where I hope to enter through the mercy of the Lord and with the help of your prayer.
I bid you goodbye, as I look forward to meeting you under the glorious mantle of the Queen of All Saints, and I bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Gobbi died in Milan, Italy at 3:00 PM (local Italian time) on June 29, 2011, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. He had been hospitalized since June 19 after suffering a heart attack.
All of the national and regional directors of the MMP were gathered for their annual spiritual exercises at the Shrine of Merciful Love in Collevalenza, Italy from June 26 – July 2. Fr. Gobbi’s body was taken from Milan to Collevalenza on June 30, where a Mass was presided by Cardinal Ivan Dias.
That same day, his remains were returned to Dongo, Como, Italy (his birthplace) where the funeral Mass was celebrated on Saturday, July 2, the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“We cannot be sure whether Eric’s theological position is typical of a liberal or a radical Protestantism. But as an exercise in loyal dissent it moves beyond the limits of orthodox Catholicism…”
To pell is to pelt; to knock about, is what mell is to beat with a mallet; to hammer… And yesterday Cardinal Pell hammered retired Australian priest Eric Hodgens and his unorthodox ethos of Vatican II, a spirit responsible for much of the difficulties and challenges the Catholic Church faces in the world today.
Eric Hodgens is a Melbourne priest ordained in 1960. He has had parish appointments for all of his ministerial years except for two years of full-time study at Melbourne University. He was Director of Pastoral Formation for Priests in Melbourne for seven years while setting up a new parish. Eric has the most extensive set of statistics on secular priests in Australia and writes occasionally on Catholic and other matters. Further articles can be viewed on his blog www.catholicview.typepad.com
Time to speak – and act
A large section of Catholic priests are at odds with the public stance of the Church. The issues which disturb them include:
the displacement of the main game of spreading a message of life, hope, compassion and forgiveness by overstressing, moral issues;
foreclosing on moral issues which need revisiting – eg contraception, IVF, divorce, homosexuality;
World Youth Days which feed the personality cult of the pope to the detriment of the local church and which have not reversed the flow of youth from the Church;
the autocratic, non-consultative management style of many bishops – themselves unsuitable and unwanted and appointed without consultation;
the promotion of reactionary, authoritarian and fundamentalist movements such as Opus Dei, Legionaries of Christ, Heralds of the Gospel, Communione e Liberatione as real, effective responses to the challenge of faith in a secular world;
the non-consultative and politically motivated superimposition of a new, defective translation of the liturgy. This one has the potential of sparking a people-power revolt as a growing parade of liturgical experts list the bad policy and the abuses still being perpetrated under its banner;
The discomfort these priests feel ranges from embarrassment to outright disagreement.
Yet, we priests do not speak up much. Why?
We were trained not to speak up. In our earlier years we were afraid to speak up because the bishop was too awesome a figure. The rank gradient was steep. Remember “My Lord”. Remember genuflecting and kissing the ring. And bishops learned the trick of controlling the pack by showing anger or displeasure at the first sign of disagreement.
We were also trained to put the Church institution first. Rocking the boat in public was disloyalty and self-aggrandisement.
More recently priests worked out that it was useless to talk up anyway. Bishops generally were impervious to criticism, especially on issues of Roman policy.
The Diocesan Council of Priests became a waste of time in most dioceses. So, why waste your psychological energy? Just go back to your parish and do your own thing.
Finally, there was always the promise of obedience which imitated the antique oath of fealty to the liege lord. “Do you promise obedience and respect to me and my successors?” Priests took this literally and seriously.
This policy will no longer do. It is time to speak up and to act. The matter is urgent. Why?
The church in Australia and the west is in serious trouble. Church-loving laity know it, priests know it. The symptoms are clear: a drought of priests, dropping Mass attendance, the loss of the younger generation and a walking away from membership by the worn down hard core.
So, what is the cause and what response is needed?
In Europe and its offspring, membership of the Church was overwhelmingly a matter of inheritance. The baby was christened and all presumed that it would stay a Church member for life. Most European states had an established religion. They were confessional states. Even after the arrival of the secular states the denominational sub-groups remained relatively large and strong. Christian identity remained confessional – ie I belong to this church, believe what it believes and practice religion the way it does. Membership qualifications were clear and the group’s boundaries were clearly defined.
Two rules of membership provided continued existence. Firstly, you christened your children and inculturated them into the group. Secondly, there was strong group pressure not to defect.
Since World War II the social cohesion of religious groups has weakened leaving christened members freer to think and act for themselves. A lot of this is due to a massive expansion of knowledge — scientific, psychological, sociological, historical, critical. Combined with a massive expansion of education, the result is much more freedom of thought. In this new environment long assumed facts have been turned upside down. So many accepted beliefs and practices are seen as dated and irrelevant. Bemoaning the scene is no help. We must revisit the core message of the Church and re-work the way we present it in the light of the new knowledge in this new social context. One term used to describe this process is recontextualization.
Rome lays the blame on secularism and relativism and calls for a new evangelization. John Paul II started this call. Benedict has followed it up by establishing the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The problem with this is that there is no intention to review the articulation of faith and moral teaching, nor an intention to try out new approaches to liturgy, nor to experiment in inculturation. Look at the favoured new movements, the new translation of the missal, the catechesis offered at World Youth Days – all reasserting the old model which is not working.
The foreclosed answer is reconfessionalisation, not the recontextualization needed Recontextualization entails accepting, even welcoming, secular and pluralistic culture. We rearticulate our core faith so that it makes sense in that context.
We rearticulate our concept and imagery of God so that God is the unseen, transcendent core of being rather than the string puller and button pusher of a puppet world. Jesus becomes the face and voice of the unseen God and the channel of God’s faithfulness and love. Salvation is the hope that we can justifiably hold on to in the face of death – a hope reassured by our faith in Jesus risen.
The recontextualized articulation of the central message of Christian salvation is well under way. Scripture scholars like Ray Brown, Joe Fitzmyer, John Meier and Eugene La Verdiere have shown us how faith develops and its articulation grows. As Jesus became larger than life in the belief of the early Christian communities they told larger than life stories. Under their guidance the scriptures make sense.
Karen Armstrong has lucidly shown the distinction between logical and mythological discourse. If you want to have meaningful faith conversation in the modern world you must understand the power and meaning of myth.
Theologians like Roger Lenaers and Roger Haight rearticulate the core of Christian theology in a way which is credible in the modern world. Michael Morwood and Philip Kennedy have done a fine job of popularizing this recontextualized theology. But their efforts are not appreciated by Rome. Haight has been silenced. Tissa Balasurya and Jaques Dupuis were both pursued by the CDF for recontextualizing Christian faith in the face of religious pluralism.
The Catholic Church had a great chance to meet this challenge at the start of the 20’h century. The response was Pius X’s campaign against modernism with mind-numbing results. We were not alone. At about the same time the US protestants answered the challenge with their fundamentalist tracts. We got another chance with Vatican II and Gaudium et Spes. The non-converted curial remnant got busy and won the post-conciliar battle especially under John Paul II. Gaudium et Spes was dismantled. The result is our unpreparedness for the current collapse. It is now the 11th hour. The matter is urgent.
It is precisely because so many priests have taken steps along this econtextualizing path that they are in disagreement with Roman policy as it recycles the old confessional model. Many priests have already very thoughtfully modified their pastoral practice. They are already recontextualizing their own faith journey. They have replaced the simplistic faith of their youth with a more fluid faith borne out of experience, more mature and reflective appreciation of the scriptures and a more vital, dynamic theology.
Our promise of loyalty was made to the Church in the person of the bishop. If the bishop is wrong, a loyal priest speaks up. In the light of relentless alienating Roman policy, made acutely specific in the current imposition of the defective translation of the liturgy, we have the responsibility not only to speak up but to act.
Cardinal Pell responds:
Some Gaudium and No Spes
By George Cardinal Pell
Father Eric Hodgens’ piece on the Gaudium et Spes priests gives us plenty of food for thought. It is well written and provocative, as you would expect of a priest who described his own cohort as possessing “the biggest proportion of intelligent, educated and competent leaders”. But it is unbalanced, misguided, selective and sometimes inaccurate.
Recently I have been concerned by the theological extremism of some Swag contributions, and am grateful for the opportunity to state the case for the orthodox mainstream. I am not ordering anyone to “withdraw to the fortress and sing the old song”, but my best lines are still from the New Testament with its ancient truths and melodies.
Eric sees himself now as “a presbyter called and ordained by the Church – the People of God” rather than as “a priest called and consecrated by God”. It is difficult to know exactly what this means, but it might point us to a number of fundamental issues.
More cards have been laid on the table than in Father Hodgens’ earlier writings. While it would be interesting to know whether he still has any jokers up his sleeve, it is more important to recognize that many of the cards cannot be identified accurately. We do not know, for example, his answers to the nine questions he lists. We do not know the limits to his hostility to some ancient devotions such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and veneration of Our Lady. We do not know whether his opposition to the papacy and episcopate touches these institutions themselves or simply the style of recent incumbents. So too with priesthood and traditional Christian teaching on marriage, divorce and sexuality.
We cannot be sure whether Eric’s theological position is typical of a liberal or a radical Protestantism. But as an exercise in loyal dissent it moves beyond the limits of orthodox Catholicism.
Let me attempt to state the issue in the most basic terms.
We find no evidence in Eric’s article that the Catholic Church is the recipient of divine revelation, “God’s message not some human thinking” (1 Thess 2.13); nor that the Catholic Church was founded by the Son of God “the Word who was with God . . . the Word who was God” (Jn 1.1), Jesus the Christ, the son of Mary with a divine as well as a human nature. If Christ is divine, New Testament teachings have a unique authority.
Eric writes with the genuine anguish of most of us older Catholics who grew up at an unusually high tide of faith and practice and lived through the radical decline which followed the social revolution of the 1960s in the First World. But some of the damage was self-inflicted.
One major point of difference is that in my view Eric’s prescriptions are a significant cause of our problems. His solutions were put into practice after the Council, to some degree in Australia, but especially in Belgium, Holland and French-speaking Canada. They emptied the Churches there.
Pope Paul VI appointed no bishops who were opposed to the ethos of Vatican II, and for various reasons the good bishops appointed in Holland were overwhelmed, tossed aside by the liberal gales. This brings me to another contemporary fact, which I never anticipated as a young seminarian in Rome during the Council or as a young priest. The now aged liberal wing of the Church, which dominated discussion after the Council and often the bishops and the emerging Church bureaucracies, has no following among young practising Catholics, priests or religious. This is not only true in Australia, but everywhere in the Western world. In these different countries dominated by a secular media and intelligentsia, liberalism has no young Catholic progeny.
On reflection we should not find this surprising, as growth is tied to Gospel fidelity, to faith, love and sacrifice. After Vatican II many of us overestimated our cultural strengths and underestimated the virulence of anti-Christian forces. You need strong Christian foundations to participate productively in “open dialogue”. Without these roots the end of the road is agnosticism.
I should conclude with a few words in defence of the four popes who were mauled, especially Paul, John Paul II and Benedict. Incidentally it is a matter of historical record that at the 1971 Synod of Bishops, Pope Paul offered to the bishops the option of ordaining married men to the priesthood and the bishops declined to accept this.
All three popes were prolific writers, while John Paul II and Benedict were professional academics with a record of scholarly and popular publications rarely if ever equalled by any Australian priest. I believe Pope Benedict is now our most distinguished living theologian.
The charges against the Holy Father do not amount to too much e.g. instituting a special year to honour priests (which was well received by priests and people), continuing with a new translation of the Roman Missal, and encouraging the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated. He did not receive back the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, but only lifted their excommunication. They are still in schism.
Pope John Paul provokes a special hostility, allegedly an abuser of power, out of touch in scripture, limited in theology, a bad listener. It is a surprise that anyone came to his funeral. In particular he is denounced for emasculating the leadership of the Church, who are clerical and compliant, “low on creativity, leadership, education and even intelligence”.
In an astonishing example of provincial arrogance, Hodgens claims that “the more intelligent and better educated” bishops (only “some” to be sure) are corrupt and have sold their soul for advancement. Me thinks he protests too much.
Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict were not hostile to intelligence, education or competence, but they have striven regularly to appoint bishops who will defend the apostolic tradition and strive to implement policies which will strengthen the Catholic position, not white-ant it.
Hodgens’ misunderstanding of the magisterium is typical of his position. The magisterium refers primarily to the teaching authority of the pope together with the bishops (Vatican II’s collegiality). The baptised faithful share in this and so do the theologians with priests and religious.
Certainly the teaching authority of the bishops was recognized early by St. Ignatius of Antioch (+107 A.D.) and St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (+200 A.D.) with his apostolic succession lists of bishops to defend the apostolic tradition. The ancient teaching chair of the bishop exemplifies this, predating by many centuries any groups of professional theologians in the medieval universities. In Pope John Paul’s 27 years of pontificate 24 individuals were disciplined for their theological views, including eight who were silenced or removed, in the worldwide Catholic community of more than one billion believers. Father Hodgens himself escaped any reign of terror and so did many hundreds of dissidents.
Eric is a bit too generous to his generation, to which I belong. Many were formidable, but we coincided with a period of decline probably unparalleled since the Reformation.
“Reflections on an ordination golden anniversary” is thought provoking. I am glad Father Hodgens has enjoyed his years of priesthood. Unfortunately much of the analysis is mistaken since his solutions, to the extent we can identify them, are less than Catholic and would make a difficult situation worse.