Friday, October 31, 2014

The Key to Child Rearing: Personal Holiness

"Every good tree bears good fruit and the evil tree bears evil fruit!"

Live the Catholic faith to the full, (which includes faithfully passing it on!) and you will have no regrets!

Matthew 7

15Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire.20Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.

Proverbs 22
 6Train up a child in the way he should go,
            Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 29
17Instruct thy son, and he shall refresh thee, and shall give delight to thy soul.

Happy Vigil of All Saints!

Happy All Hallow's Eve

Atheists should be most upset and protest the secular promotion of Halloween for all it's superstition and false religion. The great irony is that it is precisely the "atheist" who promote the most outrageous cults! Even public schools propagandize for this religious feast. No Baby Jesus for Christmas but witches, ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, etc. for Halloween.

The problem with atheists is not that they don't believe but that they believe too much! Anything and everything but Christ!

Just one more proof that Jesus Christ is the Truth and there is no other: The Way, The Truth and The Life. Everything else is confusion, darkness and death! "Whoever rejects the Son rejects the Father Who sent Him!"

Luke 12
8And I say to you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. 9But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God. 10And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but to him that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven.

1 John 2

22Who is a liar, but he who denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is Antichrist, who denieth the Father, and the Son. 23Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. He that confesseth the Son, hath the Father also.

N.B. Never believe something because it is convenient or because it makes you feel good. Believe it because its true! The primacy of truth is the primacy of God! Therefore, the honest atheist is already a believer! He believes in the truth and thus tirelessly searches for it, which is not an it but an "I": relationship: the "I Am!" "Yahweh."

Father, Son and Holy Spirit: that is the truth behind every honest quest.

Happy Eve of All Saints Day. God calls you to be a Saint too!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Contraception Hurts Women (and Girls!)

+The condom dirties her.

+The pill poisons her.

+Sterilization mutilates her.

+Abortion makes her a murderer.

True feminists reject sexual immorality in all its forms, which usually amounts to the abuse of women and children, by men!

Just a few health reasons to avoid this filth (why do you think we call it "dirty"?).

As large as the hygienic toll is, the heart is what is hurt the most! Sexual immorality kills the soul in addition to grossly corrupting the flesh!

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary is the model woman: perfect Virgin and perfect Mother! Perfect purity!

Tota Pulchra Es Maria

Here is a gem used in my priest residence (Ecclesial Institute of Mary Immaculate) in Rome this past academic year. The antiphonal style is touching. Great for home schoolers!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Evangelization: Answering the Common Objections

"Each Soul" by The Servant of God, Frank Duff
Maria Legionis North Amercan Edition No. 2 of 2014  May Jun Jul 2014

Church or Chaplaincy
It seems to me that the chief need of the day is to bring home to every Catholic that on him rests the positive duty of going out and seeking conversions to the Church.

What is the Church?
The Church is a society in which Jesus Christ lives, and which exists for the purpose of bringing Him to all men. If in any place the Church were not leading that life, then it would be untrue to its mission. Were the Church in any place to do no more than minister to those already in its own ranks, it would only be a partial being there. It would have turned itself into a chaplaincy; and Christ never intended His Church to be a mere chaplaincy.

But the Church is made up of its members; can only operated through them; and stands or falls in them. It follows that from each individual member the Church requires responsibility for and co-operation in its work. But one cannot say that such is being given in that primary department of the Church's action, the winning of converts. It in not realised by the rank and file that it is their bounden duty to bring the Faith to everyone—without exception—who does not possess it.

That conviction of imperative duty being absent; and the difficulties—interior and external, natural and supernatural—being many and great, what can result but deadly inertia?

It would be a terrible thing, if from the successes we have had we were to gain the impression that we really have greatly advanced; because we have not. What has been done is only beautiful because of the hope it affords, not because of the actual achievement.

Admittedly the fact that 110 non-Catholics attended our last Retreat is a wonderful thing if viewed from the standpoint of seven years ago, or from the angle of complete inaction. But viewed in the light of the vast number of non-Catholics around us, it is only a notch above nothing. Therefore, this evening is not to be a time of self-satisfaction but a consolidation of our gains, of taking stock, of planning a further advance which will in the end encompass all those who are outside the Fold.

Causes of Inertia
That inertia of which I speak does not necessarily mean indifference. Actually it can be found co-existing with real, downright anxiety to win people to the Church, just as in the heart of a paralyzed man may be found an ardent anxiety for action which the physical restrictions withhold from him. In many cases that inertia springs from a natural cause. If you study people, you will find what an extraordinary severance can be between the powers of cogitation and those of action, so that the most terrific action may take place in the mental department without every being translated into physical action. That gap exists in everybody. It is narrow in what we would call the man of action. It is pretty wide in the average man. In a certain proportion of people it is a yawning, almost unbridgeable chasm. Inertia can proceed from other causes—the fact, for instance, that people require to be shown the path, require each other's support.

One may realize the need for action; one may be capable of that action; and yet not know the way to go about it.

Remedy for Inertia
The remedy for that inertia lies in the application of organization. In other words, you set up a system which bridges the gap and which pushes people over that bridge. The Legion itself represents an example of the effectiveness of such organization.

Before we came into the Legion we were all of us (except perhaps the superman or superwoman amongst us, who were few) doing nothing. We would have persevered in that inglorious condition. But Fate operated to bring us into an organization which held a certain idealism and which subjected us to a sweet pressure. Then in the measure that we submitted ourselves to that pressure we found ourselves doing things. The results that have come are heartening, because they seem to prove that it is possible to organize the entire community, and any community, in the same way and to get no less results. Consequently, the horizon of hope which stretches before us is unbounded.

Even inside such organization itself we can take an incorrect view of our duty. You saw little signs of that cropping up amongst yourselves during the day—a certain lack of understanding of where duty lies. Considering that you have been in an apostolic mold and in a stimulating atmosphere for a considerable time, and if—in spite of that—there is hesitancy, what of those who have not had your advantages? I fear we can take it as an unfortunate fact that the ordinary run of unorganized Catholics do not recognize themselves as having any duty in this particular direction. In fact, some people go very violently into reverse and conceive it even to be an incorrect thing to do anything. They make a virtue of inaction. They clothe it in sugared phrases: “We must not unsettle other people!” “If they are in good faith, let us leave them so!” “We must respect the beliefs of other!” and so forth. This phraseology is familiar to us all. In practice its effect is deadly. What does it mean but that we are to try to convert nobody except those who convert themselves?--which is what is called an “Irish bull.” And like the same animal in the proverbial china-shop, that virtuous inaction wreaks havoc in the Church. It tones down its mission. It perverts its meaning. It turns to mere domestic purposes the infinite ocean of grace which is meant to irrigate the universal desert of unbelief. The—extra tragedy!--that domestic stream tends to dry up. Actual experience proves that we do not hold even our own members. They slip away between our fingers. And what else could happen? Our practical indifference towards those arid souls outside had earned disaster for ourselves.

Prayer No Substitute for Action
There is another phrase which many use to soothe the holy pang which they may feel from hearing those repeated references to the reaching of all men. They say; “We pray for those outside the Church.” We pray for them! Of course that is to the good, if we do pray for them. Sometimes that is no more than a conventional phrase. But even when it means something, I wonder who told those people that their prayer alone suffices? We are in the world, and action is called for from us. And to the extent that we do not act along with prayer, we do not get results. Again, what do those persons who talk about praying mean exactly? How much prayer do they mean? Are they going to spend two or three hours of an evening praying just as you have to spend two or three hours in your laborious Legionary efforts? No, those people mean a Pater and Ave—perhaps only an Ave!

Qualifications for Action
Then there is that other plausible but crippling thought which whispers that you are not qualified to make an approach to others, and accordingly that you are exempt from trying. But who is qualified? The priests, of course, are. But they are the very class which is the most cut off from the non-Catholic. But surely knowledge, ability to argue, etc., are essential? Here you must distinguish between the instruction of converts and the seeking of them. The former demands knowledge; the latter only zeal. Read what your handbook says on this subject. Also recall what happened in the early Church. If this is going too far back for you, reflect on what took place last year in Nairobi—where our native Legionaries brought in 1,000 catechumens.

So beware of those opium-like sayings which pull with the inertia instead of against it, and which neutralize the program of action which fell from Divine lips. I do not say that those cautious phrases are always wrong. Sometimes they may refine your action. But doubt them when they tend to paralyze it. Remember, too, that even a fine plan of action may cause inaction. For the ideal may not immediately be practicable. Then we piously hold ourselves excused from doing anything, instead of working bravely at the second-best—which would eventually bring us to the best. As has been said, the ideal is often the enemy of the good.

Effort is Paramount
Action is paramount. You may challenge this and say that Grace is paramount; and, of course, it is, inasmuch as absolutely nothing can be accomplished without Grace. That is a fact about which we in the Legion have no illusions whatsoever. We realize fully that everything depends upon the Lord. But in a sense, too, it does not; because that grace will always be given if it be properly sought; then its action is automatic; we can take the gift of it for granted. What is in doubt is our own cooperation, not God's. Thus we can hark back to what I have already said and once again urge on you—that effort is paramount. Simple effort must come first; after that, supreme effort, after that—and only after that—enlightened, artistic brilliant, genius-like effort. Nothing is expected of anybody except what he has got. A man who is not a genius cannot elicit qualities that are proper to genius. Nevertheless, his misdirected, clumsy, stupid effort will be equal to the effort of the genius, if it is all that he can give, and if he does not fall below the genius in the faith and love he puts into it.

Grace Follows Effort
If the maximum of effort is forthcoming, then grace will come, overflowing, conquering, miraculous grace, like any of the highlights of the past. We have a current example of that in the case of an air-raid shelter in Liverpool where Legionaries were saying the Rosary. A land-mine fell beside the densely-packed shelter; yet in circumstances that were patently miraculous the people all escaped unscathed. The Legionaries had finished the fourth decade of the Rosary when the mine dropped. Then when they pulled themselves together and realized that they were still on earth, their first thought was to give out the fifth decade in thanksgiving. The sequel was that twenty persons handed in their names for instruction. I suppose many believe mass conversions to be impossible at the present day. Not so. Make the proper claim on the Lord and He will respond with big things.

The Gospel to Every Living Creature
Another principle is that the number of your contacts should be the main consideration, and not the emphasizing of quality or promise. This sounds very odd, I know, but it is logical. It seems to me that the concentrating on quality and on alleged promising people is a dangerous mirage which will lead you astray. Who are we to judge as to who are the promising? Sometimes things work out very differently indeed to what they promise—sometimes the very opposite. The eligible and the promising never fructify, while the unpromising often yields rich fruit. A multitude of eminent cases attest to that. Only the Lord can judge the heart. None of us should venture to do so. Our job is to seek out all, and to bestow on all unbounded, heroic effort.

I repeat the following examples which history records of unlikely-looking people who entered Christ's Church: the thief on the Cross, Oscar Wilde and W.H. Mallock, contemporaries at Oxford. On the other hand, there are rather notable examples like Gladstone, or the late Lord Halifax, who stood on the border and appeared to be about to come in, and yet who died outside the Church.

Moreover, the Morning Star men, or the Sancta Maria women, would not appear to represent the most promising of material. Yet—without having worked out figures, but with a certain degree of confidence—I venture to assert that they exhibit a higher ratio of conversion to the Church than other sections of the population. Another striking case: Some time ago an able young Mohammedan Indian stated at a meeting of the Overseas Club that the remedy for the divisions and antagonisms of India was to take a leaf out of the Russian book and to atheize the country. I reflected to myself that of all who were there he afforded the very least prospect of conversion. Now consider this: He was the first of all that body to come into the Church! So much for human judgments!

And here is another example: A group of us were the other evening discussing a distinguished man. He had come to us labeled, so to speak, by a person of great discernment, as an outstanding soul who was very near to the Church. Our group could discern very little of the spiritual in him at all. Who was right? It only shows how impossible it is to form an accurate judgment of people's qualities—let alone of their souls. Therefore, we should be slow to indulge in that sort of classification.

The Church Must Reach Every Soul
The more numerous the contacts, the more numerous will be the conversions. There is a mathematical ring about that, but it will work out true. But there is a higher principle than that which requires the multiplication of your contacts. It is the one I have already mentioned—that through you the Church must reach every soul. So it is a case of the carrying out of a mission, not the following up of anything that my seem promising. And even if those contacts seem vain and worthless and barren, and even if by some prophetic glance you know them to be vain, still you are to follow them up. Why? Because God has said so. I was much impressed once by an account which I read of a French Missionary in China. He had been a very distinguished layman in France. He left all, became a priest, and went out on the Mission to China. Apparently he was working in a bad spot. He did not accomplish much during all his time there. Somebody asked him if he were getting results. He said, “No”. And the inquirer with an eye on his past brilliant career, suggested to him that he was wasting his talents and that he should seek a more promising field of labor. His answer was: “I am not here because of past success nor because of prospective success. I ma here because of the command that the Gospel be preached to every creature.” That noble remark contains a lesson for all. Incidentally, it puts the mission of the Church in a nutshell. Clutch that nutshell to yourselves, and note that when that commission was originally given by Our Lord, there was no suggestion of any process of selection, or of promising contacts, or of non-approach to those who had beliefs. The commission was made comprehensive. Approach was to be to all.

Casting the Net
If still you have any misgivings regarding those to whom you are to go, or the way in which you are to go, and if you find yourself thinking in terms of selection and circumspection, then thing of that other command: “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, into the highways and hedges, and compel those you find to enter in. “There is not much of the element of discrimination there. We would be topical in calling it a “mopping-up operation.”

Furthermore, there is even the note of capture and compelling. Where are the niceties in all that? There are none. What is painted for you is someone burning with zeal for the Lord's Kingdom going out into all sorts of places, getting after all sorts of people—and with a gentle insistence inducing them to come in.

And again, the image of the Church that is put before us in the Gospel is that of a ship. It is a fisherman's craft, and the fishing therefrom is done by nets—not by rod and line; nor is it directed to the princely salmon or trout alone. That casting of a net is the undiscriminating gesture that the Church must always make, and that we, as units of the Church must imitate. The net is cast regardless of what is going to be brought up in it—big, little, good or bad. We must even throw it out where there is little or no prospect of anything coming in; for you will remember the incident in the Gospel which is commended to us—the casting of the net in faith where all previous castings had been fruitless.

You know the sequel. The net was filled to breaking-point with great fish.
This article was first published in Maria Legionis during the second World War

Every Man Must Decide!

The Illusion of Neutrality

The secular state cannot be neutral in matters of religion.
We have all heard what has come to be a liberal dictum, that the State must remain neutral as regards religion or irreligion. One can show fairly easily that the men who wrote our constitution had no such neutrality in mind, given the laws that they and their fellows subsequently passed, their habits of public prayer at meetings, and their common understanding that freedom without virtue, and virtue without piety, were chimeras. To show that that understanding persisted, all one need do is open every textbook for school children published for almost two hundred years; or recall that Catholic immigrants established their own schools not so that their pupils might read the Bible, but so that they might choose which translation they were to read.
Still, there are two more fundamental reasons for rejecting the dictum. One is that it is not possible. The other is that it is not conceivable, even if it were possible. It is a contradiction in terms.
The Nude Beach Principle
On the impossibility: consider the effects of a permission that radically alters the nature of the context in which the action is permitted. We might call this the Nude Beach Principle. Suppose that Surftown has one beautiful beach, where young and old, boys and girls, single people and whole families, have been used to relax, go swimming, and have picnics. Now suppose that a small group of nudists petitions the town council to allow for nude bathing. Their argument is simple—actually, it is no more than a fig leaf for the mere expression of desire. They say, “We want to do this, and we, tolerant as we are, do not wish to impose our standards on anyone else. No one will be required to bathe in the raw. Live and let live, that's our motto.”
But you cannot have a Half-Nude Beach. A beach on which some people stroll without a stitch of clothing is a nude beach, period. A councilman cannot say, “I remain entirely neutral on whether clothing should be required on a beach,” because that is equivalent to saying that it is not opprobrious or not despicable to walk naked in front of other people, including children.
Two factors must be at work, for the Nude Beach Principle to apply. One is whether we can expect some people to act upon the permission. The other is an easily predictable harm that the permission so acted upon will bring to people who do not act upon it, or who, because of moral disapprobation, disgust, fear, or pain, would never act upon it. In Surftown, it means that ordinary people will have lost their beach. They will have lost it to the intolerance of the nude bathers, who, even if they were correct about the moral permissibility of their parading their wares, will not forbear with their more scrupulous neighbors. In this matter, to pretend not to choose is to choose.
Nor do we need physical proximity to invoke the principle. A few years ago in Nova Scotia, after losing a string of referenda, proponents of all-day any-day business won out, meaning that, for the first time, businesses other than hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations could remain open on Sunday. Opponents of the referendum appealed to the good that families and neighborhoods enjoyed, because they could rely on almost everyone being at home at least one day in the week. They understood that it was illogical to say that no particular business would be compelled to keep the strange hours, since the permission would mean almost immediately that many would do so—just as the permission to wear nothing on a beach will bring out many sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. They saw that that in itself would compromise or destroy the good they sought to preserve.
Now, you could say that that lost good was outweighed by the good of some purported economic development, just as you could say that the lost good of a beach friendly to families was outweighed by the good of exhibitionism or what have you. But you could not plead neutrality. To say, “I remain neutral on whether a people should set aside one day in a week for cessation of most business,” is to say that it is not important that such a day be set aside. Again, to pretend not to choose is to choose.
The referendum in Nova Scotia illustrates something else, too, beyond the particular issue. Sometimes to permit is not only to alter the context of the permitted action, but to alter the whole social order. You cannot say, as Stephen Douglas tried to say, that you will allow slavery in those states whose citizens vote for it, and then pretend that that is an act of calm and statesmanlike neutrality. A society that says that some people may own slaves is an utterly different society from one that says that no one may own slaves. That is not a distant consequence of the permission; it is immediate, indeed implied in the permission itself.
You cannot say, as liberals try to say, that you will allow abortion for people inclined to procure one, and then pretend that that too is to remain blissfully neutral and tolerant, no more than if you tried to say that you would allow infanticide for parents who decide, after all, that the diapers are too messy, or the baby too ugly or too sickly or handicapped. A society that allows some people to kill babies is a society that does not protect babies, period. It is a society that does not view them as possessing any inherent claim upon our protection. A society that freely permits pornography is, by that very permission, a society that sees nothing especially sacred in the human body and the marital act. You can say all you want that no one is required to leap into the open sewer. They still have to live with it right there, with all its stench, among people who have grown accustomed to it, or fond of it.
You will be deprived of the help that a very different kind of society might have conferred upon you, as you try to discipline yourself and your children to virtue. There's a scene in Eugenio Corti's semi-autobiographical novel about the Second World War that illustrates the point quite well. One of the soldiers from their district—the writer and intellectual among them—has fallen in love with a chaste and beautiful girl. But his imagination has not been formed or deformed by the vices of military life or the brutalities he witnessed on the Russian front. It has been formed by his faith. The girl is sure not only that Michele loves her, but “that his love was great, the kind of love given by a real man who had held himself ready for an only love.” When she daydreams about the children she will give him, she does not dwell on the physical expression of love, though that, says Corti, was to be great and joyful: “Her Christian morals at present forbade that, and she would obey that in her docile way, realizing that her so splendid love was in no small way brought about by her faithful acceptance of the moral code.” Without that code publicly acknowledged and fostered, there is no such marriage, for “Michele's love for her would have been less, perhaps limping along, spent.” No Ferdinand and Miranda, no Orlando and Rosalind, no Renzo and Lucia.
The Principle of the Empty Distinction
And these considerations bring us to the edge of recognizing that neutrality in many questions is not only practically impossible, but perfectly meaningless. We might call this the Principle of the Empty Distinction. Suppose you say you are agnostic on the issue of whether you will recognize a man's property as his own. You have just contradicted yourself. You are not agnostic at all; that is but a hand-washing distinction without a difference. You have in effect refused to recognize the right of property, and where the right of property is not recognized, what is yours is mine if I have the inclination and the power to take it. Given the same object, there is no conceivable compromise between (sometimes or somewhere) permissible and (always and everywhere) impermissible.
The illogic is most acute when the professed agnosticism applies directly to the duties of the party so professing. If I say, “I must remain assiduously neutral on the question of honoring my father and mother,” I have declared that I do not owe them the honor that they are due, and that is in itself to dishonor them. If I say, “I am strictly agnostic on the question as to whether I owe gratitude to the man who has paid for my college education without any expectation of return,” I have declared that there is no debt, nothing that binds me. I am saying that my gratitude is a matter of indifference or caprice; and that is itself ungrateful.
It does not matter whether the party is a person or a nation. The virtue of religion, as our founders used the word, pertains to the duty that a person or a people owe to God. Now there either is a duty or there is not. You cannot say, “The People must remain absolutely neutral as to whether the People, as such, owe any allegiance to God, to acknowledge His benefits, and to pray for His protection.” To say it is to deny the debt. It is to take a position while trying to appear to take none. To decline to choose to pray, now and ever, is to choose not to pray. It is to choose irreligion. One should at least be honest about it.
The reader will no doubt know which side I take on these issues. My point here is that for certain questions, neutrality is an illusion. The nakedly secular state is not a neutral thing. It is something utterly different from, and irreconcilable with, every human polity that has existed until a few anthropological minutes ago. It is itself a set of choices which, like all such, forecloses others; a way of living that makes other ways of living unlikely, practically impossible, or inconceivable.
Anthony Esolen is Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child andIronies of Faith. He has translated Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata and Dante's The Divine Comedy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Agape Anthropology

The greatest commandment is not the first in a list but the center of them all, the center of everything, the law guiding all things. Love of God (which incorporates and appropriates His Love for the others) is the Law above all laws! We could say that it is on another dimension which includes "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" but is more properly on the level of attraction, desire and natural inclination (the noble source at the bottom of every good human aspiration and ideal). In that the Romantics were right! They were wrong in forgetting the ten commandments which are also necessary guides because our nature has been corrupted by sin.

The human person is hard wired for love, and not just any love, but true, unconditional and selfless and immense (limitless), which is the love of God. That is what is meant by the first commandment first of all, that it is the law underlying all of existence and all reality, especially the reality of man. Man is oriented toward love and only love, perfect love, gives him fulfillment and peace.

Cf. Pope Francis Angelus message yesterday; and Saint Paul...

"My love is my weight!" --Augustine (Of which Archbishop Chaput reminded us in his outstanding and bold Address last Monday).

"Love God and do as you please." --Augustine

The use of the word "spirit" below seems to mean both the Holy Spirit and the spirit that inspires every good action in men!

Living by the Spirit
16I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. 18But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, 20Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, 21Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, 23Mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. 24And they that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences.
25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26Let us not be made desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying on another.

Restore the Altar of the Chair Campaign


In light of the last Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage and the Altar placement confusion I think it is time to campaign for a full restoration of the Altar of the Chair to it's original splendor (place!, viz. permanently affixed on the platform three steps up, directly under the Bernini Chair and Reredos). Monsignor Guido Marini should be in charge. And all Masses should be done "ad orientem" (facing that glorious Altar piece), as is the case in most of the Altars of the Basilica. Eliminate the free standing Altar altogether. It is an insult to the Christian heritage to have to say Mass with one's back to such great sacred art commissioned for the Altar of God!

A reflection on this past weekend.

The weekend of Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage coincided with the Schoenstatt pilgrimage (predominantly Hispanic), and apparently the two never meet. That makes no sense! Why not coordinate the efforts? It was the height of irony to have a German Shrine devotion celebrated by mainly Spanish speaking people with a Mass in sundry vernaculars. The Latin Mass was made for them. They are not liberals. The loyal Catholic disposition of the people at that Mass actually represents the majority of traditional Catholics pre-Summorum Pontificum. And the upshot was that the Holy Father did not even mention our Pilgrimage during the Angelus yesterday. That, to me, is a great failure on the part of the organizers of this Pilgrimage!

So, it seems to me that the organizers of the Annual Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage, in addition to the Altar of the Chair restoration, should have the incorporation of the two pilgrimages as priority number one for next year (which would mean a warming up to Pope Francis!). Perhaps you need an Spanish speaking influence in Rome to mediate the joining of forces with the other strong Catholic influences in the present day Rome, which are predominantly Spanish speaking! What we saw over this past weekend is that Spanish is the predominant language of the Church today and we would do well to acknowledge it (as many Church leaders have done, including the Holy Spirit [deigning that we should have an Argentine Holy Father]).

While we are at it, perhaps someone might meet with the leaders of Rome's "El Senor de los Milagros" Confraternity (Peruvians), who also have several hundred pilgrims for that weekend.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

In Defense of Pope Francis

If you are generally unhappy with the present Papacy this message is for you.

1. His message is meant especially for you.
Get out of yourself. Change your life. Turn to Jesus and listen to Jesus and do more for God and for others in Christ's name. That is the Pope's message! You need to read his writings and hear him out and apply his message to your life rather than just pharisaically dissecting every word! Healthy criticism is necessary but with modesty and deference and always with an eye to what God is telling you through the Vicar of Christ, lest you be a hypocrite.

2. He is, to all appearances, a saintly man!
If he were a profligate or a hardened heretic perhaps the constant harping might be warranted. But his doctrine is consistently Catholic, though his approach is "let's get out there and do it and stop talking about what needs to be done!"

3. Christian Witness.
Would that all leaders of the Church and priests were at least honest Christians like him! He is primarily trying to give an example of how to abandon oneself to the will of God and say what God would have you say and do what God would have you do, with courage, for love of God and love of neighbor, for the situation today is urgent. A Christian (more less a minister of Christ) cannot be content closed off in one's room!

What is Love?

Today's Gospel is about love and responsibility.

Love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love is the greatest commandment.

So there you have the orientation of love: God and neighbor. Love God with your entire self and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Just as you search for the love of God and search to give yourself over completely to Him, so spend yourself also in enabling that divine orientation and fulfillment for your neighbor. That is the what of love. Love is your relationship with God, which is based on God's relationship with you. "In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4:10

Luke 6:27-38

Love Your Enemies
(Leviticus 24:17-23; Matthew 5:38-48)
27But I say to you that hear: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. 28Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that calumniate you. 29And to him that striketh thee on the one cheek, offer also the other. And him that taketh away from thee thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also. 30Give to every one that asketh thee, and of him that taketh away thy goods, ask them not again. 31And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in like manner.32And if you love them that love you, what thanks are to you? for sinners also love those that love them. 33And if you do good to them who do good to you, what thanks are to you? for sinners also do this. 34And if you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what thanks are to you? for sinners also lend to sinners, for to receive as much. 35But love ye your enemies: do good, and lend, hoping for nothing thereby: and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the sons of the Highest; for he is kind to the unthankful, and to the evil. 36Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Do Not Judge
(Matthew 7:1-6; Romans 14:1-12)
37Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. 38Give, and it shall be given to you: good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over shall they give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.


The Beatitudes
(Psalm 1:1-6; Luke 6:20-23)

3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.

6Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.

7Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

8Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.

9Blesses are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.

10Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: 12Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.

Salt and Light
(Philippians 2:12-18)

13You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.

14You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. 15Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. 16So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

I Corinthinans 13
1If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; 5Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. 12We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know I part; but then I shall know even as I am known. 13And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

N.B. The number one search question on Google is What is love?
Pope Benedict's first encyclical was Deus Caritas Est.
Sex and Salvation
The New Archbishop of Sydney on a Culture That Has Forgotten How to Love

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Today's Spontaneous Remarks by Pope Francis' on the Family (In Spanish)

Spanish Transcript and Audio of each intervention and Pope Francis response.

Sins Against Marriage
Cohabitation, etc. " these are new ways, totally destructive of, and limits upon, the greatness of the love of marriage." --Pope Francis

"A Christian Community that does not go out dedicates itself to hair dressing the sheep: spiritual hair dressers!...You will make mistakes if you go out, but it's also beautiful to ask forgiveness."

The great revolution for renewal is first of all personal holiness. Be holy! Renovate your heart!

Decentralization! Everything, every movement, every charism in the Church needs to be decentralized. The center is only Jesus!

We need a Culture of Encounter which is the culture of Covenant which creates ecclesial solidarity: creation of ties, not the destruction of ties. The culture of the temporary destroys ties. The Covenant is profoundly renewed in the Eucharist by God among us. The Covenant is renewed by the sacrament of Confession!

Complete, unedited Video of the Event.

Disoriented Altar of Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage 2014

Who in the Vatican controls the position of the altar? It is wrong that for this Mass the priest ministers should have to look toward the priests in choir and that the priests in choir should have to look at the wrong side of the altar and out toward the congregation in order to face the Holy Sacrifice. So the priests in choir at the Altar of the Chair never look at the Chair of Peter! There might be a nefarious metaphor in this.

Why not just put the Altar of the Chair directly under the Chair as it was designed and stood for centuries? Last year for the occasion it was positioned much closer to it's proper place giving ample space for the elaborate ceremonies of the Pontifical Mass before the altar and not behind it. Just another ironic contradiction of our progressive age that the arguably most iconic Altar piece in Christendom should so be divorced from the Altar for which it was made! Well it is quite consistent with the status quo of many of our Parish churches, alas, including my own!

quia zelus domus tuae comedit me Ps. 68:10

Bergoglio Benedict Disconnect

Here is a familiar image!

Has anyone seen a similar image of Cardinal Bergoglio kneeling before his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI?

There are plenty of pictures of Bergoglio kneeling before Pope Saint John Paul II. There are also pictures of Cardinal Bergoglio standing face to face with Pope Benedict. Surely the future Pope must have also knelt before his immediate predecessor.

It seems to me that that image would be very valuable to find, publicize and remember, the future Papa Bergoglio at the feet of Papa Ratzinger. In my mind that image is much more significant than the ubiquitous image of the new Pope bowing to be "blessed" by us!

Pope Francis himself would surely do well to retrieve that image and recall it frequently!

Many inside and outside the Church have (I think wrongly) read the Francis Papacy in discontinuity with the Magisterium of his predecessors, especially with that of Pope Benedict. This fighting of this Synod brought that impression to a climax! What will the Holy Father do to mend his image which is ever more perceived as an anomaly, even if a widely popular one?

Plinthos Response to Synod First Impressions

Evangelization without clarity of doctrine is an oxymoron and, at best, a step toward Protestantism.

The first order of business for any discussion of the family, the basic cell of society, is to acknowledge that the family is an institution made by God upon the unique pillars of husband and wife.

Marriage, true marriage, is the foundation of the family, the only solid foundation thereof.

I remember when I was in first theology in seminary we had a seminar on the family at the end of which I and my confreres noticed an obvious void of orientation and substance in the content of the day's discussions when finally we realized that there was absolutely no discussion of Marriage!

To speak about family without marriage is like speaking about the Church without Christ! And we have great resources at our disposal from the Magisterium of Pope Saint John Paul II whom we could name the Apostle of Marriage and Family! When he is named a Doctor of the Church he should be given the title: The Doctor of Marriage!

Pope Francis is a true to form modern Jesuit in his push for charity without clarity. How quickly he forgets the masterful lessons of Pope Emeritus Benedict that clarity is charity!

One lesson His Holiness is sure to take from this Synod is that there can be no peace without clarity!

Concede parum, nega frequenter, distingue semper

Affirm little

Frequently deny

Always make distinctions

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pope Emeritus Benedict's Message to the Urbaniana Today: Mission and Religions

The following address is my translation (helped by Google Translate) of the full text of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI which he sent to the Urbaniana Pontifical University today, read by his secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein on the occasion of the dedication of its main conference hall to the name and honor of the Pope Emeritus. This is brand new vintage Ratzinger! Enjoy! Deo gratias!

I would first like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Rector and to the academic authorities of the Pontifical Urban University, the Major Officers and Representatives of Students, for their proposal to name the restored Aula Magna in my honor. I would like to thank in a special way the Chancellor of the University, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, for having welcomed this initiative. It is a great joy for me to be so ever-present in the work of the Pontifical Urban University.

In the course of several visits that I was able to make as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was always struck by the atmosphere of universality that reigns in this university, in which young people from virtually all countries of the world are preparing for service to the Gospel in today's world. Even today, I see inwardly in front of me, in this hall, a community made up of many young people, who make us feel so alive the wonderful reality of the Catholic Church.

"Catholic": This definition of the Church, which belongs to the profession of faith since ancient times, carries something of Pentecost. It reminds us that the Church of Jesus Christ was never about just one nation or one culture, but that it was destined to humanity from the outset. The last words that Jesus said to his disciples were: "Make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19). And at the time of Pentecost the Apostles spoke in all languages, thus being able to demonstrate, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the full breadth of their faith.

Since then the Church has really grown on every continent. Your presence, dear students, reflects the face of the universal Church. The prophet Zechariah had announced a messianic kingdom which would go from sea to sea, and would be a kingdom of peace (Zech 9.9s.). And in fact, wherever the Eucharist is celebrated and men, from the Lord, become one body among themselves, there is something of that peace which Jesus Christ had promised to give to his disciples. You, dear friends, be cooperators of this peace that, in a world torn and violent, it becomes increasingly urgent to build and cherish. This is why it is so important to the work of your university, in which you want to learn how to get closer to Jesus Christ to become His witnesses.

The Risen Lord commissioned his apostles, and through them the disciples of all time, to bring his word to the ends of the earth and make disciples of men. The Second Vatican Council, taking up a constant tradition in the decree "Ad Gentes", has highlighted the deep reasons of this missionary task and has assigned it to the Church of today with renewed force.

But does it still have value? - many today ask, inside and outside the Church - indeed, is the mission still relevant? Would it not be more appropriate between religions to meet in dialogue together and serve the cause of peace in the world? The counter-question: can dialogue replace the mission? Today, in fact, many people have the idea that religions should respect each other and, in the dialogue between them, become a joint peacekeeping force. In most cases this way of thinking takes for granted that the different religions are variants of one and the same reality; that "religion" is the common gender, which takes different forms according to the different cultures, but still expresses the same reality. The question of truth, the one that originally moved the Christians more than anything else, here is put in parentheses. It is assumed that the real truth about God, in the final analysis, is unattainable and that at most it can make present what is ineffable only with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of the truth seems realistic and helpful for peace between world religions.

And yet it is lethal to the faith. Indeed, faith loses its binding nature and its seriousness if all boils down to basically interchangeable symbols, able to examine only from afar the inaccessible mystery of the divine.

Dear friends, you see that the issue of mission puts us not only before the basic questions of faith but also in front of that of what man is. Within a short welcome address, obviously I can not attempt to thoroughly analyze this issue, which profoundly affects all of us today. I would like, however, at least to hint at the direction our thinking should take. I do this by moving from two different starting points.


1 The common opinion is that religions are as it were side by side, as the continents and individual countries on a map. However, this is not accurate. Religions are in motion at a historical level, just as peoples and cultures are in movement. There are religions in waiting. The tribal religions are of this type: they have their moment in history, and yet they are waiting for a larger meeting that leads to fullness.

We, as Christians, we are convinced that, in silence, they await the encounter with Jesus Christ, the light that comes from him, which alone can bring them fully to their truth. And Christ awaits them. The encounter with him is not the intrusion of a stranger who destroys their own culture and their own history. It is, however, the entrance into something bigger, to which they are on the way. So this meeting is always at the same time, purification and maturation. Moreover, the meeting is always mutual. Christ awaits their history, their wisdom, their view of things.

Today we see more and more clearly another aspect: while in the countries of its great history Christianity in many ways has become tired and some branches of the great tree grown from the mustard seed of the Gospel have become dry and fall to the ground, from the encounter of the religions in waiting with Christ springs new life. Where before there was only fatigue, new dimensions of the faith are manifested and bring joy.

2 Religion itself is not a unitary phenomenon. There are always various distinct dimensions in it. On the one hand is the magnitude of reaching out beyond the world, to the eternal God. Yet, on the other hand, there are elements in it arising from the history of men and their practice of religion; where certainly noble and beautiful things may arise, but base and destructive things also, where the selfishness of man has taken possession of religion, and instead of an opening, turned it into a closure within his own space.

For this reason, religion is never simply only a positive or only a negative phenomenon: in it this and the other aspect are mixed. At its beginnings, the Christian mission felt very strongly especially the negative elements of the pagan religions in which it found itself. For this reason, the Christian message was at first extremely critical of religion. Only by overcoming their traditions, which in part it also considered demonic, faith could develop its renewing power. On the basis of elements of this kind, the Protestant theologian Karl Barth put religion and faith in opposition, judging the first as an absolutely negative, as the arbitrary behavior of man who, taking himself as his point of departure, tries to control God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has taken up this position settling in favor of a Christianity "without religion." That is without a doubt a one-sided view that can not be accepted. Yet it is fair to say that every religion, to remain in the right, at the same time must also always be critical of religion. Clearly this is true, since its inception, and according to its nature, with the Christian faith, which, on the one hand, looks with great respect at the deep longing and the deep richness of religions, but on the other hand, looks critically also at what is negative. It goes without saying that the Christian faith must constantly develop this critical force also in relation to its religious history.

For us Christians, Jesus Christ is the Logos of God, the light that helps us to distinguish between the nature of religion and its distortion.

3 In our time the voice of those who want to convince us that religion as such is outdated becomes ever stronger. Only critical reason should guide the actions of man. Behind such views is the conviction that with positivist thought reason in all its purity has finally acquired dominion. In fact, even this way of thinking and living is historically conditioned and tied to certain historical cultures. To consider it as the only one which is valid would belittle man, taking away essential dimensions of his existence. Man becomes smaller, not larger, when there is no space for an ethos that, according to its authentic nature, goes beyond pragmatism, when there is no more space for our gaze fixed on God. The proper place for positivist reason is in the major fields of technical action and the economy, and yet that does not exhaust everything that is human. So, it is up to us who believe to repeatedly open wide the doors which, beyond mere technique and pure pragmatism, lead to all the greatness of our existence, to the encounter with the living God.


1 These reflections, perhaps a little difficult, should show that even today, in a profoundly changed world, the task of communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others remains reasonable.

And yet there is also a second easier way to justify this task today. Joy demands to be communicated. Love demands that to be communicated. The truth demands to be communicated. He who has received a great joy can not simply keep it for himself, he must transmit it. The same applies to the gift of love, for the gift of the recognition of the truth which manifests itself.

When Andrew met Christ, he could not help but say to his brother: "We have found the Messiah" (Jn 1:41). And Philip, who had been given the same encounter, could not help but say to Nathanael that he had found him of whom Moses and the prophets had written (John 1:45). We do not proclaim Jesus Christ to bring to our community as many members as possible; much less for power. Let's talk about Him because we feel we need to transmit the joy that was given to us.

We will be credible proclaimers of Jesus Christ when we have truly met him in the depths of our existence, when, through the encounter with Him, we will have been given the great experience of truth, love and joy.

2 The deep tension between the mystical offering to God, in which we are totally given over to him, and responsibility for others and for the world he created, is part of the nature of religion. Martha and Mary are always inseparable, even if, from time to time, the emphasis can fall on one or the other. The meeting point between the two poles is the love in which we touch at the same time God and his creatures. "We have known and believed love" (1 Jn 4:16): This phrase expresses the true nature of Christianity. The love that is achieved and is reflected in a multifaceted way in the saints of all time, is the authentic proof of the truth of Christianity.

Benedict XVI

Vorrei in primo luogo esprimere il mio più cordiale ringraziamento al Rettore Magnifico e alle autorità accademiche della Pontificia Università Urbaniana, agli Ufficiali Maggiori e ai Rappresentanti degli Studenti, per la loro proposta di intitolare al mio nome l’Aula Magna ristrutturata. Vorrei ringraziare in modo del tutto particolare il Gran Cancelliere dell’Università, il Cardinale Fernando Filoni, per avere accolto questa iniziativa. È motivo di grande gioia per me poter essere così sempre presente al lavoro della Pontificia Università Urbaniana.

Nel corso delle diverse visite che ho potuto fare come Prefetto della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede, sono rimasto sempre colpito dall’atmosfera di universalità che si respira in questa Università, nella quale giovani provenienti praticamente da tutti i Paesi della Terra si preparano per il servizio al Vangelo nel mondo di oggi. Anche oggi, vedo interiormente di fronte a me, in quest’aula, una comunità formata da tanti giovani, che ci fanno percepire in modo vivo la stupenda realtà della Chiesa cattolica.

“Cattolica”: questa definizione della Chiesa, che appartiene alla professione di fede sin dai tempi più antichi, porta in sé qualcosa della Pentecoste. Ci ricorda che la Chiesa di Gesù Cristo non ha mai riguardato un solo popolo o una sola cultura, ma che sin dall’inizio era destinata all’umanità. Le ultime parole che Gesù disse ai suoi discepoli furono: “Fate miei discepoli tutti i popoli” (Mt 28,19). E al momento della Pentecoste gli Apostoli parlarono in tutte le lingue, potendo così manifestare, per la forza dello Spirito Santo, tutta l’ampiezza della loro fede.

Da allora la Chiesa è realmente cresciuta in tutti i Continenti. La vostra presenza, care studentesse e cari studenti, rispecchia il volto universale della Chiesa. Il profeta Zaccaria aveva annunciato un regno messianico che sarebbe andato da mare a mare e sarebbe stato un regno di pace (Zc 9,9s.). E infatti, dovunque viene celebrata l’Eucaristia e gli uomini, a partire dal Signore, diventano tra loro un solo corpo, è presente qualcosa di quella pace che Gesù Cristo aveva promesso di dare ai suoi discepoli. Voi, cari amici, siate cooperatori di questa pace che, in un mondo dilaniato e violento, diventa sempre più urgente edificare e custodire. Per questo è così importante il lavoro della vostra Università, nella quale volete imparare a conoscere più da vicino Gesù Cristo per poter diventare suoi testimoni.

Il Signore Risorto incaricò i suoi Apostoli, e tramite loro i discepoli di tutti i tempi, di portare la sua parola sino ai confini della terra e di fare suoi discepoli gli uomini. Il Concilio Vaticano II, riprendendo, nel decreto “Ad gentes”, una tradizione costante, ha messo in luce le profonde ragioni di questo compito missionario e lo ha così assegnato con forza rinnovata alla Chiesa di oggi.

Ma vale davvero ancora? – si chiedono in molti, oggi, dentro e fuori la Chiesa – davvero la missione è ancora attuale? Non sarebbe più appropriato incontrarsi nel dialogo tra le religioni e servire insieme la causa della pace nel mondo? La contro-domanda è: il dialogo può sostituire la missione? Oggi in molti, in effetti, sono dell’idea che le religioni dovrebbero rispettarsi a vicenda e, nel dialogo tra loro, divenire una comune forza di pace. In questo modo di pensare, il più delle volte si dà per presupposto che le diverse religioni siano varianti di un’unica e medesima realtà; che “religione” sia il genere comune, che assume forme differenti a secondo delle differenti culture, ma esprime comunque una medesima realtà. La questione della verità, quella che in origine mosse i cristiani più di tutto il resto, qui viene messa tra parentesi. Si presuppone che l’autentica verità su Dio, in ultima analisi, sia irraggiungibile e che tutt’al più si possa rendere presente ciò che è ineffabile solo con una varietà di simboli. Questa rinuncia alla verità sembra realistica e utile alla pace fra le religioni nel mondo.

E tuttavia essa è letale per la fede. Infatti, la fede perde il suo carattere vincolante e la sua serietà, se tutto si riduce a simboli in fondo interscambiabili, capaci di rimandare solo da lontano all’inaccessibile mistero del divino.

Cari amici, vedete che la questione della missione ci pone non solo di fronte alle domande fondamentali della fede ma anche di fronte a quella di cosa sia l’uomo. Nell’ambito di un breve indirizzo di saluto, evidentemente non posso tentare di analizzare in modo esaustivo questa problematica che oggi riguarda profondamente tutti noi. Vorrei, comunque, almeno accennare alla direzione che dovrebbe imboccare il nostro pensiero. Lo faccio muovendo da due diversi punti di partenza.


1. L’opinione comune è che le religioni stiano per così dire una accanto all’altra, come i Continenti e i singoli Paesi sulla carta geografica. Tuttavia questo non è esatto. Le religioni sono in movimento a livello storico, così come sono in movimento i popoli e le culture. Esistono religioni in attesa. Le religioni tribali sono di questo tipo: hanno il loro momento storico e tuttavia sono in attesa di un incontro più grande che le porti alla pienezza.

Noi, come cristiani, siamo convinti che, nel silenzio, esse attendano l’incontro con Gesù Cristo, la luce che viene da lui, che sola può condurle completamente alla loro verità. E Cristo attende loro. L’incontro con lui non è l’irruzione di un estraneo che distrugge la loro propria cultura e la loro propria storia. È, invece, l’ingresso in qualcosa di più grande, verso cui esse sono in cammino. Perciò quest’incontro è sempre, a un tempo, purificazione e maturazione. Peraltro, l’incontro è sempre reciproco. Cristo attende la loro storia, la loro saggezza, la loro visione delle cose.

Oggi vediamo sempre più nitidamente anche un altro aspetto: mentre nei Paesi della sua grande storia il cristianesimo per tanti versi è divenuto stanco e alcuni rami del grande albero cresciuto dal granello di senape del Vangelo sono divenuti secchi e cadono a terra, dall’incontro con Cristo delle religioni in attesa scaturisce nuova vita. Dove prima c’era solo stanchezza, si manifestano e portano gioia nuove dimensioni della fede.

2. La religione in sé non è un fenomeno unitario. In essa vanno sempre distinte più dimensioni. Da un lato c’è la grandezza del protendersi, al di là del mondo, verso l’eterno Dio. Ma, dall’altro, si trovano in essa elementi scaturiti dalla storia degli uomini e dalla loro pratica della religione. In cui possono rivenirsi senz’altro cose belle e nobili, ma anche basse e distruttive, laddove l’egoismo dell’uomo si è impossessato della religione e, invece che in un’apertura, l’ha trasformata in una chiusura nel proprio spazio.

Per questo, la religione non è mai semplicemente un fenomeno solo positivo o solo negativo: in essa l’uno e l’altro aspetto sono mescolati. Ai suoi inizi, la missione cristiana percepì in modo molto forte soprattutto gli elementi negativi delle religioni pagane nelle quali s’imbattè. Per questa ragione, l’annuncio cristiano fu in un primo momento estremamente critico della religione. Solo superando le loro tradizioni che in parte considerava pure demoniache, la fede poté sviluppare la sua forza rinnovatrice. Sulla base di elementi di questo genere, il teologo evangelico Karl Barth mise in contrapposizione religione e fede, giudicando la prima in modo assolutamente negativo quale comportamento arbitrario dell’uomo che tenta, a partire da se stesso, di afferrare Dio. Dietrich Bonhoeffer ha ripreso questa impostazione pronunciandosi a favore di un cristianesimo “senza religione”. Si tratta senza dubbio di una visione unilaterale che non può essere accettata. E tuttavia è corretto affermare che ogni religione, per rimanere nel giusto, al tempo stesso deve anche essere sempre critica della religione. Chiaramente questo vale, sin dalle sue origini e in base alla sua natura, per la fede cristiana, che, da un lato, guarda con grande rispetto alla profonda attesa e alla profonda ricchezza delle religioni, ma, dall’altro, vede in modo critico anche ciò che è negativo. Va da sé che la fede cristiana deve sempre di nuovo sviluppare tale forza critica anche rispetto alla propria storia religiosa.

Per noi cristiani Gesù Cristo è il Logos di Dio, la luce che ci aiuta a distinguere tra la natura della religione e la sua distorsione.

3. Nel nostro tempo diviene sempre più forte la voce di coloro che vogliono convincerci che la religione come tale è superata. Solo la ragione critica dovrebbe orientare l’agire dell’uomo. Dietro simili concezioni sta la convinzione che con il pensiero positivistico la ragione in tutta la sua purezza abbia definitivamente acquisito il dominio. In realtà, anche questo modo di pensare e di vivere è storicamente condizionato e legato a determinate culture storiche. Considerarlo come il solo valido sminuirebbe l’uomo, sottraendogli dimensioni essenziali della sua esistenza. L’uomo diventa più piccolo, non più grande, quando non c’è più spazio per un ethos che, in base alla sua autentica natura, rinvia oltre il pragmatismo, quando non c’è più spazio per lo sguardo rivolto a Dio. Il luogo proprio della ragione positivista è nei grandi campi d’azione della tecnica e dell’economia, e tuttavia essa non esaurisce tutto l’umano. Così, spetta a noi che crediamo spalancare sempre di nuovo le porte che, oltre la mera tecnica e il puro pragmatismo, conducono a tutta la grandezza della nostra esistenza, all’incontro con il Dio vivente.


1. Queste riflessioni, forse un po’ difficili, dovrebbero mostrare che anche oggi, in un mondo profondamente mutato, rimane ragionevole il compito di comunicare agli altri il Vangelo di Gesù Cristo.

E tuttavia c’è anche un secondo modo, più semplice, per giustificare oggi questo compito. La gioia esige di essere comunicata. L’amore esige di essere comunicato. La verità esige di essere comunicata. Chi ha ricevuto una grande gioia, non può tenerla semplicemente per sé, deve trasmetterla. Lo stesso vale per il dono dell’amore, per il dono del riconoscimento della verità che si manifesta.

Quando Andrea incontrò Cristo, non poté far altro che dire a suo fratello: “Abbiamo trovato il Messia” (Gv 1,41). E Filippo, al quale era stato donato lo stesso incontro, non poté far altro che dire a Natanaele che aveva trovato colui del quale avevano scritto Mosè e i profeti (Gv 1,45). Annunciamo Gesù Cristo non per procurare alla nostra comunità quanti più membri possibile; e tanto meno per il potere. Parliamo di Lui perché sentiamo di dover trasmettere quella gioia che ci è stata donata.

Saremo annunciatori credibili di Gesù Cristo quando l’avremo veramente incontrato nel profondo della nostra esistenza, quando, tramite l’incontro con Lui, ci sarà stata donata la grande esperienza della verità, dell’amore e della gioia.

2. Fa parte della natura della religione la profonda tensione fra l’offerta mistica a Dio, in cui ci si consegna totalmente a lui, e la responsabilità per il prossimo e per il mondo da lui creato. Marta e Maria sono sempre inscindibili, anche se, di volta in volta, l’accento può cadere sull’una o sull’altra. Il punto d’incontro tra i due poli è l’amore nel quale tocchiamo al contempo Dio e le sue creature. “Abbiamo conosciuto e creduto l’amore” (1 Gv 4,16): questa frase esprime l’autentica natura del cristianesimo. L’amore, che si realizza e si rispecchia in modo multiforme nei santi di tutti i tempi, è l’autentica prova della verità del cristianesimo.

Benedetto XVI
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