Cruxnow.com is reporting on comments made by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM CAP, Archbishop of Boston on the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has infected the presidential campaign this year. In an interview he had with Irish media, he warned that such speech, demonizes a minority group, and can bring about unjust treatment. He called on Americans to remember that it was that long ago, that our Irish immigrant ancestors were seen as a threat to America; and subjected to anti-immigrant treatment. He called on Americans to stop blaming our current troubles on the immigrant, and instead work together to care for one another and find solutions together.
The Catholic blogosphere is abuzz with the news from the Vatican, that Pope Francis has appointed a commission of academics to study whether the ordination of women to the Permanent Diaconate is theologically possible. The commission is made up of six clergymen, and six women, two of whom are religious nuns. One of the women theologians is Phyllis Zagano, who is an author, and columnist for the National Catholic Reporter newspaper. She has been a long advocate for bringing women into the diaconate.
I personally would like to see women being able to be ordained as deacons. A vast number of Catholic women are already involved in the service of charity; serving the poor and homeless. Many Catholic women are already involved in the service of Word, through being religious educators; being lectors at Mass; and by the example of their own lives. Many Catholic women are already involved in service to the Altar, through being extraordinary Eucharistic ministers at the celebration at Mass; and by bringing communion to the homebound. And I am sure that many of these women, like the men, feel called to deepen this sense of service by becoming deacons.
Now, people should not fool themselves, or have high expectations on how soon this will come about, if at all. We have just made the very first small step, with a long road ahead for those advocating for women deacons. But, it is a beginning; may the Holy Spirit guide us!
Yesterday, Pope Francis celebrated his 79th birthday. And I am sure that the majority of Catholics, other Christians, and peoples of other faiths are all wishing him: “Ad multos annos!” (Many more years!) However, it cannot be denied that there are those within the Church who are hoping for a short pontificate. Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press has a interesting article posted on Crux; which looks into this undercurrent of hostility aimed at the Pope, by the every ones who are suppose to be assisting him.
When, in 2013, the College of Cardinals elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy, the conventional wisdom was that they were looking for a reformer. They saw a Vatican Curia mired in scandal, inefficiency, and dysfunction. They expected Pope Francis to “clean the stables,” and reorganize the Curia to be more responsive to the needs of today’s universal Church. Shortly after his election, Pope Francis established a “Council of Cardinals”, one of it’s members is Boston’s own Cardinal Sean O’Malley OFM Cap. He gave it the task of proposing structural changes to the Curia, and other suggestions on dealing with issues affecting the Church. He began the structural reform of the Vatican financial institutions, appointing the strong willed Cardinal Pell of Australia to insure the reforms take hold.
At the same time, Pope Francis has said and done things that may have made some of the cardinal electors wondering what they have themselves into. Traditionalists are up arms at what they see as his reversal of liturgical trends put in place by his predecessors. Others are concerned that he is taking a more pastoral approach, at the cost of watering down Church teachings. And then there are those bureaucrats in the Curia, who are more interested in preserving their positions, perks, and power; then in actually serving the members of the Church.
I am among those who wish the Pope “ad multos annos;” but I fear that it may be a short pontificate. I am afraid that the expected reforms may not be finalized. And that Pope Francis may not have enough time to appoint those bishops and cardinals who will ensure that his reforms will survive his passing. Part of me wishes that he would spend more time in Rome; and not on these strenuous trips; that tax his health, and puts him in harms way.
However, the Pope will do, what he believes God is guiding him to do. And those of us who support him, and wish him well; will pray that God’s hand will be on him, protecting him, and strengthening him. “Ad Multos Annos!”
On June 18th, the Vatican officially released Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment: “Laudato Si’.” Truth be told, I have not actually read the document myself; I am basing my own observations on the analysis and commentary of others, whose opinions I trust. Chief among them is John Allen, Jr. of Crux who has done some analysis on the encyclical.
The theological analysis of the document I have; comes from Father Dan Horan OFM, of Dating God, who gives a Franciscan perspective on the encyclical. The other comes from Jay Michaelson, of Religion News Service. He brings out some of the theological points in the document that he considers truly radical.
As a Franciscan, the theological points that grabbed my attention were found in Chapter 2: “Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbors, and with the earth itself.” And in Chapter 3: “Our ‘dominion’ over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.” To Western ears these statements may seem very strange, but they are not new. If one was to get beyond the image of St. Francis of Assisi as a statue holding a birdbath, one can see a Francis who knew that because of his intimate relationship with God, he had to have an intimate relationship with all people, and all creation. Joined intimately with Christ, through the Gospels, through the Eucharist, and prayer, he was fully open to, and accepted the reality that he shared a kinship with all people, with all creatures, with everything that exists.
Francis passed this realization on to his followers, through his words and his actions. Sadly, some of his children did not realize the depth of his teaching, but in recent times, we are finally beginning to get the point. In our Secular Franciscan Rule, we have Article 18: “Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which bear the imprint of the Most High, and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.”
It is this idea of “universal kinship” that Pope Francis is calling on the world, on all of us, to realize, and to act on. It is a call to change our way of life, that is abusing our earth, and live in ways that will enhance our planet.
I do plan to read this encyclical myself, and hopefully I will be able share my own insights with you soon. Pace e Bene!
A long time ago, I was reading an issue of “Saint Anthony’s Messenger,” published by the Franciscan Friars. I was scanning the comment letters, when I saw a letter in which the writer was complaining about a previous magazine cover depicting a woman holding a communion host in her cupped hands. The writer was outraged that a Catholic magazine who depict a layperson (cannot remember if he made reference to gender) holding a consecrated Host. The writer went on to state that because of this practice, the Eucharist was being demeaned in the eyes of the faithful. Well, this letter got my dander up (I still had hair at the time!), and I wrote a reply, which actually was published. As I recall what I wrote, I am sure I stressed that receiving on the tongue, or in the hand, were both valid choices. What upset me, and continues to upset me, are those who believe that I am desecrating the Eucharist, when I receive in the hand. For me, it is the greatest honor, the greatest joy, to be able to receive my Eucharistic Lord, in my hands. To realize that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loved me; loved all of us so much, that He humbles Himself each day to be with us, to feed and strengthen us. He is willing be present in simple bread and wine, so He can be one with us. This realization for me is awesome!
All this came to mind when I saw an article by Mathew N. Schmalz, a contributor to the website Crux. He also was commenting on how divisive how one receives Communion has become. It is becoming a litmus test, a way to determine if you are for Vatican II reforms or against them. Are you a “traditionalist,” or a “liberal” Catholic? Do you believe in the sacredness of the Eucharist or not? What should be the highest experience of Christ’s Presence among, has become just another theological or liturgical argument!
Since I was ordained as a deacon in 2012, I have distributed Communion at many, many Masses. The vast majority of those who come forward to receive Communion come with their right hand cradled in their left hand. Many approach me with a look of anticipation, a look of reverence in their eyes, as they receive the Body of Christ in their hands. There are some who do come up to me and receive the Host on their tongues. I see the same sense of reverence, in their eyes and in their voices, as they say “Amen,” and I place the Host on their tongue. Whatever way we chose to receive the Eucharist, it is vitally important that we remember who it is we are receiving, and be open to His Eucharistic Presence.
Today, January 31, 2015, would have been the 100th birthday of Father Louis Merton, OSCO; better known to the world as Thomas Merton. The Catholic, Christian blogosphere is abuzz with reports, stories, and reflections on the life of this Trappist monk, one I read on Crux, by Dennis Sadowski, of the Catholic News Service; another by Margery Eagan, On Spirituality columnist for Crux, and finally a very moving post by Father Dan Horan, OFM on his blog.
I do not know how many will share this opinion, but I think of Thomas Merton, as the one person who brought Christian spirituality, especially contemplative spirituality to the modern American Catholic population. After him, I think we see an increase in the number of books on spirituality, and prayer, geared for the Catholic laity, and new authors, like Thomas Keating, M. Basil Pennington, Richard Rohr, and Emilie Griffin. I know for myself, my spiritual life became much deeper, more enriched by reading his writings. He showed me a path to walk, and encouraged me to seek out other spiritual fathers and mothers, for inspiration and guidance.
I am still discovering new things about Merton, especially as heretofore unpublished journals, books, and essays are becoming public. This has given a much more rounded view of Merton, his life, his struggles, and his achievements. Now there are some facts that I was not aware of until I recently read Father Dan Horan, OFM book on Merton, was that Thomas Merton had some deep Franciscan roots. After his conversion to Catholicism, he felt a call to the Order of Friars Minor, and had applied to the Order, and was initially approved to enter into formation as a friar. Before he was to enter, something happened; scholars are not completely sure what, that caused Merton to withdraw his application. Still attracted to Franciscanism, he found himself at the Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure’s, in western New York. There, he joined the faculty as an instructor in English. It was during his time there, that he became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, now known as the Secular Franciscan Order. This bit of information floored me. Now I knew that Merton had a Franciscan connection. When I was once a Franciscan novice myself, and attended some summer classes at St. Bonaventure’s, I daily would look up at a hillside clearing, known as “Merton’s Heart.” But to learn that Merton had been a Secular Franciscan, “Wow!”
Of course, this brings a whole bunch of questions: what fraternity did he belong to? Is the fraternity still in existence? Is the fraternity’s register, with his name listed in it, still available? Did he attend monthly fraternity meetings, or was he an isolated tertiary, attached to a fraternity, but unable to make the meetings? Maybe someday, some scholar, maybe even a Secular Franciscan, will be able to find answer to these questions.
I owe a debt of thanks to Father Louis, for prodding me to go ever deeper into my relationship with God. May he rest in peace!