Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lincoln's Bishops on the New Saints

Bishop Bruskewitz reflects on meeting saints

LINCOLN (SNR) - In anticipation of the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, Southern Nebraska Register editor Father Nicholas Kipper asked Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, bishop emeritus, to share his memories of meeting the two popes.

SNR: What do you see as the greatest impact that Popes John Paul II and John XXIII made during their pontificates?

Although the length of their pontificates varied greatly, (John XXIII from October 1958 to June 1963, and John Paul II from October 1978 to April 2005), both saints made very important, lasting, and significant impressions on the Church and on the geopolitics of the entire world. It would be impossible to list, much less to discuss thoroughly, the enormous impact of their apostolic labors. Things which come quickly to mind are the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the liberation of Eastern Europe from the yolk of Communism after the collapse of the old Soviet Union, the many and frequent pontifical travels to all parts of the world, the numerous new institutions, such as World Youth Days, the Vatican II-inspired reforms as well as the reforms of the reforms in liturgy and general Church life, the episcopal synods both national and international, the monumental outpourings of pontifical documents, the new Code of Canon Law, the publication of the new Catechism and its Compendium, etc.

SNR: Can you speak of any visible signs of holiness that these great men made manifest?

Their lives were living homilies. Both were indefatigable workers, who nevertheless always found huge amounts of necessary time to pray, despite their countless tasks, responsibilities, and demands on their time and attention. Both had great devotion to the rosary and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both wrote and spoke much about the Holy Eucharist and about their love for and devotion to the Catholic Church. Both were great listeners and both enjoyed a sense of humor, making them capable of laughing at innumerable incongruities as well as at themselves. Both faced life with self-sacrificing heroism and faced death with courage and hopeful fortitude. Both were very respectful and observant of valid traditions and customs, while facing with joy the challenges their times and worlds presented. Their biographical writings tell the story of their holiness quite well. The “Journal of a Soul,” compiled by Archbishop Capovilla, the Secretary of John XXIII, and “Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way” by Pope John Paul II, will give some powerful indications of the deeply holy interior lives of those two saints.

SNR: Do you have any personal stories of these men or things about them that always impressed you?

There would not be space enough for all my stories about them! Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope at the beginning of my second year at the North American College in Rome. He was the Pope when I was ordained a priest in Rome by his Vicar General, Cardinal Luigi Traglia. I had several audiences with him and participated in many papal ceremonies with him.
I remember the audience after my ordination with my parents and relatives, when he told me never to despise the older, tried and true forms of apostolic work in my priesthood, and to judge the newer forms with a critical eye. He told me in another audience, after he asked me what my Bishop was going to do with me when I left Rome and returned home, and I replied that would be a parish priest, that being a parish priest was the highest and most splendid form of priestly existence and I should always consider that kind of priestly work as the greatest of privileges a priest could have. He profoundly loved Latin and insisted on its exclusive use in the Ecumenical Council, with only an exception for the Eastern Rite Prelates. Among his writing was “Veterum Sapientia” (“The Wisdom of the Ancients”) to promote the Latin language.
Karol Woytyla was elected Pope in the second conclave of 1978. I had the privilege of previously knowing him quite well in the years he was the Archbishop of Kracow. I interacted with him in many ceremonies, meetings, lunches, dinners, audiences, etc. In fact, five weeks before he was elected Pope, we had dinner together at my house (Villa Stritch) in Rome along with other Polish prelates. I was working in the Holy See at the time of his election, and he and I had worked over the years on various issues pertaining to the Catholic seminaries and universities.
He always remembered my dear mother, because they both spoke Bohemian (Czech) when they talked together in an audience. He was the Pope who named me a Bishop in 1992, and with whom I had several “ad limina” visits, when he always wanted to see a copy of our Lincoln diocesan seminary brochures. He was a true polyglot and would speak with me in a variety of languages, with German, English, and Italian predominating.
There are too many anecdotes in my association with him to be recounted here, but I have them all locked in my heart, and I shall, to my dying day, consider it one of the highest honors of my life to have been so closely acquainted with such a grand saint.
May Pope Saint John XXIII and Pope Saint John Paul II pray for us all in the halls of eternity.


Saint John Paul II

I had the privilege of working for Blessed John Paul II for nine years. As a young priest, I worked in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, and my boss, or perhaps my boss’ boss, was Pope John Paul II.
I won’t forget the nine years I spent in Rome with John Paul II. I had the honor of introducing him to my parents during the year of their 50th wedding anniversary. I had the privilege of being in his presence often and hearing him speak, and of watching him spend time with other priests, with families, with religious, and, especially, with the youth.
John Paul II possessed a gravity of presence, what is known in Latin as gravitas: his sanctity, and generosity, and joy absolutely filled a room. He was funny, and humble, and open. He was among the Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers, and at the same time, he was a pastor of souls: a lover of conversation, and folk culture, and pious worship.
During my years in Rome, the Church was still unpacking the meaning of the Second Vatican Council. After a council, theologians and bishops seek to implement new approaches and ideas, while retaining the continuity of our history and tradition. It’s a tenuous balance. Of course, some approaches are very good, and others are unreasonable, unsound, or unpractical.
Historically, Church councils, like Vatican II, always bring some measure of confusion to the Church’s life. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman once wrote that Church councils “always savor of the soil from which they sprang.” In the case of Vatican II, the soil was the “sixties.” In the post-conciliar period, the good fruit of the council was intermingled, regrettably, with the anti-nomianism, anti-authoritarian, “free-love” spirit of the zeitgeist. There was confusion even among the theologians of the Vatican.
Newman reflected that one must get a bit downstream from a council—50, 75, 100 years—before the water clarifies and the stream gains strength and force.
In the midst of the post-conciliar confusion, John Paul II was a stabilizing and reassuring force: he was like a strong captain guiding the Church, the barque of Peter, through turbulent waters. At a time when many rejected the Church’s magisterial authority, John Paul II published the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Fides et Ratio, Evangelium Vitea, and hundreds of other texts, which unequivocally, and charitably, proposed the rich and ancient teachings of the faith. The Holy Spirit gave the Church John Paul II to protect her and guide her in a most difficult time. And with courage, and dependence on the Blessed Virgin Mary, John Paul embraced the greatness to which he was called.
I attended his funeral in 2005 with a heavy heart. Pilgrims had come from everywhere to mourn him. And by an extraordinary grace, the city of Rome became a place of joy, a place to celebrate a man who called us all to courage, and to greatness. The funeral of John Paul II was a celebration of the redemption of Jesus Christ, borne out in the life of John Paul II. On the streets of Rome, it was said that “he taught us how to live and he taught us how to die.”
While I concelebrated his funeral Mass, my mind returned to the very first Mass I’d ever attended with Pope John Paul II. It was 1979. I was 24 years old. I had finished college, and had spent time in a monastery, and was working on a small family farm with my friends in Kansas. Mostly, I was wondering what God had in store for me.
John Paul had come to United States shortly after becoming Pope, and in addition to visiting Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Chicago, he came to celebrate Mass on a historic farm in Iowa on October 4, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. My friends and I drove up from Kansas. 
By the grace of God, we ended up close to the very first row. I was awestruck when John Paul II asked the young men in the congregation to consider priesthood. “Come follow me!” he said. I felt as though he was speaking just to me. Five minutes later, he came down to greet the crowd, and he looked directly into my eyes. One does not forget the glimpse of sanctity.
Three months after that Mass, I was a seminarian. Years later I was ordained a priest, and then a bishop. I’ve spent my priesthood following after Jesus Christ, but always in the footsteps, in the model, and by the measure of Blessed John Paul II.
On Sunday, he will be declared a saint. He is a patron for the whole Church. He may someday be called “John Paul the Great.” But I will always remember him as the man who called me to holiness, to greatness, and to the adventure of a lifetime.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rejoice! Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII

A Day of Four Popes!


St. Peter's Square
Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), 27 April 2014


At the heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which Saint John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus.

He had already shown those wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection. But, as we have heard, Thomas was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. Thomas was also present; Jesus turned to him and told him to touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They areessential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24, cf. Is 53:5).

Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.

They were priests, and bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.

In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and anindescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.

This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we have heard in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:42-47). It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.

This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church. In convening the Council, Saint John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader, guided by the Holy Spirit. This was his great service to the Church; for this reason I like to think of him as the the pope of openness to the Holy Spirit.

In his own service to the People of God, Saint John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.

May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday!




According to both Blessed John Paul II and Saint Faustina Maria Kowlasksa, the virtue of mercy is the greatest attribute in the Heart of Jesus. This being the case we should strive to understand this virtue and even more important try to live it out to the full!

MERCY could be defined as God loving and forgiving the sinner. Most clearly can this be seen in the Parable of the Prodigal Son or if you like the merciful Father—founded in Luke 15.   The son sinned seriously but the loving Father forgave him fully by hugging him, kissing him, placing a ring on his finger, giving him new sandals and a new cloak; and if that were not enough the father threw a huge banquet for the wayward son  by killing the fatted calf amidst song and dance.

Every time we renounce and repudiate our sin and our attachment to that sin and make a good confession, God the Father showers us with many of the same graces. God becomes our loving Father, Jesus our best of brothers, the Holy Spirit our best friend and sweet guest of our soul and many more choice blessings!  Praise God for His mercy!

Pope John Paul and Saint Faustina
SAINT FAUSTINA AND THE DIARY OF MERCY IN MY SOUL.  The past few years there has been a growing knowledge, devotion and love for Divine mercy as communicated to us through the inspired writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska. Actually Jesus gave her as title, “The Secretary of Divine Mercy”. 

To give even greater weight to this modern saint and her writings, Blessed Pope John Paul II’s first canonization in the new millennium—on Divine Mercy Sunday—was SAINT FAUSTINA KOWALSKA! Nothing happens by chance!

WE would like to encourage all to embrace the beautiful and inspiring doctrine of mercy by striving to become familiar with Saint Faustina and the Diary of mercy…. Following will be a brief summary of the major tenets of this doctrine!

Jesus forgives the repentant thief!
1.    GOD IS RICH IN MERCY.    God’s greatest attribute/virtue is His mercy. No matter how grave and numerous our sins, God is always ready and willing to forgive us if we simply say:  “Jesus I am sorry and forgive me!” In a heartbeat Jesus is ready to forgive even the worst of sinners. St. Paul reminds us with these words: “Where sin abounds the mercy of God abounds all the more.” Pope Francis teaches us on mercy the following: “God never tires in forgiving us, but we become tired of asking for forgiveness!”    The first canonized saint was the Good thief who pleaded for the mercy of Jesus and the merciful Savior responded: “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in heaven.”  Fulton Sheen wryly rejoins: “And the thief died a thief because he stole heaven!”

2.    WE MUST BE MERCIFUL!  If we want to receive the mercy of God, then this is a two-way street, we in turn must be willing to forgive those who have hurt us and be merciful. Jesus once again teaches us: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”   The most renowned prayer in the world also reminds us (The Our Father). “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” To receive God’s mercy, we must be merciful! Not just seven times, but seventy times seven times! Meaning: always!!!

Jesus forgives through the priest!
3.    CONFESSION!  God’s mercy is manifested most abundantly upon our soul when we have recourse to the Sacrament of Confession which can also be called the Sacrament of God’s mercy.  Jesus expresses mercy in the person of the priest! If you have not been to confession in years, return! Jesus the merciful Savior is gently and patiently waiting for you!

4.    HOUR OF MERCY!   The Hour of Mercy is 3:00 p.m. The reason is crystal clear: Jesus died at 3:00 p.m.  If possible try to remember this moment every day and offer the dying Savior in His last agony to the Father for the salvation of the whole world, but especially those who in that hour or that day are in their last agony. God the Father will never deny His dying Son and His agony nothing, or those who unite themselves to His agony!

5.    CHAPLET OF DIVINE MERCY!  A beautiful prayer!  It is short- can be prayed in a few minutes! In this we offer to the Father His beloved Son--- Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Also we beg for the salvation of all the souls spread throughout the entire world! We should love what God loves; God has a burning thirst and hunger for the salvation of souls. Remember the motto of the great Saint John Bosco:  “Give me souls and take all the rest away.”

6.    NOVENA OF DIVINE MERCY!   This nine day prayer starts on Good Friday and terminates on Divine Mercy Sunday. The prayer intentions are a model for anybody who sincerely desires to learn the prayer of intercession. Even though this novena properly speaking is done in this span of nine days, it can be done at any time and any place. With respect to prayer—communicating with God—we can do it any time, any place and in any condition of soul that we find ourselves!

7.    DAILY ACT OF MERCY!  In the Diary Jesus encourages all of us to understand mercy, but also to put it into practice every day, even if it were in a very small way.  Jesus told Saint Faustina that there are three specific ways that mercy can be practiced.

a)    PRAYER!  By simply praying for the well-being of another person, you are already practicing mercy!

b)    WORDS! KINDNESS IN WORDS!   We should all get into the habit of speaking to others using kind words, using a kind tone of voice, and with kind gestures. What we do to others we are really doing to Jesus.  He Himself said:“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me…”  A kind word can lift a soul in deep desolation into peace and consolation! Why not start today!

c)     DEEDS! Words of kindness are key. However, our words should be supported by deeds of loving kindness.   An easy way to make a check-list would be to study the Corporal works of mercy that can be found in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25…. “I was hungry, thirsty, naked, in prison, a stranger, and sick…. When? Whenever we did it to the least of our brothers, we did it to Jesus Himself!

8.    IMAGE OF DIVINE MERCY.  Jesus commanded Saint Faustina to have an image or painting of Him done!  After being approved by her Superior and Spiritual Director, the painting was accomplished! At first, the nun was displeased because she complained that   Jesus Himself was much more beautiful! But Jesus returned and told her that His grace would still flow through the image!  Why not purchase an image of Divine Mercy and enthrone it in your home as an exterior sign that you desire that Jesus the King of mercy reign completely in your home!

9.    DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY!   This Sunday falls the Sunday after Easter and Jesus ardently desired that this Feast be celebrated with special solemnity and that on that day the image should be exposed publically, honored and venerated! Pope John Paul II was instrumental in instituting this Solemnity. It is not accidental nor by chance  that Pope John Paul II will be canonized on Mercy Sunday, 2014 along with Blessed Pope John XXIII! Pope John Paul II taught Divine Mercy especially in his encyclical “Dives Misericordia”—(God is rich in mercy). Equally important this great modern saint lived mercy by forgiving the man “Agca” who tried to kill him on May 13, 1981!

10. PROMISE!  One of the most exalted promises of Divine Mercy is the following!  A good and heartfelt and contrite confession is made and then on mercy Sunday upon receiving the Holy Eucharist all of one’s sins are forgiven as well as the temporal punishment due to those sins! In other words, one’s soul returns to the state of baptismal innocence. And if he were to die in that moment, his soul would fly directly to heaven!  How sublime is the mercy of God!
11.APOSTLE OF DIVINE MERCY! Become an apostle of Divine Mercy. How? Read the Diary to become familiar with the message! Live out mercy in your life by forgiving immediately and from your heart!  Buy a box of Divine Mercy cards of 1000 and give them out as many and as often as you can!  Especially try to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet at the deathbed of somebody who is in his/her last agony. In some mysterious way, Jesus promises to have mercy on that soul, despite how evil a life he lived! God’s mercy goes way beyond our understanding!

12.MARY AND MERCY!  Love Mary!  Saint Alphonsus Liguori states that in God there is both mercy and justice. However in Mary, she is the essence and the embodiment of mercy. That is why we pray as such, “Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope…

CONCLUSION!  If we understand mercy, strive to live out mercy, promote mercy in all times and circumstances, and die trusting in God’s mercy, then the merciful Savior Jesus the Lord, when we die will say: “Well done faithful servant enter into the home of your heavenly Father!”

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pope Francis on Sin, Devil, Abortion, Marriage, Education

From the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.” ( Gaudium et Spes, 51).

Today the Pope spoke during his non-Magisterial, off-the-cuff fervorino at morning Mass in strong terms not just about generic, impersonal “evil”, but about the Enemy of your soul, the Devil.
From VR:
“We too are tempted, we too are the target of attacks by the devil because the spirit of Evil does not want our holiness, he does not want our Christian witness, he does not want us to be disciples of Christ. And what does the Spirit of Evil do, through his temptations, to distance us from the path of Jesus? The temptation of the devil has three characteristics and we need to learn about them in order not to fall into the trap. What does Satan do to distance us from the path of Jesus? Firstly, his temptation begins gradually but grows and is always growing. Secondly, it grows and infects another person, it spreads to another and seeks to be part of the community. And in the end, in order to calm the soul, it justifies itself. It grows, it spreads and it justifies itself.”
“We are all tempted because the law of our spiritual life, our Christian life is a struggle: a struggle. That’s because the Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ. Maybe some of you might say: ‘But Father, how old fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ ["But Father! But Father!..."] But look out because the devil is present! The devil is here… even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”
Pope Francis also spoke about the need to reaffirm the rights of parents [NOT the state!] to decide “the moral and religious education of their children” and reject all forms of “educational experimentation with children and young people”.
He said that it is every child’s right to grow up in a family “with a father and a mother” [Get that?  With a FATHER and a MOTHER] capable of creating “a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity”. [Some other environments are less suitable, and some are just unsuitable.] The Pope also called for an end to what he termed as “educational experiments” with children and young people, pushing a “dictatorship of one form of thinking” on them in the name of a pretended “modernity”.
The Pope noted that the “horrors of the manipulation of education that we experienced in the great genocidal dictatorships of the twentieth century have not disappeared[Like Marxism and Nazism.] they have retained a current relevance under various guises and proposals”.

Pope Francis: Human life sacred and inviolable

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday reiterated human life is sacred and inviolable during a meeting with Italy’s Pro-Life Movement (Movimento per la Vita), adding every civil right is based on the “first and most fundamental right,” the right to life: which is not subordinate to any condition, neither qualitative, nor economic, much less ideological.

The Holy Father said one of the most serious risks of the present age is the divorce between economics and morality, so that as the market gives us every technical innovation, it neglects more and more elementary ethical standards.

“It is must be therefore reiterated the strongest opposition to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenseless life, and the unborn child in the womb is the most concrete example of innocence,” said Pope Francis. “Let us remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: From the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.” ( Gaudium et Spes, 51).

Pope Francis said for a Christian, it is a part of the witness of the Gospel to protect life with courage and love in all its stages.

“I encourage you to always act with a style of nearness, of closeness: that every woman feels regarded as a person who is heard, accepted, and accompanied,” he said.

Pope Francis also showed gratitude for two specific activities of the Pro-Life Movement: The “Gemma Project”, which works with woman facing crisis pregnancies; and the “One of Us” Campaign, which is a European Union Citizens’ Initiative requesting the prohibition of EU financing of activities which involve the destruction of human embryos, especially in the areas of research, development cooperation and public health.

Pope Francis' Lessons For American Christians"

"Those of us who would describe ourselves as 'conservative' would do well to follow Pope Francis’ model: only by taking action in the form of charity will our intentions as Christians ever be trusted, particularly in an age when those who disagree with us politically and culturally have successfully portrayed us as hate-mongers."

It’s an understatement to say that Pope Francis possesses a zeal that has galvanized observers worldwide, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. To understand the Holy Father’s points of emphasis, we must first cut through the mainstream media’s obsession with twisting his words to fit their own questionable aims. Once we do so, then we can see what a historically important figure Francis has already been. Moreover, for Roman Catholics in the United States, Pope Francis offers some particularly profound examples of how we ought to be engaged with our neighbors, our community, and our society at large. In short, one might say that in Pope Francis’ papacy, we see a fitting, four-point blueprint for how we might redeem the American Republic.

First, even though all our modern popes have embodied love and charity, Francis has made them the pillars of his public ministry. Those of us who would describe ourselves as “conservative” would do well to follow Pope Francis’ model: only by taking action in the form of charity will our intentions as Christians ever be trusted, particularly in an age when those who disagree with us politically and culturally have successfully portrayed us as hate-mongers. In short, not only do we have a moral obligation to perform acts of charity, but so doing enhances the appeal of the other aspects of our Christian, conservative message in the public square.

Second, Francis is an excellent model of how exuding supernatural joy attracts others to a conversation—and not just about those topics with which they already agree. Exuding joy is an act of opening a door, which, frankly, we as Christian conservatives in America have not always done. For too long, we have hunkered down in the trenches, awaiting the bombardment from the secular Left to cease; instead, what’s happened is that the battle line has inched closer to our trenches, causing attrition in our ranks. As Pope Francis appreciates, we must lose our defensive posture, step out of our trenches, and win over the other side with a love for Jesus Christ that no enemy can defeat. Our candidates for elected office, for example, must find ways to discuss the hard, divisive issues in a way that not only upholds our principles but also attracts new supporters. Otherwise, we will lose the war of attrition that the “culture war” has become.

Third, Francis has reminded all of us that we live in an era of triage — that is, a time when those of us given the gift of faith are “nurses” and “doctors” in a field hospital:

I can clearly see that what the Church needs today is the ability to heal wounds and warm the hearts of faithful, it needs to be by their side. I see the Church as a field hospital after a battle. It’s pointless to ask a seriously injured patient whether his cholesterol or blood sugar levels are high! It’s his wounds that need to be healed. The rest we can talk about later. Now we must think about treating those wounds. And we need to start from the bottom.

For example, even for those of us who love a high, beautiful Holy Mass, we can appreciate from the Holy Father’s comment that the tendency to obsess over debates about the liturgy, for example, is akin to telling a terminally-ill patient that the most important aspect of their medical care is eating a balanced diet. We first have an obligation to attract people to a conversation so that, in time, we have many more believers who can appreciate the full beauty of what the Church offers.

Fourth, though it is impossible (and no doubt, imprudent) to reduce the Holy Father’s papacy to a single theme, when we consider all of these points, I believe his work thus far is calling us to what St. Josemaría Escrivá called the “apostolate of friendship.” Consider St. Josemaría’s words: “Those well-timed words, whispered into the ear of your wavering friend; the helpful conversation that you managed to start at the right moment; the ready professional advice that improves his university work; the discreet indiscretion by which you open up unexpected horizons for his zeal. This all forms part of the ‘apostolate of friendship’” (The Way, #973). What an easy but profound resolution for us to make at the end of Lent!

Considering that Pope Francis is a man of action, he personifies what each of us needs to do: find time in our contemplation to identify that one apostolate, that one ministry, where we can do the Church’s work in its field hospital. That may be volunteering in our parish, or in a local home or kitchen for the poor. Perhaps it’s serving underprivileged youth, in particular by assisting them with that one thing that will elevate them—education. Or perhaps we’re called to be involved in something even bigger, as on a national scale.

Regardless of the specific apostolate, each of us is called. And we need to stop waiting to do good, as if the matter were not urgent.

God bless you and yours,

Dr. Kevin Roberts
President of Wyoming Catholic College 

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The “Seamless Garment” Revisited

By Joseph Sobran

The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, former archbishop of Chicago, endeared himself to liberals, especially liberal Catholic politicians, by adopting the metaphor of life as a “seamless garment.” 

It isn’t enough to oppose abortion, he insisted; to be consistent, you have to defend life on every front, as for instance by relieving poverty and illness.

This came as welcome news to the liberals, since it turned “life” into a checklist, in which abortion was only one of many items, and not necessarily the most urgent. You could be “pro-life,” according to the Bernardin standard, merely by supporting the welfare state.

Well, of course life is, in some sense, a seamless garment. We should oppose abortion on the same principle that we should oppose the bombing of cities. But according to Bernardin’s way of thinking, you mustn’t oppose bombing Hiroshima unless you also favor setting up an anti-poverty program there.

Conservative Catholics smelled a rat. They sensed that this “seamless garment” was really just a way of minimizing the special problem of abortion, at a time when more than a million abortions were being performed in America every year.

Liberal Catholics, on the other hand, loved the idea. But somehow the imperative of consistency worked only one way. We never heard any of them say, “Well, it’s not enough for me to support the welfare state. If I’m really going to be pro-life, I must also fight to end legal abortion.” Politicians like New York’s Mario Cuomo felt they had been vindicated in their empty “personal” opposition to abortion.

You know that familiar line: “I am personally opposed to abortion, but ...” But you weren’t going to do anything about it. If you opposed it “personally,” you were in favor of it practically. And everyone knew it.

Abortion remains legal today thanks in large part to all those nominal Catholic politicians who oppose it — “personally.” That telltale adverb must lift the hearts of abortionists everywhere.

Cuomo is still at it. He recently told NBC’s Tim Russert that “we” — we Catholics — are “hypocrites” because we say we oppose contraception even though most of “us” use contraceptives like other people. Of course, it goes without saying, people who call themselves Catholics while constantly subverting Catholic morality aren’t guilty of hypocrisy. To hear Cuomo tell it, he’s one of the few honest Catholics in politics. So why do so many other Catholic pols talk like him?

But has anyone ever refrained from getting or procuring an abortion because people like Cuomo “personally” disapprove of it? Extremely doubtful. Their message is clear: “I can’t give my blessing to any abortion, but please don’t let me discourage you from getting one. I wouldn’t want to impose my beliefs on anyone.”

I sometimes wonder how such Catholics would behave if their alleged “beliefs” were sincere. It’s probably a purely hypothetical question, but if they really thought, felt, and acted as if abortion were evil, without wishing to ban it by law, surely there are ways to give this view real force.

Public opinion can be powerful even when it isn’t backed up by force of law. If you advertise allegiance to the Ku Klux Klan, you’ll soon find yourself ostracized by people who don’t question your legal right to join the Klan.

In the same way, the country would change dramatically if every Catholic who professes “personal” opposition to feticide would peacefully picket abortion clinics. But can anyone even imagine a Cuomo, let alone a Ted Kennedy, doing even that much?

Even so, the country is changing. Abortion rates over the past decade have reportedly plunged dramatically. The Democratic Party is now uncomfortable about its unreserved public identification with the cause of “choice.” Even Hillary Clinton has voiced reservations about the practice — and has probably made more impact thereby than all the liberal Catholics in America put together.

So the “seamless garment” has turned out to be nothing but a loophole for hypocritical Catholic politicians. If anything, it has actually made it easier for them than for non-Catholics to give their effective support to legal abortion — that is, it has allowed them to be inconsistent and unprincipled about the very issues that Cardinal Bernardin said demand consistency and principle.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

More to Know About John Paul II

More to Know About John Paul II
Postulator of His Cause, Slawomir Oder, on His Friendship With Padre Pio, His Nights Spent in Prayer, His Desire to Go to Medjugorje

By Salvatore Cernuzio

ROME, April 02, 2014 (Zenit.org) - On April 27, the desire of the faithful who at the death of John Paul II cried out “saint immediately!” will be heard. The Polish Pontiff will be canonized together with his predecessor, John XXIII.

Where did John Paul II get his strength, his faith, his holiness? From an intimidate relationship with God, which was brought about in incessant prayer, such that he sometimes did not go to bed because he preferred to spend the night on the ground, in prayer.

This is confirmed by the postulator of his cause of his canonization, Monsignor Slawomir Oder, who spoke with ZENIT.

ZENIT: Everything has been said, everything has been written about John Paul II. But has the last word really been said about this “giant of the faith”?

Monsignor Oder: John Paul II himself suggested the key of his knowledge. “So many seek to know me, looking at me from outside, but I can only be known from within, that is, from the heart.” Surely the process of beatification first, and of canonization after, have made it possible to get closer to this person’s heart. Every experience and testimony was a piece that made up the mosaic of the extraordinary figure of this Pontiff. No doubt, however, to come to the heart of a person like Wojtyla remains a mystery. We can say that in the heart of this Pope there was certainly the love of God and of brothers, a love that was always becoming, which was never an event accomplished in life.

ZENIT: What new, or at least little known thing, did you discover about Wojtyla in your research?

Monsignor Oder: There are several historical aspects and aspects of his life that emerged in the process, which are little known. One of these is, without a doubt, his relation with Padre Pio, whom he met often and with whom he maintained a long epistolary relationship. Beyond some letters already known, such as the one in which he asked for prayers for Professor Poltawska, his friend and collaborator, another emerged in which the Blessed asked the Saint of Pietrelcina for intercessory prayers for the healing of faithful. Or he would ask for prayers for himself who, at the same time, was carrying out the task of Capitular Vicar of the Diocese of Krakow, while awaiting the appointment of the new archbishop, which would then be himself.

ZENIT: Anything else?

Monsignor Oder: We discovered much on the spirituality of John Paul II. More than anything it was a confirmation of what was already perceptible, visible, of his relationship with God. He had a profound relationship with the living Christ, especially in the Eucharist, from which flowed all that we faithful saw in him as fruit of extraordinary charity, apostolic zeal, passion for the Church, love of the Mystical Body. This is the secret of John Paul II’s sanctity.

ZENIT: So, beyond the great trips and addresses, is the spiritual aspect the heart of John Paul II’s pontificate?

Monsignor Oder: Absolutely. And there is a very touching episode that identifies it very well. At the end of one of his last apostolic journeys, the sick Pope was led to his bedroom by his collaborators. The next morning, they themselves found his bed intact, because John Paul II had spent the whole night in prayer, kneeling on the ground. For him, to be recollected in prayer was fundamental. So much so that, in the last months of his life, he asked to have a space in his bedroom for the Most Blessed Sacrament. His relationship with the Lord was truly extraordinary.

ZENIT: The Pope was also very devoted to Mary …

Monsignor Oder: Yes, and the process of canonization has helped us to get closer also to this. We investigated Wojtyla’s extremely profound relationship with Our Lady. A relationship that people outside sometimes did not understand and which seemed surprising. Sometimes during the Marian prayer the Pope seemed rapt in ecstasy, alienated from the surrounding context, be it while strolling or during a meeting. He lived a most personal relationship with the Virgin.

ZENIT: Therefore, there is also a mystical aspect in John Paul II?

Monsignor Oder: Decidedly yes. I cannot confirm visions, elevations or allocutions, as those with which the mystical life is often identified, but with John Paul II the aspect of a profound and authentic mysticism was present and was manifested in his being in the presence of God. A true mystic is, in fact, one who has the awareness of being in the presence of God, and lives everything from his profound encounter with the Lord.

ZENIT: You have lived for years with the figure of this man already considered a saint in life. How do you feel now that he is being elevated to the glory of the altar?

Monsignor Oder: The process of canonization was an extraordinary adventure. It has certainly marked my priestly life. I am extremely grateful to God who put me in front of this teacher of life and of faith. For me, these nine years of the process were a human adventure and an extraordinary course of Spiritual Exercises preached “indirectly” with his life, his writings, with all that was revealed in our research.

ZENIT: Do you have personal memories?

Monsignor Oder: I was never one of Wojtyla’s closest collaborators, but I keep in my heart several occasions in which I was able to perceive the Pontiff’s holiness. One of these goes back to the beginning of my priesthood, on Holy Thursday of 1993, the year in which the Pope wished to wash the feet of priests involved in the formation of seminarians. I was among those priests. Beyond the symbolic value of the ritual, what stays with me is my first contact with a person who in that genuinely humble gesture, communicated to me his love of Christ and of the priesthood itself. Another occasion presented itself towards the last months of the Pope’s life: he was sick and, unexpectedly, I found myself dining with him, together with the secretaries, the collaborators and a few other priests. There also I remember his simplicity, his great sense of hospitality, of humanity, which was revealed in the simplicity of his gestures.

ZENIT: Benedict XVI said in an interview recently that he always knew he was living near a saint. Famous also is his “do it quickly, but do it well,” when he authorized the opening of the process of beatification.

Monsignor Oder: I was very pleased to read the testimony of the Pope Emeritus. It was the confirmation of what he always revealed in the course of his pontificate: every time it was possible he would speak of his beloved Predecessor, in private or in public, during homilies and addresses. He always gave great testimony of his affection for John Paul II. And, on my part, I can express intense gratitude to Benedict for the attitude he has shown in these years. I have always felt him very close and I can affirm that he was determinant in the opening of the process of beatification shortly after the death. Looking, then, at the last historical events, I must say that Divine Providence has “directed” magnificently the whole process.

ZENIT: Do you see continuity also with Pope Francis?

Monsignor Oder: The Magisterium continues, Peter’s charism continues. Each of the popes gives consistency and historical form with his personal living and his personality. One cannot but see continuity. More in detail, there are different aspects by which Francis recalls John Paul II: his profound desire to be close to people, his courage to go beyond certain schemes, his passion for Christ present in his Mystical Body, his dialogue with the world and with the other religions.

ZENIT: One of Wojtyla’s unrealized desires was to visit China and Russia. It seems that Francis is opening a path in this connection …

Monsignor Oder: It is extraordinary that John Paul II’s efforts for an opening to the Orient have proliferated with his successors. The path opened by Wojtyla found fertile ground in Benedict’s thought and now, thanks to the historical events that accompany Francis’ pontificate, they are being realized concretely. It is always the dialectic of continuity of which we spoke before, which is then the logic of the Church: no one begins as head, Christ is the rock that acted in Peter and in his Successors. Today we are living the preparation of what will happen in the Churchtomorrow.

ZENIT: It is also said that John Paul II desired to visit Medjugorje. Can you confirm this?

Monsignor Oder: Speaking privately with his friends, the Pope said more than once: “if it were possible, I would like to go.” They are words that must not be interpreted, however, with a character of recognition or of being official in regard to the events in the Bosnian country. The Pope was always very careful in what he did, knowing the importance of his post. There is no doubt, however, that things are happening at Medjugorje that are transforming people’s heart, especially in the confessional. So the desire expressed by the Pope should be interpreted from the point of view of his priestly passion, that is, his wish to be in a place where a soul seeks Christ and finds him, thanks to a priest, through the sacrament of reconciliation or of the Eucharist.

ZENIT: And why didn’t he go?

Monsignor Oder: Because not eve
rything is possible in life …
[Translation by ZENIT]