Sunday, November 30, 2008


This is what I wrote about last year's Advent retreat with Fr. Roberto. Before I write about the Advent retreat we just had this weekend, I wanted to reprint this:

Monday, December 17, 2007
Our Communion and Liberation Advent Retreat

Something happened. I've been afraid to try to write about it because I want to do justice to it, but I also know that I can't. The best that I can try to do is talk around it, spiral fashion, hoping that when I get to the end of all my talking, the tail end will point to that unnameable center, that something that happened.

There is a Life within the life that we live, something that pulses and breathes. At moments we almost seem to touch it -- the skin of our habitual forgetfulness is peeled back and this Life is exposed to view. When this happens, we recognize that what we are seeing is what is real, true -- all the rest is just two-dimensional, black and white.

I had a crushing number of tasks to perform, preparations to make, and I was still not fully recovered from my bouts with viruses and bad turkey. It really seemed possible that this time I would not have the bare minimum in place before Fr. Roberto arrived. I was on pins and needles wondering whether the room for our retreat would be in order, whether there would be something to feed Fr. Roberto when he arrived, whether I could gather all that the babysitters would need, whether there would be enough gas in the car, whether I could prepare the food for the convivenza in time. For me it was a suspenseful time -- but not stressful somehow -- wondering, almost watching myself from outside, 'Will she pull it off?'

Occasionally it would cross my mind that this was not the way I would have chosen to spend my third week of Advent.

But one miracle was that I was not anxious, wondering how my friends would receive the Advent retreat. Ordinarily, in the weeks leading up to a fraternity retreat, I speculate about how one person, or another, will be struck, or not, by what is said. It would be too easy to say that I simply didn't have enough time to worry about these things this time. My prayer, that is to say my inner life was simply caught up in details, details that didn't seem to me insignificant at all. I think that I wasn't stressed out by all my tasks, because I lived each one as a gift to my friends -- even the silly things that couldn't possibly benefit them in any way, like filling the tank with gas, or making sure to put a pen into my bag.

So, when did the world's skin peel back for me? It happened even before Fr Roberto arrived, in the rush and busyness of these days. And then, when the time came to pack my children into the car and bring them over to the parish to drop them at the room where the babysitting would take place, the phone began ringing -- reminders to bring this or that essential item that had been forgotten -- and we simply gathered the objects up and loaded them into the car. Once we'd arrived at the parish, friends who had never been there before had to be guided and helped to find the room. It was as if all these tasks had a halo around them.

I have wanted so much to communicate to my new friends here in Ohio even a taste of the beauty that I have seen and experienced elsewhere. I have wanted to hold out my hands to them, and show them a treasure. But up until now, I felt this desire like a responsibility that I didn't know how to shoulder. I seem, to myself, such a poor vehicle for such beauty. But lately, I have seen something amazing, something I don't really expect anyone to believe -- how can anyone believe it? Because what I've discovered is that I am not the vehicle for this beauty! Mine are not the hands holding the treasure. The treasure is already in my friends' hands -- they are the vehicle for me! I have nothing to show them, nothing to reveal. What is required of me is to look, really look at them, and to listen, really deeply listen. They hold the treasure, they have held it all along. I don't communicate or show them -- they communicate it to me.

I think that even before the Advent retreat, I had intuited this phenomenon in an unconscious way, and this is why I didn't feel stress or anxiety, despite the seeming impossibility of my work. I think that I must have known that regardless of whether I could complete all my tasks on time, my friends would continue to show me this gift.

And so it happened. A completely gratuitous outpouring of gifts -- from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. All that I need are the eyes of a child and faith that what I am looking for is already in the midst of my life.

Fr. Roberto spoke, and I will be absorbing his words for weeks, maybe months, to come. The Mass was also beautiful, and rich. The convivenza, despite all the practical details that needed attention, was permeated with an incongruous peacefulness. It was incongruous because all the usual human noise and bustle and misunderstanding were there, too, and yet...the faces of all these people had one message for me, a declaration of a love so great that it can generate a new Life in this world, something unforeseen and unplanned by any person: the divine in human form.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The danger of "because"

when god decided to invent
everything he took one
breath bigger than a circustent
and everything began

when man determined to destroy
himself he took the was
of shall and finding only why
smashed it into because

* E.E. Cummings

"The Moral Obligation to Study Election Returns"

I am a faithful reader of Paper Clippings, the blog at the Crossroads Cultural Center's website. If you look in my "What I'm reading" widget on the right hand side of my blog, many of the interesting and provocative articles there were suggested in posts from Paper Clippings. Today, a post titled "Offer Something," referred to a short response, by Ross Douthat, to an article by George Weigel. I'd like to copy Douthat's response here, because it says, quite clearly, many things that have been said elsewhere. It is an analysis that should not be lost on Catholics who have a stake in the political process:

The Moral Obligation To Study Election Returns

24 Nov 2008 04:47 pm

George Weigel, on the election and the Catholic vote:

This year, the pro-abortion candidate carried every state in what Maggie Gallagher calls the "Decadent Catholic Corridor" -- the Northeast and the older parts of the Midwest. Too many Catholics there are still voting the way their grandparents did, and because that's what their grandparents did. This tribal voting has been described by some bishops as immoral; it is certainly stupid, and it must be challenged by adult education. That includes effective use of the pulpit to unsettle settled patterns of mindlessness. This year, a gratifying number of bishops began to accept the responsibilities of their teaching office; so, now, must parish pastors.

In 1980, '84 and '88, Republican (and pro-life) Presidential candidates managed to capture nearly all of the Midwest and the Northeast, "settled patterns of mindlessness" notwithstanding. Now here we are twenty years later, with FDR and JFK even further in the rearview mirror - and yet Weigel wants to chalk up the Republican Party's horrible showing in these regions to mindless "tribal voting" among Catholic Democrats? This is self-deception, and it ill-behooves pro-lifers to engage in it. John McCain did not lose this election because the Catholic clergy failed to anathematize Barack Obama loudly enough, or because Pennsylvanians and Michiganders thought they were voting for Roosevelt or Truman. He lost it because his party flat-out misgoverned the country, in foreign and domestic policy alike, and because of late the culture war has mattered less to most Americans than the Iraq War and the economic meltdown. And pro-lifers who see the GOP as the only plausible vehicle for their goals have an obligation to look the party's failures squarely in the face and work to fix them, instead of just doubling down on the case for single-issue pro-life voting.

No, social conservatives aren't the problem for the GOP. But they haven't been the solution, either: Too often, on matters ranging from the Iraq War to domestic policy, they've served as enablers of Republican folly, rather than as constructive critics. And calling Catholics who voted for Obama "mindless" and "stupid" is a poor substitute for building the sort of Republican Party that can attract the votes of those millions of Americans, Catholic and otherwise, who voted for the Democrats because they thought, not without reason, that George W. Bush was a disastrous president whose party should not be rewarded with a third term in the White House.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Very succinct description of CL

Here is the description of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation which appears in the Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity (Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted], 2006).

Official name: Fraternity of Communion and Liberation; also known as: Communion and Liberation (CL)

Established: 1954

History: At the beginning of the 1950s, realizing the need to rebuild the Christian presence in the student world, Father Luigi Giussani, a professor at the Theological Faculty at Venegono, dedicated himself to teaching religion in schools.

The experience of a small group of students from the Berchet classical high school in Milan, which gathered around him, led to the establishment of Gioventù Studentesca (Student Youth). With the strong encouragement of the archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, Gioventù Studentesca spread to other Italian cities, and after 1968 it also began to involve undergraduates and adults.

This led to the establishment of Communion and Liberation which, in 1980, was to be canonically recognized by the Benedictine Ordinary (Bishop) Abbot of Montecassino, Martino Matronola. The first fraternity groups were set up in the latter half of the 1970s by CL graduates who, using a method based on communion, wished to strengthen their membership in the Church as adults, along with the responsibilities that this entails.

It was through their spread to various countries that the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation came about. On Feb. 11, 1982, (Our Lady of Lourdes) the Pontifical Council for the Laity decreed recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation as an international association of the faithful of pontifical right.

Identity: The essence of the CL charism is

the proclamation that God became Man; in the affirmation that this man -- Jesus of Nazareth, who died and rose again -- is a present event,

whose visible sign is communion, that is to say, the unity of a people led by a living person, the Bishop of Rome

in the awareness that it is only in God made Man, and hence within the life of the Church, that man is more true and humanity is truly more human.

In the educational proposal made by CL, the free acceptance by the individual of the Christian message is determined by the discovery that the needs of the human heart are met by the annunciation of a message that fulfills them.

It is the reasonableness of the faith which leads men and women who have been transformed by their encounter with Christ to commit themselves with Christian experience to affect the whole of society. This commitment strengthens their awareness of their own identity, enabling them to see their life as a vocation, and is supported by the experience of communion which makes the memory of Christ's coming a daily reality.

The educational process,

nurtured by proclamation and catechesis

by attendance at retreats and spiritual exercises

and by the celebration of the sacraments,

gives pride of place to the dimensions of

1. cultural work, as a means of deepening and expressing their faith and as a condition for having a responsible presence in society

2. charity work, as education in service to be freely given to others and social commitment

3. and the mission, as education in the sense of the catholicity of the Church and as a vocational choice.

Bearing witness to Christ

  • in schools and universities
  • in factories and offices
  • in the local neighborhood and in the city
  • takes place above all through work, which is the specific way in which adults relate to reality.

Organization: The life of the fraternity is lived through the free formation of groups of men and women of ail conditions and states of life, whose friendship and communion are based upon their common commitment to move forward together toward holiness, which they acknowledge to be the genuine purpose of human existence.

The association is guided by the president and by the Central Diakonia, of which all the international leaders are members.

[There are also] the officials in all the various areas in which it is present, and representatives of the other entities that have emerged from the CL charism:

· the Memores Domini Lay Association (The life of its members (lay men and women who normally live in houses made up of either men or women, following a rule of group living and personal ascesis) is governed by the call to contemplation, understood as the constant memory of Christ, and of mission, especially in the workplace. The life is committed to the conception of virginity is based on St. Paul's call to "possess as though not possessing." It is not in order to give up something that one makes a sacrifice, but rather to possess reality completely analogous to the possession of Christ);

· the priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo;

· the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Assumption;

· Fraternity of Saint Joseph (dedicated their lives definitively to Christ and the Christian life, while remaining in their current life situations; members of this fraternity are free of marriage bonds, because widowed or unmarried, according to the Gospel tradition: in obedience, poverty, virginity, which are dimensions of faith, hope, and charity).

ln the dioceses, the diocesan leader is assisted by a

Diakonia and by a spiritual assistant appointed by the local bishop acting on a proposal by the fraternity president.

Since 1997, the Communion and Liberation International Center has been operating in Rome, as the liaison center linking all the parts of the movement worldwide.

Membership: The fraternity has 47,994 members in 64 countries. More than 60,000 people share the CL experience.

Works: Individuals and groups belonging to the fraternity have taken the responsibility to establish cultural, charitable and entrepreneurial works linked together in the Company of Works which has offices in Italy and abroad.

These works of CL include

· shelter homes for the mentally ill, drug addicts, the disabled, AIDS patients and the terminally ill

· companies to provide employment for the disabled

· nongovernmental organizations (AVSI in Italy and CESAl in Spain) to provide assistance and foster the development of poor countries

· foundations such as the Food Bank, which provides daily food to more than 1 million poor people in Italy,

· and the Pharmaceutical Bank

· solidarity centers to assist the unemployed in seeking a job

· welfare facilities in children's prisons in Africa and America

· and aid for needy families and finding homes for people in difficulty.

The initiatives that have emerged in the field of culture have become a special place for ensuring that the pooling of different experiences is an opportunity for every individual to communicate their own "proprium" regarding the Christian event:

· cultural centers

· schools (often established by parents' cooperatives)

· publishing houses, publishing and newspaper initiatives

· foundations and academic institutions

· and international conferences, such as the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples.(Rimini)

The Sacred Heart Foundation in Milan is directly dependent upon the Fraternity, as a nonprofit entity which manages schools, and works for the promotion and protection of free education, consistent with the Christian tradition and the teaching of the Church.

Publications: Traces Litterae Communionis, a monthly magazine in Italian, French, English, Polish, Portuguese/Brazilian, Russian, German and Spanish; Piccole Tracee, a magazine for children published every two months

Web site:

Fun on a Monday morning...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It has a personality of its own...

Amazing! My blog is a thinker, while I'm a feeler. How can that be? All you have to do is submit the web address of a blog... check it out.

h/t The Ironic Catholic.

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

End of an era

Father Raniero Cantalamessa

Father Cantalamessa Evaluates Weekly Meditations

Preacher Completes Entire Liturgical Cycle

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2008 ( ... Father Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher, has written a weekly commentary for ZENIT on the Gospel of the Sunday liturgy for three years, covering the entire liturgical cycle. Today his last commentary appears in this dispatch.


Q: What is your advice to Christians who want to meditate on the Word and draw lessons for their own lives or make useful decisions in life under the gaze of God?

Father Cantalamessa: It depends to a degree on the state, on the duties of the person. If it is only a question of personal use of the Word of God for one's life, the best thing is to begin to use the Word of God that the Church offers us through the liturgy: the Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, etc, because often when the Lord speaks he uses the Church's choice, the readings of the day.

To be attentive to the readings of the day often reveals that it is an answer to a particular problem. A word seems to be made to measure for us to the point that one is constrained to say: "This was written precisely for me!" Hence, one must greatly value not the personal, but the community choice made by the Church in the liturgy.


Q: What do you say to ZENIT readers who will miss your weekly column?

Father Cantalamessa: I intend to publish all these commentaries in a volume, because I have been requested to do so. In part it will be comments published by ZENIT, but in part they will be new, or those I have done on television. Comments in the same style, brief, of a page each, and will be issued in a volume. In due time ZENIT's readers will come to know them. Thus, whoever wishes to will be able to go back to these comments. However, if you have the possibility of their being continued by someone else, I urge readers to read and listen to the new commentator.

Recalculating, recalculating, recalculating...

About a month ago, I asked the following questions:

How did Mary Magdalen describe what it was like to have met Christ? What words could Peter use to explain to someone else what happened to him on the shore of the Sea of Galilee when Christ cooked him breakfast and asked him three times if he loved him? How did Matthew account for himself when his tax collector friends asked why he'd left the customs post?

The questions were conceived as rhetorical, but evidently the Mystery saw fit to confront me with answers I hadn't anticipated.

Now, I can tell you, roughly a month later, that the word that best answers the above questions is "uncomfortable."

There was joy, certainly, and an overflowing of wonder in front of Beauty; but that was followed by a shock. I don't think it is an overstatement, nor is it melodramatic of me to say that I have been experiencing a kind of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome during the past several weeks. At least, all the symptoms have been there. But why should experiencing Beauty bring on something like a sickness, accompanied by so much pain?

All of life is a journey, a pilgrimage; and by paths, sometimes winding, we hope to reach our destiny. We are being made in each moment, by Another. How we process this knowledge (or not) determines our course. But when Someone suddenly steps into our path and points us in a new direction, it requires strength to tear oneself from our past course and follow this indication. Something inside actually rips. At least this has been happening with me.

Yesterday I found words for the particular change in me that this new direction will require:

So what is friendship? Friendship, in its minimal state, is the encounter of one person with another person whose destiny he or she desires more than his or her own life: I desire your destiny more than I desire my life. The other reciprocates this and desires my destiny more than his or her life... Those who do not experience this must humbly ask the Lord and the Blessed Mother to make it understood to them, because without this, not even the relationship with God is true.


But the more you have affection, the more you're tempted to stop there, to grab, to possess. That's the way you lose both the thing and yourself: you lose. The symptom that a friendship is wrong is that the others are extraneous... Only you and I exist. It is egoism assembled into a system. And not only is this deadly, it's suffocating (the third day, I can't take it any more. I need some air. I need to see a horse galloping!).

*Luigi Giussani, Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 1: Faith (pp 146-147)

Reading these words, one can imagine the theoretical possibility of being asked to give one's life for another's destiny, and we can hope and pray that if we are ever given this test, we will pass it. But in fact, what we're often asked to sacrifice is our point of view, our opinions. My point of view is not something that I can easily relinquish. I work very hard, throw all my intelligence and passion into its development. When I meet someone who seems confused, lost, or simply wrong, it has always been an effort that springs from a deep affection for that person when I share my point of view with him. But it is precisely this point of view, no matter how correct, that my friend doesn't need -- that could, in fact, be a negative distraction for him. I never understood this before. Partly why I haven't understood it is that I am always hungry to hear others' points of view. But that's me. Most people do not share my hunger. I am trying to satisfy their hunger with the food I myself crave. They need something else, and they will ask for what they need.

When I say, "They need something else," I don't mean that they need something other than Christ! I mean that they need something else besides what it is that helps me to see his face. They need whatever it is that they need so that they can see him.

I get this to some extent, especially when dealing with children. It is in adult relationships, in which I feel great affection, that I feel this need to "be heard," or to have what has been helpful to me be likewise helpful to the other person. And when I discover another person who finds my solutions to her problems useful (and likewise supplies me with solutions that help me), the result is usually what Fr. Giussani describes -- a friendship in which the others are extraneous. Here is someone who "understands" me, whom I can also "understand;" and surrounding us is a huge ocean of persons who don't "get it."

Since this is true, and has been proven in my life again and again, then I know that my wanting to share my point of view with others is born from a love for my ego, for my self, for my point of view, conceived by me, me, me. It's narcissism!

To love another's destiny more than my own point of view, opinions, wise conclusions is, I'm tremendously sad to say, an experiment I haven't tried much. Oh, I thought I was loving their destiny by sharing my passion for solving their problems, clarifying their confusions, pointing out their errors! But no. Giving advice, particularly when it hasn't been requested, is just an attempt to shore up a weak, frightened ego.

I must take a step back and respect the other person's need to meet the same Christ I've met -- let others confront him when he steps into their paths.

I can't tell you how painful it is to sacrifice something that I have depended upon and admired in myself, something that has served me as a crutch and a solace in difficult times. I wouldn't do it at all, except that the new path indicated represents a promise, one of great hope.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Charity or Violence?

“Understanding the reasons for hard work is the utmost thing in life, because death is the biggest objection to life, and life’s hard times are the biggest objection to living; the biggest objection to joy is sacrifice… The biggest sacrifice is death (Father Giussani).”


What kind of society calls life “hell” and death a “liberation”? Where can our reason gone crazy originate from, a reason that can turn upside down good and evil and, so, to give things their real name?

The announced suspension of Eluana’s artificial feeding is homicide. It’s all the more serious because this would prevent someone from doing charitable work. There are people who have been taking care of her and are willing to continue to do so.

In the long history of medicine the most fruitful progress occurred exactly with the beginning of assistance to the “incurable” in the Christian age. They used to be excluded from the community of “healthy” people. They used to be left dying outside the city walls or eliminated. Whoever may have taken care of them would have put their own life to risk. This is why those who began to take care of incurable people did so for a reason that was more powerful than life itself. It was a passion for the destiny of the other man, for its infinite value because it was the image of God creator.

So the case of Eluana puts us in front of the first evidence that emerges in our life: we do not make ourselves. We are made, we are wanted by Another. We are saved from our nothingness by Someone who loves us and has told us: “Even the hair on your head is counted”. Rejecting this evidence means, sooner or later, rejecting reality. Even when this reality has the face of the people we love.

This is why recognizing the One Who is giving us the gift of the presence of Eluana is not something “spiritual” just added on for those who have faith. It is a need for all those who, having been given a reason, seek for a meaning. Failing to recognize this, makes it impossible to embrace Eluana and live the sacrifice to stay on her side; in fact it provides the possibility to kill her, and to mistake this gesture for love.

Christianity originates exactly from a passion for man. God became man to meet the need of all men, believers and non believers, to understand the meaning of life and death. Christ had pity on our nothingness, and gave His own life to affirm the infinite value of each of us, in whatever condition.

We need Him to be ourselves. We also need to be educated to recognize Him, to be able to live.

November 2008
Communion and Liberation

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another great post by Deacon Scott...

A humane view of "Of Human Life"

Building on something posted by Fred last evening over on Cahiers, The Inhumanity of the Megachurch Sex Marathon and a subsequent discussion, it is important to address, if briefly, an overlooked aspect of Humanae Vitae, namely that birth control, which deals with both the numbering and spacing of children, is seen as a moral duty. It is pretty clearly taught in this much maligned teaching that no couple is obligated to have as many children as they possibly can. On the contrary, HV was written at the time when dire predictions about overpopulation were widely, if uncritically, accepted. So, birth control, which is best achieved, according to HV, through abstinence, is seen as important by Paul VI. This can be verified by reading his remarkable encyclical Populorum Progresso. As to what many mistakenly refer to as "grave" reasons, the criteria are outlined by Paul VI in no. 10... [read the rest here].

Fr. Maximilian's School of Community blog

Frs. Benedict Groeschel & J.C. Maximilian by frjcmaximilian.
Fr. JC Maximilian with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR.

From a post, Yes, it has been a while, by Fr. JC Maximilian:
...Finally, I hope to use this blog for School of Community. I am a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, one of the new ecclesial movements, and our most basic “gesture” is our weekly School of Community meeting where we share a reading and then our own experiences of encountering Christ Jesus in our everyday life. It has really helped me keep from becoming abstract, and being more connected with reality of every day life. The School of Community becomes your friends and your mutual witnesses to the Goodness of God, as we together continue to journey with Jesus. I started a School of Community at my previous assignment, but that is over an hour away from where I am now. It would be too soon to start one here (first people need to get to know and trust me. Then they might say, “Father, can we learn more about CL?”). A few people have asked me about CL here, so we might be able to start a School of Community in the near future here, but in the mean time I still want to make the time for prayerful reflection on the works of the Movement. So I thought I might just read a bit of the current book the Movement is reading, and share my reflections (brief summary of the reading) and experiences as related to the reading on this blog. If others want to start a conversation about it GREAT, that’s what the comments are for. We will see how it all works out.

O'Malley on Obama and abortion

Cardinal O'Malley

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley yesterday talked with me about his thoughts on the election of Barack Obama as president and the abortion issue. I have a story in today's paper; here is a transcript of our conversation:

Q: So many bishops spoke out on abortion in recent weeks, and yet a majority of Catholics voted for Barack Obama. What do make of that?

A: It was a very complicated election. I don’t think that the abortion issue is what decided the election. It was more the economy, the war, and the dissatisfaction with the present administration.

When I was in high school (in Ohio) I joined the NAACP and did voter registration in black neighborhoods, when I wasn’t old enough to vote myself. And I was there at Resurrection City after Martin Luther King was murdered, and living in the mud with thousands of people on the lawn of the Lincoln Memorial and having off-duty redneck policemen throwing canisters of tear gas at us and shouting obscenities. So, to me, the election of an Afro-American is like the Berlin Wall falling. I mean, for my generation, I suppose young people today can’t appreciate that, but to me it is something very big.

My joy, however, is tempered by the knowledge that this man has a deplorable record when it comes to prolife issues and is possibly in the pocket of Planned Parenthood which in its origins was a very racist organization to eliminate the blacks, and it’s sort of ironic that he’s been co-opted by them. However, he is the president, and everyone wishes him well, and we will try to work with him. However, I hope he realizes that his election was not a mandate to rush ahead with a pro-abortion platform. And the fact that in states like Florida and California, where he won, the referendums on marriage showed that the people who were more socially conservative voted for him, but voted for him for other reasons than for issues like this.

Q: There’s been a lot of discussion about whether the bishops’ teaching on voting is too nuanced, because it was used in all kinds of ways by all kinds of groups during this election, because it said Catholics are not single-issue voters. What do you think?

A: I think that most Catholics understand what the church’s teachings are and those voter guide things are always problematic but I think in general people understand. It was interesting, if one considers Massachusetts, which is so overwhelmingly Democratic, and 8 years ago Gore got 75 percent of the Catholic vote and four years ago, Kerry, who is Catholic and from Massachusetts, got 50 percent of it, so they lost 25 percent of the vote in four years, and I think a lot of that was the influence of people’s concerns about life issues and things like that. And obviously when you look at the differential between the way that Catholics who are church-going Catholics vote and those who are not church going Catholics, I think that the Catholics reflect the church’s teaching. Not as much as we’d like them to, but certainly this last election there were many other factors that intervened.

Q: You just alluded to the fact that many of the people in your archdiocese are Catholics who support abortion rights, including leading politicians, and both US senators. What is your position on whether they should present themselves for Communion, and whether you should be giving it to them?

A: The church’s teaching on worthiness for Communion and proper disposition is in the Catholic catechism, and it’s no secret, and I support that. There is perhaps a teaching where we have not done as good a job of late as we used to. When I was growing up, we would go to confession every Saturday, we would fast from midnight, there was much more of an awareness of the need to be spiritually prepared and in communion with the church and in a state of grace. Today I think we need to reinforce that teaching a lot. And once that teaching is better understood, then, I think, it will be obvious as to who should be coming to Communion and who shouldn’t. But until there’s a decision of the church to formally excommunicate people, I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people. However, whatever the church’s decision is, we will certainly enforce.

Q: Your position four years ago was that you did not want confrontations at the altar rail.

A: That’s right. We do not want to make a battleground out of the Eucharist.

Q: There’s been a lot of conversation about whether there’s another strategy on abortion, whether trying to reduce the number would be more effective at this point. What do you think about that idea?

A: We’re always for reducing the number. But we cannot turn our back on the obligation to work for just laws that protect human life, from the first moment of conception until natural death. So obviously we want to do all that we can to reduce the number of abortions, but as long as those unjust laws are on the book, human life is threatened. Now they’re talking about pushing this FOCA, which doesn’t sound to me like it’s going to try and reduce abortions, but simply make them much more accessible to people, and pay for them, at home and abroad. So we must work diligently and tirelessly to change the laws, and work diligently and tirelessly to change people’s hearts, so that there’s a greater realization of the seriousness of this, and how our humanity is diminished when we are not respectful of human life.

Q: Is there anything you would like to see the conference do? Is there some action that you think should be taken?

A: I would just like to see us have a united voice, and a strong response, one that will reinforce that there’s no new way of being prolife, and that we must work on both tracks, trying to reduce the number of abortions and trying to change the laws.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Importance of the House of God

Gospel Commentary for Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, from

By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

ROME, NOV. 7, 2008 ( This year, in the place of the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we celebrate the feast of the Dedication of Lateran Basilica in Rome, the cathedral of Rome, originally dedicated to the Savior, but then to St. John the Baptist.

What does the dedication and existence of a church, understood as a place of worship, represent for the Christian liturgy and Christian spirituality? We must begin with the words of John's Gospel: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such worshippers.”

Jesus teaches that God’s temple is primarily the human heart, which has welcomed the Word of God. Speaking of himself and of the Father, Jesus says: “We will come to him and make our abode in him” (John 14:23), and Paul writes one of his communities: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The believer, then, is the new temple of God. But the place of God’s presence and Christ’s is also there “where two or more are gathered in my name” (Matthew 18:20).

The Second Vatican Council calls the Christian family a “domestic Church” (“Lumen Gentium,” 11), that is, a little temple of God, precisely because, thanks to the sacrament of matrimony, it is, par excellence, the place where “two or more” are gathered in my name.

So, by what right do we Christians give such importance to church buildings if each one of us can worship God in spirit and truth in our own heart, or in his own house? Why this obligation to go to church every Sunday? The answer is that Jesus Christ does not save us separately from each other; he has come to form a people, a community of persons, in communion with him and among themselves.

What a house is for a family, a church is for the family of God. There is no family without a house. One of the films of Italian neo-realism that I still remember is “Il Tetto” (“The Roof”), written by Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio De Sica. In postwar Rome a poor young man and woman fall in love and get married but do not have a home. Under Italian law at the time, once a house had a roof, its occupants could not be evicted. The couple hurriedly try to put a roof on a ramshackle dwelling and when they succeed, they are overjoyed and embrace, knowing that they have a home, a place of intimacy; they are a family.

I have seen this story repeat itself in many places in cities, towns and villages where there was no church and the people needed to build one. The solidarity and enthusiasm, the joy of working together with the priest to give the community a place of worship and a place to meet -- they are all stories that would merit a film such as De Sica’s.

We must also consider a sad phenomenon: the massive drop in church attendance and participation in Sunday Mass. The statistics on religious practice should make one weep. I do not say that those who do not go to church no longer believe; It is rather that they have replaced the religion instituted by Christ with a “do it yourself” religion, what in America they call “pick and choose,” like you do at the supermarket. Everyone makes up his own idea of God, of prayer, and he is content with it.

Thus it is forgotten that God revealed himself in Christ, that Christ preached a Gospel, that he founded an “ekklesia,” that is, an assembly of those called, he instituted sacraments as signs and conveyors of his presence and salvation. Ignoring this in order to cultivate your own image of God is to advocate total religious subjectivism. We take ourselves as the only standard: God is reduced -- as the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach said -- to a projection of our own needs and desires; it is no longer God who creates man in his image, but man who creates a god in his image. But it is not a god who saves!

Of course, a religion that is entirely made up of external practices has no point; we see Jesus fighting against such a religion everywhere in the Gospel. But there is no contradiction between a religion of signs and sacraments and one that is intimate, personal; there is no contradiction between ritual and spirit. The great religious geniuses (Augustine, Pascal, Kierkegaard, our own Alessandro Manzoni) were men of a profound and personal interiority who were at the same time members of a community, went to church, they “practiced.”

In the “Confessions” (VIII, 2) St. Augustine recounts the great Roman philosopher and rhetorician Victorinus’ conversion to Christianity from paganism. Now convinced of the truth of Christianity he told the priest Simplicianus: “You know I am already Christian.” Simplicianus answered him: “I will not believe you until I see you in the church of Christ.” Victorinus replied: “Is it the walls that make a Christian?” The skirmish continued between the two. But one day Victorinus read in the Gospel these words of Christ: “Whoever disowns me in this generation, I will disown before my Father.” He understood that it was human respect, fear of what his academic colleagues would say, that kept him from going to church. He went to Simplicianus and said to him: “Let’s go to church, I want to become a Christian.” I think that this story has something to say to people of culture today too.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Father Julian Carron's letter to members of Communion and Liberation

Dear friends,

Taking part in the Synod of Bishops, which, as you well know, had as its theme
"TheWord of God in the Life and Mission of the Church" gave me a keener grasp of our
responsibility in the Church and in the world. First of all, through what emerged during the work of the Synod: that the word of God is an "event"–Jesus Christ–who goes on being present in history through the Church's life. Therefore the relationship with the living tradition of the Church assimilates us with the novelty witnessed by the Biblical text and makes us share the same experience as those who met Jesus himself. So, as the Pope said at the beginning of the Synod, all our fellow men can discover "the present in the past, the Holy Spirit who speaks to us today in the words of the past." The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation will point the way for our faith and as such we are all waiting for it.

Precisely in virtue of the Spirit's action in his Holy Church, we all need a
greater awareness. I lived the fact of being appointed by Benedict XVI as a Synod Father as a sign of esteem for our Movement, but above all as a call to give our contribution to the Church's life. This call was then confirmed by my election as a relator: this meant being the spokesman for the Spanish language group and it implied above all greater involvement in the work of the Synod, collaborating directly with the relator general in giving form to the final Propositions. Many came to me during the days spent together, moved by an interest in or by fondness for our experience.
All this aroused in me the desire to write to you so as to share the experience
I had with you—because it concerns you, too—, since it has made me look back over
our history to discover the step that I believe we are asked to take. I identify very concisely three phases in our history:

1st phase: the beginning. The birth of the Movement can be characterized by
the same dynamics that occur whenever the Spirit breaks into history and arouses a
charism for the good of the Church. Like every initiative of the Spirit, our charism, too, was welcomed not without misunderstandings and even hostility, because it could not in any way be confined within preconceived schemes. Not all the suffering of those years was, however, due to the natural resistance that the Spirit's novelty always meets. It was also due to our immaturity, which only Fr. Giussani's educative force enabled us to correct and overcome. The Church's patience in our regard was a sign of her motherhood.

2nd phase: the recognition. The end of Paul VI's pontificate and the pontificate
of John Paul II meant for our Movement authoritative recognition and full acceptance in the life of the Church. The unforgettable expression of this was the meeting in St. Peter's Square with Benedict XVI, on March 24, 2007. We find an ulterior confirmation in the esteem and interest shown by many at the Synod. So we are called to deepen further our own awareness of our experience.

3rd phase: the charism for the Church and for the world. Today we are called
to become more aware of the aim for which the Spirit gave a charism to Fr. Giussani: to contribute along with all the baptized to the building up and renewal of the Church for the good of the world. Following His usual method, God gives grace to one person so that through him it may reach everyone.We shall be unfaithful to the nature of our charism if the gift we have received is not shared with everyone, inside and outside the Church. So each one of us must find out in his own circumstances how best he can contribute to the good of the Church. There are many ambits in which many of us are making Christ present with astonishing freedom and boldness. This presence of ours in real places where man's life goes on must not fall short. At the same time, though, we are asked at times to collaborate inside the Church, too. Many of you have been giving this contribution for some time—as catechists in the parish, by charity work and other forms of collaboration— and we must be found more and more available where our presence is asked for and welcomed. This contribution cannot but be in accordance with the nature of our charism, which finds its complete expression in witness.

I am convinced that this step that the Spirit is asking of us will bring us closer
and closer to the heart of the mystery of Christ, in such a way as to be able to witness anywhere at all, even through our frailty.

Together in the adventure,
Fr. Julián Carrón

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


INTERVENTION OF FR. JULIÁN CARRÓN for the Synod of Bishops, "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church"

Holy Father, Venerable Fathers, Brothers and Sisters:

Instrumentum Laboris and the General Report have pointed out that the interpretation of the Bible is one of the most pressing concerns in the Church today (Instrumentum Laboris 19–31). The essence of the challenge raised by the question of modern interpretation of Holy Scripture was identified some years ago by then-Cardinal Ratzinger: “How can I reach an understanding that is not based on the judgment of my own presuppositions, a comprehension that permits me truly to understand the message of the text, giving me something that comes not from myself?” (“L’interpretazione biblica in conflitto. Problemi del fondamento ed orientamento dell’esegesi contemporanea,” in J. Ratzinger et al., L’Esegesi cristiana oggi, Casale Monteferrato, 1991, pp. 93–125.)
The Church’s recent Magisterium offers us some elements for avoiding any possible reduction regarding this difficulty.
It was the Second Vatican Council’s merit to have recuperated a concept of revelation as the event of God in history. In fact, Dei Verbum allows us to understand revelation as the event of the self-communication of the Trinity in the Son, both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation,” in whom “the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out” (DV 2), through the Holy Spirit in human history. It is Christ who “perfected revelation by fulfilling it through His whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His Death and glorious Resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth” (DV 4). The encyclical Deus Caritas Est quite rightly recalls, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (DCE 1; cf. FR 7).
This event does not belong only to the past, to one moment of time and space, but remains present in history, communicating itself through the whole life of the Church that welcomes it. For “Christ’s relevance for people of all times is shown forth in His body, which is the Church” (VS 25; cf. FR 11). As the Apostles transmitted “what they had received from the lips of Christ, from living with Him, and from what He did” (DV 7), so the Church “in her teaching, life, and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes” (DV 8). Precisely because of this character of event proper to revelation and to its transmission, the Conciliar Constitution stresses that though “expressed in a special way in the inspired books” (cf. DV 8), the event of revelation does not coincide with Holy Scripture. The word of the Bible witnesses Revelation, but does not contain it in such a way as to be able to exhaust it in itself. For this reason, “it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed” (DV 9).
If revelation has the character of an historical event, when it comes into contact with man it cannot fail to strike him, provoking his reason and his freedom. The Gospel narratives in their simplicity show this, witnessing to the wonder that Jesus’ person aroused in those who met Him (cf. Mk 1:27; 2:12; Lk 5:9). Jesus’ presence widens our vision so we can see and recognize what is before us (cf. Lk 24, Emmaus). The encyclical Fides et Ratio insists on this when it affirms that men “can make no claim upon this truth [of revelation], which comes to them as gift and which, set within the context of interpersonal communication, urges reason to be open to it and to embrace its profound meaning” (FR 13).
So the encyclical characterizes the impact that revealed truth provokes in man who encounters it with a twofold impulse: a) it widens reason so as to make it adequate to the object; b) it facilitates the acceptance of its deep meaning. Instead of mortifying man’s reason and freedom, revelation enables both to grow to the fullness of their original condition.
Relationship with the tradition living in the Church’s body enables each and every man to share in the experience of those who encountered Jesus. Astounded by His unique exceptionality, these began a journey that enabled them to reach certainty about His absolute claim, that of being God. Those who make this journey do not accept naively the tradition they meet, but on the contrary put it to the test, thus enabling their reason to grasp its truth.
The experience of encounter with Christ present in the Church’s living tradition is an event and becomes, therefore, the determining factor in the interpretation of the biblical text. It is the only way to enter into harmony with the experience witnessed by the text of Scripture, for “correct knowledge of the biblical text is accessible only to those who have a lived affinity with what the text speaks of” (PCB 70). I was able to document this hermeneutical principle in a simple but meaningful episode that occurred some years ago in Madrid. There was a young man who had had no contact with Christianity; when he met a living Christian community he began to participate and to attend Holy Mass. After the first occasions of hearing the Gospel, he commented, “What happened to us happened to them!” It was the ecclesial present that disclosed the meaning of the Gospel account.
In synthesis, “[The Apostles’] capacity to believe was completely sustained and activated by the revealing person of Jesus,” according to the fine expression of H. U. von Balthasar, enabling them to grasp the mystery of His person and adhere to Him. Analogically, today our reason needs the Event present in the tradition of living witnesses so as to open up to the Mystery of Christ, who comes toward us in them. But we will be able to recognize the unmistakable features of Jesus Christ only if we are familiar with the unique, canonical witness of His absolutely original features offered by the Sacred Scriptures. St. Augustine summarized it well: “In manibus nostris sunt codices, in oculis nostris facta.”

His proposal was more attractive to a majority of Americans

This is what it all boils down to, and I really hope that those who share my passion for life will take notice. Rocco Palmo, in his post, Scenes from a Repudiation, has some very interesting statistics on the election, and I entreat you to take a look at them. It is not that our fellow Americans haven't heard our message. It is not that their hearts are evil. It is simply that we have not done our work well. Two points:

  1. We are against abortion because our awareness of the infinite and irreducible value of human life makes life more beautiful, richer, more zestful. I am not convinced that we made this case during the years and months leading up to this election.
  2. We have not answered the clearly articulated desire for freedom that has been central to the pro-abortion lobby. Why is the "pro-choice" slogan so compelling to our fellow citizens? Is it so hard to see? We need, as Catholics, to understand what we really believe about freedom -- we need to first teach ourselves, really delve into the mystery we adhere to when we repeat Christ's assertion, "The truth shall set you free." What is it about the fact, the truth, of our infinite irreducible value as human beings that makes us free?
In only one case is...this single human being, free from the entire world, free, so that the world together and even the total universe cannot force him to do anything...This is when we assume that [the person] is not totally the fruit of the biology of the mother and father, not strictly derived from the biological tradition of mechanical antecedents but rather when it possesses a direct relationship with the infinite, the origin of all the flux of the world ... that is to say, it is endowed with something derived from God...So here is the paradox: freedom is dependence on God. It is a paradox, but it is absolutely clear. The human being – the concrete human person, me, you – once we were not, now we are, and tomorrow will no longer be: thus we depend. And either we depend upon the flux of our material antecedents, and are consequently slaves of the powers that be, or we depend on What lies at the origin of the movement of all things, beyond them, which is to say, God. -- Father Giussani, The Religious Sense, page 91
And I have already heard some express the opinion that it would be good if the economy should tank during Obama's presidency, so that we can hope for another outcome in the next election. I just want to say that we cannot place our hope in a human eventuality, particularly one that will cause so many of our brothers and sisters pain. Our hope is in Christ, who loves the poor in spirit. Let's truly follow him. Let's do the hard work of communicating the beauty we know and love. We cannot place our hope in market forces, dashed dreams, punitive measures. Only Christ, in his beauty, will advance the beauty we hope for. If we won't look at him, how can we hope to convince anyone else to follow our gaze?

How many
times have
you said:

The most used and least known word
in the human vocabulary.

More on the capacity to tolerate difference

The president of the USCCB, Cardinal Francis George OMI, sent the following letter to Barack Obama:

Dear President-elect Obama,

I write to you, in my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to express our congratulations on your historic election as President of the United States. The people of our country have entrusted you with a great responsibility. As Catholic Bishops, we offer our prayers that God give you strength and wisdom to meet the coming challenges.

Our country is confronting many uncertainties. We pray that you will use the powers of your office to meet them with a special concern to defend the most vulnerable among us and heal the divisions in our country and our world. We stand ready to work with you in defense and support of the life and dignity of every human person.

May God bless you and Vice President-elect Biden as you prepare to assume your duties in service to our country and its citizens.

Sincerely yours,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago

h/t to Rocco Palmo, of Whispers in the Loggia.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Seeing something new

Of the many beautiful and fascinating things that Chris B. said during our Beginning Day, there is one I think I'm ready to share. He described for us what it was like for him to meet the first people of Communion and Liberation who came to this country from Italy. He told us that as a teenager, he knew his faith well and had memorized the Baltimore catechism; yet there was something altogether new and striking and different about those Italians he met in California. Even while they did not know Catholic teachings as well as he did, they knew something, possessed something he had never seen or experienced before.

As a catechist I was deeply moved to hear this testimony. The content of faith is not a what, it is a Who; moreover, it is a living Who, the presence of God in human flesh. We call him Christ and he is with us now, as he promised. We don't think our way to him. We meet him. And we don't meet him in acts that we judge good, nor in an attitude we approve of. Meeting him is almost always the most natural, the simplest thing that happens -- but also the most surprising and astonishing. It is simple and natural because it involves another face, looking into the face of an actual human being. It is astonishing because while looking into that face, an ordinary human face, we see something we never could have expected or imagined, something that seizes us, moves us, provokes us -- maybe it even frightens us. We see a humanity there, a humanity that is altogether unusual and unanticipated, one that does not fit with any of our explanations or theories.

Following this humanity, this extraordinary and unusual humanity, requires a whole different use of intelligence and reason. At least, this is what my own experience has been. I cannot discount the talent for understanding theology, for absorbing catechetical points, and for being able to explain Catholic teachings; but these talent are not needed for recognizing the face of Christ when I meet my fellows. In fact, these talents are not prerequisites for attaining this recognition, and they may even be hindrances for some who possess them.

But once we do recognize Christ's face, there in front of us, we develop such an affection for him and for the faces that reveal this extraordinary presence, that this affection give rise to a friendship, a singular kind of friendship, so overflowing with tenderness and affection that it is sticky. It's more adhesive than the strongest glue. This stickiness is the only way I know to describe the companionship of the community of Christ. And what is so astonishing about it is that it is prior to my recognition of it. That is to say, I was always stuck to these other people, only now I recognize it. Obedience simply means staying true to this fact, the fact that has always been true, but that I have only now begun to see. Obedience to this companionship (and not to a rule, or to a directive, or to a teaching, or to a slogan...) is what makes me live according to the truth of who I am and allows me to see more, reason further, breathe fully.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."