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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pope Francis on the Family

A couple of days ago, Pope Francis addressed the "Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman," underway through November 19th.  Our thanks to zenit.org for their timely English language translation.


Dear sisters and brothers,  

I warmly greet you. I thank Cardinal Muller for his words with which he introduced our meeting.  I would like to begin by sharing with you a reflection on the title of your colloquium.   You must admit that "complementarity" does not roll lightly off the tongue!  Yet it is a word into which many meanings are compressed.  It refers to situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other.  But complementarity is much more than that.  Yet complementarity is more than this.  Christians find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body's members work together for the good of the whole-everyone's gifts can work together for the benefit of each. (cf. 1 Cor. 12).  To reflect upon "complementarity" is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all Creation. This is a big word, harmony. All complementarities were made by our Creator, so the Author of harmony achieves this harmony.

It is fitting that you have gathered here in this international colloquium to explore the complementarity of man and woman.  This complementarity is a root of marriage and family. For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others' gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living.  For most of us, the family provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity.  At the same time, as we know, families give rise to tensions: between egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals.  But families also provide frameworks for resolving such tensions.  This is important. When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.  Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children -- his or her personal richness, personal charisma. Complementarity becomes a great wealth.  It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.

We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis.  We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment.  This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.    

Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly.  It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.

The crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection.  And although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church.  It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology.

It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.  The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.   Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity.  That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is "indispensable"; that it "transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple." (n. 66)  And that is why I am grateful to you for your Colloquium's emphasis on the benefits that marriage can provide to children, the spouses themselves, and to society.  

In these days, as you embark on a reflection on the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage, I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage:  that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.   I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future.  Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.

Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact - a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can't think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family. It can't be qualified by ideological notions. Family is per se. It is a strength per se.


I pray that your colloquium will be an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies.

Homily for the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul

This morning we commemorate the dedication of two of the major basilicas built by Constantine in the fourth century: Saint Peter’s on the Vatican hill and Saint Paul outside the walls.

Although our Feast bears the name of the saints commemorated on the 29th of June, today’s feast is not so much about their memory, as it is dedicated to the Churches built on the site where Paul’s head hit the ground when he died by the sword and where Peter’s body was laid to rest when they took him down from the cross.

It’s about the building of a Church.

A Church built on Roman soil, sanctified by the blood of the Apostle to the Gentiles, who never stopped preaching, even when they martyred him and buried his body in a grave made holy by his sacrifice,

A Church built on the bold and fragile faith of the Prince of the Apostles, who though drowning in the turbulence of his disbelief, still cries out with his final breath: “Lord, save me!”


A Church once dedicated which has perdured, handing down the truth which comes to us from these Apostles and which endures undefiled in our hearts today.



Remembering the Dead

During the month of November, beginning with our commemoration of All Souls, we remember those who have died.  Here are a few reflections which I offered at a Prayer Service led by the Hospice Ministry at Notre Dame du Lac in Worcester.


Tonight is about remembering.

In each heart that beats in this Chapel there are remembrances.  You see the face of the one whom you love.  You can almost hear their voice.  You tell the old stories about how it used to be.  In the face of death, we remember.

We’re like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  You know the story. It’s Easter Sunday morning, and two of Jesus’ closest followers are walking away from Jerusalem.  It was a long walk, seven miles Saint Luke tells us.  And as they walked, they did what we do: these men who had just buried their Lord were “conversing about all the things that had occurred.”  They were remembering.

It seems from Luke’s account that they were doing three kinds of remembering.  The first probably consisted of stories about everything they had been through in the three years since the Lord first called them to come and follow him.  

Telling the stories is good, as Jesus tells us when suddenly, out of nowhere and in disguise, he begins to walk with them.  And what are his first words to them “What are you discussing?  Tell me the stories which ache in your heart.”

As he walked with them, so Jesus walks with us in our grief and he says the same to our hearts.  Tell me the stories.  The stories of how much she loved you when you were a little kid, of how he first taught you to ride a bike.  The stories of that funny hat they used to wear and how embarrassed they made you feel when you were a gawky teenager.  

The fond stories, the funny stories, but the hard stories as well.  Remembering the little and sometimes not so little hurts, the disappointments and the dreams unlived.    

I recently went to the wake of a large family from upstate New York.  As I arrived, I noticed amidst the flowers and pictures and video slideshows something I had never seen before.  It was an enormous moosehead, which had always hung in their family’s living room.  And in a frame on an easel, beneath the moose, there was this poem:

The moose that once presided over games
of Monopoly and crazy eights,
that loomed above us, goofy and majestic,
into whose antlers we threw paper planes,
still hangs over the great stone fireplace
like the figurehead of a ship.

All these years he hasn't flicked an eyelash
in response to anything we've done,
and in that way resembles God,
whom, as children, we imagined looking down
but didn't know how to visualize. A moose
over the alter would have been

as good as anything—better than a cross—
staring down on us with kind dark eyes
that would have seemed, at least, to understand,
his antlers like gigantic upturned hands
ready to lift us off the ground—
or like enormous wings outspread for flight.

Stories. So many stories, of family, of life, of loss and of wonder.

And to whom do you tell these stories as you walk your road to Emmaus?  Sometimes you tell them to people who love you, or who will at least put up with you while you tell them for the fourteenth time.  But each time you tell the story, someone else is there, as well.  Just as he was on the road to Emmaus, Jesus comes out of nowhere, listening to you, urging you, begging you to pour out your heart, to tell the stories of the one you’ve loved.  And he,  through whom all human hearts were made, listens with his own Sacred Heart to your sacred memories and he cries with you, standing there at the kitchen sink or in the quiet of the night when you can’t get to sleep.  He listens and embraces your memories and soothes and makes sense of the story of which you are now the sacred custodian.

And as if that weren’t enough, there is a second kind of remembering on this road we walk.  It is a bit more poignant, when, like the trio walking to Emmaus, we remember the pain, the disappointment and uncertainty which are the dark companions of those who have buried the one they love.

As they walked to Emmaus they were angry, verging on bitter words about Jesus’ death.  That’s so clear when Clopas, responding to Jesus’ question about what they were talking about, snaps back: ‘Are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what happened?’  

And so he tells the story of the past few days, including these extraordinarily painful words:  ‘we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel, but it is now the third day since this took place.’  We were hoping, but…

In the heart of every human being who walks away from the grave of the one they loved there is that aching suspicion that we hoped in vain.  Even Jesus knew it at the grave of his friend Lazarus.  You remember it, when he finally came to the grave and saw his friend’s body, what did Jesus do?  Did he preach a sermon or give a a great teaching or tell a parable?  No, Jesus the Son of the living God, the King of the Universe through whom all things were made wept.  He wept.  Not cried.  He wept, sobbing and gasping for breath.

Some stories can only be told with tears running down your cheeks.  Some darknesses are so dark, some crosses so heavy, some storms blow so strong that we cannot stand up to them.  And it is at just that moment when Jesus appears and drys our tears and strengthens our bodies and holds us up when we are about to collapse from grief.

It is one of the most sacred moments of life, when we let go of our well thought out plans and designs and all the ways in which we will control life, and just fall into the arms of God, embracing his plan and his will and his love for us.

For the great good news of the Cross is that we do not have to be in control.  We don’t have to figure it out.  We don’t have to fix it.  We don’t have to plot our next move.  All we have to do is discern the will of God, find the road to Emmaus and walked with him as he explains it, points out the way, and shepherds us home to green pastures and still waters which refresh our souls.

And finally, there is a third kind of remembering that took place on that road and that takes place here tonight.  It’s why we’re gathered in a Chapel, because this is where God lives and where his people gather to speak with him, adore him and receive him deep within their hearts.

In the climax of the Emmaus story, Jesus, whom they still think is a stranger, acts as if he is going on further, but they beg him to stay with them, have a meal and spend the night that they might continue to tell the stories.  

So he comes inside, but only because they have invited him, and they come to know him, Saint Luke tells us, in the breaking of the bread.

We too can invite Jesus inside, to continue to tell the stories of joy and of comfort, of pain and of hope. And he will sit at table with us and we will come to see him, in the breaking of the bread.

See his Risen body, which tells us that we need never fear death again.  Hear his promise that he will raise up everyone who have believed in him and lead them home to heaven.  Know his presence as he lives in us and we in him.

They came to know him in the breaking of the bread.  They came to know how much he loved them.  They came to know perduring presence.  They came to know him as he broke the bread, as he looked them in the eye and said, Do this in remembrance of me.

It is good to remember, that we might see the Lord, and he might lead us home to heaven to be with those whom we have loved forever in perfect peace.

Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace.

May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed

Through the mercy of God rest in peace.  Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

John Allen at SJS

John Allen, internationally renowned journalist and Vatican observer, delighted a large crowd at Saint John's this evening with his reflections on the papacy of Pope Francis.  Here are my introductory remarks and some photos from this great event!



Welcome brothers, Fathers and friends.  And most of all, welcome, John.  When I think of you, John, I think of the search for the truth: for what really happened, what was really said, or what it really means.  And the search for the truth is a really tough job.

For whether you take your media new or old, hot or cold what really matters is not the form of the information, but whether it is true, without slant, without idealogical agenda or commercial interest. 

Now, admittedly, there are times I like to have my ears tickled, mornings when I google up those who will tell me how wonderful I am and what an instrumental role I play in the church, doing their part to reinforce my infallible world view, which I  have created to reassure myself that I am in control.

But on those mornings when my better angels surf the blogs, John Allen is the  voice of reason, insight, and well-informed sources to whom I consistently turn. I don't always like the truth he has to tell, but then again I'm not always thrilled by the observations of my spiritual director either.  But both of them speak the truth, in season and out.

I have known John Allen for a long time. We are both veterans of the translation wars of the mid 90s, the struggles for publication of the new Lectionary for Mass, and the seemingly endless process to produce a new Roman MissalAnd today, while I luxuriate as pastor of this holy house, John continues to help us to understand among other challenging topics the meaning and character and place of Pope Francis, the subject of his reflections this evening.  John, you are the original Vox Clara in a Church and a world which is sometimes very hard to understand.

It is not very often that I get to introduce a man whom I respect as deeply as this one.  My brothers and friends I give you John Allen.






Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On Stained Glass in the North Country

A few weeks ago I was privileged to give some brief presentations on the beautiful stained glass windows at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Queensbury, New York and on the stained glass windows of that Church of the Sacred Heart Church in Lake George. Sacred Heart has some of the most extraordinary windows I have ever seen, depicting the life and death of the North American Martyrs.  I have only begun my study of the iconography of these windows and I look forward to many enjoyable hours learning more and more about them.  The three brief talks I give here reflect on the iconography of the Annunciation, the windows at OLA in Queensbury and two of the windows at Sacred Heart.  Thanks to Father Joseph G. Busch and the good people of Queensbury who gave me the opportunity to prepare these talks.


               

                            ON THE ICONOGRAPHY OF THE ANNUNCIATION


                  
                             THE WINDOWS OF OUR LADY OF THE ANNUNCIATION  

                
                                                            A FIRST LOOK AT
THE WINDOWS OF SACRED HEART IN LAKE GEORGE

Monday, November 10, 2014

Join us for An Evening with John Allen

John L. Allen Jr. is associate editor at the Boston Globe, a senior Vatican analyst for CNN, and was for sixteen years a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. The author of nine books on the Vatican and Catholic affairs, he is the most respected American analyst of news concerning the Church and the Holy See. I have known and worked with John since I first arrived at the Bishops' Conference in 1996 and have the highest respect for his professionalism, objectivity and knowledge of the Church.

Please join the Saint John's community a week from tonight in welcoming John Allen to the oldest and largest Seminary in New England!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

My New Most Favorite Cartoon


From http://www.joshharris.com.