Pope Continues with Augustine

From Asia News Italy:

” I believe in order to understand” and “to lead men back to the hope of finding the truth”: Benedict XVI reiterated these phrases from Saint Augustine today, illustrating the figure of the bishop of Hippo and addressing a theme especially dear to him, the relationship between faith and reason. “These themes are not to be opposed to one another, but must always go together”, in order to be able to arrive at the truth, which is a question “central for every man”.

So once again, the pope reflected on Saint Augustine in his remarks to the six thousand persons present at the general audience.  He is a saint whose intellectual and spiritual journey represents “a model of the relationship between faith and reason, a central theme for the equilibrium and destiny of every human being”.  These two dimensions “must not be separated or opposed, but rather must be harmonised”: they are, in fact, “the two forces that lead us to knowledge”.

The pairing of faith and reason is therefore central in Augustine’s life and thought: he had learned that faith is a child and had rejected it as an adolescent, “because he did not see its reasonableness, and it was not an expression of his reason”, meaning truth. “His search for the truth was so radical that could not be satisfied with philosophies that did not arrive at God”, who “is not only a cosmological hypothesis” but “a God who gives life”.

Faith and reason, therefore, are not themes to be opposed to one another, but must always go together. Augustine says that they are the two forces required for understanding, as shown by the famous phrases in which he expresses “this coherent synthesis between faith and reason: ‘believe in order to understand’, but also and inseparably, ‘understand in order to believe'”, which for the pope “express with effective immediacy and with equal depth the synthesis of this problem in which the Catholic Church sees the expression of its own journey”.  The statements indicate that “God is not far from our reason and from our life”, “on the contrary, he is close to every human being, and he is as close to his heart as to his reason”.

Pope’s Focus for Lent: Almsgiving

From the Vatican:



Christ made Himself poor for you” (2 Cor 8,9)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving, which represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk 16,13). Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favor of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world. In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church. In his Letters, Saint Paul speaks of this in regard to the collection for the Jerusalem community (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27).


2. According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators of the goods we possess: these, then, are not to be considered as our exclusive possession, but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbor. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, material goods bear a social value, according to the principle of their universal destination (cf. n. 2404)

In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. In the face of the multitudes, who, lacking everything, suffer hunger, the words of Saint John acquire the tone of a ringing rebuke: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” (1 Jn 3,17). In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity.


3. The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: it must be hidden: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Jesus asserts, “so that your alms may be done in secret” (Mt 6,3-4). Just a short while before, He said not to boast of one’s own good works so as not to risk being deprived of the heavenly reward (cf. Mt 6,1-2). The disciple is to be concerned with God’s greater glory. Jesus warns: “In this way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5,16). Everything, then, must be done for God’s glory and not our own. This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbor, avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the center of attention. If, in accomplishing a good deed, we do not have as our goal God’s glory and the real well being of our brothers and sisters, looking rather for a return of personal interest or simply of applause, we place ourselves outside of the Gospel vision. In today’s world of images, attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy: rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave His entire self for us. How could we not thank God for the many people who silently, far from the gaze of the media world, fulfill, with this spirit, generous actions in support of one’s neighbor in difficulty? There is little use in giving one’s personal goods to others if it leads to a heart puffed up in vainglory: for this reason, the one, who knows that God “sees in secret” and in secret will reward, does not seek human recognition for works of mercy.


4. In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts 20,35). When we do things out of love, we express the truth of our being; indeed, we have been created not for ourselves but for God and our brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Cor 5,15). Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbor in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction and joy. Our Father in heaven rewards our almsgiving with His joy. What is more: Saint Peter includes among the spiritual fruits of almsgiving the forgiveness of sins: “Charity,” he writes, “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4,8). As the Lenten liturgy frequently repeats, God offers to us sinners the possibility of being forgiven. The fact of sharing with the poor what we possess disposes us to receive such a gift. In this moment, my thought turns to those who realize the weight of the evil they have committed and, precisely for this reason, feel far from God, fearful and almost incapable of turning to Him. By drawing close to others through almsgiving, we draw close to God; it can become an instrument for authentic conversion and reconciliation with Him and our brothers.


5. Almsgiving teaches us the generosity of love. Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo forthrightly recommends: “Never keep an account of the coins you give, since this is what I always say: if, in giving alms, the left hand is not to know what the right hand is doing, then the right hand, too, should not know what it does itself” (Detti e pensieri, Edilibri, n. 201). In this regard, all the more significant is the Gospel story of the widow who, out of her poverty, cast into the Temple treasury “all she had to live on” (Mk 12,44). Her tiny and insignificant coin becomes an eloquent symbol: this widow gives to God not out of her abundance, not so much what she has, but what she is. Her entire self.

We find this moving passage inserted in the description of the days that immediately precede Jesus’ passion and death, who, as Saint Paul writes, made Himself poor to enrich us out of His poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8,9); He gave His entire self for us. Lent, also through the practice of almsgiving, inspires us to follow His example. In His school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift; imitating Him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving a part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarized perhaps in the one commandment of love? The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus becomes a means to deepen our Christian vocation. In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence. Love, then, gives almsgiving its value; it inspires various forms of giving, according to the possibilities and conditions of each person.


6. Dear brothers and sisters, Lent invites us to “train ourselves” spiritually, also through the practice of almsgiving, in order to grow in charity and recognize in the poor Christ Himself. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Apostle Peter said to the cripple who was begging alms at the Temple gate: “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk” (Acts 3,6). In giving alms, we offer something material, a sign of the greater gift that we can impart to others through the announcement and witness of Christ, in whose name is found true life. Let this time, then, be marked by a personal and community effort of attachment to Christ in order that we may be witnesses of His love. May Mary, Mother and faithful Servant of the Lord, help believers to enter the “spiritual battle” of Lent, armed with prayer, fasting and the practice of almsgiving, so as to arrive at the celebration of the Easter Feasts, renewed in spirit. With these wishes, I willingly impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 30 October 2007




Archbishop Christodoulos Dies

From Reuters:

The head of Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, who mended ties with the Vatican but clashed with the Greek state, died of cancer on Monday at the age of 69.A staunch defender of the role of the church in Greece, he died at his home in Athens, only months after plans for a liver transplant in the United States were cancelled.

“He was an enlightened church leader whose work brought the church closer to society, closer to modern problems and to young people,” Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement.

Flags flew at half-mast on the Athens Acropolis and across the city as bells tolled. Condolences poured in as crowds of black-clad mourners gathered at the Metropolitan Cathedral where his funeral will be held after a three-day wake.

Pope:Face of Christ Obscurred by Disunity of Christians

From today’s General Audience via Vatican Information Services:

“It is thanks to this spiritual ecumenism, founded on prayer and sincere conversion, … that the joint search for unity has undergone considerable development over the last few decades, diversifying into many different initiatives: from mutual knowledge to fraternal contact between members of different Churches and ecclesial communities, from ever more friendly dialogue to collaboration in various fields, from theological dialogue to the search for tangible forms of communion”.

  Vatican Council II “also highlighted prayer in common”, said Pope Benedict, “because in joint prayer Christian communities come together before the Lord and, aware of the contradictions caused by their divisions, manifest their desire to obey His will”. … Joint prayer is not, then a form of volunteer work or sociology, but an expression of the faith that unites all Christ’s disciples”.

  “It is the awareness of our human limitations that encourages us to abandon ourselves faithfully in the hands of the Lord. … The profound significance of the Week of Prayer lies precisely in the fact that it is firmly founded on the prayer of Christ … ‘that they may all be one, … so that the world may believe'”.

  “So that the world may believe!” the Pope concluded. “We particularly feel the realism of those words today. The world is suffering from the absence of God, … it wishes to know the face of God. But how can men and women today know the face of God in the face of Christ if we Christians are divided? Only in unity can we truly show the face of God, the face of Christ, to a world which has such need to see it”.

A Very Good Priest

Gives of himself, so that another might live. From the Florida Catholic:

Father Cioffi invited Chavez to attend a retreat at the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Ga., in thanksgiving for her total recovery from the pneumonia. She accepted, even though she was still in a wheelchair.

“I remember that it was the feast of St. Benedict and we had just finished doing a Holy Hour,” Chavez said, recalling the moment when she discovered what her former pastor had in mind. “As we were leaving the Blessed Sacrament, Father (Cioffi) received a call on his cell phone.

“He then told me to sit down because he had something to tell me. ‘That phone call was from the transplant center and we have a match,’ he said. I asked him what he was talking about and he explained that he had called the Jackson transplant center and sent in his blood. He then told me that he wanted to donate a kidney to me.

“I said, ‘Father, are you kidding? You are a scientist and a priest — how are you going to do this?’ He explained that, obviously, he didn’t have any family of his own to maintain and that he had already researched the matter on the Internet, reassuring me that everything was OK.”

Father Cioffi still had to pass additional checkups to ensure he was in good health and able to live on a single kidney. He emphasized these tests are done at no cost to the donor and do not compromise the donor’s health.

The transplant was completed in October 2007. Father Cioffi spent four days at the hospital, and Chavez spent six. He is now back in Philadelphia, carrying out his regular duties at the parish and at the Bioethics Center.

Chavez is also doing very well.

“The Lord has given me a lot,” she said. “Now, with my new kidney, I will be driving soon and resuming my normal life again. In gratitude, I recently accepted a call from my pastor to be the pro-life rep for my parish.”

“It is such a joy to see her alive and well, and disconnected from the dialysis machine,” Father Cioffi said. “It has been a very fulfilling and beautiful experience. To be able to give someone else life in exchange for a few days of discomfort gives one pure joy.”

Death Be Not Proud: Roe at 35

From the Birmingham News:

The most important number to remember this day is not 35, as in years, but somewhere in the tens of millions, as in babies. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to 40 million babies have been aborted since 1973. The pro-abortion-rights Guttmacher Institute in New York puts the figure closer to 50 million.

Either way, the number is staggering, and stark. It’s the population of the entire state of Alabama – times 10.

And what would have become of these lives? And what have we lost by their absence?

One of the great mysteries of life is the interconnectedness of our humanity, the miracle of one person touching another and somehow touching the whole world. Maybe one of these babies even had the answer for healing the terrible chasm that Roe vs. Wade opened up in our country.

Monsignor Joseph Champlin, RIP

I met him only once, but through his countless pastoral books feel like I knew him well.

 From News 10:

A retired Catholic priest well-known for his writing and work within the Syracuse Diocese has passed away.

Monsignor Joseph Champlin, 77, died Thursday evening at University Hospital after a long battle with a rare cancer.

Father Champlin received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2006 for helping raise nearly $2 million for the Cathedral School in Syracuse…

…The calling hours will be Tuesday, January 22 from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.. A vigil mass will follow the calling hours.

The funeral will be Wednesday, January 23 at 10:30 a.m. All are in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.


Pope Names Two Top Tasks That Face the Church

Evangelization and ecumenism.

 From Zenit:

“The great tasks facing the ecclesial community in the modern world — and among the many I particularly stress evangelization and ecumenism — are centered on the Word of God and, at the same time, draw therefrom their justification and support.

“Just as the Church’s missionary activity […] finds its inspiration and its goal in the Lord’s merciful revelation, so ecumenical dialogue cannot base itself on the words of human wisdom or on skilful strategies, but must be animated exclusively by constant reference to the original Word, which God consigned to his Church to be read, interpreted and lived in communion.”

Benedict XVI said that in this context, “St. Paul’s doctrine reveals a particular strength.” The apostle’s doctrine is, the Holy Father explained, “clearly founded on divine revelation but also on his own apostolic experience which, ever and anew, made it clear to him that not human wisdom and eloquence but only the force of the Holy Spirit builds the Church in faith.”

Feast of Saint Meinrad, Hermit and Martyr

The story for those who are unfamiliar with Saint Meinrad:

Early in the ninth century, a saintly, quiet-loving young Benedictine monk named Meinrad, while passing through the city of Zurich on his way to become a teacher at the small monastery of Bollingen, was deeply thrilled when the Abbess-Princess Hildegarde gave him a lovely three-foot wooden statue of the Mother of God holding the Child Jesus in her arms.

Very often during his several years at Bollingen, young Father Meinrad used to gaze out of the window of his cell with ever-increasing longing at a forest-clad mountain on the other side of the lake, for he wished more than anything else to become a hermit and to live a life of prayer, penance and meditation all alone in those woods, like the great hermit-saints of old. Having at last obtained his superiors’ permission, one day in the year 828 he took up in his arms his cherished statue of Mary and set out in a wide flat-bottomed boat to cross the lake and become a hermit in the Dark Wood on the slopes of Mount Etzel.

Soon after settling in a solitary retreat he found a nest with two young ravens, which he gladly adopted and tamed, perhaps because the Child Jesus of his statue held a small bird in one hand. Meinrad spent seven years on this mountain, and he was a happy young hermit except for one thing: more and more pilgrims were coming to visit him, attracted by his growing reputation as a saint.

Therefore he fled from his tiny cell, taking his statue and his two friends, the ravens, with him. He went still farther into the depths of the Dark Wood until one day he found, in the midst of the lofty pine trees on a small table-land surrounded by hills on three sides, a bubbling spring giving forth sparkling, fresh mountain water. Here he built himself a little log hut and a chapel, in which he reverently placed Our Lady’s statue. His faithful ravens often perched on either side of a crucifix on the gable and watched the holy hermit as he worked and prayed. He was completely happy in this solitude.

But one day a woodcutter discovered Meinrad’s retreat, and soon pilgrims were again flocking to receive his blessing and advice. Once some of his Brothers in religion came to visit him, and during the night one of them saw and heard Meinrad reciting his Office with a beautiful seven-year-old boy all dressed in white, who approached the astonished monk and secretly foretold many events which later occurred.

After more than twenty years of prayer and penance, while he was saying Mass in his little chapel on the morning of January 21, 861, the Feast of the Martyr St. Agnes, Meinrad learned by a divine revelation that this was to be his last Mass. With perfect resignation to the will of God, he devoutly received Holy Communion as if it were Holy Viaticum. Then with tears of love in his eyes, the old hermit looked up at his beautiful statue of Mary and begged Our Lady to strengthen him, asking her to offer to her Son the death which he was about to suffer for His glory.

During all the years which Meinrad had spent alone in the Dark Wood, he had never been harmed by the mountain bears or wolves or other wild animals who dwelt there. Now, however, two human beasts of prey, two hardened criminals, hearing that people made pilgrimages to the hermit, were tempted by the idea that he must have precious gifts and rich treasure hidden away in his lonely hermitage. And so this cold winter night they made their way through the deep snow to his retreat in the forest.

Meinrad was just finishing his Mass as they approached, and he now heard the shrill screams of warning of his faithful ravens. With a smile of heavenly joy on his lips, he went out and welcomed the two men with loving kindness and hospitality, setting before them some bread and wine. When they roughly demanded that he show them his hidden treasure he humbly led them into the little chapel, and pointing to the plain wooden statue above the altar, he said, “I have no other treasure.”

Then with a last loving look at Mary, he folded his hands on his chest, bowed his head, and added calmly, “That for which you have come, do…”

In a mad rage the two robbers seized and brutally beat the saintly old hermit to death with a heavy club, while his two ravens flew wildly about, screaming and trying in vain to help their good friend by pecking at the murderers’ foreheads.

Then the criminals dragged the Saint’s body to his couch of dry leaves in his hut and were about to begin their search for the supposedly hidden treasure when all of a sudden they noticed that a strange yet delicious odor pervaded the place. When they perceived that two candles standing by the hermit’s bed had somehow just been lighted without human hand, the two assassins fled in terror all the way to Zurich. But like the accusing finger of God, Meinrad’s two ravens persistently followed and attacked the murderers until they were arrested and had confessed the crime.

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

The Pope visits the Basilica of Saint Agnes and blesses an agnus “lamb”…for those who’ve been there, I was amazed at how small the skull of Saint Agnes is in the reliquary there.


The Goals of the Year of Saint Paul

From this morning’s news conference at the Vatican, (my loose translation):

The Pauline Year will therefore, particularly for Catholics, be an invitation:

A) to rediscover the great figure of the apostle Paul, his tireless and varied activities, his many travels, particularly recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, written by St. Luke;

B) to reread and study his numerous letters addressed to the first Christian communities;

C) to relive the early days of our Church;

D) to deepen his rich teaching addressed to all and meditate on his strong spirituality of faith, hope and charity;

E) to make a pilgrimage on his tomb, and in many places he visited, where he founded the first ecclesial communities;

F) to revitalize our faith and our role in the Church today, in light of his teachings;

G) and finally to pray and work for the unity of all Christians in a church that is united, and that it is true “Mystical Body of Christ.”

Pope to Release Document on Saint Paul

According to my rough translation of the news conference held at the Vatican this morning:

The Holy Father will issue shortly a document of the call St. Paul, setting the goals and spiritual benefits for the faithful.

Huge Crowds Show up to Support the Pope


Adolfo Nicolas Elected the Jesuits’ “black pope”,

From Reuters

Nicolas, 71, has run Jesuit operations in east Asia and Oceania since 2004 and spent most of his career in the Far East after being ordained in Tokyo in 1967…

…Jesuit superior generals are known as “black popes” because, like the pontiff, they wield worldwide influence and usually keep their position for life — and because their simple cassock is black, in contrast to the pope who dresses in white.

Pope: “One Cannot Contemplate Mary without being attracted by Christ”

From his message for the sick:

 One cannot contemplate Mary without being attracted by Christ and one cannot look at Christ without immediately perceiving the presence of Mary. There is an indissoluble link between the Mother and the Son, generated in her womb by work of the Holy Spirit, and this link we perceive, in a mysterious way, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as the Fathers of the Church and theologians pointed out from the early centuries onwards. ‘The flesh born of Mary, coming from the Holy Spirit, is bread descended from heaven’, observed St. Hilary of Poitiers. In the Bergomensium Sacramentary of the ninth century we read: ‘Her womb made flower a fruit, a bread that has filled us with an angelic gift. Mary restored to salvation what Eve had destroyed by her sin’. And St. Pier Damiani observed: ‘That body that the most blessed Virgin generated, nourished in her womb with maternal care, that body I say, without doubt and no other, we now receive from the sacred altar, and we drink its blood as a sacrament of our redemption. This is what the Catholic faith believes, this the holy Church faithfully teaches’. The link of the Holy Virgin with the Son, the sacrificed Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, is extended to the Church, the mystic Body of Christ. Mary, observes the Servant of God John Paul II, is a ‘woman of the Eucharist’ in her whole life, as a result of which the Church, seeing Mary as her model, ‘is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery’ (Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 53). In this perspective one understands even further why in Lourdes the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary is joined to a strong and constant reference to the Eucharist with daily Celebrations of the Eucharist, with adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament, and with the blessing of the sick, which constitutes one of the strongest moments of the visit of pilgrims to the grotto of Massabielles.

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