Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coming Soon: The Benedict Report

A quarter-century since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's watershed Report on the state of the church twenty years after the close of Vatican II, this morning the Holy See announced that B16's first book-length interview since becoming Pope will appear before year's end.

In a Roman Noon statement, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, relayed that the pontiff sat for a full week of on-record conversations last month with Peter Seewald -- the German journalist whose prior no-holds-barred sessions with the then-CDF prefect were released in 1996 under the title Salt of the Earth, with a 2002 sequel, God and the World.

An atheist on his first encounters with Ratzinger, Seewald has credited Benedict with his conversion. Prior to the latest Seewald chats, the lone interview B16 has conducted since his 2005 election was an hourlong 2006 sitdown at Castel Gandolfo with four German reporters in advance of his homecoming trip to Bavaria... that said, one can't leave out the numerous question-and-answer sessions with groups of clerics, children and students which have become one of the German Pope's most preferred outlets for floating ideas and reaching beyond the bubble of the Papal Apartment.

Of course, the latest interview comes at a crucial moment in Benedict's five-year reign, following this year's European deluge of revelations of clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups perpetrated by church officials, with attempts being made to lay the scandals' trail at the Pope's doorstep. While no indicators of the sessions' content have yet emerged, amid the fallout of a crisis where, it could be said, the only voice missing was his, the backdrop's emergence in the conversations, even tangentially, would appear to be conspicuous by its absence.

On a related note, the third Seewald chat won't be the only new Ratzinger release hitting the shelves over the coming months: the Pope's second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth series is tipped for a Lenten release, most likely in March.

While 2007's first edition of the historical chronicle (Benedict's response to the Da Vinci Code craze) was released in English by Doubleday, the coming book is seeing a papal return to friendly confines -- Jesus II will be published by Ignatius Press, the San Francisco-based house that shepherded the pontiff's pre-papal works into the Anglophone world.

SVILUPPO: According to a German report picked up by the National Catholic Register's Edward Pentin, the book has the working title Das Licht Der Welt -- "The Light of the World."



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

Today there is so much suffering - and I feel that the passion of Christ is being relived all over again - are we there to share that passion, to share that suffering of people?

Around the world, not only in the poor countries, but I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society - that poverty is so hurtable and so much, and I find that very difficult....

You must come to know the poor, maybe our people here have material things, everything, but I think that if we all look into our own homes, how difficult we find it sometimes to smile at each, other, and that the smile is the beginning of love. And so let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love, and once we begin to love each other naturally we want to do something....

This is something that you and I - it is a gift of God to us to be able to share our love with others. And let it be as it was for Jesus. Let us love one another as he loved us. Let us love Him with undivided love. And the joy of loving Him and each other - let us give now... Let us keep that joy of loving Jesus in our hearts. And share that joy with all that we come in touch with. And that radiating joy is real, for we have no reason not to be happy because we have Christ with us. Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor that we meet, Christ in the smile that we give and the smile that we receive. Let us make that one point: That no child will be unwanted, and also that we meet each other always with a smile, especially when it is difficult to smile.
--Mother Teresa, MC
Lecture for the Nobel Peace Prize
Oslo, Norway
11 December 1979

Beginning with a Mass at this hour in Calcutta, and from there across the globe, tonight sees the start of a yearlong centenary celebration marking the life of Blessed Teresa -- Mother Teresa -- born a hundred years ago tomorrow.

While just this first day's worldwide roster of liturgies includes high-profile rites everywhere from Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu's native Albania to New York and beyond, the principal Stateside celebration of the milestone comes instead on Bl Teresa's 5th September feast at Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with an afternoon Mass, followed by the formal presentation and first-issue of a US Postal Service first-class stamp (which is already available for pre-order).

The feast-day novena to the "Saint of the Gutters" coincidentally begins today... and lest anyone else's up to join in, here are the prayers; and here, her liturgical "collect" (opening prayer) -- which, given the restriction of the beatified to a "local" cult -- technically isn't supposed to be used outside India and the Missionaries of Charity... but still:
O God,
who called blessed Teresa, virgin

to respond to the love of your Son thirsting on the cross
with outstanding charity to the poorest of the poor,
grant us, we beseech you, by her intercession,
to minister to Christ in his suffering brothers.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Into Your Hands, Father of Mercies..."

Apologies for the radio silence, gang... hiatus might be winding down, but spending today on the road to see a cherished friend and boyhood mentor -- indeed, one of the finest priests this scribe's ever been blessed to know -- to his final rest.

For the little family of us that’s grown out of these pages over the years, it’s been brutally common of late -- just since June, five of our number have been called home, three of ‘em suddenly... and despite being sagely warned as a kid that “you’ll see many funerals,” having this many within such a short space has been a tough blow to take. (I’ve been writing a memorial post for some time now in fits and starts... and over and over again, just when the words finally shake out right, word comes that another one’s gone.)

For these, any other loved ones and friends lost among this gang of us lately, and all those who mourn, church, your prayers, please. Above all, though, just wanted to say to this readership -- especially the many of you who’ve kept in touch through the years and, ergo, have made your narrator so blessed and lucky to call you my friends and fellow-travelers -- how much, how big, your place is in this heart, and how no words can sufficiently capture my thanks for the gift and blessing you are on this ride. Being terrible at multitasking, let alone omnipresence (something many of you know, perhaps too well), sometimes that sense might seem lost in the shuffle... where it counts, though, just know it's anything but.

God love you lot forever... and thanks a million, Doc -- rest well with the angels.


Friday, August 20, 2010

In the Capital, Olympus "Monz"

And now, a U-turn back up the Turnpike....

Of course, Wednesday saw the installation (fullvid) of Bishop Joe McFadden -- beloved ballcoach and teacher, friend to the masses and all-around "people's prelate" -- in Harrisburg... and lest anyone doubted the impact of the loss on the hometown crowd, several members of the over 200-strong River City cortege were spotted weeping at one or another point during the two-day festivities.

In the run-up to the capital rites, one plank of the 63 year-old prelate's intro message that resounded loud and clear was McFadden's observation that, though he might've formally traded the court for the collar 35 years ago (after an undefeated season at West Catholic), in a way, he "never stopped coaching." And sure enough, as the various parts of the Last Krolite's considerable orbit converged, asking each other how they got to know "Joey Bishop," one reply easily trumped the rest: "Big East Tournament."

That said, in his first turn as an ecclesial head coach, the Midstate church's new chief won plaudits for a solid opening "pep talk" (fulltext), so much so that another well-accomplished church-scout observed afterward that, in his hearing, "it may have been the greatest vocation talk, all time. Heroic is an understatement. Any young man considering a vocation to priesthood needs to see and hear that homily."

Given such fulsome praise, here's the preach in fullvid...

As ever, all thanks to our friends at CatholicTV for making the grab possible.

As it all made for an eventful time, more recap later. In the meantime, to one and all, here's to a blessed, restful and all-around Happy Weekend.

PHOTO: Paul Kuehnel/York Daily Record


Here Comes the Book: US Missal Implementation Set for Advent 2011

To the surprise of no one, the following announcement is fresh from the Mothership:
Cardinal Francis George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has announced that the full text of the English-language translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, has been issued for the dioceses of the United States of America.

The text was approved by the Vatican, and the approval was accompanied by a June 23 letter from Cardinal Llovera Antonio Cañizares, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The Congregation also provided guidelines for publication.

In addition, on July 24, the Vatican gave approval for several adaptations, including additional prayers for the Penitential Act at Mass and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises on Easter Sunday. Also approved are texts of prayers for feasts specific to the United States such as Thanksgiving, Independence Day and the observances of feasts for saints such as Damien of Molokai, Katharine Drexel, and Elizabeth Ann Seton. The Vatican also approved the Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life, which can be celebrated on January 22.

Cardinal George announced receipt of the documents in an August 20 letter to the U.S. Bishops and issued a decree of proclamation that states that “The use of the third edition of the Roman Missal enters into use in the dioceses of the United States of America as of the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011. From that date forward, no other edition of the Roman Missal may be used in the dioceses of the United States of America.”

The date of implementation was chosen to allow publishers time to prepare texts and parishes and dioceses to educate parishioners.

“We can now move forward and continue with our important catechetical efforts as we prepare the text for publication,” Cardinal George said.

In the coming weeks, staff of the bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship will prepare the text for publication and collaborate with the staff of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), which will assist Bishops’ Conferences in bringing the text to publication. In particular, ICEL has been preparing the chant settings of the texts of the Missal for use in the celebration of the Mass. Once all necessary elements have been incorporated into the text and the preliminary layout is complete, the final text will go to the publishers to produce the ritual text, catechetical resources and participation aids for use in the Liturgy.

Receipt of the text marks the start of proximate preparation for Roman Missal implementation. Before first use of the new text in Advent 2011, pastors are urged to use resources available to prepare parishioners. Some already have been in use; others are being released now. They include the Parish Guide for the Implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, and Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ, a multi-media DVD resource produced by ICEL in collaboration with English-language Conferences of Bishops. Both will be available from the USCCB. Information on resources can be found at www.usccb.org/romanmissal

Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, Chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, voiced gratitude for the approval.

“I am happy that after years of preparation, we now have a text that, when introduced late next year, will enable the ongoing renewal of the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy in our parishes,” he said. Msgr. Anthony Sherman, Director of the Secretariat for Divine Worship of the USCCB noted, “A great effort to produce the new Roman Missal for the United States, along with the other necessary resources, has begun. Even as that work is underway a full–scale catechesis about the Liturgy and the new Roman Missal should be taking place in parishes, so that when the time comes, everyone will be ready.”

Hatman Begins

Having been farewelled at a large Assumption Day Mass in Quebec, next week sees Cardinal Marc Ouellet depart Canada's Premier See for Rome and his place in the Vatican's "Big Three" as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

The first Canadian ever tapped to head a Roman Congregation, and the first North American to be given the keys to the all-powerful "Bishops' Shop," the incoming Kingmaker and chief overseer of the global church's 5,000-odd prelates marked the transition with one of his favored pasttimes -- a round of interviews -- along the way shedding some light on the qualities he'll be seeking in recommending candidates for the high-hat to B16 at their weekly Saturday sit-downs.

First, to Canadian Catholic News' Deborah Gyapong:
In his new duties helping the Pope choose bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet will be looking for bold “men of faith” who have “the guts to help people live it out.”

A bishop has to lead the community, so he needs a deep supernatural vision as well as the capacity to assess the political, cultural, and sociological context, said the new Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops in an interview. Above all, a bishop must be “audacious in proposing the Word and in believing in the Power of the Word and the power of the Spirit.”

“We have to dare to speak to the deep heart, where the Spirit of the Lord is touching people beyond what we can calculate,” said Ouellet. “We need spiritual discernment and not just political calculation of the risk of the possibility of the message being received.”...

Ouellet also stressed the importance of solidarity among bishops....

The need for unity and solidarity goes far beyond any political statements, he said, but involves a personal commitment that rises beyond a dogmatic faith to an “existential faith that means spiritual discernment of the presence of God and of God’s will.”

We are in a world where the Christian heritage being strongly contested, so we have to recognize that and propose it better, though not through an attempt to restore the past, he said.

“We have to tell people about the Crucified and Risen Lord, who is shaping the Church today, with people faithful to His Word, to His Divine Presence and to the community he wants to see living of His Spirit.”

A bishop must always take a personal approach, he said. Bishops not only must state dogmatic positions, they must believe in them deeply, “then you have the power of conviction.”

“If you state it only formally and in the end you do not really want to see it applied because you don’t believe that it is possible that people accept it, you are in trouble for the transmission of the message,” he said.

Bishops must also be close to people, he said. Being spiritual does not mean keeping a distance.

“The Lord has given us his own heart to be a presence of His heart in the midst of the people,” the cardinal said. “So we have to be aware of that and cultivate what we call holiness, unity with Him, daily unity, in a way that is very human and very spiritual.”

He advocated an ascetical attitude in prayer to maintain purity of heart. “The love of the people is fulfilling the life of the priest.”...

Ouellet called for openness to new movements in the Church, and expressed hopes those already in Quebec, such as Famille Marie-Jeunesse, Catholic Christian Outreach, and the Eucharistic movement around the Youth Summit/Montee Jeunesse will “multiply.”

“I believe deeply there will be a new evangelization,” he said.

The Cardinal also called for a new intellectual dynamism, especially a reform of education to “recapture the spirit of Christianity and “create a new Christian culture.”

“We need intellectuals for that, theologians, philosophers, Christians who really believe in the Gospel and share the doctrine of the Church on moral questions,” he said.

“We have suffered from this mentality of dissent” that is “still dominating the intelligentsia.”

“There is no real discipleship there, real discipleship,” he said. “The discipleship that is emerging is from those who believe and who really love the Church.”
As Ouellet succeeds the quintessential Vatican operative who's kept the trains running on time, perhaps the best nutshell assessment of his desired skill-set is that he'll be seeking out "movers, not managers."

That said, it's intriguing to note that the Quebecois' ascent to the Congregation was decided at the same point in mid-June when the pontiff himself delivered a particularly pointed passage to a group of Brazilian bishops... and, by extension, the global episcopate:
"The task of sanctifying that you have received obliges you in addition to be promoters and animators of prayer in the human city, often chaotic, noisy and forgetful of God: you must create places and opportunities for prayer where in silence, in listening to God, in personal and community prayer, the person can encounter and have a living experience of Jesus Christ who reveals the authentic Face of the Father. Parishes and shrines, areas of education and suffering and families must become places of communion with the Lord.

Lastly, as guides of the Christian people, you must encourage the participation of all the faithful in building the Church, in governing with the heart of a humble servant and an affectionate Pastor, aspiring to the glory of God and the salvation of souls. By virtue of the task of governance the Bishop is also called to judge and discipline the life of the People of God entrusted to his pastoral care through laws, directives and suggestions, as the universal discipline of the Church prescribes. This right and duty is very important if the diocesan community is to remain inwardly united and to walk in sincere communion of faith, love and discipline with the Bishop of Rome and with the whole Church. Therefore do not tire of nourishing the faithful with the sense of belonging to the Church and the joy of fraternal communion.

However, the Bishop's governance will be pastorally effective only if "it rests on a moral authority bestowed by his life of holiness. This is what will dispose hearts to accept the Gospel that the Bishop proclaims in his Church, as well as the rules which he lays down for the good of the People of God" (ibid., n. 43). Consequently, moulded from within by the Holy Spirit, may each one of you become "all things to all men" (cf. 1 Cor 9: 22), proposing the truth of the faith, celebrating the sacraments of our sanctification and witnessing to the Lord's charity. Accept with an open heart all who knock at your door: advise them, comfort them and support them on God's path, seeking to guide them all toward that unity of faith and love of which, by the Lord's will, you must be the principal and visible foundation in your dioceses."
Meanwhile, Ouellet talked The Scandals and his new responsibilities with the National Post's Charlie Lewis...
“I think there was a certain culture of secrecy along with an ignorance of the psychological consequences of sexual abuse in parts of the Church in which people were displaced instead of really taking the problem very seriously,” he said in an interview from Quebec City yesterday. “[For those who committed abuse] there was no coherence between their lives and pastoral service.”...

“My role is to help the Holy Father to provide the best pastoral leadership for the Church. And that’s the big challenge ahead of me, especially in the context of what has gone on. We need people who can teach with eloquence and compassion the moral implications of the Gospel.”...

Like Pope Benedict, Cardinal Ouellet believes that many Catholics interpreted the teachings of Vatican II as far too liberal and by doing so disconnected from the core of their faith.

Unfortunately, he said, it led to priests abandoning celibacy, a drop in proper religious education and a general infusion of leftist politics — all of which was not the intention of the council.

“After the council, the sense of mission was replaced by the idea of dialogue. That we should dialogue with other faiths and not attempt to bring them the Gospels, to convert. Since then, relativism has been developing more broadly.”
...and Commonweal contributes a notable assessment:
One of the defining features of Ouellet’s style is his habit for generating controversies. In May of this year, for instance, while supporting the federal government’s international maternal health-care initiative—a project that will not fund abortions in developing countries—the cardinal lamented that abortion was a “moral crime.” The media understood his words to be rallying call for the recriminalization of abortion, even though he neither said nor implied as much. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion law in 1988 and nothing has replaced it. No Prime Minister—from the Catholics Jean Chretien and Paul Martin to the Evangelical Stephen Harper—dared to reintroduce legislation, leaving Canada as one of the few nations with no abortion law.

The cardinal’s comments were neither incendiary nor surprising. But, unlike his brother bishops who understand the difficulties of the terrain, move gingerly through the minefields, and try to rebuild credibility as religious leaders in a secularizng world, Ouellet plunges in where even angels fear to tread.

The extreme reactions he elicits have become a defining feature of his leadership. A recent poll has shown that 94 percent of Quebeckers oppose Ouellet’s position on abortion. His episcopal colleagues are aware of the polls. They understand that an effective strategy for consciousness-raising requires rebuilding the church’s credibility in a province that has—in a generation—moved from being as Catholic as preconciliar Ireland to being as secular as France.

Yet, Cardinal Ouellet, in spite of his capacity for stirring resistance, is approachable, personable, and a man of deep faith. I spent time with him a couple of years ago when he came to the parish of St. Francis de Sales in New Brunswick. He was presiding at an anniversary Mass of uncommon liturgical beauty. The choir sung superbly. There were liturgical dancers—and even altar girls. It was an elegant rite defined by a deep festive spirit. Ouellet was clearly in his element, delivered a homily in eloquent French, and effortlessly mingled with parishioners. If he brings those pastoral and spiritual sensibilities to bear in his new role as “bishop-maker,” Catholics worldwide will benefit. Yes, candidates he recommends will be ecclesiologically conservative, but, one hopes, neither doctrinaire nor unapproachable. In other words, like the man who helped to choose them, Ouellet’s bishops will be real pastors.
While some of his provincial confreres have seen fit to critique the new Prefect on his passage, it bears repeating that a majority of Quebec's 19 dioceses will open over the next two years as its occupants reach the retirement age of 75.

Leading that list is the 1.6 million-member Montreal church, where Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte hits the milestone next June. Meanwhile, alongside the choice of his own successor at the helm of Quebec City's million-member fold, likewise already on the docket is a new head of Anglophone Canada's third-largest see: Ontario's 560,000-strong Hamilton diocese, where Bishop Anthony Tonnos turned 75 earlier this month (...and whose auxiliary, according to one local report, "would welcome being considered" for the chair).


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Days Aren't Coming -- They're Already Here

Given the tenor of outra -- er, reaction -- to no shortage of things these days, if you heard a church official say "At about 60,000 to 70,000, we stopped counting," you'd easily be forgiven for thinking the figure an estimate of defections... and lowballed, at that.

In at least one instance, though, think again.

It never gets anywhere near the coverage it merits, but the Stateside church's largest annual pilgrimage took flight again earlier this month as, for yet another August weekend, the 33rd Marian Days (above) lived up to its legend as roughly 80,000 Vietnamese-American Catholics swelled Carthage, Missouri (usual pop. 15,000) for the latest edition of the festival started in 1978 by a recently-migrated religious community which, having received a former seminary in the Heartland as its new home-base, sought to give thanks for the freedom it found on these shores.

For the better part of five days, young and old alike sleeping in tents throughout, the Days see the US church's widely-dispersed, intensely-devoted Vietnamese diaspora gather from all points for a long weekend marked by everything from reunions to food-fairs to concerts... and, above all, the rites of faith.

Put best, here's a clip from the campout's climactic closing Mass (wait 'til the camera pans around):

…and procession…

…and even breakdancing:

Beyond the staggering turnout -- the crowd was larger than the memberships of a good quarter of American Catholicism's 197 dioceses -- the backdrop to this year's Days was even more rich than usual: back in the motherland, after years of tension between the Vietnamese church and the country's Communist regime, relations have taken some notable turns over recent months with the resignation (widely thought under pressure) of Hanoi's outspoken archbishop and his replacement with an older prelate perceived as less critical of the government, then a bilateral accord reached in late June that'll soon see the appointment of a special Vatican representative, all of it topped by the Holy See's subsequent announce that B16 has chosen religious freedom as the focus for the church's 2012 World Day of Peace, observed each New Year's Day.

Closer to home, while Marian Days invariably underscore, on the broad scale, the changing face of the US church to an epochal degree last seen nearly two centuries ago, they especially highlight a key thread of the shift: that the national fold's rising leadership will be disproportionately Asian.

Led by Filipino, Vietnamese and Korean contingents, though the bloc comprises just four percent of the country's 68 million-member fold, on average, over a tenth of these shores' priestly ordination classes are of Asian roots. Add in that, with non-Anglos already comprising a majority of American Catholics under 25, recognizing cultural diversity in the church is one of the five national superpriorities agreed upon by the US bishops for the mid-range future, and you're probably thinking this has all the makings of a "must" event for real-time, wall-to-wall coverage in the Catholic press....

And if you're thinking that, per usual, you'd be beyond disappointed.

Regardless, in a time when the four marks of this church far too often appear -- and are communicated -- to be some combination of politics, protest, scandal and all-around bloodsport, the fact that some 70,000-plus of the faithful spent a scorching, rain-soaked weekend engaged in none of the above (and, if anything, quite the opposite) might just be these days' most extraordinary thing going.

On a context note, while the Days dominate the summer scene, the southwest Missouri festival still pales in comparison to the national fold's biggest family reunion of all: the 36-hour blowout at a suburban Chicago chapel on the 12 December feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe which, last time around, drew somewhere around 200,000, closing roads for miles... and all on a frigid midwinter night, to boot.

In the meantime, as the summer begins to wind down, it's worth recalling that -- press coverage or lack thereof -- recent months have yielded an epic moment for the ongoing sea-change of American Catholicism... a shift which, as never before, has made it all the way to the top:

It might be quiet for now... but, church, whatta year.



Monday, August 16, 2010

Of Saints and Kings

To everyone who took the time to send glad tidings on your narrator's onomastico, a ton of thanks... especially as, admittedly, it would've gone completely forgotten otherwise.

See, St Rocco's Day tends to get short shrift 'round here -- for starters, defying the venerable Italian tradition, there's no pastry affiliated with the memorial... not to mention that it doesn't even make the liturgical calendar anymore.

Above all, though, the commemoration of a (likely apocryphal) figure of the 14th century is roundly overshadowed behind the scenes by one of the house's principal feasts of the year, a solemnity of modern legend: the Dormition... of Dad's Patron.

Sure, this scribe's got a statue of St Roch (with dog) stashed proudly on a bookshelf. But having grown up under the watchful eye of a velvet Elvis in the basement, with a living-room phone that rings to showcase a gyrating, "Hound Dog"-singing Presley, and even a "Blue Christmas"-belting decoration (or, admittedly, several), it'd be even more remiss of this superfan's son to let slip that this Monday marks the 33rd anniversary of the King's death.

No doubt, some will gripe at the mention, but from the ritual movie-marathons on basic cable to the tens of thousands who flocked to Memphis for the latest edition of "Elvis Week," even for many of our own, this day is a signpost of the culture in which we live... and lest anyone forgot that, at its best, this church is without peer at integrating the rituals of its times, places and people (Saturnalia, anyone?), yesterday yet again saw the traditional 4pm Mass at Memphis' St Paul's Church -- Graceland's parish -- offered, as ever, for Elvis' happy repose.

Timed to allow the faithful to make the evening's candlelight vigil at the Mansion, the liturgy's prelude of "recorded music" -- which, er, wasn't chant -- began 45 minutes early... and if two decades of precedent held up, few, if any, Assumption Day Masses found themselves as teeming with God's people.

All that said, while it's become an annual rite on these pages (partly so the firstborn doesn't get kicked to the curb), these days make for an even more poignant time to send up one of the King's more soulful classics; early tomorrow, the River City horde begins a rare pilgrimage over Pharaohdom's Western Wall, to see the fold's most beloved and trusted shepherd -- and, with him, the John Krol legacy -- to his new home.

Ergo, just as it was the final hymn at last week's farewell -- and, indeed, just as Bishop Joe McFadden told the hometown crowd he'd forever remain "a Philadelphia priest" in his heart -- especially on another August 16th, there's no more fitting kickoff for a bittersweet handover than this town's time-honored closer of choice:

What's more, with the Golden One's presence sure to loom from beyond over Wednesday's capital welcome, bonus points for whoever remembers to intone that other Krol favorite during the reception.

Its Statehouse Dome inspired by St Peter's, more from "The Kremlin" as it unfolds.

PHOTOS: Getty(2)


Monday, August 09, 2010

Quote of the Day

Dear brothers and sisters,

This Sunday's Gospel passage continues the words of Jesus to the disciples on the value of the person in the eyes of God, and the uselessness of earthly preoccupations. It is not a praise of disconnection. Rather, hearing the reassuring call of Jesus, 'Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom' (Lk 12.32), our hearts open to a hope that illumines and animates concrete existence: we have the certainty that 'the Gospel is not only a communication of things that can be known, but a communication that produces deeds and changes lives. The dark door of time, of the future, is thrown open. Whoever has hope lives differently; he is given a new life' (Spe Salvi, 2). As we read in the section of the Letter to the Hebrews of today's liturgy, Abraham presented himself with a trusting heart in the hope God opened to him: the promise of a land and 'numerous descendants' and leaving 'without knowing where he was to go,' trusting only in God (Heb 11:8-12). And Jesus in today's Gospel -- across three parables -- is illustrated as awaiting the completion of the 'blessed hope,' his coming, in urging us toward an intense life, rich in good works: 'Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy' (Lk 12:33). It is an invitation to use things without selfishness, without thirsting for possession or dominion, but according to the logic of God, the logic of concern for the other, the logic of love: as Romano Guardini summarized it, 'in the form of a relationship: starting from God, in the view of God'....

Today’s Gospel reminds us that by God’s goodness much has been given to us, and much will be required of us. During these quiet days of summer let us thank the Lord for the many blessings we have received and draw ever closer to him in prayer, in fidelity to his commandment of love, and in communion with his Body, the Church!
Sunday Angelus
Castel Gandolfo
8 August 2010

And with that, Happy Monday, gang -- how's things?

As you've probably noticed of late, the long retreat's back on 'round here -- six years' worth of rest, prayer, stock-taking (and, for a change, something of a life) all crammed into six weeks. Especially for those of you who've been so kind to check in, though, just know that everything's fine... and, lest any of us have forgotten, remember well that the best use of these days is found anywhere but in the news.

See, journalism hasn't long held this time of year as the "silly season" for nothing, and the age of the 24-hour newscycle has only amplified the wisdom behind the thought. Right now, what matters most on this end is that, gratefully, God is faithful and Boss is holding her own; life's good, the beer's cold -- and, to be sure, despite a DL stretching for miles, the Phightins are all of a game and a half back. As long as you're hanging in there, too, everything else is back-burner beyond that.

Of course, with the specter of NFL preseason (brrrrr...) already upon us, the "quiet days" won't be the case for much longer -- as the beat goes, all of 38 Days remain til Papa Ratzi boards the Volo Papale for the UK and a four-day trip that, as chaos, content and controversy go, could well end up being this pontificate's most charged, consequential pilgrimage to date. And as that's merely the top line of a packed autumn cycle of already-set storylines (let alone whatever surprises may emerge), fret not -- we'll all have our fill again soon enough.

Yet again, the 10-Week Sprint begins once Labor Day's done, and to keep things from fritzing out in midstream, posting will remain light/as-needed until then. In the meanwhile, church, just take it easy -- be good to yourselves, and here's hoping these lazy, hazy days have been as graced and blessedly fruitful for you as they've been 'round these parts.

And lastly, especially in the midst of its peak season, it'd be sinfully remiss (and downright boring) for these pages to speak of "blessed hope" without a spin of this River City's most-beloved hometown hymn.

So, Harry, sing us out...

God love you lot forever... Go Phils... and of course, as always, stay tuned.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Big Red Gets Purple -- Detroit's Tobin Named #2 at "Religious"

Major news out of Rome this morning for the Stateside church, especially its religious men and women -- against the backdrop of the controversial Apostolic Visitation of the nation's communities of women, an American cleric has been named to the #2 post of the Vatican office overseeing the global church's million-strong professed members.

At Roman Noon, the Pope appointed Redemptorist Fr Joseph Tobin, 58, as Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL). With the move, the Detroit native and two-term head (1997-2009) of the community founded by St Alphonsus Liguori becomes an archbishop.

Tobin is the second US cleric to hold the post -- in 1969, Holy Cross Fr Edward Heston, an Ohio native, was named archbishop-secretary of the "Congregation for Religious," as it's still widely known. In the years since, the dicastery's last American in a superior-level post was then-Msgr Joseph Galante, who served as its #3 from 1987-92, when he was named an auxiliary bishop of San Antonio; a River City native, Galante currently heads South Jersey's 560,000-member diocese of Camden.

Professed in 1976 and ordained two years later, the archbishop-elect's early ministry was spent pastoring inner-city parishes in Detroit and Chicago. "Beyond fluent" in Spanish -- along with Italian, French, Portuguese and "dabbling" in several others -- the experience was said to have birthed a bond with the poor which, during his generalate, saw Tobin urge his 6,000 confreres to keep the care of the marginalized at the core of their work. Following his 1997 election in the footsteps of St Alphonsus, the new Secretary's regard among his colleagues was evidenced in Tobin's election as vice-president of the Union of Superiors General, the umbrella group for the heads of mens' communities, which brought him into close collaboration with the Curial Congregation he'll soon help lead.

A veteran of no less than five Synods of Bishops, after serving the maximum 12-year mandate at the helm of the Reds' Motherhouse on Via Merulana and handing over the community's reins at last year's General Chapter, in late May Tobin's enduring favor in Vatican circles was further underscored when he was named to oversee the professed mens' portion of the forthcoming Apostolic Visitation of the church in Ireland, which is reportedly slated to get underway come September.

Ultimately, though, the move is a clear commentary on the difficulties the Holy See has faced in carrying out another Visitation: the much-maligned investigation of the nation's 300-plus womens' institutes engaged in apostolic work in the world.

With the process now in the midst of site visits to selected communities and slated to wrap late next year, Tobin's appointment indicates a Vatican push for a smooth close to the years-long study by placing an American sensibility at the helm, all the more in the form of a choice well-known as "a pastor" who's earned high marks for working in a conciliatory, collegial style. In his new post, the archbishop-elect will serve as deputy to the womens' Visitation's chief advocate and overseer, Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé CM, who reached the retirement age of 75 last September.

Tobin becomes the second US religious named a major superior in the Curia within the last year; the other is Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia OP, the longtime #3 to Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger and William Levada at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who B16 tapped as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments last summer. As of this writing, plans for Tobin's ordination to the episcopacy remain to be determined -- normally, the archbishop-secretaries of the powerful nine congregations that oversee the church's internal life are raised to the episcopacy by their new boss at a rite in Rome.

Lastly, especially given its confluence with the Vatican's "dead season" of August, the timing is conspicuous on two accounts: first, yesterday was the feast of the Redemptorist founder. Second, this week sees the annual assembly of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men -- the American church's leadership caucus of male religious -- which is meeting this year in Long Beach.

Tobin is en route to the CMSM gathering, where he was already slated to speak. Likewise of keen significance, the assembly's keynote will be given by the nation's senior male religious -- the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate.

PHOTOS: L'Osservatore Romano(1); Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer(2)