Friday, March 30, 2007

Mass in the Clementine Chapel 2/12/2007

It has been more than a month since a priest friend of mine celebrated mass in the Clementine Chapel in St. Peter's Basilica, but his mother just sent me the pictures today. The Clementine Chapel is a chapel that was part of the original basilica and was renovated by Clement VIII. It is just behind the confessio and backs right up to the tomb of St. Peter. That means it is underneath where the Pope would stand at the main altar inside St. Peter's. Behind the altar in the picture you can see a marble slab through the grill. That marbel goes back to the Emperor Constantine when he decided to encase the tomb of St. Peter to protect it and make it ideal for visitors. The relics of St. Peter are stored on the right hand side of the tomb if one is looking at the tomb from this point of view.

Oh, and a silly franciscan friar was also there.

Here's a better view of the chapel without me or Fr. Jamie.

Beautiful huh? If you want to visit this chapel, you either have to arrive at St. Peter's at 7:00 in the morning and ask to attend mass (it might not be possible if a group has reserved the chapel and if it is full), or you can go on the Scavi Tour underneath St. Peter's, which will also allow you to see the where the relics of St. Peter are kept. The tour is only 10 Euro but one has to make reservations well in advance, at least a few months. It is well worth the effort.

A New Name 2

Continuing the reflection on not doing things for the glory of my own name...

Every Friday we read a section from the Rule of the Order of Friars Minor (written by St. Francis in 1223). Today we heard chapter one, which begins, "In the name of the Lord begins the Life of Friars Minor." That means that this life I look to live has to be in the name of Jesus, the name above all names, the only name given to man in which there is salvation. Jesus.

"In the name of the Lord..." (it almost reminded me of the opening of the Koran) but I couldn't help but think about what it would mean if I went around making sure that everything I do is in the name of the Lord, that is, if I were to realize that I live for someone else, as a messenger for someone else. That is a pretty big responsibility, and it means that everything I do would reflect back on the one in whose name I am supposed to be acting. It also reminded me of being an ambassador, for whom to is the normal course of a day's work to represent another, to do something in the name of another (in the case of an ambassador, in the name of the government whom he or she represents).

And yet, it is not only my life as a friar that is to be lived int he name of another. Every prayer I pray as a Christian begins "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." This also makes me an ambassador of the Holy Trinity (who has saved us!).

Each and every single one of us as baptized Christians are emissaries of the Holy Trinity. Not to mention that it is in this name that we are baptized and sent to proclaim the good news by living holy lives and using words to testify to the truth about God and His love for humankind when necessary. This means we are called to live lives that give glory to God's name.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A New Name

Last Saturday I heard a reflection on the Philippians hymn given by a friar about how it is God who gives Jesus his name, a name greater than any other name. This name has to do with Jesus not holding on to his prerogative and humiliating himself until death on a cross. Just by chance, the other day, we were talking about Abram in Genesis, and I it again: the mention of God being the one who gives a man a great name as he promised Abram, and we know he gets a new name, Abraham. Again, the promise of this new name came with an image of stripping oneself. In the case of Abram, he had to leave the land of his father and his kindred behind on a journey of radical trust in God.

This has made me think a lot about my own search for a name and how I go about it. I notice that I am the one who tries to present myself in such a way that others will hold me in good light and think well of me when they hear my name, and I get downtrodden when I think others, at the sound of my name, are disgusted or think ill of me.

And yet God promises to those who are faithful to him no matter the cost a new name. Revelation has two instances of this: "Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna; I shall also give a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it." (2:17) and "The victor I will make into a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never leave it again. On him I will inscribe the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, as well as my new name." (3:12)

Did I hear that right? Jesus offers us his new name? How so? Could it be that he shares with us his glory and his lordship since he draws us to himself?

And like Abram in Genesis, and Jesus in Philippians, the new name for the churches in Revelation is given after a process of tribulation or of stripping of oneself.

So, this leads me to want to stop searching for other people to recognize me and rather to wait in patience for what the Lord wants of me and to wait for Him not only to show me His will, but also to help me to strip myself so that I can be faithful to Him and also be worthy of a new name, given by the One whose opinion is the only one that should count.

Papal Pentitential Service for Youth of Rome

At 6:00 PM this evening in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI held a pentitential service for the youth of the Diocese of Rome in preparation for Holy Week and centered on the theme of the 22nd World Youth Day - to be held this Sunday, April 1st, 2007 - “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34).

Youth from all over Rome and various parts of Italy as well as religious, teachers and parents came together with over 120 confessors from the various pentientiaries of Rome, various cardinals and bishops, and the Holy Father for a liturgy of the word, a homily by His Holiness, an examination of conscience, individual confession and absolution, and hymns and readings to accompany the prayerful atmosphere and help the youth prepare for the sacrament of reconciliation.

Benedict's homily focused on the reading from John's Gospel and highlighted the need not only of the human person to be loved, but also on the need to love. He spoke of how in order for the human person to grow, he or she needs to encounter love, most of all, the love of God, which is not only agape or donational love, but also eros, a love that waits for a response from the beloved just as a young lover waits for the "yes" of the object of his affection. Likewise, he stressed the need of the person not to close in on his or herself, but to open up to the love of Christ, to say "yes."

The Pope also encouraged the youth to let love be expressed in their daily lives, be it their studies or work, be they called to marriage or to the consecrated life.

Benedict himself heard the confessions of six young people while the many priests from the Roman pentitentiaries heard the confessions of all who availed themselves of the sacrament.

Here's the press's take. They paid more attention to what the Pope actually said. :)


VATICAN CITY, MAR 30, 2007 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the Vatican Basilica, the Pope presided at a penitential celebration with thousands of young people from the diocese of Rome in preparation for the forthcoming World Youth Day. The Day is due to be held on Palm Sunday, April 1, on the theme: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."

"The heart of all mankind ... thirsts for love," said the Holy Father in his homily. "Christians, even more so, cannot live without love. Indeed, if they do not find true love they cannot even call themselves fully Christian because, ... '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.'

"God's love for us," he added, "which began with the creation, became visible in the mystery of the Cross. ... A crucified love that does not stop at the outrage of Good Friday but culminates in the joy of the Resurrection ... and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love by which, this evening too, sins will be remitted and forgiveness and peace granted."

This divine love "may be described with the term 'agape,' in other words 'the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other,' but also with the term 'eros'" because "it is also a love in which the heart of the Almighty awaits the 'yes' of His creatures." And "in the sacrifice of the Cross, God continues to present His love ... coming 'to beg' the love of His creatures."

"With Baptism you were born to new life by virtue of the grace of God. However, since this new life has not suppressed the weakness of human nature, ... you are given the opportunity to use the Sacrament of Confession. ... And thus you experience the forgiveness of sins; reconciliation with the Church; the recovery, if lost, of the state of grace; ... peace and serenity of conscience and the consolation of the spirit; and an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian struggle."

Christ "hopes we will allow ourselves to be attracted by His love and feel all its greatness and beauty, but this is not enough. Christ attracts us to Him in order to unite Himself to each one of us, so that, in our turn, we learn to love our brothers and sisters with His same love."

"As you leave this celebration, with your hearts full of the experience of God's love, be prepared 'to dare' to love in your families, in your dealings with your friends and even with those who have offended you. Be prepared to bear a truly Christian witness" in all environments.

Benedict XVI called upon newly-engaged couples to experience the period of their engagement "in the true love which always involves mutual, chaste and responsible respect. And should the Lord call some of you, dear young people of Rome, to a life of special consecration, be ready to answer with a generous and uncompromising 'yes'."

"Dear young people, the world awaits your contribution for the building of the 'civilization of love.' ... Do not become discouraged and always have faith in Christ and in the Church."

Following the liturgy the Pope put on a purple stole and entered the confessional to administer the Sacrament of Penance to six young people. Fifty-five priests joined him in administering the Sacrament to others present in the Vatican Basilica.
HML/PENANCE/... VIS 070330 (600)

The Genius of the Female Gender According to John Paul II

Here is the translation I did of an article that will appear in the April issue of "Tutus Tuus," the magazine of the Postulation of the Cause of John Paul II.

One of the most innovative marks of the pontificate of Karol Wojtyła was, without a doubt, his relationship with women. In the first place, what amazed many of us was his lack of fear in having physical contact with the opposite sex. We saw him embrace his old female classmates with evident affection, and he let Mother Teresa hold his hand, both without showing that diffidence that has characterized and continues to characterize the attitude of the clergy with regard to women. In addition to this innovation in behavior – of greater significance than many theoretic affirmations – there was an attention to women’s issues that no Pope before had ever had. One can affirm without hesitation, in fact, that John Paul II was the only man with a high institutional office to develop a response to that which has been the greatest socio-cultural revolution of modern times, women’s emancipation.

In his apostolic letter “Mulieris Dignitatem” (1988), his most important text on this topic, he accepted with never-before-seen openness the interpretation of the biblical account of creation developed by a group of feminist theologians that contrasts with the masculine primacy in being created, from which male-superiority derived its justification. Despite this openness, he responded negatively to many of the requests put forward by feminists, including many within the Church, confirming the exclusion of women from priesthood and the condemnation of abortion and artificial means of birth control. In fact, for Wojtyła the “genius” of the female gender is connected to the primary reason for its difference, which is, to motherhood, be it concrete or metaphoric, and he saw and clearly denounced the dangers inherent in the position of those who would set women’s emancipation – of which he was always a loyal supporter – against motherhood.

In his “Letter to Women” – written in 1995, on the occasion of the conference in Beijing organized by the UN on the condition of women – John Paul II made it perfectly clear that a renewed and “universal recognition of the dignity of women,” (6) keeping in mind, however, that the “female genius” fulfills herself in giving herself to others in her everyday life (cf. 12). This is a strong and coherent position, which reclaims for Christianity the defense of the dignity of women, which “goes back to the attitude of Jesus Christ himself,” (3) while respecting the difference that consists in motherhood. Exactly for this reason in every text addressed to women Wojtyła reconfirmed the condemnation of abortion, a theme that became central in what will probably remain his most important and most prophetic encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae.” In it the Pope reveals the relationship that connects abortion to research on embryos and euthanasia; constituting “a particularly grave moral disorder” (61) in as much as it is a negation of “an objective moral law,” (70) abortion is the bearer of new and serious ethical transgressions.

John Paul II supplied proof of his attention to the feminine not only beatifying and canonizing many women (among whom, one such as Edith Stein, who theorized a Christian feminism), but also proclaiming three female saints – Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, and Stein herself – co-patronesses of Europe, in spiritual coupling with Benedict, Cyril, and Methodius. This was to reaffirm, once more, the need for the two different identities in Christian tradition and in the Christian community.

Karol Wojtyła was therefore capable of giving greater value to women’s emancipation, inscribing it in the path of cultural progress started by Christian tradition while distancing it from its negative tendencies, such as the negation of motherhood as a value and tendency to make feminine identity uniform to the masculine model. His is a defense of women inasmuch as different because, he writes, “It is only through the duality of the ‘masculine’ and the ‘feminine’ that the ‘human’ finds full realization” (Letter to Women, 7).

Lucetta Scaraffia

Professor of Contemporary History
Department of History Studies
University of Rome La Sapienza

Monday, March 19, 2007

St. Joseph, Pure of Heart

In Saint Joseph, we have a perfect model of a true Christian. He was pure of heart, chaste, humble, patient, and possessed fortitude, gentleness and manliness of character. He is also an example of holy work, dedicating himself to his work with his whole being. He also looked to do God’s will, received the messages revealed to him by the Lord and, with faith and trust, he was obedient.

Of all his virtues, St. Joseph is most well known for his purity of heart. This can be seen in many different ways.

Certainly Joseph was pure of heart because he was chaste. By being chaste, Joseph was able to love with an upright and undivided heart.

Yet purity of heart is more than just chastity. It also involves charity and a love of the truth. Joseph also had purity of intention, seeking to do God’s will in everything, which means he avoided doing good deeds to be seen by others and did them for the love of God.

Joseph also was pure of heart because he had purity of vision. He disciplined his internal and external sight, his feelings and imagination, so as in no way to agree to impure thoughts, be they sexual or against charity or humility.

Most importantly St. Joseph was pure of heart because he was a man of prayer. Not only did he understand as St. Augustine wrote, that one can not be chaste without the help of God, but he understood as Saint Francis did, that purity of heart means despising the things of the earth and seeking heavenly things so that one might continually see and adore the Lord God living and true.

Let us look to the example of St. Joseph as a model of purity of heart and let us ask his intercession that we too may strive to be pleasing to God in all we do.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Servant of God John Paul II

I've been quite busy recently helping out with the Postulation that I haven't had time to blog. Just for your information, the office has been inundated not only with requests for the holy cards with the "ex indumentis" (piece of clothing of John Paul II), but after sending out an SOS to the world (where's Sting when you need him), it has been inundated also with a generous response from so many people who want to help out the Cause to cover the costs of postage in sending out the holy cards with the "ex indumentis."

An exciting thing is that the web page has been updated. Take a look:

If you want, subscribe to "Totus Tuus" magazine or make a donation to help out the cause.

In case you haven't heard the news, it was announced a few days ago that the closing of the diocesan phase of the cause has been finished and will be officially closed in a ceremony on April 2nd, 2007 at 12:00 PM at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

Now hold on to your horses and don't start calling the travel agent... the cause will now go to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. There is a whole process that the cause will have to go through, then B16 will have to approve the cult, declaring JPII venerable, accept the judgement of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on the reported miracle, etc, and as things here in Rome tend to go slow, we won't see a beatification of JPII this year.

Receiving Pope John Paul II's blessing after serving the Mass for the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th, 2004). I've got the beard and glasses - the last friar in the line before Msgr. James Harvey.


Update: For information on the process involved in a cause for beatification and canonization, see "Making Saints," a document put out by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Just so you know, in regard to JPII, April 2nd will be the end of phase 1 and the beginning of phase 2.

Mercy, Mercy, Me.

Did anyone else almost cry listening to the reading from Hosea yesterday?

Thus says the LORD: Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words,and return to the LORD; Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may renderas offerings the bullocks from our stalls. Assyria will not save us,nor shall we have horses to mount; We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.” I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive treeand his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blossom like the vine,and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols? I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. “I am like a verdant cypress tree”— Because of me you bear fruit! Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.
This is just such a testiment of the faithful mercy of God. Not a mercy that stands in judgement and indignation looking to crush, but a mercy that feels compassion and looks to restore after purifying the sinner.

It made me think: If I really had God's mercy present in my mind all day long, I wouldn't stop crying... not tears of sadness, but tears of joy. Lord give me such tears of joy.