Friday, January 06, 2012

Benedict XVI and True Christmas

Pope Benedict XVI and the True Meaning of Christmas

No less than a dozen times in a span of less than a month between 27 November and 24 December 2011, has the Holy Father directly or indirectly invited Christians to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas through the neglected preparatory period of Advent and especially by guarding against falling prey to the commercial distractions and external trappings of what appears to be Christmas.

Compiled by Austine J. Crasta, S.T.B.

"Let us heed the message in today's Gospel by entering prayerfully into this holy season, so that we may be ready to greet Jesus Christ, who is God with us." [Benedict XVI, Angelus, 27 November 2011.]

"Dear young people, I invite you to rediscover intimacy with Christ in the spiritual atmosphere of Advent..." [Benedict XVI, General Audience, 30 November 2011.]

"Today Advent is often exactly the opposite: a time of frenzied activity, of people buying and selling, making preparations for Christmas, for large meals and so forth. It is also like this for us. Yet, as you have seen, the popular traditions of faith have not disappeared, indeed, they are being renewed, deepened, updated. And thus they create islands for the soul, islands of silence, islands of faith, islands for the Lord in our time, and to me this seems very important. And we must say “thank you” to all those who perpetrate them: they do so in families, in churches, with more or less professional groups, but they all do the same thing: they make the reality of faith present in our homes, in our epoch. And let us hope that in the future too this effort of faith, its visibility, will endure and will help us move forward, as Advent wishes, towards the Lord." [Benedict XVI, Address, 2 December 2011.]

"John the Baptist’s style must remind all Christians to opt for a lifestyle of moderation, especially in preparation for the celebration of the Christmas festivity" [Benedict XVI, Angelus, 4 December 2011.]

"We know that Christmas is approaching: let us prepare not only with gifts but with our hearts... Preparing for Christmas is very difficult today. And I know there are so many commitments. But preparing for Christmas is not only buying, preparing and thinking, it is also keeping in touch with the Lord, going to meet him. And it seems to me very important not to forget this dimension." [Benedict XVI, Address, 11 December 2011.]

"The external environment proposes the usual commercial messages, although perhaps to a lesser degree because of the economic crisis. Christians are asked to live Advent without allowing themselves be distracted by the bright lights but knowing how to give things their proper value and how to fix their inner gaze on Christ." [Benedict XVI, Angelus, 11 December 2011.]

"To you who live in the heart of the cultural and social environment of our time, who are experiencing the new and ever more refined technologies and who are protagonists of a dynamism in history that at times seems overwhelming, the Apostle’s invitation may seem anachronistic or as it were an invitation to leave history, not to want to see the results of your work, of your research. But is this really so? Is God’s invitation to wait really untimely? And we might ask ourselves even more radically: what does Christmas mean for me? Is it really important for my existence, for building society? There are many people in our time, especially among those you meet in university lecture halls, who voice the question of whether we should await something or someone; whether we should await another messiah, another god; whether it is worth trusting in that Child whom we shall find on Christmas Night in the manger between Mary and Joseph?" [Benedict XVI, Vespers Homily, 15 December 2011.]

"Dear friends, the tree and the crib are elements of the typical Christmas atmosphere that is part of our communities’ spiritual legacy: an atmosphere steeped in religious devotion and family closeness that we must also preserve in today’s society, in which consumerism and the quest for material goods sometimes seem to prevail. Christmas is a Christian feast and its symbols are important references to the great mystery of the Incarnation and Birth of Jesus, which the liturgy constantly calls to mind. The Creator of the universe, in making himself a child, came to live among us to share our journey. He made himself little to enter the human heart and thus to renew it with his love. Let us prepare to welcome him with faith." [Benedict XVI, Address, 16 December 2011.]

"I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good preparation for Holy Christmas." [Benedict XVI, Angelus, 18 December 2011.]

"The greeting on everyone’s lips in these days is “Happy Christmas! Best wishes for the Christmas festivities!”. Let us ensure that in today’s society too the exchange of good wishes does not lose its profound religious value and that the feast is not emptied by the exterior aspects which pluck at our heartstrings. The external signs are of course beautiful and important, as long as they do not distract us but rather help us to live Christmas in its truest sense, as sacred and Christian, so that our joy too may not be superficial but profound." [Benedict XVI, General Audience, 21 December 2011.]

"I wish all of you and your families a truly Christian celebration of Christmas so that the exchange of greetings on that day may also be an expression of the joy of knowing that God is close to us and wants to accompany us on our journey through life. Many thanks." [Benedict XVI, General Audience, 21 December 2011.]

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light." [Benedict XVI, Homily at Midnight Mass, 24 December 2011.]

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Revised English Missal in India

"Through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, 
Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people."

27 November, the First Day of Advent 2011 is finally here, awaited in most parts of the English speaking world as the date on which the revised English translation of the Roman Missal ("new Missal") would be used for the first time. It is but right for us to pause for a moment and thank God for the long labours of all those involved in making this happen.

First and foremost we must be grateful to those bishops who, out of love for the Church and her worship, expressed their dissatisfaction over the previous translations made in the decade following the Second Vatican Council. Their desire for a more faithful translation was blessed with the Holy See's document, Liturgiam Authenticam (2001) that made such an undertaking a necessity, all the more so with the release of the 3rd Edition of the Missale Romanum.

Since then, for almost a decade, there has been the toil of so many bishops, liturgists, translators, reviewers, musicians, composers, various experts, and others across the world, who along with the Holy See have laboured to bring the English language liturgy to this its Vatican II moment. Should we not spend a moment thanking God for all of them and for those who in various capacities saw to its implementation?

Painful moments of polemics have also accompanied the whole process. Unfortunately, some of this still continues, especially among the clergy who overtly or covertly continue to discredit the work, defy legitimate authority, and even instigate the lay faithful against the new Missal.

My thoughts at this moment, turn to those holy and zealous foreign missionary priests of the last century who served the Church in our country. They had all their seminary formation in Latin and knew it like their mother tongue. And yet when holy mother Church decided, at the Second Vatican Council, to permit the introduction of the vernacular in parts of the liturgy, these faithful sons brought up in her Latin tradition, set aside all their personal differences to utter their humble "yes" to the Church. It is that spirit of fidelity to the Church that must be recalled today by those on both sides of the new Missal debate.

Back to the implementation, I cannot say that the revised Missal made a smooth landing here. Even if October was the planned delivery date, the pre-ordered Missals reached parishes too late. One priest informed me that his pre-order copy reached him only at 7pm yesterday, i.e., 26 November. If that is any indicator, I wouldn't be surprised if there are more parishes, and chapels of convents and other Catholic institutions that are yet to receive the new Missal or even order for it. To the best of my knowledge there was no Pastoral Letter from the country's Episcopal Conference nor a 'Decree of Proclamation' announcing the date of implementation of the new Missal; just a simple news announcement that was easy to miss and leave the faithful unaware.

Until about a week ago, hardly any parish had any printed resources ready for its parishioners. A diocesan pew card containing the people's parts highlighting changes, bears an Imprimatur dated 20 November 2011. I doubt if English choirs across the country have received the music for the new mass either. In any case, what one of the choirs sang at Mass today was ‘Praise and Worship’ hymns for the entrance and communion, and a non-Psalm hymn in place of the responsorial Psalm. Such liturgical celebrations hardly reflect the spirit of the new Missal, which unfortunately in many places is seen only as a matter of getting people to say the new prayers and responses. The priest-celebrant today, who cleverly avoided the new Confiteor using the third option in the Penitential Rite, later looking away from his Missal ended up reciting the “old” Sanctus instead.

Elsewhere in the country, I am told, people heard the announcement about the new Missal for the first time today and await its implementation next Sunday. But on the West coast, the Archdiocese of Bombay, seems to have done a better job overall in creating awareness (through a pastoral letter, magazine articles, parish seminars) and preparing for the implementation of the new Missal. So also some of the dioceses in the North East.

For a country that recognizes 18 official regional languages and speaks over a thousand others, English may appear as just one of the other languages. That of course would be a deception since English is the lingua franca for the Church in India and the only language in which seminary and religious formation is offered, at least in the country’s Latin church. Revised Missal translations of other vernaculars too largely need to consult the English Missal in a Latin deficient country. Therefore to downplay or ignore the implementation of new English Missal in India is to downplay the importance of the liturgy itself.

Speaking to the English Bishops last year, Pope Benedict said, "I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration" (19 September 2010). That opportunity is for all the English speaking world, India included. The fruits of the new Missal will begin to appear once we move from a mere mechanical implementation to a truly catechetical one. In the meantime we pray, Maranatha! "Our Lord, come!"

UPDATE: 29 November 2011

The Hindustan Times and CathNewsIndia report that the Archdiocese in the Capital missed the implementation date and has set for itself another date, 8 January 2011 (Solemnity of the Epiphany). Unlike other places which allowed the choirs and the people to progressively learn the new musical settings, Delhi will have to be ready for the Gloria and other liturgical music demanded by the Solemnity on day 1 of its new Missal implementation. However Mumbai and Kolkata managed to keep the date with the help pamphlets and pew cards, probably Pune too.

Are you a Catholic reader from India? 

If so, do comment in the space below about when you first heard about the revised translation of the English Missal, when it was implemented in your parish, and how well your parish prepared for it.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Benedict XVI's Reflections for 2011 Christian Unity Theme

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2011

One in the apostles’ teaching,
fellowship, breaking of bread
 and prayer
 (cf. Acts 2:42)

Reflections on the Theme
from the speeches of Pope Benedict XVI

The English version of the material for the 2011 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity prepared by the joint group drawn from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches has based its theme on the following biblical text:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NRSV)
Reflecting on this theme, the holy father, Pope Benedict XVI in his Angelus address of 23 January 2011 said:
Today too, to be a sign and instrument in the world of intimate union with God and of unity among men, we Christians must base our life on these four cardinal principles: life founded on the faith of the Apostles transmitted in the living Tradition of the Church, fraternal communion, the Eucharist and prayer. Only in this way, being closely united to Christ, can the Church effectively accomplish her mission, despite the limits and failures of her members, despite the divisions, which the apostle Paul already had to confront in the community of Corinth...
During the almost-six years of his Pontificate so far, Benedict XVI has often addressed the subject of ecumenism with rich and penetrating insights. Here are some short reflections extracted from the holy father's speeches on various occasions, where he touched on the "four cardinal principles" mentioned above.

Apostolic Faith
Our commitment to Christian unity is born of nothing less than our faith in Christ, in this Christ, risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. It is the reality of Christ’s person, his saving work and above all the historical fact of his resurrection, which is the content of the apostolic kerygma and those credal formulas which, beginning in the New Testament itself, have guaranteed the integrity of its transmission. The Church’s unity, in a word, can never be other than a unity in the apostolic faith, in the faith entrusted to each new member of the Body of Christ during the rite of Baptism. It is this faith which unites us to the Lord, makes us sharers in his Holy Spirit, and thus, even now, sharers in the life of the Blessed Trinity, the model of the Church’s koinonia here below. (Benedict XVI, Address at the Conclusion of the Ecumenical Vespers, Westminster Abbey, Friday, 17 September 2010)
Fraternal Communion
For this reason, ecumenical dialogue advances not only through an exchange of ideas but by a sharing in mutually enriching gifts (cf. Ut Unum Sint, 28; 57). An “idea” aims at truth; a “gift” expresses love. Both are essential to dialogue. Opening ourselves to accept spiritual gifts from other Christians quickens our ability to perceive the light of truth which comes from the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul teaches that it is within the koinonia of the Church that we have access to and the means of safeguarding the truth of the Gospel, for the Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” with Jesus himself as the cornerstone (Eph 2:20). (Benedict XVI, Address at the Ecumenical Meeting, Crypt of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, 18 July 2008)
Eucharist - the Breaking of Bread
Is not this what the Apostle Paul said in the reading we have just heard? In writing to the Corinthians he said: "Because the loaf of bread is one, we, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (I Cor 10: 17).
The consequence is clear: we cannot communicate with the Lord if we do not communicate with one another. If we want to present ourselves to him, we must also take a step towards meeting one another.
To do this we must learn the great lesson of forgiveness: we must not let the gnawings of resentment work in our soul, but must open our hearts to the magnanimity of listening to others, open our hearts to understanding them, eventually to accepting their apologies, to generously offering our own.
The Eucharist, let us repeat, is the sacrament of unity. Unfortunately, however, Christians are divided, precisely in the sacrament of unity. Sustained by the Eucharist, we must feel all the more roused to striving with all our strength for that full unity which Christ ardently desired in the Upper Room. (Benedict XVI, Homily at the Closing of the XXIVth Italian National Eucharistic Congress, Esplanade of Marisabella, Sunday, 29 May 2005)
The conciliar Decree on Ecumenism refers to prayer for unity when, at the very end, its states that the Council realizes that "this holy objective - the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ - transcends human powers and gifts. It therefore places its hope entirely in the prayer of Christ for the Church" (n. 24). It is the consciousness of our human limitations that impels us to trusting abandonment in the hands of the Lord. Clearly, the profound meaning of this Week of Prayer is precisely that of relying entirely on the prayer of Christ, who continues to pray in his Church that "they may all be one... so that the world may believe..." (Jn 17: 21). Today, we feel the weight of these words strongly. The world is suffering from the absence of God, from inaccessibility to God; it longs to know God's Face. But how could and can people today recognize this Face of God in the Face of Jesus Christ if we Christians are separated, if one contradicts the other, if one is against the other? Only in unity can we truly show to this world - which needs it - God's Face, Christ's Face. It is also obvious that it is not with our own policies, with dialogue and all that we do - which is nevertheless so necessary - that we shall be able to obtain this unity. What we can obtain is our willingness and ability to welcome this unity when the Lord gives it to us. This is the meaning of prayer: to open our hearts, to create within us this willingness that paves the way to Christ. In the liturgy of the ancient Church, after the homily the Bishop or the one who presided at the celebration, the principal celebrant, would say: Conversi ad Dominum. Then he and everyone would rise and turn to the East. They all wanted to look towards Christ. Only if we are converted, only in this conversion to Christ, in this common gaze at Christ, will we be able to find the gift of unity. (Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, 23 January 2008)
Pope Benedict XVI's reflections are honest, deep and moving in the power of truth. They give a new impetus to the century old ecumenical movement. 

Feel free to leave your reflections in the comments

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vatican Communique on Theological Colloquium in India - Jan 2011

The complete text of the Communique released by the Holy See Press Office, noon, Monday, 24 January 2011, on the Theological Colloquium Between Representatives of the Holy See, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) and Theologians of India held from January 16-22, 2011 at  St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore, India.

Communique on the Colloquium Between 
Representatives of the Holy See
the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) 
and Theologians of India (January 16-22, 2011)

Cooperatores Veritatis - Seeking the Truth Together

From January 16 – 22, 2011, a Colloquium was held at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore, India, in which a delegation from the Holy See met with twenty-eight members of the Bishops’ Conference of India and twenty-six theologians from various parts of the country. The delegation of the Holy See was led by His Eminence William Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, assisted by His Excellency Archbishop Luis Ladaria, S.I., the Secretary of the Congregation, Mons. Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice, and three officials. The members of the Indian Episcopate who participated in the Colloquium represented the three Ritual sui iuris Churches in India, led by His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI). In addition, His Eminence Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi and President of the Latin Rite Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos and President of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, His Excellency Bishop George Punnakottil of the Syro-Malabar Church, Bishop of Kothamangalam and Vice-President of the CBCI, and His Excellency Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt, Bishop of Palai and Chairman of the Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI were among those participating. The theologians who took part were also drawn from the three sui iuris Churches. The Colloquium was the fruit of the longstanding cooperation between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and was prepared and organized by His Excellency Bishop Thomas Dabre of Poona, who had earlier served as the Chairman of the Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI, with the expert assistance of Father Dominic Veliath, S.D.B., Secretary of the Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI and also member of the International Theological Commission. The Apostolic Nuncio to India, His Grace Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio also took part in the proceedings.

The annual colloquia between Bishops and theologians in India began in 1996. In a subsequent meeting held in Rome that same year between a number of the Bishops of India and representatives of various Dicasteries of the Holy See, the hope was expressed that, at some point in the future, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might take part in such a gathering. The Colloquium in Bangalore was the realization of that hope, and was specifically intended as a forum for addressing some of the theological issues facing the Catholic Church in India in a collaborative atmosphere of dialogue and discussion. As is well known, in the great nation of India there are more than a billion human beings, of whom approximately 2.3% are Christians. The Catholic Church in India had its origins in the witness of Saint Thomas the Apostle and received new impetus with the missionary activity of Saint Francis Xavier. Today, Catholics in India, though few in number, make a widely appreciated contribution to the welfare of the country, above all through numerous educational institutions, healthcare facilities, social welfare initiatives and charitable works. It was the specific and unique character of the Catholic Church in India which provided the context for the presentations and discussions during the Colloquium in Bangalore.

In the first part of the Colloquium, theologians addressed questions such as the specific role of the theologian in the Church, theological methodology in the East and in the West, inculturation, Jesus Christ as the one Saviour of all people, the relationship between the Church of Christ and the other religions, the Christian concept of authentic human liberation, the role of the faith community (the "sensus fidelium"), and the distinctiveness of Christian prayer and spirituality. Each theological presentation was followed by lively and sustained dialogue in which all the participants - theologians, Bishops, and representatives of the Holy See – freely offered their contributions to a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. The discussions sought to take account of the Catholic presence in the distinctively Indian context, while at the same time emphasizing the inestimable gift of the universality of the Catholic faith, which is always to be communicated in its integrity and authenticity. The singular importance of the role of the theologian in the Church was stressed, as well as the need, especially when one seeks to elaborate a contextualized theology, to build on a solid theological foundation, always faithful to the teaching authority of the Church.

The second part of the Colloquium was organized for Bishops and the representatives of the Holy See. These days were devoted to various questions relating to the specific role and responsibility of Bishops in the Church, such as the Bishop as teacher of the faith, the functioning of the Doctrinal Commission of the Bishops’ Conference, the formation of future priests and members of religious congregations, and the correct adjudication of the more serious canonical delicts.

The week-long Colloquium was an experience of intense work and fruitful dialogue in which many questions were clarified and valuable initiatives proposed. It is hoped that the fruits of the Colloquium, already felt by the participants in the shared experience of liturgical prayer according to the three ritual expressions of the Catholic Church in India, will continue to benefit not only the Church, but also the wider society in India for years to come.
[00119-02.01] [Original text: English][B0049-XX.01]

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sacred Ministry of Preaching

At a time when there is widespread criticism of the quality of many modern day homilies, Pope Benedict XVI has asked the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to prepare practical publications such as a Directory on the Homily, in which preachers can find useful assistance in preparing to exercise their ministry (cf. Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 60). More than 9 decades ago, his predecessor, Benedict XV dedicated a whole encyclical to this important ministry of preaching. An Excerpt:

On Preaching the Word of God

by Pope Benedict XV

The purpose which sacred orators should keep before their mind in performing their duty may be understood from the fact that they may and ought to say of themselves, as did St. Paul "For Christ therefore we are ambassadors." [II Cor. v:20] If then they are ambassadors of Christ they ought to have the same purpose in discharging their office that Christ had in conferring it on them, nay, the very one that Christ Himself had while living upon earth. For neither the Apostles, nor the preachers who followed the Apostles had a different mission from Christ's: "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you." (John xx:21] Now we know why Christ descended from heaven, for He says expressly: "For this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth." (John xviii:37] "I am come that they may have life." (John x:10]

Both these purposes therefore must be carried out by the men who devote themselves to the sacred ministry of preaching. They must diffuse the light of truth made known by God, and in those who hear them they must quicken and nourish the supernatural life. In a word, by seeking the salvation of souls they are to promote the glory of God.

As it would, therefore, be wrong to call anyone a doctor who does not practice medicine, or to style anyone a professor of some art who does not teach that art, he who in his preaching neglects to lead men to a fuller knowledge of God and on the way of eternal salvation may be called an idle declaimer, but not a preacher of the Gospel. And would there were no such declaimers! What motive is it that sways them mostly.

Some are moved by the desire of vain-glory and to satisfy it: "They ponder how they can express high rather than practical thoughts, causing weak minds to admire them, instead of working out the salvation of their hearers. They are ashamed of what is simple and plain, lest they be thought to know nothing else. They are ashamed to give milk to the little ones. [Gillebertus Abb. In Cant. Canticor. Serm xxvii, 2.] Whereas Jesus Christ proved by the lowliness of his hearers that He was the One whom men were awaiting: "The poor have the Gospel preached to them." [Matt. xi:5]

What efforts do such men make to acquire reputation by their sermons from the size and wealth of the cities and splendor of the great churches in which they preach? But since among the truths revealed by God there are some which frighten the weakness of our corrupt nature, and which therefore are not calculated to attract the multitude, they carefully avoid them, and treat themes, in which, the place accepted, there is nothing sacred.

Not seldom it happens that in the very midst of a discourse upon the things of eternity, they turn to politics, particularly if any questions of this kind just then deeply engross the minds of their hearers. They seem to have only one aim, to please their hearers and curry favor with those whom St. Paul describes as "having itching ears." [II Tim. vi:3]

Hence that unrestrained and undignified gesture such as may be seen on the stage or on the hustings, that effeminate lowering of the voice or those tragic outbursts; that diction peculiar to journalism; those frequent allusions to profane and non-Catholic literature, but not to the Sacred Scriptures or the Holy Fathers; finally that volubility of utterance often affected by them, wherewith they strike the ears and gain their hearers' admiration, but give them no lesson to carry home. How sadly are those preachers deceived!

Granted that they receive the applause of the uneducated, which they seek with such great favor, and not without sacrilege, is it really worth while when we consider that they are condemned by every prudent man, and, what is worse, have reason to fear the stern judgment of Christ?

--Taken from Pope Benedict XV, Encyclical Humani generis redemptionem On Preaching the Word of God, 15 June 1917, nn 9-10.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Pains of Purgatory - St Catherine of Genoa

Something to reflect on All Souls' day (November 2), as we commemorate all the faithful departed.

The Pains of Purgatory

by St Catherine of Genoa

When I look at God, I see no gate to Paradise, and yet because God is all mercy he who wills enters there. God stands before us with open arms to receive us into His glory. But well I see the divine essence to be of such purity, greater far than can be imagined, that the soul in which there is even the least note of imperfection would rather cast itself into a thousand Hells than find itself thus stained in the presence of the Divine Majesty. Therefore the soul, understanding that Purgatory has been ordained to take away those stains, casts itself therein, and seems to itself to have found great mercy in that it can rid itself there of the impediment which is the stain of sin.

No tongue can tell nor explain, no mind understand, the grievousness of Purgatory. But I, though I see that there is in Purgatory as much pain as in Hell, yet see the soul which has the least stain of imperfection accepting Purgatory, as I have said, as though it were a mercy, and holding its pains of no account as compared with the least stain which hinders a soul in its love. I seem to see that the pain which souls in Purgatory endure because of whatever in them displeases God, that is what they have wilfully done against His so great goodness, is greater than any other pain they feel in Purgatory. And this is because, being in grace, they see the truth and the grievousness of the hindrance which stays them from drawing near to God. [...]

To see God when full satisfaction had not yet been made Him, even if the time of purgation lacked but the twinkling of an eye, would be unbearable to that soul. It would sooner go to a thousand hells, to rid itself of the little rust still clinging to it, than stand in the divine presence when it was not yet wholly cleansed.

And so that blessed soul, seeing the aforesaid things by the divine light, said: "I would fain send up a cry so loud that it would put fear in all men on the earth. I would say to them: 'Wretches, why do you let yourselves be thus blinded by the world, you whose need is so great and grievous, as you will know at the moment of death, and who make no provision for it whatsoever?'

"You have all taken shelter beneath hope in God's mercy, which is, you say, very great, but you see not that this great goodness of God will judge you for having gone against the will of so good a Lord. His goodness should constrain you to do all His will, not give you hope in ill-doing, for His justice cannot fail but in one way or another must needs be fully satisfied.

"Cease to hug yourselves, saying: 'I will confess my sins and then receive plenary indulgence, and at that moment I shall be purged of all my sins and thus shall be saved.' Think of the confession and the contrition needed for that plenary indulgence, so hardly come by that, if you knew, you would tremble in great fear, more sure you would never win it than that you ever could."

--Taken from St Catherine of Genoa's "Treatise on Purgatory", 8, 14-15.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vespers Making a Comeback in Mangalore

Milagres Church, Mangalore
After Vespers
The tradition of Solemn Vespers seems to be making a comeback in the city of Mangalore. 

Parishes in more rural areas of the South Indian diocese of Mangalore have faithfully preserved their tradition of celebrating their annual Parish Feast. The Parish Feast is celebrated on a Wednesday and is preceeded by a Solemn Vespers the previous (i.e., Tuesday) evening, and a Confraternity Sunday celebration, the immediate Sunday before. 

Vespers at
Milagres Church
The format of the Vespers however, was not always fully identifiable with the Vespers of the Church. Nevertheless it was a liturgical service, resembling more or less a Liturgy of the Word with its hymns, scripture reading, homily, in some places also an offertory, and finally a benediction.  

Mother Teresa Band
at Milagres Church on the
Eve of the Parish Feast
More recently efforts have been made to remedy these liturgies by modelling them more closely on the Evening Prayer of the Church, chiefly by the introduction of the Psalmody, the Magnificat and the Lord's Prayer. The homily, not always brief as the Church's public celebration of the Vespers requires it to be, is an important part of these services.

Following the Vespers, it is the fair, the brass band, the various stalls and the display of fireworks that captures one attention. Families inviting relatives to their homes for the parish feast love to discuss them on their way home.

Fireworks after
the Vespers
at Milagres Church 
This tradition of celebrating the annual Vespers and Parish Feast was long lost in our city parishes. However, at the 75 year celebration in May this year, of the St Vincent Ferrer Church at Valencia (not in Spain but) in Mangalore, the idea was re-introduced in the city. Now, this week, the beautiful Church of our Lady of Milagres (Portuguese: 'Miracles') went ahead and celebrated it's Vespers after a lapse of 40 years!

Recovering a lost tradition is far harder than preserving an existing one. It is certainly laudable that churches in the city are aiming hard at bringing back the tradition of the Vespers, which I would say, should also extend slowly to the Church's other principal feasts. But with this enterprise comes also the all important task of liturgical catechesis. A lot will depend on it if faith and worship are to survive the festivities which sometimes drown them.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Faith and Doubt - John Henry Newman

On the occasion of the first Feast Day (9 October 2010) of the newly beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman, here's a reading for reflection taken from one of his works.

Faith and Doubt

by Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

Those who are drawn by curiosity or a better motive to inquire into the Catholic Religion, sometimes put to us a strange question,—whether, if they took up the profession of it, they would be at liberty, when they felt inclined, to reconsider the question of its Divine authority; meaning, by "reconsideration," an inquiry springing from doubt of it, and possibly ending in a denial. 

The same question, in the form of an objection, is often asked by those who have no thoughts at all of becoming Catholics, and who enlarge upon it, as something terrible, that whoever once enters the pale of the Church, on him the door of egress is shut for ever; that, once a Catholic, he never, never can doubt again. ... 

It is, then, perfectly true, that the Church does not allow her children to entertain any doubt of her teaching; and that, first of all, simply for this reason, because they are Catholics only while they have faith, and faith is incompatible with doubt. No one can be a Catholic without a simple faith, that what the Church declares in God's name, is God's word, and therefore true. 

A man must simply believe that the Church is the oracle of God; he must be as certain of her mission, as he is of the mission of the Apostles. 

Now, would any one ever call him certain that the Apostles came from God, if after professing his certainty, he added, that perhaps he might have reason to doubt one day about their mission? Such an anticipation would be a real, though latent, doubt, betraying that he was not certain of it at present. 

A person who says, "I believe just at this moment, but perhaps I am excited without knowing it, and I cannot answer for myself, that I shall believe tomorrow," does not believe now. 

A man who says, "Perhaps I am in a kind of delusion, which will one day pass away from me, and leave me as I was before"; or "I believe as far as I can tell, but there may be arguments in the background which will change my view," such a man has not faith at all. 

When, then, Protestants quarrel with us for saying that those who join us must give up all ideas of ever doubting the Church in time to come, they do nothing else but quarrel with us for insisting on the necessity of faith in her. Let them speak plainly; our offence is that of demanding faith in the Holy Catholic Church; it is this, and nothing else. 

I must insist upon this: faith implies a confidence in a man's mind, that the thing believed is really true; but, if it is once true, it never can be false. If it is true that God became man, what is the meaning of my anticipating a time when perhaps I shall not believe that God became man? this is nothing short of anticipating a time when I shall disbelieve a truth. And if I bargain to be allowed in time to come not to believe, or to doubt, that God became man, I am but asking to be allowed to doubt or disbelieve what I hold to be an eternal truth. I do not see the privilege of such a permission at all, or the meaning of wishing to secure it:—

if at present I have no doubt whatever about it, then I am but asking leave to fall into error; if at present I have doubts about it, then I do not believe it at present, that is, I have not faith. But I cannot both really believe it now, and yet look forward to a time when perhaps I shall not believe it; to make provision for future doubt, is to doubt at present. It proves I am not in a fit state to become a Catholic now. I may love by halves, I may obey by halves; I cannot believe by halves: either I have faith, or I have it not.

And so again, when a man has become a Catholic, were he to set about following a doubt which has occurred to him, he has already disbelieved. I have not to warn him against losing his faith, he is not merely in danger of losing it, he has lost it; from the nature of the case he has already lost it; he fell from grace at the moment when he deliberately entertained and pursued his doubt. 

No one can determine to doubt what he is already sure of; but if he is not sure that the Church is from God, he does not believe it. It is not I who forbid him to doubt; he has taken the matter into his own hands when he determined on asking for leave; he has begun, not ended, in unbelief; his very wish, his purpose, is his sin. I do not make it so, it is such from the very state of the case. 

You sometimes hear, for example, of Catholics falling away, who will tell you it arose from reading the Scriptures, which opened their eyes to the "unscripturalness," so they speak, of the Church of the Living God.  

No; Scripture did not make them disbelieve (impossible!); they disbelieved when they opened the Bible; they opened it in an unbelieving spirit, and for an unbelieving purpose; they would not have opened it, had they not anticipated—I might say, hoped—that they should find things there inconsistent with Catholic teaching. They begin in self-will and disobedience, and they end in apostasy. 

This, then, is the direct and obvious reason why the Church cannot allow her children the liberty of doubting the truth of her word. He who really believes in it now, cannot imagine the future discovery of reasons to shake his faith; if he imagines it, he has not faith; and that so many Protestants think it a sort of tyranny in the Church to forbid any children of hers to doubt about her teaching, only shows they do not know what faith is—which is the case; it is a strange idea to them. 

Let a man cease to inquire, or cease to call himself her child.

[Source: John Henry Newman, Discourses to Mixed Congregations: Faith and Doubt.]

Friday, October 08, 2010

Back After a Break

It's been a long time, 5 years almost, since I posted anything here. But I hope to make a post every once in a while from now on. I can predict that they're going to be very irregular in their appearance but I do hope I'll be able to carry forward my blogging tradition.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Prayer of Cardinal Newman

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly
that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me and be so in me
that every soul I come in contact with
may feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You;
none of it will be mine. It will be You,
shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You in the way which You love best,
by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching,
not by my words but by my example,
by the catching force,
the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for You. Amen.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Universal Prayer

Attributed to
Pope Clement XI
Lord, I believe in you; oh, give me firmer faith.
I hope in you, give me surer hope.
I love you, make me love you more and more.
I am sorry to have failed you; make me sorrier yet.

I adore you as my first beginning,
And long for you as my last end;
Praise you as my constant benefactor,
And call upon you as my gracious protector;

Guide me by your wisdom,
Restrain me by your justice,
Comfort me by your mercy,
Defend me by your power.

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts, to be fixed on you;
My words, to have you for their theme;
My actions, to be done according to your will;
My hardships to be endured for your sake.

My will is that your will be done,
In the manner you will,
And as long as you will,
Because it is your will.

I pray you, Lord, enlighten my understanding,
Inflame my will,
Purify my heart,
And sanctify my soul.

Help me to deplore my past offences
And to resist temptation in future,
To subdue my evil inclinations
And to cultivate the virtues proper for my state.

God of all goodness, fill me with love of you
And hatred of myself,
With zeal for my neighbour
And contempt of worldly things.

Teach me to be obedient to my superiors,
Helpful to my subordinates,
Faithful to friends,
Forgiving to foes.

Let me vanquish pleasure by self-denial,
Avarice by generosity,
Anger by meekness,
And lukewarmness by fervour.

Make me prudent in planning,
Courageous in taking risks;
In affliction, patient;
In prosperity, unassuming.

Lord, make me attentive at prayers,
Moderate when I eat and drink,
Diligent in my occupation,
And constant in good resolutions.

Let my conscience be clear,
My demeanour modest,
My talk blameless,
My life well-ordered.

Let me always be alert to keep nature in check,
To cherish your grace,
To keep your law,
And to earn salvation.

Teach me how petty is this world,
How immense your heaven;
Time, how short;
Eternity, how long.

Give me grace to prepare for death,
To dread your judgment,
To escape hell,
And to win a place in heaven:

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Basic Catholic Prayers in Latin

Latin - English

In Nomine
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

The Sign of the Cross
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pater Noster
Pater noster, qui es in caelis: sanctificetur nomen tuum; adveniat regnum tuum; fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo, et in terra. Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie; et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris; et ne nos inducas in tentationem; sed libera nos a malo. Amen.

The Our Father
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive s our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Ave Maria
Ave Maria, gratia plena, dominus tecum; benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen

The Hail Mary
Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.
Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Amen.

Gloria Patri
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen

The Glory Be
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.


The Nicene Creed
Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem coeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero. Genitum, not factum, consubstantialem Patri: per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis. Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est. Crucifixus etiam pro nobis; sub Pontio Pilato passus, et sepultus est. Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas. Et ascendit in coelum: sedet ad desteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est com gloria judicare vivos et mortuos. cujus regni non erit finis. Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem: qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. Qui cum Patre, et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur: qui locutus est per Prophetas. Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum. Et vitam ventura saeculi. Amen.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being With the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Apostles' Creed
Credo in Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae. Et in Jesum Christum, filium eius unicum, Dominum nostrum: qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus; descendit ad inferos; tertia die resurrexit a mortuis; ascendit ad caelos; sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis; inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, sanctam Ecclesiam Catholicam, Sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem, vitam aeternam. Amen
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae; Vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Evae. Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.

V. Ora pro nobis sancta Dei Genetrix.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi

Hail Holy Queen
Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, hail our life our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Laudate Dominum
Psalm Chapter 116 (117)

Here in Mangalore there is a tradition of singing 
this Psalm in Latin as a thanksgiving hymn at functions.

Laudáte Dóminum omnes gentes
(laudáte éum) omnes populi
Quóniam confirmáta est
súper nos misericordia eius
et véritas Domini mánet in æternum
Glória Pátri et Filio et Spiritui Sáncto.
Sicut érat in pricipio et nunc et semper
et in sáecula sáeculorum Amen.

O Praise the Lord, all ye nations:
praise him, all ye people.
For his mercy is confirmed upon us:
and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.