May 05, 2006

Message of Pope Benedict XVI for the Annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations

7 May 2006
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Vocation in the mystery of the Church

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,


The celebration of the ... World Day of Prayer for Vocations gives me the opportunity to invite the entire People of God to reflect on the theme Vocation in the mystery of the Church. The Apostle Paul writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world … He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3-5). Before the creation of the world, before our coming into existence, the heavenly Father chose us personally, calling us to enter into a filial relationship with Him, through Jesus, the Incarnate Word, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Dying for us, Jesus introduced us into the mystery of the Father’s love, a love which completely envelops his Son and which He offers to all of us. In this way, united with Jesus, the Head, we form a sole body, the Church.

The weight of two millennia of history makes it difficult to grasp the novelty of this captivating mystery of divine adoption, which is at the centre of St Paul’s teaching. As the Apostle reminds us, the Father “has made known to us the mystery of his will … as a plan to unite all things in him” (Eph. 1:9-10). And he adds, with enthusiasm: “In everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom. 8:28-29). The vision is indeed fascinating: we are called to live as brothers and sisters of Jesus, to feel that we are sons and daughters of the same Father. This is a gift that overturns every purely human idea and plan. The confession of the true faith opens wide our minds and hearts to the inexhaustible mystery of God, which permeates human existence. What should be said therefore of the temptation, which is very strong nowadays, to feel that we are self-sufficient to the point that we become closed to God’s mysterious plan for each of us? The love of the Father, which is revealed in the person of Christ, puts this question to us.

In order to respond to the call of God and start on our journey, it is not necessary to be already perfect. We know that the prodigal son’s awareness of his own sin allowed him to set out on his return journey and thus feel the joy of reconciliation with the Father. Weaknesses and human limitations do not present an obstacle, as long as they help make us more aware of the fact that we are in need of the redeeming grace of Christ. This is the experience of St Paul who confessed: “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12,9). In the mystery of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, the divine power of love changes the heart of man, making him able to communicate the love of God to his brothers and sisters. Throughout the centuries many men and women, transformed by divine love, have consecrated their lives to the cause of the Kingdom. Already on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, many allowed themselves to be won by Jesus: they were in search of healing in body or spirit, and they were touched by the power of his grace. Others were chosen personally by Him and became his apostles. We also find some, like Mary Magdalene and others, who followed him on their own initiative, simply out of love. Like the disciple John, they too found a special place in his heart. These men and women, who knew the mystery of the love of the Father through Jesus, represent the variety of vocations which have always been present in the Church. The model of one called to give witness in a particular manner to the love of God, is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who in her pilgrimage of faith is directly associated with the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption.

In Christ, the Head of the Church, which is his Body, all Christians form “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him” (1 Pt. 2:9). The Church is holy, even if her members need to be purified, in order that holiness, which is a gift of God, can shine forth from them with its full splendor. The Second Vatican Council highlights the universal call to holiness, when it affirms: “The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to his own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the Baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way, they are really made holy” (Lumen Gentium, 40). Within the framework of this universal call, Christ, the High Priest, in his solicitude for the Church calls persons in every generation who are to care for his people. In particular, he calls to the ministerial priesthood men who are to exercise a fatherly role, the source of which is within the very fatherhood of God (cfr. Eph 3:14). The mission of the priest in the Church is irreplaceable. Therefore, even if in some regions there is a scarcity of clergy, it should never be doubted that Christ continues to raise up men who, like the Apostles, leaving behind all other work, dedicate themselves completely to the celebration of the sacred mysteries, to the preaching of the Gospel and to pastoral ministry. In the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, my venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II wrote in this regard:
The relation of the priest to Jesus Christ, and in him to his Church, is found in the very being of the priest by virtue of his sacramental consecration/anointing and in his activity, that is, in his mission or ministry. In particular, “the priest minister is the servant of Christ present in the Church as mystery, communion and mission. In virtue of his participation in the ‘anointing’ and ‘mission’ of Christ, the priest can continue Christ’s prayer, word, sacrifice and salvific action in the Church. In this way, the priest is a servant of the Church as mystery because he actuates the Church's sacramental signs of the presence of the risen Christ” (no.16).

Another special vocation, which occupies a place of honor in the Church, is the call to the consecrated life. Following the example of Mary of Bethany who “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Lk. 10, 39), many men and women consecrate themselves to a total and exclusive following of Christ. Although they undertake various services in the field of human formation and care of the poor, in teaching or in assisting the sick, they do not consider these activities as the principal purpose of their life, since, as the Code of Canon Law well underlines, “the first and foremost duty of all religious is to be the contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer” (can. 663 §1). Moreover, in the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata Pope John Paul II noted: “In the Church's tradition religious profession is considered to be a special and fruitful deepening of the consecration received in Baptism, inasmuch as it is the means by which the close union with Christ already begun in Baptism develops in the gift of a fuller, more explicit and authentic configuration to him through the profession of the evangelical counsels” (no. 30).

Remembering the counsel of Jesus, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mt. 9:37), we readily recognize the need to pray for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. It is not surprising that, where people pray fervently, vocations flourish. The holiness of the Church depends essentially on union with Christ and on being open to the mystery of grace that operates in the hearts of believers. Therefore, I invite all the faithful to nurture an intimate relationship with Christ, Teacher and Pastor of his people, by imitating Mary who kept the divine mysteries in her heart and pondered them constantly (cfr. Lk. 2:19). Together with her, who occupies a central position in the mystery of the Church, we pray:
O Father, raise up among Christians
abundant and holy vocations to the priesthood,
who keep the faith alive
and guard the blessed memory of your Son Jesus
through the preaching of his word
and the administration of the Sacraments,
with which you continually renew your faithful.

Grant us holy ministers of your altar,
who are careful and fervent guardians of the Eucharist,
the sacrament of the supreme gift of Christ
for the redemption of the world.

Call ministers of your mercy,
who, through the sacrament of Reconciliation,
spread the joy of your forgiveness.

Grant, O Father, that the Church may welcome with joy
the numerous inspirations of the Spirit of your Son
and, docile to His teachings,
may she care for vocations to the ministerial priesthood
and to the consecrated life.

Sustain the Bishops, priests and deacons,
consecrated men and women, and all the baptized in Christ,
so that they may faithfully fulfill their mission
at the service of the Gospel.

This we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

From the Vatican ...

BENEDICT XVI


Germany now has a different vision of Benedict XVI

Zenit.org reports that the pope has become what I’ll call a “One-Man New Evangelization” in his native Germany.

A year after negatively charged German headlines, the newspapers of Ratzinger’s homeland now call attention to the good effects of the election of the German pope.

The number of students of theology, of adult baptisms and of Catholics returning to the Church is increasing in Germany.

At the same time, the number of those leaving the Church is shrinking. Records show that in 2004 more than 101,200 left the Catholic Church in Germany. In 2005, that number shrank by one third.

Prior to his papal election, the main criticisms of Cardinal Ratzinger were always in Germany.

However, since he became pope, Germany has shown development of a new perspective on the pope.

The German media have scrutinized Benedict XVI's papacy as a significant step in rehabilitation of Germany sixty years after the second World War.

The German Language Society declared "Wir sind Papst" (“We are Pope”) as the second most important German phrase of 2005. The first was "Bundeskanzlerin," the feminine form of "federal chancellor"—since Angela Merkel won election to that office.

Federal Chancellor Merkel, President Horst Köhler and the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder speak of their “pride” that Ratzinger was elected— though the three are Protestants.

Germany’s most popular television hosts, such as Harald Schmidt and Stefan Raab, openly admit they read the pope’s writings. Sales of Ratzinger’s works surged upwards after his election.

Catholic critics— such as the “Wir Sind Kirche” (“We Are Church”) group, Hans Küng and Eugen Drewermann— had formerly dominated the German media’s generally negative attitude towards the “Amtskirche” (“Official Church”)— that is, Rome.

The weightiest change seems to be that the German media has ceased deriding Ratzinger as the defensive "guardian of the faith" in favor of now speaking of him as "pastor."

On April 22 this year the “Suddeutsche Zeitung” wrote that "Benedict advocates concentration and contemplation, whereas” John Paul pursued "amplitude." The newspaper went on to affirm that Benedict XVI looks for "profundity" and the "core." The new perception is that Ratzinger’s core is the faith, rather than the church hierarchy.

A year after his papal election, Germany’s printed news media accent Ratzinger’s "real humility and goodness" and his appeals to “the beauty of the faith”.

Germany is exhibiting a renewed confidence in the Church and the papacy. The country is showing heightened interest in religion.

Ratzinger’s books are best-sellers. The name “Benedikt” had been the fiftieth most popular for German newborns; it is now the thirty-seventh.


May 04, 2006

The Rome office of "Human Life International": statement on AIDS and condoms

On the question of the morality of married couples using condoms in the case that one of the members of the couple is infected with HIV/AIDS

The Rome Office of Human Life International is presenting some reflections on the question of the morality of married couples using condoms in the case that one of the members of the couple is infected with HIV/AIDS. These considerations are presented on the basis of credible journalistic information that states that a document is being studied on this question. (Many articles can be quoted, perhaps the most reliable is the one published in the section Vita of L’Avvenire of Thursday April 27th, p. 3, under the title “Barragan: Aids, non sarà la Chiesa a promuovere il profilattico” (Barragan: AIDS, the Church will not promote the condom) that admits the probability of the issuance of a document on this matter.)

HIV/AIDS is a death causing disease that can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. So a person that engages in sexual intercourse with his or her spouse knowing that he is infected with HIV/AIDS, becomes the cause of the death of his spouse. It has been proposed, that the Church might consider permitting a married couple, when one of the members is infected, to use condoms to prevent the contagion of this disease as a morally permitted lesser evil. It has been proposed, also by a significant source, that the use of condom in marriage “may be seen as form of self-defense”. The theory has also been advanced that the prophylactic device could be considered a form of therapy.

The first objection against this proposal is based on the nature of marriage. The use of condoms by a married couple that will separate the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage can never be accepted. Evil can never be wished or desired to prevent a worse evil. Here we do not have the case of an evil that is tolerated or permitted, like tolerating a degree of social evil that we are not in a position to combat, but were are confronted by a case in which an evil is directly desired and executed. So here we can not apply the Principle of Double Effect. To block the spread of the virus, the couple poses an evil act that is willed with conscience and knowledge which breaks asunder the two fundamental goods of marriage. Neither it can be considered a form of self-defense because here we have an artificially construed case of aggression, save in the case that the infected spouse would try to force his way and then if that risk exists that would justify a physical separation of the couple. The prophylactic devise can not be considered either a therapy, first because it does not heal any conditions, second there is totally secure alternative which is abstinence. All these theories would lead to a disintegrative vision of human sexuality. A vision of sexuality that instead of being life giving is death giving.

The second objection is more serious, because it affects the right to life of the healthy member of the couple. It is in blatant contradiction with the fifth commandment. Condoms always lead to a partial risk and as a consequence to a partial failure that leads to the contagion of a deadly disease. If condoms are so effective at preventing HIV/AIDS transmission, why do nations that stress their use continue to experience at a rapidly escalating rate an exploding HIV/AIDS epidemic? Condoms do not guarantee protection against HIV/AIDS. Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV/AIDS as we will demonstrate below.

A reasonable way of demonstrating the condom’s lack of effectiveness in preventing the transmission HIV/AIDS and STD’s is its limited effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. Taking into account that many instances it can be used not in accordance with the specifications, the failure rate can be from 10 to 14%. That many times this device is not going to be used in accordance with the instructions, should be obvious to any person that is not blind to the limitations of wounded human nature in particular in moments of passion. If pregnancy might happen in spite of the use of a condom, it is reasonable to conclude that transmission of STD would also occur. To that we have to add the obvious fact that pregnancy can happen during the limited five to eight days of women’s fertility cycle, while HIV/AIDS can be transmitted any day.

Condoms can fail due easily demonstrable causes that affect the integrity of this product: 1. Manufacturer errors or irresponsibility. There is plenty of evidence of batches of this product that have been found flawed, both in developed and developing countries. 2. Ill handling in transportation or storage that leads to the deterioration of this product. It is well known that this product can be adversely affected by either extreme heat or cold. 3. Diverse forms of imprudent or erroneous handling by the consumer, like keeping the prophylactic for a long period in his pockets. 4. Scientific literature demonstrates a plurality of causes of accidental breakage.

Besides the different manufacturer errors and accidents that hamper its effectiveness, the prophylactic has the permanent structural problem, as a defence against HIV/AIDS that the viruses of this disease are far smaller than the pores of the standard latex condom. It is difficult to evaluate how of many of those viruses can pass through those pores taking into account different factors like hydraulic tension of the walls of the condom and the fact that many are associated with spermatozoids that would not be able to pass through those pores. But also there is scientific evidence of the free viruses that could be able to pass through those pores.

Besides the risks that are incurred in every “protected action” in which the condom is used, we have a cumulative risk factor. Even if the risks were constant (and we know that they are not, because there are variants that change increasing or decreasing these risks) the repetition of the conduct at risk increases the probability of infection. What has to be considered therefore is not only the risk of each single condom use, but also of its continued use, a risk which dramatically increases in the medium or long term. One author, very reasonably claims that repeating seven times the “protected sex” by an HIV positive “protected” individual annuls from an “epidemiological” view point the hopes of receiving any protection at all. This means that the safe sex Russian Roulette becomes even more serious with repeated condom use. A person that persists in playing this ghastly game will eventually kill himself, in the same way that a person that persists in having sexual relations protected by a condom with someone infected with HIV/AIDS.

Even if the principal body fluids that can be a vehicle for the HIV/AIDS contagion are directly connected with sexual activity other body fluids can transmit this disease, so close physical contact can be an occasion for the transmission of this disease as there are many skin surfaces not covered by the condom. Also we have to keep in mind as scientific literature demonstrates to be the case that the external surfaces of the prophylactic device can be cause of infection.

Last but not least there is an important pastoral consideration that should be taken into consideration to maintain the current teaching of the Church, which is the scandal that many persons of good faith are suffering at the publication of the news of a possible change in the moral teachings of the Church. This office has received a multiplicity of messages expressing this concern, so it would be a very desirable pastoral measure that the rumours on possible changes in the moral teachings of the Church should be put to rest.

In 1930 the Anglican leaders used the same arguments for changing the centuries-long Christian consensus on contraception. They also said that married couples could use them “responsibly” and for “proportionate reasons” etc. and gave endorsement to the very immoral forces that eventually brought us the culture of death.

On the basis of the arguments put forward in this brief presentation Human Life International is of the considerate view that the teaching of the Church with regards to the use of condoms should not be changed or qualified to permit its use by a married couples in the case that one of the spouses is HIV positive.

Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carámbula
Director, HLI-Rome


I have taken the liberty of copying from Fr. Tim Finigan who himself obtained permission to post the statement on his blog, "The Hermeneutic of Continuity."
Click HERE for it.

Episcopalians publicly admit the gays are killing them

So says the Episcopalian newspaper.
One of the dioceses hardest hit by declining numbers in 2003 was New Hampshire, where Canon Robinson was installed as bishop, which saw the greatest decline in attendance of any state in the Northeast at six per cent.

The stagnation in growth was not confined to liberal dioceses, as several conservative dioceses halted their steady growth of prior years in the wake of evangelical secessions following the Robinson consecration. The diocese of Dallas, which grew 19 per cent between 1992 and 2002, declined by 2.7 per cent in 2003, while Central Florida, which grew 14 per cent in that same period, declined by 2 percent and saw three of its parishes secede to the Anglican Mission in America.

Canon Robinson publicly professes to be gay, and is living with a male partner.

Want to read the complete article?
Click HERE for it.

May 02, 2006

Building blocks

The Old and New Testaments together are the Word of God. However, how do I begin to make sense of the Word? How did the first apostles and followers of Jesus understand him?

Aside from the Bible, two books have been the building blocks for my own understanding and appreciation of God's Word and Presence in my life experiences as an adult.

In 1977 I came across a new book entitled The Teaching of Christ. It has gone through several editions through the years. The book is an overview of the ancient and living Christian faith. I used to read it about once year during college and for a few years after. It's really an introduction to the faith for adults. Donald Wuerl (then a priest, now a bishop) is its editor. The book gave me a good, overall grasp of our Christian belief system that deepened each time I again read it. If you look at the list of "Links" on the righthand side of this blog, you will see "Birth of My Adult Faith"-- a link to The Teaching of Christ on amazon.com.

The second "building block" book for my Christian life is really a booklet-- it's the letter of Pope John Paul II entitled "The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering." You can read it online through the link of the same name on the righthand side of this blog. If you read the letter, do so slowly.

I''ve let these two pieces, The Teaching of Christ and "The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering", set deep foundations for my thinking, for understanding myself, for understanding and appreciating the Word of God ... Christ himself and his Gospel.

Throughout my years as a monk and a priest, those are the two reads I have recommended the most to people seeking to deepen their faith or wanting to know how to make Christian sense out of their lives.

So now, by way of this blogpost, I recommend them again.


An ancient custom still alive today


As the Pastor of the Universal Church, the Holy Father is concerned for the material needs of poor dioceses, religious orders and people in serious difficulty: the poor, children, the elderly, the marginalized, victims of war and natural disasters, special grants to bishops and dioceses in need, Catholic education, aid to refugees and migrants, etc.

“Peter’s Pence” is the traditional name for the offerings Catholics send directly to assist the pope. The Vatican has an information site that points out several ways to send an offering. The site also gives the interesting history of this ancient, charitable custom.
Click HERE for it.

May 01, 2006

New Vatican Web Site Expected

NEW YORK, MAY 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican is planning to launch a new Web site this autumn, aimed at bringing together the faithful so they can interact, says Business Week magazine.

The publication in its May 8 issue reported that the Web site will include personal news updates, e-learning programs, and areas set aside for families, young people and parishes.

It quoted Sister Judith Zoebelein, the editorial director of the Internet office of the Holy See, saying: "People will be able to find each other and work together online, and then go back and use what they have learned or done in their own communities."


I have two separate blogs.



I post my daily homilies over at 1monk.blogspot.com.

Here at monkallover.blogspot.com, I post other things.

Because of the resolutions the bishop asked me to profess publicly at my priestly ordination, homilies are a part of the service I owe to Christ and his Church.

Out of respect for my Employers, I maintain a professional separation between my homily blog (1monk.blogspot.com) and my "meandering" blog that you are reading at this very moment.

From time to time, acquaintances tell me of their surprise to discover that I have the two separate blogs-- and not just the one they already knew about.

There!

I've posted it.

Now all of you know.