April 26, 2008

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

I have posted a homily for today's Mass.
Click HERE for it.

April 25, 2008

Back to good news....

Russia has not had the warmest of feelings towards the Catholic Church. However, it seems Pope Benedict XVI has managed to break the ice in a very simple way. I especially like the following lines from an article about a recent Russian broadcast about the Holy Father.
Many viewers had been surprised the Pope was “so human and kind”. Other Russians said the Pope appeared as “a person of great dignity and at the same time kind and warm-hearted personality.”

Here’s the complete article from Catholic News Agency, April 25.


Pope’s message to Russian people warmly received


Many Russians warmly received Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the Russian people, which was delivered in an April 16 broadcast of a documentary about his life sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need.

Father Joaquin Alliende, president-elect of ACN, said the message was well received not only among Catholics, but also among Orthodox believers and those not belonging to a church. He said the address should be seen as “an important step along the road towards a deeper sense of closeness between Catholic and Orthodox Christians.”

Father Alliende said the Pope’s greeting had “sprung from the heartfelt desire of the Holy Father to promote the growth of mutual love between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church.” As ACN’s spiritual director, Father Alliende had been received by the Pope in a private audience on the day the message was filmed.

Peter Humeniuk, ACN's Russia specialist, said the documentary film and papal message had brought the Pope closer to many of the Russian people. Many viewers had been surprised the Pope was “so human and kind”. Other Russians said the Pope appeared as “a person of great dignity and at the same time kind and warm-hearted personality.” Many found it especially beautiful that the Pope delivered part of his message in Russian, he said.

A Catholic priest working in Eastern Siberia told ACN that he thought the film had been “a real breakthrough” that would undoubtedly “bear fruit for the Church of God in East and West.” He said Catholics were pleased to know the film project had also been approved by the Russian Orthodox Church. The joint project, the priest said, showed what could be achieved when “our Churches draw closer together."

The film was sponsored and promoted by Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic pastoral charity under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See. The film’s April 16 broadcast on the Russian State news channel Vesti coincided with the Pope’s 81st birthday.


I thank all who gave me their kind words for yesterday’s happy occasion. Now some bad news:

thieves have struck at my monastery.


The heating system for most of our buildings is a network of warm water tubing and pipes in the tile flooring. We pump water through an outdoor system of copper pipes exposed to the sun to warm the water, which then circulates into a boiler that boosts the water temperature before it circulates under the tile floors of our buildings to radiate heat indoors.

Last week thieves broke apart our outdoor system and stole all the copper pipes and tubing.


April 24, 2008

Today, twenty-five years ago

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I, Brother Stephanos Pedrano of San Diego, California, in the diocese of San Diego, promise... Stability, Fidelity to Monastic Life, and Obedience according to the Holy Rule of our Most Holy Father Benedict and the statutes of the Swiss-American Federation. I promise this before God and his saints whose relics are here, and in the presence of the Right Reverend Claude Ehringer, abbot of this monastery, and of its monks.

In witness whereof I have drawn up this document with my own hand, and signed it here in Oceanside, California, at Prince of Peace Abbey, in the year of our Lord nineteen-hundred and eighty-three, on Sunday, the twenty-fourth day of April.

[Signature]: Brother Stephanos Pedrano, O.S.B.


April 23, 2008

Part 2 of the Interview with Michael Novak regarding the Papal U.S.A. visit

From Zenit.org


I think the Holy Father has claimed the "JPII generation" as his own. It is now the JPII/Benedict generation. There is not a break between them.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Zenit) - With the election of Benedict XVI on the heels of Pope John Paul II's papacy, we have the best of both worlds, says Michael Novak.

Novak is a theologian, former ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights, and author of nearly 30 books, including the forthcoming "No One Sees God."

In this interview with us, Novak discusses the Pope's address at the United Nations and his relationship with youth.

Q: What was your reaction to the Pope's address to the United Nations?

Novak: Part of his statement was standard, and repetitive of past statements, but part was very original and penetrating. The Pope emphasized that what is crucial for the United Nations and the world of the future is the protection of religious liberty.

Religious liberty is the most basic of all liberties because it protects the precious conscience of every person. He spoke of the need to protect religious minorities.

Implicitly, he defended the concept of equality before the law, and his comments relied on the establishment of the rule of law -- and probably also, of pluralistic democracies, of the sort that respect human rights.

But he did not stop at religious liberty. The United Nations, he said, must work to create room for religious people to speak of their faith and to argue from their faith in the public square. The public square does not belong only to secular people.

These passages brought to mind his exchange of letters with then president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera, in a volume called in English "Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam." There, the Pope pointed out that in America the separation of church and state is not negative, but positive.

For example, the state does not try to control the public square, but it allows room for religious people to fully express themselves in the religious sphere. While church and state are separate in their functions, in actual life there can be no separation of religion and the political dimension of life. Each human person is at the same time a religious and a political being.

In those essays, he also distinguished the American idea of the separation of church and state from the European idea, which is very negative. What the Europeans do is give the state all the power and try to drive religion out, limiting it to the domain of private conscience.

It has been rare for Europeans to see the difference between Europe and America so clearly, and at least in this one respect, to command the American side of the argument. That was the spirit that seemed to animate many of his remarks in America.

At one point at the White House, the President quoted St. Augustine and Pope Benedict. And for his part, the Holy Father quoted George Washington. It was rather nice. I don't remember a Pope analyzing an American text in such a scholarly but easily understandable way. One hasn't often heard the Vatican make such distinctions.

John Paul II was very pro-American. He loved America. He didn't mind chastising us when he thought we were wrong, but he really appreciated "the phenomenology of America." He really appreciated the sense of the whole, as well as some of the details.

But Benedict has asked more carefully the question -- with the famous German capacity for analytic work -- "What is it that makes this country different? What is it that makes liberty work better here? What is it that creates a public square in which both religion and politics live fully together, and in which the faith of billions still thrives?"

In the White House, among journalists, and in many other places, Benedict XVI must have seen how many Catholics are present in important positions in the public square. He must also have seen how vital certain Catholic ideas such as "the culture of life," "subsidiarity," "the common good," an awareness of "human weakness and sin," and opposition to abortion have become.

Twice at the Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York the crowd erupted in powerful applause during his sermon when the Pope spoke directly against abortion; pro-life sentiment is unusually powerful in America.

At the United Nations, one point Pope Benedict made is that it is not enough to mean by religious liberty the right of individuals to worship as they please, or to follow their conscience. Religious liberty also means a public space for religious activities.

In other places, the Pope praised all the public good that Catholics in America serve. There are some 220 Catholic universities, and those are public. He pointed to the huge Catholic hospital system, and the many Catholic missionaries working with the poor in Latin America and Africa. These are all public services. A good state has to allow scope for religious people to supply all these goods.

Q: The youth were always so loyal to John Paul II -- even known as the "JPII Generation." How do you think they have received Benedict XVI?

Novak: Peggy Noonan wrote the other day in the Wall Street Journal that Pope John Paul was the perfect Pope for the television age, because he was so dramatic and had such a winning face, gestures, wit, he was so quick on his feet.

He radiated affection the way a good actor should. But, she said, Benedict is the best Pope for the Internet age. The blogs go on and on about what he meant by this, and what he meant by that. The discussion goes on for months.

The argument about what Benedict XVI said and did at Regensburg, for example, is still not finished; it is still being plumbed and argued over.

I think the Holy Father has claimed the "JPII generation" as his own. It is now the JPII/Benedict generation. There is not a break between them.

Benedict used to meet every Friday for an hour or two of discussion with John Paul II. They were on the same track philosophically and theologically, and they basically strengthened one another. Looked at wryly, this is the 29th year of John Paul II's pontificate.

Benedict XVI is a different man with a different style, with a different set of priorities and a different manner of acting, but in him, all this is perfectly becoming. Many commentators in America praised his sincerity and authenticity.

He seems content to be who he is, and not to try to be someone else. One tough-guy journalist said to Peggy Noonan, as after a few days he nodded toward the Pope: "He's a good guy!"

Americans admire authenticity. Benedict XVI has a right to be different from John Paul while continuing in the same line of renewal and re-evangelization. I think we are enjoying the best of both worlds, two in one.


Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

I have posted a homily for today's Mass.
Click HERE for it.

April 22, 2008

Michael Novak on Pope's U.S. Visit (Part 1), Interview With Theologian and Author

From Zenit.org, Washington, D.C., April 22, 2008


The United States gave a warm welcome to Benedict XVI when he arrived to the nation, and it must have been a little bit of a surprise for the Pope, says Michael Novak.

Novak is a theologian, former ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and author of nearly 30 books, including the forthcoming "No One Sees God."

In part 1 of this interview with ZENIT, Novak discusses the Pope's reception in the United States, his comments on the sexual abuse crisis, and his address to Catholic educators.

Part 2 will appear Wednesday.


Q: What were your general impressions about the Pope's reception to the United States?

Novak: It must have surprised the Pope and his secretary and others what a tremendously warm welcome Washington and New York gave him.

You can know the Church in America abstractly, but when you compare it with other industrial nations, the people here are so religious that the churches are still full and the loyalty to the Holy See is very, very strong. 80% of Catholics in a Pew poll taken before Pope Benedict arrived said he was doing a good or a very good job. They approved him, they like him. I don't think it is like that in most of Europe.

I was at the arrival ceremony at the White House. The warmth of feeling for the Pope was tangible, and so was the good chemistry between the Pope and President George Bush. The warm feeling was very powerful. Both President and Pope looked very happy. I thought the Pope probably had never met an evangelical Protestant from Texas before, and I think he was getting a big kick out of it— the brashness, straightforwardness, and directness.

And then there is the manifest respect and love that President Bush has for the Pope. They are palpable.

President Bush has been grateful for the support of prayers from Catholics. He has done his best to soak up Catholic wisdom and Catholic ways of thinking about things. I don't think we are ever going to get a more Catholic president. Even the "Washington Post" said the other day that he is the "first Catholic president."

It seemed to me, though I don't see him everyday, that the Pope was overjoyed by the reception of the crowds. I wonder if Europeans expected this outpouring of love and affection from the people of America. People around the world portray Americans to be more secular, more detached, more modern, and perhaps more decadent. To the European mind, 'Modern' means 'secular.' But in the American case, that's false. Here, modern means religious, not secular.

Q: What did you think about the Pope's repeated mentioning of the abuse crisis that has plagued the Church in America?

Novak: The headline of the "Washington Times" on Monday, April 21, was "Pope visit soothes abuse crisis." Journalists are full of praise for the deft and serious way in which Benedict XVI expressed his shame, repentance and love regarding this issue.

At first, like many others, I was surprised that Benedict brought up the abuse crisis on the airplane. Then he brought it up in practically every venue thereafter.

The title of the Pope's pilgrimage was titled "Christ Our Hope," and he was calling us to renewal. For renewal to take effect, the right thing to do is begin with the confession of sin. I think it is true that we were all ashamed. I can't think of anything in my lifetime that shamed me more than the behavior of priests, almost always with young men.

Q: The Holy Father, with the heart of a teacher, addressed Catholic college and university presidents. What did you think of his address to them?

Novak: A Catholic college president judged the Pope's talk to be a very good mixture of the encouragement, "You are doing a lot of good," and of quiet, indirect accusation: "Look, you have to take the faith seriously." The Pope seemed to be saying: If you are a Catholic school, then your first task is to provide for all who live and study there an experience of the living God. You have to live up to what "Catholic" means.

The Pope has a quite wonderful teaching method. He speaks the harsh truth, and then turns you in a hopeful direction. Which really is the whole meaning of Christianity, to take evil and transform it into good.

The Pope used this method with the university presidents, saying roughly: "There are some bad things to call attention to, and we have to do better than that. Meanwhile, I want to encourage you and strengthen you because what you are doing— in your more than 200 Catholic universities— is unparalleled in the world, and you do so many things well. Be encouraged, be hopeful."


April 21, 2008

The Pope’s Prayer yesterday at the site of the World Trade Center

[The bodies of many who died there on September 11, 2001, have never been found.]


O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.

Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.

Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.

Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.

Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.


The legacy of John Paul II: Answering the call (reverts and converts)

[This is from my blog archive. I originally posted this on March 26, 2006.]



The pope's death a year ago has drawn many believers to Catholicism. Reading this article revived the heartache I felt at John Paul's death and funeral; it also renewed the affectionate gratitude I have for him.

----

Salt Lake Tribune, March 25, 2006

Like people all over the world, Steven Tilley of Ogden was rapt last April as Pope John Paul II suffered the last ravages of Parkinson's disease and died his very publicized death in Rome.
Tilley marveled over the devotion of the crowds in St. Peter's Square and arose in the night to watch the live funeral broadcast, even though he had long before stopped attending the Roman Catholic Church with his mother, immersed himself in the Baptist and FourSquare churches and wandered from the pews altogether.
"Catholicism was on the news all the time, 24-7 Vatican coverage," says Tilley. "When he died, I totally felt like we lost something unbelievably special."
But Tilley, 24, was not prepared for what happened next. He was seized, day and night, by the conviction that he must become a Catholic priest.
"I could think of nothing but the priesthood," says Tilley.
Reconciled to the Catholic Church, Tilley is now active at St. Joseph's Parish in Ogden and has applied to become a priest for the Diocese of Salt Lake City. He'll receive the sacraments he missed as a boy - Eucharist and Confirmation - at the Easter Vigil Mass, and if all goes well, he'll enter the seminary in fall 2007.
Tilley is not the only Utahn who believes that God used the occasion of the pope’s death to call them to faith.
Don Sleeper of Logan says the death of the pope, a man he always had admired, was the catalyst in his conversion.
A scrub tech at a surgical hospital, 58-year-old Sleeper had flirted with a half-dozen Protestant sects, the Anglican and Catholic churches as well as Buddhism as he moved around the world over the years.
After arising in the wee hours to watch John Paul II's funeral, Sleeper called St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Logan to learn more about Catholicism. A new class for adults was starting that evening, and he joined in.
"It brought everything together for me - everything I've been looking for," says Sleeper, who will be baptized and receive the sacraments at Easter at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Diane Seiler of Brigham City says the pope's death brought to the surface her long-held, vague feeling that she should be Catholic, the faith in which her husband and mother were raised.
"I was just sad, very sad," she says. "I felt cheated."
A year later, she is completing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults class at St. Henry's Catholic Church in Brigham City, and will be baptized at the Easter Vigil Mass.
Her husband is active again in his faith, and their 14-year-old daughter, Haley, will join her mother in receiving the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confirmation at Easter. Haley was baptized as an infant.
'Be not afraid'
Maxine Kaiser, director of liturgy for the Salt Lake City Diocese, says the number of people coming into the church in Utah this Easter - 525 - is more than last year, but there were even more in 2004.
It's hard to say whether the pope's death triggered the increase this year, because people are drawn to the church for a variety of reasons, she says.
Still, Kaiser has heard enough anecdotes from those who teach adult formation classes to know Pope John Paul has had an impact on many lives.
It's the same for most of the 11 men studying for the priesthood for the Utah diocese, says the Rev. Colin Bircumshaw, pastor at St. Ann Parish in Salt Lake City and vocation director for the diocese.
"For so many of our young people, that's the only pope they've known," says Bircumshaw. "For them, he had a very powerful impact on their vocations."
Pope John Paul II - the former Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow, Poland - became pope in October 1978.
Four men will be ordained to the priesthood in Utah this spring, the highest number in many years.
John Paul II, who began his papacy with the admonition "Be not afraid!" was admired by people throughout the world as a charismatic champion of peace, religious freedom and human dignity. He was credited with building bridges to Islam and the Jewish faith, and for his role in resisting first the Nazis in his native Poland and, later, helping to end Communist rule of Poland and the former Soviet Union.
His jailhouse visit to and forgiveness of the man who shot him as well as his patient suffering of Parkinson's gave a Christian witness that many considered holy.
Through dozens of poems, plays, letters and books, in his world travels and at World Youth Day gatherings with million of young people, Pope John Paul tried to tell the modern world of the church's relevance, particularly in the turmoil following the second Vatican Council of the early 1960s.
"Through him we had a definite understanding of what it meant to be a Catholic Christian," says Lynn Johnson, a deacon at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City.
For priests and seminarians, it was John Paul's devotion to prayer and the Eucharist, which Catholics believe to be the body of Christ under the appearance of bread, that had the most profound effect.
"Anyone who had a small, private Mass with him came out a changed person," says Johnson. "He brought us back to a deeper understanding of what [the Eucharist] means."
Thomas Stinger, a seminarian from Roosevelt who is studying at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif., says he now realizes what lay beneath the pope's far-ranging achievements: "He was always a very prayerful person. He had this spirituality that drove all of it."
The Rev. Jan Bednarz, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Taylorsville, was a young priest in Poland who came to America about the same time the archbishop left Krakow for Rome. A student of the pope's philosophical and theological writing, Bednarz says he always has admired John Paul's courage.
"He speaks the truth, he doesn't compromise," says Bednarz.
Meanwhile, John Paul's writings mean he is still shepherding his people, Bednarz says. "He is not done yet."
Stinger, the seminarian, agrees.
"He's still very much with us."


April 20, 2008

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

The homily Pope Benedict XVI preached today in New York City.
Click HERE for it.