Homily for the Feast of St. Andrew
Homily for the Feast of St. Andrew
“Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
—Benedict XVI, quoted by Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, 7
The Year of faith has just ended with the proclamation “Christ is the center of the history of humanity and also the center of the history of every individual.” And today Pope Francis has released his first Apostolic Exhortation in which he encourages us to create the conditions in which all men may find Christ in an “event,” a personal encounter capable of bringing a “new horizon and a decisive direction.” Both Benedict and Francis have invested much in this event of the encounter with Christ, and have proposed it as the way that supersedes all ethical choices and lofty ideas. This is the new evangelization.
With this post I would like to examine a specific problem regarding the reception of Pope Francis’ teaching. Unfortunately, some have already pigeonholed Pope Francis as a liberal and are poised to parse his every word in that light. I would suggest his teaching ought to be approached not simply through an assessment of “lofty ideas,” but as an encounter—a personal opportunity in the here and now to accept a transformative grace. It is too soon for me to write anything in depth about the Apostolic Exhortation, but not too soon to suggest a manner of reception that will prove to be fruitful. And for that we need to avoid a serious pitfall. Continue reading
Last week I was in Bloomington Indiana where I gave a retreat on the Apocalypse. The retreat conferences should be up on AirMaria at some point in the near future, at which time I will provide links here.
Today’s Solemnity of Christ the King is a reminder of Christ’s ultimate triumph over sin and death, as well as his ultimate control over history. The Apocalypse begins with St. John’s vision of Christ, who announces his definitive triumph over all dark forces:
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. . . . Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One. And I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades (Rev. 1: 8, 17-18).
After this announcement the rest of the Apocalypse is the proclamation and experience that the One who holds the keys of death grants life to all those who are faithful and persevere.
It is in the Apocalypse of St. John that the Greek mártys, martyr, literally “witness,” comes to mean one who dies giving testimony to Christ. In the Apocalypse there is no passage from the “present age” to the “age that is to come,” without passing through the mystery of the Cross. The one-hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed by the living God, stand before the throne and the Lamb and it is asked: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” The answer: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 17:13-15). To wear white one must bleed red. This is the lot of those who follow Christ the King.
History teaches us that mankind is caught in a perennial crisis. The conflict between the light and darkness defines our experience of human history at the center of which is Christ the King, who reigns from the Cross. The Apocalypse is not so much the end of the world as it is the status quo across the ages—our age no more or less than any other. If the potential for evil in our age has multiplied exponentially because the works of human pride have come to full fruition, our time can claim for itself the graces given to the Christians of the early Church to whom the Apocalypse was addressed:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne (Rev. 3:20-21).
The other thing to remember about both the Kingship of Christ and the Apocalypse is that they are ecclesial realities. Both our personal and social apocalypses will be solved in and through the Church which is in crisis. The crisis within society and the Church is never an excuse to find solutions elsewhere. There have been many apocalyptic communities throughout history, who used crisis within the body of Christ an excuse to compromise their ecclesiality.
The social reign of Christ the King will come in and through the Church—always, even if we must pay for entrance with the price of our blood.
Several weeks ago I gave a conference to our Third Order in New Bedford on St. Francis and his charism entitled “St. Francis through the Eyes of St. Bonaventure, through the Eyes of Pope Benedict, through the Eyes of Pope Francis.” It is largely based on three general audiences that Pope Benedict delivered in March of 2010 (3, 10, 17), about St. Bonaventure, his life, his influence on the Franciscan Order and his theology.
Pope Benedict is somewhat of an authority on St. Bonventure, having written a thesis on the Seraphic Doctor’s theology of history. Some have said that it is Pope Benedict’s understanding of this teaching of St. Bonaventure’s that is a key to his papacy. At least, I would contend that it is a key to what Pope Benedict called the ”hermeneutic of continuity.”
I believe this is all helpful to understanding where the Church is headed under Pope Francis and may help to explain the style and content of his comments, particularly in his interviews. In the following audio recording of my conference one will hear me make reference to the interview with Eugenio Scalfari, in which, according to Scalfari, the Holy Father stated that that the most the “most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.” I suggested, with Zygmunt Bauman, writing in L’Osservatore Romano, that Pope Francis may be saying something more than is suggested in the all the commentary. Since I gave the conference the Scalfari interview has been removed from the Vatican website, presumably because Scalfari’s recollection of the Pope’s words leaves something to be desired. This is all worth keeping in mind.
In any case, even if the Holy Father said nothing like the quote above, I believe it remains true that his emphasis on the relational aspects of the new evangelization will continue to be key to his pontificate and its advisability will continue to be debated.
Of that debate, I will have more to say in the next few days. Here is the conference:
Update: Scalfari Confesses to having published his own invention under the title “interview.”
The former prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy has told a traditionalist group that Pope Francis has no intention of restricting access to the Extraordinary Form of the Latin liturgy.
“I met Pope Francis very recently and he told me that he has no problem with the old rite, and neither does he have any problem with lay groups and associations like yours that promote it,” Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos told members of Una Voce International (FIUV), who were in Rome for a general assembly.
Responding to questions from FIUV members about tensions within the Friars of the Immaculate, the Colombian cardinal said that the Pope moved to insist on the use of the Novus Ordo in that religious community only because of internal dissension, and not because of any negative judgment on the traditional liturgy.
At its general assembly, FIUV elected a new president: James Bogle, a lawyer, author, and chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain. “We are very grateful to His Eminence Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, His Eminence Cardinal Brandmüller, and to Archbishop Pozzo for taking part in our General Assembly of the International Federation Una Voce,” Bogle said in a brief statement to CWN. “We are very pleased with the way the celebration of the traditional Mass is now going worldwide. We are obviously very grateful to Benedict XVI and also our present Pope Francis for all the support that they have given us in our right to worship in the traditional Roman rite.”
Margaret Vander Heiden was the pillar of Lanherne. She had worked with both the Carmelite Sisters for many years and then after their departure with the contemplative community of Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate who took of up the flame of Catholic religious life in this center of the Faith in Cornwall.
I have received news that she passed from this life to eternity on All Hallows Eve. May she rest in peace. With the Saints, let us intercede on her behalf and that of the Holy Souls. Continue reading
Homily for Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Homily for Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
He’s great because he is everything. He is a man who wants to do things, wants to build, he founded an order and its rules, he is an itinerant and a missionary, a poet and a prophet, he is mystical. He found evil in himself and rooted it out. He loved nature, animals, the blade of grass on the lawn and the birds flying in the sky. But above all he loved people, children, old people, women. He is the most shining example of that agape we talked about earlier.
Pope Francis’ description of his namesake, given in his recent interview with Eugenio Scalfari, is a popular one, both in style and content. In it is found the reason why the St. Francis-with-the-bird statue winds up in many a garden of those whose identity as Catholics is otherwise nominal. St. Francis had a love for nature. For some that will be the take home from the above statement of the Pope. But there is more in the Holy Father’s description. St. Francis was like Jesus. His life was poetry. He achieved a life of charity rarely found in mere mortals. Pope Francis is building, like his namesake. He is making something more significant of that statue in the garden. Thus, the pastoral method of Pope Francis in his interviews is personal, direct and spontaneous, but I believe we would be mistaken if we took them has haphazard. Continue reading
I have sat back a bit to observe the reaction to Pope Francis’s interview with Father Antonio Spadaro. So far, I have only mentioned it briefly in my last post where the Holy Father touched upon a topic I was already working on. I do not think anyone is surprised that pundits on the far left and right have interpreted the Holy Father’s remarks as expressing freewheeling liberalism. Neither is it surprising that those loyal to the Holy Father have dedicated most of their time to clarifying what the Holy Father actually said. Hopefully, now more time will be spent assimilating his words without fear of receiving or conveying the wrong message.
I think Pope Francis in the interview is perceived by many commentators the way he must be by the Vatican Police who are constantly challenged in their efforts to maintain a parameter of safety around this man who is of the people, and who finds it necessary to relate directly with them. The Vatican police must wonder if the Holy Father is aware of the danger, because he does not seem to show it. On the contrary, from his contact with the people as well as from his teaching and example, it seems that Pope Francis sees a greater danger in not taking such risks. Continue reading