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Monday, May 27, 2013

Pope: those seeking the Church must find open doors

Pope: those seeking the Church must never find doors closed by "faith inspectors"
During the Mass, Francis recalls the episode of Jesus who says "let the children come to me" to invite the acceptance of "people." "The faith of the People of God is a simple faith, a faith that is perhaps without too much theology, but an interior theology that makes no mistake, because infused by Spirit."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Those who approach the Church must find open doors, not the "faith inspectors," people also animated by good sentiments, but who end up rejecting people, for example, a single mother who wants to baptize her son. This was the focus of Pope Francis homily during Mass in St. Martha.

Vatican Radio reports the Pope, commented on today's Gospel which tells us that Jesus rebukes the disciples who seek to remove children that people bring to the Lord to bless. "Jesus embraces them, kisses them, touches them, all of them. It tires Jesus and his disciples "want it to stop". Jesus is indignant: "Jesus got angry, sometimes." And he says: "Let them come to me, do not hinder them. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these." "The faith of the People of God - observes the Pope - is a simple faith, a faith that is perhaps without much theology, but it has an inward theology that is not wrong, because the Spirit is behind it." The Pope mentions Vatican I and Vatican II, where it is said that "the holy people of God ... cannot err in matters of belief" (Lumen Gentium). And to explain this theological formulation he adds: "If you want to know who Mary is go to the theologian and he will tell you exactly who Mary is. But if you want to know how to love Mary go to the People of God who teach it better. "The people of God - continued the Pope - "are always asking for something closer to Jesus, they are sometimes a bit 'insistent in this. But it is the insistence of those who believe ":

"I remember once, coming out of the city of Salta, on the patronal feast, there was a humble lady who asked for a priest's blessing. The priest said, 'All right, but  were you at the Mass?' and explained the whole theology of blessing in the church. He did well: 'Ah, thank you father, yes father,' said the woman. When the priest had gone, the woman turned to another priest: 'Give me your blessing!'. All these words did not register with her, because she had another necessity: the need to be touched by the Lord. That is the faith that we always look for , this is the faith that brings the Holy Spirit. We must facilitate it, make it grow, help it grow. "

The Pope also mentioned the story of the blind man of Jericho, who was rebuked by the disciples because he cried to the Lord, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" "The Gospel says that they didn't want him to shout, they wanted him not to shout but he wanted to shout more, why? Because he had faith in Jesus! The Holy Spirit had put faith in his heart. And they said, 'No, you cannot do this! You don't shout to the Lord. Protocol does not allow it. And 'the second Person of the Trinity! Look what you do... 'as if they were saying that, right? ".

And think about the attitude of many Christians: "Think of the good Christians, with good will, we think about the parish secretary, a secretary of the parish ... 'Good evening, good morning, the two of us - boyfriend and girlfriend - we want to get married'. And instead of saying, 'That's great!'. They say, 'Oh, well, have a seat. If you want the Mass, it costs a lot ... '. This, instead of receiving a good welcome- It is a good thing to get married! '- But instead they get this response:' Do you have the certificate of baptism, all right ... '. And they find a closed door. When this Christian and that Christian has the ability to open a door, thanking God for this fact of a new marriage ... We are many times faith inspectors, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people. "

And 'there is always a temptation - said the Pope - "try and take possession of the Lord." And he tells another story: "Think about a single mother who goes to church, in the parish and to the secretary she says: 'I want my child baptized'. And then this Christian, this Christian says: 'No, you cannot because you're not married!'. But look, this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy and not reject her child, what is it? A closed door! This is not zeal! It is far from the Lord! It does not open doors! And so when we are on this path, have this attitude, we do not do good to people, the people, the People of God, but Jesus instituted the seven sacraments with this attitude and we are establishing the eighth: the sacrament of pastoral customs! ".

"Jesus is indignant when he sees these things" - said the Pope - because those who suffer are "his faithful people, the people that he loves so much" "We think today of Jesus, who always wants us all to be closer to Him, we think of the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill ... So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open, find the doors open, open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace.

Friday, May 24, 2013

VIETNAM: Foreign preacher takes rare turn on Vietnam stage

Foreign preacher takes rare turn on Vietnam stage

  • AP foreign,

Associated Press= HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The 25,000 people at the soccer stadium and the millions more watching at home waited 90 minutes before the Australian evangelical preacher got to the message he had come to Communist-ruled Vietnam to deliver.

"Do you know why I love God?" Nick Vujicic asked a young girl on stage who, like him, was born without arms and legs. "Because heaven is real. And one day when we get to heaven, we are going to have arms and legs. And we are going to run, and we are going play, and we are going to race."

The remark was Vujicic's only direct reference to his faith in a night that was otherwise motivational. Most people in the audience were not Christians, but were attracted to Vujicic as a living example of overcoming adversity.

Yet Vujicic's appearance is a sign of how a government that once severely restricted religion as a challenge to its authoritarian one-party rule is now taking a slightly more relaxed attitude. Those associated with Vujicic's Vietnam tour said it was the first by a foreign Christian — and the largest gathering to be addressed by a foreigner in the country's recent history.

For Vujicic (VOOY-CHEECH) and the 12 members of "Team Nick," the mostly Californian crew organizing his Asian tour, it was another country to add to the long list in which he has spread the Gospel. His charity had revenues of more than $1.6 million last year, his YouTube videos have been watched millions of times and he has authored three bestselling books.

"We are a unique ministry. We can go on national TV where other Christians cannot," Vujicic said backstage Thursday, his face and hair wet from a tropical downpour that almost cut short his appearance on a hot Hanoi evening. "Of course, in Vietnam there are limitations in how you can and can't talk about your faith, but with wisdom we come in. Some places we go we have to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves."

Nguyen Dat An, a Christian who organized the trip, said he was surprised the state broadcaster didn't cut off Vujicic's speech when he brought up God and heaven.

Vujicic's translator appeared to be caught unawares, and stumbled. "Come on man," said the Australian, urging him to translate his words.

"This was a miracle in Vietnam," said An. "God is the general director of this event."

Vietnam is about 8 percent Christian and 16 percent Buddhist, while about 45 percent of Vietnamese belong to indigenous religions, according to the 2010 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Vietnam's constitutions provide for religious freedom, but in practice it is regulated and in some cases restricted. Followers who speak up in favor of democracy face abuse, arrest and long sentences.

The U.S. State Department's 2012 report on international religious freedom noted the restrictions but said there "were signs of progress." The country is often compared favorably to China, its giant authoritarian neighbor, in discussions on religious freedom.

Vujicic was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs. Amid childhood bullying, he once tried to drown himself.

He credits Christianity with giving him the will to continue, and founded a California-based religious charitable organization when he was 19. Now 30 and married with one son, he has visited 47 countries as part of his global outreach.

Vujicic's trip to Vietnam was organized by local Christians but sponsored by a large construction company headed by a Buddhist. The company said it had spent $1.7 million staging his eight events in two cities, recognizing the value of having its brand associated with a good-looking foreigner with a compelling tale of success and family values, not to mention eye-catching images of him surfing, skateboarding and playing golf.

Shares for the company, the Hoa Sen group, rose nearly 10 percent over the last four days, with Vujicic its only major recent publicity.

Hoa Sen's sponsorship paid for a huge marketing campaign: billboards around major cities, social media buzz and his appearance on the front pages of most state-run newspapers when he arrived on Wednesday. It created a lot of the attention around his visit, but it was also clear his story struck a chord among many in Vietnam.

Tickets, given away by sponsors to those who registered, were being sold by touts for $10 outside the stadium, while young girls with "Love Nick" stickers on their cheeks checked pink cellphones and waited for friends to arrive. The crowd was larger than when the Vietnamese national soccer played regional rival Indonesia in the same stadium last year.

"I just want to see him in real life," said 19-year-old student Tong Thi Nhung, who found out about Vujicic on Facebook. "He is amazing."

None of the marketing or media coverage mentioned Vujicic's faith, though it is clear from a glance at his website that it is his central purpose in life. Of eight people asked at the concert, which was preceded by a local rock band, lucky draws and bubbling TV presenters, none were Christians or even aware of Vujicic's religion.

Vujicic, who is able to stand up and move around on his pelvis, shuffled round on a small table set up on a stage on corner of the field. In a talk laced with jokes, platitudes and attempts at Vietnamese, he spoke out against bullying and drinking; on the need for forgiveness and hope; and respect for family. All those themes resonate with Vietnamese and their leaders, one of whom — the vice president — was watching from the VIP area.

Vujicic took the speech into potential sensitive territory with vague remarks about Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the country.

"Uncle Ho believed in Vietnam and here we are, but we must keep moving forward in liberty," he said.

Many disabled people attended; some joined him on stage and embraced him. His message on the need to help and respect those with disabilities had extra resonance in a country where birth defects linked to Agent Orange defoliant sprayed by the U.S. during the Vietnam War are widespread.

The Rev. Peter Kham, the Roman Catholic deputy bishop of Ho Chi Minh City, welcomed the trip, saying he was "personally so happy to see a Christian preaching what he believes."

In recent years, Vietnam has generally allowed large congregations to gather, churches and temples to be built and made it easier to register new denominations.

But Kham also said the country, which doesn't celebrate any religious holidays as national holidays and has no televised religious programs, still has far to go.

"Even though our churches are filled with people, we can't be involved in health care or in education. Everything belongs to the government. There is a political monopoly," said Kham. "There is still friction, but there have been developments."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

THOMAS AQUINAS and the Blessed Sacrament

Gloria de la Esclarecida Orden de Predicadores es Santo Tomás de Aquino, el más santo de los teólogos y el más teólogo de los santos. Lo vemos en este óleo sobre lienzo de Francisco de Herrera el Mozo (1627-1685), pintado ca, 1656, conservado en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla con el hábito de la Orden; birrete de doctor y la catena aurea al cuello. Está inspirándose en la redacción del Oficio del Corpus Christi, que según la tradición encargó el Papa Urbano IV en 1264 al dominico y al franciscano Buenaventura; cuando el de Aquino estaba leyendo el suyo, Buenaventura partió humildemente el que había compuesto. Sobre el papel, las dos primeras palabras del Himno de Vísperas: Pange lingua, y por eso se representa un ángel sosteniendo el ostensorio.

Ramón de la Campa Carmona

SOCIETY: Pope Francis attacks 'cult of money' in reform call

Pope Francis attacks 'cult of money' in reform call

Pontiff says politicians need to be bold in tackling the root causes of the economic crisis

Pope Francis
Pope Francis said the root causes of the economic crisis lay in
acceptance of money's power over society. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis has hit out at unbridled capitalism and the "cult of money", calling for ethical reform of the financial system to create a more humane society.
In an impassioned appeal, the Argentinian pontiff said politicians needed to be bold in tackling the root causes of the economic crisis, which he said lay in an acceptance of money's "power over ourselves and our society".
"We have created new idols," he said in a speech in the Vatican. "The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal."
Attacking unchecked capitalism, the pope said the growing inequality in society was caused by "ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good".
Francis, who as a priest in Buenos Aires experienced his country's financial crisis, has made the rejection of riches and luxury the hallmark of his two-month pontificate. Days after his election as the Roman Catholic church's first non-European pope, he spoke of his desire for a "poor church".
On Thursday, he said: "A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules."
Ethics, he said, were too often dismissed as a nuisance. "There is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone," he said. "Money has to serve, not to rule."
The Vatican's own source of economic strife, the once scandal-ridden Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) commonly known as the Vatican Bank, is itself reportedly preparing to implement certain reforms to put its troubles behind it.
Vatican Radio said the bank's new president Ernst von Freyberg told employees the institution was to launch its own website and publish an annual report in a bid to enhance transparency.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Message of the Brown Scapular

The Message of the Scapular

750th Anniversary of the bestowal
of the Scapular

Scapular Message of
Joseph Chalmers O.Carm Prior General
Camilo Maccise OCD
Superior General

OF JESUS (Acts 1:14)

  1. It was with great joy that we received the letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II on the place of Our Lady in Carmel. Inspired by the Popes message, we too want to share with you some reflections on the importance of Mary in Carmelite spirituality.
  2. The Virgin Mary, our Mother, Patroness and Sister, is certainly one of the great gifts we have received from God and share with the Church. She is an essential part of our heritage. There is a widespread concern in all branches of our Carmelite Family to renew the theology and spirituality, devotion and love of Mary. For many centuries our devotion to and love for her has been centred in the Brown Scapular of Carmel. Our older friars and sisters will recall the celebration in 1951 of the 700th anniversary of the Scapular, marked by a warm commendation of Pope Pius XII in the letter he sent to the Superiors General of the Orders, Neminem profecto latet. It is fitting that fifty years later we should again reflect on Marys gifts to Carmel and ponder their meaning for ourselves and for the Church today.
  1. We are very conscious of the diffusion of Carmel worldwide. It is firmly established in five continents each with its own history and culture. Clearly the way in which the Mother of God is understood, preached and shared with Gods people will vary from one country to another, just as in the past it has been diverse from one century to another. We recognise that we can only give some central insights and directions, leaving to others the task of reflecting on our heritage in their own particular culture and of sharing it in the local Church.
A heritage in Dialogue
  1. "Generations of Carmelites, from the beginnings up to today, ..... have sought to model their lives after the example of Mary"(1). Each generation has the responsibility not only of living Carmels heritage but also of enriching it and passing it on. A heritage is something living that must be exposed to the real world and presented in the actual experience of the Church. Carmelite life must be in constant dialogue with the present and with the past. The riches of our tradition must indeed be preserved but in such a way that they are found to be relevant and meaningful for the present. We invite all Carmelites to take the opportunity of revisiting our past but with questions that come from our reading of the signs of the times and the places.
  1. Carmel looks upon Mary as Mother, Patroness, Sister and Model, the last being particularly associated with the understanding of Mary as the Most Pure Virgin. These are not just titles or devotional themes. In some way they reflect the experience of the Carmelite Orders over many centuries. We invite all Carmelites to look again at the testimony of those who have gone before us and ponder how these riches might be shared among ourselves and with the wider community.

  1. When the early Carmelites came first to Europe, the idea of Mary as spiritual mother had been generally accepted following the sermons of the Cistercian Guerric dIgny (d. 1157). The Carmelites readily took up this theme invoking her as their Mother and the Virgin, as in the Flos Carmeli: "Mother most tender, whom no man didst know"(2). Already in the word "Mother" there is a key idea in our heritage, namely relationship with Mary­in this case as her sons and daughters. The title of Mother was much favoured in the Order, with the title "Mother and beauty of Carmel," echoing Isaiah 35:2, being used in the liturgy from the late medieval period.
  2. Carmelite saints have all taken up this theme of Mary as mother(3). St Therese of Lisieux memorably stated: "She is more Mother that Queen"(4). For many centuries the Carmelite liturgy has shown special affection for the Gospel scene at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25-27) where Mary, "became the Mother of all, associated with the offering of her Son and given to all people when Jesus Himself gave Her to the beloved disciple"(5).
  3. Seeing Mary as Mother we are encouraged to reflect on our relationship with her: she cares for us as Mother; we love and respect her as sons and daughters. Moreover, in viewing Mary as our Mother, we are pointed towards her Divine Son in whose allegiance we live(6). From early times the Fathers of the Church have seen that a correct Mariology serves to guarantee a correct Christology.
  4. Our vision of Mary as Mother and Beauty of Carmel can be an important offering to the whole Church. Over a quarter of a century ago, Pope Paul VI invited theologians to look at the way of beauty as an authentic approach to Mary(7). In a world with so much distress and ugliness we are invited to look upwards and to relax in the contemplation of Marys beauty, for she is Gods "sign of favour to the Church at its beginning, and the promise of its perfection as the bride of Christ, radiant in beauty"(8). We encourage our theologians to reflect more on this rather neglected area of Carmelite Mariology.
  1. The title Patroness of Carmel has a long history in the Order. The dedication to Mary of the first chapel on Mount Carmel in the midst of the cells is certainly an indication of her patronage, which in feudal times indicated reciprocal relations and services. From its coming to Europe, beginning about 1230 and for 150 year afterwards, Carmel had a somewhat precarious existence. During that period the friars learned to trust in Marys help and protection. The very survival of the Order was entrusted to her, and the brothers felt confident of her protection and care. By the closing decades of the thirteenth century we find the idea that the Carmelite Order was especially founded for the honour and glory of Mary(9).
  2. Even if the language of patronage may not find immediate echoes in some of the cultures in which Carmel is now planted, the reality is part of our rich Marian life. Patronage implies a reciprocal relationship. We are aware of Marys care for the Church, for Carmel, and for ourselves. Such truths are for us a source of confidence and hope. But patronage reminds us of our response: we are to reverence, serve and love our Mother and Patroness. The earliest constitutions of which copies are extant(10) and ordinals(11) are very specific in showing ways to honour Mary through gestures, prayers and celebrations(12). We have from the 13th century the frequent recitation of the antiphons, Salve Regina and Ave Maris Stella(13). Soon the Saturday Station would have a pre-eminent place among Marian devotions of the Order. In the medieval period there was also the practice of celebrating many votive Masses in her honour. All of these are indications of ways in which Carmelites honoured their Patroness.
  3. A challenge for local communities will be to find suitable expressions of their relationship to Mary for themselves and for others in the Church. In this way, the reality of patronage, if not the word itself, will be enhanced for our times.
  1. When the hermit brothers came to Europe from Mount Carmel, they were called by the people and referred to by Popes as the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Though this in the beginning would have signified their origin, and other orders at the time also saw themselves as Marys brothers, Carmelites in time sought to draw from their title the fact that if they are brothers of Mary, she is surely their Sister. Arnold Bostius (d. 1499) who synthesised our early tradition wrote: "The humble brother of Carmel can exult and sing with joy: See! The Queen of Heaven [is] my sister; I can act with confidence and without fear"(14).
  2. Though Sister would never be so widely used as the titles of Mother and Patroness, it is important to note that Pope Paul VI used it, when he spoke of all of us being children of Adam having Mary as Sister(15). The title would seem to have three great advantages for contemporary Carmelite reflection. It catches the idea, which lies also in Patroness, of Marys tender care and of easy and intimate relationships between Carmelites and the Mother of God. It presents Mary as our elder sister who goes before us on the journey to maturity in faith. Moreover, in certain cultures the idea of Mary as Spiritual Mother is difficult for some people; the title of Mary as Sister can be more attractive for them. Marys sisterhood is an insight that can be shared with the wider Church.
Model and Most Pure Virgin
  1. The notion of Mary as model of discipleship is very ancient in the Church. It is found in all eras of Carmels history. Our ancient and modern authors seek to show that Mary is model precisely of our Carmelite life. Thus John Baconthorpe (d. ca. 1348) wrote a commentary on the Carmelite Rule in which he drew out the similarity between the life of Mary and that of the Carmelite(16). In time this consciousness of the bond between Mary and Carmel developed in artistic representations, so that Mary is depicted as clothed in a Carmelite habit.
  2. Mary is the exemplar of the Carmelite especially as the Most Pure Virgin­Virgo Purissima. We possess abundant reflection on this title. The white cloak is a sign of our imitation of Mary. The well-known dedication of Carmelites to the Immaculate Conception and their defence of this truth are also part of Carmels love of the Virgin. But her purity is not narrowly restricted to chastity or celibacy. Mary is the pure one, of an undivided heart, total openness to God (the supreme model of vacare Deo). Indeed the double aim of Carmel as expressed in the ancient document of The Institute of the First Monks can find in Mary its fullest realisation(17).
  3. There are countless Carmelite texts that show Mary as the perfect mirror of its contemplative ideal and as model of docility to the Holy Spirit(18).
  4. For Bl. Titus Brandsma: Mary is the exemplar of all the virtues and is therefore twice our Mother. Her life is a mirror in which we can see how we ought to unite ourselves with God(19).
  5. The time since Vatican II has been one in which we have been encouraged to seek a devotion to Mary that is firmly based on the Sacred Scripture(20). If in the past, Carmelite writers and preachers were too prone to focus on the miraculous and extraordinary, we have also in our living tradition a sobriety that enables us to give our contemporaries a vital, and above all scriptural image of Mary. St Therese of Lisieux was not at all attracted by thoughts of Mary, which were not grounded in truth. Had she been able to preach one sermon on Mary she says, "Id first make people understand how little is known by us about her life"(21). She had shortly before that given her profound thoughts on Mary in her poem, "Why I love you, O Mary"(22) which ponders lovingly her life as described to us in the Scriptures.
  6. The core Carmelite themes that we have been considering are very important for a proper understanding of the Carmelite Scapular to which we now turn.
  1. Any revitalisation of the Carmelite Scapular demands that we consider it within the wider context of Carmels relationship with Mary. According to our saints what is important is a personal intimacy with the Mother of God and a commitment to take her as the model of Christian discipleship. The main themes of Mother, Patroness, Sister and Exemplar, can bring us to a deeper knowledge of Mary and to a more profound relationship with her. Only from this perspective can the Scapular be assumed as a sign that favours spiritual growth in Christian life.
Origins of the Scapular
  1. Historical scholarship on every aspect of the Scapular must continue in our Orders. However, irrespective of whatever future finding may be made, we can, and indeed must, be confident about the value of this ancient symbol, based on a venerable tradition(23). What Carmelites must do is to find a way of presenting the Scapular for those who feel convinced about the historicity of the vision and for those who do not find the historical evidence compelling. The central truth of the vision story is the lived experience of Carmel: Mary, its Patroness, has protected it and ensured its perseverance; Marys prayers are powerful in securing eternal life.
1. A sacramental of the Church and a sacred sign
  1. The chief act of the institutional Church with regard to the Scapular is its approval throughout the centuries including the most recent "Rite for the Blessing and Enrolment in the Scapular of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel"(24). With the spiritual meaning of the "graces attached to the Scapular" there are also "the obligations assumed through this sign of devotion to the holy Virgin"(25). "Devotion towards Our Lady cannot be limited to the occasional prayer in her honour, but must become a habit that is a permanent way of Christian living, made up of prayer and the interior life, frequent recourse to the Sacraments and the concrete exercises of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy"(26).
  2. Sacramentals are described as sacred signs; they belong therefore to the world of symbol and meaning. In our contemporary society it is common to say that there is a crisis of religious symbolism; at the same time our societies can be powerfully moved by secular symbolism. National flags, for instance, speak profoundly to many people. Symbols are material things or images that point to a meaning beyond themselves. Very often their meaning or suggestiveness lies in their power to speak to us at various levels: they not only communicate some information, but they touch us at the level of feeling. In symbols we can find both growth and decay. Religious symbols can degenerate into magic, if their spiritual or theological meaning is no longer communicated; they are thereby reduced into something like a charm that might bring good luck.
  3. Living symbols need continual revitalisation. There would seem to be four stages in the life of a symbol. There is an engendering experience, which gives rise to the symbol. For us this involved the sense of Marys protection of Carmelites and the power of her intercession for our salvation. Secondly, there is a phase of dogma or reflection on the symbol. Carmel saw the Scapular largely in terms of its understanding of Mary as Patroness, the one who cared for her Brothers, who in turn served her. In this reflective period, Marys caring was understood to extend beyond death and to be seen especially in her solicitude for our salvation and for our speedy deliverance from Purgatory. A third stage in the life of symbols in found when contact is lost with the original experience. At this time either the symbol is ignored or is met with scepticism, whilst other people hold on blindly to the symbol in a kind of fideism, which does not attend to its origin or meaning. This last stage can be very close to magic. What is then needed at a time of scepticism or fideism is a reflective reconstruction of the symbol. This fourth stage is a task for every generation. We need to see the Scapular within the whole of Carmelite spirituality, and especially in relation to the core Marian themes.
  4. In particular such reflection and reconstruction of the Scapular symbol implies that we think out and make our own the fact that Mary is our Patroness, who cares for us as Mother and Sister. Our Mother nurtures the divine life within us and teaches us the way to God. Our Sister walks with us in the journey of transformation, inviting us to make ours her own response, "Oh let what you have said be done to me" (Luke 1.38). But Patronage is a two-way relationship. We receive Marys care; in turn we are called upon to imitate her and to honour her through fidelity to her Son.
The Habit of Mary
  1. The Scapular is essentially a "habit". Those who receive it are aggregated or associated in varying degrees with Carmel that is dedicated to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church(27). We can deepen our appreciation for this gift by reflecting on the meaning of garments and clothing in Scripture. We need clothing for protection against the elements (see Sir 29:21); it is a blessing from God (see Deut 10:18; Matt 6:28-30); it symbolises all Gods promises of restoration (see Bar 5:1-4). Ultimately we are to be clothed with immortality (see 2 Cor 5:3-4). But in the meantime we are to be clothed in newness (see Col 3:10); indeed we are to put on Christ (see Rom 13:14). From our Rule we should remember that we are to be clothed with the armour of God(28). This armour is almost totally defensive, the only offensive weapon being the sword of the Word of God (see Eph 6:17). The Scapular seen as garment thus recalls our baptismal clothing in Christ, our dignity as members of Marys Carmel and our invulnerability when we are wearing Gods armour.
  2. In order to appreciate the Scapular it is necessary to look back at our tradition and to look around us and consider contemporary sensibilities and cultural constituents. The garment of Mary is a rich theme in the spirituality of both the Eastern and Western Churches. The veil or mantle of Mary in the East is a sign of her protection; the habit of Mary is a sign of belonging to her in the West. Both are combined in the reflection of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross­Edith Stein. She speaks of "the holy habit of the Mother of God, the brown scapular" and says that on the 16th July "we give thanks that our dear Lady has clothed us with the garment of salvation", a "visible sign of her motherly protection"(29). St Teresa of Jesus refers several times to "the habit of Mary"(30). She delights in telling of the entrapment of Fr Gracián by the Virgin who give him her habit(31), and she remarks, "It is her custom to favour those who want to be protected by her"(32).
  3. From her acute awareness that the habit of Carmel is Marys, St Teresa of Jesus draws out the concrete implications for the lives of its members, e.g. "All of us who wear this holy habit of Carmel are called to prayer and contemplation"(33) and humility(34). It would be easy to multiply such references to the Carmelite habit by the saints and spiritual writers of Carmel(35).
  4. Our tradition shows the firmest conviction that the habit and the Scapular have no salvific effect unless we see their meaning as Marys habit which affiliates us to the Carmelite Family, and we live according to her example. The central truths to be pondered include Marys protection, her intercession at the time of our death and beyond it. On our part there is need for a filial relationship, or one that expresses our being her brothers and sisters and devoted to her service for the glory of her Son. The Scapular is a sign that draws us into such relationships.
  5. In the modern context, Mary shows us how to listen to the Word of God in Scripture and in life itself, how to be open to God and close to the needs of our brothers and sisters in a world where poverty in its many forms takes their dignity away. Mary further shows us the womans path to God and stands with us as a woman who is the icon of the tenderness of God, a woman who had to face many trials in order to fulfil the vocation given to her by God(36). She remains as the sign of freedom and liberation for all who in their oppression cry to God(37). The Scapular on our part is an expression of our confidence in Marys care. It shows our willingness to witness to our baptismal adoption and to being her sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as well as our desire to be clothed with her virtues, with her contemplative spirit and with her purity of heart. Thus clothed by her, we, like her, ponder the Word and show ourselves to be disciples of her Son in our dedication to the works of Gods Reign: truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love and peace(38

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

CHURCH/ Society: Abortion threatens future of peoples - Pope

Pope's guidance to bishops on abortion has serious implications for Ireland's Catholic politicians

Pope Francis has written to the Argentine Assembly of Bishops expressing the desire that they use the Aparecida document as their frame of reference for the government of the Church. As John-Henry Weston, editor-in-chief of LifeSite, puts it: "the [Aparacieda] document made a very clear statement regarding the consequences of supporting abortion - disallowing holy communion for anyone who facilitates an abortion, including politicians".
Pope Francis's thinking has serious implications for Ireland's Catholic TDs (members of the Irish Parliament) and Ireland's "Catholic" Taoiseach [prime minister] Enda Kenny, who has just introduced draft abortion legislation for Ireland - draft legislation which if enacted will be worse than the British Abortion Act.
Pope Francis's letter, of 25th March 2013, the solemnity of the Annunciation, was sent to the Argentine bishops and posted on their website. In the letter, Pope Francis writes that the Aparecida document is the "guideline we need for this point in history".
This document opens with an address by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the general assembly of Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal conferences, in which he says the family is currently suffering a degree of adversity caused by:
"secularism and by ethical relativism, by movements of population internally and externally, by poverty, by social instability and by civil legislation opposed to marriage which, by supporting contraception and abortion, is threatening the future of peoples."
The document also includes a message from the bishops to the people of Latin America and the Caribbean:
"Faithfulness to Jesus demands from us to fight against the evils that harm or destroy life, such as abortion ...We invite all the leaders of our nations to defend the truth and to watch over the inviolable and sacred right to life and dignity of the human person, from conception until natural death."
Pro-lifers around the world are now drawing attention to the significance of this document and Pope Francis's letter. The following sections of the Aparecida document are of particular significance to the pro-life movement:
436: We hope that legislators, heads of government, and health professionals, conscious of the dignity of human life and of the rootedness of the family in our peoples, will defend and protect it from the abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia; that is their responsibility. Hence, in response to government laws and provisions that are unjust in the light of faith and reason, conscientious objection should be encouraged. We must adhere to "eucharistic coherence," that is, be conscious that they cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly over legislators, heads of governments, and health professionals.
467: Today we stand before new challenges that call us to be the voice of the voiceless. The child growing in its mother's womb and people who are in their declining years are a claim for dignified life that cries out to heaven and that cannot but make us shudder. The liberalization and routinization of abortion practices are abominable crimes, just as are euthanasia, genetic and embryonic manipulation, unethical medical testing, capital punishment, and so many other ways of assaulting the dignity and life of the human being. If we want to maintain a solid and inviolable basis for human rights, we absolutely must recognize that human life must always be defended from the very moment of conception. Otherwise, the circumstances and conveniences of the powerful will always find excuses for abusing persons.
The paragraphs quoted above cite the 2007 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis:
83. Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them.
Evangelium Vitae, an encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is also cited, which is very appropriate in light of the argument of Enda Kenny (the Irish Prime Minister) that he has a duty to legislate for abortion:
74: Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it.
Earlier this year, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, gave an interview with Irish newspaper Catholic Voice. In this interview Cardinal Burke stated:
"With regard to Canon 915, it states that those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin should not be admitted to receive Holy Communion. There can be no question that the practice of abortion is among the gravest of manifest sins and therefore once a Catholic politician has been admonished that he should not come forward to receive Holy Communion, as long as he continues to support legislation which fosters abortion or other intrinsic evils, then he should be refused Holy Communion."
Similar comments were made by the former head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, by the late Cardinal Trujillo, in an address to the eleventh ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops meeting at the Vatican in 2007, saying:
Can we allow access to Eucharistic communion to those who deny human and Christian principles and values? The responsibility of politicians and legislators is great. A so-called personal option cannot be separated from the socio-political duty. This is not a "private" problem: acceptance of the Gospel, the Magisterium and right reasoning is needed!
As for everyone else, the Word of God holds true also for politicians and legislators: "Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord eating and drinking his own condemnation" (1 Cor 11:27-29).
Politicians and legislators must know that by proposing or defending projects for iniquitous laws, they have a serious responsibility and must find a remedy for the evil done and spread in order to be allowed access to communion with the Lord who is the way, truth and life (Cfr. John 14:6).
The Catholic teaching on abortion legislation and Catholic politicians is clear, as seen in the literature itself and the comments of the Catholic hierarchy together now with the wishes of Pope Francis in his letter to the Argentinian bishops. It is important that the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland present this teaching in a clear way to all people, especially to the TDs and to Enda Kenny.
This article is re-published with permission from the blog of John Smeaton, Director, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children,

CHURCH: Careerists doing 'Great Harm' to Church

Vatican City, 8 May 2013 (VIS) – "The men and women of the Church who are careerists and social climbers, who 'use' people, the Church, their brothers and sisters—whom they should be serving—as a springboard for their own personal interests and ambitions … are doing great harm to the Church." This is what Pope Francis asserted in his address to the participants in the plenary assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) whom he received in audience this morning.
The pontiff spoke to the sisters of obedience, poverty, and chastity:
"Obedience as listening to God's will, in the interior motion of the Holy Spirit authenticated by the Church, accepting that obedience also passes through human mediations.
… Poverty, which teaches solidarity, sharing, and charity and which is also expressed in a soberness and joy of the essential, to put us on guard against the material idols that obscure the true meaning of life. Poverty, which is learned with the humble, the poor, the sick, and all those who are at the existential margins of life. Theoretical poverty doesn't do anything. Poverty is learned by touching the flesh of the poor Christ in the humble, the poor, the sick, and in children."
"And then chastity, as a precious charism, that enlarges the freedom of your gift to God and others with Christ's tenderness, mercy, and closeness. Chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven shows how affection has its place in mature freedom and becomes a sign of the future world, to make God's primacy shine forever. But, please, [make it] a 'fertile' chastity, which generates spiritual children in the Church. The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not 'spinsters'! Forgive me if I talk like this but this maternity of consecrated life, this fruitfulness is important! May this joy of spiritual fruitfulness animate your existence. Be mothers, like the images of the Mother Mary and the Mother Church. You cannot understand Mary without her motherhood; you cannot understand the Church without her motherhood, and you are icons of Mary and of the Church."
Continuing, Pope Francis spoke to the superiors about service. "We must never forget that true power, at whatever level, is service, which has its bright summit upon the Cross. … 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them ... But it shall not be so among you.'—This is precisely the motto of your assembly, isn't it? It shall not be so among you.—'Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave'."
"Your vocation is a fundamental charism for the Church's journey and it isn't possible that a consecrated woman or man might 'feel' themselves not to be with the Church. A 'feeling' with the Church that has generated us in Baptism; a 'feeling' with the Church that finds its filial expression in fidelity to the Magisterium, in communion with the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, a visible sign of that unity," the pontiff added, citing Paul VI: "It is an absurd dichotomy to think of living with Jesus but without the Church, of following Jesus outside of the Church, of loving Jesus without loving the Church. Feel the responsibility that you have of caring for the formation of your Institutes in sound Church doctrine, in love of the Church, and in an ecclesial spirit."
"The centrality of Christ and his Gospel, authority as a service of love, and 'feeling' in and with the Mother Church: [these are] three suggestions that I wish to leave you, to which I again add my gratitude for your work, which is not always easy. What would the Church be without you? She would be missing maternity, affection, tenderness! A Mother's intuition."

Monday, May 13, 2013

FAITH: 800 martyrs slain by 15th-century Islamic forces canonised

Pope canonizes 800 martyrs slain by 15th-century Islamic forces

CWN - May 13, 2013

Pope Francis presided on May 13 at the canonization of 800 people who died for the faith in Otranto, Italy, in 1480.

The "martyrs of Otranto"-- whose names are not known-- were beheaded by the forces of the Ottoman empire when they refused to renounce their Christian faith. Their deaths came after a siege of Otranto by the Ottoman invaders. In his homily the Pope noted that European and Ottoman powers had clashed for decades. But the martyrs of Otranto were killed after the battle had been decided, because they refused to abandon their Christian faith. Without underlining the conflict between faiths, Pope Francis gently alluded to the continuing trials of Christians living under Islamic power:

While we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto [commemorated 14 August], let us ask God to sustain the many Christians who, precisely at this time, now, and in many parts of the world, are still suffering violence, that He give them the valour to be faithful and to respond to evil with good.

"God will never leave us without strength and serenity," the Pope assured the congregation. The martyrs of Otranto drew strength from their faith, he said: from the Word of God. "It is a Word that has invited us to faithfulness to Christ, even unto martyrdom."

Also canonized during the same May 12 ceremony were Mother Laura Montoya, a 19th-century Colombian religious who became "the spiritual mother of the indigenous peoples in whom she instilled hope." She is the first canonized saint from Colombia.

Also canonized was Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, a Mexican religious who worked with the sick and sheltered priests during the years of anti-clerical persecution before finally dying in 1963. The Pope remarked that she had "renounced a life of ease-- and how damaging the easy life, well-being, can be; the embourgeoisement of our hearts that paralyzes us-- to follow the call of Jesus, who taught her to love poverty so that she could love the poor and the sick more."

With this mass-canonization ceremony, Pope Francis suddenly became the modern Pontiff who has canonized the largest number of new saints. (Pope John Paul II, during his long pontificate, canonized 91 saints.) It is highly unusual for the Vatican to canonize a large number of martyrs in a single ceremony; more typically, a single person and a number of unnamed "companions" may be beatified together. The decision to canonize the martyrs of Otranto, approved by Pope Benedict XVI before his resignation, was widely interpreted as a gesture to honor the many Christians who have fallen to the forces of militant Islam.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CHURCH: Pope strongly supports call for reform in religious life

Pope strongly supports call for reform in religious life

CWN - May 08, 2013

Consecrated religious must maintain a spirit of deep loyalty to the Church, Pope Francis told a group of religious superiors on May 8.

Speaking to the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), the Pope stressed that "it isn't possible that a consecrated woman or man might 'feel' themselves not to be with the Church." He continued: "It is an absurd dichotomy to think of living with Jesus but without the Church, of following Jesus outside of the Church, of loving Jesus without loving the Church."

The Pope's address was a clear sign of his support for efforts to ensure that religious orders live in communion with the universal Church. Last year the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) called for reforms in the American Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), citing speakers at LCWR conventions who had criticized the Church, including one speaker who said with approval that some women's religious orders were "moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus."

In an earlier address to the USIG meeting, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, the prefect of the Congregation for Religious, had lamented the CDF intervention in the work of the LCWR. Yesterday the Vatican press office issued a statement saying that the cardinal's words had been misinterpreted, and that actually the Brazilian cardinal supported "the renewal of religious life, and particularly the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR and the program of reform it requires."

Pope Francis, in his May 8 address to the USIG, also rejected the theory that religious obedience does not necessarily require deference to the hierarchy. He said: "Obedience is listening to God's will, in the interior motion of the Holy Spirit authenticated by the Church, accepting that obedience also passes through human mediations."

The Pope went on to speak on the vows of poverty and chastity, and their true meaning. "Theoretical poverty doesn't do anything," he said. "Poverty is learned by touching the flesh of the poor Christ in the humble, the poor, the sick, and in children."

As for chastity, the Pope urged women religious to practice "a 'fertile' chastity, which generates spiritual children in the Church. The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not 'spinsters'!"

The Pontiff said that Marian devotion is an essential characteristic of authentic religious life. He told the USIG audience: "You cannot understand Mary without her motherhood; you cannot understand the Church without her motherhood, and you are icons of Mary and of the Church."

Pope Francis cautioned the religious superiors against ecclesiastical careerism, saying that some people seek advancement within the Church "as a springboard for their own personal interests and ambitions." Such people, he said, "are doing great harm to the Church."

Monday, May 6, 2013

Women & Children: Pro-life group gets high-profile media attention

Pro-life group gets high-profile media attention for demonstrations outside Toronto high schools

TORONTO, May 3, 2013 ( – Eight months after setting up a new office in Toronto, the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform is making a strong impact in Canada's largest city with a new outreach to high school students.
The activist group has won some high-profile media attention in recent months for their 'Choice' Chain demonstrations outside Toronto-area high schools after the story broke last month of a man and woman wanted by police for spitting on the activists and assaulting them with hot coffee.
'Choice' Chain uses large graphic signs to expose the injustice of abortion. The signs display full color images of babies destroyed by abortion with the word "CHOICE?" written across the top in bold.
Six or more 'Choice' Chain team members peacefully stand on public sidewalks near the high schools during lunch hour to challenge students' preconceptions about abortion. Operating five days a week since February, the group has hit over fifty Toronto-area high schools.
Toronto's NOW Magazine ran two stories (here and here) on CCBR's activism last month, calling the group's work "eccentrically fascinating".
They have been interviewed on CBC's The Current, and the Globe and Mail ran a piece slamming the group's tactics as "brazen".
The Globe and Mail's Caroline Alphonso quoted parents and teens who were not pleased that a group would confront high school students with a message about abortion.
"I think it's inappropriate," said one parent. "If you want to make a point, then I think you should be approaching people who are in a position to be making those kind of decisions. I don't think my 16-year-old daughter is."
"I think it's ridiculous," said an 18 year-old boy. "They're at a high school. They're showing pictures of dead fetuses right on the corner... I think all women should have a choice."
But pro-life activist Stephanie Gray, CCBR's executive director, told that high school teens need to hear the truth about abortion just as much as anyone else.
"We're communicating facts which are relevant to a generation of young people that are finding themselves or their peers in unplanned pregnancy circumstances where they may be considering abortion."
"Far from this being inappropriate, it's most certainly appropriate because some of these kids are being driven to abortion clinics by their parents, by social workers, by friends. This information is very relevant because it's reaching people at a time where they may be making the wrong choice and they need the right facts to dissuade them from making a deadly decision," she said.
The following real dialogue between a high school student and a 'Choice' Chain activist captured by CBC's The Current reveals how the dialogue tactic works:
Pro-Lifer: If I want to stand here and swing my arm, I have a right to do that, right?
Student: Sure.
Pro-Lifer: But what if I swing my arm to the point of hitting your friend in the face, would you agree with me that would be wrong?
Student: Ok, Yeah.
Pro-Lifer: It sounds like what you and I can agree on is if I do something with my body that hurts someone else's body, you and I would agree I shouldn't be allowed to do that. So, the question is, is this [pointing to a graphic image of an aborted baby] the woman's body or is this the baby's body?
Some do not agree with the CCRB's method of reaching out to young people. Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics at the University of Toronto, told the Globe and Mail that the group targets "vulnerable students," using "manipulative language and advertising techniques to recruit."
But Gray said that there is nothing manipulative in what 'Choice' Chain does.
"It's easy to throw that label around, but back up that claim with evidence. Abortion advocates can't back up the claim with evidence because the reality is that we are very Socratic with the kids. We ask them questions, we communicate the facts."
'Choice' Chain activists maintain that only the honest facts presented in a peaceful, caring manner will change hearts about abortion.
"Time and again we're talking to young people who are saying: 'I never thought of it that way'. We're seeing 180s happening," Gray said.
Paul Saurette, associate professor at the University of Ottawa's School of Political Studies, told CBC's Matt Galloway on The Current that pro-life groups like the CCBR have an appeal with young people that the pro-abortion movement lacks.
"[They are] much younger, very sophisticated about their communication strategies, and using a variety of different approaches which frame the issue of anti-abortion much more closely with progressive or traditionally progressive values, issues, and narratives."
"The lesson for the pro-choice movement is that it needs to think seriously about reengaging," he said.
Regarding the criticism of recruitment, Gray said that 'Choice' Chain's presence near high schools is not only about changing hearts on the issue of abortion.
"We're absolutely there to recruit as well as change minds," she said. "I don't hear anyone complaining about people who want to recruit young teenagers to anti-bullying campaigns," adding that the abortion procedure itself is an "act of bullying of the youngest of our kind."
"We need to build a culture that is selfless instead of selfish. A culture that is made up of people who are self-interested is a culture that leads to all kinds of human rights violations and depravity. And so by encouraging young people to embrace the pro-life message, we're really building up a culture where people, starting at the young ages, are really being more other focused than self-focused," she said.
After the school year ends in June, 'Choice' Chain will bring its signboards and pro-life message to the busy downtown intersections of Toronto. The group is also planning a postcard campaign to deliver the truth about abortion right to people's front doors.