28 Feb 2013

Sede vacante: the See of Rome is vacant - Updated

As of 8 PM Rome Time (19:00 GMT) Thursday, February 28th, 2013, the See of Rome is vacant. The Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, is temporarily residing at Castel Gandolfo, in the palace used by Popes as a summer retreat. When renovations on the monastery inside the walls of Vatican City are complete, Benedict XVI will take up residence there. Though he has renounced the office of Bishop of Rome, along with all its powers and responsibilities, the Pope emeritus keeps the name he took at the beginning of his reign: Benedict XVI. He also continues to be styled, His Holiness.

Listen and read the full report from Vatican Radio.

The symbolic moment showing the beginning of the sede vacante in Rome. The Swiss Guards protecting the Pope are informed it is 8pm, the end of Pope Benedict XVI's Pontificate. Because the duty of the Swiss Guard is to protect the Roman Pontiff, they will leave the office at this time and pass the duty on to the Corps of the Gendarmerie of Vatican City State, who will from now on protect the Pope Emeritus.

Some photos of the event can be seen here. 


From Rome Reports

The Anchoress has some comments on Do Catholics overvalue pomp and cermonials?

From the viewpoint of an ordinary catholic on the street, perhaps if you have a picture of Pope Benedict XVI it may be time to take it down and as you do so perhaps reflect on Taking Down Benedict.

"I am a pilgrim......"

For an interesting and reflective "scrap book" of moments of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican website has put together an online album of quotes and reflections here.

Sede vancante ..........Come Holy Spirit

And so we are a number of hours away from a "sede vacante" in the See of St Peter.

This morning Pope Benedict XVI greeted the cardinals who have already gathered in Rome ahead of the Conclave to elect his successor and during an audience thanked them for their help over the last eight years and pledged his obedience to his successor who (chances are) was probably already in the room.

He also reminded the cardinals (quoting Romano Guardini) "The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet Her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ. "

Going on he reminded the cardinals "This was our experience yesterday, I think, in the square. We could see that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit, and truly lives by the power of God, She is in the world but not of the world. She is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, as we saw yesterday. This is why another eloquent expression of Guardini’s is also true: "The Church is awakening in souls." The Church lives, grows and awakens in those souls which like the Virgin Mary accept and conceive the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. They offer to God their flesh and in their own poverty and humility become capable of giving birth to Christ in the world today. Through the Church the mystery of the Incarnation remains present forever. Christ continues to walk through all times in all places. Let us remain united, dear brothers, to this mystery, in prayer, especially in daily Eucharist, and thus serve the Church and all humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us."

Full text of the address is here.

At 5pm Rome time, Pope Benedict XVI will be transported to Castel Gandolfo where he will be greeted by a number of dignitaries and also appear to the crowd gathered in the square before the papal villa. At the same time a last papal tweet from Pope Benedict XVI will be issued on the @pontifex twitter account which will then go silent until the new pope decides what he wants to do with it.

The ombrellino (the "little umbrella") to be more precise. This symbol will replace the papal tiara over the crossed keys of the Vatican's emblem" during the interregnum between the resignation of the Pope Benedict XVI and the emergence of his successor, to symbolize the lack of a Pope. If you look closely, you will find it on formal Vatican documents, on the masthead of the daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, both in hard copy and digital form. The Vatican State Post Office customarily issues stamps to mark this intermediate reign. - Read more here

At 8pm, when the sede vacante begins, the Swiss guard will depart from the papal villa signifying that their role is to protect the Supreme Pontiff  has ended as from that moment there is no Pope, and during a sede vacante their role is defend the College of Cardinals while it deliberates over a new successor. The security detail of Pope Emeritus Benedict will be dealt with by the Vatican gendarmerie.

At the same time, the papal seals and "ring of the fisherman" will be destroyed by the Camerlengo, Cardinal Bertone, and the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace in Rome will be sealed. At that stage the camerlengo will declare the sede vacante and the Dean of the College of Cardinals - Cardinal Sodano - will officially summon the College together to meet in conclave to elect the next successor of St Peter.

Rocco has some more details over at Whispers. There is a lot of online coverage of todays events but we would recommend you keep an eye on Vatican news website News.va and in particular the Vatican Radio section. For anyone on Facebook, check out Vatican Radio's FB page. 

As we enter into this moment of transition, there will be a lot a coverage, speculation and down right wishful thinking by commentators and pundits alike. But as Pope Benedict XVI has been reminding us since he announced his decision to step down, this matter is now in the hands of the real Head of the Church. As Catholic Christians we are called to pray..........

27 Feb 2013

It is about Jesus

CNEWA - Cardinal Dolan prays the rosary on the steps
of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York recently posted on his blog about the reaction to the papal abdication and the response to it with the pointed reminder - it is not about the Pope, it is about Jesus.
Full text below.
“But why didn’t he say anything about his reasons for stepping down, or his plans for the future, or any personal reflections about his own legacy?” asked the journalist after Mass yesterday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

This reporter had gotten up early to watch the last Sunday Angelus address Pope Benedict XVI would ever give, to 100,000 people in Saint Peter’s Square at noon in Rome. He had spoken of Lent, the Transfiguration of Jesus (the gospel for Sunday), and prayer.

“Because,” I replied, trying to provide an answer to the journalist’s fair-enough inquiry, “Popes don’t talk about themselves. They are really no longer themselves! That’s why they change their name. They take literally what Saint Paul wrote, that “I live now – - no, not I – - Christ lives in me.” They speak not of themselves but of Jesus. That’s why!”

“And you,” the reporter courteously persisted, “you didn’t say a word about your plans, your departure for Rome, your thoughts or observations. We got here to cover your 10:15 a.m. Mass, and you only mentioned the Pope in one prayer, and didn’t say anything personal.”

“Same reason,” I responded. “The Mass is about Jesus, not about me.”

That could be the most profound lesson this great professor-pontiff has taught the world. His heroic and humble decision of a week ago to step-down from the Chair of Saint Peter is a lesson: in the end, when all is said and done, it’s not about office, prominence, prestige, prerogatives. It’s not about me at all: it’s all about Jesus and His Church.

Tomorrow, though, I do leave New York for Rome. I take you with me. When I have the privilege of bidding farewell to the Holy Father this Thursday, the day he leaves, I’ll tell him that we – - you and me – - love him, pray with and for him, and thank him.

I’ll miss you. Sure, this will be awesome for me. But, I really like being your archbishop. And I’ll be eager to get back home to you. Besides, I can get a good bowl of pasta here in New York, too.

Please God, I’ll be home by Palm Sunday. Not a day will go by that I will not think of you here with love, prayer and gratitude. If I’m in Rome longer, please send peanut butter. You can’t get it there."

Year of Faith - Papal General Audiences - Pope Benedict XVI's last one

Pope Benedict XVI held the final General Audience of his pontificate on Wednesday in St Peter's Square. You can listen to a report from Vatican Radio here.
Vatican Radio's English translation of the Holy Father's remarks are available here.

Pope Benedict XVI's remarks in English during his final General Audience:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. Like Saint Paul, whose words we heard earlier, my heart is filled with thanksgiving to God who ever watches over his Church and her growth in faith and love, and I embrace all of you with joy and gratitude.

 During this Year of Faith, we have been called to renew our joyful trust in the Lord’s presence in our lives and in the life of the Church. I am personally grateful for his unfailing love and guidance in the eight years since I accepted his call to serve as the Successor of Peter. I am also deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world.

The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and a deep love of Christ’s Church. I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope.

 In union with Mary and all the saints, let us entrust ourselves in faith and hope to God, who continues to watch over our lives and to guide the journey of the Church and our world along the paths of history. I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you! "
As always Rocco has some good coverage and commentary over at Whispers in the Loggia.

24 Feb 2013

"In prayer, we are always close to each other!" - Pope Benedict XVI

"Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation"

 Full text from Vatican Radio:
Dear brothers and sisters – thank you for your affection!

On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John , the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).

The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father, "This is my Son, the Chosen One listen to him" (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new "exodus" (9:31) , not to the promised land as in the time of Moses, but to Heaven. Peter’s words: "Master, it is good that we are here" (9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine says: "[Peter] ... on the mountain ... had Christ as the food of the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labours and pains, while up there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy conduct? "(Sermon 78.3).

We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us back to the path, to action. "The Christian life - I wrote in my Message for Lent - consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love "(n. 3).

Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.

23 Feb 2013

24th February 2013 - 2nd Sunday of Lent (Year C) - Visit of the relics of St John Bosco

On this weeks programme John is joined by Br Padraig McDonald SDB to tell us about the visit of the relics of St John Bosco to Ireland. We also have our regular Sunday reflection on the gospel and our usual liturgical odds and ends.

This weeks programme can be listened to on this weeks podcast here.

Visit of relics of St John Bosco to Limerick

Br Padraig McDonald joins us this week on the programme to tell us about the visit of the relics of St John Bosco and in particular of the four different stops in county Limerick and city! St John Bosco is the founder of the Salesian family of religious orders.
John Bosco was born in 1815 in the village of Becchi in the Piedmont district of northern Italy and grew up on his parents’ small farm. On the death of his father when John was only two years old, his mother Margaret and her three boys found it increasingly difficult to support themselves. Even as a small boy, John had to help his brothers on the farm. In spite of this he was remembered as a happy and imaginative child. He liked to entertain his friends with juggling and walking on a tightrope but would insist on beginning and ending these sessions with a prayer. As he grew older, he began to think of becoming a priest, although poverty and lack of education seemed to rule this out. A kind priest, recognising the boy’s intelligence, taught him to read and write. By taking odd jobs in the village and through the help of his mother and some kind neighbours, John managed to finish his schooling and then was able to enter the diocesan seminary in Turin.

As a seminarian he devoted his spare time to looking after the poor boys who roamed through the slums of the city. Every Sunday he taught them catechism, supervised their games and amused them with stories and tricks. His kindness soon won their confidence and they became regulars at his Sunday School. Upon becoming a priest, Don Bosco knew very clearly in what direction his vocation was to be lived. The Industrial Revolution was spreading into Northern Italy resulting in a great deal of poverty, turmoil and revolution on the streets of the city. Young people lived their awful lives, whatever the cost to themselves or others. He was shocked at the conditions they endured and the things they did to enable them to eat, and to survive. This was the cost of the industrial ‘improvement’ that would eventually produce the high standards people would later enjoy. The young priest, Don Bosco, clearly saw his vocation when he visited the prisons. He wrote: “To see so many children, from 12 to 18 years of age, all healthy, strong, intelligent, lacking spiritual and material food, was something that horrified me.” In the face of such a situation he made his decision: “I must, by any available means, prevent children ending up here.” He knew that a new approach was required. He needed to show there were better ways for these healthy intelligent young people to lead their lives.

Following his ordination to the priesthood in 1841 at the age of 26, he became assistant to the chaplain of an orphanage at Valocco, on the outskirts of Turin. However, he did not stay there very long. When he was refused permission to allow his Sunday School boys to play on the orphanage grounds, he resigned. He began looking for a permanent home for them but no “respectable” neighbourhood would accept the rowdy youngsters. Finally, in a rather rundown part of the city, where no one was likely to protest, the first oratory was established and named after Saint Francis de Sales. At first the boys got their schooling elsewhere but, as more volunteer teachers came forward, it was possible to hold classes at the oratory. Enrolment increased so rapidly that by 1849 there were three oratories in various places in the city. By now Don Bosco had been considering founding a religious congregation to carry on and expand the work. Surprisingly, this proposal was supported by a notoriously anti-clerical cabinet minister named Rattazzi. He had seen the results of John’s apostolate and, even though an Italian law forbade the founding of religious communities at that time, Rattazzi promised government support. Don Bosco went to Rome in 1858 and, at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, drew up a rule for his new community, the Society of Saint Francis de Sales (more popularly known as the Salesians). Four years later he founded a congregation for women, the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, to take care of abandoned girls. Finally, to supplement the work of both congregations, he organized an association of lay people interested in supporting their work.

When others talked to him of his great achievements, he would always interrupt and say “I have done nothing by myself. It is Our Lady who has done everything.’ Exhausted from touring Europe to raise funds for a new church in Rome, Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888 at the age of 73. He was canonised in 1934 by Pope Pius XI. The work of John Bosco continues today in over 1,000 Salesian oratories throughout the world. He is remembered for his warmth of manner and in his belief that to give complete trust and love is the most effective way to nourish virtue in others. His success can be summed up in the words spoken of his chosen patron, St Francis de Sales: “The measure of his love was that he loved without measure.”

A casket with the relic of Don Bosco has been on pilgrimage throughout the world since the 5th of April 2009 to prepare to celebrate the bi-centenary of Don Bosco’s birth (1815-2015).
The casket will arrive in Ireland on Saturday 23rd February 2013 and will travel throughout the island until the 7th of March 2013. The relics will leave Ireland on 8th March, travelling on to Croatia.

More information about the pilgrimage is available at www.donboscorelics.ie

Below is a video from catholicireland.net about the pilgrimage.

1. Dublin, Crumlin, St Agnes Church – Sat 23rd & Sun 24th Feb 2013.
2. Celbridge, Co. Kildare, Salesian College – Mon 25th Feb 2013.
3. Ballinakill, Co. Laois, St Brigid’s Church – Tue 26th Feb 2013.
4. Portlaoise, Co. Laois, SS Peter and Paul Church – Tue 26th Feb 2013.

5. Limerick, Milford, Our Lady Help of Christians Church – Wed 27th Feb 2013.

Relics will arrive at 10.30am
Veneration of the relics until 7.15pm
Mass at 7.30pm - preacher is Fr Tony Mullins

6. Limerick, Southill, Holy Family Church – Thu 28th Feb 2013.

Welcome 10pm with some public witness
Veneration of relics from 10.30am to 12pm
Mass at 12pm - main celebrant is Fr Pat Hogan and the preacher Fr Michael Casey SDB
Finishing at 2.30pm

7. Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick, Salesian College – Fri 1st March 2013.

Arrival of relics at 9.30am
Time for schools until 2pm with schools Mass at 11.30am
Veneration of relics from 2pm to 6pm
Led prayers from 6pm - 8pm
8pm - Mass - preacher is Fr Michael Casey SDB

8. Knock, Co. Mayo, Basilica – Sat 2nd & Sun 3rd March 2013. - RTE TV Mass on Sun 3rd at 11am.
9. Navan, Co. Meath, St Mary’s Church – Sun 3rd & Mon 4th March 2013.
10. Belfast, St Peter’s Cathedral – Mon 4th & tue 5th March 2013.
11. Dublin, S. McDermott St, Our Lady of Lourdes – Tue 5th & Wed 6th March 2013.

12. Limerick, Fernbank, Our Lady of the Rosary – Thu 7th March 2013.

Welcome liturgy - 9am
Mass at 10am
Veneration from 10.45am to 5.15pm
Mass - 5.45pm
Veneration from 6.30pm to 10.30pm

The casket has already visited Italy, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. It then travelled to Columbia, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Porto Rico, Haiti, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States and Canada. In 2011 it visited Japan, Indonesia, Australia, China, Taiwan, India, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka. In 2012 it has visited Uganda, Rwanda, (South?)Sudan, Togo, Mozambique, Ghana and Spain.

Everywhere the arrival of the casket has aroused great interest, participation and involvement and has brought together children, young people and adults to welcome Don Bosco, and to learn more about the Piedmontese saint, his Preventive System and his commitment to working with the young.

You can find out more about Don Bosco and the Salesians in Ireland here and here.

Gospel - Luke 9:28-36 (The Transfiguration)

This weeks gospel is the account of the transfiguration according to Luke. During the liturgical year the transfiguration event is recounted to us during Lent and also on the feast of the Transfiguration in August.

Transfiguration reminds us of transformation. As we journey through life we under go a transformation process and this weeks gospel reminds us of transformation moments in our lives. What are the transformation points in your life? Often it can be when our names are spoken in love?

Question to ponder this week is what kind of freedom should I be trying to acquire this Lenten period, what kind of transformation should I be seeking in myself and for those around me?

Pray is reflected also in this weeks gospel with the reminder that the most important aspect of prayer is our ability to listen. As Fr Michael De Vertuil reminds us

Lord, in our modern world, we have lost the art of listening to people.
Teach us to wait for another with reverence,
putting aside our prejudices, our personal plans and expectations,
as if a cloud has come and covered us with shadow,
and we have gone into the cloud with utter poverty,
knowing only that we must listen to this precious child of God
whom he has chosen out of all humanity to stand before us at this moment.

Past reflections on this weeks gospel from the Mark and Matthew's gospels can be found here and here.

Reflections on this weeks gospel:

Irish Salesians
Word on Fire
English Dominicans
Sunday Reflections
Centre for Liturgy

Liturgical odds and ends

Divine Office - Week 2

Saints of the Week

February 25th - St Walburga
February 26th - St Paula Montal
February 27th - St Julian of Alexandria (martyr)
February 28th - St Hilary (Pope)

This is also the day that Pope Benedict XVI will step down, so perhaps you could remember him in your prayers especially on this day and also to seek the intercession and guidance of the Holy Spirit on the College of Cardinals as they gather to elect his successor.

March 1st - St David, patron saint of Wales (First Friday)
March 2nd - St Agnes of Prague


Feast of the Chair of St Peter - Feb 22

Yesterday was the feast of the Chair of St Peter. Cardinal Sean O'Malley from Boston gave an excellent homily on the feast which is well worth listening to in its entirety.

Quote of the piece " Peter denied Christ...not to a soldier with a knife but a waitress with an attitude".

A reminder if needed that it is not to Peter the man (or his successors) to whom we owe blind allegience but rather to the Master who forgave him and gave him the role to "feed my sheep".

Rocco over at Whispers in the Loggia reminds us that although A Pope resigns...the Chair remains.
He also gives us an English translation of the audience talk B16 gave on this day in 2006, the first 22 February after his election as the 265th pontiff.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Latin liturgy celebrates today the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. It comes from a very ancient tradition, chronicled at Rome from the end of the 4th century, which renders thanks to God for the mission entrusted to the Apostle Peter and to his successors. The "cathedra," literally, is the fixed seat of the Bishop, found in the mother church in a diocese, which for this reason is called "cathedral," and is the symbol of the authority of the Bishop and, in particular, of his "magisterium," the evangelical teaching which he, as a successor of the Apostles, is called to maintain and pass on to the Christian community. When the Bishop takes possession of the particular Church entrusted to him, he, wearing the mitre and carrying the pastoral staff, is seated in the cathedra. From that seat he will guide, as teacher and pastor, the path of the faithful in faith, in hope and in love.

What was, then, the "cathedra" of St. Peter? Chosen by Christ as the "rock" on which the Church was built, he began his ministry in Jerusalem, after the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost. The first "see" of the Church was the Cenacle, and it's likely that in that room, where also Mary, the mother of Jesus, prayed together with the disciples, a special place was reserved for Simon Peter. Successively, the see of Peter became Antioch, a city situated on the Oronte River, in Syria, today in Turkey, in that time the third metropolis of the Roman empire after Rome and Alexandria in Egypt. From that city, evangalized by Barnabas and Paul, where "for the first time the disciples were called Christians" (Acts 11:26), where the name Christian was born for us, Peter was the first bishop, so that the Roman Martyrology, before the reform of the calendar, also provided for a specific celebration of the Chair of Peter at Antioch. From there, Providence brought Peter to Rome. Therefore we have the road from Jerusalem, the newborn Church, to Antioch, the first center of the Church recounted by the Pagans and still united with the Church which proceeded from the Jews. Then Peter came to Rome, center of the Empire, symbol of the "Orbis" -- the "Urbs" [city] which expresses the "Orbis" [world] of the earth -- where he concluded with his martyrdom his course in the service of the Gospel. For this, the see of Rome, which received the greatest honor, is also accorded the honors entrusted by Christ to Peter to be at the service of all the particular Churches for the building up and the unity of the entire People of God.

The see of Rome, after this movement of St. Peter, became recognized as that of the successor of Peter, and the "cathedra" of its bishop represented that of the Apostle charged by Christ to feed his flock. This is attested to by the most ancient Fathers of the Church, for example St. Iraneus, bishop of Lyon, but living in Asia Minor, who in his treatise Against heresies described the Church of Rome as "the greatest and most ancient, known of all;... founded and built at Rome by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul"; and then: "With this Church, for its outstanding superiority, must be accorded to it the Church universal, the faithful in every place" (III, 3, 2-3). Tertullian, a little later, for his part, affirms: "How blessed is this Church of Rome! For it the apostles poured out, with their blood, the whole of doctrine." The chair of the Bishop of Rome represents, therefore, not only its service to the Roman community, but its mission of watching over the entire People of God.

To celebrate the "Cathedra" of Peter, as we do today, means, then, to attribute to it a strong spiritual significance and to recognize it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the good and eternal Shepherd, who wishes to gather the entire Church and guide it along the way of salvation. Among the many testimonies of the Fathers, I'd like to report that of St. Jerome, who wrote in a letter of his to the Bishop of Rome, is particularly interesting because it makes an explicit reference to the "chair" of Peter, presented it as the sure grounding of truth and of peace. As Jerome wrote: "I decided to consult the chair of Peter, where is found that faith which the mouth of an Apostle exalted; I come then to ask nourishment for my soul, where once was received the garment of Christ. I don't follow a primate other than Christ; for this reason, I place myself in communion with your blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that on this rock is built the Church" (Letters I, 15, 1-2).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, as you know, can be found the monument to the Chair of the Apostle, Bernini's eldest work, realized in the form of a great bronze throne, held up by statues of four Doctors of the Church, two of the west, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, two of the east, St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius. I invite you to stand in front of this suggested work, which today is probably decorated admirably by many candles, and pray in a particular way for the ministry which God has entrusted to me. Raising our gaze to the alabaster window which opens over the Chair, invoking the Holy Spirit, may he always sustain with his light and strength my daily service to all the Church.

Lenten Reflections

Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591)

I live yet do not live in me,
am waiting as my life goes by,
and die because I do not die.

No longer do I live in me,
and without God I cannot live;
to him or me I cannot give
my self, so what can living be?
A thousand deaths my agony
waiting as my life goes by,
dying because I do not die.

This life I live alone I view
as robbery of life, and so
it is a constant death — with no
way out until I live with you.
God, hear me, what I say is true:
I do not want this life of mine,
and die because I do not die.

Being so removed from you I say
what kind of life can I have here
but death so ugly and severe
and worse than any form of pain?
I pity me — and yet my fate
is that I must keep up this lie,
and die because I do not die.

The fish taken out of the sea
is not without a consolation:
his dying is of brief duration
and ultimately brings relief.
Yet what convulsive death can be
as bad as my pathetic life?
The more I live the more I die.

When I begin to feel relief
on seeing you in the sacrament,
I sink in deeper discontent,
deprived of your sweet company.
Now everything compels my grief:
I want — yet can’t — see you nearby,
and die because I do not die.

Although I find my pleasure, Sir,
in hope of someday seeing you,
I see that I can lose you too,
which makes my pain doubly severe,
and so I live in darkest fear,
and hope, wait as life goes by,
dying because I do not die.

Deliver me from death, my God,
and give me life; now you have wound
a rope about me; harshly bound
I ask you to release the cord.
See how I die to see you, Lord,
and I am shattered where I lie,
dying because I do not die.

My death will trigger tears in me,
and I shall mourn my life: a day
annihilated by the way
I fail and sin relentlessly.
O Father God, when will it be
that I can say without a lie:
I live because I do not die?

St. John of the Crosstranslated by Willis Barnstonefound in “Poems of St. John of the Cross”

22 Feb 2013

Lenten Reflections

For Whom the Bell Tolls

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

- John Donne

15 Feb 2013

17th February 2013 - 1st Sunday of Lent - Abdication of Pope Benedict XVI

On this weeks programme we are joined by Fr Eamonn Conway to discuss the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI which was announced during the week. We also have our regular weekly reflection on the Sunday gospel which of course this week is that of the first Sunday of Lent. We have our regular liturgical odds and ends and some notices.

This weeks podcast can be listened to HERE.
Abdication of Pope Benedict XVI from the See of St Peter
We are joined this week by Fr Eamonn Conway to reflect on the dramatic events which occurred during the past week with the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that  "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry". The abdication was announced at a consistory of cardinals who had gathered for the announcement of the canonisation of new saints. The Pope made the announcement by his own decision in accordance with canon 332 and made it clear it was a decision being made under his own free will and determination.
[For a round up of coverage during the week, have a look at our blog post here and here].

Pope Benedict XVI visiting the remains of Pope St Celestine V in 2009

While there are a number of historical precedents with the most recent one being that of Gregory XII who abdicated the papacy in 1406 so as to enable the end of the Western Schism which saw three different claimants to the papal throne at one time. A more closer precedent would be the case of Pope St Celestine V who actually wrote the canon law being used by Pope Benedict to step aside in 1294 and who stepped down after five months as Pope. It is also interesting that Pope Celestine V is the pope who wrote the rule that the cardinals are to go into conclave until they elect a new pope as he was elected pope after a two year period without a successor to St Peter! It is also an interesting point to note that Pope Benedict XVI visited the remains of Pope St Celestine V at the Basilica Santa Maria di Collemaggio in Aquila and left his papal pallium on his grave in 2009.
The abdication could be viewed as a recognition of the proper role of the ministry of the Pope to properly lead the church which requires mental and physical health; which Pope Benedict acknowledges he no longer fully has. It demonstrates a freedom in himself to acknowledge his humanity and the frailty of that humanity. After showing the value of suffering demonstrated by John Paul II, Benedict seems to want to bring out the humanity of the papal office reminding us that Jesus Christ is at the centre of the church - yesterday, today and forever. It could be argued that for this teaching Pope, it is a final act of papal teaching, putting the papacy in its proper place.

This point was reflected in the statement from Br Alois the Prior of the Ecumenical Community at Taize

During this prayer [on Dec 29th in St Peter's Square], we were all turned together towards the Cross of Christ, and this was like an image of his whole ministry: to try and make Christians aware of what lies at the heart of the faith. He told me one day how much he appreciated that, in Taizé, young people are turned towards what is essential. And when I asked him what that essential was, he replied: a personal relationship with God.
At a time of deep-seated changes in the world, it is not easy to discern what the face of the Church of tomorrow will be. Pope Benedict XVI wanted, through his encyclical letters and his teaching, to focus his entire ministry on the foundations of faith. It is from there alone that the Church can discover how to live in the contemporary world.
When a leader steps down or dies the question always focuses on their legacy. But often it is history which is able to give a more accurate assessment of such things. Perhaps in time, the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI will be seem in his constant efforts to demonstrate the reasonableness of faith; the symbiotic relationship between faith and reason and how each compliments and develops the other. His contribution to the theological understanding of the person of Jesus in his three books. And finally one of his legacies will surely be his critique of contemporary culture and the de-humanising tendencies of that culture.

You can listen to Fr Eamonn's interview excerpted from the main programme HERE.
Gospel - Luke 4:1-13

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (
James J. Tissot, 1886-94)

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent and the gospel reading is Luke's account of Jesus' temptations in the desert in advance of the beginning of his public ministry. After being baptised by John in the Jordan and the manifestation of God; Jesus goes aside to prepare.

The example of going aside is what inspires the christian practise of Lent; a time of preparation and reflection in advance of Easter which mirrors Jesus preparation in advance of the first Easter and his journey towards Calvary.

We are all called in our daily lives at this time to make space of the silence of the desert in our daily lives. Carlo Caretto reminds us that "There are two kinds of deserts. The desolate wastelands, with their silences and overwhelming night skies, their hidden dangers, and the demands put on those who would enter them......we have also know another kind of desert - one that is constructed either by human malevolence (the gulags and camps..) or by human indifference and neglect (the slums and inner cities of our urban landscape)....It was Thomas Merton who taught us that solitude is not simply a matter of geography. All Christians need to find their desert if they wish to imitate the Christ who opened his ministry in one...The flight to the desert is not an effort to spurn the "world" and its secular inhabitants. Instead the desert is a school of love, a school of prayer, where we can learn to enter more deeply into the mystery of God who, out of love, entered so intimately into our humanity..."

The gospel also reminds us of the humanity of Jesus. Sometimes we have no problem "imagining" the divinity of Jesus but often we struggle to grasp the humanity of Jesus. The account of the temptation shows us how Jesus was "like us in all ways except in sin". It reminds us the need to constantly battle "the demons"within us; the "demons" who refuse to let God be God. We all play power games in our lives and often we try to play such games with God and in this weeks gospel Jesus refuses to engage with these temptations. He rejects what the demon is offering almost saying "I am not interested in your understanding of being powerful". But of course the temptations which the devil offers, he cant give because they are not his to give. We have nothing to give to God that has not already been given to us as gift. Everything we have is Gods gift to us and the gospel reminds us of the need to recognise our powerlessness and dependence on God's love.
Pope Benedict XVI reflected on this gospel during the Weekly General Audience on February 13th:
First of all, the desert, where Jesus withdrew to, is the place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of material support and is placed in front of the fundamental questions of life, where he is pushed to towards the essentials in life and for this very reason it becomes easier for him to find God. But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude where man feels temptation more intensely. Jesus goes into the desert, and there is tempted to leave the path indicated by God the Father to follow other easier and worldly paths (cf. Lk 4:1-13). So he takes on our temptations and carries our misery, to conquer evil and open up the path to God, the path of conversion. 
In reflecting on the temptations Jesus is subjected to in the desert we are invited, each one of us, to respond to one fundamental question: what is truly important in our lives? In the first temptation the devil offers to change a stone into bread to sate Jesus’ hunger. Jesus replies that the man also lives by bread but not by bread alone: without a response to the hunger for truth, hunger for God, man can not be saved (cf. vv. 3-4). In the second, the devil offers Jesus the path of power: he leads him up on high and gives him dominion over the world, but this is not the path of God: Jesus clearly understands that it is not earthly power that saves the world, but the power of the Cross, humility, love (cf. vv. 5-8). In the third, the devil suggests Jesus throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and be saved by God through his angels, that is, to do something sensational to test God, but the answer is that God is not an object on which to impose our conditions: He is the Lord of all (cf. vv. 9-12). What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus is subjected to? It is the proposal to exploit God, to use Him for his own interests, for his own glory and success. So, in essence, to put himself in the place of God, removing Him from his own existence and making him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask: what is the role God in my life? Is He the Lord or am I? 
Overcoming the temptation to place God in submission to oneself and one’s own interests or to put Him in a corner and converting oneself to the proper order of priorities, giving God the first place, is a journey that every Christian must undergo. "Conversion", an invitation that we will hear many times in Lent, means following Jesus in so that his Gospel is a real life guide, it means allowing God transform us, no longer thinking that we are the only protagonists of our existence, recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, His love, and that only by “losing" our life in Him can we truly have it. This means making our choices in the light of the Word of God. Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries 
The tests which modern society subjects Christians to, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one’s faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times throughout one’s life. 
The major conversions like that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus, or St. Augustine, are an example and stimulus, but also in our time when the sense of the sacred is eclipsed, God's grace is at work and works wonders in life of many people. The Lord never gets tired of knocking at the door of man in social and cultural contexts that seem engulfed by secularization, as was the case for the Russian Orthodox Pavel Florensky. After a completely agnostic education, to the point he felt an outright hostility towards religious teachings taught in school, the scientist Florensky came to exclaim: "No, you can not live without God", and to change his life completely, so much so he became a monk. 
I also think the figure of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch woman of Jewish origin who died in Auschwitz. Initially far from God, she found Him looking deep inside herself and wrote: "There is a well very deep inside of me. And God is in that well. Sometimes I can reach Him, more often He is covered by stone and sand: then God is buried. We must dig Him up again "(Diary, 97). In her scattered and restless life, she finds God in the middle of the great tragedy of the twentieth century, the Shoah. This young fragile and dissatisfied woman, transfigured by faith, becomes a woman full of love and inner peace, able to say: "I live in constant intimacy with God." 
The ability to oppose the ideological blandishments of her time to choose the search for truth and open herself up to the discovery of faith is evidenced by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. In her autobiography, she confesses openly to having given in to the temptation that everything could be solved with politics, adhering to the Marxist proposal: "I wanted to be with the protesters, go to jail, write, influence others and leave my dreams to the world. How much ambition and how much searching for myself in all this!". The journey towards faith in such a secularized environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts nonetheless, as she points out: "It is certain that I felt the need to go to church more often, to kneel, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I slipped into the atmosphere of prayer ... ". God guided her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a lifetime spent dedicated to the underprivileged. 
In our time there are no few conversions understood as the return of those who, after a Christian education, perhaps a superficial one, moved away from the faith for years and then rediscovered Christ and his Gospel. In the Book of Revelation we read: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me"(3, 20). Our inner person must prepare to be visited by God, and for this reason we should allow ourselves be invaded by illusions, by appearances, by material things. 
In this time of Lent, in the Year of the faith, we renew our commitment to the process of conversion, to overcoming the tendency to close in on ourselves and instead, to making room for God, looking at our daily reality with His eyes. The alternative between being wrapped up in our egoism and being open to the love of God and others, we could say corresponds to the alternatives to the temptations of Jesus: the alternative, that is, between human power and love of the Cross, between a redemption seen only in material well-being and redemption as the work of God, to whom we give primacy in our lives. Conversion means not closing in on ourselves in the pursuit of success, prestige, position, but making sure that each and every day, in the small things, truth, faith in God and love become most important.

Other reflections on this weeks gospel:
Word on Fire
Sunday Reflections
English Dominicans
Centre for Liturgy
Vatican Radio - Sunday Gospel 17th February
Liturgical Odds and Ends
Divine Office - Week 1
Saints of the Week
February 18th - St Colman of Lindisfarne
February 19th - Bl Fra Angelico OP
February 20th - Bl Jacinta and Francisco Marto - the Seers of Fatima
February 21st - St Peter Damian
February 22nd - The Chair of St Peter
February 23rd - St Polycarp

Quote of the Day

“Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything."

The Papal Abdication - some personal thoughts

To say it has been a dramatic week is probably an understatement in the context of historical moments that will be noted in history, although I am sure for the vast majority of the planet, the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to abdicate from the See of St Peter will probably pass many of them by. I know here it hardly warranted a mention and didn’t seem to impact on the general consciousness of the people around me.

Personally I have to honestly say I was in shock for some of the day after getting the word via the joys of social media that something had happened. And I struck me as something strange thinking back on it after. Why would it affect me so much? It is not as if I knew the man personally, I have only encountered him via his writings and public persona and even then only in a partial way. Unlike John Paul II who I had seen and listened to personally in Rome in 2000, I had never been to any public gathering with this man. In some ways the historical nature of the event itself may have been what threw me. We are creatures of habit, having ways and means to deal with the events of life; if he had died there is a tradition and a historic procedure to deal with the event, rite and ritual to lead us through the process of grieving and transition. But this is novel, strange, something which we (as in a church) haven’t had to deal with in 600 years and while the common saying is that the church deals in centuries not years, I am sure it has caused a little consternation in the corridors of power within the Apostolic Palace in Rome as well! But it also may have had something to do with how Roman Catholics define themselves. However much we may not want to recognise it, the divisions of Christendom are still alive and well where we understands in opposition to others within the Christian family with the papacy serving as a lightening rod of much of that division and conflict as opposed to the fact that the role of Peter is to unify the Body of Christ. Even the very name, Roman Catholic (which is a very Anglo-Saxon term) defines us by our relationship to the man sitting on the seat of the apostle in Rome.
But going back to the question of our understanding of the Pope and who he is and what he does. For many people particularly with the images of the last years of John Paul II’s life replaying in their minds the general belief was that the Pope died in office with his boots on. Not everyone is an anorak, interested in the minute of the Western Schism which was resolved by the last papal abdication or the intricate details of canon 325 which deals with how a Pope may step aside and declare the “sede vacante”. But perhaps this may be one the last teaching gifts of this teaching Pope?  I think the general agreement can be that managerially this papacy - aside from the beginnings of financial reform and some decisions that were finally made about the handling of the sexual abuse crisis - has been a disaster if you want to focus on the church as a multinational organisation continuing to lurch from crisis to crisis – but that is if you look at in human terms. If you understand the church in its own sense as God’s own bride perhaps the last fifteen years of inertia and bad management from the leadership have been a necessary purgatory for the institution to remind us all that ultimately the control of time and events is in God’s hand? Ever since the papal states were seized in 1870 we have seen a gradual dismantling of the caesaropapism which engulfed the papacy almost making the assumption of the office of the papacy as a sacrament in itself rather than recognising it for what it is, an office of service something which Pope Benedict XVI reminded us this week. The Pope has many titles but perhaps the most important one of all is Servant of the Servants of God. As Rowan Williams the former archbishop of Canterbury note, perhaps Benedict’s abdication may help to demystify the papacy, [reminding us  that]the pope is not like a sort of God King who goes on to the very end. The ministry of service that the Bishop of Rome exercises is just that, a ministry of service and it’s therefore reasonable to ask if there is a moment when somebody else should take that baton in hand. So yes, I’d call it demystifying and in that sense reminding us that the position of the bishop of Rome, the primitive position of the bishop of Rome as the servant of the unity of the Church, of the bishop who convenes, mediates between, manages the fellowship of the bishops, that slightly more functional, slightly less theologically top heavy picture, that may be one of the things that emerges from this”.[1]

Again and again Benedict XV has sought to remind us that the role of the supreme pontiff is not to be a human leader but rather a guide, like John the Baptist, like Mary, pointing the way to the Way, the Truth and the Life. Br Alois of Taize noted that, During this prayer [in Rome on December 29th 2013], we were all turned together towards the Cross of Christ, and this was like an image of [Pope Benedict’s] whole ministry: to try and make Christians aware of what lies at the heart of the faith. He told me one day how much he appreciated that, in Taizé, young people are turned towards what is essential. And when I asked him what that essential was, he replied: a personal relationship with God. At a time of deep-seated changes in the world, it is not easy to discern what the face of the Church of tomorrow will be. Pope Benedict XVI wanted, through his encyclical letters and his teaching, to focus his entire ministry on the foundations of faith. It is from there alone that the Church can discover how to live in the contemporary world.[2]