Saturday, September 20, 2014

"The Priority Isn't Sending a 'Message,' But a Bishop" – Chicago Meets The New Boss

As the morning began at the "House of 19 Chimneys," the moment was without precedent: the incoming archbishop of Chicago riding with his predecessor to the Appointment Day rollout.

Having just wrapped, via the local NBC affiliate, below is fullvideo of the long, utterly fascinating presser at Quigley:




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8.30am CT – To those just getting up, good morning... and whatta day.

Again, the Chicago presser introducing Archbishop-elect Blase Cupich to the nation's third-largest diocese begins at 9.30 Oprah time (10.30 ET/7.30 Pacific, 1630 Rome). You'll find the livestream here then, and on-demand playback afterward.

In the meantime, Page Three – either directly here or down your right sidebar – is likewise in full "Special Edition" mode, so have at it.

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For Chicago, The "Thunder" Is In – Cupich Named Corporation Sole

At Roman Noon, the report became reality: the Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Francis George for reasons of age, naming Blase Cupich the Ninth Archbishop of Chicago.

As previously relayed, the archbishop-elect will be introduced at a 9.30am Central press conference at the Archbishop Quigley Center, now the Chancery of the nation's third-largest diocese. Livestreams, etc. will follow here then.

Cupich's installation in Holy Name Cathedral has been set for Tuesday, November 18th. On a wider level, meanwhile, the last 48 hours have now brought what could well end up being Francis' two most consequential appointments of his entire pontificate in the English-speaking church.

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As reaction goes, suffice it to say, the phone didn't stop ringing from around 2pm yesterday 'til well past midnight. And while the Stateside bench's centrist-progressive bloc was greatly cheered and the more conservative wing is deeply concerned, the one thing everyone had in common was being utterly stunned, both at the choice and its arrival on a timeline far quicker than anybody expected.

Putting one key question to rest, asked about Cupich's proficiency in Spanish for a 2.3 million-member archdiocese now in range of a Hispanic majority, a longtime friend said "He doesn't have it." Here, it's worth reminding that Chicago is home to what's become American Catholicism's largest annual event – the 36-hour Guadalupe feast at the shrine in suburban Des Plaines, which has drawn as many as 250,000 people over recent December 12ths.

For purposes of context, the Des Plaines shrine – a small chapel sharing the grounds of a facility for special-needs kids – barely existed when Francis George was named archbishop. Now, routinely drawing crowds of 7,000 or more on any given weekend, the push is on to build a church on the site that would rival Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and LA's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels as the nation's largest.

A century ago, the Windy City's first cardinal tackled the needs of the future in quickly building the grandest seminary these shores had ever seen. And now, seventy-five years to the month after Mundelein's death, the newest incarnation of "The Catholic Bishop of Chicago, A Corporation Sole" faces the same task for a different age: to power the Des Plaines project to completion.

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Lastly for now, the universal question that's come up over these last hours has been how Cupich entered Francis' radar to become the Pope's defining pick for the US hierarchy's top rank.

On this front, two things stick out. First, as a young locale at the DC Nunciature (1981-87), the now archbishop-elect was secretary to the future Cardinal Pio Laghi, who had been Nuncio to Argentina during the years of the "Dirty War" of the 1970s. As Jesuit provincial in that period, Jorge Bergoglio would've known Laghi – an immensely popular figure as John Paul II's legate to the States – and the now-Pope's respect for him has clearly remained intact.

Secondly, meanwhile, in early June Cupich was tapped to give the lead response at a Catholic University of America conference on the Catholic response to libertarianism, which was keynoted by Francis' ever-present "Vice-Pope," Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga SDB of Tegucigalpa.

While the slot brought a high profile by itself for the Spokane prelate, a friend in USCCB circles termed the reply that emerged as "the finest thing any American bishop has written about Francis."

In that light, below is video of Cupich's talk from the event, and its complete text:



Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga’s knowledge of this topic, as we have just witnessed, is nothing short of encyclopedic. Both broad and deep, he has put on full display not only his grasp of Catholic Social Teaching but also the new insights of Pope Francis.


The organizers have asked me to respond to the Cardinal’s presentation by focusing on some themes which may be most pertinent to the situation of the Church in the United States today.  But,  before I do so, it is worth remarking on how the Church views its role in public debate. As Benedict XVI stated in Deus Caritas Est, Catholic social doctrine is not “…an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.”  DCE 28


The Church offers her teaching as a service, and I would add, as an invitation to people of good will, and is ever committed to a dialogue that is respectful of others’ position. In that spirit I want to lift up three points from the Cardinal’s presentation to contribute to the dialogue. I will conclude with a word about the urgency of effectively responding to a libertarian approach to the economy and politics.


First, some considerations related to how we view humanity. At the heart of the Cardinal’s analysis is the fact that the vision of Pope Francis and the vision of his libertarian critics constitute two compellingly different pathways for humanity at this moment in history. These conflicting pathways are based on two utterly divergent conceptions of the nature of the human person. The Cardinal demonstrates how these differing anthropologies put libertarianism and Catholic Social Teaching on two distinct trajectories when it comes to the meaning of economic life, and the goal of politics in a world of globalization. It is important to recognize in fairness that many libertarians share with Catholic Social Teaching a respect for human dignity. Human dignity anchors their insistence on human freedom. They rightly argue that this dignity is not given by society but by the Creator and therefore freedom, self-determination and all other human rights are inalienable, echoing the principals in the documents of democracy. However, they stop short in considering what this means. They fail to uphold, as Cardinal Kasper notes in his recent book, Mercy, that since this dignity belongs to all human beings in common, it implies the solidarity of all peoples.  By uncoupling  human dignity from the solidarity it implies,  libertarians move in a direction, that not only has enormous consequences for the meaning of economic life, and the goal of politics in a world of globalization, but in a direction which is inconsistent with Catholic Social Teaching, particularly as it is developed by Pope Francis.  Let me put this more sharply:


  • For Francis the human person seeks and claims an integral development, morally, spiritually and emotionally, which is joined intrinsically to the communities that sustain him.  For the Pope’s critics, the human person is the autonomous individual, man the producer and man the consumer.


  • For Francis inclusion and economic security for all are measures of economic health in contrast to the one-dimensional measure of economic growth proposed by his critics for decision making in the growing age of globalization.


  • For Francis, politics seeks the common good.  For his libertarian critics, politics seeks to maximize the freedom of markets and individual choice.  


  • For Francis the strength of globalization leads to the need for global structures that help mold the forces of market capitalism to advance solidarity and dignity for all.  For libertarians market forces left to themselves are the best arbiters of economic progress.


  • Secondly, the Cardinal also draws attention to the unique contribution Pope Francis makes to Catholic Social Teaching by using as his starting point real life experience rather than competing ideas. In other words the Pope offers a different epistemology, a different approach to how we know and learn or better how we are informed. In fact, as the Cardinal notes, some of the Pope’s critics say that his views on the economy are wanting precisely because he speaks out of the limited experience of living in Argentina with its difficult economic and political history or that he is just uninformed about capitalism and a market economy, especially its claims of reducing global poverty. But, I think those who easily dismiss what the Pope is saying because of his turn to real life experience fail to appreciate that he is calling people to a more authentic way of knowing and learning. He is challenging them about how they are informed.  And, in fact, herein lies what I believe is how we should understand his unique contribution to the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching. Instead of approaching life from the thirty thousand feet level of ideas, he challenges policy makers and elected officials – indeed all of us -  to experience the life of everyday and real people. His pithy phrase in the Joy of the Gospel says it all: Reality is greater than ideas.  Ideas cannot be disconnected from realities; the two must be in dialogue. He is concerned that leaders and policy makers “are stuck in the  realm of pure ideas” thus disconnected from realities.  Ideas are important as they can classify and define, but realities call us to action.


Living in the world of ideas only,  without being tethered to reality,  is a particular risk for leaders in the West and especially in the U.S. We can become quite content to quote statistics, sift through and interpret data, categorize populations,  all the while remaining indifferent to and unaware of the needs of real people.  To paraphrase the Pope, this approach is a dead end, for it only creates “ethical systems bereft of kindness” and carries on “intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom.” Much like he told religious leaders, Francis is saying that politicians and policy makers need to know the smell of the sheep,  otherwise their objectives will be more ideal than real,  and reality will be masked in empty rhetoric using  “a rationality foreign to most people.”  In our country and particularly in an era when campaign fundraising absorbs so much of an elected official’s time, the Pope’s words are particularly challenging. But they are also a challenge to any of us who, already having our place at the table of life,  find it more secure to speak of the economy in the world of ideas rather than risk testing them by visiting the reality of the excluded and marginalized – thereby making sure that ideas do dialogue with reality.


My final point is directed to Catholics and believers in our country who are challenged by the pope’s words about income distribution, protection of worker’s rights, and the role of governments in regulating the economy both nationally and internationally. First, it is worth noting that these precise topics were dealt with specifically by Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate. But, even more importantly, Pope Francis is not interested in providing an economic plan or system. Rather, his first goal is to call believers, call us all,  to a renewed encounter with the Risen Christ, so that our lives may be marked by the joy that sets us “free from sin, sorrow,  inner emptiness and loneliness” to the point that we are compelled to invite others to enter into and participate in  that same encounter, life and joy.  
Everything else for the believer is relative. Everything else, our economy, politics, social programs, our life styles are all measured by how they help or hinder others in participating in the life God has destined for humanity and in experiencing God’s loving encounter.  The Pope isn’t asking us to give over our wallets but to give over our lives to bringing about the Kingdom of God in our midst.  This is not about adopting an economic system that stifles personal initiative and creativity,  nor for that matter is it about baptizing a market driven economy to the point that it sends the message, especially to our youth, that it is ok to organize your life around trying to make as much money as you can as long as you occasionally are generous to the needy. No, the Pope’s invitation is much more profound:  Is sharing with others the joy of our encounter with Christ our priority? Or do we seek to deal with our sin, sorrow, emptiness and loneliness on our own terms? And specifically when it comes to inviting the poor to participate in the life God is calling us all to share, we have to deal with their real life situation not only that they are in want but that they are excluded. It is within this context that he calls for a shift from an economics of exclusion to a culture of encounter and the need for accompaniment.  One encounters another, not one self. One accompanies another, not one self. This emphasis on encounter and accompaniment unmasks the difficulty with libertarianism, for its stated goal is to increase human autonomy as the priority.


A Note of Urgency


I want to close with a note of urgency.  Listen to the sage advice of this warning about the full impact of economic liberalism on the moral life:  In a world like the West, where money and wealth are the measure of all things, and where the model of the free market imposes its implacable laws on every aspect of life, authentic Catholic ethics now appears to many like an alien body from times long past, as a kind of meteorite which is in opposition, not only to the concrete habits of life, but also to the way of thinking underlying them. Economic liberalism creates its exact counterpart, permissivism, on the moral plane. Who is this prophet?  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as quoted in 1985. The Ratzinger Report, p. 83.


My second note of urgency is that while many have been lifted out of poverty, the numbers of people not just poor but trapped in poverty and exclusion are staggering. Global communications however is a game changer as young people today and even more in the future, living with no hope yet tantalized by what they see in the world of opulence,  will be challenged to deal with rising expectations in a non-violent way. But, I believe we are already sitting on a powder keg that is as dangerous as the environmental crisis the world is facing today.
I do not have to reach across the world, however,  for reasons to be concerned as a pastor. I live on the campus of a major Catholic university and know first-hand  the weight faculty and administration feel as they try to redirect students beyond a materialistic approach to life in the face of overwhelming forces and inertia.  Like Pope Francis, I know that  the great danger  these young people and my parishioners face, “in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”  I know how their interior life is at risk in a world that encourages them to be caught up in their own interests, leaving no room for others, no place for the poor, so that “God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” I see this in the apathy towards immigration reform and  attitudes of indifference about the new immigrants who are forced to live in the shadows, explicitly excluded,  and,  since my days in South Dakota, in the disinterest in the plight of native peoples whose suffering and injury are generational. So for me, as a pastor, this is not just an academic debating exercise, there are serious concerns about libertarianism that impact the pastoral life.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council declared that the Church embraces her role in the modern age of being “at once a sign and a safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person.”  Gaudium et Spes 76.   Pope Francis, while making some ground breaking developments for Catholic Social Teaching is tethered to a rich tradition of taking up that task by challenging economic and political approaches which fall short of placing human dignity in all its fullness as the priority.
Rerum Novarum was the utter repudiation of a process of industrialism that claimed the freedom to let markets atomize society and deform the richness of our humanity. Catholic Social Teaching  in the present  moment with the insights of Pope Francis,  constitutes the challenge to a corresponding atomization and deformation through globalization.

Pope Francis is new and yet the same. A phrase in which someone recently compared Pope Francis to his two immediate predecessors captures well how connected they are to each other:: John Paul II told us what to do; Benedict XVI told us why we should do it; Francis is telling us – “Do it.”

Thank you.
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Friday, September 19, 2014

For 19 Chimneys, A Blase of Glory – Spokane's Cupich Tipped for Chicago

(The appointment reported below was formally announced by the Holy See at Roman Noon on Saturday, 20 September; fullvid of intro presser, etc.)

It is the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen since the turn of the millennium – according to an increasing number of reports and confirmations, at Roman Noon tomorrow Pope Francis is expected to name Blase Joseph Cupich, the 65 year-old bishop of Spokane, as ninth archbishop of Chicago.

A moderate and keen "conference man" repeatedly nominated for the USCCB presidency over recent elections, the appointment of the Omaha-born prelate – a liturgist by training – was first reported by Associated Press, and has now been confirmed by several Whispers sources.

Possessed of a richly varied background – serving by turns as a local aide at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus and pastor of two parishes in his hometown – in 1998 the apparent archbishop-elect was named as bishop of Rapid City, one of the nation's smallest, poorest dioceses, comprising the western half of South Dakota.

Eleven years later, Pope Benedict transferred Cupich – by then the chair of the US church's child protection efforts – to Spokane in the wake of the diocese's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to a crush of some 180 civil suits. Before that move, however, it is intriguing to note that Cupich was reportedly blocked from being named archbishop of Milwaukee – an even more prominent diocese which entered bankruptcy reorganization – in the later stages of that process.

In the Washington State post, the bishop garnered wide notice for advancing a pastoral strategy of mediation to settle the claims as opposed to resorting to legal processes. Just yesterday, Cupich issued a pastoral letter to the diocese to launch Spokane's pastoral plan for the next several years.

All in all, the choice serves to reflect of one of Francis' key emphases over his 18-month pontificate: that of a church geared toward the "periphery" as opposed to being locked in its "sacristies." Put another way, Cupich's experience before landing in the nation's third-largest diocese speaks to another of the Pope's lead threads – a premium on missionary pastors for a missionary church.

With the move on-deck, Cupich would become the first Chicago archbishop since George Mundelein in 1916 who was not previously a metropolitan elsewhere. The architect of the "corporation sole" behemoth that made the Windy City the most centralized and complex diocesan shop on these shores, next month marks the 75th anniversary of the death of the first cardinal, who was an auxiliary of Brooklyn at the time of his appointment and was subsequently given the use of Illinois license plate "1," a perk his successors enjoyed into the 1970s.

Given the tribal name wakiya ska – "White Thunder" – by Rapid City's Lakota Nation, Cupich has shown little reluctance for the public square, albeit in a markedly different style from his predecessor-to-be, Cardinal Francis George. A regular contributor to the Jesuits' America magazine, among other pieces there, the pick raised eyebrows in the run-up to the 2008 election by raising the specter of racism in at least some of the opposition to Barack Obama. In a 2011 piece, meanwhile, he laid out "12 things" the US bishops had learned from the sex-abuse crisis.

With the appointment, George will become the first Chicago archbishop in the diocese's 172-year history to hand off the reins in life. The cardinal's retirement suite is already said to be prepared in a church-owned facility near Holy Name Cathedral.

While his successor now arrives as "Francis' man" launched to the fore of the Stateside bench, the Ninth Archbishop will inherit the famous "House of 19 Chimneys" on North State Parkway (above) and alongside Lincoln Park, where the city's chief shepherds have resided since the 1890s.

For his part, though the outgoing archbishop floated the idea of selling the landmark house, citing his simple style as a religious and the popular expectations for a bishop in the modern church, the cardinal's thought was memorably nixed after protests from the descendants of the poor whose "pennies" built the place.

MORE TO COME.

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Reports: Chicago Imminent

After a sudden afternoon flurry of buzz, at 5pm Central the archdiocese of Chicago called a press conference for 9.30 tomorrow morning for an unspecified purpose.

Slated to be held at the Archbishop Quigley Center – the former high-school seminary turned headquarters of the 2.3 million-member local church – ops have begun to anticipate that the event will introduce the city's ninth archbishop on the retirement of Cardinal Francis George, 77. Named to succeed Cardinal Joseph Bernardin on 8 April 1997, George – widely hailed as the American hierarchy's leading intellect for nearly two decades – recently entered an experimental treatment program amid a third round of the bladder cancer he's battled over recent years.

The appointment to the US' third-largest diocese – for almost a century, the nation's largest local church – is likely to be the most significant choice for the Stateside bench Pope Francis makes during his entire pontificate. Accordingly, over recent weeks the Pope has reportedly phoned the American cardinals and other senior prelates to consult on his options for the choice facing him, even to the point of floating names he heard elsewhere past others. Given the timetable, it is unclear if the appointment has been processed through the Congregation for Bishops, which points to the surreal possibility that Francis circumvented the traditional final step to reserve the deliberations to himself.

Beyond its sheer size – and, globally, the red hat that's come with it for nearly a century – the Chicago post enjoys outsize influence at home due to the legal status of its archbishop as "corporation sole": that is, the full, unquestioned owner in civil law of all archdiocesan property and assets. With the archdiocese's assets most recently estimated at $2.8 billion and its fluid cash solidly in nine figures, at least on paper the appointee will become one of, if not the, wealthiest landowner in the United States. In addition, Chicago is home to American Catholicism's largest school system, for whose future a $300 million capital campaign has been afoot for some time.

As the process has wended through over the last several months, the concerns which have risen to the top of the identikit for the preferred nominee have touched on three areas: the archdiocese's emerging Hispanic majority, the administrative skill needed to effectively govern the sprawling apparatus of the nation's most centralized, complex diocese and, after years of difficult revelations of abuse and other tough calls, a general premium on a shepherd who can heal both the people and, in particular, the famously independent presbyterate. Beyond the recent Latino boom, meanwhile, it likewise bears noting that Chicago is home to the largest Polish community outside of Warsaw, and the city's legendary Polonia has never seen one of its own in the chair at Holy Name.

As for the possibilities of the choice, the historical precedent bears noting: since 1939, every Chicago archbishop has come to the post from the helm of another metropolitan see. That owes itself to the legacy of the first "Western" cardinal, George Mundelein, who essentially created his Chancery along the lines of a bank, thus requiring a high degree of expertise in governance at the top. That said, there is nothing to keep Francis from dispensing with the tradition... and in a time when an increasing number of suffragan sees are larger than many metropolitan churches, it could be said that the distinction has become moot.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

For Sydney, The Fisher King – Pell's Protege Returns as Archbishop

In his most significant appointment to date in the English-speaking world, at Roman Noon this Thursday (8pm on Harbour Bridge) the Pope named Anthony Fisher OP, the 54 year-old bishop of Parramatta, as ninth archbishop of Sydney.

In Australia's marquee post, the Oxford-trained bioethicist and lawyer succeeds his mentor, Cardinal George Pell, who Francis brought to his side in February to oversee a revolution of Vatican operations as head of the newly-created Secretariat for the Economy, now the Roman Curia's second-ranking office.

Put simply, the move is little surprise. Practically from his appointment as auxiliary to Pell in 2003, the boyish prelate raised on the city's outskirts was acclaimed as a rising star, and his combination of youthful enthusiasm and sterling academic chops quickly garnered an unusual amount of attention across the Anglophone church.

A solicitor for several years before entering the Dominicans, Fisher's profile was bolstered even more in short order when the friar was entrusted with overseeing Sydney's turn at hosting World Youth Day in July 2008. The role would become a mixed blessing, however, as the now-archbishop created a furor during the event with his remark terming the focus of "a few people" on the Aussie church's sex-abuse crisis amid the celebrations as "dwelling crankily on old wounds."

Accordingly, in his first comments upon today's appointment, Fisher aimed to turn the page on the comment, saying that "Victims of abuse and all young people must come first – no excuses, no cover-ups.

"The church must do better in this area, and I am committed to playing a leading role in regaining the confidence of the community and of our own members.... The Catholic Church in Australia is going through a period of public scrutiny and self-examination. I hope it will emerge from this purified, humbler, more compassionate and spiritually regenerated."

The "public scrutiny" refers to an ongoing Australian state inquiry into the history of the church's response to abuse in its institutions. Pell himself drew outraged criticism after an August statement while testifying to the panel which sought to compare the church's degree of liability to that of a "trucking company" whose driver "picks up some lady and then molests her."

Markedly more finessed than his "bull in a china shop" mentor, the successor who, given his religious roots, prefers to be known as "Bishop Anthony" likewise comes to the post with a new generation's tech savvy. Since taking the helm of Parramatta – comprising the city's western suburbs, said to be Australia's "fastest-growing diocese" – in 2010, the archbishop-elect has likewise taken to Twitter and maintains his own Facebook presence, where his latest post shared the news of today's appointment.

"I'm very excited to be returning to the Archdiocese of Sydney and building on strong foundations," he wrote. "I ask you to pray for me that I might be a good shepherd after the heart of Jesus Christ."

Heavily tipped for the nod from the moment Pell's departure for Rome was announced, throughout the seven-month process the choice for Sydney was universally seen as a two-horse race between Fisher and another favorite of the cardinal's, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, who turns 66 next week.

Acclaimed in the Oz media for his searing commentary on the abuse storm, the appointment comes days after Coleridge gave a strikingly candid long interview to Australian state radio on topics ranging from his own "delayed" maturity to the Vatican's handling of the crisis' US eruption in 2002, which he witnessed firsthand as a staffer in the Secretariat of State.

By opting for the younger choice, Francis has given Fisher a two-decade run in Australian Catholicism's most prominent post, the traditional home of the country's lone resident red hat. On another front, meanwhile, the prodigal Friar-Preacher is the second Dominican to be given a major English-language post by Papa Bergoglio after Malcolm McMahon OP, who Francis named to Liverpool – Britain's largest diocese – in March. And while the Stateside church stands in wait for the all-important appointment to Chicago – now said to be pending before the Congregation for Bishops – the duo are among at least a dozen "cardinalatial sees" across the globe awaiting the Pope's selection of new occupants over the next several months.

Given the late hour in Sydney, the archbishop-elect will likely face the cameras on Friday, local time. Fisher's installation date remains to be announced.

SVILUPPO: In his first interview upon the announcement – a brief chat with Vatican Radio – an audibly stunned Fisher said he learned of the appointment about a week ago and has "been in shock" ever since.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

"I Love You, And For This Love I Help You" – At Vatican Mass Wedding, "Papa Moon" on Marriage

Beginning the period of imminent prep for his "baby" – a Synodal revolution he's mentally plotted out over a decade and a half, the family as its first focus – earlier this Sunday the Pope witnessed the marriage of 20 couples at a morning Mass in St Peter's.

If the language of the moment below isn't universal, Church, you've got some month ahead:


...here, meanwhile the celebrant's homily to the couples and congregation:

Today’s first reading speaks to us of the people’s journey through the desert. We can imagine them as they walked, led by Moses; they were families: fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandparents, men and women of all ages, accompanied by many children and the elderly who struggled to make the journey. This people reminds us of the Church as she makes her way across the desert of the contemporary world, reminds us of the People of God composed, for the most part, of families.

This makes us think of families, our families, walking along the paths of life with all their day to day experiences. It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the "bricks" for the building up of society.

Let us return to the biblical story. At a certain point, "the people became impatient on the way" (Num 21:4). They are tired, water supplies are low and all they have for food is manna, which, although plentiful and sent by God, seems far too meagre in a time of crisis. And so they complain and protest against God and against Moses: "Why did you make us leave?..." (cf. Num. 21:5). They are tempted to turn back and abandon the journey.

Here our thoughts turn to married couples who "become impatient on the way", the way of conjugal and family life. The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, and often, even "nauseating".

During such moments of disorientation – the Bible says – poisonous serpents come and bite the people, and many die. This causes the people to repent and to turn to Moses for forgiveness, asking him to beseech the Lord so that he will cast out the snakes. Moses prays to the Lord, and the Lord offers a remedy: a bronze serpent set on a pole; whoever looks at it will be saved from the deadly poison of the vipers.

What is the meaning of this symbol? God does not destroy the serpents, but rather offers an "antidote": by means of the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, God transmits his healing strength, namely his mercy, which is more potent than the Tempter’s poison.

As we have heard in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with this symbol: out of love the Father "has given" his only begotten Son so that men and women might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:13-17). Such immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe. This is expressed by Saint Paul in his hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus crucified receives the mercy of God and finds healing from the deadly poison of sin.

The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who "have become impatient on the way" and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment… To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.

The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share. "I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman"; "I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man". Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Within this theology which the word of God offers us concerning the people on a journey, spouses on a journey, I would like to give you some advice. It is normal for husband and wife to argue: it’s normal. It always happens. But my advice is this: never let the day end without having first made peace. Never! A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue. Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not "fiction"! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross. My desire for you is that you have a good journey, a fruitful one, growing in love. I wish you happiness. There will be crosses! But the Lord is always there to help us move forward. May the Lord bless you!

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As a bookend to today's rites – and in a moving nod to the preeminent figure in Papa Bergoglio's own life – in early September the Holy See announced that Francis' long planned Square Mass and meeting with grandparents on the 28th would double as the centerpiece of a global day of prayer for the Synod and its success.

While promised Vatican texts for the occasion still remain to be released, the participation of the local churches has already been expressly urged.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014


O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths
and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and
Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.
We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.
God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.
–Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI
Ground Zero, New York
20 April 2008
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Monday, September 08, 2014

A Priest Forever

SVILUPPO: Fr William Carmona was called home just before 3pm CT on Wednesday, 10 September. May the angels lead him into Paradise... and at the end of his suffering, may he know the face of the High Priest he strove to serve and imitate among us.

* * *
Almost eighteen years ago, the then-rector of Dunwoodie and auxiliary of New York rushed to the family home of one of his seminarians. Chrism stock in hand and two stoles over his arm, he greeted his destination with an unforgettable line: "Eugene, we're going to make you a priest!"

Three hours after his ordination on a couch by the now-Cardinal Ed O'Brien, Fr Eugene Hamilton died at 24, taken by an incurable tumor in his chest.

Today in San Antonio, it happened again: in the last stages of a returned cancer now spread beyond treatment, William Carmona, 50, was ordained both deacon and priest on his deathbed by his bishop, Nashville's David Choby.

Born in Colombia as one of 13 children, the new priest's hospital-room rite – which came together in a matter of hours – owed itself to Fr Carmona's studies at Assumption Seminary, the bilingual house which has seen record numbers of men in formation over recent years as the Stateside church's de facto Hispanic majority continues its emergence into ecclesial life.

As the ordinand lay unresponsive in bed, a nurse keeping watch close by, the moving, surreal rite was captured by San Antonio's in-house Catholic Television arm... here below in full:


Much as the moment more than speaks for itself, God reward everyone who made it possible. And Danny... well, 'nuff said.

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

"This Beautiful Disciple" – San Diego's Cirilo Dies at 66

In just the latest blow to a diocese which has already seen an outsize share of drama over recent years, Bishop Cirilo Flores of San Diego died Saturday at 66 after a sudden, stunning decline through the last several months.

According to a statement from the Chancery, Flores passed away peacefully before 3pm Pacific time at Nazareth House, a local hospice where he had arrived just a day before.

A Stanford Law grad who worked for several years as a corporate attorney before entering St John's Seminary, Camarillo – from which he was ordained at 43 – Flores spent his priesthood in the parishes of the diocese of Orange until his appointment as an auxiliary there in 2009 by the now-retired Benedict XVI. In early 2012, the "cheerful, happily low-profile" cleric became Papa Ratzinger's surprise choice as coadjutor of San Diego, now a million-member diocese in the US' eight-largest city, which in 2007 became American Catholicism's biggest outpost to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to enable the settlement of 144 sex-abuse suits for $198 million.

After a 19 month apprenticeship under Bishop Robert Brom, Flores succeeded as the border diocese's fifth head last September 18th, when Brom retired on his 75th birthday after nearly 25 years in office. Over his short tenure, "Bishop Cirilo" – the first Hispanic to hold the post – evoked local comparisons with Pope Francis for his simple, smiling style and dedication to the trenches from which he emerged.

Flores had not been seen in public since Holy Week, on the Wednesday of which (April 16th) he suffered a mild stroke. While the diocese reported that the bishop's recovery was progressing and initially foresaw his return within weeks, the story took a marked shift over the last month after Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles visited, reportedly to find Flores some 80 pounds lighter and learning that his southern suffragan had neglected routine medical care for several years. In response, Gomez took personal charge of the bishop's health, bringing Flores north to LA as his guest in the archbishop's residence at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. After an initial battery of tests there raised further alarm, in mid-August the bishop was admitted to USC's Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, where earlier this week Flores was diagnosed with "a widespread, very advanced and very aggressive" cancer "of unknown origin" which had spread into his bones and precluded any options for treatment.

As Flores and Brom both served as understudy before taking the reins, with the former's death, the San Diego post has fallen vacant for the first time since 1969, when the Philadelphia-born Francis Furey was named archbishop of San Antonio. With the diocese lacking any active auxiliaries, the formidable longtime vicar-general, Msgr Steven Callahan, has minded the shop throughout the bishop's illness and is the virtually certain choice to be elected administrator should the standard process be cleared to proceed.

The southern anchor of the Stateside church's largest province, San Diego ranks among the nation's top 15 dioceses in Catholic population. Between its size, the turmoil of recent years and, with these, that the state of the diocese is barely changed since the consultations leading to Flores' own selection were taken, the appointment of the sixth bishop is expected on a relatively fast track. Accordingly, with the choice likely to set off a round of musical chairs, quiet discussions on the succession have already been broached.

Said to have been the topic of a planned Friday meeting of the San Diego deans, the funeral arrangements remain to be announced. Notably, the priests of the diocese have long been scheduled to gather in convocation over four days later this month.

In any case, in a 2011 talk to a group in Orange, Flores recounted his own unusual vocation story, and it fits the moment....



As one San Diego priest termed him, "this wonderful man, compassionate shepherd, and beautiful disciple of our Lord"... one who, before his elevation, was a donor to these pages (for transparency's sake: $100, once) and a friend throughout.

He'll be missed by many – and indeed, we won't just be praying for him, but to him.

Well done, good and faithful servant. It's simply too soon. Rest in peace.

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