May Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization, intercede for us. (Photo taken from my seat in St. Peter’s Basilica.)
Sunday, October 28, 2012
The Synod on the New Evangelization is now officially concluded with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, celebrated by our Holy Father with all the synod fathers as concelebrants. How fitting that the Gospel was about the blind man, Bartimaeus, who asked that Jesus might allow him to see again.
Our Holy Father mentioned in his homily that Jesus was on His way to death in Jerusalem and yet stopped to hear the cry of this poor man. This encounter, like so many others throughout the pages of the Gospels, once again brings a person into the circle of Jesus’ presence. Jesus both answers the immediate request and provides so much more.
May the new evangelization allow each of us in the Church to present Christ to each other and to those not yet among us, and may this encounter with the Lord Jesus bring us salvation and joy!
Saturday October 27, 2012 The Village Fountain
Carl Heinrich Bloch’s painting, Woman at the Well, from the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace in Copenhagen.
The message to the people of God from the Synod Fathers has now been released. It is beautiful.
Beginning with the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, it presents simultaneous images of the world searching and thirsting for the truth and the presence of Jesus, who both listens and leads. The Church is to accompany persons who search, pastorally listening and leading them to an encounter with Jesus. Of course, all of us in the Church begin by conversion to Christ so we might be joyful and bold witnesses.
Equally inviting is a wonderful image, very dear to Blessed John XXIII, of the parish as the village fountain.
The English version is about 14 pages but truly worth reading. Please visit here for the English version.
Now, I am on to the last session of the Synod with votes on propositions and then tomorrow, the closing Mass with our Holy Father.
May the Holy Spirit continue to guide the new evangelization so that there might truly be a new Pentecost!
Friday, October 26, 2012
“Seeing the world without God”: that is the shortest way for me to sum up secularism. The synod deliberations have been focused a good deal on this way of looking at life. Indeed, the new evangelization is seeking to uncover the restlessness and thirst that arises within those who, intentionally or not, go on with life as if this world is all there is and, in some ways, as if there is no loving author of life.
How different is the tone of this morning’s second reading from the Office of Readings. St. Augustine writes to Proba about being “confident and serene.” Who wouldn’t want those qualities? At the root of this confidence is a deep trust in God, the Author of life and the One who lovingly guides our path. This confidence and serenity also is rooted in the full vision of earth and heaven. Indeed, our lives will be satisfied only in the presence of God in heaven, and our time on earth will truly make sense only with this complete vision.
Michelangelo Buonaroti, Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel, 1510
The Latin word saeculum refers to the created world, and all that God created is good, as we know from the book of Genesis. Certainly it has been marred and weakened by sin, original and personal, and is in great need of the redemption of Jesus Christ to reach each corner. Seeing God at the center of existence, however, differs radically from the world view reflected in secularism. Cardinal George recently wrote a column, which I tweeted, on this very point.
The new evangelization, which is not a new program, returns us to the realization that is at the root of human existence: God is the Author of all life, and it is good. Marred by sin, our life needs to be restored by Christ, Who leads us to our eternal home.
St. Augustine could speak of being confident and serene, and my small group in the Synod could speak of humility, simplicity, and beginning all things in prayer precisely because of this conviction in faith. Back home, I hear echoes of “Pray First,” and all I can do is clap in support!
“Seeing life with God at the center” is a recipe that the saints discovered over and over again through the centuries and one that we must reclaim.
You probably heard about the Cardinals named by our Holy Father this week. Our small group at the Synod is taking some credit for some of them because two, Cardinal Basileos Cleemis Thottunkal of the Malankara Catholics of India (whom I befriended last year on our way to Assisi) and Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Nigeria, were part of our group. Needless to say, all of us were elated. We also were thrilled by the elevation of one of our own Americans, Cardinal James Harvey, who has served in Rome for decades with great distinction.
Today and tomorrow, we vote on the propositions prepared. Yesterday, we relators were at it again, honing down the propositions. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide our decisions.
Then, I attend the closing Mass on Sunday with our Holy Father and return to the United States on Monday (and to a hurricane?)! I’m a bit homesick, so the Synod is ending at just the right time.
With confidence and serenity, I pray that all of heaven and earth will rejoice in our God who is all good.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Archbishop Kurtz talks to Catholic News Service about the “Rite of the Blessing of a Child in the Womb.”
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
It is Tuesday morning, and I am preparing for morning Mass. Yesterday, we celebrated the feast of Blessed John Paul II, and I beseeched his intercession for the work of the new evangelization.
Statue of Blessed John Paul II outside the Catedral de la Almudena (Madrid, Spain) by sculptor Juan de Ávalos, 1998. Photograph by Greg O’Beirne.
We now begin the important phase of carefully examining the propositions that are being developed. As we begin this process, I am reminded of a theme — the thirst for God and for all that is true, good, and beautiful — that was prominent at one of the focus groups prior to my coming to Rome: the 40 young adults who talked with me after the Mass at Holy Spirit Church in Louisville. This theme also is very prominent at the synod.
It is clear to me that the new evangelization is not simply a new program. Rather, it consists of uncovering the thirst that is already present in our hearts. The desire for lasting truth, goodness, and beauty leads the searcher along the path of life, and we see this search in the lives of the great saints. May Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, be announced once again to answer that thirst!
We finished the presentations of the propositions on Sunday, so yesterday was a free day! Last evening was a special treat. I went to dinner at a restaurant on the Borgo Pio very close to St. Peter’s Basilica. I was joined by Monsignor Anthony J. Figueiredo of the North American College; Father David Boettner, who is Vicar General and pastor of the Cathedral in Knoxville; Father Rich Clement, who is a priest friend from Allentown; and Michael Hendershott, a fine seminarian now studying in Rome for Knoxville. Msgr. Figueiredo was of tremendous assistance with all of the details of the ad limina visit last January. Father David and Father Rich are here for three months taking part in the program of ongoing priestly formation. Pasta and friends go together well in Rome, and, I imagine, everywhere!
Sunday, October 21, 2012
It is Sunday morning here in Rome, and the Synod on the New Evangelization continues. I have not been able to write a journal entry since Thursday because the pace and responsibilities of this adventure have picked up speed. In the last days, our small groups met in earnest. Then on Friday morning, each of the 12 small-group relators presented to our Holy Father and Synod delegates a 10-minute summary of our deliberations. When I was interviewed yesterday by a reporter from The Tablet in the United Kingdom, I reflected on those 10 minutes. Had I simply written the text on my own on the plane to Rome, it would have been a dramatically different presentation.
Saint Marianne Cope Statue in Honolulu. Photo by billsoPHOTO
Hearing the voices from every corner of the universal Church has expanded my thinking and the prayers from my heart. Thus, I began my presentation with the words: “The New Evangelization begins with prayer — and with simplicity and humility — for the task is not human work but the work of Jesus Christ.” My time of prayer has been more fruitful, and I ask you, the reader, to beseech the Holy Spirit to lead us again to Jesus, and through His power, to announce the good news with the humility and zeal of the first apostles.
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in Santa Fe Catholic Cathedral. Photo by Jim McIntosh.
Last night was a real work session. For four hours, I worked with the three other English-speaking relators to refine the propositions that had been developed by our small groups throughout Thursday and Friday. Today, the work continues with the relators of various language groups meeting to pare down the propositions to the very best ones. This work begins at 10 a.m.
I rose early for holy Mass this morning. Sadly, I will not be able to be present for today’s Mass in which seven saints — including North America’s Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha — will be canonized. There are hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims here from the United States for the Mass. I will miss being with them, but I know that their prayers also will be with the deliberations of the Synod.
Please continue to pray for me, as I do for you, as this third and final week of the Synod begins.
Yesterday’s summary of the Synod from Salt and Light TV included an interview with Archbishop Kurtz about the “Blessing of the Child in the Womb.”
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Luke, Evangelist, known to be a Greek doctor who converted to Christianity and was a companion of the Apostle Paul. How fitting it is during this Synod on the New Evangelization to recall a saint who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote the Gospel According to St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, returning us to the first proclamation of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Russian Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist
Last evening, the American delegates, along with the experts, auditors, and others living in Rome, gathered at a reception at the Paul VI Hotel, just across from St. Peter’s Basilica. Those gathered represented a wealth of experience on evangelization! It was great to be able to join Cardinal Dolan in thanking each person for the contributions being made. Today, we will focus on the work of the small groups and begin to craft possible propositions on the new evangelization. We will be armed with Cardinal Wuerl’s wonderful summary from yesterday afternoon along with the rich tapestry of more than a week of interventions from virtually every corner of the world. (Cardinal Wuerl’s presentation will be in the Vatican Bulletins for you to read.)
May the Evangelist Luke intercede for us as we seek to call forth new evangelizers to introduce Jesus Christ our Savior to the world in a fresh and vibrant way.
Back home and to the north, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will welcome a new leader, Archbishop Joseph Tobin. I emailed him words of welcome and prayers. I know him from Rome and am grateful that he will be a neighbor. I also send prayers of gratitude and solicitude to Archbishop-emeritus Daniel Buechlein, O.S.B., who has served his local church so well, and to Bishop Chris Coyne, who has carried out fine service as the Apostolic Administrator during the interim.
Thank you for your prayers and messages. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns as the Synod progresses.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
“Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.” The gospel on this feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch points to martyrdom for the sake of Christ, a witness for every age.
Icon of St. Ignatius of Antioch
The Synod on the New Evangelization is about this faithful witness to Christ. A credible proclamation of the Gospel in our own age is weak when such sacrifice is absent. Indeed, the unity of the church that we seek comes about through the power of the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, who freely gave up His life for us. It is becoming clearer that unity will be achieved only as we draw closer and closer to Christ and His sacrificial grace.
This morning I am putting together the notes to be used in our small group tomorrow, which involves gathering together all of the scraps of paper that contain themes from these last 1.5 weeks of dialogue and interventions. Today, Cardinal Wuerl will present a second summary, which will provide greater clarity of the themes that are emerging from all of these sessions. Then the small groups will be tasked tomorrow with formulating propositions for promoting the new evangelization. Pray that I will be a good relator, listening and preparing to represent our small group on Friday at a general session. There are 12 such “language” groups, including four in English. Each of the 12 relators will have about 10 minutes to present summaries from his respective small group.
As a gesture of solidarity in sacrifice and unity, our Holy Father announced yesterday that he is sending a delegation of Cardinals and Bishops to a suffering people and a Church in peril in Syria. We are honored that Cardinal Dolan will be among that delegation. Please pray that there might be a true, just, and lasting peace and for renewed efforts to preserve religious freedom for the people of Syria.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Blessings to St. Margaret Mary Parish in Louisville, as today we celebrate the parish patroness: St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. On two occasions I have visited the small chapel in the French village of Paray-le-Monial. There St. Margaret Mary experienced the mystical revelations in which the great love of Jesus in His Sacred Heart overwhelmed her heart. The love of Jesus in his Sacred Heart, of course, is rooted in the Gospel account of the crucifixion. Blood and water flowed from his side as the lance pierced the heart of Jesus, and in His love the Church was born.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
This theme of the outpouring of love from the heart of Jesus is in sharp contrast to a theme of the Synod – the inward movement of secular society. Sadly, our secular culture at its worst is a far cry from the outpouring of love, but instead has become a culture turned in on itself. One bishop delegate told me of an advertisement around Christmastime that said: “Happy holidays. Do something special for yourself.” This is a perfect example of how Jesus’ love outpoured has turned inward!
Despite these tendencies in our culture, the conviction that has come through the sessions of the Synod is the reality that love conquers all. Let us pray that the Synod sessions will serve to announce with greater fervor the great love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus revealed in the 17th century to St. Margaret Mary, which continues to be ever-accessible and ever-needed in our age.
On a personal note, I had a late meal with Father Joe Graffis, Father Joe Merkt, and Deacon Lucio Caruso. They ended their course of study in Rome yesterday and are preparing to return to the United States. It was a treat for me to visit with them and share experiences.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Hardship without humor is hard to take. St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast we celebrate today, had her share of hardships. In the renewal of the Carmelites and as she established the shoeless or discalced Carmelites, St. Teresa endured a great deal.
St. Teresa of Avila by Peter Paul Rubens
One humorous story tells of her being thrown from a horse as she crossed a river. Looking up to heaven, it is reported that she said, “If this is how you choose your friends, Oh God, no wonder you have so few!”
One theme of this Synod has been the hardship of religious liberty endured in places like the Middle East, the Far East, and Africa.
As I listen to accounts of the assaults on religious liberty, my heart goes out to those who suffer. I also acknowledge the assaults in the United States, especially the Department of Health and Human Services mandates.
As we seek the courage to stand up for religious freedom as the first freedom, we also seek the example of St. Teresa of Avila, who brought joy and even humor to a world filled with hardships.
In the midst of hardship, we often find stories of lively faith among those who trust God and embrace the gift of joy, a gift that allows us to enjoy the humorous parts of life.
The gift of joy is a great lesson as I begin the second week of the Synod and the responsibility that comes with it. We need, sometimes, to take ourselves less seriously and trust in God’s grace to direct the new evangelization amidst hardship and, yes, the joy and even humor of serving the Lord Jesus.
Here is the prayer from St. Teresa of Avila that I say each morning:
Nada te turbe, nada te espante; todo se pasa, Dios no se muda. La paciencia todo lo alcanza. Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta solo Dios basta.
Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
“Come, worship the Lord for we are his people, a flock he shepherds, alleluia.” Today’s invitatory antiphon calls all to Christ, the Good Shepherd, the source of all evangelization.
Yesterday, there was a call to “return to the Holy Land” on pilgrimage, and I could not help but go back in my mind to the initial proclamation of Jesus as we seek a path for the new evangelization. It is clear that every one of us who follows Christ has an important task in this new proclamation, and only by returning to the source can we ever hope to fulfill this privileged task.
In this month of the Holy Rosary, I recall the third luminous mystery given to us by Blessed John Paul II: The Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Conversion.
We carry this proclamation of the saving cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one generation to the next, always with our hearts touched and converted to Him as we seek the Reign of God that He announced and ushered forth.
Last evening I accompanied Cardinal Dolan to the Mass for priest students at Casa Santa Maria, and this morning, I joined Cardinal Dolan at his titular church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was great to see the energy of young priests preparing for the apostolate and join with an active parish in Rome to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and pray for the new evangelization.
It also is a blessing to have a respite from five-minute interventions for a day. Tomorrow, of course, I will be ready for week two!
Saturday, October 13, 2012
It is getting more difficult to choose the best experiences to write about, but I would like to share two from yesterday.
At 1 p.m. after the morning session of the Synod, our Holy Father invited Synod delegates to come together for pranzo (lunch) in honor of the bishops who had participated at the Vatican Council II. This video by Salt and Light of Canada describes very well the preparation for that meal, as well as other features of the Synod:
The Vatican Daily Bulletin will report the wonderful speech of our Holy Father, but what won’t get coverage is the table at which I sat and ate. This table was a microcosm of Church in the modern world and the rich tapestry of the Synod. My table companions included the Mother General of the Missionaries of Charity (now in Calcutta, though a native of Germany and the successor once-removed of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta); the Archbishop of Lesotho in South Africa; the Archbishop from Bolivia (who was of Polish origins) and another from the mountains of Peru; one from Holland (who studied at Catholic University of America); a professor from Santa Croce in Rome; and a Filipino Archbishop whose Archdiocese totals nearly 4 million Catholics. We mainly spoke in English, but there were some Spanish-speakers. I thank my friend Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio for his presence and for the easy way he translated the conversation when I got lost!
At the table, we spoke of everything from Church to culture to Synod happenings. Mostly there was that laughter and joy that marks followers of Jesus Christ! There will be many public propositions coming from the synod deliberations, but these encounters will not make the headlines. Nonetheless, they are important tiles in the mosaic of this Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith.
Later in the afternoon, Synod delegates attended a presentation on science and faith. Dr. Werner Arber, from the University of Basel in Switzerland and an active member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, made a presentation on recent developments in the science of evolution. Science begins with curiosity, and, done well, this enterprise uncovers the basis of natural law. While evolution answers many questions, it does not answer the “root” questions. These questions, according to Dr. Arber, are in the realm of philosophy. He reminded us that people of faith have a belief in God, but atheists also have a belief in the nonexistence of God. He spoke of the cultural values of science, which enrich our world view and open the world to innovations that shape the future. Essential to the task of addressing these questions in the philosophical realm is the call for a clear assessment of scientific advancements to ensure that the “progress” is truly good and ethical.
Dr. Arber spoke of the role of the church as an evangelizer of culture. In this role, religion and science are not enemies. While some picture religion and science as walking on the same road, but in different directions, the task of evangelization is for religion and science to walk hand-in-hand.
Thus, my horizons on the new evangelization and its far-reaching aspects continue to emerge, and I am coming to see the great dimensions of evangelizing culture that are part of the Synod. I had the encouragement of Frs. Tom Boland and Pat Dolan back home to be attentive to science and its relationship to faith and the new evangelization, and here it is before me now.
All of these discussions remind me that our faith is deeply personal, but it also is public. Jesus calls the baptized to renew the face of the earth, and we do so by proposing, not imposing, our values and convictions.
Today is a full day of Synod sessions that includes Mass and an evening meal at the Casa, the house for doctoral student priests from America and the original home of the North American College.
Thank you for your continued prayers and good wishes.
Friday, October 12, 2012
This video from Rome Reports is titled, “Synod: Vice President of the American Bishops suggests a blessing for children in the womb.”
Friday, October 12, 2012
Yesterday morning was a glorious day. At an outdoor Mass, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening session of the Second Vatican Council and acknowledged, with gratitude, the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the CatholicChurch. The occasion also was marked by the presence of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople.
I could not help but recall October 1962 when I began my junior year of high school. We are still mining the great gift of the Second Vatican Council and enjoying the fruit of those gifts. As a high school student, I should have followed more closely the proceedings of this 21st Ecumenical Council. I am still making up for lost time!
It is raining in Rome but the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica still shines bright!
In the afternoon, the Synod delegates met for a session. It is both enriching, and at times a little tiring, to listen to each of the delegates present a five-minute intervention. I continue to reflect on major themes as they emerge and will be writing more about them in subsequent journal entries.
From the United States, I received an email from Archabbot Bonaventure Knaebel at Saint Meinrad. Thank you, Archabbot Bonaventure, for correcting an earlier entry of mine. Indeed, St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard, already saints, are now doctors of the church. St. John of Avila was a diocesan priest very close to St. Teresa of Avila. Thank you for your careful review of my journal.
On The Record site, I also heard from Dr. Beverly McAuliffe on behalf of the faculty, staff, and students at Holy Family School, who sent prayers, and from Silvia Rugina, who sent thanks.
Please continue to pray for all of the Synod delegates and for me as the Synod on the New Evangelization unfolds.
P.S. – I was saddened at my Cincinnati Reds dropping three in a row to lose the series with the Giants!
Thursday, October 11, 2012
I have risen early Thursday morning for my holy hour and exercise. At 9:30 a.m., I will be vesting to join our Holy Father and all of the synod delegates and faithful for a Mass that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the opening session of the Second Vatican Council.
Yesterday, in his public audience, our Holy Father shared his experiences and participation in the Second Vatican Council. His recollection is worth reading and can be found on the Vatican bulletin site this morning.
Yesterday also was a very busy day at the Synod. We had our first gathering of the small groups. It was a substantive meeting that included organizational details, and one of the first duties was to elect a moderator and a reporter. I am very pleased that Cardinal Napier was elected our moderator, and I am humbled to be elected the reporter. READ MORE…
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
The dome of St. Peter at 5:30 a.m.
It is 5:30 a.m. here in Rome, and I am about to start my holy hour before morning Mass. In the picture, you see the lighted dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as it appears in the pre-dawn morning, glimmering in the darkness.
Lumen Gentium is the title given to Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The story is told that Blessed John XXIII pointed to a globe of the earth and announced “lumen gentium,” meaning that Christ Jesus is the “light to the nations.” The Church, of course, has as her primary mission to proclaim Christ to the nations, and that shimmering dome of St. Peter’s, all lighted in the darkness, speaks to that great mission. The Church serves Christ Jesus and indeed is the mystici corporis, the Mystical Body of Christ, of which the Lord Jesus is the head and we are members. READ MORE…
Monday, October 8, 2012
This Synod on the New Evangelization is a “new song” to the world from the Church, which is announcing anew Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
This morning, this theme of a new song struck me while praying the Office of Readings before Mass.
The beautiful prayer after Psalm 96 captures so eloquently the grace of Jesus Christ as the One who is guiding the synod. “Your Church throughout the world sings you a new song, announcing your wonders to all. Through a Virgin you have brought forth a new birth in our world; through your miracles, a new power; through your suffering, a new patience; in your resurrection, a new hope; and in your ascension, new majesty.” Yes, I thought, the synod is meant to be a “new song” in which Jesus Christ is to be the center. READ MORE…
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Greetings and blessings to you from the Eternal City! This Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of joining in a special outdoor Mass celebrated by our Holy Father to mark the official opening of the synod and at which two saints were declared doctors of the Church – St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen. (October 12: Thanks to Archabbot Bonaventure Knaebel of Saint Meinrad for correcting this entry in which I originally referred to these saints being canonized. Indeed, St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard, already saints, are now doctors of the church.)READ MORE…
Friday, October 5, 2012
This video was just released by Catholic News Service about the upcoming Synod on the New Evangelization. It is brief (only 3 minutes) but provides a good introduction to the synod.