Monday, October 31, 2011

All Saints Days; only in New Orleans

For All Saints Day in New Orleans, traditions new and old

Published: Sunday, October 30, 2011, 9:00 PM
The line between the present and the past blurs in New Orleans, and it seemed to vanish altogether one day off congested Claiborne Avenue in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. "Just drive on in,” Anna Ross had urged.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.jpgView full sizeSt. Louis Cemetery No. 2 was established in 1823 and is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans.
The cemetery, established in 1823, is crowded with some of the oldest and most historic tombs in the city. Inscriptions in French go back almost 200 years. Yet above us roared traffic on the Claiborne Avenue overpass.
Ross, a preservationist and member of Friends of New Orleans Cemeteries, was there with her daughter, Heather Twichell, to spruce up the Duval family tomb for All Saints Day, which is Tuesday. The tomb was in the spotlight a couple of years ago when Ernie K-Doe, legendary local musician and a family friend, was buried there; later, his wife, Antoinette, and his mother-in-law joined him.
Antoinette K-Doe’s daughter, Betty Fox was also there. The trio gathers every All Saints Day in the cemetery, along with friends and other families with loved ones buried nearby.
The old custom has gotten an update at St. Louis No. 2. On Tuesday at noon, a second-line will come over from nearby St. Louis No. 1, the city’s oldest burial ground, said Rob Florence of Friends of New Orleans Cemeteries.
St. Louis No. 1 on Basin Street will be the site of an event called “Dearly Departed,” billed as “a cemetery exploration with costumed historical characters,” on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon. Among the famous figures buried in St. Louis No. 1 are 19th-century developer Bernard de Marigny and, of course, voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Call 504.583.7309.
Meanwhile, from 9 a.m. to noon, the preservation group Save Our Cemeteries will staff information tables at St. Louis No. 1 and St. Louis No. 2, as well as Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, 1400 Washington Ave. in the Garden District. There will be a tour of St. Louis No. 2 at 10 a.m. Reservations are required. Call 504.525.3377.
Even if you don’t have family there, Tuesday is a good day to visit the cemeteries.
For the living, admission is always free. And the past never seems so present.

Everything about All Saints Day

All Saints Day Meaning and Information

All Saints Day History, Information, Prayers, Resources, Traditions, & More

All Saints Day Definition and Meaning

Have you wondered what is All Saints Day? It is when the Catholic Church and some Protestant churches commemorate all saints, known and unknown. The eve of All Saints is known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. All Saints Day is November 1. Prayers: All Saints Day Prayers

Basic Facts/Meaning About All Saints Day

: White
Solemnity, Holy Day of Obligation (West); Feast (East)
: November 1 (in the East, the Sunday after Pentecost)
: One Day
: All Saints, known and unknown
: All Hallows, Hallowmas, Halloween
: Mark 12:26-27; Ephesians 6:18; Hebrews 12:1, Revelation 5:8


Every day in the Church calendar has a saint day, but the Solemnity of All Saints is when the Church honors all saints, known and unknown. This is much like the American holidays Veterans Day and Presidents Day, where many people are honored on one day. While we have information about many saints, and we honor them on specific days, there are many unknown or unsung saints, who may have been forgotten, or never been specifically honored. On All Saints Day, we celebrate these saints of the Lord, and ask for their prayers and intercessions. The whole concept of All Saints Day is tied in with the concept of the Communion of Saints. This is the belief that all of God's people, on heaven, earth, and in the state of purification (called Purgatory in the West), are connected in a communion. In other words, Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that the saints of God are just as alive as you and I, and are constantly interceding on our behalf. Remember, our connection with the saints in heaven is one grounded in a tight-knit communion. The saints are not divine, nor omnipresent or omniscient. However, because of our common communion with and through Jesus Christ, our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 350) testifies to this belief:
We mention those who have fallen asleep: first the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition...( 23:9).
Catechetical Lecture
The Catholic Catechism concisely describes this communion among believers, by which we are connected to Christ, and thus to one another:
"Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness...They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us...So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."

" Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself: We worship Christ as God's Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord's disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples ( 956, 957)!

There are thousands of canonized saints, that is those individuals officially recognized by the Church as holy men and women worthy of imitation. Because miracles have been associated with these people, and their lives have been fully examined and found holy by the Church, we can be assured they are prime examples of holiness, and powerful intercessors before God on our behalf. There are also many patron saints, guardians or protectors of different areas and states of life. For instance, St. Vitus is the patron saint against oversleeping, and St. Joseph of Cupertino is the patron saint of air travelers. It may sound crazy to have a patron saint against oversleeping, but keep in mind the Church has something meaningful for every area of our human lives. All of these saints are celebrated throughout the year, as many have their own feast days (for instance, St. Hilary of Poitiers, whose feast day is celebrated January 13).


Christians have been honoring their saints and martyrs since at least the second century AD. , probably written near the middle of the second century, attests to this reality:
Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more pure than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, so that when being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps (18).
Initially the calendars of saints and martyrs varied from location to location, and many times local churches honored local saints. However, gradually feast days became more universal. The first reference to a general feast celebrating all saints occurs in St Ephrem the Syrian (d. AD 373). St. John Chrysostom (d. AD 407) assigned a day to the feast, the first Sunday after Pentecost, where in the Eastern Churches the feast is celebrated to this day. In the West, this date was probably originally used, and then the feast was moved to May 13th. The current observance (November 1) probably originates from the time of Pope Gregory III (d. AD 741), and was likely first observed on November 1st in Germany. This fact makes the connection of the All Saints Feast with the pagan festival Samhain less likely, since Samhain was an Irish pagan feast, rather than German.
The vigil of the Feast (the eve) has grown up in the English speaking countries as a festival in itself, All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. While many consider Halloween pagan (and in many instances the celebrations are for many), as far as the Church is concerned the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints. Many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast's vigils we mock evil, because as Christians, it has no real power over us. However, for some Halloween is used for evil purposes, in which many Christians dabble unknowingly. David Morrison explains the proper relationship between Christians and Halloween. Various customs have developed related to Halloween. In the Middle Ages, poor people in the community begged for "soul cakes," and upon receiving these doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls. This is the root of our modern day "trick-or-treat." The custom of masks and costumes developed to mock evil and perhaps confuse the evil spirits by dressing as one of their own. Some Christians visit cemeteries on Halloween, not to practice evil, but to commemorate departed relatives and friends, with picnics and the last flowers of the year. The day after All Saints day is called All Soul's Day, a day to remember and offer prayers up on behalf of all of the faithful departed. In many cultures it seems the two days share many customs. See the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church for more information.

Worship and Prayer Resources

Prayers for the Feast of All Saints
Prayers for All Hallows Eve

All Saints Art, Photos, and Images

Statues of Saints (D. Bennett)
Statue of St. Joseph (J. Bennett)
Stain Glass Window of St. Helen (J. Bennett)
St. Jude Statue (J. Bennett)
Saint on a Grave Marker (D. Bennett)
all saints icon
All Saints Icon
St. Anthony of Padua Statue (J. Bennett)
all saints thumb
Another All Saints Icon

Traditions, Customs, Symbols, and Typology

Traditions and Customs
Visiting Cemeteries (All Hallows Eve)
Giving "Soul Cakes" To The poor (All Hallows Eve)
Sheaf of Wheat
Rayed Manus Dei (Hand of God)
Symbols of Individual Saints
Old Testament Typology Foreshadowing All Saints Day
All Old Testament Holy Men and Women
Old Testament Martyrs
God's Covenants With Groups of People

Frequently Asked Questions

Good question. Many non-Catholics, especially those from more fundamentalist backgrounds, assume that celebrating the saints means somehow worshiping them. This leads some Christians to claim that All Saints Day is an idolatrous holiday. The Church, East and West, has always distinguished between worship (latria), given to God alone, and veneration (dulia), which may be given to the saints. The highest form of veneration (hyperdulia) is due to the Blessed Virgin Mary. If someone is treating a saint as one should treat God, then yes, that is idolatry. That being said, Catholics believe that the saints have a role in our lives, as intercessors on our behalf, because we are all united by our communion in Christ. The saints are continually praying for us and interceding on our behalf, on account of their closeness to Christ. This is because God is the God of the living, not of the dead. As such, asking a saint for intercession is no more idolatrous than asking a holy friend or pastor to pray for you.
Remembering and honoring the saints are beneficial practices, because to remember the heroes of the faith and follow their examples are good things. Many Christians seem to strongly oppose remembering and celebrating the lives of great Christian men and women, yet have no problem celebrating the lives of secular heroes like George Washington. All Saints Day is kind of like a Christian Memorial Day or Presidents Day, a day to celebrate the lives of all the great heroes of the Christian faith, and to celebrate the deep communion we have with them. While celebrating secular heroes is admirable, how much more admirable is celebrating those who fully dedicated their lives to Christ!
Isn't Celebrating All Saints Day Idolatry?
The Martyrdom of Polycarp

Scriptural References
Alternate Names
Time of Year
Type of Holiday:
Liturgical Color(s)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

For the week ahead some important reminders

On this quiet Sunday night it has dawned on me that we Catholics have quite a week ahead.  Locally, across the nation and far away countries this is a busy week.  While most of the folks out there will be celebrating Halloween tomorrow truly is all hallows eve.  The day simply was a reminder, a preparation if you will, for the Feast Of All Saints Day.  So Tuesday, November 1st is indeed All Saints Day; a holy day obligation.  Just like we are obliged to attend Mass on Sundays we too are obliged to attend Tuesday.  Many churches will hold a vigil Monday evening.  Locally, at Most Holy Trinity, our vigil is early; 4 p.m.  Churches are strongly encouraged to have several options for Tuesday, All Saints Day, to accomodate those working and in school.  We have planned the normal 8:45 but are adding 12:10 p.m. and 7 p.m.  Again, please remember All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation but go and celebrate Mass more than just because it's an obligation!

All Saints Day connects us all to the communion of Saints.  On this day we remember all the Saints who have gone before us and have showed us the path of holiness to follow.

Wednesday, November 2nd is All Souls Day.  This is the day to really remember our beloved dead.  Of course many believe we should do this on All Saints but All Souls is more appropriate.  Many churches have a special Mass on the 2nd to remember the dead from the previous year.  At Most Holy Trinity we will have such a celebration at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.

Finally, as a reminder, Friday is First Friday and so many Catholic Churches will have a period of Adoration and Benediction and perhaps a rememberance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  In our local parish, in addition to Adoration and Benediction, we are having a healing Mass with the famous Catholic evangelist/healer Alan Ames.  That date is November 4th and Mass begins at 7 p.m.  Our normal Adoration will happen at the usual times.

Wherever you may be please take time to remember All Saints Day(a holy day of obligation) and All Souls Day and 1st Friday!

Praying for victims of violence

Today at the St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter Archbishop Aymond presided at Sunday Mass dedicated to the victims of violence across our area.  Despite the amazing come back of a city and a region from something so devastating as Hurricane Katrina the ongoing issues of crime and violence still plague the area.  The murder rate in New Orleans remains very high and other areas are dealing with crime now at levels unpreecedented. 

Families of loved ones lost to acts of violence were asked to bring pictures to the Cathedral as they were placed on a special table in front of the sanctuary.  Archbishop Aymond used his entire homily to preach against violence, hatred and racisim.  He asked that as citizens we cooperate and help our police and other agencies to fight back against those who perpetrate violence.  He asked that we take back the streets of our area.

Archbishop Aymond not only called for remeberance of these innocent victims but challenged us to remember those who cause so much pain and grief by their unlawful actions.  They too need our prayers; for a change of heart and a healthy respect for life.

Archbishop Aymond has been outfront for quite some time now about the violence that cripples an otherwise healthy and growing region.  Back in Lent he wrote a prayer and asked that every Catholic Parish pray this prayer at every Mass.  So today, as Archbishop Aymond prays for and with the victims of crime I offer the prayer below and ask all who read it to pray it earnestly for our beleaugered community.

The New Battle of New Orleans: Violence, Murder, Racism

Our Family Prayer
Loving and faithful God, through the years the people of our archdiocese have appreciated the prayers and love of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in times of war, disaster, epidemic and illness. We come to you, Father, with Mary our Mother, and ask you to help us in the battle of today against violence,murder and racism.
We implore you to give us your wisdom that we may build a community founded on the values of Jesus, which gives respect to the life and dignity of all people.

Bless parents that they may form their children in faith. Bless and protect our youth that they may be peacemakers of our time. Give consolation to those who have lost loved ones through violence.

Hear our prayer and give us the perseverance to be a voice for life and human dignity in our community.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.

Mother Henriette Delille, pray for us that we may be a holy family.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Homily for 31st Sunday Ordinary Time, year A

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Talk the talk but walk the walk.

We all have heard these expressions before. Maybe we have even experienced instances in our lives where we have heard a great message but the messengers actions let us down. For some reason, politics comes to mind. When these things occur often we just take note but unfortunately they can have real impact in our lives or even hurt our feelings.

As people of faith, do we proclaim the teachings of Christ and His Church in both words and actions? Do we follow the will of the Father?

Jesus sure is giving us a warning today about words and actions. By now, Jesus has probably had it up to here with the Pharisees. In the last few Gospels we have all heard first hand as these religious elites kept trying to trap Jesus with tough questioning. Of course Jesus is incapable of being trapped or tricked and simply frustrated the Pharisees while remaining always committed to saying and doing that which is the will of His Father.

In this Gospel dialogue we are confronted with that all too often controversial teaching about call no man on earth your father and call no one teacher too. I refer to this as confrontational, not because Jesus’ teachings, or the writings of St. Matthew for that matter, are controversial. No, the controversy is understanding the proper and accurate interpretation of this Scripture. Unfortunately those who always seek to attack or weaken the Church like to mix it up with us over this Scripture for, after all, we call our Priests father. How can we miss this? How can we be so wrong? The answer is, of course, we don’t and were not. It is always important to understand the context of what Jesus says and how it is recorded in Scripture. And we must always use the whole of Scripture to help us understand more fully the teachings of the Church.

As Jesus concludes his dialogue about these Pharisees widening their phylacteries and lengthening their tassels he knows, better than anyone, that there is no sincerity in their words. Yet they want the people hearing these words to adhere to them strictly. Furthermore, because of their lofty preaching, they insist on titles and honors and, you could almost say praise and worship. So Jesus, using hyperbole, refers to the titles rabbi, teacher and father and reminds them, and us, that there is only one ultimate teacher and father: His heavenly Father and Our Father.

No where in his teaching did Jesus demand the practice of calling our biological fathers father. Can you imagine any scenario where a little boy or girl could not call their father those words which identify who their father is to them? No more dad, or daddy or father. Not what Jesus had in mind!

But what about our faith tradition? Don’t we call our priests father? Indeed we do. Over time we have come to recognize that our priests, and of course those who pastor our parishes, are the spiritual father of many; the spiritual family. The concept of being referred to as a spiritual father is addressed and used numerous times in the New Testament by St. Paul. Selected personally by God to carry the message of salvation to the Gentiles and writing under the power of the Holy Spirit, can we just simply say St. Paul got it wrong? No, of course not! St. Paul knew fully what Jesus taught and what His words meant and so should we.

Reserving all that He is and all that He shared, Jesus always points us to the Father. The Father is the one true Father, God, the first person of the Holy Trinity. The Father who Jesus refers to is the same Father, whom Jesus came to earth to demonstrate fully the depths of a Father’s love.

We may have many people in our lives who we meet who teach us and are fathers to us; even our beloved Priests. But we know, from Jesus’ teachings that there is only one Father we worship, one Father we follow; God the Father!

In the week ahead, can we do one thing for our fathers in honor of God the Father? For our own dads, or the dads in our families, can we offer special prayers in our daily prayer life this week? Prayers that all fathers may be sustained in the love of the Father and conduct themselves as good fathers with God the Father as the ultimate example.

If our fathers are no longer with us, how long since we have thought of or mentioned them in prayer. And perhaps this week we can share stories with others, maybe those in our own families that never met these fathers that have gone on before us of their example in word and deed.

Finally, for our priests, can we too pray for them by name? Each man who serves as a Priest has his own personal life to live and that too comes with all the good and bad that our personal lives have. Pray for them this week by name. And for those so inclined, have you ever called and offered to do something special for your parish Priest? This could be something as simple as a home cooked meal or an offer to assist with an unmet need and will go a long way to being present to our spiritual fathers.

So we are called to say what we mean and mean what we say as we talk the talk and walk the walk. And always remember, we follow the example of Jesus; say AND do the will of the Father!

My Halloween tradition: from a Catholic perspective, good or evil

Trick or Treat
I have heard it all; from Halloween being totally innocent to it being one of the most evil things we Christians can participate in. Usually, both sides have among their followers extremists. I'll concede that plenty of adults take Halloween too far; just like many have turned Mardi Gras into something other than it was intended to be. And the other side is almost hyperventilating with beliefs that all who trick or treat or costume are damned to hell.

Thanks to Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio I spotted this article written by Fr. Thompson. This may help put into proper perspective Halloween and a Catholic response.


The Real Story!

Father Augustine Thompson, O.P.,

We’ve all heard the allegations. Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped Church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

It’s true that the ancient Celts of Ireland and Britain celebrated a minor festival on Oct. 31 — as they did on the last day of most other months of the year. However, Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows" falls on Nov. 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to Nov. 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome. Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere. And so the holy day spread to Ireland. The day before was the feast’s evening vigil, "All Hallows Even" or "Hallowe’en." In those days, Halloween didn’t have any special significance for Christians or for long-dead Celtic pagans.

In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in Southern France, added a celebration on Nov. 2. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe.

So now the Church had feasts for all those in heaven and all those in purgatory? What about those in the other place? It seems Irish Catholic peasants wondered about the unfortunate souls in hell. After all, if the souls in hell are left out when we celebrate those in heaven and purgatory, they might be unhappy enough to cause trouble. So it became customary to bang pots and pans on All Hallows Even to let the damned know they were not forgotten. Thus, in Ireland, at least, all the dead came to be remembered — even if the clergy were not terribly sympathetic to Halloween and never allowed All Damned Day into the Church calendar.

But that still isn’t our celebration of Halloween. Our traditions on this holiday centers around dressing up in fanciful costumes, which isn’t Irish at all. Rather, this custom arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. Late medieval Europe was hit by repeated outbreaks of the bubonic plague — the Black Death — and she lost about half her population. It is not surprising that Catholics became more concerned about the afterlife. More Masses were said on All Souls’ Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their own mortality.

We know these representations as the "Dance Macabre" or "Dance of Death," which was commonly painted on the walls of cemeteries and shows the devil leading a daisy chain of people — popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc. — into the tomb. Sometimes the dance was presented on All Souls’ Day itself as a living tableau with people dressed up in the garb of various states of life. But the French dressed up on All Souls, not Halloween; and the Irish, who had Halloween, did not dress up. How the two became mingled probably happened first in the British colonies of North America during the 1700s when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry. The Irish focus on hell gave the French masquerades and even more macabre twist.

But, as every young ghoul knows, dressing up isn’t the point; the point is getting as many goodies as possible. Where on earth did "trick or treat" come in?

"Trick or treat" is perhaps the oddest and most American addition to Halloween, and is the unwilling contribution of English Catholics.

During the penal period of the 1500s to the 1700s in England, Catholics had no legal rights. They could not hold office and were subject to fines, jail and heavy taxes. It was a capital offense to say Mass, and hundreds of priests were martyred.

Occasionally, English Catholics resisted, sometimes foolishly. One of the most foolish acts of resistance was a plot to blow up the Protestant King James I and his Parliament with gunpowder. This was supposed to trigger a Catholic uprising against their oppressors. The ill-conceived Gunpowder Plot was foiled on Nov. 5, 1605, when the man guarding the gunpowder, a reckless convert named Guy Fawkes, was captured and arrested. He was hanged; the plot fizzled.

Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes’ Day, became a great celebration in England, and so it remains. During the penal periods, bands of revelers would put on masks and visit local Catholics in the dead of night, demanding beer and cakes for their celebration: trick or treat!

Guy Fawkes’ Day arrived in the American colonies with the first English settlers. But, buy the time of the American Revolution, old King James and Guy Fawkes had pretty much been forgotten. Trick or treat, though, was too much fun to give up, so eventually it moved to Oct. 31, the day of the Irish-French masquerade. And in America, trick or treat wasn’t limited to Catholics.

The mixture of various immigrant traditions we know as Halloween had become a fixture in the Unites States by the early 1800s. To this day, it remains unknown in Europe, even in the countries from which some of the customs originated.

But what about witches? Well, they are one of the last additions. The greeting card industry added them in the late 1800s. Halloween was already "ghoulish," so why not give witches a place on greeting cards? The Halloween card failed (although it has seen a recent resurgence in popularity), but the witches stayed. So, too, in the late 1800s, ill-informed folklorists introduced the jack-o’-lantern. They thought that Halloween was druidic and pagan in origin. Lamps made from turnips (not pumpkins) had been part of ancient Celtic harvest festivals, so they were translated to the American Halloween celebration.

The next time someone claims that Halloween is a cruel trick to lure your children into devil worship, I suggest you tell them the real origin of All Hallows Even and invite them to discover its Christian significance, along with the two greater and more important Catholic festivals that follow it.

>>>For the Catholic family, perhaps our focus for Halloween should be on All Saints Day and our children should be given the lives of Saints as those to look up to admire.  At our CCD class this past week, many of the younger children dressed up like their favorite Saints.  How about this for an idea to not only enhance the traditional Catholic image, but to keep Halloween from the evil focus?

Friday, October 28, 2011

2nd Century Bishop of Jerusalem, Saint of the Day

St. Narcissus

Feastday: October 29

St. Narcissus Bishop of Jerusalem October 29 Second Century St. Narcissus was born towards the close of the first century, and was almost fourscore years old when he was placed at the head of the church of Jerusalem, being the thirtieth bishop of that see. In 195, he and Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, presided in a council of the bishops of Palestine held at Caesarea, about the time of celebrating Easter; in which it was decreed that this feast is to be kept always on a Sunday, and not with the Jewish passover. Eusebius assures us, that the Christians of Jerusalem preserved in his time the remembrance of several miracles which God had wrought by this holy bishop; one of which he relates as follows. One year on Easter-eve the deacons were unprovided with oil for the lamps in the church, necessary at the solemn divine office that day. Narcissus ordered those who had care of the lamps to bring him some water from the neighboring wells. This being done, he pronounced a devout prayer over the water; then bade them pour it into the lamps; which they did, and it was immediately converted into oil, to the great surprise of the faithful. Some of this miraculous oil was kept there as a memorial at the time when Eusebius wrote his history. The veneration of all good men for this holy bishop could not shelter him from the malice of the wicked. Three incorrigible sinners, fearing his inflexible severity in the observance of ecclesiastical discipline, laid to his charge a detestable crime, which Eusebius does not specify. They confirmed their atrocious calumny by dreadful oaths and imprecations; one wishing he might perish by fire, another, that he might be struck with a leprosy, and the third, that he might lose his sight, if what they alleged was not the truth. Notwithstanding these protestations, their accusation did not find credit; and, some time after, the divine vengeance pursued the calumniators. The first was burnt in his house, with his whole family, by an accidental fire in the night; the second was struck with a universal leprosy; and the third, terrified by these examples, confessed the conspiracy and slander, and by the abundance of tears which he continually shed for his sins, lost his sight before his death. Narcissus, notwithstanding the slander had made no impression on the people to his disadvantage, could not stand the shock of the bold calumny, or rather made it an excuse for leaving Jerusalem, and spending some time in solitude, which had long been his wish. He spent several years undiscovered in his retreat, where he enjoyed all the happiness and advantage which a close conversation with God can bestow. That his church might not remain destitute of a pastor, the neighboring bishops of the province, after some time, placed in it Pius, and after him Germanion, who, dying in a short time, was succeeded by Gordius. While this last held the see, Narcissus appeared again like one from the dead. The whole body of the faithful, transported at the recovery of their holy pastor, whose innocence had been most authentically vindicated, conjured him to reassume the administration of the diocese. He acquiesced; but afterwards, bending under the weight of extreme old age, made St. Alexander his coadjutor. This primitive example authorizes the practice of coadjutorships; which, nevertheless, are not allowable by the canons except in cases of the perpetual inability of a bishop through age, incurable infirmity, or other impediment as Marianus Victorius observes in his notes upon St. Jerome. St. Narcissus continued to serve his flock, and even other churches, by his assiduous prayers and his earnest exhortations to unity and concord, as St. Alexander testifies in his letter to the Arsinoites in Egypt, where he says that Narcisus was at that time about one hundred and sixteen years old. The Roman Martyrology honors his memory on the 29th of October. The pastors of the primitive church, animated with the spirit of the apostles were faithful imitators of their heroic virtues, discovering the same fervent zeal. the same contempt of the world, the same love of Christ. If we truly respect the church as the immaculate spouse of our Lord, we will incessantly pray for its exaltation and increase, and beseech the Almighty to give it pastors according to his own heart, like those who appeared in the infancy of Christianity. And, that no obstacle on our part may prevent the happy effects of their zeal, we should study to regulate our conduct by the holy maxims which they inculcate, we should regard them as the ministers of Christ; we should listen to them with docility and attention; we should make their faith the rule of ours, and shut our ears against the language of profane novelty. O! that we could once more see a return of those happy days when the pastor and the people had but one heart and one soul; when there was no diversity in our belief; when the faithful seemed only to vie with each other in their submission to the church, and in their desire of sanctification.

Thoughtful essay on the homeless in New Orleans

Don't let the homeless be invisible: A guest column by Michael J. Groetsch

Published: Friday, October 28, 2011, 6:01 PM     Updated: Friday, October 28, 2011, 6:19 PM
Contributing Op-Ed columnist
While leaving Immaculate Conception Church on Baronne Street recently, I became dismayed at how desensitized we have become to the plight of homeless people who wander aimlessly on the streets of New Orleans. As I walked in stride with a blind beggar dressed in tattered clothing and holding a cardboard sign and metal cup, I noticed how many well-dressed pedestrians avoided eye contact with a man who can no longer see. I stuffed a $5 bill into the blind man's cup and declared its value. He immediately took it from his can, placed it into his right shirt pocket and expressed his appreciation.
Under Calliope Bridge Befor.jpgThe belongings of homeless people are stacked under the Calliope Street overpass Thursday before the city moved 100 people who had been living in the area.
As I turned onto Canal Street and walked toward the Mississippi River, the feel of a cool breeze suddenly caressed my face and reminded me that it was early fall. The change of seasons always seems to nurture our spirits. That is, of course, if you do not live among the street people who must endure the frigid elements of winter.
As I proceeded towards the river, I noticed the silhouette of a ragged man in the near distance stretched sideways on the concrete sidewalk. Attached to his back was a tiny checkered knapsack. A pint bottle of whiskey protruded from the waistband of his khaki pants.
My first impression was that he was in a drunken stupor. But as I passed him, I noticed that his dark eyes remained wide open and glazed. On second thought, I wondered if he was dead. But like the others who stepped over him, I continued to walk. I guess that looking away protected me from feeling another's pain.
But it immediately occurred to me that if the fallen man was a stray or sick dog, most of us would have stopped to provide assistance. Why is it, then, that we are so quick to walk past a person lying motionless on our city sidewalks?
Is it fear? Is it class consciousness? Is it because we feel so helpless in assisting someone we feel can no longer be helped? In a spate of guilt, I returned to see if the homeless man was OK. As I approached a second time, he slowly rolled onto his back. His subtle movements confirmed my initial impression that he was alive but heavily intoxicated. Feeling somewhat relieved, I continued my stroll past the small shops and tall elegant palm trees that line historic Canal Street.
Having worked with the homeless, I recognize that the subculture of people who live within our urban landscape are an eclectic group in which rehabilitation is often not a viable option. The street subculture is heavily populated with mentally ill people who have been callously deinstitutionalized, chronic alcoholics and substance abusers who are rarely motivated to change and severely under-socialized individuals who simply do not fit into the mainstream of society.
They are human, however, and like the helpless stray animals that wander our city streets, we have the responsibility to assist when it becomes apparent that they are in physical or medical distress.
Mahatma Gandhi once noted that "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." So can be said relative to how our community treats fellow humans who are down and out in life.
Treating homeless people to a free meal or perhaps paying the costs for their shelter for a week would be a good start. Volunteering or donating money to Ozanam Inn, the New Orleans Mission or a health care facility that assists the homeless would be a good finish. As is the case with Gandhi's statement, the greatness of New Orleans and its moral progress can be judged by the way we treat our homeless.

Women Deacons; not so fast but...

Ordain women as deacons now! Why not?

Friday, October 28, 2011
By Bryan Cones
U.S. Catholic spent the last two days interviewing three scholars on the topic of women deacons at the book launch of Women Deacons: Past, Present, and Future (Paulist, 2011) at Loyola University's Gannon Center for Women in Leadership. The interviews with Gary Macy (on the history of women office holders in the medieval church), William Ditewig (on the restoration of the permanent diaconate at Vatican II), and Phyllis Zagano ("the" expert on the topic of restoring women to the diaconate) will appear in later issues of U.S. Catholic (Zagano in our Jan 2012 Women's Issue). But our mini-seminar leaves me convinced that there is not a single good reason for not ordaining women as deacons--and a lot of reasons to do it.
1. History: The church in the West ordained women as deacons, with ordination rituals that included the laying on of hands and the conferral of a stole, for 700 years, and the East for much longer. Those women clearly read the gospel, preached, and ministered to women. What the church has done, it can do again.
2. Vatican II restored the permanent diaconate as an order of ministry distinct from priesthood, recognizing it as a unique vocation to the gospel, to the liturgy, and to charity as an icon of Christ the servant (as opposed to Christ the head of the church). There is no "slippery slope" from women's diaconate to women as priests because being a deacon is no longer understood as a "lower step" on the ladder of holy orders.
3. The official teaching against the ordination of women as priests--that the church does not have the authority to ordain women because Christ chose only men for the close circle of the Twelve--does not apply because the church itself (in Acts) chose the seven to serve as deacons (though a bit of an anachronism). Nevertheless, the diaconate as an office in the church is not of dominical institution (Jesus didn't found it, so the argument goes), so the teaching about women priests does not apply.
4. Finally, there is a need for women among the Roman Catholic clergy (deacons are clergy after all), to preach, exercise canonical authority, and serve in those places where the official public ministry of women as deacons is especially needed--women in prison, women in situations of domestic violence, women who are ill or infirm. That's why the ancient church ordained women as deacons.
But even more, the whole church, men and women, lay and ordained, would benefit from the preaching, liturgical service, and pastoral care of women who minister in the name of the bishop, as priests and deacons do now.
Why not? And why not now? 
>>>This is just an opinion piece for the publication U.S. Catholic.  It is an opinion I do not share.  However, the impetus for this type of opinion piece comes, in part, from the recent book release about women deacons, written in part by uber Deacon William Dietwig.  I offer the above for your review and below, an article on the actual book:

“This is a book that will get people thinking — and talking”

If you find yourself in Chicago Thursday, you might want to wander over to the Simpson Living Learning Center (1032 West Sheridan Road) at 4 p.m. for what promises to be a lively presentation and discussion on the topic of women deacons.
It’s to mark the official publication of the long-aborning book “Women Deacons: Past, Present and Future,” written by my good friend and brother deacon William Ditewig with Gary Macy and Phyllis Zagano.
The discussion (including Q&A) will be moderated by Dr. Susan Ross, who wrote the forward to the book and who chairs the Theology Department at Loyola University.
As Dr. Ross notes in her forward:
Gary Macy, William Ditewig and Phyllis Zagano have performed an invaluable service in writing Women Deacons: Past, Present and Future.  To the question of whether there is historical precedent for women being ordained to the diaconate, Gary Macy offers ample evidence for women’s official and clerical ministry in the Church.  He also shows how this practice was first discouraged and then ended.  What “ordination” means has actually changed over time, Macy shows, and the distinctive developments in the late medieval Church that excluded women once and for all from ordained diaconal ministry are revealed for their misogyny.  William Ditewig, himself an ordained deacon, examines the present state of the issue.  He works through the documents of and following Vatican II, showing how the question of women’s diaconal ministry has arisen over and over and why it is time for this issue to be resolved.  Lastly, Phyllis Zagano, already an authority on the issue of women and the diaconate, looks toward the future, showing the benefits and possibilities that the ordination of women to the diaconate would bring to the Church.
I read a draft of the manuscript some months back, and what I wrote in response (and what appears on the back cover) still holds:
This is a book that will get people thinking — and talking.  After all the debate about ordaining women as Catholic priests, here at last is a timely and trenchant analysis of something even the pope hasn’t dismissed: ordaining women as deacons.  Forget everything you know, or think you know, about this hot-button issue.  Women Deacons breaks ground, shatters misperceptions and adds immeasurably to the ongoing discussion about women in the Church.
Drop by the Simpson Living-Learning Center for more on this — or check out the Amazon link to order the book, read it and draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Feast Day for two Apostles: Jude & Simon

St. Jude Thaddaeus

Feastday: October 28
Patron of Desperate Cases

St. Jude, known as Thaddaeus, was a brother of St. James the Less, and a relative of Our Saviour. St. Jude was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus.

Ancient writers tell us that he preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Lybia. According to Eusebius, he returned to Jerusalem in the year 62, and assisted at the election of his brother, St. Simeon, as Bishop of Jerusalem.

He is an author of an epistle (letter) to the Churches of the East, particularly the Jewish converts, directed against the heresies of the Simonians, Nicolaites, and Gnostics. This Apostle is said to have suffered martyrdom in Armenia, which was then subject to Persia. The final conversion of the Armenian nation to Christianity did not take place until the third century of our era.

Jude was the one who asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He would not manifest Himself to the whole world after His resurrection. Little else is known of his life. Legend claims that he visited Beirut and Edessa; possibly martyred with St. Simon in Persia.

Jude is invoked in desperate situations because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them. Therefore, he is the patron saint of desperate cases and his feast day is October 28. Saint Jude is not the same person as Judas Iscariot who betrayed Our Lord and despaired because of his great sin and lack of trust in God's mercy.

St. Simon of Zealot

Feastday: October 28

Simon was surnamed the Zealot for his rigid adherence to the Jewish law and to the Canaanite law. He was one of the original followers of Christ. Western tradition is that he preached in Egypt and then went to Persia with St. Jude, where both suffered martyrdom. Eastern tradition says Simon died peacefully at Edessa. His feast day is October 28th.

Alabama immigration law attacked; and rightly so

Immigration law a new embarrassment for Alabama

By Howell Raines, Special to CNN
updated 9:45 PM EST, Wed October 26, 2011
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed the state's immigration bill into law in June.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed the state's immigration bill into law in June.
  • Howell Raines: Alabama governors have history of laws tackling nonexistent problems
  • He says state's new immigration law hurts economy, Hispanic citizens and communities
  • He says legal and illegal immigrants are a long-accepted part of Alabama's fabric
  • Raines: On race, religion, other issues, state's governors often embarrass Alabama
Editor's note: Howell Raines, an Alabama native, is an author and former executive editor of The New York Times. He is working on a novel set during the Civil War.
(CNN) -- At a recent neighborhood meeting in Birmingham, Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell said the harsh anti-immigrant law promoted and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley is embarrassing Alabama in the eyes of the nation.
"We're solving a problem that was not a problem,'' she said, according to The Birmingham News.
Sewell was commenting on Bentley's crusade against the hard-working illegal immigrants in Alabama, but she was also channeling her state's history very accurately. Embarrassing gubernatorial behavior has long been an Alabama tradition. For decades, Alabama governors have specialized in the exact tactic employed by Bentley: proposing police-state solutions for nonexistent problems.
Bentley was a fast learner. Only three days after his inauguration, he made national news by declaring that those who had not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior were "not my brother ... and not my sister." He has really hit pay dirt with the immigration legislation — the most restrictive of the omnibus immigration laws passed in five states this year. Among other affronts, the Alabama law makes DWH — driving while Hispanic — a chancy undertaking, since it gives police new powers to check drivers' citizenship status. A federal court in Atlanta put on hold the provision making schoolteachers function as immigration police. But the economic damage and community anguish are mounting among whites and Hispanics.
Howell Raines
Howell Raines
Alabama has only one immigration-related problem of pressing importance right now. Legal Alabama residents won't take the jobs that are unfilled, now that fearful Mexicans are scrambling back to their own country. Alabama has an estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants.
Criticism from the business community has rained down on legislators and Bentley. Grow Alabama, a farmers' lobby, says its members lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in unharvested crops. In a test arranged by Grow Alabama director Jerry Spencer, 25 Alabamians picked fewer tomatoes per day than one four-man crew of Hispanics. The brutal stoop labor broke down many of the 25 physically, and they quit right away. "They're just not capable," Spencer said.
Corporate chicken-processing firms, the lifeblood of many small towns where Hispanic families have long lived in harmony with local residents, may close or cut production after losing a huge portion of their labor force. In urban centers like Birmingham, building contractors say their industry is stalling without immigrant workers, whatever their legal status.
The excuse that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from native Alabamians has been blown to smithereens. One state survey in neighboring Georgia, with its own harsh law, found that the state was short some 11,000 workers to harvest crops.
Alabama Gov. Bentley's response to complaints by employers and displaced workers alike was casual: "Those stories are anecdotal stories," he told the Dothan Eagle editorial board. "It'll work itself out."
With that kind of thinking, Bentley, a political unknown a year ago, is challenging George Wallace, who held office in the 1960s, in the state's endless most-embarrassing-governor sweepstakes. Wallace, of course, played to pre-existing racism. Bentley has one-upped him by attacking a problem that no one was worrying about.
Alabama has been welcoming migrant farm workers since the 1950s, originally to pick potatoes in coastal Baldwin County. Now, the fields are giving way to waterfront condos for retirees. Guess who mows the golf courses in a place where some Anglo managers speak fluent Spanish to resident workers, whose kids star on high school soccer teams?
How entrenched is Alabama's tradition of gubernatorial malice or the plain old goofiness of bumpkin politicians? The prototype for the latter was "Kissing Jim" Folsom, renowned for his hard drinking and womanizing. But things took a more serious, and usually unconstitutional, turn when the genial Folsom left office in 1954.
That year, John Patterson, whose prosecutor father was assassinated by gangsters, swept into office as a crime fighter. There was no shortage of corruption to be sniffed out in Montgomery and wide-open Phenix City, but Patterson opted to pass a law outlawing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. His expensive legal war on "communist" race agitators hurt Alabama's economy and, as it happens, took Patterson off the list of rising Democrats who might have played a role in national politics.
In 1958, jealous of Patterson's Klan support, Wallace resurrected the pre-Civil War doctrines of "nullification" and "interposition" — "states rights" gambits that would allow states to oppose federal action and refuse to enforce federal law. He turned the highway patrol into "State Troopers" that sometimes shut down small-town schools when local officials there had opted for peaceful integration. That led to the nationally televised spectacle of Wallace's "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" at the University of Alabama. The law school there seemed not to have taught him that nullification and interposition had been defeated politically, militarily and constitutionally in the previous century.
By this time, anti-Wallace forces headed by the Birmingham business establishment had declared both the governor and the city's police commissioner, Bull Connor, as certified embarrassments and tried to promote the state's cultural and scenic resources. Civic leaders accused the national media "outsiders" of coming to Alabama only for opportunities to hurt the state's image. In fact, Wallace courted them. It wasn't journalists' fault that the Birmingham Art Museum couldn't compete for network air time with the governor's latest racial spasm and the attendant police brutality.
Finally, the serial embarrassments of the '60s seemed to fade with the election in 1978 of Forrest Hood James as governor. Looking back, it could have been an omen that this promising political novice was named, respectively, for the Confederate Army's most flagrant racist and its worst field commander. But James, campaigning in a yellow school bus, convinced the state's leadership that he would improve Alabama's education system, top to bottom. Too late it emerged that one of James' educational interest was in defying the constitutional ban on school prayer, imitating an ape to rebut the theory of evolution and allowing the first lady, Bobbie James, to purge the mansion of "demonized" art.
In his best-selling 1934 book "Stars Fell on Alabama," Carl Carmer claimed that there was a craziness in the state's people that led to embarrassing outbursts now and then. History, though, shows that the craziness in Alabama is mainly a gubernatorial virus.

Pope is clear: Jesus brings peace; on eve of today's meeting in Assisi

Pope Benedict XVI: It Is Not The Sword That Builds Peace, But Those Who Are Willing to Suffer And Give Up Their Own Lives.

“Jesus Is The Good King Who Reigns With Humility And Gentleness.”

From EWTN news.
By:  DavidKerr
One day before the gathering of religious leaders from around the world in the town of Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus ushered in a new kingdom of peace of which Christ is king.

“The Cross is the new arch of peace, a sign and instrument of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of understanding, a sign that love is stronger than all violence and all oppression, is stronger than death: the evil is overcome with good, with love,” the Pope said to pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Oct. 26.
“This new reign of peace in which Christ is the king, is a kingdom that extends over the whole earth.”
The Pope’s comments came at his weekly general audience which also served as a prayer vigil ahead of tomorrow’s “Day of Reflection and Prayer for Peace” with other world religious leaders in the Italian town of Assisi.
Today’s vigil was due to take place in St. Peter’s Square but inclement weather forced a change of venue. This resulted in the majority of pilgrims being sent to the Paul VI Hall and the overflow being shepherded into St. Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Benedict briefly greeted those in the basilica and imparted his apostolic blessing upon them. He then proceeded to the audience hall where Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of the Diocese Rome, read several passages from sacred scripture, to which the Pope responded with his speech.
The incarnation of Jesus Christ as king of peace, said the Pope, was foreshadowed in the Old Testament reading from the Book of Zechariah. “Behold, your king comes to you. He is just and victorious,” the Old Testament prophet said to the Jewish people.
“But the announcement does not refer to a king with human powers and force of arms,” said the Pope, “this is a gentle king who reigns with humility and gentleness before God and man, a king quite different from the great sovereigns of the earth.”
The unfolding of Zechariah’s prophecy first becames apparent at the time of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, Pope Benedict said, recalling how the angels proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” Thus, he said, “the birth of that baby, who is Jesus, brings a proclamation of peace throughout the world.”
Similarly, the apostles would have recalled Zechariah’s words after “Christ’s passion, death and resurrection,” when “with the eyes of faith, they reconsidered their Master’s joyful entry into the Holy City.”
“He did not enter Jerusalem accompanied by a mighty army of chariots and horsemen. He is a poor king, the king of the poor of God,” said the Pope, “he is a king who will make the chariots and steeds of battle disappear, who will break the weapons of war, a king who brought peace on the Cross, uniting heaven and earth and building a bridge between all mankind.”
And the kingdom of Jesus, the Pope noted, is universal. Its horizon is not “the territorial horizon of a State,” but “the confines of the world,” and wherever Christ is to be found “in the great network of Eucharistic communities covering the earth, wherein the prophecy of Zecheriah re-emerges in splendor.”
Christians can help expand the bounds of this kingdom of peace “not with the might of war or force of power,” but “with the giving of self, with love carried to its extreme consequences, even towards our enemies,” said the Pope.
He then turned the pilgrims’ attention to a physical reminder of that attitude, pointing to a statue of St. Paul with a sword in hand—the means by which he was executed in Rome—located on the front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Paul’s strength “lay in the fact that he did not seek a quiet life,” said the Pope, but rather in the fact that “he was consumed by the Gospel” and “gave all of himself without reserve.” This led to him becoming the “great messenger of peace and reconciliation in Christ.”
Similarly, he said, Catholics today must be willing “to pay in person,” even if that means suffering “misunderstanding, rejection and persecution.”
“It is not the sword of the conqueror that builds peace, but the sword of those who suffer and give up their own lives.”
The Holy Father concluded by asking everybody to pray that “tomorrow’s meeting in Assisi might favor dialogue between people from different religions,” so that “rancor may give way to forgiveness, division to reconciliation, hatred to love, violence to humility, and that peace may reign in the world.”

Pope joins other religious leaders for peace

Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims join pope, urge peace

ASSISI, Italy (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI joined Buddhist monks, Islamic scholars, Hindus and a handful of agnostics in making a communal call for peace Thursday, insisting that religion must never be used as a pretext for war or terrorism.
Benedict welcomed some 300 leaders representing a rainbow of faiths to the hilltop Italian town of Assisi to commemorate the 25th anniversary of a daylong prayer for peace here called by Pope John Paul II in 1986 amid Cold War conflicts.
One by one, the monks, priests and patriarchs stood up and committed themselves to working for dialogue, justice and peace, and for a more equitable and friendly world.
While the event lacked the urgency and star power of 1986, when the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and others came together to pray, Thursday's peace meeting included some novelties. Buddhist monks from mainland China were on hand as were four participants who profess no faith at all — part of Benedict's efforts to reach out to agnostics and atheists who are searching for truth.
And, unlike the 1986 event and successive ones in 1993 and 2002, there was no time given for any type of communal prayer — a key element of the previous editions in providing images of the world's great religions praying for peace. Benedict had objected to the 1986 event and didn't attend because he disapproved of members of different faiths praying in the presence of one another.
As a result, his 25th anniversary edition removed any whiff of syncretism, or the combining of different beliefs and practices. After a lunch of vegetarian risotto, salad and fruit, the participants retired to hotel rooms where they could pray individually or nap before returning for some concluding remarks.
In his opening speech, the German-born Benedict noted that in the 25 years since John Paul's peace day, the Berlin Wall had crumbled without bloodshed but that religion is now frequently being used to justify violence. He said it was wrong to demand that faith disappear from daily life to somehow rid the world of a religious pretext for violence, arguing that the absence of God from people's daily lives was even more dangerous.
"The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God's absence," said Benedict, who as a young German was forced to join the Hitler Youth.
Traditionalist Catholics condemned the Assisi meeting — just as they did the one in 1986 — saying it was blasphemy for the pope to invite leaders of "false" religions to pray to their Gods for peace. The Society of St. Pius X, a breakaway traditionalist group that Benedict has been working to bring back into Rome's fold, said it would be celebrating 1,000 Masses to atone for the damage done by the event and urged the pope to use it to urge others to convert to Catholicism.
The issue is a sensitive one for Benedict, who has railed against religious relativism, or the idea that there are no absolute truths and that all religions are somehow equal. As then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he issued a controversial document in 2000 in part as a response to the 1986 Assisi event asserting that the fullness of the means of salvation was found in the Catholic Church alone.
That said, at the end of the day Benedict knelt down in prayer in front of the tomb of St. Francis, whose peace-loving message has made Assisi a pilgrimage destination for centuries. Silently standing behind him were the leaders of the other religious delegations.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said the delegates weren't gathered in Assisi to come to a "minimum common ground of belief."
Rather, he said, the meeting would show the world that through their distinctiveness, different faiths provide the wisdom to draw upon "in the struggle against the foolishness of a world still obsessed with fear and suspicion, still in love with the idea of a security based on active hostility, and still capable of tolerating or ignoring massive loss of life among the poorest through war and disease."
And there was a lot of distinctiveness on hand. Standing on the altar of St. Mary of the Angels basilica, Wande Abimbola of Nigeria, representing Africa's traditional Yoruba religion, sang a prayer and shook a percussion instrument as he told the delegates that peace can only come with greater respect for indigenous religions.
"We must always remember that our own religion, along with the religions practiced by other people, are valid and precious in the eyes of the Almighty, who created all of us with such plural and different ways of life and belief systems," he said.
Thursday's meeting also included Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and representatives from Greek, Russian, Serbian and Belarusian Orthodox churches as well as Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist leaders. Several rabbis were joined by some 60 Muslims, a half-dozen Hindus and Shinto believers, three Taoists, three Jains and a Zoroastrian.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I got kicked out of prison tonight, really

I have often documented on these pages of my Wednesday night visits and weekend retreats at the Rayburn Prison.  On those Wednesdays when I'm by myself I preside over a communion service using the prayers and readings for the coming Sunday.  Tonight was one such night.  All proceeded as usual including the necessary interruption called "the count".  The count is how the prison keeps up with the inmate population when they are out on a call out, like going to prayer services or chapel.

But tonight there was a second count, then a third.  Now my homily is getting interrupted to the point of more than a mere distraction.  But we persevere.  We get to the Eucharist, and fortunately, all of the men were able to receive.  But has we concluded our prayerful period of silence after Holy Communion the men were instructed to return to the dorm rooms.  As for me, time to go.  Nicely and politely I was kicked out of prison.

I always comply fully, 100%, with the institution.  The count not being right means that for a period of time, they could not account for every inmate.  I guarantee you, that got rectified soon after I left.  But their attention to detail and faithfulness to procedure keeps the prison running properly and keeps guys like me safe.

So as the men lined up to go back to the dorms, I hurried a final blessing, packed my things and headed out to return home.

But I was there long enough to experience once again the presence of Christ behind bars!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Godson of a Pope; Saint!

St. Alfred the Great

Feastday: October 26

King of Wessex, scholar, and renowned Christian monarch. Alfred was born in 849, the fifth son of the Wessex king. During a journey to Rome in 853, he was accepted as a godson by Pope Leo IV . He was a great scholar, translating classics for his people, and early on seemed destined for a career in the Church. Instead, he became king and was forced to spend most of his reign in conflict with the Danes who were then threatening England. His work as a patron of the arts, literature, and especially the Church made him a beloved figure in England.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vatican document sure to be controversial regarding the global financial crisis

VATICAN-FINANCE Oct-24-2011 (1,000 words) With photos. xxxi

Vatican document calls for global authority to regulate markets

People are reflected on an electronic board displaying exchange rates in a business district in Tokyo Oct. 24. The Vatican has issued its call for global financial reform, recommending the creation of a world political authority with broad powers to regulate markets and rein in the "inequalities and distortions of capitalist development." (CNS/Reuters)
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican document called for the gradual creation of a world political authority with broad powers to regulate financial markets and rein in the "inequalities and distortions of capitalist development."

The document said the current global financial crisis has revealed "selfishness, collective greed and the hoarding of goods on a great scale." A supranational authority, it said, is needed to place the common good at the center of international economic activity.

The 41-page text was titled, "Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority." Prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, it was released Oct. 24 in several languages, including a provisional translation in English.

The document cited the teachings of popes over the last 40 years on the need for a universal public authority that would transcend national interests. The current economic crisis, which has seen growing inequality between the rich and poor of the world, underlines the necessity to take concrete steps toward creating such an authority, it said.

One major step, it said, should be reform of the international monetary system in a way that involves developing countries. The document foresaw creation of a "central world bank" that would regulate the flow of monetary exchanges; it said the International Monetary Fund had lost the ability to control the amount of credit risk taken on by the system.

The document also proposed:

A woman carries bananas to market in Nyei, South Sudan, in this 2009 file photo. In a new document the Vatican called for reforming international monetary systems to address the economic crisis which has fueled the gap between the world's rich and poor. (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
-- Taxation measures on financial transactions. Revenues could contribute to the creation of a "world reserve fund" to support the economies of countries his by crisis, it said.

-- Forms of recapitalization of banks with public funds that make support conditional on "virtuous" behavior aimed at developing the real economy.

-- More effective management of financial shadow markets that are largely uncontrolled today.

Such moves would be designed to make the global economy more responsive to the needs of the person, and less "subordinated to the interests of countries that effectively enjoy a position of economic and financial advantage," it said.

In making the case for a global authority, the document said the continued model of nationalistic self-interest seemed "anachronistic and surreal" in the age of globalization.

"We should not be afraid to propose new ideas, even if they might destabilize pre-existing balances of power that prevail over the weakest," it said.

The "new world dynamics," it said, call for a "gradual, balanced transfer of a part of each nation's powers to a world authority and to regional authorities."

"In a world on its way to rapid globalization, the reference to a world authority becomes the only horizon compatible with the new realities of our time and the needs of humankind," it said. Helping to usher in this new society is a duty for everyone, especially for Christians, it said.

While the Vatican document focused on financial issues, it envisioned a much wider potential role for the global political authority. The agenda also includes peace and security, disarmament and arms control, protection of human rights, and management of migration flows and food security, it said.

Establishing such an authority will be a delicate project and will no doubt come at a cost of "anguish and suffering" as countries give up particular powers, the document said. The authority should be set up gradually, on the basis of wide consultation and international agreements, and never imposed by force or coercion, it said.

The authority should operate on the principle of subsidiarity, intervening "only when individual, social or financial actors are intrinsically deficient in capacity, or cannot manage by themselves to do what is required of them," it said. Countries' specific identities would be fully respected, it said.

The authority should transcend special interests, and its decisions "should not be the result of the more developed countries' excessive power over the weaker countries" or the result of lobbying by nations or groups, it said.

"A long road still needs to be traveled before arriving at the creation of a public authority with universal jurisdiction. It would seem logical for the reform process to proceed with the United Nations as its reference," it said.

At a news conference Oct. 24, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, emphasized that the document was "not an expression of papal magisterium," but instead was an "authoritative note of a Vatican agency," the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In that sense, he said, it would not be correct to report that "Pope Benedict says" what's in the document, he said.

The document did make a point of quoting from the teachings of several popes, however, including those of Pope Benedict XVI, who in his 2009 encyclical "Charity in Truth" ("Caritas in Veritate") said there was "an urgent need of a true world political authority" that could give poorer nations a bigger voice in financial decision-making.

The document also cited Blessed John Paul II's 1991 warning of the risk of an "idolatry of the market" in the wake of the failure of European communism. Today his warning "needs to be heeded without delay," it said.

In fact, it said, the primary cause of the current global crisis has been "an economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls" and that relies solely on the laws of the market.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the justice and peace council, said the Vatican document could be a useful contribution to the G-20 summit in France Nov. 3-4, which is looking to reform the international monetary system and strengthen financial regulatory measures.

The document noted that the G-20 includes developing countries and said this represented progress from the time when there was just a G-7, a group of seven industrialized countries that shaped economic policies.

In general, over the last 30 years there was a tendency to define the strategic directions of economic policy "in terms of 'clubs' and of smaller and larger groups of more developed countries," it said. While this approach had some positive aspects, it appeared to leave out the emerging countries, it said.