"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Thursday, 16 November 2017


For many years, Pope Francis has
prayed every day before an icon of
Our Lady of Tenderness
my source: Dr Robert Moynihan November 13, 2017, Monday
“He taught me to open up to a different liturgy, which I always keep in my heart because of its beauty."—Pope Francis, in a November 9 talk (four days ago) to Ukrainian seminarians in Rome, four days ago.Francis recounted that, as a youngster of 12 and 13 years old in Buenos Aires, it had been his duty to serve as an altarboy twice a week for the Byzantine-rite Masses celebrated by a Ukrainian Eastern-rite Catholic priest named Father Stephan Chmil, who had fled Ukraine and found refuge in Argentina. (Fr. Chmil's cause of canonization has been opened.)Francis said that the experience of getting to know Father Chmil, and of serving at his Eastern-rite Masses, had profoundly and permanently affected him, "because of the beauty" of the Eastern-rite liturgy of St. John Chrysostom


Pope Francis and the Liturgy

I left off my last letter (Letter #62, Millstone, October 3) saying that there may be, in our "information age," a real need now for silence.

Since then, I have been silent. I have taken 40 days, from October 3 to November 13 (and yesterday passed a birthday, on the Feast of St. Josaphat), to try to reflect on what words may be useful, amid the floods of words -- "the Media! the Blogosphere!" — which inundate us.

My goal: if possible, not to add to the general confusion and chatter.

Not to add to the advancing spiritual-cultural "whateverness" (in Italy it is called "qualunquismo," a general attitude of indifference toward political parties).

A type of "whateverness" that seems to nourish many evils.

The great Jewish scholar Hanna Arendt (1906-1975) spoke of the "banality"  of evil of this type, writing that "the sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil."

Her words echo those of Christ in the Book of Revelation (Rev 3:16), where he faults the Laodiceans for being "neither cold nor hot" — morally ambiguous, lukewarm — for which reason he will "vomit them out of his mouth." Harsh words...

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
"I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."

What is the specific thing Christ asks these people to repent of?

Of saying, of believing, that they "have need of nothing."

These people think they have organized their lives so as to have everything necessary, but, in fact, they lack everything. They are blind, naked, impoverished.

Mother Theresa used to speak in such terms about many of those she met in the affluent West. She said she had not met such poor souls even in the slums of the penniless in Calcutta.

But what is the "something" that is needed?

The Word.

"Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word..."

Man does not live by money, thrills, power, knowledge (science)... but "by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God."

Because our life is hidden in the Word, in the Logos, in Reason, in Meaning -- the Logos of God...

This is our secret nature and destiny, and the message the Church bears and shares is this message.

There is more.

This "Word" is more than "a word" (though not without relations to words).

This "Word" goes beyond mind and meaning, to become reality itself, nourishment, food, divine presence, bread of angels.

That is, Eucharist.

And where may we encounter this "Word," font of life and reality?

In the Eucharist.

So what needs to be said in this time, when silence seems required, is that we must return to the liturgy, to the Eucharist, to encounter... the Logos, granting an immortality that no genetic manipulation can ever accomplish (because such manipulation will always remain within the fallen fabric of this space and time).

So the thought process is this:

—inundated with words, we nevertheless are starved for the true Word (the true, the good, the beautiful, the meaningful, the holy, the Logos);

—but if we seek Him with our reason, our minds, if we pursue him with our thought, we cannot arrive, our equipment is inadequate, we are inadequate;

—and yet we hunger for the Word, it is what we long to obtain, to reach, to encounter, to embrace, to be embraced by;

—so we choose the path of silence; better silence than the endless, silly chatter;

—but the quest is not finished; we can enter into the holy space, the sanctified, consecrated space, and there, in the liturgy, encounter the Logos we long for and be nourished in that part of our being which transcends both body and mind: the soul;

—and in that encounter and communion, we can enter into the peace beyond telling, even in this fallen space and time.

Now, does this have anything to do with Pope Francis? With the debate over Amoris laetitia and over whether the divorced and remarried should be admitted to communion? And the debate over the reform of the liturgy? And the debate over the relationship of Christians to one another and to the world?


Two examples.

The first: last Wednesday, November 8, Pope Francis began a new series of Wednesday catecheses.

His new topic: the Eucharist.

"Today," Francis said, "we begin a new series of catecheses, which will direct our gaze toward the 'heart' of the Church, namely, the Eucharist. It is fundamental that we Christians clearly understand the value and significance of the Holy Mass, in order to live ever more fully our relationship with God."

Clearly, the Liturgy at this moment is a subject of central importance to Francis.

How this came to pass is of a certain interest.

This summer, in a private meeting with Cardinal Robert Sarah (whose photo I have placed on the cover of the November issue of Inside the Vatican, just off the press), Cardinal Sarah — among other things — mentioned to me that, in a meeting with Pope Francis in late June 2017, he had suggested to the Pope that the Church today is in great need of a series of thoughtful, clear catecheses (teachings) on... the Eucharist.

So let's see: July, August September, October, half of November — four and a half months later — and Francis has announced a series of catecheses on the Eucharist and the Liturgy, precisely what Cardinal Sarah asked Pope Francis to consider in June.  

The second: the Pope's deep appreciation of the Eastern-rite liturgy.

A liturgy which is far longer, far more intricate, uses far more incense, and often has far more participation of the people, in their singing and responses, than the new liturgy that was produced in the years following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

The Pope tells us of this appreciation himself in a talk he delivered in Rome on November 9 in the Vatican's Sala Clementina.

He was addressing the Ukrainian seminarians in the city, encouraging them, greeting them.

They reside in the College of St. Josaphat, whose feast day was yesterday, November 12. Josaphat labored mightily to overcome the divisions between the East and West in the Christian world and died a martyr.

(Here is a link to the Vatican website which contains the complete text of the Holy Father's talk to the Ukrainian seminarians: link).

This is what Francis said:
 "I keep and venerate a small Ukrainian icon of Our Lady of Tenderness, a gift from your Archbishop Major when we were together in Buenos Aires. And when I remained here [after the papal election in 2013], I asked that it be brought to me. I pray before it every day...  "And I would not end without recalling a person who was good to me when I was in the last year of elementary school in 1949 [when Jorge Bergoglio was 12 and 13 years old; he was born on December 17, 1936]. "Most of you were not born! It is Father Stefano Chmil, then consecrated bishop secretly here in Rome by then Archbishop Major. "He celebrated Mass there, there was no nearby Ukrainian community, and he had some who helped him. "I learned to serve the Ukrainian Mass from him. He taught me everything. Twice a week it fell to me to help him. "This was good for me, because that man talked to me about persecutions, sufferings, and ideologies that persecuted Christians. "Then he taught me to open up to a different liturgy, which I always keep in my heart because of its beauty. "Shevchuk [the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk], when I was in Buenos Aires, asked me for my witness to open the canonization process of this hidden bishop. "I wanted to remember him here today because it is right to thank him in front of you for the good that he did to me."

What does this tell us about Pope Francis?

Something important. (See also the interesting article from four years ago by a First Things editor, Tim Kelleher at this link.)

Francis as a boy served many Masses of the Byzantine liturgy, perhaps a hundred (twice a week for 50 weeks). He found it beautiful, so much so that he has never forgotten having been an altar boy for that year for that Ukrainian priest he still remembers with great respect.

Given the Pope's new series of catecheses on the Eucharist, given his great esthetic appreciation for the beauty of the Byzantine liturgy, and given his great interest in peace in Ukraine, as well as in the entire East, it would not be surprising if Pope Francis were to have significant initiatives in mind with regard to these matters that he will launch during the coming months and years of his pontificate.

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2017 / 07:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ command to love God above all things, and your neighbor as yourself, saying that it is in the Eucharist that we receive the grace to carry this out.

“God, who is Love, has created us to make us part of his life, to be loved and to love Him, and to love all other people with Him. This is God’s ‘dream’ for man. And in order to accomplish it we need his grace, we need to receive in us the ability to love that comes from God himself.”

For this reason “Jesus offers himself to us in the Eucharist…” the Pope said Oct. 29. “In it we receive his Body and His Blood, that is, we receive Jesus in the best expression of his love, when He has offered himself to the Father for our salvation.”

Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s “short, but very important” Gospel passage from St. Matthew in his brief message before leading the Angelus with around 30,000 people in St. Peter’s Square.

In the Gospel passage, a Pharisee asks Jesus what, among the more than 600 Jewish laws, is the greatest. And Jesus, not hesitating at all, answers: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Ten Commandments, which were communicated directly to Moses by God, are a covenant with the people. And in his answer, “Jesus wants to make it clear that without the love of God and neighbor there is no true fidelity to this covenant with the Lord,” the Pope pointed out.

In answering this question, Jesus is trying to help the Pharisees understand the proper order and importance of things, and how all other laws depend on these two.

“What Jesus proposes on this evangelical page is a wonderful ideal that corresponds to the most authentic desire of our heart,” he said. “In fact, that we have been created to love and to be loved.”

Francis emphasized that we can do many good things, follow all the laws, but if we do not have love it is useless. This is how Jesus lived his life: preaching and performing works always with what is “essential, that is, love.”

“Love gives momentum and fecundity to life and to the journey of faith: without love, both life and faith remain sterile.”

In fact, even if we have known the commandment to love from the time we were children, we must never stop trying to conform ourselves to this law, putting it into practice in whatever situation we find ourselves in, he concluded.

And as we try to live out this commandment to love, we can turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for help, he said: The Holy Virgin helping us “to welcome into our lives the ‘great commandment’ of the love of God and of neighbor.”


“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this new series of catecheses on the Eucharist, we begin by reflecting on the fact that the Mass is first and foremost a prayer, indeed the prayer par excellence.

For at every Mass we encounter God in his word and in the body and blood of Christ. Made in God’s image and likeness, we were made to know him, to love and to serve him. In prayer, we experience God’s closeness and love; we speak to him, but we also learn to listen to his voice speaking in our hearts. Jesus himself teaches us, as he did his disciples, how to pray. From him, we learn to call God our Father, to trust in his love, and to be constantly surprised by the signs of that love. When Jesus speaks of our need to be “reborn” (cf. Jn 3:15), he is, in fact, inviting us to accept his gift of new life in the Spirit.

By his sacrifice on the cross, he has atoned for all our sins and enabled us to make a new beginning, to lead a truly spiritual life. In our encounter with him in prayer, and above all in the Eucharist, we experience the consolation of his presence, the grace of His forgiveness and the joy of his invitation to live fully our vocation as God’s beloved children.

“When we go to Mass, maybe we come five minutes before and we start talking with the person beside me... but it is not time to chit-chat, it is the moment of silence to prepare for dialogue. It's a time to recollect one's heart to prepare for encountering Jesus. But silence is so important. This, therefore, is the greatest grace: to be able to experience that the Mass and the Eucharist is a privileged moment to be with Jesus, and, through Him, with God and with his brothers.”

The pope said in the spiritual life, one should allow themselves to be surprised by God. One way is to realize that God loves each person, even with their weakness, which can be made perfect when receiving Holy Communion. 

“To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you have to let yourself be surprised. In our relationship with the Lord, in prayer, are we marveled? Are we surprised? Or do we pray and speak to God like parrots do? No, it is trusting and opening your heart to leave you in awe. Let us be surprised by God, for God is always the God of surprises.”

More shall be added as the catechesis of Pope Francis continues.


Pope Francis celebrates Mass for the Canonization of St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII April 25, 2014. Credit: Stephan Driscoll/CNA.

Vatican City, Aug 16, 2015 / 05:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).
On Sunday Pope Francis said that the Eucharist is no mere symbol, but is, in fact, the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, which has the ability to transform our hearts and minds to be more like him.

“The Eucharist is Jesus who gives himself entirely to us. To nourish ourselves with him and abide in him through Holy Communion, if we do it with faith, transforms our life into a gift to God and to our brothers,” the Pope said Aug. 16.

To let ourselves be nourished by the “Bread of Life,” he said, “means to be in tune with the heart of Christ, to assimilate his choices, thoughts, behaviors.”

It also means that we enter into “a dynamism of sacrificial love and become persons of peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and sharing in solidarity,” he added.


Pope Francis on the Eucharist
my source: ADOREMUS
By THE EDITORS April 15, 2014
Online Edition
April 2014
Vol. XX, No. 2

Pope Francis on the Eucharist

The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Church’s Life

In his recent series of teachings on the Sacraments of the Church, Pope Francis dedicated two Wednesday audiences and a homily to exploring the nature the Eucharist, its centrality to the Church’s very identity, its application in our lives, and how the celebration of the Eucharist rediscovers and revitalizes the “sense of the sacred.”

“In the Eucharist, Christ is always renewing His gift of self, which He made on the Cross,” the pope said. “His whole life is an act of total sharing of self out of love.”
“It is so important to go to Mass on Sunday,” Pope Francis spontaneously added to the text of his February 5 audience, “not just to pray, but to receive Communion. It is a beautiful thing to do,” he said, for Sunday is “precisely the day of the resurrection of the Lord. That is why Sunday is so important to us.”

Following are the Wednesday audiences of February 5 and February 12, 2014, on the sacrament of the Eucharist; and excerpts from his homily on February 10, focusing on the Mass as a “theophany” — or visible manifestation of God — and how the celebration of Mass allows us to enter into the sacred mystery of God.

Eucharist I – The Summit of God’s Saving Action
General Audience 
Saint Peter’s Square
Wednesday, 5 February 2014 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today I will speak to you about the Eucharist. The Eucharist is at the heart of “Christian initiation,” together with Baptism and Confirmation, and it constitutes the source of the Church’s life itself. From this Sacrament of love, in fact, flows every authentic journey of faith, of communion, and of witness.

What we see when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, the Mass, already gives us an intuition of what we are about to live. At the center of the space intended for the celebration there is an altar, which is a table covered with a tablecloth, and this makes us think of a banquet. On the table there is a cross to indicate that on this altar what is offered is the sacrifice of Christ: He is the spiritual food that we receive there, under the species of bread and wine. Beside the table is the ambo, the place from which the Word of God is proclaimed: and this indicates that there we gather to listen to the Lord who speaks through Sacred Scripture, and therefore the food that we receive is also His Word.

Word and Bread in the Mass become one, as at the Last Supper, when all the words of Jesus, all the signs that He had performed, were condensed into the gesture of breaking the bread and offering the chalice, in anticipation of the sacrifice of the cross, and in these words: “Take, eat; this is my body… Take, drink of it; for this is my blood.”

Jesus’ gesture at the Last Supper is the ultimate thanksgiving to the Father for His love, for His mercy. “Thanksgiving” in Greek is expressed as “Eucharist.” And that is why the Sacrament is called the Eucharist: it is the supreme thanksgiving to the Father, who so loved us that He gave us His Son out of love. This is why the term Eucharist includes the whole of that act, which is the act of God and man together, the act of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.

Therefore the Eucharistic Celebration is much more than a simple banquet: it is exactly the memorial of Jesus’ Paschal Sacrifice, the mystery at the center of salvation. “Memorial” does not simply mean a remembrance, a mere memory; it means that every time we celebrate this Sacrament we participate in the mystery of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. The Eucharist is the summit of God’s saving action: the Lord Jesus, by becoming bread broken for us, pours upon us all of His mercy and His love, so as to renew our hearts, our lives, and our way of relating with Him and with the brethren. It is for this reason that commonly, when we approach this Sacrament, we speak of “receiving Communion,” of “taking Communion”: this means that by the power of the Holy Spirit, participation in Holy Communion conforms us in a singular and profound way to Christ, giving us a foretaste already now of the full communion with the Father that characterizes the heavenly banquet, where together with all the Saints we will have the joy of contemplating God face to face.

Dear friends, we don’t ever thank the Lord enough for the gift He has given us in the Eucharist! It is a very great gift and that is why it is so important to go to Mass on Sunday. Go to Mass, not just to pray, but to receive Communion, the bread that is the Body of Jesus Christ who saves us, forgives us, unites us to the Father. It is a beautiful thing to do! And we go to Mass every Sunday because that is the day of the resurrection of the Lord. That is why Sunday is so important to us. And in this Eucharist, we feel this belonging to the Church, to the People of God, to the Body of God, to Jesus Christ. We will never completely grasp the value and the richness of it.

Let us ask Him then that this Sacrament continue to keep His presence alive in the Church and to shape our community in charity and communion, according to the Father’s heart. This is done throughout life but is begun on the day of our First Communion. It is important that children be prepared well for their First Communion and that every child receives it because it is the first step of this intense belonging to Jesus Christ, after Baptism and Confirmation.

Eucharist II — The Identity of the Church Flows from the Eucharist
General Audience 
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning.

In the last Catechesis I emphasized how the Eucharist introduces us into real communion with Jesus and His mystery. Now let us ask ourselves several questions that spring from the relationship between the Eucharist that we celebrate and our life, as a Church and as individual Christians.

How do we experience the Eucharist? 
When we go to Sunday Mass, how do we live it? Is it only a moment of celebration, an established tradition, an opportunity to find oneself or to feel justified, or is it something more?

There are very specific signals for understanding how we are living this, how we experience the Eucharist; signals that tell us if we are living the Eucharist in a good way or not very well.

The first indicator is our way of looking at or considering others. In the Eucharist, Christ is always renewing His gift of self, which He made on the Cross. His whole life is an act of total sharing of self out of love; thus, He loved to be with His disciples and with the people whom He had a chance to know. This meant for Him sharing their aspirations, their problems, what stirred their soul and their life. Now we, when participating in Holy Mass, we find ourselves with all sorts of men and women: young people, the elderly, children; poor and well-off; locals and strangers alike; people with their families and people who are alone —  But the Eucharist which I celebrate, does it lead me to truly feel they are all like brothers and sisters? Does it increase my capacity to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and cry with those who are crying? Does it urge me to go out to the poor, the sick, the marginalized? Does it help me to recognize in theirs the face of Jesus?

We all go to Mass because we love Jesus and we want to share, through the Eucharist, in His passion and His resurrection. But do we love, as Jesus wishes, those brothers and sisters who are the neediest?  For example, in Rome these days we have seen much social discomfort either due to the rain, which has caused so much damage to entire districts or because of the lack of work, a consequence of the global economic crisis.  I wonder, and each one of us should wonder: I who go to Mass, how do I live this?  Do I try to help, to approach and pray for those in difficulty?  Or am I a little indifferent? Or perhaps do I just want to talk: “did you see how this or that one is dressed?” Sometimes this happens after Mass and it should not! We must concern ourselves with our brothers and sisters who need us because of an illness, a problem. Today, it would do us such good to think of these brothers and sisters of ours who are beset by these problems here in Rome: problems that stem from the grave situation caused by the rain and social instability and unemployment. Let us ask Jesus, whom we receive in the Eucharist, to help us to help them.

A second indication, a very important one, is the grace of feeling forgiven and ready to forgive. At times someone may ask: “Why must one go to Church, given that those who regularly participate in Holy Mass are still sinners like the others?” We have heard it many times! In reality, the one celebrating the Eucharist doesn’t do so because he believes he is or wants to appear better than others, but precisely because he acknowledges that he is always in need of being accepted and reborn by the mercy of God, made flesh in Jesus Christ. If anyone of us does not feel in need of the mercy of God, does not see himself as a sinner, it is better for him not to go to Mass! We go to Mass because we are sinners and we want to receive God’s pardon, to participate in the redemption of Jesus, in His forgiveness. The “Confession” which we make at the beginning is not “pro forma,” it is a real act of repentance! I am a sinner and I confess it, this is how the Mass begins! We should never forget that the Last Supper of Jesus took place “on the night He was betrayed” (I Cor 11:23). In the bread and in the wine, which we offer and around which we gather, the gift of Christ’s body and blood is renewed every time for the remission of our sins. We must go to Mass humbly, like sinners, and the Lord reconciles us.

A last valuable indication comes to us from the relationship between the Eucharistic Celebration and the life of our Christian communities. We must always bear in mind that the Eucharist is not something we make; it is not our own commemoration of what Jesus said and did. No. It is precisely an act of Christ! It is Christ who acts there, who is on the altar. It is a gift of Christ, who makes Himself present and gathers us around Him, to nourish us with His Word and with His life. This means that the mission and the very identity of the Church flows from there — from the Eucharist — and from there always takes its shape. A celebration may be flawless on the exterior, very beautiful — but if it does not lead us to encounter Jesus Christ, it is unlikely to bear any kind of nourishment to our heart and our life. Through the Eucharist, however, Christ wishes to enter into our life and permeate it with His grace, so that in every Christian community there may be coherence between liturgy and life.

The heart fills with trust and hope by pondering on Jesus’ words recounted in the Gospel: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54).

Let us live the Eucharist with the spirit of faith, of prayer, of forgiveness, of repentance, of communal joy, of concern for the needy and for the needs of so many brothers and sisters, in the certainty that the Lord will fulfill what He has promised us: eternal life. Amen. So be it!

Rediscover a “Sense of the Sacred” at Mass
February 10 Homily Excerpts

To rediscover the sense of the sacred — the mystery of the Real Presence of God in the Mass — was Pope Francis’s invitation in his homily during the Eucharistic celebration at Casa Santa Marta on February 10.

The first Reading of the day speaks of the “theophany” of God in the time of Solomon the king. The Lord came down like a cloud upon the temple, which was filled with the glory of God. The Lord, the pope said, speaks to His people in many ways: through the prophets, the priests, the Sacred Scriptures. But with the theophanies, He speaks in another way, “different from the Word: it is another presence, closer, without mediation, near. It is His presence.” This, he explained, happens in the liturgical celebration. The liturgical celebration is not a social act, a good social act; it is not a gathering of the faithful to pray together. It is something else. In the liturgy, God is present,” but it is a closer presence. In the Mass, in fact, “the presence of the Lord is real, truly real.”

“When we celebrate the Mass, we don’t accomplish a representation of the Last Supper: no, it is not a representation. It is something else: it is the Last Supper itself. It is to really live once more the Passion and the redeeming Death of the Lord. It is a theophany: the Lord is made present on the altar to be offered to the Father for the salvation of the world. We hear or we say, ‘But, I can’t now, I have to go to Mass, I have to go to hear Mass.’ The Mass is not ‘heard,’ it is participated in; and it is a participation in this theophany, in this mystery of the presence of the Lord among us.”

Nativity scenes, the Way of the Cross… these are representations. The Mass, on the other hand, “is a real commemoration, that is, it is a theophany: God approaches and is with us, and we participate in the mystery of the Redemption.”  Unfortunately, too often we look at the clock during Mass, “counting the minutes.” This, the pope said, is not the attitude the liturgy requires of us: the liturgy is God’s time, God’s space, and we must place ourselves there: in God’s time, in God’s space, and not look at the clock.”

“The liturgy is to really enter into the mystery of God, to allow ourselves to be brought to the mystery, and to be in the mystery,” he said. We are all “gathered here to enter into the mystery: this is the liturgy. It is God’s time, it is God’s space, it is the cloud of God that surrounds all of us. To celebrate the liturgy is to have this availability to enter into the mystery of God,” to enter into His space, His time, to entrust ourselves to this mystery. 

Pope Francis concluded, “We would do well today to ask the Lord to give to each of us this ‘sense of the sacred’ — this sense that makes us understand that it is one thing to pray at home, to pray in Church, to pray the Rosary, to pray so many beautiful prayers, to make the Way of the Cross, so many beautiful things, to read the Bible — [but] the Eucharistic celebration is something else. In the celebration we enter into the mystery of God, into that street that we cannot control: only He is the unique One — the glory, the power — He is everything.

“Let us ask for this grace: that the Lord would teach us to enter into the mystery of God.”


The spirit of the liturgy from Benedict to Francis

Moving Forward: From Benedict to Francis

Pope: With magisterial authority, I affirm that liturgical reform is irreversible

Pope Francis and the Roman Rite Liturgy

This is an excellent explanation of the background to Pope Francis' approach to liturgy.   He looks at it as a pastor, a typically Jesuit approach, and not as a historian, nor as a person very interested in rubrics, but as a pastor who may be present at celebrations that set his teeth on edge, but who has to weigh up the pro's and cons of intervening before letting his disagreement be known.  However, the speaker does not give enough importance to Pope Francis' love of the Byzantine Liturgy, nor his seeing the Mass as a theophany, nor his teaching that the Mass is the heart of the Church.
Cardinal Burke: Pope Benedict restored the ‘correct order and beauty’ to the liturgy.

Cardinal Burke's version of Pope Benedict's contribution to the western Latin rite's development since the Vatican Council is only partly accurate, and Sandro Magister's attempt to oppose Pope Francis' declaration that the changes to the liturgy are irreversible to the policy of Pope Benedict who restored the "old Latin Mass" is  quite simply, mistaken and a falsification of what actually occurred.

It must be remembered that Pope Benedict never said that the old Mass was to be preferred to the new, nor did he authorize the old as a replacement of the new.  Nor did he normally celebrate the old Mass at Papal functions.  In fact, he acted as though the new Mass is the norm and that the changes are irreversible, which is what Pope Francis has said.

His argument for allowing the Tridentine Mass was one dear to theologians of the ressourcement group who were behind the texts of the new Mass, if not of the final rubrics: if something was universally accepted as a legitimate expression of Tradition over a long period, it cannot become illegitimate later.  This is not only true in things liturgical.   If belief in the Vatican I dogmas on the papacy were held by many but not held by others in the first thousand years, without any threat to Christian unity, they cannot be an obstacle to Christian unity now.  This is because the same Holy Spirit is at work throughout Christian history.

Pope Francis has used the same principle when discussing the pastoral policy toward divorced and remarried people.

At the time of his election, it was said that Pope Francis was elected with a certain agenda in mind, to carry on the process that Vatican II started.   He was an advocate of de-centralization which Joseph Ratzinger advocated at the Council, and of freeing the episcopate from attachment to a phony unity through Vatican censorship and control, which was a chief characteristic of the Council and made it what it was.  Again, Joseph Ratzinger was, as secretary to Cardinal Frings, was one of the chief instruments in this process.  Finally, it was to give more authority to the bishops, giving them back the right to make decisions, which had been gradually drained away over history.  

These processes were opposed by curial cardinals during the Council and of course, Pope Francis is opposed by curial cardinals as he continues with this conciliar process.  However, this can be exaggerated and can distort our understanding.  For instance, it was Pope Francis who appointed Cardinal Sarah to his present position, and there is no sign that he is about to sack him, even if they publicly disagree on certain liturgical matters and also, more basically, on the process of de-centralization.   Moreover, Pope Francis, in the homilies etc that we quote above, in his approval of silence, a sense of the sacred and awe in the celebration, and his emphasis on liturgy as a meeting with God, sounds more like Cardinal Sarah than anyone else.  As Dr Moynihan says, the present catechesis on the Eucharist by Pope Francis arose from a suggestion by Cardinal Sarah.  Talk of "public humiliation" is, I think, a little strong, even though it makes interesting reading. 

Monday, 13 November 2017



Maronite icon of Pentecost

In any popular movement, however much it is blessed by the Lord, you are going to find plenty to criticise.   Left to develop freely, all kinds of eccentrics, nutcases and other unsuitable people rush to join.   Besides the saints and the not so saintly who filled the deserts in the early days of monasticism, there were cranks and show-offs, the unbalanced and the merely imprudent.  Yet no movement has been so blessed by God, so full of saints, or has so left its mark on the Church, as the monastic movement.   The same can be said for the charismatic movement, although it is early days and saints are not so obviously present.   Yet, if you look closely, you will find charismatics who show signs of being very close to God.

No movement attracted more criticism in the early days than the monastic movement, and much of the criticism was well deserved.   The same can be said for the charismatic renewal.  All the more, because it began among Afro-American descendants of slaves: Protestant heretics, say some; human beings in great need, say others.

Interview of witnesses of the Azusa street revival
The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement shows its origins in African culture.  Here is an Orthodox (obviously non-Pentecostal) celebration of Easter in Africa:

Orthodox Christians celebrating 
Christ's resurrection in Ghana, Africa

Pentecostal or charismatic style of worship has its origin in the tradition of the African slaves and their descendants in the United States.   The slaves continued in their own style of worship according to the "do-it-yourself", Protestant tradition of those who evangelised them.   This was easy to do because there were no rules.   Without knowing it, they adopted the liturgical attitudes of early African Christian liturgical tradition while putting their emphasis on Christian themes beloved in evangelical Protestantism.   Here is the ancient Ethiopian Church at work: a song and dance after communion:

Here is another song.  I am sure the Athonite fathers would hate it, but they are not Africans.  Nevertheless, they would have to enter into the spirit of the action in order to understand either Ethiopian or charismatic worship:

The following video is Orthodox propaganda rather than a serious argument. It is evidently composed by a non-informed outsider because everyone is lumped together.  It combines scenes from a rather extreme Protestant Pentecostalism together with scenes from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal; and although they admit that the Protestant scenes are not normal in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, they condemn the Catholic movement by association.   Nevertheless, the film contains a serious theological argument beneath the false implications which we will need to answer.

I have never seen priests dancing in a line like chorus girls before, especially in front of the altar.    It seems to me that they are new to the charismatic renewal and are indulging in behaviour that they will, one day, regret.  I did things after Vatican II that I later regretted.   We must be patient.  After all, God is patient with us!!

Uniates and Roman Catholics bring
liturgical abuse to Ukraine

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal

The "charismatic renewal" entered the Catholic Church through a book by David Wilkerson a Protestant, Assembly of God minister, a book that has the freshness of the Acts of the Apostles and which I have read many times, called "The Cross and the Switchblade". That he was ferociously anti-Catholic and could never accept that there can be such a person as a Catholic charismatic shows that God has a sense of humour.

The Cross and the Switchblade
He couldn't stand Catholicism, but he certainly knew how to preach the Gospel.   

Here are some videos that are very valuable for understanding the Charismatic Renewal.

I came in contact with the Charismatic Renewal in the early seventies when two Belmont monks who were studying in Rome returned for the summer holidays and told us about it.  They had become members of a Pentecostal prayer group in the Gregorianum.  We formed a prayer group in the monastery and also joined an ecumenical prayer group in Hereford.  We were prayed over by Fr Simon Tugwell O.P. who had written a book about it.  We also attended national congresses and met Kevin Ranaghan and other American leaders. 

I was a theologian and, like many others, filtered the charismatic claims through Catholic teaching.  In the very recently published New Mass, we had three new eucharistic prayers with the epiclesis typical of the Eastern rites.  It seemed to me that charismatic spirituality and practice which involved calling down the Holy Spirit on people was only an extension of that: charismatics were people of the epiclesis.  Obviously, "baptism in the Holy Spirit" is not another sacrament, but simply the subjective experience of receiving the Holy Spirit which begins at our baptism, which is repeated at every Mass and becomes a permanent dimension of out Christian life.

I must admit that, although I shared in charismatic activities, was in theological agreement with the Charismatic Renewal, and could actually see people grow in holiness through it, I never felt at home with their way of prayer.  I found that silently praying in tongues was a good way to concentrate on the Lord after communion at Mass, but their communal prayer services were not for me.  As a monk with the monastic tradition of prayer - praying the liturgy, practising the 'Jesus Prayer' and lectio divina, for example - I just couldn't settle down to their way of doing things.

For almost seven years, I was parish priest of a Peruvian parish that was really charismatic.  I always sang the Mass, even when there were only a few people, singing even the consecration, not a liturgy you normally associate with a charismatic parish, but the people loved it once they were used to it; and they asked my successor if he could do the same, but he said he didn't know how.  When I spoke of the Holy Spirit to them, I took my material from the Fathers of the Church, and it fitted in very well.   Some years later, I became "formador" in a seminary for charismatic students.  One of them used an image of St Seraphim of Sarov for his ordination card.

In both parish and seminary, I saw genuine spiritual growth.  That is why I cannot disagree or attack their way of prayer, even though it isn't for me.  I believe that it is necessary to love people in order to understand them in spiritual things, which is why, in the Byzantine Rite, they put the kiss of peace before the Creed.  That is why one of the Fathers said that Orthodoxy without love is the religion of the devil.  It is our love, the love that must be continually purified to reflect more and more the presence and our share in the activity of the Holy Spirit, that unites us to one another.  When we do not love, we offer space for the devil to divide us from one another.

Charismatic Renewal and Orthodoxy

Just an example of a Charismatic who became Orthodox without rejecting his charismatic past.

Father Michael Harper (1931-2010)

An appreciation by Charles Whitehead of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

Father Michael Harper

One of the greatest pioneers and servants of the Charismatic Renewal died in Cambridge on January 6th 2010 after a short illness.

Michael Harper was ordained a priest of the Church of England in 1956, and experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit in 1962, speaking in tongues the following year. In 1964 he established The Fountain Trust to further renewal in the power of the Holy Spirit for Christians throughout the body of Christ. He started Renewal Magazine and was a prolific author, as he travelled the world serving renewal within the Anglican Communion and promoting ecumenical relations. 

I first met Michael Harper in 1983. We became friends, and from that time on I worked with him in a number of committees and in the organisation of a variety of international ecumenical events. In 1999 he invited me to succeed him as the chairman of ICCOWE, the International Charismatic Consultation on World Evangelisation, today abbreviated to ICC. We remained in regular contact over succeeding years, and at the time of his death he was still a Trustee of ICC and planning to attend our February Executive meeting, where his wisdom and advice would have been as much appreciated as ever. His experience of the worldwide Charismatic renewal was second to none, and he will be hugely missed by many, many people. He was prophetic, visionary, dynamic, challenging, and entertaining, but he always had time for the individual who wanted to seek his advice or receive ministry from him. Underneath the determined exterior and the incisive mind, beat a loving and caring pastoral heart. He never tired of proclaiming the good news of the Gospel wherever he was, and his books on renewal, healing, and growth have affected the lives of countless readers. It is difficult to realise the impact he had without seeing how many remarkable organisations and events he had the vision and courage to start up.

After leaving The Fountain Trust in 1975, Michael Harper became a key leader in the worldwide Charismatic Renewal. He initiated a charismatic conference for Anglicans alongside the Lambeth Conference of July 1978, and in 1981 formed SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) to share the grace of renewal with the Anglican Church all over the world. His ecumenical work was no less significant, and in the early 1970s he founded the UK Charismatic Leaders’ Conference which brought together leaders from many church traditions and backgrounds, including the new charismatic independent churches. His ecumenical sympathies found further expression through both the European Charismatic Consultation and ICCOWE (later becoming ICC) which he founded with Fr. Tom Forrest and Rev. Larry Christenson in 1989. He had initiated and chaired ACTS 86, the European charismatic conference held in Birmingham, and similar international ecumenical charismatic gatherings in Berne (1990), Brighton (1991), Malaysia (1994 and 2000), and Prague (1997 and 2000).

In March 1995, deeply upset by the ordination of women in the Church of England, he joined the Orthodox Church, and was soon ordained a priest, becoming Dean of the new Antiochian Orthodox Deanery for the United Kingdom and Ireland, which under his loving and dynamic leadership now numbers more than twenty parishes. In all his work he was wonderfully encouraged and supported by his wife Jeanne, who joined him in his pilgrimage to the Orthodox Church.

In a recent interview, Michael stated “I’m as charismatic as ever”, and as we sat in his funeral service at St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral, London, I felt privileged to have been his friend for 27 years, and to have been blessed by his wisdom, insights, and challenges on so many occasions. Certainly Fr. Michael Harper was a giant of the worldwide Charismatic Renewal, and whilst we rejoice in all that he was and did, we are just beginning to realise how much we are going to miss him.

Sunday, 12 November 2017


*Bergoglio's Revolution. In Little Doses, But Irreversible

On the world stage, Pope Francis’s star is burning brighter than ever, now even as nuclear peacemaker between the United States and North Korea. But even within the Church, he finds himself at grips with a piecemeal world war, a strange war that he himself has contributed to unleashing, absolutely convinced that it will come to a good end.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is unquestionably an innovator. But in method, before it can be seen in results.

He always introduces the innovations in little doses, on the sly, perhaps in an allusive footnote, as he did with the now-famous footnote 351 of the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” only to say later with candor, when questioned on one of his equally famous airborne press conferences, that he doesn’t even remember that footnote.

And yet those few cryptic lines were enough to ignite within the Church an unprecedented conflict, with entire episcopates squaring off (1), in Germany in favor of the innovations and in Poland against, and so all over the world between diocese and diocese, between parish and parish, where what is at stake is not only the yes or no to communion for the divorced and remarried, but the end of the indissolubility of marriage and the admission of divorce (2) within the Catholic Church too, as is already taking place among Protestants and Orthodox.

There are those who are becoming alarmed over this confusion that pervades the Church. But Francis is doing nothing to put the house back into order. He is moving right along with confidence. No point in even waving to the cardinals who submit their own “doubts” and those of many to him, on capital questions of doctrine that they see under threat, and ask him to bring clarity. He lets run free the most disparate interpretations, whether conservative or progressive in the extreme, without ever explicitly condemning any of them.

The important thing for him is “to cast the seed so that the power may be unleashed,” it is “to mix the leaven so that the power may bring growth,” words from a homily of his a few days ago at Santa Marta. And “if I get my hands dirty, thanks be to God! Because woe to those who preach under the illusion of not getting their hands dirty. These are museum curators.”

Pascal, the philosopher, and man of faith whom Francis says he wants to beatify, wrote fiery words against the Jesuits of his time, who threw into the fray their most daring ideas so that over time they would ripen little by little and become the common opinion.

But this is precisely what the first Jesuit pope in history is doing today: setting into motion “processes” within which he is sowing the innovations that he wants to win out sooner or later, in the most diverse fields, as for example in the judgment on Protestantism.

In Argentina, Bergoglio unleashed terrible invectives against Luther and Calvin. But as pope he is doing the complete opposite, he does nothing but sing Luther’s praises. On a visit to the Lutheran church in Rome, when asked to say whether Catholics and Protestants may receive communion together in spite of the fact that the former believe that the bread and wine “really” become the body and blood of Christ while the latter do not, he answered yes, and then no, and then I don’t know, and then figure it out yourselves, in an ecstasy of contradictions, but in practice giving the go-ahead.

It is the fluidity of his magisterium that is the true novelty of Francis’s pontificate. What he does not tolerate is that anyone should dare to tie it down in clear and distinct ideas, purging it of its innovative contents.

Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, who as prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith insisted on saying that in “Amoris Laetitia” there was nothing new with respect to tradition, he summarily removed from office.

And Cardinal Robert Sarah, who as prefect of the congregation for divine worship would like to reserve for himself full control of the translations of the Latin missal in the various languages, he publicly humiliated, requiring him to tell all the bishops himself that the pope instead is giving every national Church the freedom to translate as it likes, the embryo of a future Catholic Church no longer monolithic but federated (4), another of the objectives of Bergoglio, the unrelenting schemer.

(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)


This commentary was published in "L'Espresso" no. 46 of 2017 on newsstands November 12, on the opinion page entitled "Settimo Cielo" entrusted to Sandro Magister.


 1 & 2)  It must be remembered that there were differences in teaching and practice on marriage and divorce in the first thousand years of the Church's history. For example, the central Roman teaching on marriage is that it is a legal contract which can only be cancelled by the death of one of the partners.  

You will have trouble finding any kind of contract between husband and wife in the traditional Orthodox marriage service.   For the Orthodox, the marriage rite is not a contract which is merely witnessed by the Church as with the Latins: it is the  recognition by the Church of a relationship between a man and a woman already begun in their lives by God in which they reflect the Holy Trinity.   
This a short statement from an Orthodox source:
Man is made in the image and likeness of God. Marriage is intended by God to be an image of the Trinity. It is the union of three persons, not two. Man and woman are one with each other and one with the person of Jesus Christ.

 Legal contracts, for the Orthodox, are a matter for the State, not the Church.

Thus, in the Latin West, Christian marriage is a contract, while in the Orthodox East, it is a relationship.  Little wonder that there is a difference of pastoral practice going right back to the early Church about what happens when a relationship ceases to exist in any meaningful sense.

If we are sister churches in which Tradition springs from the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church as takes place in the Liturgy, then we must acknowledge the authenticity of each other's traditions.  For too long we have treated our own tradition as the only one while acknowledging their Eucharists.  They too have made the same mistake.

It is a principal of ressourcement theology to look at Tradition in all its manifestations for the right answer to difficult theological, liturgical and pastoral problems.  The Church has done this in liturgy with the formula for Confirmation and with the choice of three new Eucharistic prayers after the Council.  Pope Francis is continuing the good work when dealing with difficult problems of marriage and the family.

Another principle pf ressourcement theology is that, if the Church has permitted and regarded something as good and Catholic for a long time, it cannot be suddenly disallowed - Pope Benedict permitted the Tridentine Mass on this principal - and if real differences in teaching and practice were not considered reason to break communion over the centuries, they can't suddenly become reasons for keeping us apart.  Hence, the admission by Catholic theologians that the Pope rules the Church as successors of St Peter was not universally believed in the first thousand years is important in deciding whether belief or disbelief in the Vatican I dogmas should keep us apart.

The same can be said for differences between the bishops of Poland and Germany over giving communion to divorced and re-married.

3)On a visit to the Lutheran church in Rome, when asked to say whether Catholics and Protestants may receive communion together in spite of the fact that the former believe that the bread and wine “really” become the body and blood of Christ while the latter do not, he answered yes, and then no, and then I don’t know, and then figure it out yourselves, in an ecstasy of contradictions, but in practice giving the go-ahead.

It must be remembered that official Lutheran teaching is that Christ is really present in the Eucharist; hence, the question of what happens about people who do not believe in the real presence does not arise in a Lutheran-Catholic context.

4) [Pope Francis ordered Cardinal Sarah]  to tell all the bishops himself that the pope instead is giving every national Church the freedom to translate as it likes, the embryo of a future Catholic Church no longer monolithic but federated

And about time too! English is a beautiful language and, when translating Latin into English, using Latin constructions and ignoring the rhythm of English can be forgiven in a school kid, but Vatican translators have no excuse.

 One consistent theme marking Francis’s pontificate has been his desire to decentralize authority in the Church. His 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium spoke of establishing a juridical status for “episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority.” In October 2015, Francis referenced episcopal conferences as one way to realize “intermediary instances of collegiality.” More recently, the pope told Polish bishops that one way forward with vexed pastoral issues might be to allow episcopal conferences decide how to proceed. (Catholic World Report)

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