“Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person.

This brings us back to our consideration of the centrality of the family and the need to promote the Gospel of life. What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike.

All have a part to play in this task – not only parents, religious leaders, teachers and catechists, but the media and entertainment industries as well. Indeed, every member of society can contribute to this moral renewal and benefit from it.  Truly caring about young people and the future of our civilization means recognizing our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral values which alone enable the human person to flourish.  It falls to you, as pastors modelled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores.  Moreover, by acknowledging and confronting the problem when it occurs in an ecclesial setting, you can give a lead to others, since this scourge is found not only within your Dioceses, but in every sector of society.  It calls for a determined, collective response.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the United States Bishops

16 April 2008

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Pope Benedict spoke these words to the Romans on Tuesday, when he celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with them in Piazza de Spagna.  But they’re addressed to us all.  (Emphases mine. For the complete text, see here.)

“We often lament the pollution of the air, which in certain places of the city is unbreathable.  It is true: We need everyone’s commitment to make the city cleaner.

And yet, there is another pollution, less perceptible to the senses, but just as dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit; it is that which renders our faces less smiling, more gloomy, which leads us not to greet one another, to not look at one another in the face.  The city is made up of faces, but unfortunately the collective dynamics can make the perception of their depth disappear.  We see everything on the surface.  Persons become bodies, and these bodies lose the soul, become things, objects without a face, to be exchanged and consumed.

Mary Immaculate helps us to rediscover and defend the depth of persons, because in her there is perfect transparency of the soul in the body.  She is purity personified, in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are in her, fully consistent between themselves and with the will of God.  The Madonna teaches us to open ourselves to God’s action, to look at others as he looks at them — from the heart. And to look at them with mercy, with love, with infinite tenderness, especially those who are most alone, most looked down upon, most exploited. ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’

I wish to pay tribute publicly to all those who in silence, not with words, but with deeds, make an effort to practice this evangelical law of love, which sends the world forward.  They are so many, also here in Rome, and rarely do they make news.  Men and women of every age, who have understood that it is no use to condemn, to lament, to recriminate, but it is better to respond to evil with good.  This changes things, it changes persons and, in consequence, improves society.

Dear Roman friends, and all of you who live in this city!  While we are busy in daily activities, let us listen to Mary’s voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal.  She says to each one of us: Where sin increased, grace can overflow, beginning precisely from your heart and your life! And the city will be more beautiful, more Christian, more human.”

Make your life, your encounters, more humane.  And we can save the world.

“The works of art born in Europe in past centuries are incomprehensible if one does not take into account the religious soul that inspired them. … When faith, celebrated in a particular way in the liturgy, encounters art, a profound synchrony is created, because both can and want to praise God, making the Invisible visible.”

Every Wednesday, Pope Benedict holds an Audience in St. Peter’s Square of in the Paul VI Audience Hall.  He has spent these times of catechesis on the Apostles, the Church Fathers, St. Paul, medieval theologians…

And now, architecture.  He gave a beautiful address on this beautiful feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter and Paul. (it can be found here.)

Is there anything this man doesn’t teach about?!  (I don’t think so!)

 

He always makes me smile.

It’s hard for me to put into words the feelings I have for Pope Benedict.  When I left Rome after the Spring of 2008, I felt like I was leaving a friend behind.   That man so far away in his window, waving down to his flock, the man driving by me, my face one of hundreds of thousands in the crowd… he seemed so close.  Part of this is the nature of the papacy, and part of it the holiness of our dear Papa.  But a large part is due to the fact that I had just finished a semester of studying his writings.   Spending my evenings pouring over a bookcase of books written by him and reading articles and speeches as if I was parsing them for English class, I was delving into the biblical theology of Pope Benedict.  In the meantime, it was impossible not to get to know the man behind the theology.

So when I stood in St. Peter’s Square and saw his library light on late at night, I couldn’t help but smile, knowing he was working on one more beautiful contribution to the Church’s theology.  When I heard his German voice speaking Italian to the crowds in St. Peter’s Square, I looked forward to going back to my room and sifting through the dense homilies.   He was speaking to me.  He was giving me more food for thought, more fruit for prayer.

After studying his writings on biblical theology as Cardinal Ratzinger and embracing his approach to Scripture, then, it gave me great joy to read a short, simple address he gave today to the professors, students, and staff of the Pontifical Biblical Institute (affectionately known by certain friends of mine as “the Bib” … but don’t tell the Pope that.  I had the honor of eating dinner at the Biblicum with a former professor of mine.  We were joined for dinner with another professor of the Biblicum,  who teaches Hebrew and Ugaritic dialects.  Luckily, the dinner conversation was in English.)

In the address, he encapsulated so beautifully what we were all describing in those papers and articles we wrote on “the biblical theology of Pope Benedict.”  He was really repeating what he has said all along, most famously in his Erasmus Lecture in New York City in 1988.  But here he was stating it so simply, so clearly, on a sunny Fall day in the Eternal City.

“Scripture being only one thing starting from the one People of God, which has been its bearer throughout history, consequently to read Scripture as a unit means to read it from the Church as from its vital place, and to regard the faith of the Church as the real key to interpretation.  If exegesis also wishes to be theology, it must acknowledge that the faith of the Church is that form of “sim-patia” without which the Bible remains as a sealed book: Tradition does not close access to Scripture, but rather opens it; on the other hand, the decisive word in the interpretation of Scripture corresponds to the Church, in her institutional organizations.  It is the Church, in fact, which has been entrusted with the task of interpreting authentically the Word of God written and transmitted, exercising her authority in the name of Jesus Christ (cfr ‘Dei Verbum,’ 10).”

While the historical-critical method is nice and all, it must be used in faith.

And the primary place for reading and interpreting Scripture is in the heart of the Church.

It’s what my former boss has been saying for years, and it’s the mission of my former employer.

Thanks, Pope Benedict.  It was a nice little present to read before bed.

Longer post coming in the next few days.  Until then, a quote from this morning, when Pope Benedict accepted the credentials of the new ambassador from the USA to the Holy See, Honorable Miguel Humberto Díaz. (Whole address can be found here.)

The crisis of our modern democracies calls for a renewed commitment to reasoned dialogue in the discernment of wise and just policies respectful of human nature and human dignity.  The Church in the United States contributes to this discernment particularly through the formation of consciences and her educational apostolate, by which she makes a significant and positive contribution to American civic life and public discourse. Here I think particularly of the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens.  The Church insists on the unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics, for she is convinced that, in the prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II, ‘a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized’ (Evangelium Vitae, 93; cf. Caritas in Veritate, 15).

Hope certain Catholic politicians – and the current Ambassador to Malta— are listening.  I think it’s pretty clear what he’s saying.

Father Rosica concluded his weekly reflection on the Sunday Mass readings (available on Zenit every Wednesday) with this beautiful quote from John Paul II, when he addressed the U.N. in 1995.  I wanted to share it too, because I think it can really speak to our time:

“We must overcome our fear of the future. But we will not be able to overcome it completely unless we do so together. The ‘answer’ to that fear is neither coercion nor repression, nor the imposition of one social ‘model’ on the entire world. The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the 20th century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty. And the ‘soul’ of the civilization of love is the culture of freedom: the freedom of individuals and the freedom of nations, lived in self-giving solidarity and responsibility.

“We must not be afraid of the future. We must not be afraid of man. It is no accident that we are here. Each and every human person has been created in the ‘image and likeness’ of the One who is the origin of all that is. We have within us the capacities for wisdom and virtue. With these gifts, and with the help of God’s grace, we can build in the next century and the next millennium a civilization worthy of the human person, a true culture of freedom. We can and must do so! And in doing so, we shall see that the tears of this century have prepared the ground for a new springtime of the human spirit.”

I’ll begin by admitting this post is a bit of a cop-out– I emailed the below quote to some of my family today.  It stuck with me more than I expected, though, and I realized it’s something that everyone should read and ruminate over.  I think there’s a tendency in many of us to become depressed or dejected when our lives aren’t going how we envisioned or when we think we’re stuck in a monotonous rut of daily activity.  There’s a temptation to believe we’re not doing anything for the world. 

And maybe we’re not.  Maybe we’re living selfish existences and squelching the gifts God gave us. 

Or maybe we are doing something for the world– it’s just those somethings are small and hidden.  Maybe we think we’re living a montonous existence because we’re hitting the grindstone every day at a thankless job.  But if that grindstone is being hit because we’re working to put food on the table or put our kids through school, if we’re working to make others’ lives better, if we get out of bed every day because there are other little lives dependent on ours… well, I think we are doing something for the world.

But how are we living?  Have we stopped to really examine our lives, our priorities, our attitudes?

Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox and give you the quote.  I came across this article: The Gospel According to Frank Capra by Rod Bennett, and this part really moved me:

 Some people say (they’ve been saying it since 1946) “It’s A Wonderful Life shows that every person’s life turns out okay in the end.” It doesn’t. It’s A Wonderful Life shows that George Bailey’s turns out okay in the end; and George Bailey is really not such a common “common man.” After all, if Mr. Potter (or even the man who pushes Mr. Potter’s wheelchair) had been shown Bedford Falls as it would have been if he’d never been born, he’d have seen a far different picture than George sees (which, by the way, is the plot of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol). I saw clearly that George Bailey’s life was wonderful because he was wonderful—wonderfully and exceptionally good. It’s not circumstance or fate that keeps George chained to his “shabby little office.” He has had one grand opportunity after another to leave town: a ticket to college. $2000 for a honeymoon. Sam Wainwright’s “ground floor in plastics.” Mr. Potter’s $20,000 a year. George stays stuck in his hick town for one reason only—he cannot bring himself to sell his soul to get out of it. Though he doesn’t know it (indeed, he can only see himself as a sucker for having done it) George has sold his dreams to keep Bedford Falls from becoming Pottersville. It’s A Wonderful Lifeis a passion play; George Bailey’s sufferings have saved all those he loves best; he loses his dream so that Martini and Mary and Violet Bick and Uncle Billy may have theirs. George Bailey’s love has been his defeat and his defeat has been his victory. When the tests came “Slacker George… the miserable failure” was able to do the Greatest Thing in the World; Greater love hath no man than this—that he lay down his life for his friends.