Pope Emeritus Benedict Relieved to Have Weight of the Church Off His Shoulders

Pope Emeritus Benedict is “relieved” to be free of the “weight” of the Church, his brother says.

Father Georg Ratzinger told the Daily Telegraph that his younger brother is happy in his retirement. The former Pope Benedict spends his days in prayer, reading and playing the piano.

He still “suffers the Church,” but enjoys not have the full weight of it “on his shoulders,” Fr Ratzinger said.

Fr Ratzinger traveled from Germany to Italy for the Pope Emeritus’ 86th birthday.

It is a miracle that these two brothers still have one another at this age and that they are both able to travel and enjoy their lives, including celebrating birthdays.

I wish them peace and happiness in this twilight of their lives.

From National Post:

ROME — The former Pontiff, Pope Emeritus Benedict, is “relieved” to be free of the responsibility of running the Catholic Church, his elder brother has said, but he insisted that Benedict was not suffering from illness.

Father Georg Ratzinger, himself a priest, told The Daily Telegraph his younger brother was “very happy” to be living at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome that he moved to after stepping down in February, becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years. Fr. Ratzinger, 88, who travelled from Germany to celebrate Benedict’s 86th birthday on April 16, said his brother “still suffers the problems of the Church, but is really relieved to no longer have the weight of the Church on his shoulders”.

… Speaking by telephone from his house in Bavaria, Mr Ratzinger denied the pope emeritus was suffering from major ailments. “He is now very old, he does not have any particular illness, but he is weakening due to his age,” he said.

 Since relinquishing the responsibility of overseeing the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Benedict has spent his time praying, reading and playing the piano at Castel Gandolfo, which is situated on the rim of a volcanic lake, surrounded by acres of private gardens and Roman ruins. (Read the rest here.) 

Cardinal Dolan Receives William Wilberforce Award

My idea of ecumenicism isn’t that Christians should try to undo the Reformation. My idea is that we should all stand up for Jesus together. 

When someone cuts one of us because we are Christians, as in Syria, Nigeria and in many other places, we all should bleed. When the freedom to follow Christ of any Christian is attacked, we should all stand together with our beleaguered brother or sister. When Christian bashers bash Christ, they are defaming my Lord and Savior and yours. We need to stand against them together.

That’s why I find it is important that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend. 

The award, which is bestowed by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, has a decidedly evangelical origin. This doesn’t stop the organization from recognizing that Cardinal Dolan’s work for religious liberty is a Christian, rather than a Catholic endeavor.

Dr Timothy George, chairman of the Center, said that Cardinal Dolan has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience and religious liberty in the face of the HHS mandate.

“We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including children waiting to be born, and religious freedom,” he added. “On these particular issues as well a concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

These are excellent words. Christians need to lay aside our petty differences and stand together for Jesus. If we do that, we will be unstoppable. 

From CNA:

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend from a group of Christians for his leadership in standing up for religious freedom.

“I resonate with Cardinal Dolan as much as any public religious leader in our country today,” Dr. Timothy George, chairman of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview which is bestowing the award, told CNA April 16.

“Cardinal Dolan has just been tremendous, he’s one of the major leaders not just of the Catholic Church in the United States today, but of all Christians, and really all people of goodwill.”

George, who is also a Baptist minister and dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, noted that the prelate has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience protection and religious liberty in the face of the HHS contraception mandate.

“But that’s only one of a variety of concerns,” he added. “We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including those children waiting to be born, and religious freedom.”

“On these particular issues as well as concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

The William Wilberforce Award was established in 1988, and honors those who “have done something significant, noteworthy and consequential to show the importance of a positive witness related to the values and character of the Christian faith in our time today,” George said.

Cardinal Dolan is the third Catholic to be given the award, following Father John Neuhaus in 1998 and Bishop Macram Gassis of El Obeid, in Sudan. (Read the rest here.) 

A Government at War with its People: France Legalizes Gay Marriage

France legalized gay marriage today. According to a Reuters news report “legions of officers and water cannon stood ready ahead of the final vote,” bracing for pubic reaction. 

The vote came after the Claude Bartelone, President of the French National Assembly ordered the expulsion of a protester. In one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve read in a while, he said, “Only those who love democracy are welcome here.”

This is not the way to pass legislation of this magnitude. It is also not the way to work for social change. Several states in America have passed gay marriage referendums by popular vote. This has been accepted by everyone, including those who opposed the referendums. States in which the courts or the legislature have tried to impose gay marriage have met resistance. Most of the time, these efforts have been overturned by popular votes.

Gay people certainly do have the right to petition their government for change. However, governments which impose draconian changes in social practice on an unwilling population are not representing their people.

When a government has to call in the police and set up high-pressure water hoses to protect itself from its own people before a vote, it maybe needs to consider that the vote itself is unwise.

The French politicians who have voted for this measure were elected to their positions, but they are not behaving like representatives of the people. They also, in my opinion, are creating unrest and discord in their country which can only harm it.

American government has made similar mistakes. The Brady Bill of the early 1990s was a mistake because the American people did not want it. I’m not talking about the merits of the bill. I am talking about the merits of government of, by and for the people.

Roe v Wade was a judicial fiat which stopped the on-going public debate on abortion by imposing a “decision” on the people that they were not ready for. The resulting culture wars have fractured this country and done enormous harm to it. None of this would have happened if the Court had simply let the democratic process in the states work this issue through.

With very rare exceptions (I can think of only one in the history of this country) the people, if they are allowed to do so, can and will work these things out in a manner that allows everyone to live together in harmony. However, when governments begin to impose unwanted solutions to debates that reach into the intimate lives of their citizens in the manner that the French government did today, they harm the country they claim to love. They also step over the boundaries of their moral authority as representatives of the people.

From Reuters:

PARIS (AP) — France legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after a wrenching national debate and protests that flooded the streets of Paris. Legions of officers and water cannon stood ready near France’s National Assembly ahead of the final vote, bracing for possible violence on an issue that galvanized the country’s faltering conservative movement.

The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just minutes after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the color adopted by French opponents of gay marriage.

“Only those who love democracy are here,” Claude Bartelone, the Assembly president, said angrily.

 

Will Pope Francis Put More Women in Key Vatican Roles?

 

According to a NewsMax article, Pope Francis is being advised to move women into senior positions in the Vatican. This is part of his effort to reform the Roman Curia, and is seen by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi as “a natural step.”

Will Pope Francis follow through with these ideas and put more women in key Vatican roles?

I hope so.

I say that as both a woman and a Catholic. The Church is Universal, which means that it exists to bring Christ to all the world. Every human being, of every race or language, belongs in the Universal Church which is the Body of Christ in the world. That includes the female half of the human race.

More to the point, an institution which only uses the male viewpoint to inform its deliberations is an example of humanity, thinking with half its brain. The Church teaches that men and women have unique gifts. God did not make us duplicates. He made us complimentary. Men and women are incomplete without one another.

We need both men and women to participate in His Church because that is the only way to access the fullness of human wisdom. Men cannot replace either the viewpoint or the wisdom of women.

Neither sex is complete in itself. We were not created to be complete in ourselves like, say, a bacterium. Men and women, working together for the common good, is what creates civilization. Either one of them working alone creates chaos.

It is the same with Christian witness. Women, no less than men, are children of God. They are imbued by their Creator with unique talents and viewpoints. When I watched videos of the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston last week, I was struck, as I always am in these times, by the sheer physical courage of men. If you look at the earliest videos, you see mostly men lifting those barricades and barreling in to clear the way. In Aurora last summer, it was men who gave their lives by using their own bodies to shield their wives and girlfriends from the bullets.

On the other hand, I am constantly reminded on my job of the moral courage of women. It is so much easier to use social bullying and go-along-to-get-along arguments on men than it is women. Physical courage comes naturally to men. They don’t have to think about it; they just react. In the same way, moral courage comes naturally to women.

We need each other to survive. The Vatican, no less than the rest of the world, needs women and women’s unique gifts. 

I am not writing this to take anything away from men. We are both exactly who God made us to be. Men and women each make necessary contributions to the whole that is humankind.

But I am very glad to know that there is a possibility that devout Catholic women will have the chance to bring their feminine viewpoint to the higher levels in our Church. We are facing interesting times. We need to think with both halves of our brains.

From Newsmax:

Pope Francis is being advised to appoint more women to senior positions as part of his efforts to reform the Roman Curia — a move the Vatican describes as a “natural step.”

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who Pope Francis recently chose to coordinate a privy council of eight cardinals advising him on governance and reform, told Britain’s Sunday Times he was backing more posts for women.

Responding to the cardinal’s comments, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said it was “a natural step – there is a move towards putting more women in key roles where they are qualified.”

Benedict XVI had already begun efforts to appoint more women to senior positions at the Vatican, most notably at the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.  Women also hold some key roles at the Vatican, although the number is small and they are not the most senior positions. Sister Nicla Spezzati is undersecretary of the Congregation dealing with nuns and religious, and laywoman Flaminia Giovanelli, is undersecretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. St Peter’s basilica is administered by Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella.

Italian journalist and historian Lucetta Scaraffia is one of L’Osservatore Romano’s regular writers who also helped found the supplement. She suggested last year that if more women were in positions of authority in the Church, the cover-ups of the clerical pedophilia scandal would not have happened.

A proponent of more women leaders in the Vatican, she believes that one day a woman will head a Vatican department. Traditionally such roles have been held by bishops and cardinals, but as the work is administrative and not sacramental, there is nothing in canon law to prevent a woman from occupying such a position. (Read the rest here.) 

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/pope-vatican-women-greater/2013/04/22/id/500749#ixzz2RDUlfMqS
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What Is God’s Purpose for My Life?

I know people who search for “God’s plan” for their lives all the time. They spend days in prayer, “seeking the Lord” over what they should do next.

I am not criticizing that or even commenting on it except to say that I know there are people who approach things this way. My way of walking with God is much more passive. My experience has been that if God wants me to do something, He’ll tell me. In fact, if God wants me to do something, He’ll pursue me. I won’t be able to get out of it.

I’m not someone who has ever hungered to do great missions for the Lord. I am so grateful that He forgave me and lets me be part of Him. That is enough for me. All I want is just to live my life in His grace, and when I die to get my toe onto the lowest rung of Purgatory. I trust Him completely with my life. I’ve been in the palm of His hand since the moment I was conceived, and I will be in those same hands through the passage of death and onwards through eternity.

However, as I said, there are those who “seek the Lord” asking for a ministry or cause. This video is for them. It’s also for all of us in that it gives some good common sense Christian guidelines for discerning how to live, whatever you do.

For instance, if you feel that the Holy Spirit is leading you in directions that oppose 2,000 years of Church teaching, then you need to do some more honest praying. It’s time for you to listen to God instead of telling Him.

The only vocation I ever prayed for was the vocation of motherhood. God gave that to me, but after a time of trial and sorrow. Then he has added other, complimentary vocations on top of it. He took me out of the world and let me spend wonderful years as a full-time wife and mother. Then, He put me back in the world where I “mothered” a broader swath of people … my constituents.

Now, he’s leading me beyond that.

God does not waste anything about us, including our deepest sins. He doesn’t obliterate our sinful acts or undo them. He transforms our weakness and our sinfulness into an instrument of His purpose.

But before He will do this, He first puts us through a deep-cleaning, a personal Gethsemane. I suffered deeply in this period when I faced the full horror of my sins. God gave me the gift of letting me see who I really was and what I had done. He removed the self-protective illusions of being a good person that I had sheltered behind and let me see the depth of my own depravity.

I think sometimes that the people who are praying for God to use them do not know that before He can use you, He has to first break you of your self-sufficiency. They think they’re good to go just as they are.

Active vocation is not a higher blessing that simply being still in the Lord. The most generous gift the Lord ever gave me was those years at home, removed from the spotlight, with my husband and babies.

Never forget that our first vocation is just to let Him love us.

Enjoy the video.

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They’ll Know We are Christians

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

How tragic for us if that is not true.

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Hello Samaria. It’s Bergoglio.

It appears that Francis, the phone-call-making Pope, also will continue as the black-shoe-wearing Pope — the black-old-shoe-wearing Pope.

Rather than replace his old shoes, the Holy Father called the man who has been making and repairing his footwear for some 40 years, 81-year-old Carlos Samaria, of Buenos Aires.

True to form, Pope Francis placed the call to order the repairs himself.

“Hello Samaria. It’s Bergoglio,” he began. “Who is this?” the shoemaker asked. “Samaria, it’s Francis, the Pope!” came the answer.

The shoemaker said that Pope Francis told him “No red shoes, black like always.”

It sounds as if our Holy Father takes a mischievous delight in these conversations. Maybe it lessens the isolation of his new life when he picks up the phone and reaches out to people, especially to old friends like Señor Samaria.

I read an interview Pope Francis’ sister gave shortly after his election in which she spoke of the loneliness of the Papacy, describing the time she met Pope John Paul II.

“When I fell to my knees to kiss his ring, I looked up and saw a gaze of such love, but at the same time of infinite loneliness,” she said.

Pope Francis lives in community rather than the isolation of the papal apartment and he makes his own phone calls. I hope these things give this good man some measure of community to comfort him as He shepherds us through the times ahead.

From CNA:

.- Pope Francis, who has quickly become known for his austere style, will continue using his simple black shoes and has called his shoemaker from his hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina to repair them.

For 40 years, 81 year-old Carlos Samaria has provided shoes from his store on the outskirts of the Argentine capital for Pope Francis, who was known before his election to the papacy as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

“Hello Samaria, it’s Bergoglio,” the phone conversation began.

“But who is this?” the shoemaker responded with surprise.

“Samaria, it’s Francis, the Pope!” the Holy Father replied.

Read the rest here.

Cardinal Wuerl Speaks Out for Priest Who is Under Fire for Teaching Homosexuals are Called to Celibacy


Cardinal Wuerl used his homily at George Washington University to make it clear that he stands behind the priest who is under fire on that campus, Father Greg Shaffer. 

Two gay activists attacked Father Shaffer recently because the priest teaches that chastity for homosexual people means that they are called to celibacy. The stated purpose of the attacks on the priest was to have him removed from campus ministry and to either force the Newman Center where he is assigned to stop teaching Catholic morality.

Cardinal Wuerl’s homily seems to indicate that Father Shaffer has the confidence of his Cardinal. This takes the possibility of him losing his assignment off the table.

Now it’s up to the university to decide if they are going to jump into this and try to close the Newman Center or if they will allow freedom of thought and speech on their campus as they have up to now.

Cardinal Wuerl’s homily, excerpted from CNA.

“I want to offer a word of support and encouragement to your chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer…and to stand in solidarity with a good priest,” the archbishop of Washington said April 14.

His remarks come as two gay students said the Newman Center chaplain had told individuals who came to him for counseling that if they experience same-sex attraction, they should remain celibate.

Asserting that this was anti-gay behavior, the two students have launched a campaign to force Fr. Shaffer off the campus of the private university.

Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the duty of bishops and priests to “feed Jesus’ flock,” and considered to whom “Jesus’ flock” refers.


Christ’s flock are those who freely choose to follow Christ and be a part of his Church, the cardinal said, and that those who choose not to follow Christ are not forced to do so.

“We propose the ways of the kingdom of God in terms that the world can understand and examine, in terms they may freely accept or reject.”

When Christ himself was faced with those who would not follow his teachings, he “did not respond by changing the teaching,” Cardinal Wuerl noted.

“Even when they said to him you need to be current, you need to be contemporary, you need to be politically correct, you need to be with the times, Jesus did not say, ‘Oh, then, I will change my teaching.’”

Christ continues to offer unchanging truths today, which cannot be changed to “conform with any particular cultural demand,” he said.

“Yet, there are those who claim that voices for the Gospel should be silenced, that we should be silenced. There are those who say there is no room for any other view but their own.”

Cardinal Wuerl said that this experience is not new to the Church, and she has always bore the brunt of “narrow-minded discrimination and blind bigotry.”

He urged a need to preserve and protect religious liberty in the face of attempts to silence priests lest they “be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture.”

Just because there are forces in society wishing to change marriage and to deny the dignity of human life and natural law, that “does not mean that the rest of us no longer have a place in this society,” the archbishop stated.

Conversion Story: The Story of How a New York Jew Wrestled with Christ and Became Catholic

 

I needed this.

I’ve been affected by the events of this week like everyone else. In addition to that, there’s been death and sadness closer in at my parish. Everything bugs me this week.

Right in the midst of my anomie comes this conversion story. Conversion to Christ is birth, re-birth, being born again. It is a person stepping in one move from death to life.

This particular conversion story describes something a little bit like the conversion I experienced in that it was instantaneous. God does that with some people. It’s as if He points His finger and says “You.”

When that happens, there is no denying the reality of it. I guess you could ignore it and say no, but you’d have to lie to yourself in a big way to do it.

This particular conversion story, is titled “The Story of how a New York Jew wrestled with Christ and became Catholic”. It describes the instantaneous and unbidden conversion of Roger Dubin. God said “You” to Mr Dubin in an airport while he was watching the announcement of Pope Benedict’s election as pope in 2005.

I won’t tell you more because it would spoil the story. I’ll put an excerpt below with a link to the rest. I hope it cheers your day as it did mine.

From The Catholic World Report:

On April 2, 2005, there came the news of the death of Pope John Paul II. I’d always admired the pope for his courage in confronting the horrors of communism, and for aligning with President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher in a united front that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Yet as a spiritual leader he meant nothing to me.

Nevertheless, Barbara and I found ourselves becoming involved in the events and the funeral as they unfolded on television. Even the typically skewed commercial coverage couldn’t disguise the tributes from all corners of the globe, and the love for the pope and grief at losing him from Catholics and people of every faith. At some point in the two weeks following, Barbara—a long-lapsed Protestant who’d never lost her regard for Christianity—turned to me and said, “You’ve got to get religion, Roger. You’ve been drifting way too long.”

Early on the morning of April 19, I left on a business trip, first taking the commuter flight from Prescott, our home since 2001, to the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. There was a wait before my next flight to the west coast, so I stopped for coffee, and soon after I arrived at the gate, the white smoke appeared over the roof of the Sistine Chapel on the television monitor. Sipping my cappuccino, I watched with a large group of travelers, interested—as a news hound mostly—in who’d been chosen. From my casual observation, however, quite a few in the crowd were Catholics, and far more invested in the outcome than I.

When the announcement was made that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected, people around me seemed to register either shock or joy. I had a pretty good sense of the reason for the split. In the days following Pope John Paul’s passing, I’d noted the avuncular and, to all appearances, mild-mannered cardinal playing a high-profile role in the funeral and related proceedings. I’d also heard quite a bit of commentary about his staunchly conservative stance as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, set in contrast to the “modernization” and “progress” many were hoping for and demanding. That hoary theme, complete with groan-inducing code words and liberal shibboleths straight out of American politics, brought on a depressing sense of déjÀ vu. “God’s Rottweiler,” some even called him, a denigration that struck me as both outrageous and naïve, though I knew almost nothing about him.

I’d been a senior corporate executive for many years, I’ve had my own consulting business since 1996, and I understood that the cardinal, like the centurion in Matthew 8:9, was “ a man under authority.” Which meant that whatever he’d done to garner his reputation had been undertaken with the guidance and approval of his boss. Yet the criticism fell on him, which also told me he was a loyal lieutenant, willing to do his superior’s will and take the hit himself without complaint. People who viewed it otherwise, I grumbled, likely had an axe to grind, or were reluctant to criticize Pope John Paul, or were simply fools.

That’s not very charitable, I admit. But remember, I was nowhere near being “Christian” in my judgments at the time. (Actually, I’m still nowhere near where I should be, yet I’m trying.) How often I’ve marveled since then at Pope Benedict’s kindness to everyone,even as he took on the agonizing work of expunging the “filth” from the Church and laying the foundation for renewal. How often I’ve wished I could feel his Christian charity towards the enemies within. But the rockiest rise on the road to becoming Christian, at least for someone like me, is learning to love as Pope Benedict loves—especially those whom you’d much rather smack upside the head and who richly deserve far worse. I suspect I’ll be wrestling with that one for a long time.

So there I was at the gate—standing now, with just a few minutes left before I’d need to board my flight. If I had to miss the introduction of the new pope, it was no big deal, though I was vaguely hoping I wouldn’t. And then Pope Benedict XVI walked onto the balcony. The camera zoomed in, his eyes seemed to look right at me and through me, and that’s the exact instant my conversion happened. (Read the rest here.)

Book Review: Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious. Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood

To join the discussion about Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious, Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood or to order a copy, go here

Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious, Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, by Pat Gohn is a hymn to woman’s essential femaleness.

Femaleness, or true femininity that is based on the reality of who we are as women, has been dissed and put down since time immemorial. Ms Gohn’s book incorporates the teachings of the Popes, especially John Paul II, and the saints, in particular St Edith Stein, to illustrate the beauty of the unique gifts of womanhood.

Reading Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious was like opening a series of chocolates, all wrapped in shiny paper, and finding that the treat inside was prettier than the wrapping. Ms Gohn is unafraid to acknowledge the maternal instinct that is part of every woman. We may deny it or ugly it up by twisting it into shapes it was never meant to take, but the desire to hold your own child in your arms is real and powerful.

Pat takes the reader by the hand and leads her (the book is clearly written for the “hers” of the world) through the many reasons why God made us blessed, beautiful and bodacious. She encourages women to joy in their feminine maternal natures instead of thwarting and denying them.

At the same time, the book is informed on every page by her deep faith in Christ. As a breast cancer survivor who had young children at the time she was diagnosed, Pat is able to communicate what it means to trust God in the extremities of life. Her description of the prayer discussion she had with God about what would happen to her children if she died from the cancer is itself blessed, beautiful and bodacious, as well as profoundly moving.

Every mother has walked a good bit of this road in one way or the other. We’ve all been through the ailments of pregnancy and the all nighters caring for a sick child. I agree with Pat completely that these times bring women close to God in a profound and absolute way.

My own faith grew deep in those years I was a mother of small children. Bringing new life into the world and then raising those babies to be healthy and productive adults is the greatest challenge and gift any human being can know.

Women are, as Pat says, blessed, beautiful and bodacious. God made us that way.


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