How Do You Do Lent in a Time of Feasting?

Lent

It’s still Lent.

We’ve got a week and a half of the deepest, darkest passage in human history to relive. Jesus arrested, betrayed, beaten, tortured, shamed and murdered; that’s what lies ahead of us in these next days.

We are approaching the depths of Lent; the remembrance of humanity’s greatest crime against innocence in the flesh. And we are almost there. 

But how do you do lent in a time of feasting? 

Last week, the Papal Conclave elected the first non-European pope in 1200 years, the first American pope and the first Jesuit pope in history. That conclave turned the Catholic world upside down … and left it unchanged.

Pope francis

Pope Francis is the continuation of an unbroken line of popes going back to the moment when Jesus said “I will call you Peter.” The Church as a conduit of grace, a connection to the divine and a highway to heaven is untouched, unchanged and unchangeable. Despite the rancorous demands from some quarters that the Church re-write 2,000 years of Christian teaching to excuse the fashionable sins of our day, it will never do that. It has never done that; not for kings and princes, not for tanks and guns. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Church, despite its human failings, is like Him in that. Nothing that matters, nothing that’s central to what the Church is, changes, has changed, or will change. 

Last week, we elected a pope. Yesterday, he celebrated his inaugural mass. It has been a week of spiritual feasting, a time to get drunk on the Spirit and wave flags, cheer and experience the jubilation of this proof of His continued presence in our lives. 

How do we come down from that to Passion Week and the awful reality of the crucifixion? 

Transfiguration

Perhaps, we do it the same way Peter, James and John did when they came down from the mount of Transfiguration. They saw something that no one had ever seen before or since, at least not in this life. They saw the transfigured Christ in His glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah — the law and the prophets. They saw the promise of what is to come, of the meaning on the other side of the cross that they were to preach for the rest of their days. 

We saw a glimpse of that same promise in this election and inauguration. Not the transfiguration, of course, but the promise of what it meant when Jesus told us “I am with you until the end of the world.” He was promising us that when we are lost, He will call us without ceasing. When we are found, He will walk with us through whatever we must face. He will speak to us through the Holy Spirit in our deepest hearts. He will come to us in the Eucharist and forgive us in confession. In all the years of our lives, he will never leave us without a shepherd to guide us and teach us and show us the way to Him.

This past week of two living popes and one unchanging church has not been the same mountain-top view of the Transfiguration that the three chosen Apostles experienced. But it has been the Transfiguration that the whole wide world needed at this time in history. 

Now, we must, as the Apostles had to, come down from the mountaintop and turn our faces toward Jerusalem. It is Lent, and the way we do Lent in a time of feasting is to face the magnitude of our sins and the unbelievable mercy that God has shown us. 

This year, like no other, we have been given our own view of Transfiguration. 

White crucifixion

It’s Official! New Pope is Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio

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Our new pope is Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina. He has chosen the name Francis I.

After brief remarks, he led the vast audience at the Vatican in the Our Father and Hail Mary in Italian.

Even in this brief audience it was fun to watch this Latin pope gesticulate with his hands as he spoke.

My prayers and hopes are with him.

New Pope is Elected

This is from CBC NEWS WORLD 

A new pope has been chosen to lead the Roman Catholic Church.

The emergence of white smoke from a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican indicated to the world that cardinals have elected a new leader for 1.2 billion Catholics.

The name and nationality of the new pope has not been made public yet.

The newly elected pope will be fitted for his white cassock, and the other cardinals in the conclave will then each individually swear obedience to him.

Before he appears on a balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the new pope will stop to pray in the Pauline Chapel.

Ahead of the appearance on the balcony, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the protodeacon, will announce “Habemus Papam,” Latin for “We have a pope!”

The new pope was selected after XXX ballots failed to produce a winner during a conclave that began Tuesday.

Black Smoke = No Pope Yet

Black smoke rose from the newly-installed chimney at the Vatican today signaling that a vote had occurred but the 2/3 majority had not been reached for any candidate.

We do not have a pope yet. But the College of Cardinals has voted.

Hopefully, it won’t be long.

A New York Times story describing this says in part:

 

VATICAN CITY — The cardinals of the Catholic Church held their first ballot on Tuesday to elect a pope, with black smoke signaling no winner on the first day of their conclave inside the Sistine Chapel.

Night had fallen by the time the smoke rose, but people who had flocked to St. Peter’s Square on this cold, rainy evening could watch the spotlighted chimney on giant screens set up in St. Peter’s Square. Some shrieked in excitement as the thick smoke began billowing out.

The outcome was expected, since all 115 of the cardinals are theoretically candidates, and the winner must receive two-thirds, or 77, of the votes. In past modern conclaves, the first ballot essentially served as a primary, when a number of cardinals emerged as leading vote-getters. Subsequent rounds made clear where the votes were flowing. The smoke will be white when a pope is elected.

 
The cardinals, who are staying in seclusion in the 

Vatican’s Santa Marta residence, will return to the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday morning. The schedule calls for two rounds of voting in the morning and two in the evening, as needed. (Read at the rest here.)http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/world/europe/vatican-pope-selection-conclave.html?_r=0


New Pope Will Have Time for Adoration Before He is Presented to the Public

Pope

“Habemus Papam!”

It won’t be long before we hear those words. When we do, and our new pope is presented to us, we can know that he has taken time to be with the Lord before walking out on that balcony.

One change from previous elections is that our new pope will be given time for prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament before he is presented to the public. 

I think this is a wonderful change in procedure. Time spent with the Blessed Sacrament fills a person with the peace that passes all understanding. 

The man who will become what some members of the press have called the “CEO for Christ” is going to need this peace, and those of us who are looking to him for leadership, guidance and inspiration need for him to have it. Prayer is the wellspring of the Christian life. Even though I sometimes get too busy to do it well, I always find what I need when I pray. At times, this is an understanding that I have been wrong and need to change. At other times, it’s peace and comfort. But it is always the Holy Spirit, guiding and sustaining me.

The Blessed Sacrament is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord. He reaches through it and into us. I can think of no other place where our new pope needs to go after his election than before Christ in the eucharist. 

A CNA/EWTN News article about this change in procedure for the new pope says in part:

.- In a change to past papal elections, the new Pope will have the chance to adore Jesus in the Eucharist before he makes his appearance on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi told journalists March 11 that, “when the Pope goes to the loggia, he passes the Pauline Chapel and will stop there for a brief moment of personal prayer and silence in front of the Blessed Sacrament.” (Read the rest here.) 

Vatican Releases Detailed Schedule for the Conclave

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The Vatican has released a detailed schedule for the Papal Conclave which begins tomorrow. The earliest we could have a new pope would be Tuesday evening, around 7 pm.

According to everything I’ve read, this is unlikely. If the press has the story straight, there are no frontrunners. Based on what little I know about these things, it sounds like it will take more than one ballot to elect the next pope.

A CNA/EWTN article describing the Conclave schedule is below.

 

VATICAN CITY, March 9 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Vatican press office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, has revealed details of the daily schedule of the Conclave set to begin March 12.The Mass for Election of a New Pontiff will take place on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Beginning at 3:45 p.m., Cardinals will be transferred from the St. Martha House, the building where the Cardinals will reside during the Conclave, to the Vatican.

>From there, Cardinals will process from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel where they will pray Vespers and officially enter the Conclave at 5:00 p.m.

The first possible smoke sighting will be on Tuesday evening at around 7:00 p.m.

If the smoke is black, the Cardinals will reconvene the next morning beginning with Mass at 8:15 a.m. in the Pauline Chapel and mid-morning prayer. Voting will begin again at approximately 9:30 a.m.

There will be four votes per day, with two in the morning and two in the afternoon. (Read the rest here.)

Vatican Lockdown Ensures Vote by Secret Ballot

Vatican The Vatican is locking down for the big vote. That raises the question:  How do you keep a secret when more than a hundred people are in on it?

The answer is that you drive them to and from their meetings on a bus, lock them in, install jamming devices guaranteed to turn iPhones into clocks and iPads into pads. Then, to top it off,  promise excommunication to anyone — from those at the top to those who clean the floors — who talks out of school.

As we say in Oklahoma, that oughta do it.

I doubt if we’ll hear so much as a squeak from inside the Sistine Chapel while the votes take place. We will learn the outcome, but the vote, the deliberations and discussions, are for the ears of those making them.

This is an excellent idea. I am a strong believer in openness in governance. But I also know that there are times when people have to be able to consult with one another in private if anything positive is going to happen. Cardinals are people. This secrecy protects them — and us — from the pressures of electing a pope based on passing considerations of personal popularity.

We need the pope that the Holy Spirit wants. I am praying every day in my own shorthand version of prayer that God will give us a good pope. The challenges this man will face are our challenges as well. They are the problems and perils of Christianity at this time in history. The pope will have the only unified voice in Christianity today.

He speaks for 1.2 billion Catholics, and for another 800 million Christians of other communions. He also speaks for the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised of every faith and no faith all around the globe.

It is important that the cardinals vote, as we do, by secret ballot. It is also important that they cast these votes and discuss the issues surrounding them without cameras, bugs or gossip to inhibit them.

The following article from NBC News describes some of the measures being taken at the Vatican to ensure that this happens.

By Alastair Jamieson, Staff writer, NBC NewsROME — Jamming devices to halt communication were installed at the Vatican on Monday, as part of a security lockdown ahead of the papal conclave.

>The behind-the-scenes ballot process is supposed to remain a secret, but modern technology left Roman Catholic Church officials taking no chances.

< Staff working alongside the cardinals voting inside the Sistine Chapel must swear an oath of secrecy.

“I expect they’ll be on a total lockdown,” NBC News’ Vatican analyst George Weigel said. “Security is tight. It’s got to be.”

Jamming devices will be used at the Sistine Chapel inside the Vatican and the nearby guest residences at Santa Marta where cardinals will sleep during the conclave, officials told reporters on Friday

The move will ensure cardinals cannot communicate with the outside world or use social media. It will also prevent hidden microphones from picking up the discussions.

Any cardinals or Vatican workers –- such as those serving food in Santa Marta – breaching the code face excommunication from the church. (Read more here.)

Cardinal Dolan: The Camera Loves Him on Two Continents

TimothyCardinalDolan DNC 6sep2012

Star quality.

Some folk got it.

Some folk don’t.

You know what I mean. You see them on screen or in a photo and your eyes immediately fix on them. They aren’t always the best looking or the most glib or even the prettiest. But they’ve got that shine that makes people look and then want to look again.

Priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes are not normally rated or valued for their star quality. It isn’t an attribute that goes into the computation of what makes for holiness, fidelity, wisdom or, even, as many stars have proven, good sense. But in these days when everybody has a camera in their pocket and even the most klutzy geekophobe can manage to upload their digital treasures to the virtual Wild West of the internet, media stardom does take on a kind of transitory illusion of relevance and even power.

Every so often, brains, depth of character and moral strength combine in someone who’s been hit by the star wand. The camera loves them, and they can actually hold your attention without a script or teleprompter.

That seems to be what America has in Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Of all the places most of us would go looking for someone with star quality, the face under a cardinal’s hat would be one of last; especially when the cardinal in question is a portly, plainspoken Irishman with unabashedly old-fashioned ideas about faith, morals and modern life.

But star quality is one of those things you can’t explain. You know it when you see it, but you don’t really know why it’s there. It’s a kind of magnetism that draws and fascinates people. Even those who have it are often unaware of it and, if they do know they’ve got it, don’t know where it comes from.

Cardinal Dolan has been a blessing to the Catholic Church in America precisely because he can explain the Church’s position to the many millions on the other side of the camera. We’ve had others with this gift, but they have crashed and burned under the warping power of public adulation.

It appears that Cardinal Dolan doesn’t try to flay the emotional hide off people he disagrees with. He isn’t glib with quickie phrases that entertain the self-righteous while they cut the defenseless to the bone. There is nothing mean or mean-spirited or snide in the things he says. He stands for the church and doesn’t back down. But he also doesn’t try to destroy those who oppose him in this.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that people in Italy are just as charmed by Cardinal Dolan as many Americans. There’s something about a good-hearted man who’s willing to tell the truth instead of run away from it that is refreshing in this world. 

Based on things I’ve read in several places, Cardinal Dolan’s American brashness (and compared to most of the rest of the world, we are all brash, my fellow Americans, believe me) doesn’t offend. It captivates. That in itself is amazing.

There’s no denying it. The Cardinal has a kind of clerical star power, and he appears to have it without the lies, phoniness and outright heresies of many of the few other priests who have star power, too.

God love him.

I’m proud of him.

A New York Times article describing Cardinal Dolan’s situation says in part:

VATICAN CITY —

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, has become an object of fascination in Rome for the fluency of his juggling act: he is simultaneously head of the United States’ most prominent Roman Catholic diocese and president of its national conference of bishops, tapped by the Vatican for numerous prestigious assignments and by network television anchors for their most prized interview spots.

In the weeks since Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to retire, the possibility that Cardinal Dolan could succeed him has been largely dismissed on the theory that his biggest strengths — outsize personality, Everyman affect, relentless public cheer — mark him as distinctively American in a way that makes it unlikely he would be chosen by his colleagues.

But in recent days, his joyful and telegenic orthodoxy is getting new attention in Rome; on Thursday, a prominent Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister, highlighted his qualifications, calling him “the consummate candidate, who represents the impulse in the direction of purification.”

Cardinal Dolan has colorfully dismissed speculation that he could be pope, saying that he expects, and is eager, to return to New York. Nonetheless, this papal interregnum has become an important period for him, presenting an opportunity for him to use mass media to reach Catholics in his vast and diverse archdiocese, and to elevate his stature as he faces battles with President Obama over health insurance regulations and with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York over a proposed liberalization of the state’s abortion laws.

He shows an easy demeanor; he is unfailingly positive, even when asked difficult questions. But even he is quick to say that he represents a new style, not a new point of view, for Catholic bishops. In an interview here, before the cardinals decided to stop speaking to reporters, he described the church’s teachings as a gift to be treasured, but said, “Let’s perhaps work on a way to wrap it in a more attractive way.” (Read the rest here.)


Papal Conclave Begins Tuesday, March 12

The CNA/EWTN story describing this says in part: 

.- After five days of meetings, the College of Cardinals has voted to hold a conclave to elect the next Pope on Tuesday, March 12.

“The eighth General Congregation of the College of Cardinals has decided that the Conclave will begin on Tuesday, 12 March 2013,” Father Federico Lombardi said in a March 8 message to reporters.

The cardinals will celebrate a Mass For the Election of a New Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning and “in the afternoon the cardinals will enter into the Conclave,” he confirmed.

Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam arrived in Rome on Thursday afternoon and with his presence the College of Cardinals reached its full number.

The cardinals were able to choose an earlier date than was previously allowed under Church regulations because Benedict XVI issued a declaration to make that possible. (Read the rest here.) 

Are Gay Priests Who Support Traditional Marriage Hypocrites?

Priest collar

I admit it.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the three priests and one former priest who torpedoed Cardinal Keith O’Brien. 

For those who don’t know, Cardinal O’Brien was an outspoken opponent of the move to redefine traditional marriage. In what appears to at least some people to be a hit job, three priests and one former priest came forward recently with accusations that the Cardinal had made passes at them 30 years ago. All of these men were adults when this is supposed to have happened. One of them even admits that the passes occurred after “late-night drinking.”

They also admit that this occurred over 30 years ago in 1980.

So, other than indicating that Cardinal O’Brien attempted to commit sexual sin with another adult in 1980, when he was not a cardinal or even a bishop, what does all this mean?

It means that a vigorous voice in support of traditional marriage has been silenced at a critical point in the debate. It also means that the British Isles will have no representative in the upcoming election of the next pope.

I do not want to give the impression that I think that what then Father O’Brien did was right.

However, as I have said in other posts, just about any woman in public life could make similar accusations against numerous powerful men. If you want to go back 30 years for these things, I doubt very much that there is a man in public life who could emerge from that kind of open season on their past unscathed. I also don’t think that many women would be in such good shape if you drug out every stupid thing we ever did or said in the name of sexual attraction and then declaimed it as unforgivable.

The last thing I feel like doing is to go into a faint and start fanning myself like Aunt Pittypat from Gone With the Wind over news that priests, bishops and, yes, cardinals, have committed sins at some time in their lives. My basic reaction to all this is, “where’s the beef?” Or, maybe I should say, “What’s the beef?”

I am not dismayed or scandalized to learn that leaders in the Church have committed sins. I expect that this is true of every single person on this planet.

There is a world of difference between a drunken priest making a pass at another adult and a bishop or cardinal transferring child molesters around, thereby enabling them to continue molesting children. If you don’t see that, then I don’t think I’m going to try to explain it to you.

One of the more predictable bits of commentary about Cardinal O’brien’s very public disgrace has been that he is a “hypocrite,” since it appears that he is gay and at least somewhat actively so, while he speaks against gay marriage.

This raises a question that has bemused me for a while. The whole basis of this contention about the Cardinal’s “hypocrisy” seems to be founded on the idea that if a person is homosexual, then they must be in favor of gay marriage and if they say otherwise, they are lying. I think this contention is inaccurate. 

Christians often have to chose between what members of “their” group want and following the Gospel. These choices are painful. They frequently result in bitter accusations of betrayal and hypocrisy directed at the Christian by their former friends.

I don’t know Cardinal O’brien, but I do know many gay people, some of whom are deeply committed followers of Christ. At this point in history homosexuals’ standing under the law is in flux. When the question concerns things like civil rights, there is no conflict for a homosexual and their Christian beliefs. In fact, Christianity is, or should be, their strongest advocate.

But the question of gay marriage puts homosexual Christians to the test. If they are a priest or someone else in Christian leadership, the conflict will be even sharper for them simply because they can not sidestep it. They will have to chose between following Christ in matters such as the legal definition of marriage and following the gay community, and they will have to do it publicly.  

Before anyone goes off and throws a pity party for homosexual Christians, I would like you to consider the challenges that women face in their fealty to Christ. The whole question of abortion balances on the shoulders of young women, many of whom are in desperate situations and who were brought to this pass by brutality and misogyny which is often ignored and allowed by various religious leaders. Yet women who follow Christ may not, can not, advocate for the killing of innocents. We are forced instead to advocate for an end to the brutality of abortion and at the same time work for an end to the brutality of misogyny.

That can be difficult, but it is our call as Christian women.

In a similar fashion, Christians who are also homosexuals are called to live out their Christian walk as people who have been the objects of discrimination but who may not take the easy route of following the crowd as they work against this discrimination. They must, like all the rest of us, chose Christ.

It just doesn’t jibe with me that every person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction must, by definition, think and behave exactly like every other person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction. It certainly does not apply to Christians, who must, by definition, be the change agents for the Gospel in a fallen world.

The way that fits Cardinal O’brien’s situation, as well as every other priest, is that whether or they are homosexual or heterosexual, they must be priests and Christians first. It is not hypocrisy for a priest to follow the teachings of his Church. I think it would be hypocrisy for him to do otherwise.

I am not defending Cardinal O’brien. I don’t know him. I don’t know his accusers. I am aware that, as often happens, there may be other charges that come to the fore that change my evaluation of him.

However, as of now, I do not see him as a hypocrite. I see him as a human being who has sinned, but who has also remained faithful to his charge as an officer of the Church.

Every single human being sins. Sexual sin, simply because the temptations are so powerful and universal, are the downfall of many people. However, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion, not any Church teaching) sexual sin like this, which involves adults in a consenting situation, is perhaps one of the most understandable of sins, coming as it does from our longing to love and be loved.

Is a homosexual priest who follows the teachings of the Church concerning marriage a hypocrite who deserves to be pilloried and disgraced? Absolutely not. 

If the men who made these accusations against Cardinal O’brien were, indeed, politically motivated, they were successful. They have done much harm to the cause of traditional marriage in Britain. They have also made certain that someone who supports Church teaching will not take part in the election of the next pope.

If that was their motivation, they need to look at themselves as people. I am appalled by the tactics the gay rights movement sometimes uses in their fight to redefine marriage. If that is what they did, then I would say that Cardinal O’brien is something of a social martyr for the Church.

A Telegraph news article about Cardinal O’brien’s situation says in part:

The Cardinal Keith O’Brien Downfall video had been ready to run for ages. The story of three priests and one ex-priest complaining of inappropriate behaviour was timed to break when the Scottish prelate retired at 75 next month. The aim was to expose his alleged hypocrisy. To quote our blogger Stephen Hough, responding in the comments to his blog post yesterday, “I’m convinced that what he did (if he did it) was harmless enough, but he may not have thought it harmless if he’d caught other priests doing it … at least until this week.” If the scandal had come to light next month, that would have been nicely timed to ruin the Cardinal’s reputation just when the media would be running retrospective pieces about him. And, of course, it would throw a spotlight on O’Brien’s passionate opposition to gay marriage, effectively silencing the Scottish Catholic Church on this subject, and probably the Church in the rest of Britain, too.

What no one could have guessed is that Pope Benedict would resign, meaning that Cardinal O’Brien would be the only Briton with a vote in the next conclave. The Observer story was brought forward, with devastating results. The four complainants had the good sense – and, arguably, the courage – to inform the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, of their claims. (Mennini, it should be noted, is not in the pocket of the British bishops to the extent that previous ambassadors have been.) So the Vatican already had a file on Britain’s senior Catholic churchman, and Pope Benedict, on being informed of its contents, decided to bring forward O’Brien’s resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. In other words, the alleged victims of these inappropriate acts were helped by something that the Church’s critics have often refused to recognise: Joseph Ratzinger’s determination to purify the Church of sex abuse, right up until the last week of his pontificate. (Read more here.)

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