Monday, July 21, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI warms the hearts of 200,000 pilgrims

POPE Benedict XVI warmed the hearts of over 200,000 pilgrims camping under the stars at a chilly Randwick racecourse tonight.

Bendict XVI thanked God for the "great gift" of their faith.

Attending an evening vigil on the eve of his papal mass for an expected 500,000 people, Benedict XVI urged young people to hear the "concordant voice of humanity" through the dissonance and division of their world.

"From the forlorn child in a Darfur camp, or a troubled teenager, or an anxious parent in any suburb, or perhaps even now from the depth of your own heart, there emerges the same human cry for recognition, for belonging, for unity," he said.

"Who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, to be built up, to be led to truth?

"The holy spirit," he told pilgrims who were given candles, water, snacks and waterproof ponchos as they swarmed around a huge stage whose massive TVs gave the occasion a rock concert atmosphere.

"Tonight, gathered under the beauty of the night sky, our hearts and minds are filled with gratitude to God for the great gift of our Trinitarian faith," he said.

The 81-year-old pontiff ended his address with a comment of special significance for the Sisters of St Joseph praying for Blessed Mary MacKillop to become Australia's first saint.

"I echo to you the words spoken by Blessed Mary MacKillop when she was just 26 years old," he said.

"'Believe in the whisperings of God to your heart.'"

The pilgrims were in high spirits but no doubt weary after the vast bulk of them - an estimated 180,000 - streamed across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a day-long procession to the site of tomorrow's World Youth Day (WYD) mass.

"It's touching, so many people of the same age praying together, when so many other people our age are into drugs, smoking or drinking," said Shane Govender, 16, from South Africa.

"With all these people here, we won't even notice how cold it gets," said Neil Philander, 18, also from South Africa.

"We're not here to sleep, we're here to worship. We won't be sleeping," said Loma Falekaono, 36, from Hawaii.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI knows best

Beautiful article from the Herald Sun, the highest daily circulating newspaper in Australia. How the Pope is transforming Sydney.

By Roger Franklin

July 18, 2008 12:00am

WHEN he stepped ashore yesterday at the spot Sydneysiders call Barangaroo, the man in the snow-white cassock seemed too small and far too old to tackle such a job of heavy lifting.

And tired, too.

Despite the ease with which Benedict XVI negotiated the boat's steep gangway, there was a weariness in the eyes behind the wire-rimmed glasses that he donned to read his speech of grace and greetings.

Here was an 81-year-old traveller who, just days earlier, had girdled half the world to celebrate the faith and future with 200,000 youthful members of his far-flung flock.

The decades, the residual jet lag and a hectic day's itinerary that began with Kevin Rudd and an official welcome at Kirribilli House were taking their toll.

You could deduce as much from the slow, deliberate way the visitor lowered himself into the oversize throne of native woods atop the red-draped dais on the dock.

Twice before he became Bishop of Rome, the man who would become Benedict XVI begged close friend John Paul II for permission to retire and to spend his final years as a simple, humble priest.

The canny Pole denied him that favour, even though the then-cardinal was well past the normal retirement age of 75.

There were greater things in store, which John Paul must have recognised.

Whatever the short and tubby white-haired man had yet to offer, it was to be much more than a grey life of memories in the company of his beloved cats.

Call it a higher fate, if you like. Or better still, call it the Sydney Miracle, which is what unfolded as Benedict XVI began his address.

His delivery was fast, perhaps too fast, and the Bavarian accent obscured the sense of some of his words.

But the message of moral fortitude - of revering timeless virtues and rejecting modern temptations - that message flew like an arrow into the very heart of the vast crowd.

As he spoke, a radiant joy glowed on every face.

It was a love that wafted through the crowd like the gentle breeze rustling the hem of the Pope's robes.

And that magic wasn't confined to the hearts of the faithful.

It radiated out, borne by sightseeing pilgrims to be shared with the host city's residents, who could not help but be lifted by the spirit of the moment.

Love was the flavour of the day, and it blessed the crowds that lined the route of Benedict's meandering motorcade through the CBD.

The spectators stood 10 deep in spots, many having lingered in the city after the working day was done to catch a glimpse of the man in the glass-walled box of the popemobile.

There was no pushing, no shoving, no catcalls or abusive shouts. Just joy to have seen the man and tasted the moment.

As the crowd drifted to trains, buses and the journey home, those smiles refused to fade.

Yes, there had been a few protesters handing out condoms or taping anti-Catholic signs to the odd lamppost, but those incidents worried no one - least of all the pilgrims, who were joyfully remaking Sydney in their own image.

Consider Randwick Racecourse, where Sunday's big mass will take place.

For the past week it has been renamed Southern Cross Precinct, with not a bookie or a punter's broken heart in sight.

By the Alamein Fountain in Kings Cross, a favourite rendezvous for rent boys and their clients, the usual trade was absent on Wednesday, replaced by an impromptu choir of Chinese youths belting out a hymn in Mandarin.

And in Goulbourn St in the CBD, another bizarre spectacle. Rolling out of Chinatown came a human train of African pilgrims chanting prayers as they advanced like a marching army.

Three abreast and a good 10 rows deep, their tramping column ploughed straight into another pilgrim posse, this crew from Spain.

Two more groups smashed into the knot of multicultural confusion before everyone resumed their separate ways with bows and laughter, apologies and hugs, blessings and high fives.

Around them, that display of confusion and infectious goodwill painted broad grins on the faces of man-in-the-street Sydneysiders, many of whom may not have been inside a church since Adam was a boy.

It is just such a mood that now holds Sydney in its spell, and the catalyst for the eruption of goodwill is the city's honoured visitor.

Yes, he is old, a little tubby and his English is far from perfect. But when it comes to the human heart, he can lift an entire city's worth with ease.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More than a crisis of faith, a crisis of reason

More than a crisis of faith, what we have is a crisis of reason, an Italian intellectual, Vittorio Messori, once said.

That is the same point Ratzinger stresses when he said: "beyond all particular questions, the real problem lies in the question of truth."

Of course, if we cannot know the truth, then we cannot know God: we can all become agnostics, and be comfortably righteous. We cannot know that God loves us: it would make no sense to preach Christianity. It won't make a dent!

Remember also that we should not even make an act of faith, if our reason tells us not to do so. It would be immoral to believe if our conscience, no matter how absurdly, tells us not to, said Thomas Aquinas.

Thus, Benedict XVI goes through lengths to disentangle the root of this crisis and show its pernicious effects on our lives. This he does with great analytical skill in his book Truth and Tolerance:

Any thinking that tries to look at reason in itself or to see it as preceding the present world, is contrary to the discipline of the scientific method and is therefore utterly rejected as being prescientific... Within the specific path followed by natural science, this limitation is necessary and right.

If, however, it is declared to be the absolute and unsurpassable form of human thought, then the basis of science itself becomes contradictory; for it is both proclaiming and denying the power of reason.

But above all, a self-limiting reason of that kind is an amputated reason. If man cannot use his reason to ask about the essential things in his life, where he comes from and where he is going... but has to leave these decisive questions to feelings, divorced from reason, then he is not elevating reason but dishonoring it.

The disintegration of man, thus brought about, results equally in a pathological form of religion and a pathological form of science. It is obvious today that with the detachment of religion from its responsibility to reason, pathological forms of religion are constantly increasing.

But when we think of scientific projects that set no real value on man, such as cloning... or ...produce ever more frightful means for the destruction of men and of the world, then it is obvious that there is such a thing as science that has taken a pathological form.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Unlikely centre of attraction

Pope Benedict XVI has a mysterious but very genuine appeal for Gen Y. A woman who is one of Australia's leading theologians explains why in MercatorNet

MercatorNet: I noticed that Benedict's first encyclical contained a joke – not a great joke, to my mind, but it must have been a Papal first. You get the sense that Benedict wants to present Christianity as a joyful way of life. How is he doing that?

Rowland: Yes, this is true. When he was a young priest he was astonished to run across so many people who thought of Christianity as a set of rules and regulations which had to be followed in order to avoid eternal damnation. The word he uses for this is ‘moralism’. He often reminds people that Christianity is not primarily an ethical system, it is participation in the life of the Trinity, and in particular, an encounter with the Person of Christ. It is meant to be enriching and joyful. He doesn’t deny the possibility that some people might end up in hell, but he thinks it is rather neurotic to think of Christianity as an insurance policy against eternal damnation. He regards the various prohibitions in Jewish and Christian teaching as merely the flipside of the actualisation of a great 'yes’.

He therefore tries to focus on the positives, on what an authentic Christian spirituality can be. He often appeals to beautiful works of art and music as epiphanies of God’s glory and illustrations of what can be created by those who have faith. He wants people to fall in love with the beauty and truth and goodness of Christian Revelation, rather than living in fear of it. It’s as though proponents of moralism have confused Aslan with the White Witch. His focus on the works of Christian art and the beauty of the lives of Christian saints is his antidote to the moralist mentality.

MercatorNet: "The dictatorship of relativism" is a phrase coined by Benedict which has been widely repeated. But if you unpack it, it's not that clear. Relativism sounds anarchic, not tyrannical. What does he mean?

Rowland: When people hear the word ‘relativism’ they often think that it is a synonym for tolerance. They think that there is no dominant paradigm of anything and that it is a good thing that people tend to disagree about the truth and believe many different things. Contemporary cultural diversity, and in particular the diversity of moral frameworks, is regarded as a post-modern virtue.

However Benedict tries to demonstrate that when Christianity is rejected, social practices and the cultures which they foster are not theologically neutral. They carry within them an atheistic logic. The more pervasive this logic becomes the more our social life resembles a jungle with its survival of the fittest principles. In such cultures the weak and the poor are systematically hurt. Adolf Hitler understood this. He described Christianity and Judaism as religions designed to protect the weak from the strong. He thought this was a bad thing. Benedict thinks it is a really great thing. He is interested in the relationships between truth and love and what happens when truth is replaced by ideology and love is reduced to emotional drives.

Pope Benedict XVI, Theologian of Joy

An Interview with Monsignor Joseph Murphy, author of Christ Our Joy: The Theological Vision of Pope Benedict XVI by Carl E. Olson

Ignatius Insight: What are some other essential qualities of Benedict's thought that are interrelated with joy?

Monsignor Murphy: Joy is of course a central Biblical theme, and so Christianity and joy must be closely associated. For example, in the intimacy of the Last Supper, Christ says to his disciples: "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (Jn 15:11). Christianity is not about imposing heavy burdens on people, nor is it an oppressive system of do's and don'ts. Rather, it is the path to freedom and to true joy. Hence, the Holy Father's emphasis on joy is simply in keeping with his desire to communicate what is essential to Christianity, what it is really all about.

In this regard, there are some aspects of Pope Benedict's thought that readers may find new or at least thought-provoking. For example, many people, when they hear about the Church, automatically think of her institutional aspects, structures and personnel. However, the Pope places the emphasis elsewhere; for him, the Church is, among other things, what I referred to in the book as the servant, guardian and teacher of joy. He alludes to this idea, for example, in Introduction to Christianity, where he says: "Only someone who has experienced how, regardless of changes in her ministers and forms, the Church raises men up, gives them a home and a hope, a home that is hope—the path to eternal life—only someone who has experienced this knows what the Church is, both in days gone by and now." (2nd ed., Ignatius Press, 2004, p. 344).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What are we in the Catholic Church for?

Or what does being in the Church mean?

Ratzinger: We are not in the Church in order to exercise power as if we were in some kind of association.

If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life, hence, real life, true life as such. Everything else is secondary.
-- Salt of the Earth

Friday, July 4, 2008

Why the face of the Shroud of Turin?

When we "seek the face of Christ," why should we emphasize the particular face of Christ in the Shroud of Turin, and not just an all-embracing way of seeking out Jesus' face-- his personality, his expressions, his look, Jesus' self shining out through his words?

The answer lies in the reply to the question on why three of the universal sacraments have a symbolic force limited to a specific region in the world, the Mediterranean region: olive oil, bread, wine.

Ratzinger answers the question in his book, Spirit of the Liturgy: God's incarnation binds us to the history of a particular place. It does not mean doing as we please, a typical tendency of those who want to invent a new liturgy, or new sacraments. No. "The elements become sacraments through connection with the unique history of God in relation to man in Jesus Christ."

And Ratzinger concludes:

It is with this particular face, with this particular human form, that Christ comes to us, and precisely thus does he make us brethren beyond all boundaries. Precisely thus do we recognize him: "It is the Lord" (Jn 21:7).