If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

"It is a pity the world has lost all sense of God."

Profound excerpt of the blind Carthusian Monk from "Into Great Silence".

Franciscans of Primitive Observance - Community and Vocations Information


The information included in their tri-fold brochure is as follows:
Vocation Director
Franciscans of Primitive Observance
Co-Redemptrix Friary
30 Trinity St.
Lawrence, MA 01841-2644

FRANCISCANS OF PRIMITIVE OBSERVANCE

St. Francis of Assisi lived the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ in a radical and courageous way. He captured this way in the Rule of Life which the Lord have him. Toward the end of his life, St. Francis stated in his Testament that his brothers should live the Rule "simply, plainly, and without gloss."

As the Order grew, some embraced relaxations for the sake of higher studies or apostolic work. This legitimate development of a modern observance has borne much good fruit. However, from the beginning, there have always been those called to a strict, or "primitive" observance of the Rule. The Capuchin reform of the 16th century is the classic example of such movements.

Our community of priests and brothers was formed with the conviction that the Holy Spirit is calling us to wholeheartedly embrace a strict observance of the Rule of St. Francis. We began in January, 1995 under the auspices of Bishop Sean O'Malley, OFM Cap. We are again under his jurisdiction in the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Second Vatican Council called for religious institutes to return to their "primitive inspiration, ... The spirit and aim of each founder should be faithfully accepted and retained" (Perfectae Caritatis, 2). Such is our intent.

We are inspired and guided by the heroic early Capuchin reformers and their Constitutions of 1536. Like them we propose to observe St. Francis' Testament, and take his words and example as sure guides of discernment. By the grace of God we hope to imitate these holy men, who so captured the heart of our Seraphic Father, who so captured the Heart of Jesus Christ.

This way of life is first of all one of radical poverty in imitation of, and union with, Christ Crucified. By this we witness to His Kingdom and the Father's Love, which provides for all of our needs. In addition, we give priority to contemplative prayer, as St. Francis did, and to a life of penance, fraternity, minority, and manual labor. The silent testimony of a holy life of total renunciation, for the "one thing necessary" is our primary apostolate.

At the time of profession each friar vows to live "in total consecration to the Immaculate Virgin Mary, in obedience, without property and in chastity." Our Marian vow of total consecration therefore governs our entire religious life. Union with Our Lady is our path to holiness.

The community is governed by traditional religious obedience, including unswerving loyalty to our Holy Father the Pope and all Church Teaching. The Holy Eucharist is the center and source of our life.

SOME PRINCIPLES GUIDING OUR POVERTY

· Strive for immediate and total dependence on Divine Providence both communally and individually.

· Only those items will be kept which are strictly necessary (i.e., no TV, stereos, computers, musical instruments, washing machine, refrigerator, telephones, etc...)

· Travel is by walking, hitchhiking, public transportation or begging for rides. No air travel for the apostolate or ownership of cars.

· As far as possible, money is not accepted or used. No bank account is held individually or communally.

· Brothers are sent out to beg or work for food and supplies.

· No item may be kept for the apostolate that we would not have for ourselves. Buildings may not be established for apostolic work.

DAILY PRAYER SCHEDULE

2:00 AM Office of Readings

6:30 Morning Prayer

7:00-8:00 Mental Prayer

8:00 Holy Mass

12:00 Noon Midday Prayer

4:45 PM Evening Prayer

5:00-6:00 Eucharistic Adoration

9:00 Night Prayer

9:15 Holy Rosary

· A respectful silence is kept in the friary apart from breakfast and dinner in order to cultivate an atmosphere of prayer.

· Fridays are set aside as a strict day of prayer, silence, and solitude.

· All friars go regularly to remote mountain hermitages for periods of solitude and recollection

· The various communal fasting requirements include a bread and beverage fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and no eating between meals.

THE APOSTOLATE

Without any material means of his own, St. Francis zealously sought to spread the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by preaching and caring for lepers and the poor. Likewise, the early Capuchins were noted for evangelical preaching and generous service to plague victims. Herein lies the model of our apostolic mission in the Church today.

Thus we seek to evangelize through parish missions, youth and other retreats, hearing confessions, spiritual direction, door-to-door evangelization and catechetical instruction. We also strive to serve those in need by pro-life work, food distribution, visiting the sick, elderly and imprisoned, and assisting at existing shelters, soup kitchens and hospices.

“Elected Silence, sing to me”

From First Things
By Amanda Shaw

Joy isn’t the first word that comes to mind when most people think of cloistered nuns. For that matter, most people don’t think of cloistered nuns at all, or when they do cobwebby, claustrophobic choir stalls and deafening silence and penitential potatoes form their image of the strange world of enclosed religious. And there is little to dispel the shadows from this haunted-house portrait—for cloistered life is inherently hidden, and it isn’t often that the outside glimpses in.

I recently came across a small, yellowed volume that I first read over a decade ago: A Right to Be Merry by Mother Mary Francis P.C.C. First published in 1956, this delightful book takes the reader into the close quarters and ancient Franciscan traditions of a convent of Poor Clare nuns. Grim and musty it is not: The joy of St. Francis’ spirituality—even, or especially, embraced in this most radical form—is unavoidable.

“What do they do all day?” friends and acquaintances often wonder, and one of Mother Mary Francis’ goals is to explain. After she takes us through the jam-packed day—with communal prayer seven times a day beginning just after midnight, and monastic meals, artistic and domestic work, and an hour of recreation squeezed in between, a very different question arises: “How do they accomplish all that?” The answer comes in love and silence, in silent love:
It has sometimes been said that St. Clare was a missionary at heart and became a cloistered contemplative only because that was the sole kind of religious life for women known in her day. This never fails to make her daughters bristle! If St. Francis had wanted his Second Order to be a missionary order, he was just the man to have made that fait accompli in no time at all. No one was ever more “original” than the saint who walked at right angles to everything characteristic of his age. What he founded was a Second Order of enclosed, praying nuns, because that is what he wished to found. St. Clare, on her part, did indeed have a missionary heart. That is why she entered the cloister, to be a missionary to all the world.
. . .
St. John of the Cross says something to the effect that one act of pure love is worth more than a hundred years of activity. It is likewise true that love ennobles activity, just as prayer nourishes it. Mere activity of itself is quite meaningless in the eyes of God; but the meanest tasks done out of love for Him burst in glory on His vision. Perhaps the silent Sister-cook taking the fat brown loaves from the oven, or canning the pickles which will be sold in the city to help defray our expenses, is tipping the scales of the world in its own favor and in God’s. Her sweat and her love and her labor pull their weight in the mystery of salvation as sure as the writings of philosophers or the wonder-revealing beakers of the scientists.

We live in such a noisy world that many of us have come to be afraid of silence. We think that if only we do a great deal, it does not much matter what we are. In fact, we seldom stop to investigate what manner of man we are. The hero of the hour is the one who can accomplish the greatest number of things in the shortest possible time. But he makes a sorry monastic hero. It is not what our Lady did which made her the Queen of heaven and earth, but what she was.

St. Clare is a true mirror of Mary. She built no hospitals made no political pronouncements, inaugurated no new systems of pedagogy and wrote no books. In the world’s eyes, she did just nothing at all. But what was she? Holy Church declares that she was and is a light more shining than light itself. . . . She was a citadel of silence, and that is why she answers a crying need of our time. We have forgotten how to be silent; we have grown afraid. Yet nothing truly great or enduring was ever yet or will ever be achieved without silence. “While all things were in quiet silence, thy almighty Word, O God, leaped down from heaven.” In the singing silences of eternity that Word was begotten in the bosom of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeded as their mutual Love ablaze with silence.

I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s prayer, “The fruit of silence is prayer…” and of Pope Benedict’s probing questions to American youth: “Have we perhaps lost something of the art of listening? Do you leave space to hear God’s whisper, calling you forth into goodness? Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen to God, adore him in the Eucharist. Let his word shape your journey as an unfolding of holiness.”

A sign of contradiction to the busy world, the silence of the cloister preaches boldly indeed. But have we lost something of the art of listening?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What vocations crisis?

I couldn't agree more...

"In which I Rant about Vocations and End on a Positive Note"


By Deacon Tyler

I have long held that the Church does not face a "vocations crisis." It is true that there are fewer priests now than there were fifty years ago. There are fewer sisters as well. What is not so clear to me, though, is that fewer men are being called. I think that a whole multitude of men are called to the priesthood, but they are not hearing that call, some by design and others by accident of their environment. I have talked to young men who KNOW that they are being called to the seminary, but who refuse to go. They have all sorts of creative excuses. Here is a sampling:

1) Well, I might have a vocation, but I am still discerning whether or not to go to the seminary, so I will just go to college for a few years until I figure it out.

To which I respond (inaudibly, of course), "Good luck. That gnawing pain in your stomach every time you think about priesthood isn't going to go away until you go to the seminary. Enjoy your ulcer."

2) I'm called to the married life.

Really? To whom do you intend to be wed? A call to marriage is a call to lifelong union with a specific other. Who is that lucky lady? At best he can say, "I am not called to the priesthood," but to know that requires that one actually first consider that one is called to the priesthood.

3) I am not worthy to be a priest.

Neither am I. And I never will be. I don't know why God calls who he calls. "It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you." (John 15:16)

4) I think it would get too redundant for me.

Redundant like going home to the same wife in the same house with the same kids and the same ugly couch every day for sixty years? Or redundant like working at a job you don't especially enjoy because the benefits are good, the job is secure, and you will be able to put your kids through college? At the very least, the priest changes assignments every six years or so. And there is nothing redundant about the adventure to which Jesus invites us when he invites us to draw close to himself. (Yes, what life lived in this world is not, to some extent redundant? Who of us does not do almost the same thing everyday. This was a question that used to come up when I took youth on a retreat to the Trappist Monastery - "How can they do the same thing every day for the rest of their lives?" There are many things to say in response to this type of question. In the end it's easy when it is what God is calling you to, because there will be much peace and joy in doing it - if you are not called to it, it will probably be pretty miserable. The reality is that almost everyone I know does the same thing everyday. I do the same thing everyday, but I love it, because it is what I am called to. And truth be told, the Diocesan Priesthood is for some a real challenge, because it is often times so "inconvenient" and unpredictable.)

Other young men give me much more compelling answers.

1) I'm afraid. I don't think I can do it.

Well, alone you can't do it. But, "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:3). Do you really suppose he would call you to this and leave you ill equipped to do the job he sets before you? "Cast out into the deep" (Luke 5:4).

2) I want to be a father.

Good! So do I. So should all men. We are all called to fatherhood. It is a question of how we are called to fulfill this vocation to be caretakers, spiritual leaders, and heads of a family. Priesthood is not exclusive of fatherhood. It is fatherhood lived differently.

Indeed, there are a whole variety of excuses, and after you have talked to a certain number of young men, they can begin to get discouraging. So, it is always a great relief when some asks something like, "Hey, Deacon Tyler, were you serious when you told me that you thought I should think about the seminary?" You're darned tootin' I was. When I get a response like that, it typically indicates that this fellow has already been mulling the idea over in his own mind, and is a bit taken aback to hear someone else verbalize his own thoughts to him. In this case, I am always quick to assure him that no one is asking for a lifetime commitment immediately. Just talking out loud about the idea will not prompt the Bishop to lay hands on him the following day. He need not panic. There is lots of time to figure out if the call is authentic. Feel free to call me or ask me about anything. Here is the phone number for the director of vocations.

World Youth Day allowed me to have experiences of both sorts, the encouraging and the discouraging. I suspect that at least one of these young men will be off to the seminary in the fall of 2009. Another may stop going to Church altogether because he is so afraid of the prospect. Nevertheless, to have talked to them was worthwhile. As I mentiond, many young men are trying hard not to hear the call. If someone speaks to them, it is hard to ignore it. Likewise, other young men may not know how to hear the call, and will not until someone speaks to them and suggests that they consider priesthood. So, here are my suggestions for ways that you can help them hear, dear readers.

1) Pray for vocations every day.

2) Look around your parish (the boy servers are a good place to start). If you sense that a particular young man (of any age) might make a good priest, tell him so.

3) Let your sons know that you are open to the idea of them pursuing a vocation to the priesthood. This is especially important for fathers. Your son is unlikely to consider priesthood unless he knows that his dad is going to support the idea.

4) Talk positively about vocations to the priesthood and your own priest(s).

5) Don't be afraid to ask young men if they have thought about entering the priesthood. If you notice something special about them, chances are, they are hearing it too and are doing their best to ignore it. Help them hear. Be persistent, but don't nag. Statistics suggest that a young man needs to be asked at least six times before he will even consider going to visit the seminary. Don't be afraid to say something more than once even though he tries to rebuff you at first.

There is no vocations crisis. There are lots of vocations around. We all have a role to play in helping men realize it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A New Consecrated Virgin in the Diocese of Richmond

The following story is a slight reworking of the original UPI story:

For the first time in its 188 year history, a young Virginia woman has made her vows as a consecrated , perpetual virgin in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond.

Bernadette Snyder, 29, made her vows before Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo in the rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity of Women Living in the World, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported Sunday.

As a part of the ceremony in May, Bishop DiLorenzo gave her a gold band as a symbol of her spousal relationship with Jesus Christ.

"He completes me," Snyder told the newspaper. "I don't even know if marriage is the proper term; I feel like he's my husband."

According to the article, the rite fell into disuse by the eighth or ninth century. The Vatican restored it in 1970.

The U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins estimates there are 200 consecrated virgins nationwide. Most of those consecrations have come in the last decade, said Judith Stegman, the group's president.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Portrait: Iraqi Christian's path to the priesthood"

When Baghdad fell to American troops five years ago, Yusuf Rabat was studying at a seminary in the city.

From the Telegraph
by Damien McElroy

He could never have anticipated how his cloistered path to the priesthood would be thrown into turmoil by the new era after Saddam Hussein's downfall.

Babel College, which housed an ancient library, was a treasure of the eastern Christian Church and narrowly escaped the looters who pillaged Baghdad from the day Saddam was toppled.

"I never thought when I left for Baghdad that such terrible things would happen. We were on own from the first day of war," said Mr Rabat, 32.

When the looting subsided, Baghdad's suburb of Dora, where the college was located, steadily fell under the sway of Islamic insurgents. Mr Rabat left to study in Rome in 2005, shortly before the seminary evacuated its entire staff, who moved en masse to Irbil in northern Iraq in 2006.

Some 500 Christian families also fled Dora after they were threatened by Islamist radicals. Letters delivered by night had demanded forced conversions and the marriage of Christian girls to Islamist fighters.

The tragedy of Iraq's Christians overshadowed Mr Rabat's time in Rome. He would regularly attend vigils where prayers were offered for brethren under threat.

Mr Rabat's former neighbours were kidnapped and held to ransom. Bombs exploded at Christian churches in Baghdad and women were forced to wear the veil in public.

Then extremists killed his cousin, Ragheed Ganni, a prominent priest who was shot as he celebrated mass last year.

Catholic dioceses in Ireland, where Fr Ragheed had studied, invited Mr Rabat to visit last summer.

"They asked for mementos of him and erected an altar in his honour at a place of pilgrimage," he said. "It was amazing to see the impact he had and sad that he was no longer here."

The trip inspired a determination that he would return to Iraq after his ordination.

The ordeal of Iraq's Christians is far from over but Mr Rabat, now Fr Paulos, is adamant that an ancient community will survive.

"Sayreville man finds his calling as a Roman Catholic priest"

From MyCentralJersey.com

By Susan Loyer
Photo by Augusto F. Menezes

It started as a whisper, but grew louder and louder, until it couldn't be ignored.

That's when Jack O'Kane took the leap.

At age 34, he entered Immaculate Conception Seminary of Seton Hall University and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on May 24 at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral Church in Metuchen. O'Kane was the only priest scheduled for ordination in the Diocese of Metuchen this year.

""Since I was a child, I always thought about becoming a priest,'' said the newest addition to Our Lady of Victories parish in Sayreville.
""Then one day, while on a retreat with the St. Bartholomew's Men's Group of East Brunswick, the first conference priest gave a talk on "The Call.' I'm listening to the
words, and it's pounding at my heart. Here I am thinking that I've been given the call, and I'm saying "No' or at least keeping it at arm's distance.''

After the conference, O'Kane approached the speaker, the Rev. Joseph Kerrigan Jr., who is now pastor of Sacred Heart Church, New Brunswick.

""I asked him what seminary was like,'' O'Kane said. ""He said it was good I was asking because I would be there for five years. He told me priesthood just doesn't happen overnight. That was news to me. I was 33 and thought, "That's a long time,'
but I wasn't discouraged.

""I thought, "If that's what it takes, I'm going to go for it,' and I did. From the day I moved into the seminary until the day I left, it was a really, really happy time. It gave me great joy being there because it really pointed to the priesthood and ordination. The day of my ordination was the greatest day of my life.''

O'Kane, whose hobbies include pool, basketball and golf, was brought up in East Brunswick, with four siblings.

His parents, Barbara and John O'Kane, are devout Catholics, he said.

""They're living saints,'' he said. ""They believe in prayer and encouraged us and taught us to pray. They lived the life of faith. They raised us by example, as well as by words.''

O'Kane attended St. Bartholomew School in East Brunswick, St. Joseph
High School in Metuchen and Rutgers University.

During his college years, the funloving, burly Irishman worked as a waiter and bartender at the Metuchen Country Club. After college, he took a job as the club's assistant golf professional.

After four years, he joined two of his sisters, Katie and Maggie, and went to work for a company selling computers. His brother, Tom, later joined the firm.

O'Kane finally realized something was missing from his life after a discussion with his sister Barbara, who has since gone on to pursue her calling as a nun.

""I started to ask myself, "Why I am still thinking about becoming a priest?'‚'' he said. ""I've got a good job. I've got a lot of friends. Life was pretty good, so why was I still thinking about it?''

O'Kane said he prayed for guidance, and his prayers were soon answered.

""The day I started telling people, I was completely at peace,'' he said.
""It was wonderful for me. I finally had admitted it.''

During his seminary years, O'Kane served in various parishes including St. Matthew's in Edison, St. Thomas the Apostle in Old Bridge and St. Joseph, Holy Family and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, all in Carteret.

As a deacon, he served at Our Lady of Mount Virgin in Middlesex Borough.

O'Kane joins the Rev. Michael Krull, pastor of the Main Street parish, and the Rev. Jack Grimes. He is looking forward to his time at Our Ladies of Victories parish.

""Right now I want to focus on being a good priest,'' he said. ""The seminary has prepared me well, but there is still so much more to learn on the job. I look forward to helping people grow in faith and help foster more vocations. I think some day I'll
be ready for my own parish.''

Read the rest of the article HERE.

"3 Priorities for Promoting Vocations"

From ZENIT

Interview With Dominican Sister and Bishops

By Kathleen Naab
Photo by John Russell

NASHVILLE, Tennessee, JULY 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- There are three high priorities in fostering vocations to the religious and priestly life, said a Dominican sister with 15 years of experience in vocational work.

Sister Catherine Marie Hopkins is now the executive director of the Dominican Campus in Nashville where the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia own and operate Overbrook School, St. Cecilia Academy and Aquinas College.

Recently named a member of the U.S. bishops' national advisory council, Sister Hopkins suggests the three highest priorities in fostering vocations: education, sacramental devotion and youth ministry that exposes young people to both prayer and evangelization.

ZENIT spoke with Sister Hopkins about supporting young women who are discerning a vocation to the consecrated life, and about how she discovered her own call.

Q: You worked for 15 years as vocation director for your order. What was the key to finding your own vocation? Did your own experience help you to aid other women in discerning theirs?

Sister Hopkins: The key to finding my own vocation was the realization that God had the plan and I just needed to discover exactly what that plan was. It began with inner turmoil at the thought that God could ask such a thing of me, but I very quickly found out that if he were calling, everything that I needed in order to respond would be provided by him as well.

That brought me tremendous freedom and my turmoil was replaced by a very strong attraction.

I was 24 years old and very happy, but not at peace since I couldn’t say for sure what God’s will was for my life. All I knew with certainty was that daily Mass had made me hunger for more, and so I went in search of where I could best root a growing desire to give of myself. I finally investigated religious life so that I could rule it out and marry with a clear conscience. When I actually visited our community and saw very tangible joy, youthful zeal and a long history of fidelity, fear was reduced by a newly formed conviction that this is what God had created me to do.

I would say that my own experience made me sensitive as a vocation director to the fact that successful discernment takes place apart from any pressure and within the challenging silence of prayer. When I looked for God’s will, I sought advice and asked lots of questions, but I wanted to make a decision that, while informed, drew strength from an interior conviction that I recognized as coming from God.

The Dominican Sisters in Nashville understood that it wasn’t a matter of recruitment but of exposure.

As a vocation director, I made it a point always to respect the delicate interior struggle through which most people must pass. My job was not to make a good sales pitch, but to convey the beauty of our life and to expose young women to it through a visit or retreat experience. I had to help those who had the inclination, but struggled with uncertainty, realize that the simultaneous fear and attraction they felt was normal; and that a sense of unworthiness is not a bad thing since really none of us is “worthy” of divine espousal! Making the choice entails a movement away from a career mentality to the realization that religious life is about giving yourself to a love that is without limit.

Q: You have three brothers that are priests. Do you think there is a different strategy for discerning and fostering the vocation of young women than for young men? In what ways?

Sister Hopkins: My experience has been that, in general, men take a lot longer in the discernment process, whether it regards marriage or religious life. Once a woman has “conviction” she is usually impatient to begin a process.

I wonder if men tend to intellectualize it in the beginning, whereas most women religious begin intuitively and very privately. They may struggle longer before admitting they are considering the idea, but once they discern, it is very much a matter of the heart and they are propelled past fears and natural ties to offer that gift of self without reserve.

Men need to balance their discernment with devotion and women need to consciously anchor the process with an intellectual understanding of the call.

In guiding women in discernment, the idea of espousal is a considerable attraction since we are all programmed by our feminine nature to love and to nurture in a unique way. I had aspirations of a big family and came to understand that God wasn’t asking me to deny that desire but to expand it!

Both men and women need to know that a desire to enter into the married state is not only good, but is even necessary if one is considering religious life. The absence of such natural desire may signal a problem of selfishness or difficulty in giving or receiving love. Such an emotional handicap would make happiness in the religious life impossible.

Regarding my brothers, each of them was different in his discernment. A discussion about them is a real study in temperaments. I used to hold them up as examples to illustrate that there is no "one type" that God calls, but that each of us with our unique characters can contribute in unique ways. And yes, my brothers are "unique characters." We weren’t born religious and occasionally have to remind people that we were in the mainstream in our youth and that none of us was voted “Most likely to become a religious” in high school. There is hope in that fact.

Q: There are certain orders of both men and women religious -- including your own -- that have enjoyed tremendous growth in the last decades. What do you see at the key to this growth?

Sister Hopkins: I believe the key to growth in vocations is found in the witness of joyfully living an ideal that is single-hearted, Eucharistic, faithful to the Church and her teachings. It is lived in the vibrancy of community life while rooted in prayer. That was what I experienced with the Dominican Sisters in Nashville.

I believe that young people today are as idealistic as they always have been and they are looking for a way to channel their zeal and to find support in a desire to grow in holiness. I do not think it is fancy programs or complicated spiritualities that attract, but rather simple fidelity.

There are movements of the Holy Spirit lighting fires in many directions today that are picking up significant momentum and should fill us with hope. The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious is an organization of religious communities who are committed to living the essentials of religious life and are supportive of one another. I would recommend that young women exploring a religious vocation visit the CMSWR Web site to see the many communities which are growing today, in spite of reports to the contrary.

Q: There is much talk of the vocations crisis and whether or not it is nearing an end for priestly vocations. How about vocations for women religious? Is the crisis nearing the end?

Sister Hopkins: Women religious have been the backbone of social service, education and health care in this country. The drop in the number of women entering religious life has impacted these fields and it will take many years to see a significant return.

I am reminded, however that the Holy Spirit is not limited by Gallup Polls or the predictions of sociological studies.

Consider the simplicity and tenacity of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta at a time when the numbers of women religious were declining. Her response to God’s call yielded a new religious order that grew to over 4,000 sisters, an associated brotherhood of 300 members, and over 100,000 lay volunteers, operating 610 missions in 123 countries.

What our world needs is more Mother Teresas, people with zeal, humility and a fearless love. Over the past 20 years I have seen the numbers of women inquiring into the religious life grow both in numbers, quality and openness. Given the fact that our culture is not supportive of such ideas, nothing short of grace can explain it.

Q: You were recently named to the U.S. bishops' national advisory council. On the heels of Benedict XVI's visit to the United States, what do you see as the priorities for fostering vocations in the States?

Sister Hopkins: I think that in order to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life the three highest priorities should be in the areas of education, sacramental devotion and youth ministry that exposes young people to both prayer and evangelization.

Young people are hungry to learn the faith and quickly recognize the unreasonableness of relativism. They have a natural desire to “know” God and will be more likely to devote themselves to a life dedicated to him if they have been educated in the faith. I think that this generation is quick to identify the need for such an apostolic focus since the lack of it has produced such confusion and suffering. It is important that the Church continues to strengthen Catholic education that is focused, faithful and rooted in excellence.

Devotion to the sacraments is key to discovering as well as nurturing a vocation. When young people benefit from regular reception of the Eucharist, confession and begin to develop a prayer life, then God’s call has a chance of being heard. Eucharistic adoration is drawing many vocations to the priesthood and religious life, a fact which makes sense if you consider that such time spent in God’s presence brings light and warmth to our souls.

There is a movement of the Holy Spirit in progress that increases in intensity whenever youth affectively influence one another. There is nothing more powerful than the witness of young people striving to know and do God’s will. Love is not meant to be contained, and so when we discover the Person of Christ, it is natural to experience an interior compulsion to share that discovery with others.

Substantial youth ministry which prompts conversion, devotion and exposure to positive peer influences has been successfully producing vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Of course, it is important for young people to be exposed to priests and religious who are joyfully and faithfully living that commitment.

Pope Benedict put it best to the youth he spoke to in Dunwoodie when he challenged them saying, “Strive for a pattern of life truly marked by charity, chastity and humility, in imitation of Christ, the eternal High Priest, of whom you are to become living icons.”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"New vocations director taking God’s call to new places"

From Catholic Review online - St. Louis
by Jean M. Schildz

CALLING THOSE TO SERVE CHRIST — Father Edward M. Rice, director designate of the archdiocese’s Office of Vocations, speaks with Kenrick-Glennon seminarian Paul Hamilton last week before celebrating Mass at Father Dempsey’s Charities in Midtown St. Louis. Photo by Rebecca Venegoni Tower

Father Edward M. Rice need only glance at the portrait of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in his new office to know the archdiocese’s vocations efforts are in good hands.

The native St. Louisan officially becomes the archdiocese’s director of vocations Friday, Aug. 1. He will succeed Father Michael T. Butler, who after 14 years in the position was released from duty this June by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke to serve with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

In his first act, Father Rice has placed the vocations office under the Sacred Heart’s protection. Said the priest, "Whatever success, whatever failures happen, I’m just going to unite it to the Sacred Heart."

The large framed picture of Jesus pointing to his Sacred Heart was one of the last things Father Rice removed from the rectory at St. John the Baptist Parish, where he had served as pastor since 2000. It also was one of the first things he hung up in his vocations office at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

The painting was a wedding gift to his parents, John and Helen Rice, in 1952. It hung over the mantle in the Rices’ home for years and later was presented to him as a gift by one of his sisters. Father Rice is number six of 10 siblings, seven boys and three girls. All but one still live in the St. Louis area.

His father, John, died at age 57 while Father Rice was in high school. His dad had survived serving in both World War II and the Korean War. The family claims "it was the 10 kids that did him in. The Germans and the Koreans were nothing compared to us," Father Rice joked.

The priest said his mother instilled in him a devotion to the Sacred Heart. She died in 1988, a year after he was ordained. It is largely because of his devotion to the Sacred Heart that he chose to start a monthly Holy Hour for vocations.

He became director designate of the vocations office June 17. No stranger to the seminary, Father Rice ran Cardinal Glennon College from 1994 to 2000, worked closely with Father Butler and lived at the seminary in Shrewsbury.

"It’s almost like coming home," the 47-year-old said. He is excited to be living at Holy Redeemer Rectory this time around. "I just wanted to be parish-based. I love parish life, and I think that’s the kind of vocation we want to cultivate."

Father Butler has been a big help to him in learning the ropes, Father Rice said. The archbishop asked him to continue to build upon Father Butler’s successful endeavors, including Kenrick-Glennon Days for sixth- through eighth-grade boys; Camp Mater Dei, a camp for girls operated through the vocations office; the monthly John Gabriel Society meetings for high school students discerning a vocation; and the archbishop’s annual retreat.

"It’s so obvious Father Butler has a great love for this program because he knows how important it is to have good, solid priests. I’m just very lucky to be able to step into" his shoes, Father Rice said.

To further vocations, Father Rice plans to reach out to Newman Centers on college campuses, locally and beyond, something suggested by the former archbishop of St. Louis.

He particularly will seek out 20-year-olds just establishing a career. "I’m going to go after the college grads and those in the business world who might be dissatisfied but don’t know why they’re dissatisfied and see that possibility as an avenue to vocations."

He also plans to work closely with Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman, FSGM, of the Consecrated Life Apostolate, as he works to promote vocations to religious life.

Father Rice spoke of two major impediments today in cultivating vocations. One is that people may not respond to the call because they’ve never been asked. "So one of my practical goals is to get that question out there."

A second goal of his is to try to change the attitude of some parents toward vocations. Parents want a priest to baptize and marry their children, to be there when somebody dies, he said. "They lament the lack of sisters in our classrooms, but at the same time three out of four would not support their son or daughter" discerning a vocation.

"I think we need to change that attitude and tell them, ‘When you give your heart totally to this vocation, there’s happiness. And I think the bottom line is our parents want to know their kids will be happy, and that you can be happy in this life. So it’s going to be a change of attitude for some of our parents."

He acknowledged that the priests’ scandal in recent years has not helped, "but by the grace of God we’re still getting fine candidates. It just shows the devil has not won. God’s grace is still at work. But the parental attitude is important."

What will be the first thing he does when he officially takes over?

"I’m going to get down on my knees and pray. That’s going to be a daily occurrence. Whatever programs I can cook up, whatever new innovations, if it’s not based on prayer it’s going to fall short. I have to strive to be a man of prayer. That’s essential."

He knows he can’t do this work by himself. "I need our priests squarely behind me looking for those vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I need our parents supporting it at home. We’re all in this together."

A vocation, he said, can survive in a broken home, but it best survives "and is nourished when there’s a good, solid, Catholic family life and prayerful life, a life where the parents bring their kids to Mass on Sundays, there is prayer in the home, and they’re supportive of the Church. It’s crucial."

"Why cannot women be ordained?"

From The Pilot (Boston)
by Dale O'Leary

The Catholic Church has never ordained women to the priesthood and never will. However, with all the changes in the roles of women in the world, it is not surprising that some asked: Is the Church’s restriction of the priesthood to men ordained by God or merely an accommodation to culture?

In his letter on the dignity and vocation of women, John Paul II explained the reason for this practice:

“Since Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, linked it in such an explicit way to the priestly service of the Apostles, it is legitimate to conclude that he thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is ‘feminine’ and what is ‘masculine.’ It is a relationship willed by God both in the mystery of creation and in the mystery of Redemption. It is the Eucharist above all that expresses the redemptive act of Christ the Bridegroom towards the Church the Bride. This is clear and unambiguous when the sacramental ministry of the Eucharist, in which the priest acts ‘in persona Christi,’ is performed by a man.”

The priesthood isn’t a job. The priest is a sign of Christ the bridegroom. The Church is the bride. This just doesn’t work if the priest is a woman. The Eucharist must be wheat bread and grape wine, not rice cakes and orange juice. The matter matters. So it is with ordination.

The question that should be asked is: Why do some women want to be the bridegroom when they are called to be the bride?

Some women view any social recognition of sex difference as unjust discrimination. They have been influenced by postmodernist/social deconstructionist professors who argue, in spite of the undeniable scientific evidence to the contrary, that the differences between men and women are not natural, but artificial social constructions that can and should be eliminated. While narrow or demeaning stereotypes, which limit women’s participation in society, should be eliminated, the natural differences between men and women are part of the goodness of creation and cannot be wished away. Church teaching is rooted in reality. She defends the rights and equality of women, but also appropriate recognition of differences between men and women.

Woman is called to be a sign of the Church no matter her state in life--as virgin waiting for the bridegroom, as bride a sign of the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, or as mother nurturing new life. This is a wonderful vocation. Women can achieve their full dignity without imitating men.

In addition to the denial of the natural goodness of sex difference, those pushing for the ordination of women have a warped idea of power. They see the priesthood as a position of power and believe that if women were ordained that they would be able to change Church teaching on other issues. This shows their total lack of understanding of what it means to be Catholic. The leaders of the Church do not have the power to change the teachings handed down to them. To be Catholic is to believe that God reveals his will to his people and protects the Church from error.

Over the centuries, controversies have arisen. The debates have been heated, but in the end, the truth emerged and became part of the unchangeable treasury of the faith.

In his apostolic letter on reserving priestly ordination to men alone (May 1994), Pope John Paul II sought to eliminate any confusion over this issue:

“...in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

John Paul II doesn’t say it is his opinion, but that he has “no authority’ to change what has been handed down to him.

In an age where everything is challenged, where rebellion is praised, where people build on the sand of opinion and ideology, it is good to belong to a Church that is built on a rock. It is good to know that God loves us so much that he has revealed the truth to us and will protect us no matter how far from truth our culture strays. Those women who have mocked God by pretending to be ordained have built on sand and what they have constructed will be washed away, like sand castles that crumble as the tide sweeps over the beach.

Dale O’Leary is the author of “The Gender Agenda” and “One Man, One Woman.”

"Fraternity founded by Pope John Paul II"

From the B.C. Catholic
By Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo

The origin of the Societies of Apostolic Life (one of which is the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter) lie in the 16th and 17th centuries, with the establishment of the Oratorians by St. Philip Neri, and the Daughters of Charity by St. Vincent de Paul, who resisted efforts to organize them as a religious orders.

We must thank the New Code that makes these societies similar to, yet distinct from, the institutes of consecrated life.

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the followers of the traditional Latin rite of the Mass were jubilant when, on March 23, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in his own diocese of Rome entrusted them with the stately church of the Most Holy Trinity as a personal parish.

This was not only a source of joy for friends of the fraternity but also a relief, since their former quarters of San Gregorio dei Muratori in Rome were too small for the large crowds that gathered for many of their liturgical events.

On Easter Sunday the Pope decreed the establishment of the parish "in order to warrant proper pastoral care for the entire community of traditional faithful residing in the same diocese."

This is a milestone for the fraternity. It is not only the 10th parish that has been established as a full personal parish, but it is also the first in Europe.

On May 7, shortly after the official announcement, Father Joseph Kramer of the Fraternity of St. Peter was named the first pastor of this personal parish. He explained that the apostolate of the Fraternity of St. Peter had been started in Rome in 1988 under the auspices of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, with papal approval. Today there are 200 priests of the fraternity in dioceses all over the world serving the faithful who are attached to the Traditional Mass in Latin.

Speaking of what the new parish would mean to the fraternity, Father Kramer first acknowledged that it was not only "a great sign of trust on the part of the diocese of the Holy Father, but it also involved great responsibility, because Rome has always been an example to the rest of the Church."

When asked about continuing tradition, he answered: "St. Philip [parish] seems to have been the first to begin the Forty Hours Devotion here in Rome, and we will certainly continue that tradition."

Holy Trinity Church was built in 1597 in the wake of the Tridentine liturgical reform. Numerous features make the church ideal for the fraternity: "The visibility of the altar and the raised, large, well-lit sanctuary with the broad altar rail. While there are eight side chapels, there are no side aisles, and everything focusses on the main high altar."

A most interesting fact about the fraternity is that its founder was Pope John Paul II himself, when he proclaimed his Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, defending the purity of the liturgical tradition of the Mass while at the same time condemning the schismatic actions of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

He established the so-called Priestly Confraternity of St. Pius X in Switzerland to train priests in pre-conciliar Catholicism. The Pope declared him ipso facto excommunicated for consecrating four bishops without the necessary papal mandate.

As the Pope had foreseen it, many priests and seminarians left the schismatic movement in order to reconcile with the Holy Father. They realized that union with the Successor of St. Peter and the living Magisterium of the Church are not optional. A seminary was first established in Wigratzbad, Germany, a second in Denton, Neb.

According to the Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei Adflicta of Pope John Paul II, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter now takes care "of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition to whom respect must be shown to use the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962."

In his recent Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of preserving the Latin Mass.

Perhaps the circumstances of the foundation are symbolized in the fraternity's coat of arms: the keys of St. Peter on a blue background, and three tear drops, recalling Peter's denial and his return.

Archbishop Raymond Roussin, SM, established on June 30 Holy Family Parish in Vancouver as a personal parish for the use of the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962. Its pastor is Father Erik Deprey, FSSP.

Great Ordination Photo Album

Hat tip to New Liturgical Movement and Traditional Vocations for highlighting the beautiful ordination photos from the recent ICRSS (Institute of Christ the King) Priesthood Ordination. Enjoy the pictures if you have a chance:

Friday, July 25, 2008

What kinds of Vocations Ads Speak to Young Men of Today?


"Wanted: More than a few good priests for Norwich Diocese"
Church leaders hope radio ads will fuel some interest
From The Day - Connecticut
By Kira Goldenberg

Norwich - “Have you ever thought that God may be asking something special or heroic of you?”

That's what Norwich Diocese Bishop Michael Cote is asking over the airwaves in a radio advertisement seeking to recruit men aged 18 to 50 to the Catholic priesthood.

”It's a new approach being used in our diocese. It's an approach that has been used in other dioceses that has found some success,” Vocations Director Gregory Galvin said.

The 60-second ad, written by diocese officials (Credit where credit is do, at least the Diocese is running ads - they are doing something to help promote vocations and create a culture of vocations. I suspect that if you want to reach more strong young men, the ad could be a bit stronger - not the words of His Excellency Michael Cote, but the music in the background. I don't know if flutes are going to strike a chord with young men aged 18 to 30. As I've always said, the Marine Corps has perfected the art of moving young men, real men, to do something heroic. Of course people will say that we don't need a bunch of gung ho clericalists, but we need not worry about this, that is what seminary is for - to form these men into good and holy priests. But to make that first step, to get guys to take that heroic first step, they are not going to respond to something that seems weak.) and recorded by Cote, has been running one week per month on four local radio stations since March. The bishop was happy to narrate the ad, said communications director Michael Strammiello.

There is also a TV ad featuring Galvin that ran on ESPN in the Middletown and Tolland areas during the NCAA “March Madness” men's basketball tournament, Galvin said.

”You want to market it where the gentlemen are watching. High school guys, college guys - and they all watch March Madness,” he said.

This push into new forms of targeted outreach coincides with sparse times for the diocese's priestly ranks - there are currently 76 parishes and only 62 resident pastors, Galvin said, adding that an ideal would be 228 priests, or three per parish.

Church officials announced some belt-tightening last week; four missions and parishes are closing while 13 other parishes will share pastors starting in September.

”Until the present decline in priestly vocations is stemmed, we have no other course,” Cote said of the restructuring in a letter to parishioners.

The diocese ordained three priests this year and none last year. It serves an area that is 36 percent Catholic, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Nationwide, Catholics comprise 22 percent of the population.

Galvin compared the diocesan ad campaign to military recruiting ads, made to make young - in this case - men think about a field that might not otherwise cross their radar. The approach has been used for almost a decade by the neighboring Providence Diocese. In Rhode Island, Catholics are 59 percent of the population, according to CARA statistics.

Providence's Office of Vocations has a comprehensive Web site, catholicpriest.com. “Have what it takes?” the site asks, providing short video clips in which priests discuss a life devoted to God and lists to help potential recruits discover whether they may be good fits for the priesthood.

”We just feel like that's the way to go nowadays because, for good or bad, we feel our culture is more apt to sit and watch something than they are to read,” said Providence Diocese Vocations Director Michael Najim said.

”They can be sitting down, watching a college basketball game, and next thing they know there's a commercial about the priesthood, and it seems incongruous,” Najim said. “It's not something that people think about every day.”

He added that his diocese runs ads around college winter break.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

LISTEN to the radio spot HERE.

Listen to the radio spot above and then watch these videos for comparison/contrast:











And perhaps some of the ultimate examples of what we are up against, what we are competing against in regards to capture young men's imagination:





I'm not saying ads for the Priesthood need to have the look and feel of military recruiting ads, but this is what they are watching - our ads need to be at least as captivating and motivating as these ads, if not more so. If we don't, if we fail to produce high quality, engaging media, then we will not be able to get a foot in the door - just enough of a crack that allows them to hear what God may be calling them to - their true calling in life and service much greater than that of country.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When a tree falls in my yard...

it takes out the cable line, and with it, the internet. Sorry for the no posts today, but I was without computer access this morning. Things should be back up and running tonight or tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Rockford diocese defying national statistics"

From the Northwest Herald (Illinois)
By ELENA GRIMM
Photo by Travis Haughton
It’s a question that many young men struggle with – and a question upon which the future of the Catholic Church depends.

The Rev. John Gow, one of seven men ordained into the priesthood by the Catholic Diocese of Rockford in May, grappled with this question as a student at Elgin Community College, spending his time in prayer and attending daily Mass.

“I was beginning to hear a call but it was such a different thing,” said Gow, now associate pastor at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Cary.

“How do I know this is real?” he said he would ask himself.

So, Gow decided to consult a mentor – a priest with whom he had grown close.

“I knocked on his office door when Mass was done,” he said. “I asked, ‘How did you know that you were called to be a priest?’ ”

Fast-forward about eight years to this spring, when Gow was preparing to celebrate his first Mass in Hampshire, his hometown. He knew he had found his calling.

“You knew that what you were about to do was really, really big. Obviously the nervousness was there,” Gow said. “I vested in the basement and moved to top of the church.”

Thirty seconds later, the opening hymn began.

“I got this overwhelming feeling,” he said. “Everything I had been anticipating for years had finally reached its apex at that moment.”

It’s an apex that Gow and his class of seven ordinants in the Rockford Diocese recently have experienced.

Seven new priests doesn’t seem like many for a diocese of 450,000 Catholics (Yes it does!)– but it’s definitely a blessing as national priest shortages threaten the future of the Catholic church.

“We’re doing very well, thanks be to God,” said Penny Wiegert, editor of the Rockford Diocese’s newspaper, The Observer. “We are very fortunate here in the diocese that we have exceeded the national norm [of new priests].”

How the diocese – which includes McHenry and Kane county parishes along with nine other northern Illinois counties – is able to grow and sustain priests in the area might stem from the positive relationships local families have with their church leaders.

A study done by the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, a department of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, found that almost eight out of 10 men being ordained said they initially were invited by a priest to consider the priesthood.

Wiegert added that although the number was “unusual” for a diocese of that size, it had become a usual pattern during the past few years. Seven men also were ordained in 2007, and a few years before that, 11 were ordained. (Incredible!)

There are 165 active priests within the diocese and 45 retired priests, or one for every 2,700 Catholics. The national priest-to-Catholic ratio is one per 4,700 Catholics. But this blessing is clouded with an unknown future, as priests age and retirement rates climb faster than ordination rates.

“It would be a blessing to have more priests than we need,” Wiegert said. “We’re keeping up, but we’re meeting the needs that we have right now – yes, we have made great progress in the past 10 years. We could use more priests always.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Mass For Young Religious and Seminarians"

From the Love and Life Site blog
by Sr. Mariam Caritas, SV

“In a very special way, my greeting goes to the seminarians and young religious who are present among us. Like the young Israelites in today’s first reading, they are a sign of hope and renewal for God’s people; and, like those young Israelites, they will have the task of building up the Lord’s house in the coming generation.” (from the mass homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral July 19th). The sign of hope and renewal that Pope Benedict described us as is radiated first from he who has become known as the “Pope of hope.” We aspire to only magnify what he is teaching us and in that will build up the Lord’s house in the coming generation. (See Pope Benedict XVI's homily HERE.)

It was only appropriate that during World Youth Day our Holy Father desired to gather with the seminarians and young religious from across the globe. As Pope Benedict entered the Cathedral a shout of “viva el papa” came from one of the seminarians hovering around the front door where a sea of cassock clad seminarians and habited religious were flooding the center isle to get a closer glimpse of the pontiff.

The vibrancy and youth of the Church’s vocations were obvious by looking around at the faces of those religious and seminarians that were in attendance. At the mass on Sunday at Randwick Racecourse, the Pope noted how the Church is young. It was all too apparent at this solemn mass in Sydney’s Cathedral that Her vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are also young and filled with great love for the Supreme Pontiff.

During this mass with young religious and seminarians Pope Benedict dedicated the Cathedral’s new altar. How fitting that this took place in the presence of those who are preparing their souls for lives of consecration. Cardinal Pell reminded us that Christ is our Head and true altar and all Christians, most especially those consecrated as religious and priests are also spiritual altars on which the sacrifice of a holy life is offered to God.

As the Holy Father was reciting the prayers of the rite of dedication I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to religious consecration. As I along with six other novices are preparing for our own profession of vows in a few short weeks I was all the more compelled by these prayers when he said “Bless this altar…that it may ever be reserved for the sacrifice of Christ.” As consecrated souls we are called to be a sacrificial offering out of love for the Lord. During his homily the Pope emphasized to us that “you yourselves will become living altars, where Christ’s sacrificial love is made present as an inspiration and a source of spiritual nourishment to everyone you meet.”

During these days in Sydney with the young Catholics of the world we saw this everyday in the numerous encounters we experienced. Whether it was local Australians just wanting to be in our presence and chat about what it means to be a Christian. To daily mass going college students inquiring about the possibility of their own vocation to religious life. No matter the situation these people desired a sign of hope. They desired authentic love with the living God. They desired to encounter Jesus Christ and were given the great treasure of that experience with His Vicar on earth whom they long follow in order to build up the Lord’s house in the coming generation.

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI at WYD Mass with Young Seminarians and Religious

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
WITH BISHOPS, SEMINARIANS AND NOVICES

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Mary's Cathedral, Sydney
Saturday, 19 July 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this noble cathedral I rejoice to greet my brother Bishops and priests, and the deacons, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of Sydney. In a very special way, my greeting goes to the seminarians and young religious who are present among us. Like the young Israelites in today’s first reading, they are a sign of hope and renewal for God’s people; and, like those young Israelites, they will have the task of building up the Lord’s house in the coming generation. As we admire this magnificent edifice, how can we not think of all those ranks of priests, religious and faithful laity who, each in his or her own way, contributed to the building up of the Church in Australia? Our thoughts turn in particular to those settler families to whom Father Jeremiah O’Flynn entrusted the Blessed Sacrament at his departure, a “small flock” which cherished and preserved that precious treasure, passing it on to the succeeding generations who raised this great tabernacle to the glory of God. Let us rejoice in their fidelity and perseverance, and dedicate ourselves to carrying on their labours for the spread of the Gospel, the conversion of hearts and the growth of the Church in holiness, unity and charity!

We are about to celebrate the dedication of the new altar of this venerable cathedral. As its sculpted frontal powerfully reminds us, every altar is a symbol of Jesus Christ, present in the midst of his Church as priest, altar and victim (cf. Preface of Easter V). Crucified, buried and raised from the dead, given life in the Spirit and seated at the right hand of the Father, Christ has become our great high priest, eternally making intercession for us. In the Church’s liturgy, and above all in the sacrifice of the Mass consummated on the altars of the world, he invites us, the members of his mystical Body, to share in his self-oblation. He calls us, as the priestly people of the new and eternal covenant, to offer, in union with him, our own daily sacrifices for the salvation of the world.

In today’s liturgy the Church reminds us that, like this altar, we too have been consecrated, set “apart” for the service of God and the building up of his Kingdom. All too often, however, we find ourselves immersed in a world that would set God “aside”. In the name of human freedom and autonomy, God’s name is passed over in silence, religion is reduced to private devotion, and faith is shunned in the public square. At times this mentality, so completely at odds with the core of the Gospel, can even cloud our own understanding of the Church and her mission. We too can be tempted to make the life of faith a matter of mere sentiment, thus blunting its power to inspire a consistent vision of the world and a rigorous dialogue with the many other visions competing for the minds and hearts of our contemporaries.

Yet history, including the history of our own time, shows that the question of God will never be silenced, and that indifference to the religious dimension of human existence ultimately diminishes and betrays man himself. Is that not the message which is proclaimed by the magnificent architecture of this cathedral? Is that not the mystery of faith which will be proclaimed from this altar at every celebration of the Eucharist? Faith teaches us that in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, we come to understand the grandeur of our own humanity, the mystery of our life on this earth, and the sublime destiny which awaits us in heaven (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 24). Faith teaches us that we are God’s creatures, made in his image and likeness, endowed with an inviolable dignity, and called to eternal life. Wherever man is diminished, the world around us is also diminished; it loses its ultimate meaning and strays from its goal. What emerges is a culture, not of life, but of death. How could this be considered “progress”? It is a backward step, a form of regression which ultimately dries up the very sources of life for individuals and all of society.

We know that in the end – as Saint Ignatius of Loyola saw so clearly – the only real “standard” against which all human reality can be measured is the Cross and its message of an unmerited love which triumphs over evil, sin and death, creating new life and unfading joy. The Cross reveals that we find ourselves only by giving our lives away, receiving God’s love as an unmerited gift and working to draw all men and women into the beauty of that love and the light of the truth which alone brings salvation to the world.

It is in this truth – this mystery of faith – that we have been “consecrated” (cf. Jn 17:17-19), and it is in this truth that we are called to grow, with the help of God’s grace, in daily fidelity to his word, within the life-giving communion of the Church. Yet how difficult is this path of consecration! It demands continual “conversion”, a sacrificial death to self which is the condition for belonging fully to God, a change of mind and heart which brings true freedom and a new breadth of vision. Today’s liturgy offers an eloquent symbol of that progressive spiritual transformation to which each of us is called. From the sprinkling of water, the proclamation of God’s word and the invocation of all the saints, to the prayer of consecration, the anointing and washing of the altar, its being clothed in white and apparelled in light – all these rites invite us to re-live our own consecration in Baptism. They invite us to reject sin and its false allure, and to drink ever more deeply from the life-giving springs of God’s grace.

Dear friends, may this celebration, in the presence of the Successor of Peter, be a moment of rededication and renewal for the whole Church in Australia! Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. Indeed, I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured, and I assure them that, as their Pastor, I too share in their suffering. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain and have damaged the Church’s witness. I ask all of you to support and assist your Bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice. It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people. In these days marked by the celebration of World Youth Day, we are reminded of how precious a treasure has been entrusted to us in our young people, and how great a part of the Church’s mission in this country has been dedicated to their education and care. As the Church in Australia continues, in the spirit of the Gospel, to address effectively this serious pastoral challenge, I join you in praying that this time of purification will bring about healing, reconciliation and ever greater fidelity to the moral demands of the Gospel.

I wish now to turn to the seminarians and young religious in our midst, with a special word of affection and encouragement. Dear friends: with great generosity you have set out on a particular path of consecration, grounded in your Baptism and undertaken in response to the Lord’s personal call. You have committed yourselves, in different ways, to accepting Christ’s invitation to follow him, to leave all behind, and to devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness and the service of his people.

In today’s Gospel, the Lord calls us to “believe in the light” (Jn 12:36). These words have a special meaning for you, dear young seminarians and religious. They are a summons to trust in the truth of God’s word and to hope firmly in his promises. They invite us to see, with the eyes of faith, the infallible working of his grace all around us, even in those dark times when all our efforts seem to be in vain. Let this altar, with its powerful image of Christ the Suffering Servant, be a constant inspiration to you. Certainly there are times when every faithful disciple will feel the heat and the burden of the day (cf. Mt 20:12), and the struggle of bearing prophetic witness before a world which can appear deaf to the demands of God’s word. Do not be afraid! Believe in the light! Take to heart the truth which we have heard in today’s second reading: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and for ever” (Heb 13:8). The light of Easter continues to dispel the darkness!

The Lord also calls us to walk in the light (cf. Jn 12:35). Each of you has embarked on the greatest and the most glorious of all struggles, to be consecrated in truth, to grow in virtue, to achieve harmony between your thoughts and ideals, and your words and actions. Enter sincerely and deeply into the discipline and spirit of your programmes of formation. Walk in Christ’s light daily through fidelity to personal and liturgical prayer, nourished by meditation on the inspired word of God. The Fathers of the Church loved to see the Scriptures as a spiritual Eden, a garden where we can walk freely with God, admiring the beauty and harmony of his saving plan as it bears fruit in our own lives, in the life of the Church and in all of history. Let prayer, then, and meditation on God’s word, be the lamp which illumines, purifies and guides your steps along the path which the Lord has marked out for you. Make the daily celebration of the Eucharist the centre of your life. At each Mass, when the Lord’s Body and Blood are lifted up at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, lift up your own hearts and lives, through Christ, with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, as a loving sacrifice to God our Father.

In this way, dear young seminarians and religious, you yourselves will become living altars, where Christ’s sacrificial love is made present as an inspiration and a source of spiritual nourishment to everyone you meet. By embracing the Lord’s call to follow him in chastity, poverty and obedience, you have begun a journey of radical discipleship which will make you “signs of contradiction” (cf. Lk 2:34) to many of your contemporaries. Model your lives daily on the Lord’s own loving self-oblation in obedience to the will of the Father. You will then discover the freedom and joy which can draw others to the Love which lies beyond all other loves as their source and their ultimate fulfilment. Never forget that celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom means embracing a life completely devoted to love, a love that enables you to commit yourselves fully to God’s service and to be totally present to your brothers and sisters, especially those in need. The greatest treasures that you share with other young people – your idealism, your generosity, your time and energy – these are the very sacrifices which you are placing upon the Lord’s altar. May you always cherish this beautiful charism which God has given you for his glory and the building up of the Church!

Dear friends, let me conclude these reflections by drawing your attention to the great stained glass window in the chancel of this cathedral. There Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, is represented enthroned in majesty beside her divine Son. The artist has represented Mary, as the new Eve, offering an apple to Christ, the new Adam. This gesture symbolizes her reversal of our first parents’ disobedience, the rich fruit which God’s grace bore in her own life, and the first fruits of that redeemed and glorified humanity which she has preceded into the glory of heaven. Let us ask Mary, Help of Christians, to sustain the Church in Australia in fidelity to that grace by which the Crucified Lord even now “draws to himself” all creation and every human heart (cf. Jn 12:32). May the power of his Holy Spirit consecrate the faithful of this land in truth, and bring forth abundant fruits of holiness and justice for the redemption of the world. May it guide all humanity into the fullness of life around that Altar, where, in the glory of the heavenly liturgy, we are called to sing God’s praises for ever. Amen.

"A Window for God"

From the Love and Life Site blog
By Sr. Talitha Guadalupe (Sisters of Life novice)

All vocations are of the Cross. Vocation is the place where you realize that what your heart yearns to do is so far beyond you that it can only be accomplished in Christ. Thus you give yourself fully to Christ, sacrificing yourself to Him, and trusting that by doing so you participate in the world’s salvation. Each of us has a unique vocation. Each of us is a unique image of God; no one else can show God to the world as you can. He has a beautiful and totally individual plan for each one of us.


I first discovered my vocation calling at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. I was sixteen at the time and very young in my Catholic faith. For the first time, I saw the Stations of the Cross, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that I experienced the Cross. I saw Jesus sacrifice Himself and knew it was for me. In that same moment, as I was watching Jesus die on the Cross, my older sister leaned over to me and said, “Have you ever thought of being a nun?” In her voice, I heard the voice of God. From the moment onward, I never doubted my religious vocation. However it was not until five years later, when I was on a “Come and See” weekend with the Sisters of Life, that I was able to concretely make the connection between the love of the crucified Christ and my sister’s revealing of my vocation. During those five years, I was searching for signs, for ways of knowing which community I was called to join. Then, when I met the Sisters of Life, I prayed before the Crucifix and I knew I did not need signs. I knew God’s love for me on the Cross was enough. Could there be any greater sign than a God who died for me?


Thus, I entered the Sisters of Life and spent nine months as a postulant, living with the community but not yet being a sister. During this time, I prayed about the mission and identity God had for me. I prayed about who I was in His eyes. Then I was given the gift of entering the novitiate, receiving the holy habit and a religious name, Sister Talitha Guadalupe. One month and one day after entering the novitiate I found myself on a plane to Sydney, Australia to attend another World Youth Day.


When we arrived in Sydney we went immediately to Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. There Sister Mary Anglica pointed out to me something I had never seen before. As you enter the Cathedral, there is a beautiful stained glass window showing the Gospel story from which my name is derived. The window depicts Jesus raising a young girl to life and in the corner is the inscription, “I say to you arise.” In Arabic the words are “Talitha, koum.” Then, the next day when I was praying before Mass, I asked God to show me what my mission was to be for this World Youth Day. I opened the Gospels, and the story was my story, the story of the raising of the little girl. It was as if God was saying to me that my mission was just to be, to be who I am in His eyes and to allow Him to show the world something of Him through me. I was to be His stained glass window, reflecting to the world an image of Him that no one else could.


I stand in awe of this reality. Always in the past, I have prayed for signs to know who I am called to be. After this World Youth Day I feel that God has revealed to me who He wants me to be. He asks me to be His Sister Talitha and He entrusts me to the care of Our Lady of Guadalupe that this may be so. Now I need to pray for a different type of grace, for the grace not to discover my identity but to live inside it and to truly experience it as God’s gift to me. I was given the grace to touch Pope Benedict (at the Mass on Saturday morning for priests, seminarians and young religious) right in front of my window in St. Mary’s Cathedral, the window of Talitha, after to having prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe that this may be so. In this I feel that through the Church, God is asking me to truly live my identity, to truly allow Him to radiate through me.
This was indeed my experience of World Youth Day. I did not witness any major conversions, but I was able to be present to many people and I saw the power of this. I saw the power of allowing myself to be small before God and simply to be where He placed me. One encounter in particular resonates in my heart. Towards the beginning of the week, I was walking and saw some anti-Catholic cartoons lying on the ground. I felt compelled to pray for those who were handing out the cartoons, and did so, entrusting them to Mary and asking her to draw them into the heart of Christ and to heal any bitterness they may be feeling. Then, a few days later, I actually saw a man, “Peter,” passing out these cartoons. At first I walked by, but then I felt impelled to go back. I asked Peter what he was doing, and he said he was just passing out some Baptist biblical literature. Then he looked out into the sea of pilgrims walking by, a sense of wonder came over him, and he said, “There are tens of thousands of people here and Christ died for each one of them.” My heart too stopped before this marvel and together Peter and I were filled with wonder at God and His love. Then I asked Peter to pray for me and shared with him my name. He smiled when he heard my name, recognizing it from the Scriptures, and said he would always remember me. He thanked me for being sweet and I left. I do not know what God will do with this encounter, but it touched me. It touched me to be able to share with Peter, a man who was attacking the Church, my identity as a daughter of the Church, and to be able to stand together in wonder before God.


God is awesome in the truest sense of the word, and He has a mission for each one of us. Sometimes we wonder what this mission could be; we worry that we will never find it. But we need not worry. Eventually God leads us to a place where our hearts meet His in such a way that without really even being aware of it, we radiate His presence. We are each uniquely created in His image and thus we each show something of Him to the world.


As Sisters of Life, we speak of our mission in terms of the Annunciation and the Visitation of Mary. We speak of conceiving Christ beneath our hearts and carrying Him forth into the world as Mary did. This was always a hard image for me. I felt that in giving Christ away, I would lose Him. Yet, God has shown me that this is not so. Instead, in receiving Christ, in receiving Him fully, I am so transformed into His image that I share Him in being myself. It is my being and not my doing that He desires and so it is with every person. As Cardinal O’Connor, our founder and father would pray, “God wants to reach out to others through your hands, God wants to speak to others through your lips, and God wants others to look into your eyes and see Him. Give God permission.”

"Vocations Expo Attracted 2,500 Pilgrims per Hour"

An interesting statistic! And people keep trying to say that young people aren't interested in the priesthood/religious life!

From ZENIT

SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI told pilgrims at the Youth Day closing Mass not to fear a call to the priesthood or consecrated life. One statistic indicates his words fell on fertile soil: An average of 2,500 pilgrims an hour visited the Vocations Expo in Sydney.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Finally, a News Outlet Gets it Right

We've all seen the stories about invalid "ordinations" of women to the Diaconate and Priesthood, but this is one of the first times that I have seen a major news outlet get the story right, especially in the title of the article. Typically these articles get titles like - "Women ordained Catholic Priests". Thankfully, the Boston Globe left the word Catholic out of the title, and cast doubt on the event by using the words "claims" and "unsanctioned".

"Group claims to ordain women priests in unsanctioned ceremony"

From the Boston Globe

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff July 20, 2008

A group advocating for the ordination of women this afternoon held a ceremony in a packed Protestant church in Boston at which it declared three women to be Catholic priests and a fourth woman to be a deacon.

The ceremony, like several others that have taken place around the world over the last six years, was denounced by the Roman Catholic church, and critics said the event was a stunt with no religious significance. The Catholic Church has consistently taught that only men can be ordained as priests, and the Archdiocese of Boston said that the women who participated in today’s ceremony had automatically excommunicated themselves by participating in what it said was an invalid ordination ceremony.

...

C.J. Doyle, of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, called the ceremony “a sacrilegious parody of Holy Orders conducted at a Protestant church by a collection of apostates misappropriating the Catholic name.”

“One must not only be a male to be a Catholic priest, one must be a Catholic,'' Doyle said. "The performers in this theater of propaganda are neither. These women ought to have the intellectual honesty to admit that they left the Catholic Church some time ago. Whatever publicity value today's exercise has, it must be measured against both the manifest fraudulence and the irredeemable hopelessness of their cause.”

...


The women did not pledge obedience or chastity – the promises made by Roman Catholic priests. One was introduced to the congregation by her daughter; another by her husband.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"At 100 years old, nun has earned her optimism'

From Newsday.com

BY BART JONES
July 20, 2008

Emphases and (comments) mine - BW.

Sister Mary Loyola Engel still remembers watching lamplighters come down the streets of Manhattan to ignite the street lights at night before there was electricity.

She remembers riding in a horse and buggy before cars became common. And she remembers the day in 1917 when the United States entered World War I - the next day's headline took up the entire front page.

Engel was born in 1908, and today she turns 100. She says she is amazed she has lived so long, and even more amazed by the wonderful life she has led, including a stint as Mother Superior of the order that founded Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre.

"I feel fine," she said recently during an interview at the Villa St. Joseph, a convent the Congregation of the Infant Jesus built next to the hospital. "I sometimes wonder how did I get to be this old."

She will mark her birthday with a Mass at the villa, followed by a social hour and then dinner. She plans to make some remarks at the events- which shouldn't be a problem. She still leads Bible study programs and days of prayer.

"She's a great inspiration to us," said Eileen T. McMahon, who is director of an associates program of lay people who feel a spiritual connection to the order and share work and prayer with the nuns.

The associates program is one sign of how religious life is changing (I've begun noticing that more and more religious communities, particularly some of the ones that are in rapid decline, frequently tout the success of their "associates" program as the "future of religious life." However, if there are no longer any members of the religious community, with whom will the "associates" be associated? Besides, only vowed religious can constitute a religious community, and in it, religious life - associates can not, they are "lay people".), and one that Sister Mary Loyola finds intriguing. "It's a whole new world," she said.

It was a much simpler world when Engel decided to become a nun. After spending her early years in Manhattan, her family moved to Rockville Centre in 1920. Sunrise Highway did not exist then.

Engel eventually enrolled in Hunter College, and while there spent three years as a volunteer teaching Italian immigrants English. She graduated in 1928, and spent two years teaching. But the experience with the immigrants stuck with her and propelled her in 1930 to enter the novitiate.

"I knew I wanted to do something that would keep me in touch with poor people," she said.

She spent a decade providing home nursing to the poor in Brooklyn during the Great Depression and World War II, then went on to work teaching new sisters. From 1965 to 1974 she served as head of the entire order.

She also found time to write two books. One was "Half a Hundred: Whatever Happened to the Sisters?" a history of her order and their noted work in health care.

Like all Catholic religious orders, it has seen its ups and downs. It had about 200 members in the 1960s. Now it is down to 55, most of them elderly. Engel said she can't remember the last time a new member entered - sometime in the 1970s.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

A final message to the pilgrims at WYD 2008 from Pope Benedict XVI about vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life


From the Holy Father's homily at the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2008:

"Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the “power” which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?

The power of the Holy Spirit does not only enlighten and console us. It also points us to the future, to the coming of God’s Kingdom. What a magnificent vision of a humanity redeemed and renewed we see in the new age promised by today’s Gospel! Saint Luke tells us that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all God’s promises, the Messiah who fully possesses the Holy Spirit in order to bestow that gift upon all mankind. The outpouring of Christ’s Spirit upon humanity is a pledge of hope and deliverance from everything that impoverishes us. It gives the blind new sight; it sets the downtrodden free, and it creates unity in and through diversity (cf. Lk 4:18-19; Is 61:1-2). This power can create a new world: it can “renew the face of the earth” (cf. Ps 104:30)!

Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished – not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.

The world needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (cf. Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning – the ultimate meaning that only love can give? This is the great and liberating gift which the Gospel brings: it reveals our dignity as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. It reveals humanity’s sublime calling, which is to find fulfilment in love. It discloses the truth about man and the truth about life.

The Church also needs this renewal! She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity, so that she can always be young in the Spirit (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4)! In today’s second reading, the Apostle Paul reminds us that each and every Christian has received a gift meant for building up the Body of Christ. The Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people. She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness. Open your hearts to that power! I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Do not be afraid to say “yes” to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!"