Friday, April 30, 2010

Prayers today: By your blood, O Lord, you have redeemed us from every tribe and tongue, from every nation and people: you have made us into the kingdom of God, alleluia. (Rv 5:9-10)

Father of our freedom and salvation, hear the prayers of those redeemed by your Son’s suffering. Through you may we have life; with you may we have eternal joy. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

St. Pius V (1504-1572)



This is the pope whose job was to implement the historic Council of Trent. If we think popes had difficulties in implementing Vatican Council II, Pius V had even greater problems after that historic council more than four centuries ago. During his papacy (1566-1572), Pius V was faced with the almost overwhelming responsibility of getting a shattered and scattered Church back on its feet. The family of God had been shaken by corruption, by the Reformation, by the constant threat of Turkish invasion and by the bloody bickering of the young nation-states. In 1545 a previous pope convened the Council of Trent in an attempt to deal with all these pressing problems. Off and on over 18 years, the Church Fathers discussed, condemned, affirmed and decided upon a course of action. The Council closed in 1563. Pius V was elected in 1566 and was charged with the task of implementing the sweeping reforms called for by the Council. He ordered the founding of seminaries for the proper training of priests. He published a new missal, a new breviary, a new catechism and established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes for the young. Pius zealously enforced legislation against abuses in the Church. He patiently served the sick and the poor by building hospitals, providing food for the hungry and giving money customarily used for the papal banquets to poor Roman converts. His decision to keep wearing his Dominican habit led to the custom of the pope wearing a white cassock. In striving to reform both Church and state, Pius encountered vehement opposition from England's Queen Elizabeth and the Roman Emperor Maximilian II. Problems in France and in the Netherlands also hindered Pius's hopes for a Europe united against the Turks. Only at the last minute was he able to organize a fleet which won a decisive victory in the Gulf of Lepanto, off Greece, on October 7, 1571. Pius's ceaseless papal quest for a renewal of the Church was grounded in his personal life as a Dominican friar. He spent long hours with his God in prayer, fasted rigorously, deprived himself of many customary papal luxuries and faithfully observed the spirit of the Dominican Rule that he had professed.


The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (14.1~6)

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)

The only way One of the greatest acquisitions of Western thought and culture has been the recognition of human rights. Power over others must not be regarded as simply a prize for the strongest, but as a gift to be put to the service of human beings who have rights. Our Lord said to Pontius Pilate that he would have no power over him at all, had it not been given to him from above. Power is a responsibility to be exercised in the service of man’s rights, and these are grounded in his dignity as a human being. “That is why,” our Lord continued, “the ones who handed me over to you bear the greater guilt.” A fundamental human right — indeed the most fundamental of all — is the right to seek and serve God according to one’s lights, provided the legitimate rights of others are not thereby disregarded. This recognition of the right to freedom of religious inquiry and practice has brought with it, though, a philosophical pitfall that is widespread in Western culture. It is the tendency to think that there is no religious error, or rather, that there is no objective truth in religion. While we readily grant the right of others to think and live as they please in religion, typically we take the next step of thinking that religious belief is purely subjective. It involves little grasp of objective reality, but is, rather, a reflection of personal preference or religious and cultural conditioning. This means that though the right to think as one pleases in religion is allowed, paradoxically the right to think that there is objective truth and error in religion is not allowed. This is deemed to be intolerant, and so it is considered intolerable. The positive gain of respect for human rights has in fact brought with it the tendency to think that objective truth in religion is a phantom or a matter of indifference. But of course, this position is irreconcilable with Christianity which makes firm claims about truth and error.

In his religions, man aims for contact with the Beyond, with the powers above who can help him. He aims at communion with what we might call the Ultimate — however this is imagined or conceived among the peoples. It would be impossible to enumerate or catalogue in their entirety the religions of man — although in the last century or more we have gone a long way in that direction. But what would the student of religions say of the claim of one of them that it is the only way to the Ultimate? When faced with the plethora of sincere attempts to seek God or the gods, the claim would seem to be preposterous and scarcely to be taken seriously. In fact, such a claim is rare because it is so obviously unreasonable. If anything, the tendency of the detached observer is, as mentioned above, to think that none of the religions of man attain the final reality of things. They satisfy and express his longings, and that is all. But ah! there is one great exception. In our Gospel today, Jesus of Nazareth makes a breathtaking claim about the religion of man. Christianity claims to have the means of attaining the Ultimate reality — and indeed, it is the only means. That means is Christ. It is extraordinary and seemingly preposterous, but so it is. In our Gospel today, our Lord calmly says that he is going to prepare us a place in his own Father’s House. He continues, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:1-6). He, Jesus Christ, is the way to the Father; he is the truth of the Father and he is the life of the Father. Seeing him, one sees the Father. Moreover, he is the only way, for no-one comes to the Father except through him. No one can reach God in truth and in fact but by means of Jesus Christ. So if the Buddhist, the Muslim, the man of traditional religion, or the atheist, attain to heaven, in fact this has only been through Jesus Christ. Christ has got him there.

This is a hard saying for the modern ear. But it in no way is disrespectful of other religions, nor does it set aside their great value. Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Through him all things were made. Therefore he is present in all of creation, be it interior or exterior to man. Even if a person fails to learn specifically of Jesus Christ or has little opportunity of taking him seriously, Christ’s presence in creation as the Word will afford him the means of a form of contact with him who is the way to the Father. Cardinal Newman called the conscience of man the “aboriginal vicar of Christ,” and there is a long tradition in English thought that considers nature to be the voice of God. There is a sense in which there is a universal revelation, but it will be more difficult. All of this is a further matter. Our point today is the unique character and role of Jesus Christ for all of mankind. In absolute terms, he is the only way to the Father. Let us choose him, then!


Second reflection for Friday of the fourth week of Eastertide (John 14:1-6)

Peace in trouble One of the widespread problems of our time is that of depression, even among the young, who are traditionally noted for their optimism and idealism. There are reports of a sharp increase among the young in the use of antidepressants. It is possible that people too readily allow themselves to sink into depression and emotional trouble. It is notable how often our Lord tells his disciples not to be troubled, not to be afraid. His directive is in the manner of a command. Inasmuch as he himself was at times troubled, and profoundly so, he obviously means that we are not to allow ourselves to be troubled as one who has nothing secure to rely on. Our Lord's peace and indomitable strength in the midst of trouble came from the thought of his Father and his Father's will.

At the Last Supper our Lord says to his disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me" (John 14:1). So, even if we are depressed and are unable to overcome it, even if we cannot cope despite our genuine efforts, we are to trust in God still, and in Jesus. Jesus is our stay in times of trouble, Jesus and our homeland that is ahead of us. "I am going to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be too." Our final port is always in sight, because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We reach the Father through him (John 14:1-6). If we stay with him, we shall most certainly arrive.



Character

Let obstacles only make you bigger.The grace of our Lord will not be lacking: "inter medium monium pertransibunt aquae!" ~ "through the very midst of the mountains the waters shall pass."

What does it matter that you have to curtail your activity for the moment, if later, like a spring which has been compressed, you'll advance much farther than you ever dreamed?


(The Way, no. 12)




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MEDIATOR DEI
4. You are of course familiar with the fact, Venerable Brethren, that a remarkably widespread revival of scholarly interest in the sacred liturgy took place towards the end of the last century and has continued through the early years of this one. The movement owed its rise to commendable private initiative and more particularly to the zealous and persistent labor of several monasteries within the distinguished Order of Saint Benedict. Thus there developed in this field among many European nations, and in lands beyond the seas as well, a rivalry as welcome as it was productive of results. Indeed, the salutary fruits of this rivalry among the scholars were plain for all to see, both in the sphere of the sacred sciences, where the liturgical rites of the Western and Eastern Church were made the object of extensive research and profound study, and in the spiritual life of considerable numbers of individual Christians.


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