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Sábado, 14 Enero 2017 10:07

About the spirit of Opus Dei

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Sobre el espíritu del Opus Dei  es   

Sur l'esprit de l'Opus Dei  fr   

Über den Geist des Opus Dei  ger

In this section, there are several brief chapters on aspects of the spirit of Opus Dei, focused on giving oneself to God in the middle of the world, with the aim of serving the Church and souls. The topics, based on the teaching of the Church and following the spirit of St Josemaría, include human virtues, the joy of realising we are sons of God in Christ, study and work, charity – with the desire of serving others – and bringing the light of Christ to the world around us.

These texts will be of particular interest to those wishing to know about the universal call to holiness in the middle of the world. They aim to help readers wishing to live in a manner that is consistent with their faith and who are aware that no effort to learn or improve can be fruitful for the apostolic mission and one's own sanctification without the help of the Holy Spirit, in truth and love.

Miércoles, 16 Abril 2014 09:07

Personal Prelatures in Nine Words

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Just published, "Married Priests? 30 Crucial Questions About Celibacy" (Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2012, 200 pp.) is a translation of "Preti sposati? 30 domande scottanti sul celibato sacerdotale" (Elledici, Turin 2011, 144 pp.) by Rev. Prof. Arturo Cattaneo. The book answers the most frequently-asked questions about the celibacy of Catholic priests.

Following is the text of the Foreword by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.

For more information: Ignatius Press     See Foreword: English

 

Paper by His Eminence Cardinal Antonio Cañizares

for the presentation of the book by Msgr. Guillaume Derville

Eucharistic Concelebration. From Symbol to Reality

(Wilson & Lafleur)

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

5th March 2012

 

“Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, ‘Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ ” (Mk 9:2–5).

Yesterday, the Second Sunday in Lent, the liturgy proclaimed the words I have just read. Words which can, I think, serve as a setting or an introduction to this presentation of Msgr. Guillaume Derville’s book, Eucharistic Concelebration. From Symbol To Reality, published by Wilson & Lafleur in its collection Gratianus.

When we think of the narrative of the Transfiguration, words like ‘glory’, ‘brightness’ and ‘beauty’ spring to mind. They are terms that can be applied directly to the liturgy. As Benedict XVI reminds us, there is an intrinsic link between the liturgy and beauty. Indeed, “The truest beauty is the love of God, who definitively revealed himself to us in the Paschal mystery.”[1]

The expression “Paschal mystery” synthesizes the essential nucleus of the whole process of the Redemption; it is the culmination of Christ’s work. The liturgy in turn contains, as something of its own, this “work” of Christ, because through it the work of our Redemption is actualized. This is why the liturgy, as a part of the Paschal mystery, is “a sublime expression of God’s glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth. The memorial of Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice contains something of that beauty which Peter, James and John beheld when the Master, making his way to Jerusalem, was transfigured before their eyes (cf. Mk 9:2). Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.”[2]

I would like to draw especial attention to the last phrases of the text I have just cited, because in my opinion they introduce a very sensitive question which is at the same time at the centre of Msgr. Derville’s study. Let us read them again: “Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.”

That is to say: the liturgy, and within it the act of concelebration, will be beautiful when it is true and authentic, when its innate splendour is really reflected. It is in this context that we should understand the question posed by the Holy Father regarding concelebrations with a large number of priests: “For my part,” said the Pope, “I have to say, it remains a problem because concrete communion in the celebration is fundamental, and I do not consider that the definitive answer has really been found. I also raised this question during the last Synod but it was not answered. I also had another question asked regarding the concelebration of Mass: why, for example, if a thousand priests concelebrate, do we not yet know whether this structure was desired by the Lord?”[3]

The question is precisely one of keeping “the structure desired by the Lord”, because the liturgy is a gift from God. It is not something fabricated by us men; it is not at our disposition. Indeed, “By his command to ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk 22:19; cf. 1 Cor 11:25), he asks us to respond to his gift and to make it sacramentally present. In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, his expectation that the Church, born of his sacrifice, will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the liturgical form of the sacrament.”[4]

For this reason, “we must learn to understand the structure of the Liturgy and why it is laid out as it is. The Liturgy developed in the course of two millennia, and even after the Reformation was not simply something worked out by a few liturgists. It has always remained a continuation of this on-going growth of worship and proclamation. Thus, to be well in tune, it is very important to understand this structure that developed over time and to enter with our mens into the vox of the Church.”[5]

Msgr. Derville’s thorough study goes very much in this direction. It helps us to listen to Vatican Council II, whose texts, as Bl. John Paul II noted, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church’s Tradition.”[6]

The Council did indeed decide to widen the faculty for concelebrating in accordance with two principles: that this form of celebration of the Holy Mass adequately manifests the unity of the priesthood, and that it has been practised up to now in the Church both in the East and in the West.[7] Hence concelebration, as Sacrosanctum Concilium also noted, is one of those rites that it is fitting to restore “according to the primitive rule of the holy Fathers.”[8]

In this sense, it is important to look, however briefly, into the history of concelebration. The historical panorama that Msgr. Derville offers us, even if it is —as he modestly points out— only a brief summary, is sufficient to let us glimpse areas of obscurity, that show the absence of clear data on Eucharistic celebration in the earliest times of the Church. At the same time, and without falling into a ingenuous “archaeologism”, it does provide us with enough information to be able to state that concelebration, in the genuine tradition of the Church, whether eastern or western, is an extraordinary, solemn and public rite, normally presided over by the Bishop or his delegate, surrounded by his presbyterium and by the entire community of the faithful. But the daily concelebrations of priests only, which are practised “privately”, so to speak, in the eastern Churches instead of Masses celebrated individually or “more privato”, do not form part of the Latin liturgical tradition.

Moreover, the author seems to me to succeed fully when he examines in depth the underlying reasons mentioned by the Council for extending concelebration. This widening of the faculty to concelebrate needs to be moderated, as we can see when we read the Council texts. And it is logical that it should be so: the purpose of concelebration is not to solve problems of logistics or organization, but rather to make the Paschal mystery present, manifesting the unity of the priesthood that is born of the Eucharist. The beauty of the concelebration, as we said at the beginning, implies its celebration in the truth. And thus its power as a sign depends on the way it lives and respects the demands that the concelebration itself brings with it.

When the number of concelebrants is too large, you lose one of the essential aspects of the concelebration. When it is almost impossible to synchronize the words and gestures not reserved to the principal celebrant, when the concelebrants are distant from the altar and the offerings, when there are not vestments for some of them, when there is a lack of harmony in the colour or the shape of the vestments, all this can obscure the manifestation of the unity of the priesthood. And we cannot forget that it is precisely this manifestation which justified the widening of the faculty to concelebrate.

As long ago as 1965 Cardinal Lercaro, president of the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de sacra liturgia, wrote a letter to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences, alerting them to the danger of treating concelebration as simply a way of dealing with practical problems. And he reminded them that it could be opportune to encourage it, if it helped the piety of faithful and priests.[9]

I would like to look at this last aspect very briefly. As Benedict XVI stated: “I join the Synod Fathers in recommending ‘the daily celebration of Mass, even when the faithful are not present’. This recommendation is consistent with the objectively infinite value of every celebration of the Eucharist, and is motivated by the Mass’s unique spiritual fruitfulness. If celebrated in a faith-filled and attentive way, Mass is formative in the deepest sense of the word, since it fosters the priest’s configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation.”[10]

For each priest, the celebration of the Holy Mass is the reason for his existence. It is, it must be, an entirely personal encounter with the Lord and with his redemptive work. At the same time, each priest, in the celebration of the Eucharist, is Christ himself present in the Church as Head of his body;[11] and he also acts in the name of the whole Church “when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice”.[12] When we experience the wonder of the Eucharistic gift, which transforms us and configures us to Christ, there is only room for amazement, gratitude and obedience.

The author helps us to understand this admirable reality more deeply and clearly. And at the same time, as we read he reminds us and makes us take into account that there also exists, together with concelebration, the possibility of individual celebration or of participating in the Eucharist as a priest, but without concelebrating. It is a matter of entering into the liturgy according to the particular circumstances, of looking for the option that will more easily enable us to enter into dialogue with the Lord, of respecting the structure of the liturgy itself. Here we find the limits of a right to concelebrate or not, which also respects the right of the faithful to take part in a liturgy where the ars celebrandi makes their actuosa participatio possible. We are thus touching on points which are a matter of justice; and indeed the author also refers to the Code of Canon Law.

It remains to me only to thank Msgr. Derville and the publishers Palabra and Wilson & Lafleur for the book that I have the pleasure of presenting today. I think that it offers us an example of the true hermeneutic of the Second Vatican Council. “The changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities.”[13] And it will be both a help and a stimulus in the face of the responsibility which the Holy Father recently reminded the Congregation over which I preside: “to focus on giving a fresh impetus to promoting the Sacred Liturgy in the Church, in accordance with the renewal that the Second Vatican Council desired, on the basis of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium.”[14] I am sure, besides, that this book will help to make this Year of Faith “a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist.”[15]

 

Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments



[1] Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, n. 35.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Benedict XVI, Meeting with the parish priests and clergy of the diocese of Rome, 7 February 2008.

[4] Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, n. 11.

[5] Benedict XVI, Meeting with the priests of the Italian diocese of Albano, 31 August 2006.

[6] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, n. 57.

[7] Cfr. Vatican Council II, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 57.

[8] Vatican Council II, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 50.

[9] Notitiae 1 (1965), pp. 257–264.

[10] Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, n. 80.

[11] Cfr. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1548.

[12] Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1552.

[13] Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis,  n. 3.

[14] Benedict XVI, Motu proprio Quaerit semper.

[15] Benedict XVI, Motu proprio Porta fide, n. 9.

English translation of the article Homilías de calidad para la nueva evangelización, by Rev. Prof. Lluís Clavell. Using the Apostolic Exhortation "Verbum Domini" as a guideline, the author proposes to put Christ as the center of every homily and offers some practical tips.

Lluís Clavell, Homilies Relevant to the New Evangelization, published in Spanish in Temes D´Avui, no. 39, January--April 2011.

 

Homilies Relevant to the New Evangelization

 

In line with Benedict XVI’s encouragement of the new evangelization, it is important to reflect on the role of homilies for Sunday and feastday Masses, with a view to their improvement. Millions of disciples of Christ all over the world listen to them. Many of the faithful ask themselves about the quality of those homilies, particularly with respect to content: at times, they hear themes unrelated to the readings of the Mass, or they are exposed to what are strictly the personal opinions of the celebrant. On other occasions, they may receive a mere reiteration of those liturgical readings. Moreover, some members of the faithful will frequently exchange impressions after Mass that, in effect, depict those defects more or less accurately.

However, there are instances where a lack of needed focus in the preaching is not easily or immediately detected. For example, one can listen to some pleasant ideas during an Easter Vigil homily, consisting of a commentary on the liturgical rite and presenting the death of Christ as His way of accompanying and consoling each of us in our sufferings in life and especially at death. Yet, it is only later, when the individual can quietly review the homily more deeply and critically, that he asks himself: It’s all well and good that the Lord accompanies and consoles me both in words and deeds, but does He save me, redeem me and grant me a new life directed to the Life and to the Resurrection, after I die? Did I hear something in that homily about the crucified Jesus as the propitiatory victim for the sins of all men?

Examples could be muliplied. That is why, in his recent post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini,[1] Benedict XVI notes “the attention that has been paid to the homily throughout the Synod”[2] and then recalls what he had stated in his immediately prior post-synodal apostolic exhortation concerning the Holy Eucharist, namely, that “the quality of homilies needs to be improved.”[3] The preoccupation of the Magisterium with homilies is not new,[4] but there is evidently greater emphasis being placed today on the importance of quality in homilies.

 The homily, part of the eucharistic celebration

Let us return to a teaching of the Roman Pontiff contained in n. 59 of Verbum Domini:

In the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, I pointed out that “given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved. The homily ‘is part of the liturgical action’ and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the Word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful.”

The homily is not an occasion to communicate to the faithful something distinct from what is read in the sacred texts.  It is itself “part of the liturgical action” rather than some optional addition. Its purpose is “to foster a deeper understanding of the Word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful.”

The Holy Mass is the action of God in the Trinity of Persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the action of Christ —the one Priest— through human instruments, His priests. They lend their being —words, gestures, intelligence, heart— in order to act in Persona Christi Capitis, in the name of Jesus Christ Head of the Church, not in their own names. The celebrant, therefore, should aim at helping the faithful —as well as himself— to comprehend, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, so that it will be more effective in their lives.

Making present the Word of God within the eucharistic celebration

The Holy Father continues: “The homily is a means of bringing the scriptural message to life in a way that helps the faithful to realize that God’s word is present and at work in their everyday lives.”[5].

The fundamental condition of men and women with respect to God is immutable: we are the God’s creatures who are formed in His image and likeness, to the point of being His beloved sons and daughters. Nevertheless, circumstances of human life have changed, particularly against the backdrop of the world, as in areas of work and culture. Consequently, there is a need to “update the biblical message.” We all need to “discover the presence and the efficacy of the Word of God in our own modern lives.” It is important to make more accesible the Word of God, as it really is: that is, as the eternal Word, always up-to-date, always youthful, and directed to each of us personally—to me, in first person, in this unique point of my life and “autobiography.”

In a world in which we are immersed in our demanding schedules of work and are surrounded by an imposing and aggressive culture that is not easy to understand, a mere reading of  the Word of God may fail to have a real impact on our lives, remaining as it were the isolated top floor of God’s house without a stairway of communication with that ground floor, which is each Christian.

The homily is not as a lecture taught in a classroom or, for that matter, given in a house of worship outside of the Mass or other liturgical ceremony. It forms part of the divine action, the celebration of the Eucharist, in which the one Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary is made present once again. For that reason, the homily is of a unique character, as part of a larger entity. The Pope writes, “[The homily] should lead to an understanding of the mystery being celebrated, serve as a summons to mission, and prepare the assembly for the profession of faith, the universal prayer and the Eucharistic liturgy.”[6] So, we are about to renew our faith in the Trinity by reciting the Nicene Creed, and then we will make our petitions for our necessities, followed by that segment of the eucharistic liturgy in which we offer our whole being so that the Lord make Himself present once more in the Sacrifice of the Cross, followed by His Resurrection and Ascension to the Father.

The orientation of the homily is this: to prepare and introduce ourselves into the divine action by offering ourselves with Christ. This insertion of ourselves therefore acquires distinct accents, according to both the texts proposed by the Church for each celebration of the Mass and the circumstances of the participants. The homily should facilitate our letting ourselves be taken up by Christ, to be saturated with His blood in His wounded hands, so that we may be cast as good seed throughout the wheatfield that is our world, in the environments of family and daily work and in our active participation in public life.[7]

Christ, center of the homily

The Roman Pontiff spells out some consequences of the singular role of the homily: “… those who have been charged with preaching by virtue of a specific ministry ought to take this task to heart. Generic and abstract homilies which obscure the directness of God’s word should be avoided, as well as useless digressions which risk drawing greater attention to the preacher than to the heart of the Gospel message. The faithful should be able to perceive clearly that the preacher has a compelling desire to present Christ, who must stand at the center of every homily.”[8] The priest, enamored of Christ, preaches with zeal and joy, because Jesus attracts all souls and leaves no one indifferent.

Christ is the center of every homily.  He is the content, because the goal is “to show Christ.” To achieve this, we rely on those authors who have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to commit that content in a narrative form that is both human and divine: the four Gospels, accompanied by the other writings of the Word of God. Christ is the content; He is the Way, the Truth and the Life that illuminates each man. These sacred writings are wonderfully suited to present-day circumstances and to all times; they are ageless. The parables elicit thought and questions on the part of the reader or listener. On occasion they impel him to draw out a conclusion himself.

At the same time, the beloved portrait of Jesus Christ has been and will continue to be guided by God Himself, through the light and fire of the Holy Spirit, who informs the intelligence and heart of the preacher and faithful participating in the Mass.

According to Benedict XVI, “The faithful should be able to perceive clearly that the preacher has a compelling desire to present Christ, who must stand at the center of every homily.”[9] Logically enough, the homily should reflect the fact that the Gospel passage of the Mass assumes even greater importance than the other readings.

The faithful should be able to grasp the love of the homilist for Christ, as manifested in his tone, the expressions he employs, his joy, simplicity and enthusiasm. The homilist therefore must prepare himself in a special way for the homily, namely, by means of meditative study united intimately with his personal prayer, as the Holy Father so expresses: “For this reason preachers need to be in close and constant contact with the sacred text; they should prepare for the homily by meditation and prayer, so as to preach with conviction and passion.”[10] To underscore the point, this requires a solid theological preparation, but never separated from meditation.

Naturally, the faithful will notice the comportment of the pastor, as well. Calling to mind an observation of St. Jerome, “In the priest of Christ, thought and word must be in agreement,”[11] the Roman Pontiff reminds us, “…preaching needs to be accompanied by the witness of a good life.”[12]

Three questions in preparing a homily

Benedict XVI makes his own the suggestion of the 2008 Synod of Bishops that answering the following questions was central to preparing a homily well: “What are the Scriptures being proclaimed saying? What do they say to me personally? What should I say to the community in the light of its concrete situation?” Focusing on these three questions will in themselves improve homilies greatly. [13]

1. What are the Scriptures being proclaimeds saying?

First of all, one must know what the readings say. The celebrant will normally need to update his understanding of the texts by recurring to appropriate sources. Parallel texts of other Gospels is an obvious starting point, particularly with respect to the Gospel of the day, as well as following up with implicit or explicit references in the day’s Mass readings to passages from the Old Testament. One should, of course, read the texts in light of Tradition and with the aid of magisterial statements made over the centuries, which are, by the way, organically synthesized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The faithful —clergy and laity alike—are grateful to God for the light shed by Benedict XVI, from his two-volume work Jesus of Nazareth to his other writings and homilies, as well as the writings, discourses and homilies of his predecesor John Paul II, and, for that matter, the work of Ordinaries in their respective ecclesiastical circumscriptions.

So many affirm that Benedict XVI will go down in history for the outstanding quality and style of his homilies, calling to mind the eloquence of the Church Fathers.[14]

Regarding the Gospel passage in particular, it is very profitable to review commentaries on the life of Jesus. Benedict XVI provides an excellent source such works in both of his volumes of Jesus of Nazareth: R. Guardini, F. M. Willam, K. Adam, G. Papini, D. Rops, to name but some. We can cite a few more, just as examples of more recent scholars: Justo Pérez de Urbel, the "Emmanuel" of Carles Cardó, and Abad G. Ricciotti.

Obviously, this is a matter of previous and ongoing preparation. It has been said with a certain sense of humor that a good homily requires a knowledge of exegesis proper to biblical theology, but the homily is not the time to give a class on exegesis.

2. What do the readings say to me personally?

The second question posed by the Synod to the celebrant is very important in his attempt through the homily to make the readings resonate with the faithful. The Roman Pontiff comments in n. 59 of Verbum Domini: “The preacher ‘should be the first to hear the Word of God which he proclaims,’[15] since, as St. Augustine says: ‘He is undoubtedly barren who preaches outwardly the Word of God without hearing it inwardly.’”[16]

There is a well-known description of three levels of intelectual and pedagogical development in a profesor: when he is young and teaching beyond the depth of his mastery of the subject matter, transmitting ideas he has come across recently but without any deep assimilation or critical understanding of them; when he has matured and is conveying what he truly knows and understands; and, finally, when he has reached the of level of a “master,” teaching not all that he knows but what his students need to learn. This last stage marks a point of real “interiorization” of the discipline and its existential insertion into one’s own life.

3. What must I say to the community, taking into account their concrete situation?

Because he habitually deals with Jesus and endeavors to be another Christ, the homilist focuses on his brothers and sisters. He speaks with Jesus Christ about them, including their spiritual and material necessities. He asks for light in his personal prayer: “Lord, what would you say this Sunday?  What do you want me to say?”

In an ethos of cultural decadence, we all need to hear the animating, affectionate and positive tone of Jesus, which is full of light, joy and hope. The celebrant of the Mass also seeks to transmit another fundamental truth underscored in the first letter of St. John: “In this is the love, not that we have loved God, but that He has first loved us, and sent His Son a propitiation for our sins.”[17]

In a climate of feeling oneself loved by God and knowing oneself to be a child of God, it is much easier to understand and embrace the doctrine and words of life taught by Jesus and conveyed through the Church. There follows a more operative desire of being formed well, of remaining firm in the faith in what is so often a pagan environment, and of acknowledging one’s own sins without either hiding them or falling into despair over them.

In present-day circumstances, we all need an abundance of healthy doctrine. The Holy Father accordingly recommends that there also be short commentaries in daily Mass: “The homily for Sundays and solemnities should be prepared carefully, without neglecting, whenever possible, to offer at weekday Masses cum populo brief and timely reflections which can help the faithful to welcome the word which was proclaimed and to let it bear fruit in their lives.”[18]

In any case, homilies need to be prepared well, with ample study and prayer and avoiding improvisation. That way, one can think with precision and clarity, crafting in an attractive way what one is going to say, within the framework of a reasonable time. In fact, it is generally important to avoid delivering long homilies, which so often reflect poor preparation, as with that writer of a three-thousand page text who provides his editor with the lame excuse that he lacked sufficient time to shorten it.

Everything depends on friendship with Jesus

There is a capital point that cannot be taken for granted. In my view and as has so often been pointed out by Benedict XVI, an over-arching ingredient to an effective homily is the preacher’s friendship with Jesus. In the foreward to volume one of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict discusses the widespread impression of so many Christians that we know little about Jesus with any real certainty. It is as if only later did a prior faith in His divinity give rise to the image that people have of Him. “This is a dramatic situation for faith, because its point of reference is being placed in doubt: Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.”[19] This expression “…Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends,” is a decisive key in understanding this pontifícate, which assigns so much importance to personal dealings with Jesus in the Word, the Eucharist, and in all the liturgy.

One does not know Jesus truly if he does not accompany Him daily with the Twelve, the seventy-two disciples, the holy women who minister to the Teacher, and so many others. The new evangelization arises from a renewed friendship with Jesus, who is not simply a figure from the past. We can speak of Him with the enthusiasm and joy of the apostle John in his first letter: “I write of what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have handled: of the Word of Life. And the Life was made known and we have seen, and now testify and announce to you, the Life Eternal which was with the Father, and has appeared to us. What we have seen and have heard we announce to you, in order that you also may have fellowship with us, and that our fellowship may be with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that you may rejoice, and our joy may be full.”[20] For example, note how St. Cyril of Jerusalem expresses this contemporaneous relationship with Christ in his catequesis (of years 348-350):

Whatever action Christ engages in is a motive for joy for the universal Church, but the greatest motive for glory is the cross. As Saint Paul expresses the matter so pointedly and from such deep personal knowledge: But as for me, God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Certainly, the fact that the man born blind received his sight in Siloem was worthy of admiration; but how would this benefit so many blind people the world over? So too was the great and preternatural resurrection of Lazarus, four days after his death; but this affected only him physically, so in what way would this benefit all those throughout the world who were dead by cause of sin? An admirable thing was the multiplication of the five loaves as an inexhaustable fount, sufficient to feed five thousand men; but, in what way would it benefit all those in the world who found themselvs tormented by the hunger of ignorance? Marvelous was the work of liberating that woman from the bondage that Satan had inflicted by way of illness for eighteen years; but how did that aid us,  who have been enchained by our sins? In contrast, the triumph of the cross gave light to those suffering the blindness of sin, liberated us from the bonds of sin, and redeemed all men.[21]

Christ is not relegated to the past: He lives and acts now in the twenty-first century, as He did in the fourth century of St. Cyril. In a way, He acts more universally now than during His years of earthly life.

Saints, rays of light from the Word of God

Benedict XVI joyfully refers to the role of the saints in Verbum Domini : “The interpretation of sacred Scripture would remain incomplete were it not to include listening to those who have truly lived the word of God: namely, the saints. Indeed, ‘viva lectio est vita bonorum.’ The most profound interpretation of Scripture comes precisely from those who let themselves be shaped by the word of God through listening, reading and assiduous meditation.”[22]

The Pope not only has in mind those saints of centuries long past but those of more recent times and, indeed, even those who are practically contemporaries:

Every saint is like a ray of light streaming forth from the word of God: we can think of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in his search for truth and in his discernment of spirits; Saint John Bosco in his passion for the education of the young; Saint John Mary Vianney in his awareness of the grandeur of the priesthood as gift and task; Saint Pius of Pietrelcina in his serving as an instrument of divine mercy; Saint Josemaria Escrivá in his preaching of the universal call to holiness; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the missionary of God’s charity towards the poorest of the poor, and then the martyrs of Nazism and Communism, represented by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), a Carmelite nun, and by Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, the Cardinal Archbishop of Zagreb.[23]

With gratitude to God, I recall hearing a homily preached by St. Josemaría, who from his youth placed himself in the life of Jesus as “one more person” and counseled that this was a way for all to achieve sanctity: “If you wish to get close to our Lord through the pages of the Gospels, I always recommend that you try to enter in on the scene taking part as just one more person there. In this way (and I know many perfectly ordinary people who live this way) you will be captivated like Mary was, who hung on every word that Jesus uttered or, like Martha, you will boldly make your worries known to him, opening your heart sincerely about them all no matter how little they may be.”[24]

Two instruments requested by Benedict XVI

We should expect before long to have as a resource a homilitic directory, as recommended by Pope Benedict: “The art of good preaching based on the Lectionary is an art that needs to be cultivated. Therefore, in continuity with the desire expressed by the previous Synod, I ask the competent authorities, along the lines of the Eucharistic Compendium, also to prepare practical publications to assist ministers in carrying out their task as best they can: as for example a Directory on the homily, in which preachers can find useful assistance in preparing to exercise their ministry.”[25]

In addition, through his Motu propio "Ubicumque et semper" of September 21, 2010, Benedict XVI has constituted a new Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which has as one of its tasks, “to promote the use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an essential and complete formulation of the content of the faith for the people of our time” (art. 3, n. 5º). The faithful will find in that great work of the pontifícate of John Paul II, a complete formulation of the faith suited for our time, which presents the Second Vatican Council in all its beauty and in the proper doctrinal and living context of the Magisterium throughout the centuries. The homilist will thus find a rich vein for meditating the liturgical texts. It is also worth bearing in mind the utility of the Compendium of the Catholic Church, as an tool which is perhaps more accesible for study and memorization.

The triennial cycle of the lectionary for Sunday Masses and solemnities permits one to consider all facets of the mystery of Christ. But from the early times of our Church, the detailed study of the profession of faith has been a wonderful complement in appreciating this mystery of our Lord, as it has developed so consistently over the centuries. Consequently, a study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, individually or in groups, contributes to a greater knowledge of the organic whole of divine Revelation, in all its beauty and harmony. The readings of the Mass are not situated at the margin of the liturgy, but are in direct connection with the liturgical homily. A more assiduous use of the Catechism will undoubtedly contribute to quality preaching directed toward the exciting challenge of the new evangelization.

 

Lluís Clavell
Professor of Philosophy and former Rector of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome President of the Pontifical Academy of Saint Thomas Aquinas
English translation by Fr. Jerry Jung



[1] A consideration of  the proposals set forth in the 2008 ordinary Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the Word of God.

[2] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (September 30, 2010), n. 59.

[3] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (February 22, 2007), n. 46.

[4] Vid. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 35 or Institutio generalis Missalis Romani, 2002 (nn. 29, 65-66).

[5] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (September 30, 2010), n. 59.

[6] Ibidem.

[7] Cfr. St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge, n. 894.

[8] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (September 30, 2010), n. 59.

[9] Ibidem.

[10] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (September 30, 2010), n. 60.

[11] More fully, “Your actions should not contradict your words, lest when you preach in Church, someone may begin to think: ‘So why don’t you yourself act that way?’ … In the priest of Christ, thought and word must be in agreement” (St. Jerome, Epistola 52,7: CSEL 54, 426-427).

[12] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (September 30, 2010), n. 60.

[13] Ibidem, n. 59.

[14] The combination of excellent content and style in the homilies of Benedict XVI can especially be appreciated by reading a convenient collection of them, published as "Omelie di Joseph Ratzinger, papa. Anno liturgico 2010" (a cura di Sandro Magister, Libri Scheiwiller, Milano 2010, p. 420).

[15] Propositio 15 of the 2008 Synod of Bishops.

[16] Sermo 179, 1: PL 38, 966.

[17] 1 Jn 4, 10.

[18] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (September 30, 2010), n. 59.

[19] Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, Jesus de Nazareth, From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (New York: Doubleday, 2007) xii.

[20] 1 Jn 1, 1-4.

[21] St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catequesis 13,1. 3. 6. 23: PG 33, 771-774. 779. 799. 802.

[22] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (September 30, 2010), n. 48.

[23] Ibidem.

[24] St. Josemaría Escrivá, Friends of God, n. 222.

[25] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (September 30, 2010), n. 60.

The forthcoming 50th anniversary of the convocation of the Second Vatican Council (25 December 1961) is a cause for celebration, but also for renewed reflection on the reception and application of the Conciliar Documents. Over and above the more directly practical aspects of this reception and application, both positive and negative, it seems appropriate also to recall the nature of the intellectual assent that is owed to the teachings of the Council. Although we are dealing here with a well-known doctrine, about which there is an extensive bibliography, it is nevertheless useful to review it in its essential points, given the persistence - also in public opinion - of misunderstandings regarding the continuity of some Conciliar teachings with previous teachings of the Church's Magisterium.

Viernes, 18 Noviembre 2011 15:45

About "The Alpha Course"

The general idea of the course appears good, as its aim is to help as many people as possible (typically those who are non-practising or with little doctrinal formation) to get to know the main ideas of Christianity. It is an introductory course taking the form of a small congenial discussion group following a meal. Given its method, the effectiveness of the sessions depends to a large extent upon the religious formation of the leader and his ability to guide the discussion in a constructive way.

English translation of the article Algunas experiencias prácticas y consideraciones básicas de un padre de familia sobre la vida conyugal y familiar, by Javier Vidal-Quadras. The author reflects –from a father´s perspective– on some basic concepts about family and marriage, and offers practical advice to help married love mature.

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