Tag Archives: opinion

Stoke the fire in your soul

WE are all creatures of habit. From the moment we get out of bed in the morning until we return there in the evening, our daily routines are much the same. We drive the same way to work, during which we listen to the same radio station; we stop at the same coffee shop where we buy the same coffee. At night, we make the same meals and mindlessly watch the same television shows. Then we pray the same prayers. And the cycle begins again the next morning.

We do this every day, all the while longing for more.

We crave the peace that we know will only come from knowing Christ better, understanding his Church more, learning about those who devoted their lives to doing his will. And yet we leave no time to tend that fire that is burning within us.

But in order to change our lives, we first must change our habits. St Paul of the Cross gives us a few suggestions: “Prayer, the frequentation of the sacraments, good reading … these are, believe me, the means of sanctifying yourself.”

While a stronger prayer life and more frequent reception of the sacraments are obvious ways to grow in faith, many ignore the third recommendation: good reading. Because in order to grow spiritually, we must grow in intellect and understanding – of God and of ourselves. More importantly, we must make time to sit in silence and be inspired.

St Jerome said, “When we pray, we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us.”

What God is offering us in that silence is an invitation to know him better. Are we too busy to accept?

Take the time this year to stir that fire within, because if you are tired of being stagnant in your faith, perhaps it is time to turn the page.

     Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) suggests a list of books: Fr Solanus Casey by Catherine Odell; A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction by Christopher O. Blum and Joshua P. Hochschild; Adopted: the Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World by Kelley Nikondeha; From Atheism to Catholicism: Nine Converts Explain their Journey Home by Brandon McGinley; and others. – OSV

Ignoring reality of abuse, resisting responsibility must end

ANYONE who still believes the abuse crisis is an “American” or “Western” problem must become properly informed, face reality and realize problems may be hidden and explode in the future, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

And those who think too much talk and attention about abuse only blows the situation out of proportion or that it is time to change the topic are following “a mistaken path,” he said in the Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica.

“If the issue is not fully confronted in all of its various dimensions, the church will continue to find itself facing one crisis after another, the credibility of (the church) and all of her priests will remain seriously wounded and, above all, the essence of her mission will suffer – that of proclaiming the Gospel and its educational work for children and young people, which for centuries has been one of the most beautiful and precious aspects of her service for humanity,” he wrote.

A major focus of the summit convoked by Pope Francis at the Vatican Feb 21-24 for the presidents of bishops’ conferences, representatives of religious orders and heads of Vatican dicasteries, he wrote, will be on helping participants understand they are being encouraged to join together – not as representatives of their own people – but as leaders of the people of God on a journey that requires the input and collaboration of lay experts so that there may be “a united response on the universal level.”

Pope Francis, he added, has also widened the scope of abuse to include not just sexual abuse but the abuse of power and of conscience and the corruption of authority, which is no longer lived as service but as the wielding of power.

The February summit will give people a chance to share experiences and best practices, he said, and to strongly encourage everyone to make “new urgent steps forward.”

While many lessons already have been learned, “there are also many open questions” left to address, he said.

One is recognizing that even though a number of countries have done much in the area of prevention and formation, “it must be recognized that in many other countries, little, if anything, has been done.”

People do not need a theoretical understanding, but actual concrete awareness of the damage caused, and that will push people to overcome “laziness, fears and very dangerous resistance” and to leap into action.

“Often one continues to delude oneself that it is mainly a ‘Western’ or else an ‘American’ or ‘Anglophone’ problem and with incredible naivete, thinks that (the problem) may be marginal in one’s own country,” he wrote. – CNS

Two signs of Christmas that never cease to appeal

THE tree and the nativity display are two signs that never cease to appeal to us; they tell us about Christmas and help us to contemplate the mystery of God made man to be close to each one of us.

The Christmas tree with its lights reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light of the soul that drives away the darkness of enmities and makes room for forgiveness. The spruce coming from the Cansiglio forest, suggests further reflection. With its height of over twenty meters, it symbolizes God, who with the birth of His Son Jesus, lowered himself down to man, to raise man to himself and lift him from the fogs of selfishness and sin. The Son of God assumes the human condition to draw it to himself and to make it participate in his divine and incorruptible nature.

The nativity scene, located in the centre of the Square, is made with sand from Jesola, originally from the Dolomites. The sand, a poor material, recalls the simplicity, the smallness, and also the fragility with which God showed himself with the birth of Jesus in precariousness in Bethlehem.

It may seem that this smallness contradicts divinity, so much so that some, from the very beginning, considered it only as appearance, a façade. But no, because smallness is freedom. Those who are small – in the evangelical sense – are not only light, but also free from any desire to appear and from any claim to success; like children who express themselves and move spontaneously. We are all called to be free before God, to have the freedom of a child before his father. The Child Jesus, Son of God and our Saviour, whom we place in the manger, is Holy in poverty, smallness, simplicity and humility.

The Nativity and the tree, enchanting symbols of Christmas, can bring to families and meeting places a reflection of the light and tenderness of God, to help everyone to live the feast of the birth of Jesus. Contemplating the Child God who emanates light in the humility of the nativity scene, we can also become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness. – (Pope Francis’ address to the donors of Christmas tree and Sand Nativity Dec 7)

Listen for the poor

IT is noble to mark the World Day of the Poor with gifts of charity, but Pope Francis has challenged Catholics to go much further than that. He asks us to observe it by making a serious examination of conscience “to see if we are truly capable of hearing the cry of the poor.”

The first World Day was observed a year ago, and for the second one, just marked on Nov 18, the Pope has proposed that Catholics do more than reach for their wallets.

Cash gifts are “meritorious and necessary” and should be encouraged, he said, but alone they will not change the world. To achieve that outcome requires a global commitment to genuinely empathize with the suffering of the poor.

“We are so trapped in a culture that induces us to look in the mirror and pamper ourselves,” wrote Pope Francis. “We think that an altruistic gesture (towards the poor) is enough, without the need to get directly involved.”

He is right, of course. Too often our gifts are meant more to satisfy the giver than those who receive. All too frequently, individuals and governments make grand gestures to aid the poor but are unwilling to actually stand with them, to stop, listen and reach out to them, to genuinely try to feel their pain. The poor, the Pope says, need “the personal involvement of all who hear their cry.”

A generous person drops a dollar or a coin into the paper cup of a beggar they pass on the street, but the Pope challenges us to be something more – the type of person who readily drops a dollar but also extends a hand in an authentic manner that gives hope, purpose and dignity to a destitute person.

Pope Francis has no illusions. This is not easy. We live in a world that can momentarily rise in compassion but is generally indifferent to suffering it cannot see. Or refuses to look at.

He acknowledges that the World Day of the Poor “may well be like a drop of water in the desert of poverty.” But even the mightiest flood begins with a single drop.

“For the poor to overcome their oppressive situation, they need to sense the presence of brothers and sisters who are concerned for them and . . . make them feel like friends and family.”

Instead, he wrote, often the opposite is true. The poor are shunned, told to be quiet, left to accept their lot in life, rejected and kept afar.

How different the world might be if, instead of selfishly chasing wealth and possessions while occasionally helping needy causes, people the world over would commit to a sincere effort to draw so near to the poor that their cries for help might someday become mere whispers. – NCR Editorial

Music at liturgy: full expression of faith

Credit: Pexels

In a recent US Catholic survey, eighty percent of those questioned said that music at Mass was very important to them. However, only thirteen percent were totally satisfied with the music that they have and actually sing. The music at Mass is important, very important! It is not simply a performance by a soloist or choir, a background to accompany our prayer, a means to create a mood, or an incentive to shout and clap our hands. Music is integral to our liturgical worship.

Pope Francis has clearly defined the purpose of music at Mass. He said that it is “first of all a matter of participating intensely in the mystery of God, in the ‘theophany’ that takes place in every Eucharistic celebration, in which the Lord makes himself present among his people, who are called truly to participate in the salvation realized by the crucified and risen Christ” (Homily at Santa Marta, December 12, 2013). The Second Vatican Council called for full, active and conscious participation of the laity at Mass. Like the introduction of the vernacular in liturgy, music is meant to foster this participation.

However, Pope Francis has noted that the very “introduction of vernacular languages into the liturgy has raised many issues: of language, form and musical genre. At times, a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of the liturgical celebrations” (Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the International Conference on Sacred Music, March 4, 2017). Good liturgical music should be both aesthetically pleasing and theologically correct. For example, any song that refers to the Eucharist as bread and wine has no place in Catholic worship. The Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus and the songs we sing should express this reality.

Lifting our hearts to God in liturgy always goes beyond the boundaries of human speech. Thus, liturgy, by its very nature, calls upon the help of music and song to praise to God. Music varies from culture to culture. And so do the musical instruments. In liturgy, it is possible to enculturate the many types of songs and instruments in as much as they enhance the celebration and lead us to focus on God.

When it comes to the musical instruments that are played at liturgy, the pipe organ holds a primacy of place in the Latin Church among all other musical instruments. Like no other musical instrument, it can express the full range of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to sorrow. Invented in the 3rd century BC, by the Greek engineer Ctesibius of Alexandria, the pipe organ was introduced into our churches in the 10thcentury. It has become the desired instrument for sacred music. With its variety of sounds and tones, it reminds us of the immensity of God. The pipe organ has the ability to surround us with the beauty of music that leads us to experience the presence of God who holds us in the embrace of his love, bringing harmony and joy into our lives.

Music plays such an important role in our worship of God because we are both body and soul. Prayer rises from the depths of our heart. Words alone do not suffice to express all that we wish to say. But, music has the power to communicate the messages and emotions that words cannot capture. Music is a bridge between the world of matter and the realm of the spirit. It transforms our life path into a conscious spiritual path. Music takes us out of ourselves and opens us up to God. Sound liturgical music, therefore, never centers on the community. Liturgy is not about what we want. Liturgy is, first and foremost, praise and worship of God and our entering into what the Lord himself wants for us.

Many great composers, such as Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Brahms recognized that their musical talent was not enough to produce good music. They needed divine inspiration. God himself loves music! After all, the Book of Psalms is a song book. Music comes from God, and when we participate in it – whether by writing, performing, or even just listening – we are receiving a gift from God.

At Mass, there are times when we may choose to simply listen to the music and let our hearts rise in praise of God. But, moments of silently listening to music and song at Mass should be rare. Not joining in the songs of the congregation limits and diminishes our participation in the liturgy. The walls of our churches should reverberate with the sound of our singing at liturgy. In the words of the Letter to the Ephesians, we should “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” (Ephesians 5:18-19). – Bishop Arthur Serratelli, CNA, 2 May 2018 

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