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A hunger for God

Once upon a time, fasting was an expectation. Prayer, almsgiving (charity) and fasting were seen by the early Church as naturally supporting and completing each other. They’ve been called, in fact, the three pillars of Christian discipline. Jesus taught his disciples about fasting and clearly expected it of them: “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” (Mt 6:17-18). He said when you fast — not if . And that’s not even close to being all: The Hebrew Bible is filled with examples of God’s people fasting, and the first thing St. Paul did upon his conversion was — you guessed it — fast. So how is it that fasting has slipped between the cracks, as it were, of our present-day Catholic spiritual traditions? Especially at those times when the Church calls us to focus more intentionally on our spiritual lives — Advent and Lent — it sometimes feels as though fasting is simply one among many options. And not a particularly popular one, at that. The Church and fasting It’s true that the Church has relaxed its rules around fasting, in terms of both when and how it’s done. These days, you’re only required to fast on two days — Ash Wednesday and Good Friday — and you’re even permitted one full meal on those days, which to many people doesn’t actually feel like such a great burden at all. Significance of Advent The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the special meaning of Advent as we await Christ’s birth. “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (No. 524). “To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom. For this, we must humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become ‘children of God’ we must be ‘born from above’ or ‘born of God.’ Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us. Christmas is the mystery of this ‘marvelous exchange’: O marvelous exchange! Man’s Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity” (No. 526). Because of those requirements, most Catholics associate fasting with Lent, but it’s not the only penitential season in the Church’s calendar. Advent leads up to a solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) that is second only to Easter in its importance. As such, it needs to be celebrated, as it were, with penance and preparation. But especially in Advent, penance and preparation can be difficult to achieve. Every year, the commercial celebration of Christmas seems to begin earlier and earlier, with inescapable carols everywhere and the planning for Christmas shopping as a major life focus. And, honestly, you have to admit: The holiday season seems anything but penitential, with most people engaged in a great deal of excessive eating and drinking as they go from party to party. But we’re called to do something else. Christians are not “most people.” We are called to be apart from the world, apart from what the world does. Christ is coming, and we use penance — prayer, fasting and acts of charity — in order to prepare ourselves as we await his birth. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8). Perhaps it is precisely in the way the secular world “does” Advent that makes this season such an appropriate one for fasting. If you’ve never thought much about fasting, or if you haven’t done so in a long time, then Advent is an excellent time and place to begin. Fasting, more than any other discipline, does not let you forget for one ...

Pope: Jesus brings true change, renewing the heart

(Vatican Radio) Let us allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ; let us allow ourselves to be able to be re-created, freeing us from our sins. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, centred on the theme of the renewal that the Lord brings. The Pope put us on guard about painting over our sins without truly being ashamed in our hearts. Only by calling sins by their name, he said, will we be able to allow God to make us new women and men. The desert will bloom, the blind will see, the deaf will hear. The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, speaks to us about renewal, the Pope said. Everything will be changed, from ugly to beautiful, from wicked to good.” A change for the better: this, he said, is what the People of Israel were expecting from the Messiah. The change that Jesus brings is not simply make-up Turning then to the Gospel of the day, Pope Francis noted that Jesus went about healing people, helping them “to see a path of change” and this is why they followed Him. They didn’t follow Jesus because He was some sort of novelty; “they followed Him because the message of Jesus touched their hearts.” And “the people saw that Jesus healed, and they followed Him” for that reason as well: But what Jesus did was not only change things from ugly to beautiful, from wicked to good: Jesus made a transformation. It’s not a problem of making something beautiful, it’s not a problem of cosmetics, of make-up: He changed everything from the inside! He made a change that was a re-creation: God had created the world; man fell into sin; Jesus came to re-create the world. And this is the message, the message of the Gospel, that we can clearly see: before healing that man, He forgave his sins. Go that way, to a re-creation, He re-creates that man, [changing him] from a sinner to a just man: He re-creates him as a just man. He makes him new, totally new. And this gives scandal: this gives scandal! For this reason, the Pope said, the Doctors of the Law, “began to discuss, to murmur,” because they weren’t able to accept His authority. Jesus, he said, “is capable of making us – us sinners – new persons.” It is something, Pope Francis said, “that Mary Magdalen intuits.” She was healthy, “but she had a wound within: she was a sinner.” She had an intuition that Jesus was able to heal not only the body, “but the wounds of the soul. He could re-create it!” And for reason “great faith” is needed. Opening the heart before the Lord: calling sin by its name The Lord, the Pope said, “helps us to prepare ourselves for Christmas with great faith” because “for the healing of the soul, for the existential healing the re-creation that Jesus brings requires great faith in us.” Being transformed, he said “is the grace of salvation that Jesus brings.” We need to overcome the temptation to say “I can’t do it,” and to allow ourselves instead to be transformed, to be re-created by Jesus. “Courage” is the word of God: We are all sinners, but look to the root of your sin, and that the Lord goes there and re-creates it; and that bitter root will flourish, flourish with works of justice; and you will be a new man, a new woman. But if we [say]: ‘Yes, yes, I have some sins; I go, I confess myself… two little words, and then I go on as before,” I don’t allow myself to be re-created by the Lord. Only two coats of paint, and we believe that with this the story’s over. No! Naming my sins, with name and surname: I’ve done this, and this, and this, and I am ashamed at heart. And I open my heart: ‘Lord, the only thing I have. Re-create me! Re-create me! And so we have the courage of going with true faith – as we asked – towards Christmas.’ The Pope said we always “seek to hide the gravity of our sins.” For example when we diminish envy. This, on the other hand, said Pope Francis, “is a very ugly thing. It is like the venom of a serpent” that seeks “to destroy the other!” Let us allow the Lord to cancel our sins in order to make us truly new And so the Pope encourages us “to get to the bottom of our sins and then give them to the Lord, so that He will cancel them and help us go forward with faith.” And he emphasized this passage, telling the story of a Saint, a great Bible scholar, who had a very strong character, who was often moved to anger, and who sought forgiveness from the Lord, doing so many acts of renunciation and penance: The Saint, talking to the Lord said, ‘Are you content, O Lord’ – ‘No!’ – ‘But I have given you everything!’ – ‘No, there’s something missing…’ And this poor man did another penance, said another prayer, did another vigil: ‘I have done this for you, O Lord. Is everything ok? – ‘No! Something’s missing…’ – ‘But what is missing, Lord?’ – ‘Your sins are lacking! Give me your sins!’ This is what the Lord is asking of us today. ‘Courage! Give me your sins and I will make you a new man, a new woman.’ May the Lord give us faith, to believe this.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope approves decrees for causes for canonization

(Vatican Radio) On 1 December, the Holy Father Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In the course of the audience, the Supreme Pontiff authorized the Congregation to promulgate decrees regarding: The miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Giovanni, Schiavo, professed Priest of the Congregation of San Giuseppe; born 8 July 1903 and died 27 January 1967; The martyrdom of the Servant of God Vicente Queralt Lloret, professed Priest of the Congregation of the Missions, and 20 Companions, amongst them six professed priests of the same Congregation, five diocesan Priests, two religious Daughters of Charity, and seven Lay members of the Association Sons of Mary of the Miraculous Medal, killed in hatred of the Faith during the civil war in Spain between 1936 and 1937; The martyrdom of the Servant of God Teofilius Matulionis, Archbishop-Bishop of Kaišiadorys (Lithuania), born 22 June 1873 and died in hatred of the Faith on 20 August 1962; The martyrdom of the Servant of God Stanley Francis Rother, diocesan Priest; born on 27 March 1935 and died in hatred of the Faith 28 July 1981; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Guglielmo Massaia, of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, born 8 June 1809, died 6 August 1889; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Nunzio Russo, diocesan Priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross; born 30 October 1841, died 22 November 1906; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God José Bau Burguet, diocesan Priest, Pastor in Masarrochos (Spain); born 20 April 1867, died 22 November 1932; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Mario Ciceri, diocesan Priest; born 8 September 1900, died 4 April 1945; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Mary Joseph Aubert (née Suzanne Aubert), Foundress of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion; born 19 June 1835, died 1 October 1926; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God, Luce Rodríguez-Casanova y García San Miguel, Foundress of the Congregation of the Apostolic Ladies of the Sacred Heart; born 28 August 1873, died 8 January 1949; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Catherine Aurelia of the Precious Blood (Aurelia Caouette), Foundress of the Sisters Adorers of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Union of Saint-Hyacinthe; born 11 July 1833, died 6 July 1905; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God, Leonia Maria Nastał, professed Sister of the Congregation of the Little Servant Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate; born 8 November 1903, died 10 January 1940. (from Vatican Radio)...

Beyond expectations: Pope sees God of surprises at work in 2016

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis described 2016 as a "packed year," one full of initiatives that helped Catholics "see and touch with their hands the fruits of the mercy of God." "The Lord always surprises us and goes beyond our expectations," the pope said Nov. 28, looking back at what happened over the past 12 months, especially in events related to the Year of Mercy. While the jubilee celebrations dominated the papal calendar, they did not halt other activities and responsibilities, nor other surprises. After decades of work and hope and prayer, Pope Francis finally was the first pope to meet with the Russian Orthodox patriarch. He and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow met briefly in Cuba in February and signed a joint declaration. In April, after visiting with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis -- without prior announcement -- brought 12 of them back to Rome with him. The Vatican is providing the funds needed for their living expenses and the Rome-based Sant'Egidio Community is helping them with language lessons and logistics. The 12 all had the legal paperwork necessary to move to Italy. In May, Pope Francis held a dialogue with the superiors general of women's religious orders from around the world. One of the women asked him to establish "an official commission to study the question" of the identity and role of the women described as deacons in the New Testament and early Christian writings. The pope agreed and later named six men and six women to the commission, in addition to commission president Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The commission held its first meeting in late November. Here's a look back at some other items from the pope's 2016 diary: -- In January, Pope Francis became the third modern pope to visit Rome's main synagogue. He told the congregation that while the Catholic Church affirms that salvation comes through Jesus, it also recognizes that God is faithful and has not revoked his covenant with the Jewish people. He paid special tribute to a handful of Holocaust survivors present for his visit, saying, "their sufferings, anguish and tears must never be forgotten." -- In February, his meeting with Patriarch Kirill took place during a stopover on his way to Mexico for a pastoral visit that included intense personal prayer at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a special Mass in Ciudad Juarez at a site just a few yards from the U.S.-Mexican border. He insisted the migration crisis is not just about numbers, but "names, stories and families." -- In March, Pope Francis continued his practice of holding a Lenten penance service in St. Peter's Basilica, going to confession and hearing confessions. The sacrament was a centerpiece of the Year of Mercy celebrations, and the pope told priests, "May every man and woman who comes to confession find a father; a father who is waiting, the Father who forgives." -- In April, the Vatican released Pope Francis' postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, "Amoris Laetitia," insisting that God's plan for the family is that it be built on the lifelong union of one man and one woman open to having children. The pope called for an overhaul of marriage preparation programs and for the prayerful accompaniment of Catholic couples whose marriages have failed. -- In May, Pope Francis received the Charlemagne Prize and delivered a major speech on his vision for a Europe that overcomes division, economic struggles and fear of immigrants. "We are asked to promote an integration that finds in solidarity a way of acting, a means of making history," he said. "Solidarity should never be confused with charitable assistance, but understood as a means of creating opportunities for all the inhabitants of our cities -- and of so many other cities -- to live with dignity." -- In June, in a small, family-like gathering, Pope Francis helped retired Pope Benedict XVI celebrate the 65th anniversary of his priestly ...

Pope Francis meets with Fortune-Time Global Forum

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday greeted participants of the Fortune-Time Global Forum . The Forum brings together Fortune 500 and Time 100 leaders, who were discussing technology and jobs, global health, food and water, commitment to communities, energy and the environment, and financial inclusion—each representing critical elements related to poverty alleviation. “Our world today is marked by great unrest,” – Pope Francis told them – “Inequality between peoples continues to rise, and many communities are impacted directly by war and poverty, or the migration and displacement which flow from them.  People want to make their voices heard and express their concerns and fears.” The Holy Father thanked them for their work promoting “the centrality and dignity of the human person within our institutions and economic models, and to draw attention to the plight of the poor and refugees, who are so often forgotten by society.” “When we ignore the cries of so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we not only deny them their God-given rights and worth, but we also reject their wisdom and prevent them from offering their talents, traditions and cultures to the world,” – he continued – “In so doing, the poor and marginalized are made to suffer even more, and we ourselves grow impoverished, not only materially, but morally and spiritually.”   Pope Francis challenged the business leaders to respond to global levels of injustice by promoting a local – “and even personal” – sense of responsibility so that no one is excluded from participating in society.  “Thus, the question before us is how best to encourage one another and our respective communities to respond to the suffering and needs we see, both from afar and in our midst,” – the Holy Father said – “The renewal, purification and strengthening of solid economic models depends on our own personal conversion and generosity to those in need.” The full text of Pope Francis’ speech is below Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants of the Fortune-Time Global Forum Saturday, 3 December 2016 Dear Friends, I am very pleased to welcome all of you who are participating in the Fortune-Time Global Forum, and I express my appreciation for your work these past two days.  I thank Mrs Nancy Gibbs and Mr Alan Murray for their kind words.  The theme you have chosen, “The 21st-Century Challenge: Forging a New Social Compact”, is very opportune and points to the urgent need for more inclusive and equitable economic models.  Your time together has allowed for a substantive exchange of ideas and sharing of information.  Important as this is, what is required now is not a new social compact in the abstract, but concrete ideas and decisive action which will benefit all people and which will begin to respond to the pressing issues of our day. I would like to offer a particular word of thanks for all that you are doing to promote the centrality and dignity of the human person within our institutions and economic models, and to draw attention to the plight of the poor and refugees, who are so often forgotten by society.  When we ignore the cries of so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we not only deny them their God-given rights and worth, but we also reject their wisdom and prevent them from offering their talents, traditions and cultures to the world.  In so doing, the poor and marginalized are made to suffer even more, and we ourselves grow impoverished, not only materially, but morally and spiritually.   Our world today is marked by great unrest.  Inequality between peoples continues to rise, and many communities are impacted directly by war and poverty, or the migration and displacement which flow from them.  People want to make their voices heard and express their concerns and fears.  They want to make their rightful contribution to their local communities and broader society, and to benefit from the resources and development too often reserved for the few.  While this may create conflict and lay bare the many sorrows of our world, it also makes us realize that we are living in a moment of hope.  For when we finally recognize the evil in our midst, we can seek healing by applying the remedy.  Your very presence here today is a sign of such hope, because it shows that you recognize the issues before us and the imperative to act decisively.  This strategy of renewal and hope calls for institutional and personal conversion; a change of heart that attaches primacy to the deepest expressions of our common humanity, our cultures, our religious beliefs and our traditions.  This fundamental renewal does not have to do simply with market economics, figures to be balanced, the development of raw materials and improvements made to infrastructures.  No, what we are speaking about is the common good of humanity, of the right of each person to share in the resources of this world and to have the same opportunities to realize his or her potential, a potential that is ultimately based on the dignity of the children of God, created in his image and likeness.              Our great challenge is to respond to global levels of injustice by promoting a local and even personal sense of responsibility so that no one is excluded from participating in society.  Thus, the question before us is how best to encourage one another and our respective communities to respond to the suffering and needs we see, both from afar and in our midst.  The renewal, purification and strengthening of solid economic models depends on our own personal conversion and generosity to those in need. I encourage you to continue the work you have begun at this Forum, and to seek ever more creative ways to transform our institutions and economic structures so that they may be able to respond to the needs of our day and be in service of the human person, especially those marginalized and discarded.  I pray too that you may involve in your efforts those whom you seek to help; give them a voice, listen to their stories, learn from their experiences and understand their needs.  See in them a brother and a sister, a son and a daughter, a mother and a father.  Amid the challenges of our day, see the human face of those you earnestly seek to help.  I assure you of my prayer that your efforts will bear fruit, and of the Catholic Church’s commitment to be a voice for those who otherwise are silenced.  Upon you, your families and all your colleagues, I invoke the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and peace. Thank you. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis receives President of Uruguay

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the President of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay, Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas, in a private audience on Friday. A communiqué from the Holy See Press Office said the Pope and the President held cordial discussions, in which they evoked the historical ties between the Holy See and Uruguay, and their “common interests for the integral development of the human person, respect for human rights, and social peace”. In this context, the two men underlined the “role and positive contribution made by Catholic institutions to the society of Uruguay, especially in the areas of human promotion, formation, and aid to those most in need”. The press release goes on to say the Pope and the President spoke about the national and regional situation, with special emphasis on democratic institutions and the social and humanitarian situation on the continent. Vázquez subsequently met with the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. (from Vatican Radio)...

Papal preacher gives first Advent Sermon to Pope and Curia

(Vatican Radio) Papal preacher Father Raniero Cantalamessa on Friday offered his first Advent Sermon  to  Pope Francis, focusing on the Holy Spirit’s action in the Church. As preacher to the Papal Household, Capucin Father Cantalamessa gives a meditation to the Pope, Cardinals and members of the Roman Curia every Friday morning in Lent and Advent in the Apostolic Palace’s “Redemptoris Mater” Chapel.  Father Cantalamessa was named papal preacher by St. John Paul II in 1980, and was confirmed by both by Benedict XVI and by Pope Francis. Please find below the full text of the Reflection translated by Marsha Daigle Williamson: I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT 1. The Innovation after the Council With the celebration of the 50th year of the end of the Second Vatican Council, the first “post-conciliar” period comes to a close and a new one begins. If the first period was categorized by problems relating to the “reception” of the Council, this new period will be characterized, I believe, by the completion and integration of the Council—in other words, by re-reading the Council in the light of the fruit it produced while also highlighting what was lacking in it or only present in a seminal phase. The major innovation in theology and in the life of the Church after the Council has a specific name: the Holy Spirit. The Council had certainly not ignored the Holy Spirit’s action in the Church, but it had spoken of it almost always “in passing,” often mentioning him but without emphasizing his central role, not even in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. In one conversation during the time that we were together on the International Theological Commission, I remember that Father Yves Congar used a striking image in this regard: he spoke of a Holy Spirit who is sprinkled here and there throughout the texts like sugar sprinkled on top of pastries without, however, being part of the recipe itself.  Nevertheless, the thaw had begun. We can say that the intuition of St. John XXIII about the Council as “a new Pentecost for the Church” found its actualization only later after the conclusion of the Council, as has so often happened in the history of the Councils. In the coming year, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church will occur. It is one of the many signs—the most noticeable because of the magnitude of the phenomenon—of an awakening to the Holy Spirit and charisms in the Church. The Council had paved the way for this reception, speaking in Lumen gentium of the charismatic dimension of the Church alongside the institutional and hierarchical dimension and insisting on the importance of charisms.  In his homily for the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday in 2012, Benedict XVI affirmed, Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. Contemporaneously the renewed experience of the Holy Spirit stimulated theological reflection.  Soon after the Council, treatises on the Holy Spirit multiplied: among Catholics, that of Yves Congar,  of Karl Rahner,  of Heribert Mühlen,  and of Hans Urs von Balthasar ; among Lutherans, that of Jürgen Moltmann,  of Michael Welker,  and many others. On the part of the magisterium there was the encyclical Dominum et vivificantem (On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World) by St. John Paul II. In 1982 on the occasion of Sixteenth Centenary of the First Council of Constantinople in 381, that same Supreme Pontiff sponsored the International Congress of Pneumatology at the Vatican, and its proceedings were published in two large volumes called Credo in Spiritum Sanctum.  In recent years we have witnessed a decisive step forward in this direction. Toward the end of his career Karl Barth made a provocative statement that was in part a self-criticism. He said that in the future a new theology would be developed, the “theology of the third article.”  By “third article” he of course meant the article in the creed about the Holy Spirit. His suggestion did not fall on deaf ears. It has given rise to the present theological current that is precisely named the “Theology of the Third Article.” I do not think that such a current aims to substitute itself for traditional theology (and it would be mistake if it did); rather it is meant to come alongside of it and reinvigorate it. It proposes to make the Holy Spirit not only the object of one treatise, pneumatology, but also the atmosphere, so to speak, in which the whole life of the Church and all theological research unfolds—for the Holy Spirit is the “light of dogmas,” as an ancient Church Father described him. The most complete treatment of this recent theological current is a volume by scholars that appeared in English this last September called Third Article Theology.  Beginning with the great tradition of the trinitarian doctrine, theologians from various Christian Churches offer their contributions to this book as an introduction to a systematic theology that is more open to the Spirit and more responsive to current needs. As a Catholic, I too was invited to contribute to the book with an essay on “Christology and Pneumatology in the Early Centuries of the Church.” 2. The Creed Read from Below The reasons that warrant this new theological orientation are not only dogmatic but also historical. In other words, we can understand what the theology of the third article is and what it aims for if we keep in mind how the actual Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol came about. That history clearly points to the usefulness of examining that symbol “in reverse” at some point, that is, starting from the end instead of from the beginning. Let me explain what I mean. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol reflects the Christian faith in its ultimate phase after all the council clarifications and definitions were completed in the 5th century. It reflects the order reached at the end of the process of formulating the dogma, but it does not, however, reflect the process itself, faith in the making. In other words, it does not correspond to the process by which the faith of the Church was actually formed historically, nor does it correspond to the process by which someone arrives at faith today, understood as a living faith in a living God. In today’s creed one begins with God the Father and Creator and moves on from him to the Son and his redemptive work, and finally to the Holy Spirit operating in the Church. In reality, the faith followed a reverse path. It was the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit that brought the Church to discover who Jesus was and what his teaching was. With Paul and above all with John we reach the point of ascending from Jesus to the Father. It is the Paraclete who, according to Jesus’ promise (see Jn 16:13), leads the disciples into “all the truth” about himself and the Father. Basil of Caesarea summarizes the development of revelation and of salvation history this way:  The way of the knowledge of God lies from One Spirit through the One Son to the One Father, and conversely the natural Goodness and the inherent Holiness and the royal Dignity extend from the Father through the Only-begotten to the Spirit.  In other words, on the level of creation and being, everything comes from the Father, goes through the Son, and reaches us through the Spirit. However, in the order of redemption and conscious awareness, everything begins with the Holy Spirit, goes through the Son Jesus Christ, and returns to the Father. We could say that St. Basil is the real initiator of Third Article Theology! In the Western tradition this is expressed concisely in the final stanza of the hymn “Veni creator.” Addressing the Holy Spirit, the Church prays, Per te sciamus da Patrem  noscamus atque Filium, Te utriusque Spiritum credamus omni tempore. Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow the Father and the Son to know; and Thee, through endless times confessed, of both the eternal Spirit blest. This does not in the least mean that the Church’s creed is imperfect or that it needs to be reformulated.  It cannot be other than what it is. However, what is sometimes useful is to change our approach to reading it so as to retrace the path by which it was formulated. There is the same contrast between the two ways of approaching the creed—as a finished product or in its process of formulation—as there is, on the one hand, between leaving St. Catherine’s Monastery early in the morning and personally climbing Mount Sinai and, on the other hand, reading the account of someone who climbed it before we did. 3. A Commentary on the “Third Article” With this in view, I would like to offer reflections on some aspects of the Holy Spirit’s action in the three meditations for Advent, beginning precisely with the third article of the creed that pertains to him.  The article includes three great affirmations. Let us start with the first one that says, a)    “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” The creed does not say that the Holy Spirit is “the” Lord (just above in the creed we proclaim, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ”!). “Lord” (in the original text, to kyrion, neuter!) indicates here the nature, not the person; it says what the Holy Spirit is but not who he is.  “Lord” means that the Holy Spirit shares in the lordship of God, that he is in the category of Creator, and not the category of a creature. In other words, he has a divine nature. The Church reached this certainty based not only on Scripture, but also on her own experience of salvation. The Spirit, wrote St. Athanasius, cannot be a creature because when we are touched by him (in the sacraments, in the word, in prayer), we experience entering into contact with God in person and not with his intermediary. If the Spirit divinizes us, it means that he is God himself.   Could we not say the same thing in the symbol of faith in a more explicit way, defining the Holy Spirit purely and simply as “God and consubstantial with the Father” as was done for the Son? Certainly, and this was the criticism of the definition quickly leveled by some bishops, including Gregory Nazianzus. However, for reasons of expediency and peace, saying the same the thing  with equivalent expressions was preferred, attributing to the Spirit, in addition to the title of “Lord,” the isotimia, that is, equality with the Father and the Son in being adored and glorified by the Church. The description of the Spirit as “the giver of life” is drawn from various passages in the New Testament: “It is the Spirit that gives life” (Jn 6:63); “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2); “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45); “the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life” (1 Cor 3:6). Let us ask three questions here. First, what kind of life does the Holy Spirit give? The answer: divine life, the life of Christ. A supernatural life, not a natural super-life. He creates the new man, not Nietzsche’s superman with his “pride of life.” Second, where does he give us this life? The answer: in baptism, which is in fact represented as a “rebirth in the Spirit” (see Jn 3:5), in the sacraments, in the word of God, in prayer, in faith, and in suffering that is accepted in union with Christ. Third, how does the Spirit give us life? The answer: by making the works of the flesh die! He gives us that life through a death. “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live,” St. Paul says in Romans 8:13. b) . . . Who Proceeds from the Father (and the Son), Who with the Father and the Son Is Adored and Glorified” Let us now move on to the second great affirmation of the creed about the Holy Spirit. Up to this point the creed has told us about the nature of the Spirit but not yet about the person of the Spirit. It has spoken of what he is but not who he is. It has also spoken to us about what the Spirit and the Father and the Son have in common—the fact of being God and giving life. With this present affirmation, however, we move on to what distinguishes the Holy Spirit from the Father and Son. What distinguishes him from the Father is that he proceeds from him. (The one who proceeds is other than the one from whom he proceeds!) What distinguishes the Spirit from the Son is that he proceeds from the Father not by generation but by spiration, a breathing forth. To express this in symbolic terms, he is not like a concept (logos) that proceeds from the mind but like a breath that proceeds from the mouth. This is the pivotal part of the article in the creed because it is intended to define the position that the Paraclete occupies in the Trinity. This part of the creed is known primarily for the problem of the Filioque that for a millennium was the main point of disagreement between the East and the West. I will not spend time on this problem because it has been discussed more than enough and also because I spoke about it myself in this setting during Lent last year in treating the points of agreement on faith between the East and the West.   I will limit myself to highlighting what we can retain from this part of the symbol that enriches our common faith, setting aside theological disputes.  It tells us that the Holy Spirit is not simply a “poor relative,” so to speak, in the Trinity. He is not “a way that God acts,” an energy or a fluid that permeates the universe like the Stoics thought. He is a “subsistent relation” and therefore a person. He is not so much “a third person singular” as he is “a first person plural.” He is the “We” of the Father and Son.  To express this in a human way, when the Father and the Son speak of the Holy Spirit they do not say “he”; instead they say “we” because he is the unity between the Father and the Son. Here we can see the extraordinary fecundity of St. Augustine’s insight in which the Father is the one who loves, the Son is the one loved, and the Spirit is the love that unites them, the reciprocal gift.  The belief of the Western Church that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father and the Son” is based on this. The Holy Spirit, nevertheless, will always remain the hidden God, even if we can know him by his effects. He is like the wind: no one knows where it comes from and where it will blow, but we can see the effects of its passing. He is like the light that illuminates everything around it but remains invisible. This is why the Spirit is the least known and least beloved of the three Persons, despite the fact that he is Love in person. It is easier to think of the Father and Son as “persons,” but that is more difficult for us to do with the Spirit. There are no human categories that can help us understand this mystery. To speak of the Father, we have the assistance of philosophy that deals with the First Cause (the God of the philosophers); to speak about the Son, we have the human analogy of a father-son relationship, and we also have the history of the Word becoming flesh. However, to speak of the Holy Spirit we have nothing but revelation and experience. Scripture itself speaks of him almost always by using symbols from nature: light, fire, wind, water, perfume, the dove.  We will fully understand who the Holy Spirit is only in Paradise. There we will live a life that will have no end, in a deepened understanding of him that will give us immense joy. He will be like a very gentle fire that will inundate our souls and fill us with bliss, like when love fills a person’s heart and that person is happy. c) “. . . Who Has Spoken through the Prophets” We have now come to the third and last affirmation about the Holy Spirit. After we have professed our faith in the life-giving and sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit in the first part of the article (the Spirit is the Lord and the giver of life), now his charismatic action is also mentioned. Regarding this action, there is one charism that is mentioned, the one that Paul holds to be the most important, namely, prophecy (see 1 Cor 14). In regard to the prophetic charism, the article mentions only one of its manifestations by the Holy Spirit: he “has spoken through the prophets,” that is, in the Old Testament. This affirmation is based on various texts in Scripture but in particular 2 Peter 1:21: “no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  4. An Article to Complete The Letter to the Hebrews says, “God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Heb1:1). The Spirit has not, therefore, ceased speaking by means of the prophets; he did so through Jesus and still speaks today in the Church. This point and other gaps in the symbol were gradually filled in by the practice of the Church without the need to change the text of the creed because of it (as unfortunately happened in the Latin world with the addition of the Filioque). We have an example of this in the epiclesis of the Orthodox liturgy attributed to St. James that prays as follows: Send . . . your most Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who is seated with you, God and Father, and with your only-begotten Son; he rules with you consubstantially and coeternally. He spoke through the Law, the Prophets, and the New Testament; he descended in the form of a dove upon our Lord Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, resting upon him, and descended on his holy apostles . . . on the day of holy Pentecost.  Anyone who tries to find everything in the article about the Holy Spirit, is going to be disappointed. This fact demonstrates the nature and the limit of every dogmatic definition. Its purpose is not to say everything about a tenet of faith but to draw a perimeter within which every affirmation about that doctrine must be placed and that no affirmation can contradict. In this case, there are the additional factors that the article was formulated at a time when the reflection on the Paraclete was just beginning and, as I said above, contingent historical circumstances (the emperor’s desire for peace) led to a compromise between the parties.   We are not, however, left with only the words in the creed about the Paraclete. Theology, liturgy, and Christian piety, both in the East and the West, have clothed in “flesh and blood” the succinct affirmations of the symbol of faith. In the sequence of Pentecost of our Latin liturgy, the intimate personal relationship of the Holy Spirit with every individual soul, which is not mentioned in the symbol, is expressed by titles like “father of the poor,” “the light of the heart,” “sweet guest of the soul,” and “greatest comforter.” The same sequence addresses a series of prayers to the Holy Spirit that are particularly beautiful and responsive to our needs. Let us conclude by proclaiming them together, hopefully seeking to identify among them the one that we feel we need the most. Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum, sana quod est saucium. Flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium. Wash that which is sordid water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded. Make flexible that which is rigid, warm that which is cold, rule that which is deviant. (from Vatican Radio)...

USCCB leaders seek prayers for migrants, refugees on Guadalupe feast

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Prayer services and special Masses will be held in many dioceses across the country as the U.S. Catholic Church has asked that the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe be a day of prayer with a focus on migrants and refugees. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas. "As Christmas approaches and especially on this feast of Our Lady, we are reminded of how our savior Jesus Christ was not born in the comfort of his own home, but rather in an unfamiliar manger," said a Dec. 1 statement from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The day of prayer is intended to be a time to place before a merciful God the hopes, fears and needs of all those families who have come to the United States seeking a better life. "So many families are wondering how changes to immigration policy might impact them," Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, said in a Dec. 1 statement. "We want them to know the church is with them, offers prayers on their behalf, and is actively monitoring developments at the diocesan, state, and national levels to be an effective advocate on their behalf." The USCCB suggested that Catholics unable to attend such a service or Mass Dec. 12 or who live in an area where one is not being held should "offer prayers wherever they may be." The USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services office has developed a scriptural rosary called "Unity in Diversity" that includes prayers for migrants and refugees. It can be accessed at the Justice for Immigrants website at http://tinyurl.com/hldg3o9 . Another resource suggested by the USCCB is "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope," the 2003 pastoral letter issued jointly by the bishops of the United States and Mexico. Summary versions of the pastoral are available online in English at http://tinyurl.com/c4xm2vs and in Spanish at http://tinyurl.com/c26ql3x . A USCCB announcement on the day of prayer said the bishops' conference would develop additional pastoral resources. "To all those families separated and far from home in uncertain times, we join with you in a prayer for comfort and joy this Advent season," Cardinal DiNardo added.

Angelus: The Kingdom of heaven is the love and humility of God

(Vatican Radio) “The Kingdom of God is at hand and is indeed in the middle of us, this is the central message of all Christian mission.” Those were the words of Pope Francis during his Angelus address in St Peter’s Square on the Second Sunday of Advent. He was referring to the Gospel reading of the day in which John the Baptist issues the invitation to "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". The Holy Father explained that with these same words Jesus will start his mission in Galilee and it is an announcement that will “bring the disciples on their first missionary experience.” The kingdom of heaven, said the Pope, is not just a place in the afterlife, but it is the good news that Jesus brings us. God, Pope Francis continued, “comes to establish his dominion in our history, in our everyday life;” and where it is accepted with faith and humility and love. But the “condition to become part of this kingdom”, the Holy Father stressed, “ is to make a change in our life, that is to repent.” The Pope said, “it is to leave the streets, convenient but misleading, the idols of this world: the success at all costs, the power at the expense of the weak, the thirst for wealth, pleasure at any price and instead open the way for the Lord who comes”. He does not take away our freedom, Pope Francis underlined, “but gives us true happiness. With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it is God himself who has come to dwell among us, to free us from selfishness, from sin and corruption.” During his address the Holy Father invited the faithful to prepare spiritually for Christmas by examining their consciences and confessing their sins in the sacrament of Penance. Following the recitation of the Marian Prayer, Pope Francis said, “see you Thursday for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. We pray together, asking her maternal intercession for the conversion of hearts and the gift of peace." (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope recognizes martyrdom of Oklahoma priest killed in Guatemala

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States. The Vatican made the announcement Dec. 2. The recognition of his martyrdom clears the way for his beatification. Father Rother, born March 27, 1935, on his family's farm near Okarche, Oklahoma, was brutally murdered July 28, 1981, in a Guatemalan village where he ministered to the poor. He went to Santiago Atitlan in 1968 on assignment from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. He helped the people there build a small hospital, school and its first Catholic radio station. He was beloved by the locals, who called him "Padre Francisco." Many priests and religious in Guatemala became targets during the country's 1960-1996 civil war as government forces cracked down on leftist rebels supported by the rural poor. The bodies of some of Father Rother's deacons and parishioners were left in front of his church and soon he received numerous death threats over his opposition to the presence of the Guatemalan military in the area. Though he returned to Oklahoma for a brief period, he returned to the Guatemalan village to remain with the people he had grown to love during the more than dozen years he lived there. He was gunned down at the age 46 in the rectory of his church in Santiago Atitlan. Government officials there put the blame on the Catholic Church for the unrest in the country that they said led to his death. On the day he died, troops also killed 13 townspeople and wounded 24 others in Santiago Atitlan, an isolated village 50 miles west of Guatemala City. Many priests and religious lost their lives and thousands of civilians were kidnapped and killed during the years of state-sponsored oppression in the country. While his body was returned to Oklahoma, his family gave permission for his heart and some of his blood to be enshrined in the church of the people he loved and served. A memorial plaque marks the place. Father Rother was considered a martyr by the church in Guatemala and his name was included on a list of 78 martyrs for the faith killed during Guatemala's 36-year-long civil war. The list of names to be considered for canonization was submitted by Guatemala's bishops to St. John Paul II during a pastoral visit to Guatemala in 1996. Because Father Rother was killed in Guatemala, his cause should have been undertaken there. But the local church lacked the resources for such an effort. The Guatemalan bishops' conference agreed to a transfer of jurisdiction to the Oklahoma City archdiocese.

Pope to Piarists: evangelizing pedagogy

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Message to mark the Calasanctian Jubilee Year – a special Jubilee marking the 400 th anniversary of the founding of the Pious Schools, which provide free education to the sons of the poor, and the Religious Order that runs them, commonly known as the Piarists, by St. Joseph Calasanctius (Joseph of Calasanz), Sch.P. Click below to hear our report In his Message, Pope Francis says, “[The Piarist Fathers] have always exercised their ministry in school, but have been able to incarnate their charisma also in several other areas. And, at the same time, they have been able to respond to the requests of the Church, assuming pastoral services wherever necessary.” He goes on to say, “Today more than ever we need an evangelizing pedagogy capable of changing the heart and reality in harmony with the Kingdom of God, making people protagonists and participants in the process. Christian education, especially among the poorest and where the Good News has little place or touches life marginally, is a privileged means to achieve this goal.” The Calasanctian Jubilee Year opened on November 27 of 2016 in the church of San Pantaleo in Rome, with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The Jubilee Year will end on November 25 of 2017, with a Eucharistic celebration in San Pantaleo, presided by the Father General of the Congregation of Piarists, Fr. Pedro Aguado, Sch.P. (from Vatican Radio)...

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