Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Cardinals Named, The Southern Hemisphere Still Ignored

On October 20th, Pope Benedict XVI created 24 new Cardinals. John Allen of National Catholic Reporter has reported on the appointments and has provided some anaylsis. Some observations, he made was the apparent "re-Italianization" of the College of Cardinals, and continued lack of representation of the Church in the Southern Hemisphere. To me, it is another indication that the Pope's concern about the declining Church in Europe, is causing him to not be attentive to the countries of the "Global South," where the majority of Catholics now reside. The Vatican ignores these people at the Church's peril.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Change in Papal Coat of Arms, Change In Papal Attitude? UPDATE

Some blogs, including Jerry Filteau on the National Catholic Reporter website, have been commenting on the new papal coat of arms for Pope Benedict XVI that appeared on a banner underneath his window. It definitely has more flourishes, and the bishops’ miter has been replaced by a papal tiara.

When Pope Benedict XVI’s original coat of arms was revealed, I felt that maybe there was something new happening. I have not always been totally fond of Benedict XVI, but this little item gave me some hope. Now, I am not sure what to think. This could be nothing more but a simple change to something more traditional: or it could symbolize a change in attitude about leadership, from servant leadership to power leadership.

In a Patristic course I am attending, we are reading Henry Chadwick’s book: “The Early Church.” There is chapter in it where he describes what changes occurred in the lifestyles of bishop, during and after the time of Constantine. These early bishops began to receive imperial honors and positions. They adopted attire that matched their new social rank. Some bishops were known for their entertaining of members of the upper classes. The hierarchy became more attached to the imperial rulers, and when the Roman Empire fell, they attached themselves to the lords and kings that rose up. The pomp of the Roman Catholic Church matched the civil rulers’ pomp of the times.

Some, but not all, bishops seem to forget what Jesus preached, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark: “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” (Mark 10: 43-44)

Pope Paul VI seemed to realize that, when he seriously began to reduce that amount of pomp and circumstance that was the papal court. And he dispensed with the papal tiara, using only the bishop’s miter. I pray that Benedict XVI will remember that example.
Reports have it that there was enough noise in the Catholic blogosphere that the Vatican press liaison spoke to reporters about the changed coat of arms. The story is that the new banner was a gift to the Holy Father, and they decided to use it, not realizing the uproar it could cause. The Vatican has stated that there has been no change in the Pope's official coat of arms. There is some commentary on the National Catholic Reporter website.

Second Update

For those looking for information on the coat of arms of Pope Francis, please click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Feast of Blessed John XXIII - October 11, 2010

I am one of those who sometimes loses track of the liturgical calendar. So I was surprised when I looked at my St. Anthony Guild's calendar hanging in my cubicle and saw that October 11th was the feast day of Blessed John XXIII.

I was a child during his pontificate, though I do not remember much of the events that surrounded his death. When I was in high school, I read a biography of him published by the Daughters of Saint Paul, I remember a book of his most humorous sayings and encounters. Blessed John XXIII did much to change the image of the Papacy. From the stiff images of his predecessors, and the strick formalities of the papal office; the world saw this roly poly little man, with a big smile. We saw a father, who did not always follow protocol if the situation required it.

When lists of the most influential persons of the 20th Century came out, Pope John Paul II's name always appears on the lists. Probably because his was among the longest pontificates in history. But for me, Pope John XXIII, who served for a relatively short time, belongs on those lists. His was the foresight, the skills, to bring about the Second Vatican Council, that put the Church on the road of renewal. Happy Feast Day!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi - My October Fraternity Newsletter Column

The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi.” (Art. 4a, SFO Rule)

This month we celebrated again the life and work of Saint Francis of Assisi, who has attracted thousands of people from all corners of the earth, from all faiths. What is it about him that makes so many people come after him? He was not a well-educated man; at the very least he had what we would call an elementary school education. He was not an imposing figure, Thomas of Celano, in his description, gives the impression that Francis was a slight, delicate looking man. What is it about him that has attracted so many people?

Part of the attraction has been Francis’s love for God’s creation and the way he related to all God’s creatures. The picture of Francis walking amongst the birds, taming the wolf of Gubbio, has struck a cord with many people. But beyond this image, there is the image of Francis as one who had an intimate relationship with God, who was committed totally to living the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship, this commitment transformed him, he became a man of compassion, a man of love, a man of peace. To see this transformation come about in an ordinary man like us gives all of us hope that we too can experience God’s love as he did, and be transformed as he was.

We should all try to take the time to read the early biographies of Francis’s life, but more importantly, we should try to read and reflect on his own writings. Through his writings, he can inspire us; he can show us how to open our own hearts and minds to the Spirit of God. As he said to his brother friars, he also now says to us: “I have done what was mine to do; may Christ teach you what you are to do.”