Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday word, 31 Aug 2007

Derdul-Herbkersman Wedding (31 Aug 2007) Tb 8.4-9; Ps 128; Col 3. 12-17; Mt 5. 1-12a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A Ninth Beatitude

Mary Elizabeth and Dean I thank you and congratulate you for taking this step to join God, who blesses you and “strengthen[s your] love for each other.” That was the sentiment of the opening prayer you chose for your wedding. God’s strengthening and empowering is very different from what we expect. I want to reflect briefly with you and your guests about that because God’s strengthening empowerment is the core of Christian marriage and all Christian relationships.

It may be helpful first to say what God’s power is not. A phrase me help: power-play. That phrase suggests striving; grabbing and even trampling on others for selfish gain. The gain, of course, is to position oneself ahead of others or even beyond others. That is not what God empowers us to do.

Christian strength does not seek to get ahead of or beyond others. Christian strength seeks to build up others, to edify them and to bless what is weak and even, as St. Paul challenged, to bear with others to the point of forgiving them. Paul echoed clearly what Jesus modeled for us: compassion.

Compassion has nothing to do with power-plays between Christian peers. Compassion deepens your relationship with each other and each one’s relationship with God. No wonder from the church’s beginning that Christian marriage has pointed to the relationship of Christ and his church!

Humans don’t win God’s compassion. God is compassionate toward us and, sometimes to our chagrin, to those who have little or no footing to win anything. Jesus cataloged God’s preeminent desires in the Beatitudes, those blessings for the poor in spirit, the gentle, those in need of comfort, those who long for the peace of God’s kingdom, the merciful, the single-hearted, the peacemakers and whoever is reviled for acting in the cause of God’s justice. To imitate God in these ways--whether in our homes or outside them; with people we know and with strangers--to imitate God in these ways is one way we fulfill our baptismal commitment and charge to give prophetic witness, that is, to point to Jesus by how we live.

Regular prayer with each other, Dean and Mary Elizabeth, is crucial to fulfilling that. Your married life is a witness, a prophetic witness. A life of prophetic witness is a vocation, which means your married love and life is a vocation from God as distinct as my own vocation.

As I think of my own vocation, the mutual support from and for my Jesuit brothers and our self-sacrificial love for one another come first to mind. Your mutual concern and self-sacrificial love for each other are hallmarks of your married vocation, Mary Elizabeth and Dean.

This is the context of the Book of Tobit, that edifying tale containing the prayer of the new spouses, which you chose for yourselves and for us to hear. All the good fortune and all skills are no substitute for praying for the deeper desire to cooperate with God’s grace.

Dean and Mary Elizabeth, remember that God has given you to each other in order that you may lead one another, care for each other and help others--including strangers and not only us--to meet God. Some people may meet God for the first time because of your love for each other.

While Scripture contains eight Beatitudes, you are together one more Beatitude blessing our world with Christian power and example. Enjoy your wedded life, Mary Elizabeth and Dean! God bless your vocation to deepen your love for one another and to inspire many others to draw on God’s strength more and more.

Giovanni Dall'Orto's photo of the Marriage at Cana fresco on the ceiling of the Chora in Istanbul is used under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike2.5 License.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Liturgy To Inspire Action

The end of Mass--and of other liturgical celebrations, too--commissions each member of the assembly to go as ambassadors of risen Jesus.

One sentence of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone, who conveyed Pope Benedict's message to the 58th Italian National Liturgical Week, described well this commission:
To live as a Christian, we must harmonize personal faithfulness to Christ with "citizenship," with a commitment to being present in the world as his witnesses.
The summary of Cardinal Bertone's remarks expressed that liturgy and its purpose are not confined within church walls.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Total Lunar Eclipse of 28 August 2007

Wired Science offers a text description of what happened early on 28 August plus a photo.

National Geographic News for 27 August offered an attractive "Infographic."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tuesday word, 28 Aug 2007

St. Augustine, Memorial (28Aug2007) 1Th 2.1-8; Ps 139; Mt 23. 23-26
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Milk and Medicine

If we want an example of God’s patience, St. Augustine is surely one. We remember him often in the same memory as his mother, St. Monica, who prayed that her son would be come a Catholic Christian, as St. Augustine recalled her desire, which she expressed to him near the end of her life: “One thing only there was for which I desired to linger in this life: to see you a Catholic Christian before I died.”/1/

As Augustine, who spent much of his lifetime seeking wisdom and found it to be God, put it: “Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever.”/2/

“Embracing Jesus Christ” echoes a modern conversion-phrase: “accepting Jesus as one’s savior.” Anyone’s acceptance of or embracing Jesus does not outdo Jesus’ patience. That is easy to forget. It is why I offer thanking Jesus for his patience as a penance in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The more we savor Jesus’ patience with us, the more we live by Jesus’ care and less by our compulsions.

St. Paul incarnated Jesus patient love with the Thessalonians, as he reminded them--and us--that he preached Jesus without any flattery or desire for gain (not all preachers of religion or philosophy did that); and that while with them Paul was gentle as a nursing mother.

Paul offered the nourishing milk of the gospel to its first hearers as well as spiritual medicine to all to help them focus on its more substantive elements: discernment and mercy and fidelity.

To do so means being patient with ourselves. That is more possible because of Jesus’ faithful and undying patience with us.
/1/ his Confessions, IX.10.26 [Bk, Ch., paragraph]
/2/ Confessions, Bk.VII.18.24
Wiki-image of a page of St. Augustine's Confessions is in the public domain.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Passing Through the Narrow Gate

In lieu of a Sunday word, Pope Benedict's midday-Angelus reflection considers the image of Jesus in today's gospel: the narrow gate. It is narrow because "it is demanding, it requires commitment, self-denial and mortification of one's own egoism."

The image is not at all out of date. "When we consider it, in effect, the way of reasoning of Jesus' interlocutors is always with us: the temptation to think of religious practice as a source of privileges and certainties is always waiting in ambush for us." Benedict's reflection is worth considering for the entire week. One may also use the Spiritual Exercise for the Week. . . at this blog's sister-site along with it.

Wiki-image is used under the terms of Creative Commons ShareAlike 1.0 License.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"The deathbed friendship between a bishop and an atheist"

The bishop is Rino Fisichella, rector of the Lateran University in Rome, and an intimate of Pope Benedict XVI, reported John L. Allen Jr. in his weekly column of "All Things Catholic." The atheist is "provocative Italian writer," and "earthquake of a human being," Oriana Fallaci.

Bishop Fisichella blessed Ms. Fallaci when she was near death, and he gives his reasons. He also remarks that speaking our hope is better understood that speaking the content of our faith, which Bishop Fisichella does not minimize.
I believe we Christians have a great responsibility to talk about our faith with the language of hope. Quite often, people won't understand us when we talk about the content of our faith. But without doubt, people of today can understand when we talk about hope, if we talk about the mystery of our existence and the meaning of our lives …
This column challenges readers to be more hopeful and more Catholic.
Flickr image of Oriana Fallaci, uploaded by psiko, and used under Creative Commons Attribution license.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What Popes Offer at General Audiences

Papal audiences vary in place and size. The Wednesday general audiences, which are held in St. Peter's Square, allow popes to address large numbers of people at once. Pope Benedict continues what his predecessor Pope John Paul II often did: Benedict offers catecheses on themes over many weeks. Benedict gave his audiences earlier this year to the Apostolic Fathers, those "great personalities" of the ancient church. is one electronic news service, which bills itself as "The World Seen From Rome," and conveys both summaries and complete texts of the Wednesday audiences.

On 30 May 2007 Benedict turned his listeners toward Quintus Florens Tertullian. Tertullian lived from 160-220
...from the end of the second and beginning of the third century [Tertullian] inaugurated Christian literature in the Latin language. He started the use of theology in Latin. His work brought decisive benefits which it would be unforgivable to underestimate. His influence covered different areas: linguistically, from the use of language and the recovery of classical culture, to singling out a common "Christian soul" in the world and in the formulation of new proposals of human coexistence.
These "great personalities" of ancient times have much to offer contemporary Christians. After reading Benedict's complete, concise catechesis of Tertullian, on may want to visit and use its calendar-link search mechanism to be part of all the pope's Wedneday General Audiences.
Wiki-image of Tertullian is in the public domain.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Cruel and Unnecessary"

Yesterday, a Vatican news-service summarized a report from the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which analyzed the death penalty. This Congregation described in a phrase as "cruel and unnecessary."
"Love Your Enemies: How States Take Lives" includes an overview of the methods that nations have used in recent years to inflict death, a list of those countries that allow the death penalty. The report also includes an interview with a professor from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and one with a spokesman for the Community of Sant'Egidio.

[One webpage of the Community of Sant'Egidio lists nations and their actions against the death penalty. The most recent, as of this posting, was 21 August 2007 by the Republic of Congo.]

The document raised questions regarding the use of the death penalty on minors and detailed information on the innocent who are erroneously condemned to death.
Its examination of this respect-life issue used 2006 statistics and was global in scope.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Psalm 23: Child's Play. . .

. . .back is a Christian uploading site. It declares its evangelizing aim beneath its name on its homepage: "Broadcast Him." One of its current favorites (
popular tags in blogging lingo) is reminiscent of learning prayers, scriptures, poems and speeches. uploaded to "Psalm 23, as only a child could recite it." It is worth viewing.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday word, 19 Aug 2007

20th Sunday of the Year (19Aug2007) Jer 38.4-6,8-10; Ps 40; Hb12.1-4; Lk 12. 49-53
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
War Within

A clarification is necessary to begin. The gospel did not say that Jesus is against true peace. Jesus reminds us, as he taught when walking the earth, people will either accept or reject the message of his gospel. Merely tolerating the gospel--ignoring its challenges to our ways of living and acting--is not living as a disciple of Jesus.

His gospel invites all people to know him, to love him and to follow him. It’s the following of Jesus where division occurs most. An early bishop, St. Gregory of Nyssa, reminded his hearers when he preached one day
that peace is defined as harmony among those who are divided. When, therefore, we end that civil war within our nature and cultivate peace within ourselves, we become peace./1/
Good words! Why?

Because we tend to consider division outside us: we versus them. Before it’s outside division is interior and deeply personal. Our grim human striving flows from “that civil war within our nature,” a vivid way of describing how sin fractures us.

To counter one of sin’s effects we prayed last weekend during our General Intercessions that all Christians might preach to the world and to their governments the truth of Jesus’ gospel. That is not easy, as Jesus reminded us, and Jeremiah dramatically and the Psalmist poetically demonstrated. In Jeremiah’s day, the princes wielded power during weak King Zedekiah’s reign. Jeremiah was sent by God to speak words that the king and the powerful princes did not want to hear: they ought to surrender to Babylon and live rather than die.

The king, and the princes who wielded power, considered Jeremiah’s prophetic message treason for which he deserved to languish in a pit and starve to death. The mysterious, Servant of the King--Ebed-melech means servant of the king--won the reversal of the royal decree. The unpatriotic prophetic message continued to be heard. God works mysteriously.

The Psalmist encountered a similar fate. We don’t know its details. What we do know is that the Psalmist cried out to God, Lord, come to my aid! The Lord heard and set his feet on solid ground. Moments ago you and I made our own the Psalmist’s plea to God. We ought to make that plea often, day to day, so that we might receive greater courage to rely on God and on the gospel God’s son, Jesus, proclaimed.

We cry out, Lord, come to my aid! because Jesus knew personally what standing for the gospel and its kingdom costs. While it cost Jesus his life, his death was not the end of his story. Not by any means! In ways which elude our logic, and may even repulse us, Jesus’ death opened on to absolutely new life.

We cry out, Lord, come to my aid! because Jesus endured his suffering and death in order that [we] may not grow weary and lose heart in standing for his gospel with our lives. Many have paid as Jesus did. Because our crucified Messiah lives, Jesus is true peace. Jesus lives for us. Because “we think of Christ as our peace, we may call ourselves true Christians only if our lives express Christ by our own peace,” to use St. Gregory of Nyssa’s words./2/

It is probably true none of us will resist[] to the point of shedding blood for the gospel. Our lives ought to show some scar of faithful discipleship so we might always remember who we are: ambassadors of Christian peace, who are so by what we do in life.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week begin this way: allow yourself to become more aware of the Trinity and the great love the Divine Person’s have for you. Ask the martyrs of every age to present you to Jesus, so that you may converse with him as his disciple, friend and companion. Speak to Jesus about his gospel mission and tell him your desire to stand faithful to it and to Jesus, who is true peace. Resolve to accept Jesus, for those who accept him have his peace. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer. To say it from the heart calls the Lord to come to our aid. It also teaches us how to “express Christ by our own peace.” Its lesson we learn only by persevering in Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

/1/ his Treatise on Christian Perfection, excerpt in Office of Readings for this Sunday, Liturgy of the Hours, vol. IV, p. 107.
/2/ Ibid., p. 106.
Image of St. Gregory of Nyssa posted by Lee--with no citation--at Conjectures of a Guilty Seminarian on 09Mar2004; Wiki-image of Jesus preaching and people not accepting his message is in the public domain. .

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Triumph of the Name of Jesus

This is the title of Giovanni Battista Gaulli's frescoed ceiling of the Church of the Gesu in Rome.

See photographer Alessio Damato's work here. Clicking on the photo enlarges it and allows one to see it as though beneath it only a short distance.
Alessio Damato allows his work to be used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Odd Match + Good Position

John L. Allen Jr. enlightens readers of his weekly column, this week about Sunnis, Shia and Catholicism and how they are related. Of the Sunni branch of Islam:
Over the years, Catholic-Muslim relations have tended to focus on Sunnis. Yet in some ways it's an odd match; with their low-church view of clergy, congregationalist models of community life, and sola scriptura approach to the Qur'an, Sunnis often resemble Calvinists more than Catholics.
Of the Shia branch of Islam, Mr. Allen opens with a nudge, which can yield hope:
The rise of this "Shi'a crescent" [from Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast all the way to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent] deserves far more Catholic reflection than it's received, because Catholicism may be in a unique position to nudge Shi'ites toward reconciling their intense religious commitment with peace and pluralism.
Learn why Mr. Allen calls the "emergence of Shi'a Islam as an emboldened force" a surge of more important than the military surge news media report.
Bunchofgrapes image of the Italy-to-India route depicts well Mr. Allen's "'Shi'a Cresent.'" The image is used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thursday word, 16 Aug 2007

19th Thursday (16Aug2007) Josh 3.7-10a,11,13-17; Ps 114; Mt18. 21-19.1
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Topsy-Turvy God

God’s presence took many forms from the beginning of creation. In the beginning we know of only God’s voice, speaking with our First Parents, and also what they heard: the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day./1/

In Exodus God was present in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night...[which] did not depart from before the people./2/ As the people were to settle from their wanderings, they built a tabernacle to carry the tablets of the covenant. The ark of the covenant was God’s presence with the people. Crossing the Jordan into the promised land echoed crossing the Reed Sea when they fled Egypt: God’s presence allowed them to walk on dry ground.

God’s ways of communicating and being present culminated, of course, in the Word become flesh and blood, Messiah Jesus. Jesus communicated God in ways that comfortable people--like us--found objectionable because God did not fit their thoughts about God and what God asked threatened their comfort and status. Jesus made clear by deed that God’s clearer presence was--and is today--forgiving.

Forgiveness is the attitude of the church, the lesson of Jesus’ parable. His parable may grieve us because to forgive is not easy. Why can’t God be easy! Part of the reason is because God is topsy-turvy. We are like Alice when she stepped through the looking glass: in the kingdom Jesus proclaimed things are not as they appear.

The beginning of this 18th chapter of Matthew made it clear that in the kingdom, already present but yet to be completed, greatness is measured by smallness and the model of receiving the kingdom is a ./3/ Kingdom people are to show active concern for the little ones, receiving them and not scandalizing them.

Receiving and not scandalizing means kingdom people are to search and to save. Kingdom people do no less than Jesus did.

To begin to live as kingdom people requires we cease forcing God to fit into our notions, and we put aside our unforgiving ways. Kingdom living is not shown by our thoughts or by what we say but what we do as we live day to day. Kingdom living makes God present in the most humane and human way yet possible.

/1/ Genesis 3.8
/2/ Exodus 13.21-22
/3/ The beginning is Matthew 18.1-10
Wiki-image of the ark of the covenant bears no license.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wednesday word, 15 Aug 2007

Assumption of BVM (15 Aug 2007) Rv 11.19,12. 1-6,10; Ps 45; 1Co 15.20-26; Lk 1. 39-56
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
No Matter What!

We are on sacred ground. Caught up in holiness the sacred suspends time and expands truth so that our poor language and images can convey it to our senses. A set of words and images conveying deep truth is called myth.

A sacred myth is not a lie because it contains and conveys truth. Fr. Snow tells you many myths because, as he says, every story contains truth.

One feature of truth, of holy truth, of sacred myth, is that it answers longings of the human heart. One human longing has long been relief, liberation from what oppresses and enslaves us. Humans long to be saved, and they have longed for a person to do that, a savior. While savior is a religious term, we use it non-religious, practical ways. A woman, stranded by the roadside with a flat tire, may describe the AAA representative, who drove up in the tow-truck, as her savior that day.

In ancient literature stars, not letters, heralded the arrival of important people, including saviors./1/ Scripture made use of literary conventions to speak sensibly to their first audiences and so speak to their hearts.

The Book of Revelation needed to use convention for another, important reason. In order to comfort the greatest number of people suffering on account of their faith, it had to use accepted conventions so that would-be persecutors would not suspect the Book of Revelation any more than possible. Its central section, from which we heard a portion as our first reading, used a myth widespread in its world telling of the defeat of the power of evil and liberation from it.

Its heavenly woman, giving birth to a savior, was pursued by a dragon, the embodiment of evil. By miraculous intervention, she was saved and gave birth to a son, the embodiment of goodness, who killed the monster. The message: God is in control of history, the myth announced. Christians, put your faith in Jesus. Take heart and be confident, no matter what!

The birth, death and resurrection of Mary’s son fulfilled the truth of sacred myths. The heavenly woman of the myth of the first reading is not Mary because the heavenly woman of the myth wailed aloud in pain as he labored to give birth. She was not immune to original sin. Mary’s virgin birth, our faith guides us, was without pain or any distress: Mary was without sin, and Christ's birth did not diminish her virginal integrity, it enhanced it and sanctified it./2/

Even the very conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb moved her to alleviate distress, starting with her visit to her relative Elizabeth, finally with child herself. But what is more holy, more sacred and more true is the holy Spirit of God, who conceived Jesus in her.

In Mary’s womb, heart, limbs and senses God continued God’s reversal of sin and evil in the person of Mary’s son. God’s ageless mercy dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart...but lifted up the lowly; filled the hungry with good things but sent the rich empty away; and the powerful had less than those who show mercy.

All this | Mary’s Yes to God’s invitation | set in motion, and her Son completed her Yes to God’s invitation by his living, dying and rising. Jesus invited disciples to join him and to continue his mission of completing his mother’s Yes to God’s invitation.

Mary’s Assumption speaks of our destiny for salvation, which happens to us who, like Mary, respond Yes to her son’s invitation to give our hearts, limbs, senses, our whole selves to become wombs to give birth to him each day and give God’s ageless mercy flesh and blood to check power, reverse arrogance, fill the hungry, empower the poor, comfort the sick and dying and restore dignity where it is lost or trampled by the world. Our Messiah Jesus is the one who saves. He invites us to join his saving mission by imitating his mother’s Yes. To begin to respond, ask for the grace to follow Mary’s example and her lead with generous hearts and great confidence, no matter what!

/1/Virgil, Aeneid, Bk. II.692: a falling-star confirmed the future of the New Troy, around Aenaeas’ son, Iulus, the poem’s namesake of the Julius family, of whom Julius Caesar is depicted as the savior of Rome, the New Troy.

/2/ Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium), 67.
Wiki-image of El Greco's Assumption is in the public domain.

Monday, August 06, 2007

On Retreat, 06 through 14 August

Homily for the Assumption will be posted on 15 August.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sunday word, 05 Aug 2007

18th Sunday of the Year (05 Aug 2007) Eccl 1. 2, 2.21-23; Ps 90; Col 3. 1-5, 9-11; Lk 12. 13-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Freer To Put to Use God’s Gifts

You know the logic of the Sunday lectionary: the gospel reading completes or fulfills the first reading from the Old Testament. Today that logic holds in a way not readily grasped. The familiar phrase, vanity of vanities, and the accompanying verses set a context for hearing Jesus in the gospel and in our lives.

We settled on our word vanity to translate a Hebrew word. Vanity may suggest to us first of all excessive pride in one’s appearance or unduly high self-opinion. But vanity also implies what is worthless or futile. To appreciate what Qoheleth meant we have to banish the image of primping in front of a mirror or puffed up images of ourselves. The Hebrew word vanity translates has a range of meaning: futility, absurdity; meaninglessness; even vacuous vapor.

The first reading provides a context to help us appreciate better Jesus’ words and his parable of the rich man with a bountiful harvest. Jesus’ parable is not complicated; in fact, Jesus was straightforward, like many ancients who reflected on life and possessions. One’s life does not consist of possessions. The rich man, who lacked nothing in Jesus’ parable, embodied what an ancient philosopher asserted about greed, that vice which always seeks more possessions: “the vice which seeks more possessions never rests from acquiring more.” We heard St. Paul, writing to the Colossians, equated this vice of greed with idolatry.

Even we who do not embody greed, feel its sting from time to time. And who of us does not find greed’s sting distracting from what and who really count and left desiring not to be enslaved to values that are void and frustrating?

Feeling overwhelmed by possessions is to be in the grip of possessions. Yet one’s life does not consist of possessions. Jesus’ meaning is clear: life is a gift of God, and it is of greater and lasting value. Jesus wants us to notice the difference between unrestrained greed, which is vicious, and legitimate pleasure and the cheerfulness possessions engender.

If we would read last week’s gospel when Jesus taught about prayer, and then addressing the disciples on courage in the face of challenges to living as his friends and his church, then we would find stunningly irrelevant the person’s request of Jesus at the opening of today’s gospel selection: “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” The person had not been paying attention. Not only is the request to mediate a dispute over an inheritance far out in left field, that person was unaware that Jesus was much more than a legal accountant or an estate lawyer.

If Jesus’ taught his disciples in deed and word not to fear threats against their lives, how much less ought fear generate compulsive concern with possessions!/1/

I am not naive to try to tell you that doing both --being more confident in the face of threats to life and not being controlled by possessions--is effortless or without challenge. I want to echo Jesus’ conviction that God does control history, even when appearance and experience suggest otherwise. We are not pawns in a divine game of chance. Einstein often said, “God does not play dice!” How often we live as if God’s kingdom were a sham and chaos was our fated existence.

You may want to prepare your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week by taking stock of your own attitudes toward God which do not increase your trust: God is a lawyer; or a puppeteer; one watching your every move and waiting to pounce, and the like. Then begin by letting go of them and resting in the loving embrace of the Trinity. Ask Mary or your patron saint or the crowd, who heard Jesus parable, to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus, asking him to grace your confidence and to free you more to put to use created things rather than be used by them. Resolve to exercise your greater confidence or freedom with possessions in a concrete way in the hours after your prayer. Close your prayer by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which is Jesus’ pledge that we always stand in God’s loving care. Saying the Lord’s Prayer rescues us from folly and makes us more truly wise.
/1/ Scripture often illustrates how much more or greater is God or divine life and love than mortals or human life and love. I am indebted to my teacher of New Testament Interpretation, Luke Timothy Johnson, for alerting me Luke reversed the direction (greater to less) of this technique in this gospel selection. Greater confidence in the face of death also frees one to cling less to things.
Wiki-image of Qoheleth/Ecclesiastes is in the public domain. Wiki-image of grain silos is used under the GNU Free Documentation License. .

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Catholicism in China

Yesterday John L. Allen Jr. gave his weekly column of All Things Catholic to a look at China. Catholicism is keep pace with the growth of China's population. One can guess who has done better: "A half-century ago, Chinese Protestantism was three and a half times smaller than Catholicism; today, it is at least three and a half times larger."

It is always difficult to know precise populations in closed states.
Religious data is notoriously imprecise in an officially atheistic state, and not everyone accepts these eye-popping estimates. In the 2006 update of his book Jesus in Beijing, former Time Beijing bureau chief David Aikman put the number of Protestants at 70 million. Richard Madsen, a former Maryknoll missionary and author of China's Catholics, told me he would put the number still lower, at 40 million. That's in line with the CIA World Factbook, another widely consulted resource.

Even those conservative estimates, however, would mean that Protestantism in China experienced roughly 4,300 percent growth over the last half-century, most of it since the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s and 1970s. A four-part video series issued in 2003, called "The Cross: Jesus in China," and produced by Chinese documentarian Yuan Zhiming, interviews many of the leaders of this revival, whose evangelical drive is palpable. Notably, Protestantism took off after the expulsion of foreign missionaries, meaning most of the expansion has been home-grown.
Catholics are mystified by the dance Rome and Beijing step. Reading Mr. Allen's column lets readers know that Protestant Christianity--and Pentecostalism, particularly--will be unable to sit out its own dance with Beijing.
Wiki-images of Chinese and Vatican flags are both in the public domain.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Green Pope and Carbon-Free Vatican

The Vatican is also a nation-state. John L. Allen Jr. informed last Friday that
the Vatican became the first state in Europe to go completely carbon-neutral, signing an agreement with a Hungarian firm to reforest a sufficiently large swath of Hungary's Bükk National Park to offset its annual CO2 emissions.
It announced a month earlier it was covering Pope Paul VI Audience Hall with a thousand photo cells for heating, cooling and light.

What is Pope Benedict's theological rationale? Natural law. Read Mr. Allen's account.