Whispers in the Loggia

Over the last decade or so, the TED talk – the 18-minute messages given by prominent artists, techies and other cultural figures – has become shorthand for showcasing the ideas the speaker most seeks to put into broad circulation. And at this week's marquee conference for the program in Vancouver, the usual roster of celebs and experts were joined by a very unusual rookie entry: a surprise contribution from the Bishop of Rome.

Marking his latest "bridge" into pop culture, an unannounced talk from the Pope – a year in the making, according to organizers – became the sudden centerpiece of this year's gathering upon its showing last night, at the end of the conference's first day. Stacking out just shy of TED's maximum allotted time for a speaker, the Domus-filmed message was highlighted by Francis' call for a future of increased solidarity, or as he put it, a world of "people who recognize the other as a 'you and themselves as part of an 'us.'"

An increasingly common format for the freewheeling pontiff to address far-flung events without the formality of a letter alone, the video was the second released yesterday alone: another Pope-talk was addressed to the people of Egypt ahead of Francis' two-day trip to Cairo, which begins Friday afternoon amid heightened security fears following the Palm Sunday bombings of Coptic churches by terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State, which killed over 40 worshippers.

Albeit a rehash of many of his most common themes both within the church and on the civic stage, the secular nature of the venue brought some notable nuances to the script; instead of his standard request for prayers, Papa Bergoglio asked his audience "think of me... with tenderness." Given that, when it comes to bringing the Gospel into a distinctly areligious space, this moment will likely resonate as a master-class on how to do it effectively.

Here below, the full video (with subtitles), and the English translation released by the conference organizers:

Good evening – or, good morning, I am not sure what time it is there. Regardless of the hour, I am thrilled to be participating in your conference. I very much like its title – "The Future You" – because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a "you." "The Future You:" the future is made of yous, it is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others. Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone's existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.

As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: "Why them and not me?" I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today's "discarded" people. And that's why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: "Why them and not me?"

First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent "I," separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state. Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancor that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.

Many of us, nowadays, seem to believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve. While such concerns must be taken very seriously, they are not invincible. They can be overcome when we don't lock our door to the outside world. Happiness can only be discovered as a gift of harmony between the whole and each single component. Even science – and you know it better than I do – points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.

And this brings me to my second message. How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries. Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the "culture of waste," which doesn't concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.

Solidarity is a term that many wish to erase from the dictionary. Solidarity, however, is not an automatic mechanism. It cannot be programmed or controlled. It is a free response born from the heart of each and everyone. Yes, a free response! When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?

In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity. And I know that TED gathers many creative minds. Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The "you" is always a real presence, a person to take care of.

There is a parable Jesus told to help us understand the difference between those who'd rather not be bothered and those who take care of the other. I am sure you have heard it before. It is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was asked: "Who is my neighbor?" - namely, "Who should I take care of?" - he told this story, the story of a man who had been assaulted, robbed, beaten and abandoned along a dirt road. Upon seeing him, a priest and a Levite, two very influential people of the time, walked past him without stopping to help. After a while, a Samaritan, a very much despised ethnicity at the time, walked by. Seeing the injured man lying on the ground, he did not ignore him as if he weren't even there. Instead, he felt compassion for this man, which compelled him to act in a very concrete manner. He poured oil and wine on the wounds of the helpless man, brought him to a hostel and paid out of his pocket for him to be assisted.

The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today’s humanity. People's paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people. And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves "respectable," of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road. Fortunately, there are also those who are creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets. Mother Teresa actually said: "One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense."

We have so much to do, and we must do it together. But how can we do that with all the evil we breathe every day? Thank God, no system can nullify our desire to open up to the good, to compassion and to our capacity to react against evil, all of which stem from deep within our hearts. Now you might tell me, "Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor Mother Teresa of Calcutta." On the contrary: we are precious, each and every one of us. Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today's conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.

To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness, that doesn't dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life. And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another "you," and another "you," and it turns into an "us." And so, does hope begin when we have an "us?" No. Hope began with one "you." When there is an "us," there begins a revolution.

The third message I would like to share today is, indeed, about revolution: the revolution of tenderness. And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.

Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other. A child’s love for mom and dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness. I like when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication. This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other. God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.

Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: "Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach." You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.

The future of humankind isn't exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a "you" and themselves as part of an "us." We all need each other. And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us. Thank you.
Posted: April 26, 2017, 9:44 am
(Updated 11am ET)

For the first time since 2002, what’s now a 1.3 million-member fold in San Diego has a new auxiliary bishop. But if anyone’s expecting a clone of the last one, well, have we got news for you.

Six weeks since Bishop Robert McElroy electrified progressive activists (and infuriated conservatives) with a fiery address at a national summit on social justice, at Roman Noon this Wednesday, the Pope bolstered the SoCal prelate’s arsenal with the appointment of Fr John Dolan, 54 – the "pastor to the priests" as McElroy’s vicar for clergy, likewise serving at the helm of two city parishes – as the first of two requested deputies for the border diocese.

According to Whispers ops, the choice of a second San Diego assistant prelate remains in process. As previously reported here, the Padres' Country picks are just part of a flood of auxiliaries to be named across the Stateside church over the next year.

In addition, Francis tapped Msgr Thomas Zinkula – his 60th birthday today, the rector of Dubuque’s 16-man St Pius X Seminary – as head of Southeast Iowa’s 100,000-member Davenport diocese upon the retirement of Bishop Martin Amos four months after the Cleveland-born prelate reached the age-limit of 75.

Over his decade in the post, Amos faced the daunting task of steering the diocese through a years-long Chapter 11 bankruptcy case amid well over 100 sex-abuse lawsuits. While the reorganization process closed in 2012 with a $37 million settlement to victim-survivors, the Davenport case featured an even rarer sign of purification: the removal of a prior bishop’s name from the library of the local Catholic college after revelations that the late prelate had demanded the silence of a victim in the 1970s.

Given the history, that Zinkula was a civil lawyer for several years before entering the seminary is especially notable; the bishop-elect went on to earn a degree in the canons from St Paul’s in Ottawa after ordination. That said, the most unique aspect of the Davenport pick's background lies far elsewhere – a star athlete as a student, Zinkula played football at (D-III) Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, which inducted him into its athletic hall of fame. Of course, while most bishops to date remain products of college seminaries – and, thus, didn't have the chance at NCAA sports – that an All-American's made the bench is just another sign of how times are changing, and changing quick.

Back to the coast, Dolan’s appointment marks the second time a SoCal clergy chief with an extensive history in parishes has been named a hometown auxiliary in recent months. Much like the first, Orange’s Bishop Tim Freyer, today’s pick is widely regarded among the brothers as a warm, dedicated pastor with a fluency in Spanish and an overtime work-ethic that extends to a number of other ministries – in Dolan's case, a longtime commitment to refugees and the church's outreach on mental health issues among others. Yet where the celebrated “Mini-Vann” to the north is more laid-back in terms of the spotlight, McElroy’s protege has already taken to making a splash on the wider scene.

After last October’s opening round of a newly-devised San Diego Synod – a Francis-inspired consultation on family life and its optimal accompaniment in a post-Amoris church – Bishop-elect Dolan sketched two kinds of of ecclesial life in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter....
"There are two different forms of doing church," he said. "One is very dialogical, from a dialogical sense, and the other is from a monological sense. And we have dealt with that monological world: Things come from on high, they get shelved in some pastor's corner, then there's some thought that comes down, but ultimately it's all 'We're going to tell you what to think.'"
Given his current experience as pastor of a “welcoming parish” in the city’s gay and lesbian district, the incoming auxiliary (right) likewise remarked that “Young adults have an acceptance of the LGBT experience. It is simply a part of their world, and they look at [the church], and say, 'What is the problem?’"

Of course, it's one thing when zingers of the kind are made by a parish priest or even a diocesan official. Yet with today’s nod, it's a whole new ballgame – put another way, the US' episcopal discourse is further set a-Blase.

Far from any burning issues, however, behind the scenes in this shop, Dolan is simply known as one of us – a donor to these pages through the years, and someone to whose kindness and generosity of time and encouragement this scribe can gladly (and gratefully) attest. If the Man in White keeps poaching our funding-base like this, though, Whispers might have little choice but to go bankrupt unless more of this crowd starts stepping up.

Described by a close collaborator in Dubuque as "just an awesome dude" – and one "you can't get a read on" ideologically – Zinkula is being introduced at a 10am presser in Davenport, its video headed here once it wraps up. In a nod to his life before priesthood, the Iowa prelate will be ordained on 22 June – the feast of St Thomas More, the patron of lawyers.

In San Diego, meanwhile, a media rollout won't be held due to the thin staffing on-hand given Easter Week. However, Dolan will be presented and make remarks at a mid-morning event in the Chancery. The full shape of his new duties still to be determined, an ordination date in early June is said to be in the works.

SVILUPPO:Per San Diego Chancery, Dolan will be ordained on his 55th birthday, June 8th.

And complete with some impromptu stand-up, the fullvid of Zinkula's own birthday intro to Davenport:

Posted: April 20, 2017, 3:06 am
Still The Fluffiest of 'em all, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI marked his 90th birthday on this Pasquetta (Easter Monday) afternoon, as a small group of Joseph Ratzinger's Bavarian countrymen toasted the milestone with music – and, indeed, some homeland drink – at his home in the Mater Ecclesiae convent in the Vatican Gardens.

An instant classic, the shot above was beamed around by one of the attendees, a German journalist; to the Birthday Pope's left is the Papstbruder-emeritus Msgr Georg Ratzinger, Benedict's older brother.

Ostensibly keen to avoid eclipsing his predecessor's day, however, the Pope didn't turn up – having forged a solid bond with Papa Ratzinger since his election, Francis had made a private visit last Wednesday to express his good wishes. Yet in a quiet tribute to his predecessor that apparently went over everyone's head, at yesterday morning's Easter Mass in the Square the Pope carried the gold ferula – the cross-topped papal crozier – made for Benedict in 2009. (Based on an earlier model used by Blessed Pius IX, it's a piece Francis has rarely employed.)

By all accounts, while his physical frailty has slowly but gradually taken hold, B16's mind has retained its celebrated scope and swiftness.

Of course, the whole reality of "two Popes" – well, the reigning occupant of Peter's Chair and a living former one – continues to prove something to which the Catholic world is still becoming accustomed four years after Benedict became the first Roman pontiff in some eight centuries to leave the office in life. Yet even as predecessor and successor warmly dote on each other with no shortage of visits, calls, notes and mutual praise, that their respective partisans instead seek to use their supposed "heroes" as totems in a polarized cage-match shows how little of either man, or the light of faith, the self-serving combatants actually understand.

With the exception of a brief speech on his 65th anniversary as a priest last year, and a book-length interview with his longtime collaborator Peter Seewald described as a "Last Testament," Benedict has gone unheard in public.

In that light, the confluence of Papa Ratzi's tenth decade with this year's Paschal Triduum only heightens the timeliness of a certain unsung text from his sprawling canon – the homily B16 gave over his last Easter in office, at a special Mass on the occasion of his 85th birthday in 2012: the move to resign already decided in his mind....
On the day of my birth and of my Baptism, 16 April, the Church’s liturgy has set three signposts which show me where the road leads and help me to find it. In the first place, it is the Memorial of St Bernadette Soubirous, the seer of Lourdes; then there is one of the most unusual Saints in the Church’s history, Benedict Joseph Labre; and then, above all, this day is immersed in the Paschal Mystery, in the Mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection. In the year of my birth this was expressed in a special way: it was Holy Saturday, the day of the silence of God, of his apparent absence, of God’s death, but also the day on which the Resurrection was proclaimed.

We all know and love Bernadette Soubirous, the simple girl from the south, from the Pyrenees. Bernadette grew up in the France of the 18th-century Enlightenment in a poverty which it is hard to imagine.

The prison that had been evacuated because it was too insanitary, became — after some hesitation — the family home in which she spent her childhood. There was no access to education, only some catechism in preparation for First Communion. Yet this simple girl, who retained a pure and honest heart, had a heart that saw, that was able to see the Mother of the Lord and the Lord’s beauty and goodness was reflected in her. Mary was able to appear to this girl and through her to speak to the people of the time and beyond it.

Bernadette could see with her pure and genuine heart. And Mary pointed out the spring to her: she was able to discover the spring of pure and uncontaminated living water; water that is life, water that gives purity and health. And down the centuries this living water has become a sign from Mary, a sign that shows where the sources of life are found, where we can purify ourselves, where we can find what is uncontaminated. This sign is all the more important in our time, in which we see the world so anxious and in which the need for water, pure water, becomes pressing. From Mary, the Mother of the Lord, from her pure heart, pure and genuine life-giving water also wells: water which in this century — and in centuries to come — purifies and heals us.

I think we can consider this water as an image of truth that comes to us in faith: not simulated but rather uncontaminated truth. Indeed to be able to live, to be able to be pure, we need to have within us a longing for pure life, for undistorted truth, for what is not contaminated by corruption, a longing to be unblemished. So on this day, this little Saint has always been a sign for me, who has shown me where the living water we need comes from — the water that purifies us and gives life — and a sign of how we ought to be: with all our knowledge and all our skills, although they are necessary, we must not lose our simple hearts, the simple gaze of the heart that can perceive the essential, and we must always pray the Lord to preserve in us the humility that enables the heart to remain clairvoyant — to see what is simple and essential, the beauty and goodness of God — and in this way to find the spring from which flows the purifying life-giving water.

Then there is Benedict Joseph Labre, the pious mendicant pilgrim of the 18th century who, after failing several times, at last found his vocation to go on pilgrimage as a beggar, without anything, without any support and keeping for himself nothing he received except what he absolutely needed. He was a pilgrim travelling across Europe to all the European shrines, from Spain to Poland and from Germany to Sicily: a truly European Saint! We can also say: a rather unusual Saint who begging, wandered from one shrine to another and wanted to do nothing other than to pray and thereby bear witness to what counts in this life: God. Of course, his is not an example to emulate, but a signpost, a finger pointing to the essential. He shows us that God alone suffices; that beyond anything in this world, beyond our needs and capacities, what matters, what is essential is to know God. He is enough on his own. And this “only God”, he shows us in a dramatic way. At the same time, this truly European life that, from shrine to shrine, embraces the entire continent of Europe makes it clear that whoever opens to God does not estrange himself from the world and from men, but rather finds brothers, because God causes all borders to fall, God alone eliminates the borders because, thanks to him, we all are brothers and sisters, we belong to one another. He makes it clear that the oneness of God means, at the same time, brotherhood and reconciliation among men, the demolition of frontiers that unites us and heals us. In this way he is a Saint of peace, just as he was a Saint without demands, who died deprived of all but blessed with everything.

And then, finally, we come to the Paschal Mystery. The same day on which I was born, thanks to my parent’s concern, I was also reborn through water and the Holy Spirit, as we have just heard in the Gospel. First, there is the gift of life that my parents gave me in very difficult times, and for which I thank them. But it cannot be taken for granted that human life in itself is a gift. Can it really be a beautiful gift? Do we know what will befall man in the dark days ahead — or in the brighter days that could come? Can we foresee to what troubles, what terrible events he might be exposed? Is it right to simply give life like this? Is it responsible or too uncertain? It is a problematic gift, if it is left to itself. Biological life is in itself a gift, but it is surrounded by a great question. It becomes a true gift only if, along with it, we are given a promise that is stronger than any evil that could threaten us, if it is immersed in a power that ensures that it is good to be human, that there will be good for this person no matter what the future brings. Thus, with birth is associated rebirth, the certitude that, truly, it is good to be alive, because the promise is stronger than evil. This is the meaning of rebirth by water and the Holy Spirit: to be immersed in the promise that only God can make — it is good that you exist, and you can be certain of that whatever comes. With this assurance I was able to live, reborn by water and the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus asks the Lord: “How can an old man possibly be reborn?”. Now, rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must continually grow in it, we must always let ourselves be immersed by God in his promise, in order to be truly reborn in the great, new family of God which is stronger than every weakness and than any negative power that threatens us. Therefore, this is a day of great thanksgiving.

The day I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. Then it was still customary to anticipate the Easter Vigil in the morning, which would still be followed by the darkness of Holy Saturday, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of light in a day of darkness, could almost be an image of the history of our times. On the one hand, there is still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ there is already the anticipation of the “yes” of God, and on the basis of this anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear him speak, and through the darkness of his absence we glimpse his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection in the middle of an evolving history is the power that points out the way to us and helps us to go forward.

Let us thank the good Lord for he has given us this light and let us pray to him so that it might endure forever. And on this day I have special cause to thank him and all those who have ever anew made me perceive the presence of the Lord, who have accompanied me so that I might never lose the light.

I am now facing the last chapter of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is Risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world. And this helps me to go forward with certainty. May this help us to go forward, and at this moment I wholeheartedly thank all those who have continually helped me to perceive the “yes” of God through their faith.

Finally, Cardinal Dean [Sodano], a warm thank you for your words of brotherly friendship, for all the collaboration during all these years. And a special thank you to all the collaborators over the 30 years in which I have been in Rome, who have helped me to carry the weight of my responsibilities. Thank you. Amen.
* * *
Speaking of Providence and timing, as this week likewise happens to mark nine years since Papa Ratzi's Stateside tour, the vision sketched out over those days bears no less recalling and reflection....

Per usual for every Pope, what he said then has only become more relevant with time.

Posted: April 18, 2017, 10:26 am
15 APRIL 2017

“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” (Mt 28:1). We can picture them as they went on their way… They walked like people going to a cemetery, with uncertain and weary steps, like those who find it hard to believe that this is how it all ended. We can picture their faces, pale and tearful. And their question: can Love have truly died?

Unlike the disciples, the women are present – just as they had been present as the Master breathed his last on the cross, and then, with Joseph of Arimathea, as he was laid in the tomb. Two women who did not run away, who remained steadfast, who faced life as it is and who knew the bitter taste of injustice. We see them there, before the tomb, filled with grief but equally incapable of accepting that things must always end this way.

If we try to imagine this scene, we can see in the faces of those women any number of other faces: the faces of mothers and grandmothers, of children and young people who bear the grievous burden of injustice and brutality. In their faces we can see reflected all those who, walking the streets of our cities, feel the pain of dire poverty, the sorrow born of exploitation and human trafficking. We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family. We see faces whose eyes bespeak loneliness and abandonment, because their hands are creased with wrinkles. Their faces mirror the faces of women, mothers, who weep as they see the lives of their children crushed by massive corruption that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams. By daily acts of selfishness that crucify and then bury people’s hopes. By paralyzing and barren bureaucracies that stand in the way of change. In their grief, those two women reflect the faces of all those who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified.

The faces of those women mirror many other faces too, including perhaps yours and mine. Like them, we can feel driven to keep walking and not resign ourselves to the fact that things have to end this way. True, we carry within us a promise and the certainty of God’s faithfulness. But our faces also bear the mark of wounds, of so many acts of infidelity, our own and those of others, of efforts made and battles lost. In our hearts, we know that things can be different but, almost without noticing it, we can grow accustomed to living with the tomb, living with frustration. Worse, we can even convince ourselves that this is the law of life, and blunt our consciences with forms of escape that only serve to dampen the hope that God has entrusted to us. So often we walk as those women did, poised between the desire of God and bleak resignation. Not only does the Master die, but our hope dies with him.

“And suddenly there was a great earthquake” (Mt 28:2). Unexpectedly, those women felt a powerful tremor, as something or someone made the earth shake beneath their feet. Once again, someone came to tell them: “Do not be afraid”, but now adding: “He has been raised as he said!” This is the message that, generation after generation, this Holy Night passes on to us: “Do not be afraid, brothers and sisters; he is risen as he said!” Life, which death destroyed on the cross, now reawakens and pulsates anew (cf. ROMANO GUARDINI, The Lord, Chicago, 1954, p. 473). The heartbeat of the Risen Lord is granted us as a gift, a present, a new horizon. The beating heart of the Risen Lord is given to us, and we are asked to give it in turn as a transforming force, as the leaven of a new humanity. In the resurrection, Christ rolled back the stone of the tomb, but he wants also to break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others.

When the High Priest and the religious leaders, in collusion with the Romans, believed that they could calculate everything, that the final word had been spoken and that it was up to them to apply it, God suddenly breaks in, upsets all the rules and offers new possibilities. God once more comes to meet us, to create and consolidate a new age, the age of mercy. This is the promise present from the beginning. This is God’s surprise for his faithful people. Rejoice! Hidden within your life is a seed of resurrection, an offer of life ready to be awakened.

That is what this night calls us to proclaim: the heartbeat of the Risen Lord. Christ is alive! That is what quickened the pace of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. That is what made them return in haste to tell the news (Mt 28:8). That is what made them lay aside their mournful gait and sad looks. They returned to the city to meet up with the others.

Now that, like the two women, we have visited the tomb, I ask you to go back with them to the city. Let us all retrace our steps and change the look on our faces. Let us go back with them to tell the news In all those places where the grave seems to have the final word, where death seems the only way out. Let us go back to proclaim, to share, to reveal that it is true: the Lord is alive! He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity. If we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road, then we are not Christians.

Let us go, then. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give. May we allow his tenderness and his love to guide our steps. May we allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness of heart.

[Ed. Note: Lest the whoppers in the above didn't jump off the page at you, read it again.... More than anything, though, to one and all, every wish for una beata e Buona Pasqua – a Blessed Easter!]

Posted: April 15, 2017, 10:04 pm
Despite the wider world's enduring interest in the Pope's traveling Holy Thursday Mass, for Francis himself, the most emotional time of this Week, and arguably his entire year, is instead tonight – the Good Friday Via Crucis, which brings back the evocative memory of the candlelit processions of Buenos Aires to which he was taken as a boy.

In keeping with the depth of the moment, Papa Bergoglio again closed the Colosseum rites with a personally-written prayer linking the crucifixion with the modern-day suffering of the innocent, here in an English translation....
O Christ,
left alone and then betrayed by your own
and sold for a fleeting price.

O Christ,
judged by sinners
and taken captive by the powerful.

O Christ,
your flesh torn,
crowned with thorns
and cloaked in purple.

O Christ
slapped and atrociously nailed.

O Christ,
pierced by the lance which ripped at your heart.

O Christ,
dead and buried,
You who are the God of life and existence.

O Christ,
our only Savior,
again we return to You this year
with our eyes lowered from shame
and a heart full of hope:

Shame for all the images
of devastation, destruction and shipwrecks
that have become ordinary in our life.

Shame for the innocent blood that has been shed
by women, children, immigrants and persecuted people
whether for the color of their skin,
their ethnic and social appearance
and for their faith in You.

Shame for the many times when,
like Judas and Peter,
we have sold you and betrayed you
and left you alone to die for our sins,
fleeing like cowards from our responsibilities.

Shame for our silence before injustices,
for our hands, lazy in giving yet
keen to snatch away and conquer,
for our shrill voices in defending our own interests
and timid in speaking of those of others,
for our fast feet along the way of evil,
yet paralyzed on the way of good.

Shame for all the times that us,
bishops, priests, consecrated men and women
have scandalized and wounded your body, the Church,
and have forgotten our first love, our first enthusiasm
and our complete availability,
letting our heart and our consecration turn to rust.

So much shame, Lord, but our heart still remembers
the hopeful trust that you don’t treat us according to our merits
but only by the abundance of your mercy,
that our own betrayals don’t come close
to the immenseness of your love,
that your heart, that of a mother and a father,
doesn’t forget us despite our own hardness.

Hope. The sure hope that our names are written in your heart
and that we are in your sight.

The hope that your Cross might transform our hardened hearts
to hearts of flesh, able to dream, to forgive and to love;

transform the darkness of this night into the radiant joy of your Resurrection.

The hope that your faithfulness is not based on our own.

The hope that the host of men and women faithful to your Cross
continues and will continue to live faithfully as the leaven that gives flavor
and as the light which opens new horizons in the body of our wounded humanity.

The hope that your Church will seek to be a voice that cries out in the desert of
humanity, to prepare the way for your return in triumph,
when you will come to judge the living and the dead.

The hope that good will win, even in the face of defeat!

O Lord Jesus, Son of God,
innocent victim of our redemption,
before your royal banner,
the mystery of your death and glory,
before this, your scaffold,
we fall to our knees, ashamed yet hopeful,
and we ask you to wash us clean in the solvent of the blood and water
which came from your broken heart;
to forgive our sins and our faults.

We ask you to remember our brothers and sisters cut down
by violence, by indifference, and by war.

We ask you to break the chains that keep us
as prisoners in our selfishness,
in our willful blindness
and in the vanity of our worldly calculations.

O Christ,
we ask you to teach us
to never be ashamed of your Cross,
to not instrumentalize it
but to honor and adore it,
because by it you have shown
the monstrousness of our sins,
the greatness of your love,
the injustice of our judgment
and the power of your mercy.

Posted: April 15, 2017, 11:53 am
13 APRIL 2017

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk 4:18).

 Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, brings good news to the poor. Everything he proclaims, and we priests too proclaim, is good news. News full of the joy of the Gospel – the joy of those anointed in their sins with the oil of forgiveness and anointed in their charism with the oil of mission, in order to anoint others in turn.

Like Jesus, the priest makes the message joyful with his entire person. When he preaches – briefly, if possible! –, he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer. Like every other missionary disciple, the priest makes the message joyful by his whole being. For as we all know, it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared: when by taking one small step, we make God’s mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time…

The phrase “good news” might appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel”. Yet those words point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel. The Gospel is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy. The good news is the precious pearl of which we read in the Gospel. It is not a thing but a mission. This is evident to anyone who has experienced the “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (Evangelii Gaudium, 10).

The good news is born of Anointing. Jesus’ first “great priestly anointing” took place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary. The good news of the Annunciation inspired the Virgin Mother to sing her Magnificat. It filled the heart of Joseph, her spouse, with sacred silence, and it made John leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Nazareth and the joy of the Spirit renews that Anointing in the little synagogue of that town: the Spirit descends and is poured out upon him, “anointing him with the oil of gladness” (cf. Ps 45:8).

Good news. A single word – Gospel – that, even as it is spoken, becomes truth, brimming with joy and mercy. We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone.

The truth of the good news can never be merely abstract, incapable of taking concrete shape in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in books.

The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change.

This message can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal. It is “the joy of the Father, who desires that none of his little ones be lost” (Evangelii Gaudium, 237). It is the joy of Jesus, who sees that the poor have the good news preached to them, and that the little ones go out to preach the message in turn (ibid., 5) The joys of the Gospel are special joys. I say “joys” in the plural, for they are many and varied, depending on how the Spirit chooses to communicate them, in every age, to every person and in every culture. They need to be poured into new wineskins, the ones the Lord speaks of in expressing the newness of his message. I would like to share with you, dear priests, dear brothers, three images or icons of those new wineskins in which the good news is kept fresh, without turning sour but being poured out in abundance.

A first icon of the good news would be the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana (cf. Jn 2:6). In one way, they clearly reflect that perfect vessel which is Our Lady herself, the Virgin Mary. The Gospel tells us that the servants “filled them up to the brim” (Jn 2:7). I can imagine one of those servants looking to Mary to see if that was enough, and Mary signaling to add one more pailful. Mary is the new wineskin brimming with contagious joy. She is “the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286), Our Lady of Prompt Succour [Ed.: Patroness of New Orleans; right], who, after conceiving in her immaculate womb the Word of life, goes out to visit and assist her cousin Elizabeth. Her “contagious fullness” helps us overcome the temptation of fear, the temptation to keep ourselves from being filled to the brim, the temptation to a faint-heartedness that holds us back from going forth to fill others with joy. This cannot be, for “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (ibid., 1)

A second icon of the good news is the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun (cf. Jn 4:5-30). It speaks to us of something crucial: the importance of concrete situations. The Lord, the Source of Living Water, had no means of drawing the water to quench his thirst. So the Samaritan woman drew the water with her jug, and with her ladle she sated the Lord’s thirst. She sated it even more by concretely confessing her sins. By mercifully shaking the vessel of that Samaritan women’s soul, the Holy Spirit overflowed upon all the people of that small town, who asked the Lord to stay with them.

The Lord gave us another new vessel or wineskin full of this “inclusive concreteness” in that Samaritan soul who was Mother Teresa. He called to her and told her: “I am thirsty”. He said: “My child, come, take me to the hovels of the poor. Come, be my light. I cannot do this alone. They do not know me, and that is why they do not love me. Bring me to them”. Mother Teresa, starting with one concrete person, thanks to her smile and her way of touching their wounds, brought the good news to all.

The third icon of the good news is the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced Heart: his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all people to himself. From him we have to learn that announcing a great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even humbling, way. Evangelization cannot be presumptuous. The integrity of the truth cannot be rigid. The Spirit proclaims and teaches “the whole truth” (cf. Jn 16:3), and he is not afraid to do this one sip at a time. The Spirit tells us in every situation what we need to say to our enemies (cf. Mt 10:19), and at those times he illumines our every small step forward. This meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil.

Dear priests, as we contemplate and drink from these three new wineskins, may the good news find in us that “contagious fullness” which Our Lady radiates with her whole being, the “inclusive concreteness” of the story of the Samaritan woman, and the “utter meekness” whereby the Holy Spirit ceaselessly wells up and flows forth from the pierced heart of Jesus our Lord.

Posted: April 13, 2017, 2:03 pm
9 APRIL 2017

Today’s celebration can be said to be bittersweet. It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time. We celebrate the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the cries of his disciples who acclaim him as king. Yet we also solemnly proclaim the Gospel account of his Passion. In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience in some small measure what Jesus himself must have felt in his own heart that day, as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem.

For thirty-two years now, the joyful aspect of this Sunday has been enriched by the enthusiasm of young people, thanks to the celebration of World Youth Day. This year, it is being celebrated at the diocesan level, but here in Saint Peter’s Square it will be marked by the deeply moving and evocative moment when the WYD cross is passed from the young people of Kraków to those of Panama.

The Gospel we heard before the procession (cf. Mt 21:1-11) describes Jesus as he comes down from the Mount of Olives on the back of a colt that had never been ridden. It recounts the enthusiasm of the disciples who acclaim the Master with cries of joy, and we can picture in our minds the excitement of the children and young people of the city who joined in the excitement. Jesus himself sees in this joyful welcome an inexorable force willed by God. To the scandalized Pharisees he responds: “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Lk 19:40).

Yet Jesus who, in fulfilment of the Scriptures, enters the holy city in this way is no misguided purveyor of illusions, no new age prophet, no imposter. Rather, he is clearly a Messiah who comes in the guise of a servant, the servant of God and of man, and goes to his passion. He is the great “patient”, who suffers all the pain of humanity.

So as we joyfully acclaim our King, let us also think of the sufferings that he will have to endure in this week. Let us think of the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns… And lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion.

He had spoken clearly of this to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Jesus never promised honour and success. The Gospels make this clear. He had always warned his friends that this was to be his path, and that the final victory would be achieved through the passion and the cross. All this holds true for us too. Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.

This Jesus, who accepts the hosannas of the crowd, knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry: “Crucify him!” He does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs, or in the videos that circulate on the internet. No. He is present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labour, from family tragedies, from diseases… They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike. Women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded… Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.

It is not some other Jesus, but the same Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches. It is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals. We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.

Posted: April 10, 2017, 1:38 pm
And so, Church, we've come to that time again – the Week it's all about.... But for as much as we call these next seven days "Holy," the degree they really are is the choice and the work that falls to each of us.

In that light, keeping a longtime tradition on this eve, here again is the last preach of the beloved Sister Thea Bowman, given from her deathbed days before her passing at 53 on 30 March 1990....
Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating Holy Scripture.

So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass' colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the "Hosannas” and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of the torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary’s anguish as he hung three hours before he died.

We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read Scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears.

Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers. Sharing the pain of a fellow human will enliven Scripture and help us enter into the holy mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by participating in the Holy Week services of the church, not just by attending, but also by preparing, by studying the readings, entering into the spirit, offering our services as ministers of the Word or Eucharist, decorating the church or preparing the environment for worship.

Let us sing, "Lord, have mercy," and "Hosanna." Let us praise the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, uniting with the suffering church throughout the world -- in Rome and Northern Ireland, in Syria and Lebanon, in South Africa and Angola, India and China, Nicaragua and El Salvador, in Washington, D.C., and Jackson, Mississippi.

Let us break bread together; let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery. Let us do it in memory of him, acknowledging in faith his real presence upon our altars.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families, sharing family prayer on a regular basis, making every meal a holy meal where loving conversations bond family members in unity, sharing family work without grumbling, making love not war, asking forgiveness for past hurts and forgiving one another from the heart, seeking to go all the way for love as Jesus went all the way for love.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable.

Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the suffering of Jesus. Let us stretch ourselves, going beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work.

We unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God's healing, God's forgiveness, God's unconditional love.

Let us be practical, reaching out across the boundaries of race and class and status to help somebody, to encourage and affirm somebody, offering to the young an incentive to learn and grow, offering to the downtrodden resources to help themselves.

May our fasting be the kind that saves and shares with the poor, that actually contacts the needy, that gives heart to heart, that touches and nourishes and heals.

During this Holy Week when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.
Again, to one and all, may yours be a blessed and truly Holy Week.

Posted: April 8, 2017, 7:43 pm
So, folks, 4 days til Holy Week.... Already.

Crept up quick, didn't it?

As ever, the days ahead bring what can easily be termed a full plate. Yet before one of the year's most intense cycles can be taken up, our top story instead comes from the back-office – among other highlights, this shop's utility and tech bills (internet, the phones, server costs, etc.) are due....

And without your support, that means one thing: lights out.

Long story short, that's the price of remaining independent – not owned by the metrics of advertisers, nor the whims of institutional pressures or agenda-heavy overlords.

Sure, that has its strains. But especially these days, it's worth it.

Among other bits, there's a 3,000-odd word... something in the pipeline; like all the rest here, see, it doesn't just come out of thin air. But as the priority for the moment is making sure the wiring that allows the stuff to get finished and beamed around is paid up, as always 'round here, that part is on this readership – and much like what's just on-deck, this is no time for simply sitting by....

And now, we return to the pre-Holy Week chaos already in progress – to one and all, may its every blessing be yours.

Posted: April 6, 2017, 9:12 am
“I welcome you with joy.

I like to think that the most important task we must do together, in humanity, is the work 'of the ear': listening to each other. Listening to each other, without haste to give an answer. Welcoming the word of our brother, our sister, and then thinking of giving my own. But the capacity to listen, this is very important.

It is interesting: when people have this capacity for listening, they speak with a low and calm tone... [but] when they do not have this, they speak loudly and even shout. Among brothers, we must all speak, listen to each other and speak slowly, calmly, looking for the way together. And when we listen to each other and speak to each other, we are already on the path.

Thank you for this journey you are taking, and I ask God, almighty and merciful, to bless you. And I ask you to pray for me.
*   *   *
While that was the Pope's greeting this morning to a group of four British Imams – brought by the English primate Cardinal Vincent Nichols in the wake of last month's attack at the Houses of Parliament – given what's said, or simply not heard, across much shorter divides these days, the message is something seemingly everyone can reflect on, all the more as the "journey" of Holy Week draws near.

On an even bigger news-front, meanwhile, today's gathering serves to further highlight the Vatican's next major strike on Catholic-Muslim relations: Francis' rapidly-arranged visit to Cairo in late April – only the second-ever papal trip to Egypt, headlined by a global peace summit in the "Muslim Vatican" at Al-Azhar, which froze its dialogue with Rome during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

Posted: April 6, 2017, 5:43 am
For all the times this beat has seen truth being stranger than fiction, the story would be tough to top: a Pope who traditionalists love to hate succeeds in pulling off the very act his loudest critics have long desired most. Yet now, building on months of positive rumblings on both sides of the split, a letter released this morning at Francis' behest offers the clearest indicator to date that a reconciliation with the Society of St Pius X is indeed well in the works after nearly three decades of schism by the leading traditionalist group.

Issued by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei – the Curial arm responsible for all things pertaining to the Tridentine liturgy and its adherents – today's text relays the pontiff's decision allowing diocesan bishops "the possibility to grant faculties [to SSPX priests] for the celebration of marriages of faithful who follow the pastoral activity of the Society," albeit under very specific conditions.

While, on its face, the move is a follow-up to the universal faculty granted for the Year of Mercy allowing the Society's 600 priests to licitly hear confessions and give absolution – a permission Francis has since extended indefinitely – in an unusual amount of hand-showing for a Vatican document, the letter pointedly refers to "the objective persistence of the canonical irregularity in which for the time being" (emphasis original) the Swiss-based order "finds itself," then went on to add among the move's reasons an intent "that the process towards full institutional regularization may be facilitated."

As an explicit prod to the world's dioceses to prepare their groundwork for the Lefebvrists' return to full communion, the latter statement is nothing short of a landmark: over nearly three decades of Roman concessions and degrees of approach toward an accord on the part of the Society's leadership, no similar reference to the practicalities of their reintegration has previously been made by the Vatican.

Amid the latest cycle of negotiations between Ecclesia Dei and the Society's superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay – reportedly featuring occasional cameos from the Pope – the most commonly cited prospect for an SSPX pact would see the fraternity's half-million lay members and clergy accorded the status of a personal prelature: an arrangement (now only held by Opus Dei) which effectively renders a community of clergy and laity as a global diocese, free to conduct its own churches and other institutions practically without interference from local bishops and their aides.

Pending their formal profession of Catholic faith and submission in obedience to the Bishop of Rome, SSPX priests remain viewed by the Catholic Church as suspended clergy and their sacraments as valid but not licit – now with the exceptions of confessions and marriages, in the latter case only in those places where bishops have granted the faculty to witness them.

Given the Society's international network of chapels and seminaries, a prelature setup would make for the easiest canonical fit, and notably, today's letter addressed to the episcopal conferences roughly reflects the law's requirement that the conferences are to be consulted before a personal prelature is established. However, the precise shape of the in-communion activity of a restored SSPX – especially in terms of its relations with dioceses and provisions for any future growth – would only be fully known through the requisite statutes governing its work, which the Holy See must approve before they can take force. Even before that, though, simply reaching an accord would be contingent on a mutually-agreed (and, to be sure, heavily-finessed) doctrinal understanding accepted by the Lefebvrists, above all on the development of church teaching on the liturgy, other faiths and religious freedom as articulated at Vatican II and in its wake.

A goal which has eluded both of Francis' predecessors since Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's ordination of four bishops without papal consent in 1988 incurred the lone major schism of the post-Conciliar era, it almost goes without saying that prior attempts at a reconciliation have stoked significant controversy, not to mention tumult both within the church and on the interfaith relations front. Most prominently, Benedict XVI's 2009 move to withdraw the automatic excommunications on Lefebvre and his four bishops stoked one of the last pontificate's biggest firestorms, as statements denying the Nazi use of gas chambers by one of the Society's prelates, Bishop Richard Williamson, emerged on Swedish television on the eve of the Vatican's announcement that the penalties were being lifted.

Once the SSPX's top figure in the Pope's native Argentina, while Williamson has since been expelled from the Society – and then drew another automatic excommunication for ordaining a bishop in 2015 –  it's already expected that, with Fellay (above) practically certain to lead the offered prelature, the group's remaining two prelates would serve as his auxiliary bishops. As Opus Dei has traditionally had just one prelate at its helm – the movement's elected leader – a unique aspect in this case would be the Society's possible intent to ordain more bishops, and what the vetting role of the Curia would be prior to a candidate's necessary appointment by the Pope.

Given the roiled history, with Francis quietly within reach of a move which would be both the riskiest  call of his four-year pontificate and a top-line achievement of it, it is a reflection of the goodwill Papa Bergoglio's locked up both among church progressives and Catholicism's interfaith partners that the apocalyptic reactions among both groups to Benedict's overtures toward the Society are scarcely in evidence now.

On the ground, meanwhile, the most intriguing piece of a reconciliation deal (if reached) would be the effect of a regularized SSPX on the current population of priests and faithful who worship according to the 1962 Missal in their dioceses following Summorum Pontificum, Benedict's 2007 motu proprio easing the permissions for the celebration of the pre-Conciliar rites. Put simply, would they seek to remain in place, or would the reality of a stem-to-stern traditionalist jurisdiction – with its resulting freedom from local oversight – just be too much to pass up?

Here below, the full letter released this morning, signed by the CDF prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who likewise serves as president of Ecclesia Dei:
Your Eminence,
Your Excellency,

As you are aware, for some time various meetings and other initiatives have been ongoing in order to bring the Society of St. Pius X into full communion. Recently, the Holy Father decided, for example, to grant all priests of said Society the faculty to validly administer the Sacrament of Penance to the faithful (Letter Misericordia et misera, n.12), such as to ensure the validity and liceity of the Sacrament and allay any concerns on the part of the faithful.

Following the same pastoral outlook which seeks to reassure the conscience of the faithful, despite the objective persistence of the canonical irregularity in which for the time being the Society of St. Pius X finds itself, the Holy Father, following a proposal by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, has decided to authorize Local Ordinaries the possibility to grant faculties for the celebration of marriages of faithful who follow the pastoral activity of the Society, according to the following provisions.

Insofar as possible, the Local Ordinary is to grant the delegation to assist at the marriage to a priest of the Diocese (or in any event, to a fully regular priest), such that the priest may receive the consent of the parties during the marriage rite, followed, in keeping with the liturgy of the Vetus ordo [Ed. "the 'Old order' of Mass], by the celebration of Mass, which may be celebrated by a priest of the Society.

Where the above is not possible, or if there are no priests in the Diocese able to receive the consent of the parties, the Ordinary may grant the necessary faculties to the priest of the Society who is also to celebrate the Holy Mass, reminding him of the duty to forward the relevant documents to the Diocesan Curia as soon as possible.

Certain that in this way any uneasiness of conscience on the part of the faithful who adhere to the Society of St. Pius X as well as any uncertainty regarding the validity of the sacrament of marriage may be alleviated, and at the same time that the process towards full institutional regularization may be facilitated, this Dicastery relies on Your cooperation.

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei on 24 March 2017, confirmed his approval of the present letter and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 27 March 2017.

Gerhard Card. L. Müller

+Guido Pozzo
Titular Archbishop of Bagnoregio
Posted: April 4, 2017, 8:40 pm
Along with Friday fish-fries, the weekly Stations and giving up something (or doing something more), recent years have brought a new tradition of Lent: the Pope going into overdrive to plug his favorite sacrament.

Yet even as The World's Most Coveted Pitchman again devoted the better part of a week this month (and amid the high exposure of his election anniversary, at that) to another round of all-Confession, all-the-time messaging – topped as usual by taking his own turn as a penitent during the season's annual penance service in St Peter's – in at least a hefty chunk of the trenches, the takeup on that call is still running strangely thin, above all in terms of its widespread availability.

After reprising his broader invite to "our Father's mercy" during the week around the Vatican's rite, Papa Bergoglio returned to chiding the world's pastors over doing their part, using his mid-month talk to a training-course for confessors to remind that easy access to the box or Reconciliation Room "is a pastoral priority" – and urging that, in their parishes, "please, do not let there be those signs that say, 'Confessions only on Monday and Wednesday at such-and-such a time.'

"One [hears confessions] whenever one is asked," Francis said, asking that "if you are there [in church] praying, stay with the confessional open, which is the open heart of God."

While the most recent figures report that nearly half the US' Catholic population "never" partakes of the sacrament, on a coast-to-coast anecdotal level, two other realities help flesh out the nuances of the scene. For starters, it's broadly become the case that the standard timeframe inherited from another age – namely, only one dedicated hour (or, these days, often 30 to 45 minutes) on a Saturday afternoon – simply isn't the "sweet spot" it once might've been in terms of the convenience of the faithful. On the flip-side, however, ask practically any pastor who's added scheduled availability on weeknights, elsewhere on the weekends – or even, especially in major cities, during workday lunch-hours or quitting time – and pretty much as a rule, the lines show up in short order. (And on a lesser, but still notable front, while the words "or by appointment" are a universal add-on to Confession times, most of us are still looking to meet someone who's actually done so.)

Of course, this time of year sees an attempted remedy with the time-honored patchwork of parish penance services on a lone Lenten weeknight. Given the habits of the modern faithful, though – lives either spent "parish-hopping" due to family or job schedules or, as is mostly the case, participating less than weekly for any number of reasons – for all their good intentions, even these efforts can easily get lost in the mix beyond the proverbial "choir."

Along these lines, then, it's worth recalling that as the "Death of Confession" storyline doesn't fully hold water, for its most prominent counter-evidence, this year brings a major milestone.

The longest-running major initiative of its kind, these 40 Days mark the tenth anniversary of Washington's launch of "The Light is On For You" – the annual push that, now held in tandem with the diocese of Arlington, sees every church in the capital metro area open for Reconciliation from 6.30-8pm every Wednesday of Lent. In subsequent years, Cardinal Donald Wuerl's relayed that some 80 percent of the DC presbyterate sought for the move to become an ongoing diocese-wide custom, noting that "in many parishes each successive Wednesday brought more people to church for reconciliation, and in some cases during Wednesday of Holy Week priests heard confessions for three, four or five hours." What's more, diocesan officials there even recall receiving unbidden thank-you calls from people who randomly came across word of the effort, and felt great about taking up the invite after years adrift.

While several other dioceses have picked up the weekly "Light" format – among others, the churches of the 2 million-member Boston archdiocese hold it every Lenten Monday – the season's end brings another style of major local Confess-a-thon: New York's Reconciliation Monday, held at the start of every Holy Week, which sees each of the 700-plus sites across the archdiocese and the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre open with priests at the ready from 3-9pm. Covering an area with over 5.5 million Catholics in the nation's largest statistical area, the Gotham event likewise takes place in Advent, on the Monday before Christmas.

In case one's missing the obvious: do you notice how every place that has an hour on Saturday afternoon isn't being mentioned here?

Again, much as the shape and timing is adapted by place, in an age when the church's target audience is broadly dispersed and equally difficult to reach, despite the differences, these full-scale local initiatives haven't merely succeeded, but become widely anticipated – and, hence, you're reading about 'em – for two critical reasons: first, a consistency that allows a precise day and time to be easily taken to memory, an instinctive act of recall which only grows over several years of it... and most of all, the commitment across not just one local church, but several dioceses in the same media market, which helps the joint spread of paid advertising (transit ads, TV spots, etc.; one example seen above at the Mets' ballpark) and drumming up free "blanket" coverage on the effort by mainstream press, whose circulation almost always spreads across several sets of diocesan lines.

On the latter point, when the topic's Confession, you can always bank on a boatload of public interest (lest anyone forgot, look at all the "Live at 11" ratchet The Indult racked up). Adding to that is the unique reality (read: boon) of a moment when any release from official channels which begins with: "Responding to the call of Pope Francis..." is de facto catnip for local newsrooms – and just about everyone else. In any case, this is the kind of coordination for which dioceses were made, and when it's handled at that macro level, the amount of planning and resources it entails is a relative drop in the bucket considering the likely result.

Lastly, as ever, no riff on the box can come without recalling the first challenge of communicating Penance: namely, acknowledging and easing the intimidation factor that – especially for folks who've been away from the sacrament, and quite possibly the pews at large, for a long stretch – is more prevalent, and often deeply-felt, than tends to be addressed, and which remains the foremost inhibition of all. Yet even that's no overpowering hurdle; for a Pope who's fond of sharing – or, perhaps, reassuring – that the Confessional "isn't a torture chamber" atop giving voice to a widely-felt sense of welcome, all that remains is amplifying the message where it needs to be heard most.

Long story short: if Lent's a time to get one's own priorities straight, that's all the more the case for ecclesial life writ large. And when it comes to a matter that, even more than a simple "priority," is arguably the most pressing pastoral emergency the nation's largest religious body faces, it's not that taking action has failed... it's that, across much of the map, it still just hasn't been tried.

Posted: March 30, 2017, 11:55 pm
“What the Temple of Jerusalem is to the Israelite,
what St Peter’s Basilica in Rome is to the faithful of the church universal,
such is this cathedral to the American Catholic....”
Though that line was uttered by the first cardinal to be born of the nation's Premier See, a century later, it would become almost loudly etched upon the heart of the "imported" heir who'd follow in James Gibbons' footsteps, who now likewise takes his rest in the heart of American Catholicism's founding fold, but only after he passed that quote and the life it contained to so many of us.

Here, from the mother-church of these shores – the Baltimore Basilica he so lovingly and faithfully restored as a gift for the future – the fulfillment of William Cardinal Keeler's last wish: the 14th Archbishop's burial in its crypt alongside the founding pastors of these United States – the first such moment in seven decades... and one only come to pass after a quick tour was given the newest of the line, just recently arrived from Cathedral Street's now-spinoff in Washington:

To be sure, there's an epilogue to all this, for the man and the moment... but when it comes to an era of history – and, in this instance, a piece of one's own life – as ever, if it's fleeting clickbait you're looking for, you've come to the wrong place.

Posted: March 29, 2017, 9:44 am
In the annals of the Premier See of these United States, two figures form the center of a legend born alongside the Constitution.

Yet even for all John Carroll and James Gibbons would bequeath to posterity, it would fall to another to bring the Maryland Tradition of American Catholicism into the 21st century. And this morning, the cleric who made that mission his own has been called to his rest.

The only man ever to wear both the badge of an Eagle Scout and the scarlet of a Roman prince, William Henry Keeler – 14th archbishop of Baltimore, ninth President of the nation’s bench, only the third of Carroll’s heirs to be raised to the papal Senate – died overnight at 86 after a long, gradual illness.

Named to Charm City in 1989 – amid the 200th anniversary of the nation’s founding diocese – Keeler’s two-decade tenure at the helm of the Birdland fold didn’t merely burnish the crown jewel he inherited, but served to achieve some history of its own. Above all else, the cardinal brought a Pope to the Calverts' colony, as now-St John Paul II celebrated Mass at Camden Yards and lunched with the homeless at Our Daily Bread on the lone sunny day of his final Stateside tour in 1995. And at his ministry's end, only after a sound footing for the archdiocese’s schools and charities was ensured through over $100 million in fundraising, the third cardinal pursued his long-desired legacy project, restoring the nation’s first cathedral – the Basilica of the Assumption – to the simple splendor with which it was conceived, stripping away a century’s worth of darkness to the recapture the vision Carroll hatched with Benjamin Latrobe: Catholicism's tribute in stone to the American experiment of religious freedom, a dream fused together in light.

A son of Harrisburg and Philadelphia ordained first in his class in 1955, the future cardinal attracted early notice on the Roman scene, so much so that, as a student-priest, he was dubbed “Ruby Keeler” given the shoes that went with the red hat in that era. Not even ten years in, Keeler would have his first brush with the spotlight during the Second Vatican Council as the secretary who led the daily English-language press briefings, a heady task given the involvement of 2,500 bishops and the Council's business being conducted entirely in Latin. Despite being almost painfully shy – a trait that expressed itself in a soft-spoken and dignified reserve – the experience birthed a driven interest in and support of the press which would remain for the rest of his life.

The lone prelate to lead the nation's hierarchy both by prerogative of place as well as through election – likewise the first conference president to be given the red hat while at the bench's helm – the Keeler legacy on the broad stage is most intimately linked to another lifelong commitment: interfaith relations, above all with the Jewish community.

Having remained the church's lead figure on the national Catholic-Jewish dialogue well into his retirement, it was at Keeler's behest that, in the 1990s, John Paul conferred the first papal knighthoods on non-Catholics, to two rabbis who were the cardinal's counterparts in the effort. Such was the prelate's devotion to the cause that – even for an adherence to history that could border on the fanatical – Keeler shirked the almost sacred 19th century aesthetics of the "Gibbons Room" of the Archbishop's Residence on Charles Street to place one modern item within it: a menorah strikingly sculpted with six human figures, each one representing a million Jews killed during the Holocaust.

As with every prelate of his generation, Keeler's greatest challenge at home erupted in 2002 with the national revelations of clergy sex-abuse and cover-up. Yet while the storm placed an eternal cloud over several of his fellow cardinals and a host of other prelates, the unique response from Baltimore quickly made the scandals a local afterthought.

In a marked contrast to most places, where prosecutors or plaintiffs’ attorneys resorted to legal force to attain disclosures from the Chanceries, Keeler ordered the publication of the archdiocese's complete record of accused priests – a list of 57 names, their assignments, and the dates and nature of the alleged misconduct, all of it stretching back to the 1950s.

For much of the Baltimore presbyterate, the revelation – especially the list’s inclusion of the dead – proved an unforgiveable act of betrayal by their archbishop, who nonetheless remained unswayed in his conviction that it was “the right thing to do.” Almost 15 years later, his archdiocese spared the tide of charges, litigation and distrust which would devastate much of the East, the wisdom of the act almost speaks for itself… and in the eyes of those closest to the cardinal, his move to publish remains “his finest hour.”

All these aspects, however – the commitment to transparency and dialogue, the sense of history and community – are merely parts of a piece, its core found in the golden thread Keeler viewed as his unique treasure not merely to guard, but to revive for a new age.

As crafted by Carroll and reborn under Gibbons, the Maryland Tradition of Catholicism was forged as a leavening model of the church’s presence in American society: a distinctly home-grown and confident counter to the importing of Europe’s heavily-encrusted ecclesiology, all of whose variations failed to reflect the circumstances of a pluralistic society in formation an ocean away. In its vision, the American concept of freedom represented no threat to the faith, but a priceless gift, and the free institutions of state, press and religion were likewise no adversary, but partners for the common good, a goal which demands the church’s best contribution for the flourishing of all.

In a moment when both the civil and ecclesial order find themselves gravely challenged by breakdowns of trust and outbursts of selfishness – and, indeed, the very freedoms and promise that define this nation find themselves under siege – it could be said that the lessons of America’s founding fold provide an ideal antidote. And if the departure of the greatest champion of this heritage might bring about a return to learning and heeding its hard-won lessons, for the man, his dying breath would be worth it.

In any case, one lasting legacy on the national front still comes to the fore every year: on what would be the morning of the 9/11 attacks, during the USCCB's September Administrative Committee session in Washington, Keeler – then on his second stint as the bench's chair for Pro-Life Activities –  proposed that the November meeting be moved from the capital back to Baltimore, where the collegial governance of the nation's church (and, by extension, the entire concept of an episcopal conference) saw its inception more than a century earlier with the annual gathering of the archbishops.

Initially envisioned as a temporary gesture when the move was approved, the Fall Plenary hasn't returned to Washington since.

Never one to express emotion publicly – even after surviving a 2006 car accident that claimed the life of his best friend, and whose injuries kept him from his most cherished goal – the warm soul behind those steely blue eyes nevertheless had its ways of reaching out. Simply put, you knew Keeler’s affection when it was made clear that he wanted you close by... and just as being successor of John Carroll in Baltimore was the greatest love of his life, he had the self-awareness to know where he fell short.

Accordingly, it is a testament that the auxiliaries he chose – Fran Malooly, Mitch Rozanski, and Denis Madden – each were and remain more cherished than the other among the locals. And as a wider affirmation of what they learned at his side, it is no accident that the latter two have been chosen in turn to lead the US bishops’ arm for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, all the more that the votes were taken without the cardinal in the room... nor, indeed, likely aware that it was even happening.

Of course, all this is the life of the church in its living stones. Still, for a figure who became almost as much a part of Baltimore as Old Bay and the Orioles – or, these days, Under Armour – despite hailing from outside, for the 14th archbishop, his crowning joy was reclaiming the temple which had been built to serve as the symbol of the Catholic presence on these shores, a holy place which had fallen on hard times.

In the late 1990s, the city's resurgence underway with the development of the Harbor and building of Camden Yards, that new spirit had yet to make it up the hill to Carroll's cathedral. At its lowest point in those days, an attempted robbery of a homeless man ended with the victim's fatal stabbing on the basilica's front portico.

Given the prevailing mood of the time, a push for a $30 million restoration was widely panned within the archdiocese as a needless extravagance or the manifestation of an "edifice complex." Yet again, though, Keeler would prove immovable in the face of opposition, and when the finished product was previewed to the locals days before its rededication, another round of begrudging admissions that "he was right" only added to his serene satisfaction in the moment. And for the kicker, the basilica project ended up jump-starting the revival of its Mount Vernon neighborhood, transforming the area into an urban hub again bursting with life.

Upon the cardinal's retirement a year later, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Keeler couldn't bear to leave American Catholicism's equivalent to the White House, and so he didn't; ever the gracious sort, the incoming archbishop, Edwin O'Brien, honored his predecessor's wishes by holing up in an apartment across town owned by the Sulpicians.

Yet even as he handed over the reins of Cathedral Street, the cardinal's eye for the long sweep of history pulled off one final stroke for the future: asked by O'Brien to select his priest-secretary in advance of his arrival, Keeler plucked a certain 35 year-old from his first pastorate for the job. Having become indispensable to the two archbishops since, the foresight of that call came full circle in January as Adam Parker, at 45, was ordained the youngest bishop in a Stateside diocese and the first to be born in the 1970s – the same decade that Msgr William Keeler, then likewise a priest-secretary in his 40s, became a bishop himself.

For all the shimmering grandeur of American Catholicism's mother-church, to cross the footbridge from 408 N. Charles into the basilica always brings a sobering sight: on making their entry from their house into the nation's first cathedral, a century of archbishops have been faced with the crypt where Carroll and seven of his early successors are laid to rest.

Since the opening of the "New Cathedral" of Mary Our Queen in 1956, the bishops of the Premier See have all opted instead for the ample burial space there. That is, until now: in fulfillment of his last wish, late Tuesday afternoon Keeler will be interred beneath the basilica's High Altar, the first committal within its walls since Archbishop Michael Curley – the last Baltimore prelate whose territory included Washington – died in 1947.

The stone already chiseled out with an expansive Latin text in 19th century font, it is eminently fitting that Birdland's third cardinal will be placed next to its first: the celebrated Gibbons, the native son and citizen-prince he always yearned to imitate most.

Posted: March 28, 2017, 4:09 pm
Amid a roiled political environment – and capping off a remarkable across-the-board protest of President Trump's signature policy commitment – the top leadership of the US bishops has used its first meeting of the year in Washington to issue a significant call that "It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity."

As reports around the country indicate a broad spike in arrests and detainments by federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and with the new administration's ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries stalled in the courts, the statement from the USCCB Administrative Committee' signals a further doubling-down of advocacy for the undocumented and at-risk refugees on the part of the nation's largest religious body, which has spent recent months ramping up numerous local initiatives ranging from very public prayer services in solidarity to programs informing parishioners of their rights and how to respond should they find themselves or their families targeted.

Comprised of all the bench's committee chairs and other prelates representing the US church's 15 regions, the 30-man Administrative meets four times a year, but only twice outside the June and November plenary sessions of the whole 270-member conference. In that light, a statement from the Admin is understood as representing the mind of the entire body of bishops.

Adding to its significance, this week's discussions at the DC Mothership marked the top board's first gathering led by the new conference executive, Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles (top left), whose historic election as the bench's president and vice-president days after the White House vote was widely seen as a sign of the church's resolve on the immigration front in the face of the campaign season's scorching rhetoric on the issue.

With that context in mind, here's the entire Admin statement – billed as a "pastoral reflection" bearing the title "Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times":
The word of God is truly alive today. "When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt" (Lev. 19:33-34).

To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the resurrection. To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear. Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: "We are with you." They may also be a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence. It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.

Intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well. When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus? Within our diverse backgrounds are found common dreams for our children. Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, "out of many, one." In doing so, we will also realize God's hope for all His children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14), strengthens us to bring our words to life. How might we, as Catholics and in our own small way, bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life?

1. Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children.

2. Meet with members of your parish who are newcomers, listen to their story and share your own. Hundreds of Catholic parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees both to comfort them and to help them know their rights. It is also important to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other's concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.

3. Call, write or visit your elected representative and ask them to fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.

As Pope Francis said, "To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey towards our heavenly homeland."
Posted: March 22, 2017, 2:56 pm
(SVILUPPO: Following its most recent update, the Master List now comprises a record 120-plus US dioceses – fully two-thirds of the nation's Latin-church sees.)

Just because it's Lent doesn't mean there isn't some fun to be had... and in that light, this edition of the 40 Days just so happens to bring a long-awaited return to one of this shop's favorite exercises.

Eleven years ago, among the first splashes made here was a national take on what came to be termed the The Corned Beef Indult – that is, the dispensation granted by a diocesan bishop so the Irish faithful can enjoy the patronal sandwich with a clear conscience when St Patrick's Day falls on a Lenten Friday, thus pitting the feast against the obligatory abstinence from meat.

This year marks the first collision of the two observances since, and in most cases the announcements are just beginning to bubble up, numbering over 40 so far. As history goes, in 2006 the general permission was given by nearly half of the nation's 179 Latin-church jurisdictions.

In any case, this is indeed a thing – if you will, the "Amoris Wars" for the non-chattering class (just without the invective). That the story takes on a life of its own in local media and over dinner tables is a sound testimony to two linchpin realities an "anger first" discourse seems to easily forget: first, that the identity-marker of "Fish Fridays" holds an enduring place among the faithful, with the practice maintained by close to a supermajority of American Catholicism's 70 million souls (per CARA figures)... even more significantly, meanwhile, it just goes to show again that when it comes to widespread fascination with this faith, nothing beats even the relatively minor elements of the Catholic imagination (however much Dan Brown may try).

Before going into this edition's master list of dispensed dioceses, a couple pieces of context bear recalling.

First, in those places where the Apostle of Ireland is the patron of the diocese or of the parish church, within said territory Paddymas ranks as a proper solemnity, thus exempting the obligatory abstinence from meat by the law itself. Among other examples, this is the case in New York, and was clarified as such by Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a late January letter to his priests.

To be fully specific, that general rule only applies where Patrick is patron of the diocese, not diocese-wide where he's patron of the cathedral – unless his diocesan patronal status is likewise formally in place, the cathedral's name-day only ranks as a proper feast and mandatory abstinence remains intact. (In another related instance, as St Joseph's Day and Annunciation are universal solemnities, abstinence is not observed across the Catholic world whenever March 19th or 25th fall on a Friday.)

Second, even as the bulk of the 70 million Stateside faithful will likely get the green light at the diocesan level owing to large-scale Irish populations and simple concern for the welfare of souls, it bears recalling that – in cases where a diocesan indult hasn't been granted – pastors of parishes may dispense their own people from avoiding meat given "just cause" as with any Lenten Friday; this is usually done on an individual basis by request (for example, for a parishioner attending a wedding rehearsal dinner with meat on the menu).

Just to name three, Detroit, Portland (Oregon) and Salt Lake have gone that route this year in lieu of the blanket indult, while the diocese of Trenton and archdiocese of St Louis are only granting the permissions to functions held on church property (for the latter, a notably more restrictive stance than then-Archbishop Raymond Burke took there last time). Elsewhere, keeping with their shared reputation for seeking to bolster an ironclad Catholic identity, the archdiocese of Denver and diocese of Lincoln are the lone US sees to have publicly denied granting a broad dispensation.

Thirdly, to be clear, nobody's getting off scot-free regardless of local policy – in each instance where the indult's been granted, the move is accompanied by a pro forma encouragement (albeit not an order) that abstinence should either be transferred to the prior or following day, or that some other act of penance or charity be substituted for digging into the beef. In any event, those traveling on the 17th itself are bound by the decision of the diocese in which they happen to be, not that of the place where they reside.

All that said, just because you don't see your own local church listed below doesn't mean you're out of luck – if anything, these announcements are usually made with little fanfare, or simply circulated internally to the parishes.

Ergo, as the following was initially compiled from publicly available notices, the list will be kept updated as the day approaches, so wherever a permission has been granted and isn't noted here, please do send it along – you can email it, tweet it... and given the priority on getting word around, even the combox is open. (NB: anything not germane to the topic will not be published.)

And lastly, much as keeping you lot out of Hell (at least, on this count) is its own reward, alas, that alone can't pay the bills – as ever, these pages keep afloat solely by means of your support....

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For the commemoration of St Patrick, 17 March 2017, the following local churches are generally dispensed or granted a commutation from Lenten abstinence by act of the respective (arch)bishop or the proper solemnity of the diocesan patron – conditions/substitions may vary by jurisdiction:

All dioceses of Wisconsin and Georgia

Archdioceses of Anchorage, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dubuque, Galveston-Houston, Hartford, Indianapolis, Kansas City in Kansas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, The Military Services USA, Mobile, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, Saint Paul and Minneapolis, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC

Dioceses of Albany, Allentown, Arlington, Austin, Baton Rouge, Beaumont, Belleville, Birmingham, Boise, Bridgeport, Brooklyn, Brownsville, Buffalo, Burlington, Camden, Charleston, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Corpus Christi, Covington, Dallas, Davenport, Des Moines, Duluth, Erie, Fall River, Fargo, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Fort Worth, Fresno, Gary, Gaylord, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Honolulu, Jackson, Jefferson City, Joliet, Juneau, Kalamazoo, Kansas City-St Joseph, Knoxville, Lafayette (La.), Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Lexington, Manchester, Memphis, Metuchen, Nashville, Norwich, Oakland, Ogdensburg, Owensboro, Palm Beach, Paterson, Pensacola-Tallahassee, Peoria, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (Maine), Providence, Raleigh, Rochester, Rockford, Rockville Centre, Sacramento, St Augustine, St Cloud, St Petersburg, San Bernardino, San Diego, Scranton, Spokane, Springfield (Mass.), Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Steubenville, Stockton, Syracuse, Toledo, Tucson, Tyler, Venice (Florida), Victoria, Wheeling-Charleston, Wilmington, Winona, Worcester, Yakima, Youngstown
Posted: March 17, 2017, 3:36 pm
And on this third Friday of Lent, Top o' the Mornin' and Beannachtai la Fhéile – a blessed feast... at least, across most of the Stateside church.

Given the state of the discourse these days, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some folks have seen fit to scream about a sandwich. By and large, though, this year's edition of The Corned Beef Indult™ brought a record amount of consensus to St Paddy's table, with fully two-thirds of the US' 179 dioceses granting a deviation from Lenten abstinence for today's celebrations of the Apostle of Ireland.

Updated into this morning as the stragglers roll in, for the convenience of the faithful the full Master List of the dispensed is below. That said, as the overwhelming bulk of permissions come with the stipulation or encouragement that another sacrifice be substituted instead of avoiding meat, those who plan to partake are advised to check their local church's website/social media for the specific conditions that apply.

Again, to one and all, however you celebrate (or not), here's to a day of grace... and to everyone who pitched in on compiling The List, Go raibh míle maith agat – a thousand thanks.
For the commemoration of St Patrick, 17 March 2017, the following local churches are generally dispensed or granted commutation from Lenten abstinence by act of the respective (arch)bishop or the proper solemnity of the diocesan patron – conditions/substitions may vary by jurisdiction:

All dioceses of Wisconsin and Georgia (by common action)

Archdioceses of Anchorage, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dubuque, Galveston-Houston, Hartford, Indianapolis, Kansas City in Kansas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, The Military Services USA, Mobile, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, Saint Paul and Minneapolis, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC

Dioceses of Albany, Allentown, Arlington, Austin, Baton Rouge, Beaumont, Belleville, Birmingham, Boise, Bridgeport, Brooklyn, Brownsville, Buffalo, Burlington, Camden, Charleston, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Corpus Christi, Covington, Dallas, Davenport, Des Moines, Duluth, Erie, Fall River, Fargo, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Fort Worth, Fresno, Gary, Gaylord, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Honolulu, Jackson, Jefferson City, Joliet, Juneau, Kalamazoo, Kansas City-St Joseph, Knoxville, Lafayette (La.), Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Lexington, Manchester, Memphis, Metuchen, Nashville, Norwich, Oakland, Ogdensburg, Owensboro, Palm Beach, Paterson, Peoria, Pensacola-Tallahassee, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (Maine), Providence, Raleigh, Rochester, Rockford, Rockville Centre, Sacramento, St Augustine, St Cloud, St Petersburg, San Bernardino, San Diego, Scranton, Spokane, Springfield (Mass.), Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Steubenville, Stockton, Syracuse, Toledo, Tucson, Tyler, Venice (Florida), Victoria, Wheeling-Charleston, Wilmington, Winona, Worcester, Yakima, Youngstown
Posted: March 17, 2017, 3:35 pm
(Updated with press conference video.)

When one senior American prelate recently termed the new Nuncio to Washington "a real Speedy Gonzalez" on the appointments front, he wasn't kidding – even if Archbishop Christophe Pierre's prior assignment ostensibly went forgotten in the moment.

As fresh proof of a striking acceleration on the Stateside files since Pierre's Border-crossing last summer, Roman Noon this Thursday brings quite the "speedy" surprise: after a vacancy of just over five months, the Pope has named Fr Steve Biegler, 58 next week – until now vicar-general of Rapid City and Rector of Western South Dakota's Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help – as the ninth bishop of Cheyenne: Wyoming's statewide diocese of 60,000 members, spread across almost 100,000 square miles.

Once described in the same breath as "low-key [and] super-organized" and elsewhere as "humble with a quick smile," the bishop-elect – one of 13 children born onto his family's ranch – succeeds now-Archbishop Paul Etienne, who earned sky-high marks among the Cowboy State's priests and people before being quickly promoted to Anchorage last October. While Biegler's Indiana-born predecessor famously reveled in the outdoorsman's paradise that came with the Wyoming post, the incoming bishop is quite possibly even better adapted to his new turf given the proximity of the move; located along the far edge of the SoDak's "West River" half, Rapid City is only some 30 miles from the eastern border of the Cheyenne church.

Ordained from the Pontifical North American College in 1993 at age 34 (after several years spent working on the family farm), until becoming the diocese's #2 in 2011, Biegler spent his priesthood in full-time ministry as a pastor and school chaplain with two exceptions: a three-year return to the NAC as its pastoral formation chief (2003-6) and his election from the trenches in 2010 as diocesan administrator of Rapid City – one of the nation's smallest and poorest local churches – amid a yearlong vacancy in the bishop's office.

The latter instance is especially notable in this case, as Biegler became administrator in the wake of then-Bishop Blase Cupich's departure for Spokane. Now a cardinal-member of the Congregation for Bishops – and, from that seat, the linchpin figure on practically any move in the American West – Cupich would've enjoyed a considerable amount of "steering clout" on the Wyoming nod. Along the same lines, that Etienne was a year ahead of his now-successor at the NAC is likewise something one shouldn't easily discount.

According to the Rapid Chancery, Biegler's ordination and installation in Cheyenne is set for June 5th.

Upon today's move, six Stateside Latin church sees remain vacant, another four led by (arch)bishops serving past the retirement age.

On the broader front, with the recent openings in three million-member dioceses now put to bed, in terms of prominence the current diocesan docket is led by the Pope's impending picks for Indianapolis and Cleveland, both of which are said to be gathering steam and likely to come in relatively short order.

That said, however, given the relatively small number of current diocesan vacancies, the focus and energy-level of the Stateside files is quickly shifting toward resolving the massive backlog of requests for auxiliary bishops from coast to coast, many of which have been piled up for two years or more. With roughly a dozen of the slots already filled over the last several months, it is likely that at least some 20 more assistant hats will be named over the coming year – a development which won't merely have ramifications in their respective dioceses, but above all on the shape of the (voting) membership of the conference of bishops, thus securing Francis' stamp on the church's national leadership and direction for the next decade and beyond.

SVILUPPO: And here, via Cheyenne's diocesan Facebook – in the relaxed style unique to the rural West on occasions like these – this morning's presser introducing the Ninth Bishop to his new charge....

Alas, no tales involving power tools this time.... Then again, given the burden that comes with the call, it could be said that just once was enough.

Posted: March 16, 2017, 9:06 pm

“And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?

But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.

And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven....
...just so we're clear, did He miss something?

With this stuff, see, it always helps to remember where to start.

Posted: March 14, 2017, 11:05 am
A journey and grace at least a few of us need even more this time around, to one and all, every blessing and richness of these 40 Days....

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Usually cited as the most-crowded day of the church year across the Anglophone world – a reality most powerfully underscored by the upwards of 60,000 who customarily flock for ashes at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York – this Lent's opening word nonetheless comes from the first Roman Station: the centuries-old practice continued tonight on the Aventine Hill, as the Pope led the penitential procession from the Benedictine mother-house at Sant'Anselmo to the Dominican-run Santa Sabina for Mass (readings).

Here, the official translation of Francis' homily:
“Return to me with all your heart… return to the Lord” (Jl 2:12, 13). The prophet Joel makes this plea to the people in the Lord’s name. No one should feel excluded: “Assemble the aged, gather the children, even infants at the breast, the bridegroom… and the bride” (v. 16). All the faithful people are summoned to come and worship their God, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (v. 13).

We too want to take up this appeal; we want to return to the merciful heart of the Father. In this season of grace that begins today, we once again turn our eyes to his mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life. The mark of the ashes with which we set out reminds us of our origin: we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust. True, yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts. The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope. To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history.

The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt. We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility.

Lent is the time for saying no. No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion.

Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew? Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands and in very concrete ways given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning.

Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we are able to do. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit”, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life - may become a “dust of love”.
Posted: March 1, 2017, 5:10 pm
Eleven years ago this week, at his ordination to the helm of his hometown church, these pages dubbed the Eleventh Bishop of Nashville a "mitred teddy bear."

On getting to know Bishop Dave Choby after the fact, the line just became more true – at his behest, it's admittedly the only thing this scribe has called him ever since. Yet now, the wonderfully sweet, soft-spoken prelate is in need of prayers far beyond Opryland.

After years of health struggles stemming from a septuple (read: 7-artery) heart bypass surgery in 2010, weeks following his 70th birthday, a major fall at home in early February has seen Choby invoke an extraordinary provision of canon law, declaring Central Tennessee's 80,000-member, 38-county diocese "impeded" and entrusting its governance to his lead vicar-general, Fr David Perkin.

According to the norms of law, a see is impeded when "by reason of captivity, banishment, exile, or incapacity a diocesan bishop is clearly prevented from fulfilling his pastoral function in the diocese, so that he is not able to communicate with those in his diocese even by letter." Given the bishop's ability to designate a caretaker – a task required of each ordinary at the outset of his tenure, lest an emergency arise – the canons stipulate that, once the arrangement is invoked, said delegate "is bound by the obligations and possesses the power in the exercise of the pastoral care of the diocese which a diocesan administrator has by law," creating the scenario of a de facto vacant see.

Announced in a letter read at this weekend's Masses, the declared impediment of a diocese is without any recent precedent in the US church. Himself a Rome-trained canonist – and Nashville's elected administrator at its last vacancy – while Choby's letter cited "more than a handful of occasions where this has happened" domestically, the two Stateside instances the bishop recalled to aides from his sickbed in preparing the note never actually took place.

In any case, the gravity of the situation – both canonically and in terms of Choby's health – was further underscored this week by a bedside visit from the metropolitan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, and reported consultation with the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, before Choby moved to trigger the impeded see.

Though the Tennessee fold formally numbers some 80,000 Catholics in the state's middle third, its reality is considerably larger. According to local ops, a massive flood of Hispanic migration (and its lack of legal or ecclesial documentation) unofficially comprises a silent membership of some 200,000 more – a circumstance especially common to every diocese in the American South, and all the more pronounced given the region's relatively small numbers on the books.

That aspect helps explain the principal act of Choby's tenure: the Nashville church's recent acquisition of the compound of the onetime Two Rivers Evangelical mega-church as the diocesan pastoral center, anchored by the move-in of the Chancery and the dedication of its 3,500-seat sanctuary as Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart) the city's parish-hub for its booming Latino flock, with further space on the property to accommodate the anticipated future growth.

Along the way, despite his own rough health, the bishop trekked to San Antonio at the last minute in late 2014 to ordain one of his seminarians, William Carmona, to the priesthood on his deathbed (above) in the face of terminal cancer. A Colombia-born late vocation in studies at Assumption Seminary, Fr William passed two days later at age 50.

All that said, even for the reporting to be had in the moment, this scribe's first concern remains for a beloved brother and friend, and likewise for all the wonderful folks who've given their bishop such selfless care and support, thus making possible his wish to keep on, even for the considerable burden it's placed on him through these years.

In that light, again, please keep our "Teddy Bear" and all the Nashville crew in your prayers over these days ahead... and at this point, a special word is owed to Deacon Jim McKenzie, whose dual experience in nursing and ministry, and moving dedication of both to his pastor-boss at home and on the road, has been a priceless blessing all around.

With a difficult hint at a farewell in its close, here's Choby's letter announcing the handover of governance, dated Saturday, 25 February:
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to share with you my current health condition and its impact on the governance of the diocese.

As many of you know, over the past four years I have sustained two falls. The first resulted in a broken arm from which I was able to recover while continuing my ministry and duties as your bishop. This second and most recent fall has caused damage to my spinal column including fractures of the vertebrae which are the supporting structures of the spinal cord. During the course of treatment, I developed an infection in the bloodstream. This complication has been the cause of my stay in the intensive care unit. The antibiotics have done their job in stabilizing my vital signs but recent tests have shown that bacteria has begun to grow in my heart. The next steps of my care are still being evaluated, and I continue to need your prayers and support.

My current health condition prevents me from fulfilling all of my pastoral functions within the diocese. Church law addresses and makes provision for such circumstances. There has been more than a handful of occasions where this has happened in other dioceses around the country. In fact, every bishop is required to designate in advance, the priest he wishes to exercise diocesan governance, should the need to invoke this provision arise.

By virtue of my incapacity, the Diocese of Nashville is impeded. I remain your bishop, but the governance of the diocese during this period of impediment is to be assumed by one of my vicars general, Very Reverend David R. Perkin, effective, February 25, 2017. He has graciously accepted this responsibility and I am sincerely grateful to him for his kind and generous willingness to serve. I am confident he will provide able leadership for the wellbeing of our diocese. In this position, as described in Church law, he is bound by the obligations and possesses the authority which belong to a diocesan administrator. I am comforted in knowing you will support him in this new role.

I express my thanks to all the people who have sent their prayers and words of support during this hospitalization. I want all of you to know it has been the happiest and most rewarding years of my life serving you, the Church, and almighty God as your bishop. You remain in my prayers and thoughts.

Wishing you every blessing, I am

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend David R. Choby
Bishop of Nashville
Posted: February 27, 2017, 2:20 am
Amid a wider scene dominated by no shortage of noise and flash whether inside or beyond Churchworld, what's happening on an apparently quieter plane is arguably well more significant.

Look at it this way: on November 1st – nearly four years into this pontificate – just one of Pope Francis' appointees had taken his place among the heads of the US' ten largest dioceses....

Now, that figure stands at four. (And if you're surprised, you're not paying attention.)

Put another way, though, as an unusual flurry of major moves in the American hierarchy wraps up, with the recent handovers on Long Island, in Newark, Arlington, St Petersburg (read: Tampa), Salt Lake and Dallas all decided within some ten weeks, the combined result is no less striking: new leadership for almost a tenth of the nation's 70 million faithful. What's more, meanwhile, with the lead trio among the bunch comprising either the "shoulders" of the nation's largest media market – or, in Big D's case, the church's anchor in what's become the country's fourth-largest metro area – even the numbers don't fully explain the impact...

...and, to be sure, that was true even before a cardinal was parachuted onto the "other" bank of the Hudson.

Tempting as it is to muse at length on the shape of things elsewhere, suffice it to say this: in a moment when hype is too often confused for "news" – by producers and consumers alike – the key lies in knowing the difference. And with that, let's pick up the latest installment of the shift at hand.

*   *   *
Despite one of the most illustrious academic resumes among the US bishops – Princeton undergrad, an MBA from NYU, and advanced Roman degrees in both theology and the canons – over seven and a half years in Upstate Pennsylvania's land of "iron and coal, and chromium steel," Bishop John Barres resisted the role of an ecclesial "public intellectual," choosing instead to keep his head down and do the work of a pastor.

Along the way, however, the 57 year-old has nonetheless amassed a quiet yet formidable following among much of the Stateside bench. So when Pete Carril's onetime JV point-guard took the reins of Long Island's 1.6 million-member diocese based at Rockville Centre on Tuesday, a picturesque snowfall framing the scene, the prodigal New Yorker marked his return with a splash – an extraordinary turnout of over 60 prelates: that is, almost double the crew an event of the kind would normally see.

The son of Protestant ministers who would become leaders among Manhattan's 1960s convert scene, from boyhood Barres had an almost unique immersion in the modern history of Catholic evangelism in the United States: Frank Sheed guided the future bishop's parents into the faith, Fulton Sheen would baptize him, Avery Dulles was another longtime family friend who'd attend his first Mass.

But even if those are the well-known figures, the most pivotal player in the making of the Island's Fifth Bishop might just be a less-prominent, even more beloved character: Mickey Saltarelli, the lifer in the North Jersey trenches who, as bishop of Wilmington, "coached" his young Chancellor for a future in the top rank and hung on to see its start, dying of cancer two months after he served as Barres' co-consecrator in Allentown. (As for the meaning of said tutelage, the most emblematic "Mickey moment" remains the time when, on welcoming John Paul II at the door of Newark Cathedral as its rector, all anyone could notice was the black thick of a tab shirt popping out of his bishop's choir dress.... Long story short: if he ain't a saint, nobody else stands a shot.)

Reflecting the richness of his background and the moment, Barres' opening preach to the Island's mega-church proved an according tour de force – probably the first of its kind to draw from one of the Great American Novels... definitely the first in a good while to cite Pius XII... and – with the ever-dreaded challenge of overhauling the parish structure looming in his new charge's future – a very stirring, yet clear-eyed kicker, "asking the Holy Spirit for new and creative approaches... to pastoral and strategic planning that are both Spirit-driven and data-driven, and that break through a tired and broken, 'us vs. them,' self-referential mentality."

As there's well more where that came from – with thanks to the diocese's own Telecare – here's the fullvid:

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With this month's dual New York leg of the tour now put to bed, the focus to come happily shifts southward to the Metroplex, now overflowing with "human sunshine" after Bishop Ed Burns' arrival yesterday to prep for his installation as Dallas' eighth shepherd next Thursday.

Given the Pittsburgh native's own dedicated fan-base among the bench – and, conveniently, the confluence of the National Catholic Bioethics Center's annual bishops' seminar in town through the week – as with Rockville Centre, a very healthy contingent is slated to be on hand. Even so, amid a local church grown nearly seven times in size since 1990, the top line on the move remains the staggering shift of scale facing the Pope's pick: for every member of the flock he leaves behind in Juneau (the nation's smallest Latin-church diocese), no less than 130 of 'em await in Cowboys Country.

For a good while now, "Everything's bigger in Texas" has been a good slogan for Stateside Catholicism at large... and, well, few stats better sum up the "why" behind it than that.

As ever, more to come.

Posted: February 4, 2017, 8:13 am
One week ago tonight – cigars all around, surrounded by his Roman students, and on the eve of what would inevitably be the most-watched moment of his life (leading the Scripture readings at the Inauguration of an American President) – it should be no surprise that the Cardinal-Archbishop of New York was even more fired up than usual...

...yet even as he carried the Church's patriotic part onto the Capitol's West Front, to know Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan is to know how the "other shoe" still had yet to drop.

While the reigning occupant of 452 Madison ripped the leading Republican contender for the Presidency with the loaded charge of "nativism" during the primaries in light of Donald Trump's draconian stance on immigration, the eventual GOP nominee from just up Fifth Avenue responded in kind by defacing Gotham's long-sacred comity of the Al Smith Dinner as the Tenth Archbishop of the "Capital of the World" presided from the center of the Waldorf dais and a global audience looked on....

And, among other bits, that backstory brings us to tonight.

In his role as the US bishops' chair for pro-life activities – given the portfolio's significance, the bench's lone post always held by a cardinal – and all of 24 hours since the body's current scarlet-clad chief raised an oddly muted "alarm" from his Texas base over the 45th President's first Executive Orders on immigration (thus fulfilling the campaign's signal pledges), in leading the masses of the faithful toward tomorrow's March for Life in the capital, Dolan himself took up the wider pro-family, pro-Francis call with vigor... yet the packed crowd's customary rounds of applause to begin the rally somehow turned to crickets.

Arguably a reflection on the wider hierarchy's guarded stance toward the new administration – even for the firm pledges (and, indeed, first actions) from Trump & Co. on the ever-critical abortion front – this time around, the traditional flood of bishops on hand to kick off this year's nightlong Vigil in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception ended up looking like more of a trickle.

And for the cardinal-chair to use a certain charged term on another life issue as the springboard for his marquee preach in the nation's largest church, well, do the math....

Posted: January 29, 2017, 7:16 am
As the 45th President of these United States takes office at Noon today, we return again to the prayer first delivered in 1791 by the nation's founding shepherd, John Carroll of Baltimore.

Oft-misdubbed as a "Prayer for the Nation" or "for Government," per Carroll's original notes, the following text was intended to seek God's protection upon "all ranks of society and the Welfare of the Republic"....
We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Francis, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his[/her] excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Posted: January 20, 2017, 7:18 am
BALTIMORE – This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.

In a tradition dating to 1800 – when Leonard Neale, the second archbishop of this Premier See, was consecrated by John Carroll alone – today brings the latest chapter with the ordination of two new auxiliaries: Bishops Adam Parker, 45, and Mark Brennan, 68.

The dual appointments awaited for over two years, each of the Pope's picks brings a new element to the life of this storied local church: until now the pastor of one of suburban Washington's largest and most diverse parishes, Brennan crosses the "Hindenburg line" as the first prelate to be named for a newly emergent Hispanic community here... while Parker – the beloved native son and vicar-general of the 600,000-member archdiocese – augurs a new generation for the American hierarchy: the nation's first Latin-church bishop born in the 1970s.

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The liturgy now concluded, a limited on-demand feed is available (starting with the Nuncio's remarks); uploading the full video is in the works.

Posted: January 20, 2017, 7:06 am
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