For a while now, my three year old son has been telling us that when he grows up he wants to be a superhero. Recently, my five year old daughter asked me if superheroes are real. We spoke a little about how the Saints are the real superheroes. After that conversation it struck me how true that is: the Saints are the real superheroes.
Many of the superheroes we know and love from comic books, movies, and t.v., are people like Batman or Superman, who, most of the time, live ordinary lives without performing the superhero actions their hidden life selves are known for. They tend to dress, work, and speak as would anyone else in their specific state in life, in their line of work, in their economic status, etc. Unbeknownst to their neighbors and friends, they possess superhero abilities.
Very recently I got my free electronic copy of Brandon Vogt’s newest book, The Saints’ Favorite Books, and I must say, this is a deal you don’t want to miss! It’s short, but well worth the read, and it’s available for a limited time free here.
Brandon walks through many significant Saints, and Popes, throughout Christian history, and he shares what their favorite book was (or, in some instances, where they don’t say what their favorite book was, he makes a good case for which was one of their top books). He also provides links where you can acquire the books yourselves. This is a great way to start a great reading list, following the lead of the Saints and Popes. I highly recommend getting your free copy now.
On Pentecost, Pope Francis delivered a terrific message on the New Evangelization, answering a set of questions that were provided him in advance. In the talk, Francis shares some very moving moments from his own life. He tells the world about his own inklings of a calling, of his vocation; that God was calling him. He tells of a moving experience of confession, where he felt drawn by God to confess his sins to a priest he ran across on the street, only to encounter the God Who had been waiting for him. His words reminded me of Pope Benedict XVI’s comments about two years ago to the effect that, “the new evangelization will pass through the confessional.”
For me, one of the encouraging marks of Francis’ message was how he attempted to light a fire under our feet to go out and share Jesus, spreading the peace and joy of the Lord whereever the Lord has placed us. In his comments he displayed what I think is a sincere humility; Francis’ desire to hide and disappear and let Jesus alone shine through. At one point he asks the crowd to stop cheering, “Francis,” and instead cheer for “Jesus.” His core message is right—we need to use our words to help others encounter God. His story of his mother and grandmother should encourage us to speak and model a life of faith among our family and friends, colleagues and neighbors. We have to open our mouths and help others. This requires, often, that we first open our ears and eyes and hear and see what their needs are. And of course, we cannot share what we do not have. We must have a personal encounter with God, with Jesus, in order to be able to live the attractive life of faith Francis is calling us to—in order to help others encounter God the transformer of lives. To do this, we need to pray, we need the Sacraments (particularly frequent confession and Eucharist), and we need to seek God’s face in Scripture. Here’s a link to a video (about 38 minutes) of Francis’ message: http://player.vimeo.com/video/66625658?title=0
The day before Pope Benedict XVI resigned from his office, I was honored to participate in a colloquium on his legacy at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University, where I teach. A portion of the colloquium was filmed and is available online here:
After some opening words by Msgr. Joseph Reilly and by Dr. Dianne Traflet, the first
presentation is by my dear friend and colleague, Fr. Pablo Gadenz. Fr. Pablo’s wonderful talk is entitled, “Pope Benedict: Leading Us to Jesus,” and deals with Benedict’s work on Scripture as it focuses on bringing us in contact with the living Jesus.
I give the second presentation, “Pope Benedict and the Interior Life,” where I discuss some
points concerning the importance of the Eucharist, frequent Confession, personal prayer, and devout reading of Scripture, in the thought of Benedict XVI.
In light of all the media buzz about Pope Francis, I have encountered a surprising number of criticisms aimed both at Pope Francis and at the Catholic Church, specifically concerning the wealth of the Vatican and the lack of the Pope’s “real” concern for the poor. In response, I’ve hastily written this overly large post. Hopefully someone will find it beneficial.
John Allen explains, in his National Catholic Reporter article, “Challenges to vision of a ‘Poor Church for the Poor,’” available here, http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/challenges-vision-poor-church-poor, that “the legendary wealth of the Vatican is to some extent more myth than reality.” He then points out the often ignored fact that the yearly budget for operating the Vatican is less than $300 million. He contrasts this with Harvard University (which he labels as “the Vatican of elite secular opinion”) whose annual budget is $3.7 billion. Allen points out further that the patrimony (or endowment) of the Vatican is about $1 billion. Harvard, on the other hand, as a whopping $30.7 billion endowment. Allen concedes that the Vatican bank is in charge of the equivalent of over $6 billion, but then points out how the majority of that money is not actually the Vatican’s, and thus the Vatican would not be at liberty to use most of that amount for any purpose whatsoever.
In light of the hurricane that we just experienced, and the difficulties that came along with it, I thought I would post on one implication of considering our divine filiation (our becoming children of God) with which the first paragraph of the Catechism opened. First, as Fr. Federico Suarez explains, absolutely everything
“that happens to us is foreseen by God, and is ordained to his glory and to the salvation of man. If what happens to us is good, God wants it for us. If it is bad, He does not want it for us, but allows it to happen because He respects man’s freedom and the order of nature; in such unlikely circumstances it is nonetheless in God’s power to obtain good and advantage for the soul—even bringing it out of evil itself.”1
This is not a simple “god-of-the-gaps,” but rather the providential workings of our loving Father in heaven acting on earth. As Fr. Francis Fernandez explains:
“Our sense of divine filiation should lead us to discover that we are in the hands of a Father who knows the past, the present and the future. He has ordered everything for our good, even though his plans may not coincide with our plans of the moment….No one could do a better job of watching out for us: God never makes mistakes.”2
Have you ever asked the question, “What is the meaning of life?” The very first paragraph of the Catechism provides the Catholic answer to this question: the reason for human existence, the reason for your existence, and the reason for my existence:
“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life” (no. 1).
During this Year of Faith, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is encouraging everyone to read and study the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Even though I have read the Catechism cover-to-cover a number of times, and teach the Catechism, I will be trying to read a little bit each day during this year of faith. I’d encourage you to join me in this endeavor. If you already know the Catholic faith very well, I think you’ll find as I do that the most important truths in life are good to review again-and-again. If you don’t know your Catholic faith very well, then there’s no better place to begin learning it better than the Catechism. If you’re not Catholic but you’d like to know more about and better understand what Catholics believe and what Catholicism teaches, there’s no better source.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church [the full text of which is available online here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM] can be said to be in truth a Catechism of the Second Vatican Council, reading Catholic doctrine in light of the Council and of the Council’s spirit.1 It is divided into four parts: (1) the Creed; (2) the Sacraments; (3) Morality; (4) Prayer. Cardinal Ratzinger (who is now Pope Benedict XVI), when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Christoph Schönborn (now Cardinal Schönborn)—the Catechism’s general editor and former Ratzinger student, sought bishops to be in charge of these various sections. Ratzinger explains, however:
Today marks the beginning of the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI. Today also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council convened by Blessed Pope John XXIII, which opened on October 11th, 1962. The similar dates are not a coincidence. Only a few years after Pope Paul VI brought the Second Vatican Council to a close (in 1965), Paul VI proclaimed a Year of Faith which began in 1967 and ended on June 30, 1968, on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul—less than a month prior to releasing his controversial papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968). Paul VI’s Year of Faith was a commemoration the 19th hundred year anniversary of the martyrdoms of Sts. Peter and Paul, but it was also clearly an attempt to provide an opportunity for the Church to receive the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and implement them, particularly by the Catholic faithful spending the year deepening in their understanding of the Catholic faith. Few people I run into—including priests and professional theologians—have ever heard of the Year of Faith of 1967; and this is true even of those priests and theologians who were alive back then. A priest I know, Fr. Bob Connor, once told me that Fr. Sal Ferigle—an incredible priest by all accounts, who died in Boston in 1997—claimed that the reason Humanae Vitae was not received but was rejected by so many, was because the Year of Faith called by Paul VI was not lived. Benedict XVI has called a Year of Faith at a time when many of the teachings in Humanae Vitae are in the public mind again, at least in the U.S. because of the controversial HHS mandate among other things. Like Paul VI, Benedict hopes that this will be a year where the Catholic faithful spend some time learning more about the Catholic faith, and hopefully appropriating and receiving the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which he thinks have not been really assimilated or understood. In his words from Porta Fidei:
I want to begin with a personal anecdote that is not directly related to Fatima. In the academic year of 1996-1997 a junior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio was running for student president, thinking that he would be able to have the most impact for good on campus by exercising that position his senior year. As a prominent member of the student senate he played a prominent and very public (both on national radio and outside of the U.S.) role in a number of significant changes that took place on campus. Notwithstanding his valiant efforts, he lost the presidential race. Unsure what to do, he turned to an older friend and mentor, and decided to become an R.A. in a dorm and lead a Bible study for freshmen in the dorm. This incoming senior would-be R.A. and Bible study leader, was a student leader in a very large para-church (primarily evangelical Protestant Christian) organization on campus, which, at least for the following two years (if I’m not mistaken), represented the largest para-church organization on any college campus in the world at that time, boasting about 1,000 members at their weekly meeting. His mentor, who happened to be Roman Catholic, was a staff member with that organization (at one point full-time, but by this point, part-time on a volunteer basis). That summer they decided to fast and pray for the future Bible study which together they would co-lead. They studied Scripture and church history together that summer, and they prayed and fasted that the future study would bear fruit for the kingdom of God.