Priests Should Stop Preaching and Live By Example!!!

Recently there were various articles in the secular press about environmental friendly burials. The reasons given were plenty and ranged from saving the environment and being easy on the purse.

There is no doubt that the environment has to be protected but do these very Priests/ lay persons believe in what they say or do they take convenient stands.

I happen to be the Hon. Secretary of Our Lady of Vailankanni and Perpetual Succour Co-op. Hsg. Soc. Ltd. A 112 member society formed in January 2004 on freehold land and which has not been given conveyance till today despite the Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act saying that conveyance is to be given within 4 months of society formation.

At the time of our flats purchase flats purchasers were shown 3 gardens for use of residents on the layout as per the municipal approved plans and were also promised jogging tracks, swimming pools and tennis courts. Flat purchasers paid for these amenities.

Till today we have not been given jogging tracks, swimming pools and tennis courts and in the year 2010 behind the backs of the flat purchasers plans were passed by St. Michaels Church Mahim for multi storied towers to be built on two of the gardens promised to the flat purchasers.

I had written e mails to the Justice and Peace Cell of the Archdiocese at that time headed by Fr.Allwyn D’Silva , Bombay Catholic Sabha and various other persons . Surprisingly not a single person reverted.

Today Fr.Allwyn D’Silva wants eco friendly burials. My question to him is why have double standards? I do not want to get personal with Fr.Allwyn and since I am a Bandra boy and an ex Xavierite I do not want to speak on issues which I am aware of and where the Christian community was mobilized.

Fr. Allwyn you are a man of Jesus . If you feel strongly about issues speak up. If you cared for the environment why did you not even acknowledge my mails?

Now coming to burials there are some Chamchas of the Church .One such person stays in Orlem, Malad and calls himself a Professor.Without knowing facts he supports issues which he knows nothing . He supported the Church on the Marinagar/ Church lands issue without knowing facts and got his letters published in the Examiner. He is a stooge of the Church. Why does the same person who stays in a society not state that not giving of conveyance is a crime ? Why does the same person take convenient stands? If he has the guts I challenge him to oppose me in a public forum which will publish views of both sides .

My mother died recently.I buried her in a coffin of my choice. A Bishops mother also died recently , did he bury in a shroud? Stop preaching and live by example.

A.M.Sodder

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Posted in Church News in Mumbai/Thane/Navi Mumbai | 1 Comment

Meet the traditionalist who says the Novus Ordo can be beautiful too

People pray during a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Francis Phillips talks to Roger Buck the author of the ‘Gentle Traditionalist’

Having blogged about an unusual book, The Gentle Traditionalist, on Tuesday and wanting to know a bit more about its author and its genesis, I asked Roger Buck, who devised this Irish Catholic fairy tale a few questions.

For a start, what was his faith background? He tells me he was “utterly New Age till aged 34, when I first became baptised as an Anglican in 1998.” His Catholic conversion came two years later. He admits he has “progressively moved from being an ultra-liberal Catholic to my far more (hopefully gentle) traditional orientation.”

Why was he drawn to the New Age cult in the first place? Buck replies that he had “no faith in mainstream culture or Christianity as I perceived it”, alongside “a hunger for idealism.”

Indeed, he spent 20 years within a New Age mindset, including over two years at Findhorn, the New Age community in the north of Scotland. He had first visited Findhorn in 1980 and was still close to it when he finally converted to Catholicism in 2000. He has written about his conversion experience on his blog. Here is the link.

It is worth reading in full for an understanding of the depth and fervour of Buck’s faith, an explanation of how New Age Gnosticism fundamentally differs from Christianity, and how a mystical experience on the night of 18 September 1997 while he was actively promoting New Age literature in Cambridge made him recognise “that my life would change forever.”

When I ask Buck what made him decide to settle in Ireland, he informs me that he “cannot help but feel providentially guided here.” As he wrote in his book that it has only taken 50 years for Ireland to become thoroughly secularised, I am curious as to what signs of hope he finds in this country.

He answer soberly that his “real hope lies in realising how very, very deep the roots of the Christian heritage in Ireland really are.” This includes, as he wrote in his book, “the remarkable piety, humanity and kindness” of his Irish neighbours, who are “regularly praying by their parents’ graves” and “witnessing their continued devotion to family and friends.”

And what gave him the idea for his “fairy tale”? “It started as a dialogue to express the ideas; the fictional elements came second. For example, I needed to invent a reason as to why a secular agnostic would be drawn into such a long dialogue.” (I should explain here that the young agnostic in question longs to marry a girl who has become a traditional Catholic and who refuses to marry him as long as he remains in his secular, materialistic mindset.)

In his book Buck, as I wrote in my earlier blog, is highly critical of the Ordinary rite of the Mass. Here he is anxious to qualify this impression, insisting that, although he agrees with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that the “ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy”, it certainly doesn’t mean he is convinced that “the Ordinary Form must go and that the Extraordinary Form is the only way.”

He directs me to the “Acknowledgements” at the front of his book, in which he wrote, “Whilst this book invokes the serious problems often occasioned by the new liturgy, our priest [in the rural Irish parish of Upper Badoney] is living proof that the Novus Ordo can be celebrated with beauty, dignity and reverence.”

Buck also quotes from his blog, in which he has written, “Who can count the many souls who have had the way to Christ illumined by such sincere priests of the Novus Ordo? There are no statistics for such matters. But let us render thanks to these courageous men who battle against the zany currents of the day!” By the “zany currents” Buck refers to “a very concerted, very liberal faction of the Church. This faction exists and it carries on conscious, yet undeclared warfare with those who try to consciously uphold Catholic tradition.”

Behind his gentle and prayerful manner, Buck is deeply serious about the liturgical crisis, telling me he wants to stress “perhaps pedantically, one thing here: it is only the fact that as a daily Mass-goer who has travelled a lot through several countries and who has thus been to Mass in hundreds of parishes, with well over 1000 priests, that has convinced me of the catastrophe…”

Readers should watch out for Buck’s forthcoming new book. He tells me that it will include “much more about the New Age movement as well as Catholic France and devotion to the Sacred Heart.”

Posted in Church Worldwide news, Silenced Voice | 1 Comment

Always be vigilant against evil, Pope Francis tells faithful

Pope Francis (CNS)

Francis was speaking after reciting the Angelus on the first Sunday of the New Year

The devil is “always lying in wait by our door”, Pope Francis told the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square.

After reciting the Angelus on the first Sunday of the New Year, Pope Francis reflected on the the day’s reading from the first chapter of St John’s Gospel, in which “the Word … was made flesh, and dwelt among us”.

“The mystery of evil insinuates itself into our lives and that demands vigilance and care on our part so that it will not prevail,” Francis said.

“The book of Genesis says – in a good phrase that makes us understand this – it says that evil ‘lies in wait at our door’. Woe to us if we allow it to enter; it would then close our door to anyone else. Instead we are called to throw open the door of our heart to the Word of God, to Jesus, in order thus to become His children.”

He continued: “If we welcome Him, if we welcome Jesus, we will grow in understanding and in the love of the Lord, we will learn to be merciful as He is. Especially in this Holy Year of Mercy, let us make sure that the Gospel becomes ever more incarnate in our own lives too.”

The Pope urged Catholics to “draw near to the Gospel and meditate on it”, adding that “incarnating it in daily life is the best way to understand Jesus and bring Him to others”.

“This is the vocation and the joy of every baptised person: showing Jesus and giving Him to others; but to do that we have to know Him and have Him within us, as the Lord of our life. And He will defend us from evil, from the devil. He is always lying in wait by our door, and wants to enter,” the Pontiff said.

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How we worship God is of vital importance

How we worship God is of vital importance

St Teresa in Ecstasy by Bernini in the Cornaro Chapel in Rome's  Santa Maria della Vittoria (Wikipedia)

There are profoundly differing visions of God in the world, and these dictate the sort of societies that we have built for ourselves

Over at the National Review, the leading conservative journal in the United States, Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Rodney Stark about his new book, which is entitled The Triumph of Faith: why the world is more religious than ever. Given that the book presumably does what it title expresses, this may come as a surprise to many, particularly those who think that religion has been on the decline since the time of Voltaire. But what particularly struck me about what Stark had to say was the concluding part of the interview:

The most important things all cluster; the rise of Western civilization was the direct result of Judeo-Christian religion. First is the belief in progress, that our history has an upward slope. In all the other major cultures, including Islam, history is regarded as headed downward. That not only discourages all efforts to improve anything, but justifies the suppression of improvements — both the Chinese and the Ottomans outlawed mechanical clocks. Second is the belief that the universe is rational — that it runs according to comprehensible rules — because it was created by a rational creator. Elsewhere the universe was believed to be an incomprehensible mystery, about which one could meditate, but it was absurd to suppose one could penetrate these mysteries. In the West, from early days, it was widely agreed that it should be possible to discover the rules by which Creation runs. And so we have and continue to do so.

That “the most important things all cluster” is something we are in grave danger of overlooking. Indeed, most of our woes may come from our inability to see the interconnectedness of things. Where religion declines (and while it may be on the rise in many places, it is certainly on the decline in Britain, especially among the ruling class) it takes a lot of other things with it. What many love to call “social cohesion” cannot easily exist in a non-religious society: cohesive societies tend to be religious. This may not mean that everyone goes to Church all the time, but it does mean that everyone, or nearly everyone, subscribes to a common language and a common culture.

Of course, one must admit that social cohesion is not always a good thing. Saudi Arabia is socially cohesive, but no one in their right mind would want to live there. I personally would not want to live in Japan, for that matter. But I would, and have, lived in Italy, which is a socially cohesive nation.

What this raises, and this is the other point that Stark makes, is that there are good religions and bad ones, to put it bluntly. John Knox’s Scotland, Calvin’s Geneva, the Wahhabis’ Saudi Arabia – none of these appeal. These sorts of societies are the type that outlaw too many things, whether it be mechanical clocks or fundamental human freedoms such as self-expression. But these sorts of societies are not just legislatively restrictive, they are culturally suffocating. The Ottoman Empire did have printing, but it failed to catch on, amazingly. What Stark has to say about religions seeing history on either a downward or an upward slope, and their picture of the universe as rational or otherwise, is clearly important.

This is where theology comes in. The concept of God is not univocal. It does not mean one thing and one thing only. When I say “God” and when a Muslim uses the same word, we do not mean the same things. There are profoundly differing visions of God in the world, and these dictate the sort of societies that we have built for ourselves.

Our politicians love to speak as if all religions worship the same God. This is true – there is only one God after all – but misleading.
It matters how you worship Him. If you adhere to an utterly transcendent vision of God, believing God to be above human understanding, then this will shape your view of the world and of human society. If however, you believe that the human mind can grasp the truth about God through analogy, as Catholics believe, then your vision of the world will be very different. Consider: while Gianlorenzo Bernini was creating sculptures such as St Teresa in Ecstasy, Ottoman artists were still just about producing some very pretty tiles in Iznik. This contrast in artistic achievement was not an accident – the culture of 17th century Rome, and that of the Ottoman Empire at the same period, were products of differing visions of God. But only one of those visions was the right one.

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Meet the lay woman who shook up the Family Synod

Bishops attend the morning session of the Synod at the Vatican (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Francis Phillips interviews pro-life doctor Dr Anca-Maria Cernea

During the October Synod on the family I observed the sometimes unedifying spectacle of different pressure groups within the Church jostling to give their own interpretation of what was happening. Then, along with thousands of other Catholics throughout the world, I was inspired by a single (lay) intervention on October 16: the address to the Synod Fathers by Dr Anca-Maria Cernea, representative of the Association of Catholic Doctors of Bucharest, Romania. Here is the link to her speech and here is the link to my blog at the time, written in response to this speech.

What drew me and many others to Dr Cernea’s address was her insistence that the Church is engaged in a spiritual battle in defence of the family, much more than a political or sociological one. Not wanting her insights into the nature of the problems we face to be forgotten, I tracked down Dr Cernea to find out more about her background and the formative influences that led to her remarkable intervention.

Inevitably, the strength of her faith comes in part from the sufferings her family endured under Communism. Her parents were engaged when her father, a brilliant student and Romanian patriot from the Greek Catholic Church, was imprisoned by the Communists in 1947 for his opposition to the regime. He was not released until 1964, 17 years later, when he and his fiancée were at last able to marry. Dr Cernea describes her father’s survival without giving up his beliefs and in spite of being tortured, as a “miracle”. Her maternal grandfather, also from the Greek Catholic Church, was imprisoned for ten years and her mother and grandmother spent several months in prison without trial.

Dr Cernea tells me that, despite these hardships and imprisonment, these were “times of great grace and opportunities for spiritual growth.” Her mother “felt flattered to be imprisoned as an enemy of that godless regime.”

Her parents finally married when her mother was 36 and her father was 46. Sharing a common faith and political outlook they built a strong marriage and a loving, cultured home for their two daughters, helped by the unfailing support of the children’s grandparents and a circle of like-minded friends.

Outside this close family network, life under Communism, Dr Cernea tells me: “was pretty much reduced to work for the parents, school for the girls and queuing for food”. There was “general misery and the omnipresence of the Securitate, the Communist political police.” Her parents were kept under constant surveillance. Despite this, “life wasn’t sad. There was a lot of laughter in our house, with very happy Christmas and Easter celebrations.”

The Greek Catholic Church had been suppressed, so the family attended Roman Catholic Masses or the liturgy was celebrated clandestinely in their home, according to the Greek Catholic rite.

This, Dr Cernea says, was her “real experience of the ‘domestic church”, a time when the family “‘had the privilege of meeting some heroic confessors of the faith as well as saintly priests.’” She comments that she was saddened at the Synod when the phrase “domestic church” was mocked by an archbishop in her group, who described it as a “cliché” that should be “given a rest.”

In this small “domestic church” she depicts a home where the Rosary was prayed daily, the house was blessed annually by a priest, and “we had holy water, crosses, miraculous medals, images of St Michael and other holy images in each room of the house.”

Dr Cernea’s description of the strength of faith among her family circle and her parents’ friends makes me reflect that it is often easier to discern the stark difference between good and evil under an atheistic regime than here in the West, where the lines are easily blurred, even among Catholics.

After the fall of President Ceausescu in 1989 (an event confidently predicted by her father), the family discovered that they were “one of many families where faith and common sense had been transmitted”; they were surprised, she says, “by the numbers of participants in the rallies against Ceausescu, by their courage and level of political awareness.”

Were her parents an influence on her decision to become a pro-life doctor? She explains that their faith and example (they were both convinced pro-lifers) were an indirect influence on all her choices. Her own husband is also a doctor, working in palliative care. Dr Cernea adds: “You can do a lot as a Christian doctor to serve Christ in the person of your patients. Another advantage in choosing a scientific career was that our studies were much less ideologically polluted by Communism than in the humanities.”

She tells me that, paradoxically, the more Marxist propaganda was spewed out the more critical they became: “Marxist propaganda said that faith was for stupid people and for slaves, but we could see that the most intelligent and freest people we knew were believers and that it was Marxism that was stupid, oppressive, a satanic lie, imposed by brutal crimes, transforming half the world into a prison-camp and insidiously infiltrating the other half by means of cultural subversion.”

I ask Dr Cernea to develop this and what she meant by the “spiritual battle” she mentioned in her Synod address. She refers me back to the Synod intervention by Archbishop Kocsis, Metropolitan of the Greek-Catholic Church in Hungary, who quoted St Paul: “Our battle in fact is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the domination of the dark world, against the spirits of evil that live in the celestial regions”, and who said that attacks against the family are not just “challenges” and their explanation is “not sociological as suggested in Instrumentum Laboris [the working document that served as a basis for the Synod discussions.]”

Indeed, she is critical of this document, emphasising that “the assault against the family and the culture of life in our time should not be analysed by the Church through an economical or sociological methodology, which is a characteristically Marxist approach and which I found quite striking in the first part of Instrumentum Laboris.”

“The problem with our world is human sin, allowing evil to act in our souls and in our communities”, she reflects.

Dr Cernea is at pains to emphasise that the sexual revolution and the destruction of the family in many Western societies are not explained by consumerism, hedonism, social injustice and so on: “Their primary source is cultural Marxism, an ideology, an error of a religious nature – basically a revolt against God and His creation.” She says that: “The order of the Ten Commandments is not random. Idolatry is first, the most serious of all sins – and ideology in the contemporary world is a form of idolatry. It is a substitute for religion. It pretends to have a complete explanation of reality and to offer ‘salvation’ here, in this world, by human means, using ‘science’ as a pretext.”

Citing the writings of the political thinker Eric Voegelin (I note that the English historian, Michael Burleigh, thinks highly of him) Dr Cernea explains that he saw, as early as the 1920s, that Nazism and Communism were “political religions with their own symbols, hierarchy, rituals etc; in fact, fake religions because they didn’t build any culture, they only caused destruction.”

She thinks that, from this perspective, these ideologies have not received enough attention “by theologians and Church shepherds, although it should have been their first task – watching out for religious error, then warning and protecting the flock against their threat.” She also reminds me that Vatican II never condemned Communism, “although the Popes had done so many times before.”

Here Dr Cernea quotes the Brazilian philosopher, Olavo de Carvalho: “The Church sermons we most often hear nowadays are either ideologically contaminated (practically in favour of the ‘Principalities and Powers’) or just fighting flesh and blood…as they ignore idolatry and deal only with sexual immorality, material corruption, consumerism, hedonism.”

We return to the October Synod. Dr Cernea thinks the majority of the Synod Fathers “were faithful to Church teaching. But most of the time they concentrated on the second and third part of the working document, where there were formulations questioning Church teaching about marriage and indissolubility and about contraception and homosexuality. Unfortunately, they didn’t criticise the obvious Marxist analysis and language tools present, mainly in the first part of the document.”

Is this language an example of what she means by her earlier phrase, “insidious infiltration”? Choosing her words carefully, Dr Cernea elaborates: “Instead of openly fighting the omnipresence of ideological concepts, Church leaders themselves have come to use ideologically-tainted terms, which carry the risk of distorting a Christian perspective – words like ‘tolerance’, ‘discrimination’, ‘inclusion/exclusion’. There is a lot of this language in Instrumentum Laboris. For instance, ‘tolerance’ is too weak if we speak of people: people should be loved, not just ‘tolerated.’ And ‘tolerance’ is inappropriate if we speak of ideas: false ideas should be rejected, not tolerated.”

I am beginning to understand why Dr Cernea’s address at the Synod made such an impact on people worldwide. The drip-drip effect of the secular ideology has made us think of ‘tolerance’ as a virtue, whereas she brings much-needed Christian charity and lucidity to the debate. She continues: “Christianity has all it needs to describe reality. We don’t need to borrow language tools from the ideologies we are confronting, which allow them to occupy the moral high ground. Our shepherds should be the first to sense when terms like ‘peace’, ‘justice’, ‘freedom’, familiar to Christians, are being used ideologically, so that their original meaning is distorted or even reversed.

“The Church should prevent this confusion. The shepherds’ duty is to preach the Kingdom of God and his justice – not socialist ‘justice’; to preach peace as offered by Christ, not ‘peace’ as promised by the UN; to preach about the real meaning of ‘freedom’, which is liberation from sin, salvation.”

Using language clearly, she believes, is an important condition for victory in our spiritual and cultural battles; here she quotes St Paul: “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

Dr Cernea points out that if the Church doesn’t warn against ideological errors “but only against ‘individualism’, ‘consumerism’, ‘social injustice’ and so on, one of the consequences is that the faithful come to think that they should vote for the political Left, which uses more or less the same language. And once the Left comes to power, it imposes a cultural revolution by legalising abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, sex education in kindergarten etc.”

This, Dr Cernea thinks, is why “so many countries where the Catholic vote is powerful enough are, however, governed by cultural Marxists – such as in almost all of South America, the USA, in Canada and in Western Europe.”

So what is the Church’s task? Without hesitation Dr Cernea reminds me that the best way we can fix the world is by evangelisation and conversion of persons and societies.

“Where there is enough holiness in our societies, when we share the same objective moral criteria – the Ten Commandments – then we won’t need to rely on almighty government bureaucrats to keep society from becoming a lawless jungle. That’s how the Church once created the Christian culture and civilisation and that’s what the Church should still be doing.”

I ask Dr Cernea to describe the current situation in Romania for Christians. She tells me there is a devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. “We prayed to her under Communism and we still do so today.” She adds that “in Ukraine also it has become a very popular devotion. Both Catholics and Orthodox Christians are praying to Our Lady of Fatima for Russia’s conversion, as the Russian government is anything but Christian.”

But what about President Putin’s seemingly pro-life policies, I ask. She speaks soberly: “You can’t choose one area, like the pro-life one, and pretend the rest doesn’t exist. Putin is not sorry for the Soviet past; he is only sorry that the USSR broke up and he does everything to restore it. He runs a corrupt system, killing his opponents and critics, threatening other countries and supporting terrorism.”

The former USSR might be “officially buried”, she says, but the legacy of Communism, “cultural Marxism”, is alive and thriving in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. “Many former Marxist hardliners underwent a sudden ‘democratic transformation’, put on Western costumes and became activists of the ‘New Left.’ Indeed in Romania, “the noisiest promoter of atheism, same-sex partnerships and other similar causes, is a young activist who owes his political career entirely to the former Communist Party, now ‘Social-Democratic.’”

Nonetheless, there is also good news: from among the different Orthodox Churches, the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) is one of the most open to the West and to the Catholic Church. “Under the former Communist regime many Orthodox religious and lay people were persecuted and imprisoned” Dr Cernea tells me; despite Communist infiltration: “the ROC is a living church and has many good and faithful priests and faithful.” She adds: “This doesn’t mean that the relations between the Churches in our country, especially between the ROC and the Greek-Catholic Church are simple or problem-free.”

She recalls with enthusiasm the visit of “our beloved John Paul II to Bucharest, invited by the Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist” describing it as “a moment of exceptional grace. Hundreds of thousands of people, the overwhelming majority of whom were Orthodox, shouted in the presence of the Pope and the Patriarch, ‘Unitate! Unitate!’ ‘Unity’: a word recalled many times by Saint John Paul II over the years. The Romanian people never forgot it.”

What was the attitude of the Orthodox faithful towards the October Synod on the family? “They were concerned because they realised, along with other Christians and members of the Jewish faithful, that the Catholic Church is a very important fortress in the culture war. It is very important for all people who care for the fate of the Judaeo-Christian civilization that the Catholic Church does not give in to the spirit of this world.”

I conclude our conversation by asking Dr Cernea if she is hopeful about the Synod’s conclusions. She tells me she is glad that “many unacceptable formulations present in the working document were rejected. But on the other hand, the final document lacks a coherent structure, a reasonable order of priorities, courage and clarity. The good news is that Church teaching, as found in Scripture, the magisterium, particularly in Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio, has remained the same. The bad news is that the final document is confusing and on this confusion those who have a revolutionary agenda may build their theories, pretending they are implied by the “spirit of the Synod.””

However, she adds, she came back from the Synod with a renewed sense of the strength of the Catholic Church. “I met saintly people, Synod Fathers and fellow lay auditors who take their mission very seriously, with much sacrifice, courage and wisdom. I learned a lot from them and their example is of great help in our spiritual battles here in Romania. Many millions of people trust the Church and follow their shepherds. They just need good leadership. We should pray more for our shepherds.”

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Vatican releases document underlining importance of religious brothers

Franciscan Brother Juan Turios of Action Network prays in 2013 with immigration reform advocates in Washington (CNS)

In the past 50 years, the number of religious brothers has decreased drastically

To help appreciate and better promote the vocation of religious brothers, the Vatican has released a 50-page reflection on the importance of their life and mission of evangelisation, fraternity and sacrifice.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life released “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church” in five languages on Monday as a guide for the whole Church.

Benedict XVI asked the congregation in 2008 to draft an instruction in order to underline the importance of the vocation of lay brothers, especially given “the challenges they must face” in today’s world, said Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the congregation. He spoke at a Vatican news conference presenting the document on Monday.

At the time, the former prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Franc Rode, had said the steep decline in the numbers of religious brothers was a clear sign “something must be done.”

“We think one of the reasons for the decline in these vocations is due to a certain lack of attention on the part of the Church” to brothers, who are mentioned only in passing in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and Vatican documents published later, he told Vatican Radio in 2010.

While the numbers of religious in every category have dropped in the past 50 years, the number of religious brothers decreased most drastically. For example, the Christian Brothers had 16,000 members in 1965 and have fewer than 5,000 today.

The number of religious brothers around the world totalled more than 55,250 at the end of 2013, according to recent Vatican statistics. However, the total number of priests — diocesan and religious order — around the world was nearly 415,350, with a steady increase in diocesan priests in Africa, Asia and the Americas, and a continued decline in Europe.

Archbishop Rodriguez said the document is meant to highlight “the richness and necessity of all the vocations in the Church, especially the vocation of lay religious life for men and women.”

He said it was hoped the reflection would help all members of the Church become more aware and better appreciate the service and gifts of religious brothers, and help encourage and guide them in living their vocation “with authenticity and joy.”

The instruction underlines the importance of serving like the Good Shepherd in order to make Christ present in the world and to enlighten, bless, raise up, heal and free humanity.

So many people are experiencing a “thirst for spirituality,” it said, and religious brothers, especially those living in monastic or contemplative communities, should offer themselves as guides for those seeking deeper meaning, inviting people to prayer, reading Scripture and bridging faith and culture.

The text urged religious brothers to see no human situation as “alien” to their presence. Whether they engage in manual labor, defend human rights, teach, work in health care or serve in other ways, religious brothers must accept God’s invitation to go to the world’s peripheries and lead people to salvation.

“Today more than ever, the world needs consecrated persons who, from the heart of secular realities and of human life itself, bear witness to knowing and loving the God of life.”

The document said religious brothers can be the “prophets for our time” which is witnessing “great social change.”

What is needed, it said, is “the prophesy of hospitality,” in which all people are welcomed; a “prophesy of the meaning of life” that helps people discover the essential; a “prophesy of the affirmation of feminine values,” which supports and appreciates the presence and vision of women; “the prophesy of the care and protection of life” and creation; and “the prophesy of the wise use of new technologies,” which is attentive to letting information and communication benefit those who are disadvantaged.

The document called for improving relationships and a sense of “equal dignity” in so-called “mixed” religious institutes whose members include lay brothers and religious priests. It said priests and the Church hierarchy should promote and better appreciate the vocation of lay brothers and sisters, ensuring they can “participate actively in the organs of consultation, decision-making and implementation within the local Church.”

Archbishop Rodriguez said his congregation will ask Pope Francis to establish an ad hoc commission to look into the role of religious brothers in mixed or clerical institutes and their “participation in local, provincial and general governance” and administration.

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Revolution of Mercy and Tenderness Christmas is Birth of God’s Tenderness!- Dr.James Kottor

Revolution of Mercy and Tenderness

Christmas is Birth of God’s Tenderness!

He came to befriend the lowly and down trodden – the last, least, lost and those sans Labour, Lodging & Land – with the warmth of tenderness and mercy spreading through the angel song: “Peace to men of good will.” How can anyone fail to respond?

dr.james kottoor(Chicago)

What is special in the sweet smile of a new-born babe? Is there anything more tender, innocent, touching, and compellingly tickling to arouse sublime heavenly sentiments of joy and peace than such a sight?

Hence the beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” The birth of every child is a loud proclamation that God is not tired of humans. In the case of the Babe of Bethlehem, he sneaked into time and space through the obscure hole of a cattle shed and rose to giant proportions to divide history into BC and AD.In spite of all religious wars fought to erase his name from human memory, he continues to be a live wire challenging human minds as a “sign of contradiction, for the rise and fall of many” as prophesied by Simon the prophet at the temple for the ritual of his presentation.

In a sense, Christmas is God’s way of dragging a treacherous, terror stricken, radicalized world that it is today, back to human sensibilities by putting it go through a “revolution of tenderness” which is what the birth of a child in every family is and which ought to be what Christmas in the world is all about today. De facto this world is a mixture of both good and bad like day and night in equal measure. The daylight arrests darkness at the threshold of its Lekshman Rekha through natural law.

Revolution of Terror as well

This balance is often flouted only by the trigger happy irrational humans who explodes as revolutions of terror. It happened like a big bang first at Hiroshima and Nagasaki long ago and recently twice in Paris, the city of ligbht, and two weeks ago at San Bernardino where a gun wielding couple with a 6-month old child, killed 14 colleagues and co-workers. Have we then to understand that the epicentres of revolutions of tenderness and terror are to be found in the human family? Are they nursed to grow in the family side by side like wheat and seeds?

This is nothing new in human history. Just think of Cain slaughtering Abel his brother. And think of “Glory to God in the highest and peace to men of Good will” of the angel song at Jesus’ birth and the flocking of the poor shepherds to Jesus’ feet to hear the good news and to rejoice and thank God.

Think equally of the rich and wise men from the East who came with gold and silver, Mir and incense to give thanks to God and to spread peace and good will. Equally or more forcefully this is balanced by the plot of a power hungry ruler of the time like Herod who ordered the slaughter of the innocents. Has the world grown from bad to worse or is it condemned to be a perpetual battle field between good and evil forces? This is the great mystery; the great riddle human mind is constantly challenged to find convincing answers – the problem of evil in the world that God created and found it good, the problem of the outgrowth of weeds among the wheat!

3 Ls: Labour, Lodging & Land

Yes, the main challenge is the problem of evil – the suffering of a multitude of innocents literally drowning in a sea of misery while one to ten percent of humanity control 90% of world’s wealth and live in islands of affluence totally unconcerned about the Villas Miserias around them. That sea around is created by the confluence of three rivers called 3 Ls since names of all three starts with L: Labour, Lodging and Land. Just think of the millions who are deprived of a job (Labour) to earn their daily bread, a roof over their head (Lodging) to rest and a minimum of at least six feet of (Land) which they can call their own. Pappa Francis spoke of it at length during his tour of South America.

How can anyone totally focussed on the enormity of this deprivation thrust upon a vast majority of humans accept the existence of a possible Prodigal Father who is heaven to whom his children here on earth are asked to pray daily: “give us this day our daily bread” only to be left unheard or ignored for days on end? And you and I living in comfortable homes, having three square meals a day and well-cushioned to rest and sleep, sit in judgement and delight in calling them Atheists, while refusing to lift even a finger to alleviate any of their miseries? What right have we then to speak of ourselves as theists, believers in a God whose name is Mercy and whose image is that of a Prodigal Father?

6 Questions of Conscience

It is in situations like this we have to remind ourselves of some 6 questions of conscience: 1) the unjust servant in the gospel sending his own peon and debtor to jail for not repaying a paltry sum; 2) the Pharisee praying in the temple and making odious comparisons with the publican; 3) the priest and Levite passing by the robbed and wounded man left dying on the road; 4) the verdict at the last judgement – you have not fed me hungry, cared for me sick,

housed me homeless etc. – and 5) the words of Nathan the Prophet to David the holy man of Israel: “That man is YOU,” and 6) the cry of many striking labourers in our contemporary society: “You profiteering land owners and cartels, you have made me a Communist; You Pharisaic Religious hypocrites lording it over have made me an atheist!.”

These are the very things that prompted a great cardinal of Boston to murmur in the ears of Cardinal Bergoglio at the Conclave: “Do not forget the poor” when it became certain he was going to be elected pope, and he in turn took the name of Francis of Assisi, known as the merchant of mercy and tenderness. It eventually forced him to speak of “a poor church for the poor” and live a poor life at St.Marthas and ride the streets of Rome in any cheap car to visit prisons and old-age homes. It also brought on him the adulation: “Pope of the slums”, “Miracle of humility in an era of vanity”.

Ever since the Vatican synod on the family was going on Francis shot into prominence as the champion of Mercy and tenderness together with cardinal Walter Kasper for giving coinage to statements like – “Name of our God is Mercy”, He is never tired of forgiving, it’s we who are tired of asking forgiveness,” and of late: “Jesus came to unleash a revolution of tenderness, of mercy, of compassion, of pardon.” He walks the talk to Emmaus with His doubting sinful church to reveal himself in the breaking of the bread etc.

Who is this Jesus?

We are doing all this talk and discussion solely because of the person called Jesus. And what was he? Who was this historical Jesus? What is Jesus of faith today? Who is this Jesus for the over two thousand churches, each one claiming his church to be the most perfect one? Otherwise there is no point in starting a new church or leaving one to join another. And finally what is Jesus for you?

Historically Jesus was a carpenter of Nazareth. No one has ever heard of his schooling or college life. Nor has he left anything written. He went into hiding at the age of 12 and surfaced at 30 to live 3 years of tumultuous controversial public life, preaching words of wisdom and raising mindboggling questions like a rabble rouser for which he was crucified, according to some. On the third day he was reported to have risen from the dead. He then became a subject of bigger controversy which goes on even today.

He never built any church, nor did he give any brief or elaborate example or exhibition of ritual of worship. He in fact forbad all such rituals. If this carpenter of Nazareth were to come back, since most of his admirers believe he has risen, is quite alive and will come back, he would be the most sought after person as supervisor or advisor to those busy building new churches or remodelling old or outdated ones. Pope Francis is busy with giving shape to an outdated Church. That may be the reason why he is not appearing anywhere in public.

A Live Wire even Today

But one thing is all too certain. He is spiritually very alive as a live wire in the minds and hearts of many, both believers and unbelieveers.That is solely because of his option for the poor, his weakness to a fault to befriend outcasts and caste outs like drunkards and prostitutes, and most of all because of his insistence to relate himself to the lowly (we see it now in Francis) as an equal, as a soul friend, not as Lord and Master to lord it over as is seen and done by everyone in the Catholic hierarchical ladder. Jesus instead is a friend who rushes and kneels to wash your feet which simply disarms you.

It is this trait of Jesus that acted on me always like an adhesive like fevicol to stick to him irrevocably. Listen to some of his unbelievable pronouncements: “The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them. I do not call you servants any longer because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead I have called you friends because I have told you everything, I have heard from my father. You did not choose me. I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name.”Jn.15.12-17 Jesus said it at a very solemn moment during the last supper.

“You have not chosen me. I chose you,” as His friend, were the two piercing, penetrating sentences that instantly evaporated all my sense of inferiority before him. That was long ago. Ever since I never wanted to think of Jesus as anyone other than an equal, a soul friend to be nice or nasty with, to share joys or sorrows, anxieties or hopes, plans, disappointments or complaints galore, also to be very angry with because often I simply fail to understand him, may be because I am blind like Bartimeus before him. To explain all my sublime and absurd talks and dealings with Jesus I will have to write another article. I don’t propose to do it here.

Befriending Jesus Means

But to understand rationally and theologically the depth of Jesus’ offer of friendship with us humans we should explore its two traits: first it goes to the extend laying down his life for His friend, second it is intrinsically tied to foot washing ministry with no trace of lording it over. In modern parlance friendship means at best eating and drinking together, vacationing and helping in crisis times but not laying down one’s life at all. In ancient times of Jesus it meant otherwise.

For example Aristotle says: “The virtuous man’s conduct is often guided by the interests of his friends and of his country, and that he will if necessary lay down his life in their behalf“, Plato adds: “Only those who love

wish to die for others.” This is what Jesus said and did when he laid down his life. A friend in need is a friend in deed.

Similarly Jesus makes the ultimate act of hospitality and friendship by washing the feet of his disciples at the last supper, because it used to be the servants, not hosts or masters, who washed the feet of guests. In the foot washing, Jesus and the disciples move from being servants and master to being friends. John 15:12-15 is the key passage for a theology of friendship. To know more I suggest readers to visit: “I Have Called You Friends, by Gail R. O’Day, Associate Dean of Faculty School of Theology Atlanta, in the internet google search.

It is this understanding of friendship that draws me to Jesus with all the freedoms of a soul friend. It gives me the freedom to discuss with him, disagree with him, and quarrel with him as I do with a close friend. Because of this attraction, maybe I am simply caught in the jaws of this hound of heaven rather than He in my intellectual and emotional grasp or grip. If not for this I would perhaps have abandoned him long ago, which is impossible as long as I am in a vice-like grip in the jaws of a hound of heaven.

I do not know if other followers of Jesus, relate themselves to Him as a friend and friend only to draw inspiration, light and guidance even while so many other things attributed to him remain as impenetrable mysteries beyond all human understanding. For this underdog, if He is a soulmate, it is thanks to His being the fountain head of the revolution of mercy and childlike gentleness to me. So I am forced to listen to his call: “Come to me all that you labour and are burdened, I will give you rest.” How can I turn my face away from such a call? May that call resound in your ears and help you respond in a better way than I do during this Christmas season! Contact at: jameskottoor@gmail.com

*************************** Published 10/12/15 in: Church Citizens’ Voice, http://www.almayasabdam.com, Keral, Matters India, Delhi, Daily

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