Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to prison inmates: "A possibility of finding again, the goodness of the Lord, the certainty of reconciliation."

On Sunday, December 18, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI made a pastoral visit to the inmates of Rebibbia Prison in Rome. During his visit he had an unprecedented dialogue with the inmates when they were allowed to ask him questions.  I found the following question and the answer by his Holiness quite moving.

My name is Gianni, from section G8.  Your Holiness, I was taught that the Lord sees and reads inside of us. I wonder why absolution is delegated to priests? If I asked for it on my knees alone in my room, turning to the Lord, would he absolve me?  Or would it be another kind of absolution? What would the difference be?

Yes, you are asking me an important and true question.  I would say two things.  The first: naturally, if you kneel down and with true love for God pray that God forgives you, he forgives you.  It has always been the teaching of the Church that one, with true repentance - that is not only to avoid punishment and difficulty, but for a love for the good, for love of God - asks for forgiveness, he is pardoned by God.  This is the first part.  If I honestly know that I have done evil, and if a love for goodness, a desire for goodness is reborn within me, repent for not having responded to this love, and I ask forgiveness of God, who is the Good, he gives it to me.

But there is a second element: sin is not only a "personal," individual thing between myself and God.  Sin always has a social dimension, a horizontal one.  With my personal sin, even if perhaps no one knows it, I have damaged the communion of the Church, I have sullied the communion of the Church, I have sullied humanity.  And therefore this social, horizontal dimension of sin requires that it be absolved also at the level of the human community, of the community of the Church, almost physically.  Thus, this second dimension of sin, which is not only against God but concerns the community too, demands the Sacrament and the Sacrament is the greatest gift in which through confession, we can free ourselves from this thing and we can really receive forgiveness in the sense of a full readmission to the community of the living Church, of the Body of Christ. And so, in this sense, the necessary absolution by the priest, the Sacrament, is not an imposition - let us say - on the limits of God's goodness, but, on the contrary, it is an expression of the goodness of God because it shows me also concretely, in the communion of the Church, I have received pardon and can start anew. 

Thus, I would say, hold onto these two dimensions: the vertical one, with God, and the horizontal one, with the community of the Church and with humanity.  The absolution of the priest, the sacramental absolution, is necessary to really absolve me of this link with evil and to fully reintegrate me into the will of God, into the vision of God, into his Church and to give me sacramental, almost bodily certitude: God forgives me, he receives me into the community of his children.  I think that we must learn how to understand the Sacrament of Penance in this sense: as a possibility of finding again, the goodness of the Lord, the certainty of reconciliation.

At the end of discussion, an inmate named Stefan read the following prayer:

   Oh God, give me the courage to call you Father.
   You know that I do not always give you the attention you deserve.
   You do not forget me, even though I so often live far from the light of your face.
   Come close, despite everything, despite my sin however great or small, secret or public it may be.
   Give me inner peace, that which only you know how to give.
   Give me the strength to be true, sincere: tear away from my face the masks that obscure the awareness that I am worthy only because I am your son. Forgive me my faults and grant me the possibility to do good.
   Shorten my sleepless nights: grant me the grace of a conversion of heart.
   Remember, Father, those who are outside of here and still love me, that thinking of them, I remember that only love gives life, while hate destroys and resentment turns into hell long and endless days.
   Remember me, O God.  Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Canonicity and the Bible - Part 3

Just when it appears that Fr. Hunt and Bishop Coyne will finally be discussing the question, “What is the role of the human sciences in helping us understand and interpret biblical texts?,” they go off on another few excursions:  What does it mean to interpret the Bible in the literal sense? Fr. Mark makes the distinction between reading the texts “literally” versus reading the texts in the “literal and spiritual sense” and drawing upon the Church’s teaching, proceeds to explain what he means by this.  Finally, they discuss the dynamic of moving from an ancient language and the meaning that the words held within that context to the meaning the words now bear in the present translation.

Listen to this Podcast now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Canonicity and the Bible - Part 2

In this podcast, Bishop Coyne and Fr. Hunt continue their discussion concerning the canonicity and interpretation of the Bible as a book in itself.  Topics covered: Is it the “Hebrew scriptures” or the “Old Testament?”  Why do the number of books in the Bible vary from one edition to another? How did the early Christian communities collect and use the Old Testament texts?  Bishop Coyne and Fr. Hunt also discuss the interesting and pivotal role that St. Jerome played in the compilation and translation of the biblical texts from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. Finally, they discuss the numbering of the psalms: are there 149 or 150 psalms and why the discrepancy in different editions?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Not a Top Ten List but ... My favorite blogs, websites, etc. (Pt. deux)

Just a continuation of my new years "list" of blogs, podcasts, and internet sites that I follow. Once again, the opinions expressed at these links are those of the author and not necessarily my own (or those of my sainted mother.)

Jesuit father Antonio Spadaro's website, "CyberTheology Daily" offers a whole menu of items that runs from the theological to the technical to the artistic.  Fr. Spadaro is Editor in Chief of the periodical "La Civilta Cattolica," a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication.  There is always something of interest here for my daily read.

From the western side of the Atlantic, there is Real Clear Religion, a site that offers daily links about religion of an interfaith, mostly American purview.  This is one of those sites that can at times make me crazy with some of its postings (especially as concerns the Catholic Church), but for a place to go to get a sense of what's "out there" in terms of the public discourse concerning religion, this is one of the best.  

From the Catholic Church in U.K., we get the Catholic Herald, the webpage linked to the "Catholic Herald" newspaper.  The stories are well written and the linked bloggers usually offer an interesting read. 

As far as my daily news reads go, I follow the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, ESPN, and SI.  For weekly reading, there is America magazine and the Tablet.  The National Catholic Register is a daily "click" and Our Sunday Visitor, a weekly one.

One site that I visit everyday just because it always seems to have something of interest for my 'eclectic' tastes is the WSJ's Idea's Market. You just gotta love a site that has stories like, "The Math of Legos,""Roller Coaster Safety for Scaredy-Cats," and "Are Old Italian Violins Over-Rated?"  In addition the Opinionator out of the NY Times certainly posts columns that are substantial and good food for thought, though I find myself agreeing or disagreeing about 50% of the time.

From just the pure tech-side, a handy resource is the site AllThingsD.  It has all kinds of great postings from both the Mac and the PC side of things as well as business news and all things social media.

For daily prayer and some words about the Saint of the Day, there is the Universalis website.  The free text of the Daily Prayer and the readings for Mass does not follow the official texts (that requires a minimal paid subscription), but if you are looking for a place on the web that has it all for free, here it is.

In part 3, I will share thoughts on some of my favorite "personal" blogs ...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Not a Top Ten List but ... My favorite blogs, websites, etc. (Pt. 1)

As this time of the year lends itself to "top ten lists," I offer (albeit a little late) the following lists of blogs, podcasts, and internet sites that I often visit.  I find these links for the most part informative, helpful, and welcome efforts that seek to promote the heart of the Church's life and teaching. I plan on doing so over a number of postings so as to not avoid a lengthy post.  Suffice it to say, that the opinions expressed at these links are those of the author and not necessarily my own.  So with that:

The first, of course, is "The Vatican Today," the new website out of the Holy See that offers news and publications in English.  While I wish the posting of church documents, publications, and press releases in English was done in a quicker manner, you can't find a better source anywhere else.  On a good note, though, the release today of the "pastoral note"on the upcoming Holy Year in eight languages is wonderful to see.

The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website offers a whole host of great resources for Catholics.  The posting of daily Mass readings as well as a video daily reflection on the readings are marvelous.  There are all kinds of resources for information on church teaching, USCCB positions and programs, and other things Catholic.  The USCCB Media Blog is a great read, especially the postings by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh.  My only complaint is that I wish they would post more.

In terms of helpful resources and reflections for the Sunday homily, there is Fr. Robert Barron's weekly sermons at Word on Fire. Fr. Barron is by far the most present Catholic priest on the internet.  His YouTube postings, writings, and videos are all clear and insightful.  You can also subscribe to his sermons at iTunes and his own website.

One site that I often visit in working with the Greek text of the New Testament is Misselbrook's Musings.  Beginning way back in 1999, Peter Misselbrook has published an incredible amount of work on the Greek NT.  All of this is laid out in a very concise and helpful way for the student and reader of Scripture.  I love this site!  In addition, his weekly "Thought for the Week" is a wonderful read.

My good friend Fr. Mark Hunt of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Holy Family University publishes an informative exegesis and reflection on the Sunday readings at "Words of the Word."  My only complaint is that he usually publishes late on Saturday so it is too late for me to "poach" my Sunday homily from his.

Then, of course, there is Whispers in the Loggia, Rocco Palmo's blog concerning all things Catholic.  Mr. Palmo is always respectful and careful in his postings.  He is not a rumormonger in that he does not publish anything until it has been vetted as the truth.  While I find his "news" postings to be timely ("How did he get that?") and informative, I also enjoy his personal reflections on his life as a Catholic.

I visit the New Advent website everyday.  It's kind of like walking by a big Catholic community bulletin board.  The links are there for you to read and make your own choices.  There are postings that I visit, there are postings that I don't.  There are things I agree with and things that I don't.  There are postings that are sublime and some that are just strange weird but I always find at least one or two links a day that are a good read.

(End of Part 1)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Canonicity and the Bible: Pt 1

In this first of four podcasts, Bishop Coyne and Fr. Mark Hunt, Associate Professor at Holy Family University and priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia begin a conversation concerning the nature and development of the “canon” or content of the Bible.  Their discussion will involve topics such as: How were the books of the Bible collected? Who decided what books would be included and which would be left out? What appears to have been the criteria used?  What do we say about the apocryphal or extra-biblical books and gospels?
Future podcasts on this topic will concern matters revolving around biblical interpretation and inspiration as well as the use of the human sciences in doing so.  This will include as well a discussion on the Church’s tradition and teaching in these matters.
This topic is the first of many recommended by listeners of these podcasts.  Thanks to all for their suggestions.  The next one will be one on the formation of the Sunday, weekday, and holy day Lectionary.
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