Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pope Benedict continues to rock

Like last year, the Pope had an off-the-cuff and frank exchange of ideas with priests, this time of the Diocese of Albano (where Castel Gadalfo is located), on Aug. 31. The inedefatigable Teresa Benedicta of the Papa Ratzinger Forums provides a quick and helpful translation of the Italian.

I keep saying it again and again -- pretty much everything he says (or writes) just rocks!

In this exchange, the questions were (paraphrased. I've also provided soundbites, paraphrased of his answers):

-- how can overworked priests do it all? Can younger priests have any hope?
-- what to do about priests whose pastoral practice is far from missionary, who take a Christian landscape that has long vanished for granted? (most fascinating answers! Some of the language reminded me of stuff that I've seen in Disciples in Mission and at Evangelical Catholic. Basically: there's something skewed about this tendency to view the parish simply as a sacrament service provider.)

-- how can the celebration of the liturgy, the sacraments, be evangelical? (for e.g. preparing a couple for baptism shouldn't just introduce them to a rite or a thing or a requirement, but to a Person, the person of Jesus Christ.)

-- what is the relationship between Holy Orders and Matrimony? (Don't let a priest think he's better because celibacy is a higher sacrifice! No! The witness of married people is vital, and enriching for the priest as well as society at large.)

-- how best to integrate youth into the pastoral work of the parish? (don't pander to them! appeal to their sense of service, of a higher calling. Be creative. And let them learn about the liturgy, since many just don't seem to get it.)

Go and read his answers. Carefully. His thoughtfulness and the breadth of his pastoral experience are astounding. God's Rottweiler my a**. As Amy puts it, it's clear he's a keen observer of human nature, and a good listener.

Now some might quibble: well, why the heck should these priests take these pastoral issues to the Pope? Why this focus on the Pope? It's not his job to answer all our questions.

Well, of course not. However, in today's world of rapid communication, it provides an insight into the mind of the chief pastor of the Church. It's not as if his answers (which he himself acknowledges are somewhat superficial and fragmentary) should become the be all and end all of pastoral practice -- far from it. He still is the Pope, and his words carry a weight that reams and reams of documents produced by committees, like it or not, just don't.

However, his witness (as well as his words) point to the deeper things, the things which will sustain (have sustained) the pastoral work of the Church ... the importance of an authentic spirituality, rooted in Christ, in prayer, in the Word and Sacraments -- and yet, or perhaps because of this -- refreshingly creative, open to new ideas, motivated by a deep love for all people, and humbly acknowledging that pastoral work (like pretty much everything) is the Lord's work first and foremost, carried out under the guidance of the Spirit.

I think some of this stuff should be required reading in our seminaries. Especially for those who feel that their call to priesthood is really a call to membership in a privileged caste, or who confuse the pastoral leadership of the priest with a power trip, or the desire or want to control people's lives, or just to tell everyone how wrong they are, or who think collaborating with the laity is just liberal claptrap. [Hey, did you notice that the Pope mentioned professional lay workers without any vitriol or anything resembling the vituperation this class of dedicated servants of God receives in some sections of the blogosphere?]

Teresa Benedicta remarks (quoted over at Amy's),
And yet, how sad and how telling, that out of all the words he said at the session with the Albano priests, the Italian media only picked out a short fragment in which he spoke about St. Francis of Assisi, not even reporting it in the context of why he said it - that he wanted the life of St. Francis to be an example to the youth of today of what it means to be converted to the way of Christ and immeasurably expanding their lives that way.
Well, I'm all for letting a better understanding of the mind of Pope Benedict disseminate out there ...

If there is one line that I'll take away from his reflections, it's the one Teresa Benedicta put in large bold letters: I would say that the first requirement for all of us is to let the Lord take care of the part we cannot do.

I've put the full text of the exchange below, (after the jump) ... There's a lot more on the page at the Papa Ratzinger Forums as well. What a wonderful ministry of service to the global church the folks over there are carrying on! God bless y'all!


On Thursday, August 31, the Holy Father met with the priests of the Diocese of Albano, where Castel Gandolfo is located, at the Swiss Hall of the Papal summer residence.

After a greeting delivered by Mons. Marcello Semeraro, Bishop of Albano, the Pope responded to questions presented by 5 of the priests present.

As usual, the Pope's spontaneous answers are breathtaking in their expansiveness, his capacity for driving home his points in a way that is at once simple and profound, the consistency of his messages with everything he has said and written before, and on this particular occasion, his familiarity with and appreciation of basic pastoral work - the Pope as parish priest to the world.

Following is a translation of the Italian transcript released by the Vatican today:

Fr. Giuseppe Zane, 83, Vicar of Omni:
Our Bishop has indicated to you, although briefly, the situation in our Diocese of Albano. We priests are fully involved in the Church, experiencing all its problems and complexities.

Young and old, we all feel in adequate, first of all, because we are few compared to the many needs of our parishioners and we have different provenances. We suffer from the scarcity of priestly vocations.

Because of these, we find ourselves discouraged at times, when we simply try to plug holes here and there, often reduced to nothing more than first aid without a further plan of action.

Seeing how much there needs to be done, we are therefore tempted into doing rather than being, and this inevitably reflects on our spiritual life, our conversation with God, praying and the exercise of love for our brothers, especially those who are remote.

Holy Father, what can you tell us in this regard? I am much older...but can our younger brothers have hope?

The Pope:
Dear brothers, I would like first of all to address you with words of welcome and of gratitude. Thanks to Cardinal Sodano for his presence today which is an expression of his love and concern for this suburban Church.

And I thank Your Excellency [Bishop Semeraro] for your words. You have been able to present in brief the situation of this diocese to an extent that I was not previously aware of.

I knew that it was the largest of the suburban dioceses around Rome, but I did not know that it now comprises more than 50,000 inhabitants. So I see a diocese that is full of challenges and problems, but certainly, also of joy in the faith.

I see that you have all the problems of the day - immigration, tourism, marginalization, agnosticism - but also a firm faith.

I do not presume to be an 'oracle' who can respond adequately to all the questions raised. The words of St. Gregory the Great which you cited, Excellency, and which is known to us all - - 'infirmitatem suam' - apply to the Pope as well. Even the Pope, day after day, must realize and acknowledge 'infirmitatem suam', his weaknesses, his limits.. He must recognize that only with the cooperation of all, through dialog, through common cooperation in the faith as 'co-workers for the truth', can we all together perform our service, each doing his part.

In this sense, my answers will not be exhaustive but fragmentary. In any case, let us all accept the fact that only together can we make up the 'mosaic' of pastoral work that can respond to our challenges.

You, Cardinal Sodano, have said that our dear brother, Father Zane, may seem a bit pessimistic. But I must say that each of us has these moments when we could be discouraged in the face of the magnitude of what we need to do compared to the limits of what we can actually do. Again, the Pope also has this problem.

What should the Church do in this time of so many problems, so many challenges, but also so many joys, for the universal Church? So many things take place every day and I am not up capable of responding to all of it. But I do my part, I do what I can. I try to determine the priorities. And I am happy that I have the help of so many good co-workers.

I can say here and now: I see every day the great work that the Secretariat of State does under your wise guidance. It is only with this network of collaboration, where I put my humble capacities into a greater totality, that am I able to - and can dare - to move ahead.

Naturally, for a parish priest who is alone, I see that you, Father Zane, indeed have so many concerns. And that, as you put it, one can only plug away, apply some first aid, but always aware that so much more needs to be done.

I would say that the first requirement for all of us is to let the Lord take care of the part we cannot do. Today we heard in the Gospel the parable of the faithful servant (Mt 24.42-51). This servant, the Lord tells us, gives food to others at the appropriate time. He does not do everything all at once, because he is wise and prudent and knows how to distribute what is necessary at different times. He does so humbly, confident of his master's trust.

So also we must do what we can to be wise and prudent and to have trust in the goodness of our Master, of the Lord, because ultimately, it is He who guides His Church. We assert ourselves with the small gifts we have and do what we can, above all, those duties that are always necessary: the Sacraments, announcing the Gospel, showing our charity and love.

As for the interior life that you referred to, it is necessary to our service as priests. The time which we reserve for prayer is not time taken away form our pastoral responsibilities but it is pastoral 'work' in itself to be able to pray for others.

In the Common for Pastors, we read that the Good Shepherd is characterized by 'multum oravit pro fratribus,' praying a lot for our brothers. This is what a pastor must be, a man of prayer who goes before the Lord to pray for others, doing so, as well, in place of others wh do not know how to pray or who do not wish to pray or who do not find the time to pray. What could be better evidence that a dialog with God is pastoral work!

I would say therefore that the Church allows us, almost imposes on us - but always like a good mother - to have free time for God, through the two practices that make up part of our duties: celebrating Holy Mass and reciting our breviary. But more than just reciting it, to perform it as an act of listening to the words which the Lord offers us in the Liturgy of the Hours.

We must internalize these words, be attentive to what the Lord is telling us with His words; then consider the comments made by the Fathers of the Church or even by the Vatican Council, in the second reading of the Office; and then pray with the great invocation that the Psalms constitute, and through which we become part of the prayers of all time. The people of the Old Alliance pray with us as we pray with them. We pray with the Lord, who is the true subject of the Psalms. We pray with the Church through the ages.

I would say that the time we dedicate to the Liturgy of the Hours is precious time. The Church gives us this opportunity, this space in our daily life to spend with God, a life which is also a life for others.

Thus, it seems to me important to see that these two realities - the Holy Mass celebrated as a real dialog wth God and the Liturgy of the Hours - are zones of freedom, of interior life, that the Church gives us and which constitute a source of internal riches for us.

In these practices, we not only encounter the Church through the ages but the Lord Himself who speaks to us and awaits our response. Let us learn to pray in unison with the prayers of all time, through which we can also encounter the faithful of all time. Let us think of the Psalms, of the words of the Prophets, the words of our Lord and His apostles, the comments of the Church Fathers. Today, for instance, we had that marvelous comment by St. Columban on Christ as the spring from which we drink the 'living water.'

In praying, we also encounter the sufferings today of the people of God. Our prayers inevitably make us think of our daily life and can guide us in dealing with our people today.

Prayer illumines us in these encounters, because we do not bring to others only our own small measure of intelligence and our love of God, but we learn, through the word of God, to bring God Himself to others. This is what our people expect of us - that we bring them the 'living water' which St. Columban speaks of today.

People thirst - and seek to satisfy this thirst by different diversions. But they understand quite well that these diversions are not the 'living water' which they thirst for. The Lord is the source of 'living water.'

But He says, in Chapter 7 of the Gospel of John, that whoever believes becomes a source himself because he has drunk of Christ. This 'living water' then gushes from us, a spring for others to drink at. So we seek to drink of Christ in prayer, in celebrating Holy Mass, in reading: Let us drink from the Source so that the 'living water' may well up in us.

Because we can respond better to the spiritual thirst of our people today if we have the 'living water' within us, the divine reality, the reality of the Lord Jesus incarnate. This way, we can respond better to our people's needs.

That answers the question of what we can do. We will always do what is possible for our people - we will return to this point in subsequent questions - and we must live with the Lord in order to satisfy the people's thirst.

Your second question was - do we have hope for this diocese, for this fraction of the people of God who constitute the Diocese of Albano, do we have hope for the Church? And I reply without hesitation, Yes! Of course, we have hope. The Church is alive!

We have two thousand years of Church history - despite so many sufferings, even so many failings. Let us think of the Church in Asia Minor, the great and flowering Church of North Africa, which both disappeared with the Muslim invasions.

And so, it is true that parts of the Church can really disappear, as St. John said in the Apocalypse, or as the Lord said through John: "If I do not see you again, I will come to you and I remove your lampstand from its place."(2,5) On the other hand, however, we see how the Church has risen up again with new youth, with new freshness, after each crisis.

In the century of the Reformation, the Catholic Church appeared to be truly almost done in. The new current which affirmed that the Church of Rome is over and done with seemed to be triumphant. But we saw how with the great saints, like Ignatius of Loyola or Teresa of Avila, Carlo Borromeo and others, the Church rose again. It found in the Council of Trent a new actualization and revitalization of its doctrine - and it revived with great vitality.

Let us consider the so-called age of enlightenment, during which Voltaire said, "Finally this old Church is done for - long live humanity!" But what happened instead? The Church renewed itself again. The 19th century became the century of great saints, of a new vitality for so many religious congregations, and the faith proved itself stronger than all the currents of thought that have come and gone.

Likewise in the past century, Hitler said: "Providence has called on me, a Catholic, to put an end to Catholicism. Only a Catholic can destroy Catholicism." He was sure he had all the means to put an end to Catholicism.

In the same manner, that great tide of Marxism was sure it could achieve the 'scientific revision' of the world and open the doors to the future: the Church, it proclaimed, is at the end, it is dead! But the Church is even stronger, in accordance with the words of Christ. It is the life of Christ which is victorious in His Church.

Even in difficult times, when there is a lack of vocations, the Word of God remains eternal. And whoever, as the Lord Himself said, builds his life on this 'rock' of God's Word, builds well.

And so, we can be confident. We are seeing, even in our day, new initiatives for the faith. We see how, in Africa, despite all the problems there, the Church has a fresh impetus of vocations that is most encouraging. With all the uncertainties of the historical panorama today, we see - and more than that, we believe - that the words of the Lord are our spirit and our life, they are words of eternal life.

St. Peter said, as we heard in last Sunday's Gospel (Jn 6,69) "You have the words of eternal life; we have believed and recognized that you are the son of God."

Seeing the vitality of the Church today, through all its sufferings, we too can say: we have believed and recognized that You give us the words of eternal life and therefore, a hope that will never fail.

The integrated ministry

Mons. Gianni Macella, parish priest of Albano:
In recent years, according to the Italian Bishops' conference plan for the decade 2000-2010, we have been working to achieve a so-called integrated ministry.

There are so many difficulties. It is worth pointing out at the very least that many of us in the priesthood are still wedded to a pastoral practice that is far from missionary but which appeared to have consolidated around the context of a Christianity that is taken for granted.

On the other hand, most of the faithful appear to look on the parish as a supermarket for sacred services.

Therefore, Holiness, I wish to ask you: Is an integrated ministry simply a question of strategy, or is there a more profound reason why we must continue to practice it?

The Pope:
I must confess that I had to learn of this phrase 'integrated ministry' from your question, but nevertheless I understand the content: namely, that we should seek to integrate into a single pastoral way both the different pastoral workers that we have today as well as the different aspects of pastoral work.

I would therefore first distinguish the aspects of pastoral work from its objects, and then seek to integrate them into one pastoral way.

You have made us understand, by your question, that there is the level of parochial work we might call 'classic' for the faithful who have remained - or perhaps are even growing in numbers - to give life to our parishes. This means classic pastoral work which is always important.

Usually, I distinguish between continuous evangelization - because faith lives on, the parish lives on - and new evangelization, which seeks to be missionary, to go beyond the confines of those who are already 'faithful' and live in the parish, or who make use of parish services even if they may have a 'diminished' faith.

In the parish, I would say that we have three fundamental tasks which arise from the nature of the Church and of the priestly ministry. The first is the sacramental service. I would say that Baptism, preparing for it and the task of giving continuity to obligations taken on at Baptism, already brings us in contact even with those who do not fully believe. It is not a task so much to preserve Christianity, but a challenging encounter with people who probably go to Church rarely.

And so, the task of preparing for Baptism - opening up the souls of the parents, relatives and godparents to the reality of Baptism - already can and should be a missionary commitment that goes beyond the confines of those who are already 'faithful.'

In preparing our parishioners for Baptism, we must make them understand that this Sacrament means being introduced into the family of God, that God exists and cares for us, that He cared enough to have taken on our flesh and to have instituted the Church which is His Body, in which He is able to be incarnated, we might say, in our society.

Baptism gives us new life in the sense that beyond our biological life, we need the gift of a sense of life which is stronger than death. The gift of biological life can be justified only if we can add to it a sense of stabllity, of a future which, despite crises which will come - and which we cannot know beforehand - will give value to our life, make life worth living, make us value the very fact that we were created.

Therefore I think that in preparing for this Sacrament or talking to parents who have doubts about Baptism, we have a missionary situation. We are transmitting the Christian message. We interpret for them the reality that begins with Baptism.

I am not sufficiently familiar with the Italian rite. In the classic rite, inherited from the early Church, Baptism begins with the question: "What do you ask of the Church of God?" Today, at least in the German rite, the answer is simply "Baptism." This does not state adequately what it is that one desires. In the ancient rite, one answered: "Faith," that is, a relationship with God. To get to know God.

"And why," the question goes on, "do you ask for faith?"
Answer: "Because I wish for eternal life." That is, we want a life that is secure even in future crises, a life that has meaning, that justifies being a man.

In any case, I think that this dialog should take place with the parents before Baptism. Which is to say that the gift of the Sacrament is not simply a 'thing,' nor a 'thingification,' as the French put it. It is missionary work.

Then there is Confirmation, to be prepared for, at that age when individuals start to make decisions for themselves, even with regard to matters of faith. Certainly, we should not transform Confirmation into a kind of 'pelagianism', almost as if one becomes Catholic all by himself, rather, that confirmation in our faith is is our response to the gift of faith.

Then there is the Eucharist, which is Christ's permanent presence in the daily celebration of the Holy Mass. And it is most important, as I said earlier, for the priest, for his life as a priest, because it is the real presence of the Lord.

Matrimony, too, presents itself as a great missionary occasion, because today, thank God, many who do not usually go to church still want to be married in church. It is an occasion to bring young people face to face with the reality of a Christian marriage, of a sacramental marriage, that is also a great responsibility.

We see the importance of this question of responsible marriage in the annulment processes but mostly in the problem of divorced persons who remarry and wish to take Communion and who do not understand why that is not possible. Probably they did not understand, at the moment they first said "Yes, I do" before the Lord, what their "yes" really meant. It is entering into Christ's trust, therefore into the Sacrament which is the Church and the sacrament of matrimony.

Therefore preparing your parishioners for marriage is an occasion of great importance, of missionary significance, an occasion to announce once more in the sacrament of matrimony the sacrament of Christ Himself, to make the couple understand that they are vowing faithfulness, and if they understand this, then they will see the problem with remarried divorced Catholics [wanting Communion].

This then is the first aspect - our classic task of administering the Sacraments, which allows us to meet
even our parishioners who normally do not go to Church, and therefore provides us the opportunity for making truly missionary messages, for an integrated ministry.

The second aspect is announcing the Gospel, with its two essential elements: the homily and catechesis. In the Bishops' Synod last year, they spoke a lot about the homily, showing how difficult it is today to find a bridge between the words of the New Testament, written 2000 years ago, and our present.

I must tell you that the historical-critical mode of exegesis is often not enough to help us prepare our homilies. I experience it myself in trying to prepare homilies that actualize the word of God; or to put it better - since the word of God is an actuality by itself - to make people see and feel this actuality.

Historical-critical exegesis tells us a lot about the past, of the moment when the words were first said, of their significance at the time they were said, but such explanations do not always help us understand that the words of Jesus, of the Apostles and of the Old Testament, are spirit and life, with which the Lord speaks to us even today.

I think we should 'defy' the theologians - as the Synod has - by going ahead and helping parish priests better prepare their homilies, to make people sense the presence of the Word: the Lord speaks to us today, not only in the past.

I have been reading in recent days the draft for the post-
Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. I have seen with satisfaction that this 'defiance' is kept in the models prepared for homilies. Ultimately, the parish priest must prepare his homily in his context, speaking to his parish. But he may need some help to understand and make others understand the actual 'present-ness' of the Word of God, which is never a Word of the past, but always a Word for today.

Finally, the third sector: caritas, the diakonia. We are always responsible for the suffering, the sick, the marginalized, the poor. From what you have told me of your diocese, I see that there are many who need our diakonia , and this too is always a missionary occasion.

Thus it seems to me that the 'classical' parish ministry transcends itself in all three sectors to become a missionary ministry.

Now let me go on to the second aspect of parish ministry, which concerns both the workers as well as the work they do. The parish priest obviously cannot do everything! That is impossible. He cannot be a 'solo player' who does everything, but he needs other pastoral workers. Today, I think, whether through the new movements or through Catholic Action or through the new communities, we have workers who should be collaborators with the parish in an integrated ministry.

It is important for this integrated ministry that other pastoral workers should not only be 'activated' but should be integrated into the work of the parish. The parish priest must not only "do" but also "delegate."

Those who work with him must learn to truly integrate themselves in the common tasks of the parish as well as in the auto-transcendence of the parish itself in a double sense: first, that the parishes collaborate within the diocese, because the Bishop is their common pastor and can help coordinate their tasks; and second, in that they are really working for all men, and should seek to bring the Christian message even to agnostics and to persons who are in search.

And this is the third level about which we have spoken earlier rather diffusely. The occasions I have indicated give us the chance to meet and to say missionary words to those who rarely go to church, and those who have little or no faith.

Above all, these new pastoral workers and Catholic lay professionals should be able to bring the word of God even into those circles which are usually inaccessible to the parish priest.

Coordinated by our Bishops, let us seek to integrate these different sectors of pastoral work, to activate the different pastoral workers in the common task: on the one hand, to strengthen the faith of believers who constitute a great treasure, and on the other hand, to bring the message of the faith to all those who are seeking with a sincere heart a satisfactory answer to their existential questions.

D. Vittorio Petruzzi, Parish Vicar of Aprilia:
Holiness, for the pastoral year that is about to begin, our Diocese has been called upon by the Bishop to pay particular attention to the liturgy both on the theological level as well as that of the way we celebrate it.

Even the residential weeks in which we are taking part next month will have as central theme for reflection how to "project and realize the message of the liturgical year in the sacraments as well as in sacramentals.

We as priests are called on to achieve a liturgy that is "serious, simple and beautiful," to use a beautiful formulation in the document "Communicating the gospel in a life-changing way" by the Italian bishops conference.

Holy Father, could you help us to understand how all this can be translated into ars celebrandi?

The Pope:

Ars celebrandi! Even in this, I would say there are many dimensions. The first is that celebration (of the liturgy) is prayer, a dialog with God - God with us, and we in God.

Therefore, the first requirement for a good celebration is that the priest enters truly into this dialog. Announcing the Word, he must feel himself in colloquy with God. He is both a listener of the Word as well as a proclaimer of the Word, in the sense that he makes himself an instrument of the Lord and seeks to understand the word of God which he must then convey to his people.

He is in a dialog with God, because the texts of the Holy Mass are not theatrical lines or some such - they are prayers, thanks to which, together with the congregation, I as priest talk to God. Therefore to enter into this colloquy is important.

St. Benedict, in his Rule, tells his monks, speaking of the recitation of Psalms: "Mens concordet voci." The voice, words, precede our thinking. Normally, it isn't that way: first, one thinks and then thought becomes words. But here, the words come first. Sacred Liturgy gives us the words: we should enter into these words and find agreement with the reality that precedes thought.

Beyond that, we must also learn to understand the structure of Liturgy and why it is so articulated. The liturgy has evolved in two millennia, and even after the reforms [of Vatican II], it has not become something that is merely elaborated by some liturgists. It is always a continuation of a permanent growth in adoration and in announcing the Gospel.

Therefore, it is very important, so that we may harmonize best with it, to understand it as a structure that has grown over time and to enter with our mens (mind)into the vox (voice) of the Church.

To the degree that we have internalized this structure, understood it, assimilated the words of Liturgy, we can enter that inner consonance and in that way, not only do we speak to God as individuals but become part of the "we" of the Church that prays.

This way, we also transform our "I" into the "we' of the Church,
enriching and amplifying this "I", praying with the Church, with the words of the Church, and being truly in colloquy with God.

So that's the first condition: we ourselves should internalize the structure, the words of Liturgy, the Word of God. This way, our celebration truly becomes a celebrating 'with' the Church; our hearts open up and we are not doing anything except being with the Church in colloquy with God.

I think our congregation senses if we are really in colloquy with God or with them, if we can draw everyone into our common prayer, draw everyone to communion with the children of God; or if we are merely going through the external motions.

The fundamental element of the genuine ars celebrandi is this consonance, this agreement between what we say with our lips and what we think in our heart.

The Sursum corda [Lift up your hearts], which is a very old part of the Liturgy, would have been - before the Preface, before the Liturgy itself - the 'way' for us to talk and to think. We should raise our hearts to the Lord, not simply as a ritual response, but as an expression of what is happening in our hearts, which is lifted upwards and draws others with it.

In other words, ars celebrandi does not invite participation in some kind of theater, of spectacle, but to an interiorness which can be felt, and becomes evident and acceptable to the faithful in attendance. Only if they see that it is not an exterior art, not spectator art - we are not showmen! - but the expression of the direction our hearts take, which will attract their hearts as well, only then will Liturgy become beautiful, because it becomes a communion of everyone present with the Lord.

Naturally, this fundamental condition expressed in St. Benedict's words 'Mens concordet voci - and may the heart be truly elevated towards the Lord - must be associated with exterior signs. We should learn to pronounce the words properly. A few times, when I was still a professor in my native land, young students would read Sacred Scripture as though the words were written by a poet whom they could not understand.

And to learn to say the words well and properly, one must have understood the text first in all its present impact. So it must be with the Preface and with the Eucharistic Prayer. It is difficult for the faithful to follow a text as long as our Eucharistic Prayer. And this has given birth to new 'inventions.'

But with Eucharistic Prayers, 'always new' does not respond to the problem. It is a moment that invites everyone to being silent before God in prayer. Therefore only if the Eucharistic prayer is pronounced well, with its required moments of silence, if it is pronounced with interiority but with the art of speech, then it is a good prayer.

So, the Eucharistic prayer requires particular attention so it may be recited in a way that involves everyone. We should find the occasion, in our catecheses, in homilies, to explain the Eucharistic Prayer to the faithful so they can follow its great moments: the narration and the words at the institution of the Eucharist, the prayer for the living and the dead, the thanks to the Lord, the epiclesis, in order to truly involve the community in this prayer.

There should be an adequate preparation. The altar boys should know exactly what to do, the readers should know how to read well. The choir, the songs, must be well prepared; the altar must be properly decorated. All this - even if they have to do with down-to-earth practical details - are part of ars celebrandi.

But, in conclusion, the fundamental element is the art of entering into communion with the Lord which is what we prepare for others during our whole life as priests.

D. Angelo Pennazza, parish priest of Pavona:
Holiness, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that "Holy Orders and Mstrimony are intended for the salvation of others...they confer a particular mission on fht Church and serve to edify the people of God" (n. 1534).

This appears to us fundamental not only for our pastoral actions but also for our very way of being priests. What can we priests do to translate into pastoral practice this proposition and - according to what you yourself stressed earlier - how do we communicate best the beauty of Matrimony so that it is appreciated by the men and women of our time? And what can the sacramental grace of married persons bring to our lives as priests?

Two big questions!

The first is: How do we communicate to people today the beauty of Matrimony? We see how many young people put off getting married in Church because they are afraid of something definite [definitivita]. They even put off getting married civilly.

Today, young people - and even those not so young - consider finality [my best approximation for the sense of the Italian word definitivita] as a curb on their freedom. And their first desire is for freedom. They are afraid that they will not succeed in marriage. They see so many failed marriages. They are afraid that this formality, which is what they consider marriage to be, could be an exterior weight that can even extinguish love.

We should make them understand that matrimony is not just a juridical link nor a burden. That on the contrary, its profoundness and its beauty lie precisely in its finality. Only with this sense of finality can love mature in all its beauty. But how to communicate this? I think that is a problem we all have.

For me, in Valencia - and Eminence, you can confirm this - it was an important moment not only when I could speak of this, but when so many families came before me with their children - one family was almost a parish in itself, with so many children!

The presence, the testimony of these families was truly more powerful than any words. They presented above all the richness of their experiences as families - how a family can truly be a cultural treasure, an opportunity to educate one another, a possibility for the coexistence of the many varied cultural expressions today, of giving oneself to each other, of helping one another, especially in suffering.

And so their testimonies about the crises they have undergone were very important. One couple almost decided to divorce. But they explained how they learned to live through their crisis, the ordeal of realizing the changes each one had gone through, and of accepting each other once again.

It is in overcoming such moments of crisis, of the desire to break apart, that a new dimension of love can grow; a door opens to a new dimension of life which is only possible after one has gone through a crisis together.

This seems to me very important. Couples reach a crisis when they realize how diferent their temperaments are, how difficult it can be to tolerate each other every day, and to have to do this for the rest of your life! And so they decide: Well, we better separate.

But we have understood from the testimony of those who have lived through such a crisis, who have managed to endure that moment when it seemed one could not take any more of a difficult situation, that truly, new doors open and there is a new beauty to love.

Beauty that comes only from pure harmony is not true beauty. Something is missing. True beauty requires contrast. Light and dark complement each other. The grape in order to mature does not only need sun, it also needs a bit of rain; it needs night as well as day.

We ourselves, who are priests, old or young, should learn the need for suffering, for crises, so that we may learn to endure and transcend them. In that way, life becomes richer. I find a symbolic value in that our Lord carries His stigmata for eternity. They are expressions of the atrocities of suffering and death that have now become the seals of Christ's victory, of the beauty of His triumph and His love for us.

We should learn to accept, whether we are priests or married persons, the need to endure the crisis of change, of the other, the crisis of when it seems one can no longer stay together or proceed as before.

Married couples should learn together how to move ahead, if only for the love of their children, and in so doing, to get to know each other anew, love each other anew with a love that is much more profound and much more genuine. Thus love truly matures, through a long course, beset with suffering.

I think we priests can learn from married couples, from their suffering and sacrifice. Often we think that only celibacy is sacrifice. But in getting to learn the sacrifices of married persons - think of raising children, the problems that arise from that, the fears, the suffering, the ailments, rebelliousness, or just think of the first years of having children, with sleepless nights attending to crying babies - there is much we can learn from their sacrifices, and our own sacrifices.

Together with them we can learn how beautiful it is to mature in suffering and to work for the sake of others. Don Pennazza, you have cited the Vatican Council which affirmed that Matrimony is a sacrament to save others - above all, this means, to save the other, the spouse, husband or wife, but also the children and ultimately, the community. Even we priests are able to mature in our encounters with our married parishioners.

And so, I think we should be involved with families. Family feasts are very important. Celebrations should be an occasion for families to be together. At feasts we see the beauty of families. And public testimonies - even if perhaps these have become too much of a vogue - can really be helpful on occasion; the proclamation (of positive experiences) can be of help to everyone.

In conclusion, I find it very important that in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says that the marriage of God with mankind through the incarnation of our Lord takes place on the Cross, which gives birth to the new humanity which is the Church.

Christian matrimony is born out of this divine marriage. It is, as St. Paul says, the sacramental concretization of what happens in this great Mystery. And so we must always learn anew the link between the Cross and the Resurrection, between the Cross and redemption, to better appreciate this Sacrament.

Let us pray to the Lord that He may help us proclaim this Mystery well, to live this Mystery, to learn from married couples how they live their sacrament, to help us live with our Cross until we too experience the joy of Resurrection.

D. Gualtiero Isacchi, in charge of the diocesan service for youth ministry:
The youth are at the center of greater attention from our diocese, as in all the Church throughout Italy. The World Youth Days have brought many of them to a discovery of faith. So many have responded and are enthusiastic. But generally our parishes are not equipped to take them in properly. The parishes and our pastoral workers are not sufficiently prepared to dialog with them. Priests who are already committed to so many other tasks do not have the time to listen to them properly. One pays them attention when they become a problem or when we need their attendance to liven up a celebration or a feast.

How can it be possible for a priest today to show a preferential attitude for the youth in an already overcrowded pastoral agenda? How can we serve young people on the basis of their values instead of 'using' them for our own purposes?

I wish first of all to underscore what you just said. On occasions like World Youth Day or the recent Pentecost Vigil, we see a desire among the youth, a search, we might even say, for God. They want to see if there is a God and if so, what is He telling us. And so there exists an availability, an openness to God, even despite the many difficulties today. And not just availability but enthusiasm.

So we must do what we can to keep this flame alive, a flame that burns brightly on occasions like World Youth Day. What must we do? That is a question we all share.

I think that in this matter precisely is where we must exercise an integrated ministry because not every parish priest really has the time to occupy himself enough with young people. So we need a ministry that transcends the limits of the parish and even the limits of the priest's work. A ministry that of necessity must involve many workers.

It seems to me that, under the coordination of the Bishop, a way should be found, on the one hand, to integrate the youth into the parish, so that they can be the ferment for parochial life; and on the other hand, to find extra-parochial persons who can work with them. Both should go together.

It must be suggested to our youth that they can integrate themselves into the life of the diocese, not only in parish work but in other contexts which ultimately point them back to their parishes. One must favor all initiatives in this direction.

I think that the concept and experience of volunteer work is very important. Young people should not be left merely to indulging their diversions, but they should be given tasks in which they see that they are needed, in which they have a sense of doing something good for others.

If they feel this impulse to do something good for humanity, for someone, for a group, then they will have a reason to involve themselves and will even find their own positive way of
getting involved, their own expression of the Christian ethic.

It is very important that they find tasks that need their involvement, that enable them to render positive service inspired by Christ's love, so that they themselves will look for the sources they can draw on to find the strength and the commitment for these services.

Another worthwhile experience for them are prayer groups, in which they learn to listen to the Word of God, to learn the Word of God precisely in their situation as young people, and to enter into contact with God.

This means they should learn to take part in the common forms of prayer, the Liturgy, which initially may seem quite inaccessible to them. It would be useful to have classes in liturgy, which they can attend.

This way they will learn that the Word of God seeks us out and speaks to us today even after so long a time [since Christ lived on earth], that we bring the fruits of the earth and our work to the Lord and we find them transformed into gifts of God, that we speak like children to our Father and in turn, we receive the gift of Himself. We receive the mission of going forth into the world with the gift of His Presence.

At the same time, it is useful to have special occasions during which the young people can present themselves in performance. I heard that recently here in Albano, there was a theatrical presentation on the life of St. Francis.

To be involved in something like this means to enter into the person of St. Francis, into his time, and therefore, to widen one's own personality. This is just an example, and perhaps rather singular. It could be an occasion to educate oneself further, to appreciate the context of Christian tradition, to reawaken the thirst to know better what sources this saint drew from.

He was not just an environmentalist or a pacifist. He was above all a convert. I read with great pleasure that the Bishop of Assisi, Mons. Sorrentino, precisely in order to counteract the popular misuse of the figure of St. Francis, wished to declare the seventh centenary of Francis's conversion as a "Year of Conversion" to underscore what was the true challenge in the saint's life.

Perhaps we could all excite young people a little by making them understand what conversion means, using the example of St. Francis to show that conversion is a way to amplify life.

Francis at first was some sort of playboy who later felt that his way of life was unsatisfactory. He heard the voice of the Lord telling him, "Rebuild my house." Gradually, he would learn what it meant to "build the House of the Lord."

At the moment, I do not have answers that are very concrete because, thanks be to God, I find myself at a point where our young people are already united. But we should make use of all the possibilities offered to us by movements, associations, volunteer action, other activities to occupy the youth. We should also present the young people to our parishioners so that they see what they are and what they do. And we need a vocational ministry. All of this must be coordinated by the Bishop.

We will find pastoral workers among the youth themselves if we engage their genuine cooperation. This way, we can open the way to 'conversion,' show them the joy of knowing that God exists and cares about us, that we have access to God, and that we can help each other in 'rebuilding His House.'

In the end, it seems to me, this is our mission, at times difficult, but in the end, something very beautiful - that of constructing the House of God in the world today.

I thank you for your attention and I beg your pardon for the fragmentedness of my answers. We must work together so that the "House of God" may grow in our time, and that many young people will find the path of service to the Lord.

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Anonymous said...


Thanks for this set of news. This interview does ROCK!

Keep the news coming.



assiniboine said...

Though possibly His Holiness isn't entirely au fait with the workings of the executive and the legislature vis-a-vis the judiciary in countries where the constitution contains a bill of rights. He has called for Catholic politicians in Canada to be more forthright in opposing legislation which runs counter to Catholic doctrine (presumably he's talking about abortion and gay marriage), whereas in fact the executive and the legislature have their hands tied once the courts have ruled that legislative curbs on such things are out of the hands of Parliament and the Government. Which isn't of course to say that the commentaries in the Toronto Globe & Mail were particularly well-informed: mostly extremely bone-headed and oblivious of the foregoing. My view is that the Pope is entirely within his rights and indeed his duty in instructing Ontario's bishops to be more proactive in raising the profile of religion in political life; it's just that this is no longer, strictly speaking, a political issue, and the water is over the dam.

"Pope assails Canadian laws
Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict sparked a debate about the place of religious beliefs in Canadian politics Friday, telling Ontario bishops Canada has excluded “God from the public sphere” with laws supporting same-sex marriage and abortion.

The pontiff told a group of seven visiting bishops in Vatican City that Canadian Catholic politicians are ignoring the values of their religion, yielding to “ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls.”

"In the name of tolerance your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of freedom of choice it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children,” the Pope said.

"A representative with the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops who was travelling with the bishops in Italy said the group was busy with engagements and unable to comment immediately on the Pope's message.

"Alfonse Ainsworth, general secretary of the organization, said he expects the bishops will take the Pope's words into consideration when planning their strategy for the next provincial and federal election.

"'I'm sure they'll be studying the comments and the context and making sure they follow through,' he said.

"The meeting was a routine one the Pope has with regional bishops every five years. The Pope met with bishops from Atlantic Canada in May, telling them Canada was “suffering from the pervasive effects of secularism” and pointed to “the plummeting birth rate” as proof.

"But the pontiff's strong criticism Friday re-ignited a debate about the separation of church and state in Canada. Gilles Marchildon, executive director of gay-rights advocates Egale Canada, said politicians represent all Canadians of various faiths and should keep their personal beliefs out of the House of Commons.

"'Because of that, politicians have a responsibility to not be proponents of a particular faith when making decisions that affect everyone,' said Mr. Marchildon.

"'We don't have a state religion in Canada.'

"Just as government doesn't instruct the Catholic Church how to celebrate communion, the church shouldn't instruct politicians on who can get married,' he added.

"'I'm surprised the Pope doesn't realize that gate can swing both ways.'

"But Joanne McGarry, executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League, said the Pope has every right to instruct Catholics on how to live their lives.

"'That's what popes have always done,' she said.

"Pat O'Brien, the former Liberal London-area MP who resigned over his party's stand on same-sex marriage, told CBC Newsworld there is no such thing as a separation between church and state.

"'A morality of convenience is not much of a morality and if you're going to leave behind your Catholic Christian beliefs and principles because you walk into a legislative chamber, to me that would be a morality of convenience,' said Mr. O'Brien, who is now part of Vote Marriage Canada.

"'Politicians who say they are practicing Catholics and practising Christians will hopefully very carefully consider the words of the Holy Father.'

"Moira McQueen, professor of theology at the University of Toronto, said the Pope's comments were justified. Many outside the Catholic community feel the same-sex marriage debate was rushed through, Ms. McQueen said, and was driven more by political pressure than conscience.

"'It was more a political push rather than a real need for the bulk of the population,” said Ms. McQueen, who is also director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute. “Any Catholic politician who was moving along the lines of same-sex marriage and totally ignoring what Pope Benedict was saying, isn't really following their conscience from a Catholic perspective.'

"The Pope's message won't go unnoticed by the Catholic community, Ms. McQueen said, especially come election time.

"'I think he'll have a fair amount of influence,” she said.

"Benedict has made the defence of traditional family values a major goal of his papacy, speaking out often on the issue. During a trip to Spain in July, he challenged that country's Socialist government for instituting liberal reforms such as gay marriage and fast-track divorce.

"Same-sex marriage was recognized by Canada's Parliament last year, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said there will be a vote in the House of Commons this fall to determine whether the issue should be revisited."

Gashwin said...

@Assiniboine: I am sure His Holiness realizes that his remarks are not going to cause many (if any) politicians to rethink. He does have a right to instruct the flock, and anyone else who is listening, as to what the Church thinks is right and wrong. I guess the feeling is, someone's got to keep the banner flying in the face of a completely different worldview.

I don't know anything about Canadian politics, but if it is at all similar to the US, I'm sure many Catholic politicians aren't reluctant supporters of this legislation ... I'm sure many agree with those who say it's a matter of human rights etc.

It always bewilders me when people say the Pope shouldn't interfere. I thought Pius XII got castigated for not speaking out about the treatment of the Jews during WWII (not that gay marriage is the same as the Holocaust!) ... damned if you do, damned if you don't.