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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Possible Beatification of G.K. CHESTERTON ?


Interview on Possible Beatification of English Author

By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, JULY 14, 2009 ( Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) is well known for his clever and humorous writing, and his thought-provoking paradoxes. But he might also become known as a saint, if a proposal to launch his cause of beatification goes forward.

ZENIT spoke with Paolo Gulisano, author of the first Italian-language biography of the great English writer ("Chesterton & Belloc: Apologia e Profezia," Edizioni Ancora), about the origins of this proposal. Here, Gulisano explains why Chesterton might merit recognition as a saint.

ZENIT: Who is promoting this cause of beatification?

Gulisano: The cultural association dedicated to him, the Chesterton Society, founded in England in 1974 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the great author's birth, with the idea of spreading awareness of the work, thought and figure of this extraordinary personality. For years now, there has been talk of a possible cause of beatification, and a few days ago, during an international conference organized in Oxford on "The Holiness of G.K. Chesterton" -- with the participation of the best exponents in the field of Chesterton studies -- it was decided to go ahead with this proposal.

ZENIT: Why a beatification?

Gulisano: Many people feel there is clear evidence of Chesterton's sanctity: Testimonies about him speak of a person of great goodness and humility, a man without enemies, who proposed the faith without compromises but also without confrontation, a defender of Truth and Charity. His greatness is also in the fact that he knew how to present Christianity to a wide public, made up of Christians and secular people. His books, ranging from "Orthodoxy" to "St. Francis of Assisi," from "Father Brown" to "The Ball and the Cross," are brilliant presentations of the Christian faith, witnessed with clarity and valor before the world.

According to the ancient categories of the Church, we could define Chesterton as a "confessor of the faith." He was not just an apologist, but also a type of prophet who glimpsed far ahead of time the dramatic character of modern issues like eugenics. The English Dominican Aidan Nichols sustains that Chesterton should be seen as nothing less than a possible "father of the Church" of the 20th century.

ZENIT: What are his heroic virtues?

Gulisano: Faith, hope and charity: These were Chesterton's fundamental virtues. Moreover, he was innocent, simple, profoundly humble. Though having personally experienced sorrow, he was a chorister of Christian joy. Chesterton's work is a type of medicine for the soul, or better, it can more precisely be defined as an antidote. The writer himself had actually used the metaphor of antidote to define the effect of sanctity on the world: The saint has the objective of being a sign of contradiction and of restoring mental sanity to a world gone crazy.

ZENIT: What is the cultural, literary and moral contribution that Chesterton has left to British society and to Christianity?

Gulisano: When Pope Pius XI was informed of the death of the great writer, he sent a telegram of condolences through his secretary of state, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli. In the telegram, he mourned the loss of a "devout son of the Holy Church, rich defender of the gifts of the Catholic faith." This was the second time in history that a Pontiff would attribute the title "defender of the faith" to an Englishman. Perhaps the secretary of state did not realize the ironic parallelism, which would have sparked in Gilbert one of his proverbial guffaws -- but the other Englishman was Henry VIII, the man who inflicted on the Church in England its gravest and deepest wound. Chesterton tried to again bring England, and also the world, closer to God, the faith, reason. 

ZENIT: What is your opinion on all this?

Gulisano: Reading Chesterton, whether his novels or his essays, always leaves the reader with great serenity and a sense of hope, which certainly does not come from an immature and worldly optimistic vision of life -- which in reality couldn't be farther from the thought of Chesterton, who carefully denounced all the aberrations of modernity -- but rather from a Christian conception, the virile strength of the religious experience.

Chesterton's proposal is to take all of reality seriously, beginning with the interior reality of man, and to confidently make use of the intellect, that is to say, of common sense, in its original sanity, purified of every ideological incrustation.

One rarely reads pages that speak of faith, conversion and doctrine that are so clear and incisive, while being free of every sentimental or moralistic excess. This comes from Chesterton's attentive reading of reality; he knew that the most harmful consequence of de-Christianization has not been the grave ethical straying but rather the straying of reason, synthesized in this critique of his: The modern world has suffered a mental fall much greater than the moral one.

Faced to this reality, Chesterton chose Catholicism, and affirms that there are at least 10,000 reasons to justify this choice, every one of them valid and well-founded, but able to be boiled down to one reason: That Catholicism is true. The responsibility and the task of the Church then consist in this: In the courage to believe, in the first place, and therefore to denounce the paths that lead to nothingness or destruction, to a blind wall or a prejudice. An undoubtedly holy work, and the holiness of Gilbert Chesterton, which I hope the Church will recognize, already shines and sparkles before the world.

[Translation by Kathleen Naab]

Monday, December 27, 2010

VIETNAM: Bishop banned from celebrating Christmas

Bishop of Kontum banned from celebrating Christmas Mass with Montagnards
by Joseph Dang 
Previously the government had granted permission. The authorities are alarmed by the great wave of conversions in the diocese: 50 thousand in the last two years. The police has also sought to withdraw the license of the drivers of the "vagabond bishop", who travel hundreds of kilometers for his pastoral work.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The Vietnamese authorities have banned Mgr. Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, Bishop of Kontum from celebrating Christmas mass with the faithful of the village of Lang Son in K'Bang county (central Vietnam), the region of the Montagnards. The ban was imposed despite the fact that the government had been informed of the event.

In a pastoral letter dated Dec. 22, Mgr. Michael Hoang stated that he had discussed with Vietnam government if he, as the ordinary bishop of the diocese, could carry out his pastoral duties during this Christmas period without any obstacles from the local government. "Authorities at various levels assured me I could do so," he wrote.

However, at 10 am on Christmas Day, local officials at Son Lang backed by police and militia banned him from celebrating the Mass. "If you want to celebrate your Mass you can do so, but not for everyone here. You have to go to each family and each Mass cannot last for more than one hour," he was told. He gave his blessings to the congregation and cancelled the Mass as a gesture of protest.

Among the possible reasons for the ban is an attempt to hamper the prelate's hugely successful evangelization work. Bishop Hoang, who speaks French, English and the local languages of ethnic Montagnards (Bana, Jarai, Sedang ...), since the day of his installation in August 2003, has witnessed a great wave of conversions: 30 000 Montagnards converted to Catholicism in 2008 and another 20 thousand in 2009.

This large number of conversions has generated concern in the government which is trying to prevent it in every possible way. Many diocesan priests and dozens of men - engaged in pastoral work for over 216 thousand Catholics - have been meted out a number of prohibitions.

On Christmas Eve, the Bishop was able to celebrate mass in the village of Trung An (Kon Chro county). He then had to go to a nearby convent to dine and spend the night. The police went to the convent to seize the licenses of the drivers of the bishop, but did not find him there. On the way he had encountered a young woman who wanted to commit suicide and had accompanied her to hospital. After sleeping outdoors, Mgr. Hoang was celebrate another Mass, early in the morning, at Yang Trung, before being stopped in Son Lang

Mgr. Hoang is known as "the vagabond bishop" among his friends for many miles he travels up and down his diocese to visit his community. Although hampered, he has not lost his sense of humor. Commenting on his sleeping outdoors under the stars he says: "I sleep in a hotel with a million stars.

The Diocese of Kontum, which covers 25,758 square km is one of the largest in Vietnam.

Apostle of Brittany: Julian Maunoir, SJ

Blessed Julien Maunoir

Known as the "Apostle of Brittany", he rekindled faith in a time of great difficulty

Julien Maunoir (1606-1683) entered the Jesuits wanting to be a missionary in Canada, but he found his mission in his native Brittany ministering to the forgotten people of northern France. Maunoir was born in the tiny hamlet of Saint-George-de-Reintembault in 1606 and then studied at the Jesuit college in Rennes where his teachers spoke often about the Jesuit missionaries in China, Japan and Canada. After he entered the Jesuits in 1625, he had several classmates who did become missionaries—including Saints Isaac Jogues and Gabriel Lalemant. But Maunoir's path veered toward the people of Brittany after he learned to preach in the difficult Breton language during his period of formation. The decision not to go to the foreign missions became clear after he almost died when an infection in his arm became gangrenous; Maunoir was at the point of death when he made a vow to devote his life to preaching to the Bretons if his health was restored. His rapid recovery showed God's will, and he was ordained in 1637.

After finishing his studies he returned to Quimper where he met Fr. Michael Le Nobletz, an itinerant missionary of Lower Brittany who had retired because of ill health. The young Jesuit decided to follow the methods that Le Nobletz had used among the poor hardworking peasants and fisherman of the peninsula. Accompanied by Father Pierre Bernard, Maunoir visited cities and towns of the mainland as well as many offshore islands, some of which had not been visited by a priest in many years. The two men gave missions that usually lasted four to five weeks and attempted to establish a good foundation in Christian doctrine. They used charts as visual aids showing the life of Christ, the seven deadly sins and key points of theology. They also used hymns that they had learned from Fr. Nobletz, but Maunoir also composed many new ones which the people learned during the missions.

These missions were very successful. During the 43 years that Fr. Maunoir travelled around Brittany, he gave approximately 400 missions. Often several parishes came together for one mission, with up to 10,000 to 30,000 people taking part. The parish priests helped hear confessions and teach catechism, and some of them asked permission of their bishops to continue in the work with their Jesuit mentor. By 1683 there were almost 1,000 "Breton Missionaries" who carried on the work.

As he got older Father Maunoir had to reduce the number of missions he gave. He was on his way to start a mission when he sensed that death was near. His Jesuit companions helped him to Plévin where he took to bed and contracted pneumonia. When he died several weeks later, the people demanded that he be buried in the parish church there despite the bishop's desire that he buried in the cathedral.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Brittany (Bretagne): BRETON Culture & Tradition

The Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos

By Fr. Alexander Schmemann, The Services of Christmas

The Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos: On the second day of the feast, the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated. Combining the hymns of the Nativity with those celebrating the Mother of God, the Church points to Mary as the one through whom the Incarnation was made possible. His humanity - concretely and historically - is the humanity He received from Mary. His body is, first of all, her body. His life is her life. This feast, the assembly in honor of the Theotokos, is probably the most ancient feast of Mary in the Christian tradition, the very beginning of her veneration by the Church.

Six days of post-feast bring the Christmas season to a close on December 31. At the services of all these days, the Church repeats the hymns and songs glorifying Christ's Incarnation, reminding us that the source and foundation of our salvation is only to be found in the One who, as God before the ages, came into this world and for our sake was "born as a little Child."

Psalm 150 Commentary - John Paul II



Wednesday 9 January 2002


Psalm 150
'Let every living being praise the Lord'


1. The hymn which just served as a support of our prayer is Psalm 150, the last canticle in the Psalter. The last word that rings out in Israel's book of prayers is alleluia, namely, the pure praise of God, and this is why the Psalm is presented twice in the Liturgy of Lauds, on the second and fourth Sundays.

The brief text is punctuated with a set of 10 imperatives repeating the same word, "hallelû", "praise!". As if they were eternal music and song, they never seem to end, rather like what happens with the famous Alleluia chorus of Handel's Messiah. Praise of God becomes like the continuous breath of the soul. As has been written, "this is one of the rewards for being human:  quiet exaltation and the capacity for celebration; it is summed up well in a phrase that Rabbi Akiba offered his disciples:  A song every day, / a song for every day" (A.J. Heschel, Chi è l'uomo?, Milan 1971, p. 178, the English title is Who is Man?).

2. Psalm 150 seems to unfold in three moments. At the beginning, in the first two verses (vv. 1-2) we fix our gaze on "the Lord" in "his sanctuary", on "his power", "his wonderful works", his "greatness". Then, in the second moment, as in a genuine musical movement, the orchestra of the temple of Zion is involved in praising the Lord (vv. 3-5b) that accompanies the sacred dances and songs. Finally, in the last verse of the Psalm (cf. v. 5c) the universe appears, represented by "every living thing" or, if one wishes to follow the original Hebrew, by "everything that breathes". Life itself becomes praise, praise that rises to the Creator from the beings he created.

3. In our first encounter with Psalm 150, it will be enough to reflect on the first and last parts of the hymn. They frame the second part, the heart of the composition, that we shall examine in the future, the next time the Psalm is proposed by the Liturgy of Lauds.

The "sanctuary" is the first place where the musical and the prayerful theme unfolds (cf. v. 1). The original Hebrew speaks of the pure, transcendent "sacred" area in which God dwells. It is then a reference to the horizon of heaven and paradise where, as the Book of the Apocalypse will explain, the eternal, perfect liturgy of the Lamb is celebrated (cf. for example, Apoc 5,6-14). The mystery of God, in which the saints are welcomed for full communion, is a place of light and joy, of revelation and love. We can understand why the Septuagint translation and the Latin Vulgate use the word "saints" instead of "sanctuary":  "Praise the Lord in his saints!"

4. From heaven our thought moves to earth, with an emphasis on the "mighty deeds" wrought by God that manifest "his great majesty" (v. 2). These mighty deeds are described in Psalm 104 [105], that invites the Israelites to "meditate on all his wonderful works" (v. 2), to remember "the wonderful works that he has done, his prodigies, and the judgements he uttered" (v. 5). The Psalmist then recalls "the covenant which he [the Lord] made with Abraham" (v. 9), the extraordinary story of Joseph, the miracles of the liberation from Egypt and the journey through the desert, and lastly, the gift of the land. Another Psalm speaks of the troubles from which the Lord delivers those who "cry" to him; those he sets free are asked repeatedly to "Let them thank the Lord for his mercy, for his wonderful works for the sons of men!" (Ps 106-107, 8,15,21,31).

Thus in our Psalm we can understand the reference to "mighty deeds" as the original Hebrew says, that is, the powerful "prodigies" (cf. v. 2) that God disseminates in the history of salvation. Praise becomes a profession of faith in God the Creator and Redeemer, a festive celebration of divine love that is revealed by creating and saving, by giving life and by delivering.

5. Thus we come to the last verse of Psalm 150 (cf. v. 5c[6]). The Hebrew word used for the "living" who praise God refers to "breathing", as I said earlier, but also to something intimate and profound that is inherent in man.

Although one might think that all created life should be a hymn of praise to the Creator, it is more correct to maintain that the human creature has the primary role in this chorus of praise. Through the human person, spokesman for all creation, all living things praise the Lord. Our breath of life that also presupposes self-knowledge, awareness and freedom (cf. Prv 20,27) becomes the song and prayer of the whole of life that vibrates in the universe.

That is why all of us should address one another "with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord" with all our hearts (Eph 5,19).

6. In transcribing the verses of Psalm 150, the authors of the Hebrew manuscripts often portray the Menorah, the famous seven-branched candlestick set in the Holy of Holies of the temple of Jerusalem. In this way they suggest a beautiful interpretation of the Psalm, a true and proper Amen to the prayer that our "elder brothers" have always prayed:  the whole man with all the instruments and musical forms that his genius has invented  trumpet, harp, zither, drums, dance, strings, flutes, sounding cymbals, clashing cymbals, as the Psalm says as well as "everything that breathes", is invited to burn like the Menorah before the Holy of Holies, in a constant prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

In union with the Son, perfect voice of the whole universe that he created, let us too become a constant prayer before God's throne.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

"Of Gods and Men" (French trailer): Cannes Award Winner 2010

"Of Gods and Men" (English subtitles)

"Of Gods and Men": Trappist Martyrs of Atlas, Algeria

'We tried to portray their humanity'

Anna Arco talks to the writer behind the haunting tale of seven Trappist monks murdered in Algeria

By Anna Arco on Monday, 20 December 2010

Étienne Comar, left, is pictured with actor Lambert Wilson, who plays Christian de Chergé, the prior of the monks of Tibhirine (Imagenet/AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
The discovery of the decapitated heads of seven French Trappist monks in Algeria in May 1996 shocked France and provoked a great outpouring of public emotion. Over 10,000 people gathered in Paris's Place du Trocadéro to show their solidarity with the murdered monks.
Earlier that year, in March, the monks had been abducted from the Tibhirine monastery in the Atlas mountains by a group of 20 armed men. For many, their decapitation also marked the climax of Algeria's civil war between Islamist rebel groups and the Algerian government. The monks' bodies were never found, which raised questions about who had actually killed them, Was it the Armed Islamic Group, which had taken responsibility for their kidnapping, or was it a botched rescue attempt by the Algerian military?
As the discussion focused on the way in which the Trappists died, Étienne Comar saw another, more important story: why did the monks stay in the face of certain death? Comar is the writer of Des hommes et des dieux (Of Gods and Men), a film based around the story of the Tibhirine monks which has become a surprise success and is likely to be the French submission for the Academy Awards.
"I was already trying to write about it in 1996," he says, "when it was still totally contemporary to see a coalition between the Muslim community and the Christian community. Before 2001, Christians and Muslims living together in communities was not a problem, but this changed. It was interesting to look this in light of Christian de Chergé's spiritual testament. When the monks were killed, the event really shocked people."
Until the Algerian civil war, the monks in Tibhirine coexisted peacefully with their Muslim neighbours. But things started changing. When some Croatian labourers were killed near the monastery, Fr Christian de Chergé, the prior of the community, sensing danger, composed a moving testament which was opened after the monks were killed. In it, he anticipated that he might be a victim of terrorism and forgave those who he sensed were about to kill him. He also warned readers against judging Algeria and Islam by the standards set by the Islamic fundamentalists. Fr de Chergé's letter is read out and becomes the voiceover at the end of the film as the monks trudge through the snow in captivity.
Although Comar tried to write about these Algerian Trappists immediately after the events it took his father's death, toying with the idea of leaving the industry and a sleepless night at the beginning of the Cannes Festival, 10 years later, for the project to begin in earnest. Flicking through channels on the television in his hotel room Comar, so the story goes, came across Emmanuel Audrain's documentary The Testament of Tibhirine.
"In fact, in 2006, on the 10th anniversary of the monks' deaths, there were many controversial works being produced about their execution," he recalls. "There were also some books, the diaries of the monks and so on, there was Clerge's letter, the documentary and other materials being made public, but somehow we in France were missing what was important. Not a lot was being said about their lives, but I felt the media coverage obliterated the real story about the monks, about their engagement on the ground."
Comar adds: "The story of their lives was very important for the film. I thought, what is the hidden face of the iceberg? The drama here, before their execution, is so much more interesting. Why had they wanted to be in there in Algeria when it was dangerous for them?"
The film shows the life in Tibhirine in its simplicity. The monks till the fields and go about their work, mingling with their neighbours, giving them medical aid, personal advice and even offering them their sanctuary because the settlement near the monastery lacks a mosque. The universal prayer of the Church punctuates the scenes and the psalms function almost like a chorus throughout the film. Life grows darker as the situation in Algeria deteriorates. The villagers are frightened. So are the monks. Very little focus is put on their death. Rather, Comar and the film's director, Xavier Beauvois (known as a bit of a maverick within the French film industry), focus on the months, days and hours leading up to the kidnapping. They look at the struggles each member of the community goes through before accepting the possibility of imminent death.
When Comar contacted Beauvois the director was interested but insisted that all the fictional parts which Comar had added be excised from the script. For the sake of authenticity – and this is one of the amazing aspects of the film, it gets community life so right – the two men got in touch with Henry Quinson, a former trader turned monk turned layman. He was to be the monastic adviser to the film and had known some of the Tibhirine monks, as well as having translated a significant book about them.
Comar says: "He [Quinson] was a young monk at the time of the execution, so he stayed during all the shooting so we could be sure to get all the details right. We wanted to be careful and make sure everything was true, like a documentary. Xavier Beauvois is very interested in working with a true realism, to get the atmosphere and the people right."
Quinson led them through questions of Scripture and theology and once the actors had been cast they spent some time in Quinson's former monastery, the Abbey of Tamie, living the monastic life.
During the casting for the film, Comar and Beauvois were looking for faces and characteristics which resembled those of the actual monks who had been killed. They wanted to use the precedent set by monastic life and use a lot of silence for the film, which meant it was important for the actors' faces to bear some resemblance to those of the monks and they had to understand what the monks were going through, Comar explains. The emotions the monks were going through were simple, very deep but also human. Once chosen the actors were told to read the background materials about the characters.
The film's success, spread by word of mouth, took its creators somewhat by surprise. Comar says he is not a commentator so finds it difficult to explain the film's appeal, but he believes that people liked the cast and the atmosphere created by the slow rhythm of the film. He says that perhaps the values and the topics covered by the film are things that people wanted to hear now. In some ways the monks have chosen a life which is the reverse of contemporary society, involving the gift of self and the possibility of fraternity. For many in France, he says, the monks' peaceful and friendly coexistence with the Muslim community was also part of the appeal, that people could see dialogue between the two religions was possible.
Des hommes et des dieux gives a far more sympathetic treatment of religious life and the Church than most people are used to, without being saccharine. Was that intentional?
"It is sympathetic to their humanity, which is more important than the question of faith," Comar says. "We tried to portray their humanity, their doubts. The monks are real people who are doubting their position in a way that everyone can understand because they are in a dangerous situation."
He explains that the situation evokes emotions that anyone can be sympathetic to, but that it could just as well have been set in a Tibetan monastery with all the problems that Buddhist monks face there.
"Everybody can understand the dilemma and the problems they are facing," he says. "They are not being presented with the life of a saint, which is inaccessible to many people."
Des hommes et des dieux is now on general release

G K Chesterton, saint of the blogosphere

He loved debate and controversy but at the same time managed to remain magnanimous to his enemy

By Francis Phillips on Monday, 20 December 2010

I note from the posts in response to my last two blogs that some people get extraordinarily heated over certain issues such as women's rights, the spectre of over-population and so on. It sometimes seems as if it is not possible to conduct a serious debate without wanting to punch your opponent verbally in the face. What is the antidote? To love your adversary even as you explain to him/her that their arguments are shallow, ignorant, irrational or confused; easier said than done.
There is one man who loved debate, controversy and argument while at the same time managing to remain magnanimous to his enemy: this was G K Chesterton. I have just been reading The Holiness of G K Chesterton, edited by William Oddie, and reflecting that Chesterton would have taken to the blogosphere with gusto. Words, writing and quick repartee came naturally to him; ideas and images flowed ceaselessly from his pen. Faced by the atheist brigade he would have fizzed and sparkled, laughed and lunged, as ready to win over as well as to win.
In his introduction, Oddie quotes GKC on St Thomas Aquinas: Aquinas's huge productivity, Chesterton comments, could not have been achieved, "if he had not been thinking even when he was not writing; but above all thinking combatively. This, in his case, certainly did not mean bitterly or spitefully or uncharitably, but it did mean combatively. As a matter of fact it is generally the man who is not ready to argue, who is ready to sneer. That is why in recent literature there has been so little argument and so much sneering."
Sneering was not in Chesterton's make-up. He would have scorned such a tone of voice, as well as its bedfellows, bitterness and spite. He was also holy – because he loved the truth and loved people; because he hated humbug and cant; because he was large-hearted and humble. "Holiness" is a category foreign to atheism; it smacks of Christian skulduggery and hypocrisy. If atheists could only think of holiness as a very large man, jesting and generous, candid and humorous, full of faith and radiating happiness, they would have some idea of what it is about.
Looking back on his life Chesterton once described it as "indefensibly happy" – the happiness of a man who has found the pearl of great price and wants to share it with everyone he meets. Let's pray for his canonisation – as the future saint of the blogosphere.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Rod of the root of Jesse,
and flower that blossomed from his stem, O Christ,
Thou hast sprung from the Virgin.
From the Mountain overshadowed by the forest
Thou hast come, made flesh from her that knew not wedlock,
O God who art not formed from matter.
Glory to Thy power, O Lord.

- Canon of Nativity, Ode 4

Social Comment: CANADA

No fear of stoning here

Nations built on Christian ideals promote freedom, even for critics


Last Updated: December 18, 2010 2:00am


It's Christmas time, and that can only mean one thing. A group of atheists and secular humanists are trying once again to place ads on the sides of city buses explaining that God is a myth, religion is pointless, and UFOs and Jesus have equal credibility.

Personally, I prefer my money to go to charities for hungry children and homeless families, but that's probably because I'm one of those silly Christians.
If, however, people want to make the sides of large vehicles slightly less boring they have a perfect right to do so. Unlike, for example, pro-life groups and organizations opposed to same-sex marriage which have repeatedly been told that their money isn't good enough for all sorts of public and private venues, and denied the right to purchase billboards.
Still, hypocrisy and double standard aside, as long as nobody is calling for violence or being horribly obscene an ad is an ad.
But do these jolly God-haters appreciate the irony of their actions? I very much doubt it.
You see, the only countries willing to allow them this freedom and prepared to protect them in their zeal are the very societies founded on the Christian principles the God-haters appear to despise.
That they occasionally mention Yahweh or Allah is little more than window-dressing; it is Christ, Christianity and the Christian God they are opposed to. Of course they are; Christianity is what mummy and daddy believed, and so it must be wrong and it must be cool to be nasty about it.
In non-Christian societies and in non-religious cultures — such as Stalinist Russia, the various Soviet satellites, Maoist China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Hitler's Germany and his fascist empire — these freedoms simply did not exist. And spare me the Internet mythology about Hitler being a Catholic or Stalin not being a militant atheist, because no genuine scholar of the Reich or the Gulag would support this nonsense.
Thus it's more than inconsistency and more like fundamental confusion. Nations built on Christian ideals promote freedom even for critics of Christian society, but nations built on other religions or on no religion at all suppress freedom and allow very little criticism. Which should lead even hysterical atheists to support Christian-based cultures out of a support for freedom if not a regard for Christianity.
What we see, though, is the opposite. Because it would be dangerous to mock Muhammad in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, or argue for God in North Korea, and it's so much easier and safer to avoid the genuine issues and play armchair warrior.
Religion can cause horror, such as women being stoned for blasphemy in Pakistan or homosexuals hanged in Iran. But there are no attempts to put ads on buses in Karachi or Tehran.
The state giving people some time off at Christmas or mentioning God in the national anthem doesn't seem all that bad compared to being locked up for 30 years in Marxist Cuba for being a Christian, but perhaps I don't appreciate just how awful it must be as an atheist in contemporary Canada.
That's probably why they tend to look so unhappy and angry. Merry Christmas you poor things, Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Christmas for Iraqi Christians

No Christmas for Iraqi Christians

KIRKUK, Iraq (AP) – Iraqi Christians on Wednesday called off Christmas festivities across the country as al-Qaida insurgents threatened more attacks on a beleaguered community still terrified from a bloody siege at a Baghdad church two months earlier. That and the continued murders and beatings going on daily.

A council representing Christian denominations across Iraq advised its followers to cancel public Christmas celebrations out of concern over new terror attacks and as a show of mourning for the victims of the church siege and other violence.

Church officials in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, the southern city of Basra and in the capital confirmed they will not put up Christmas decorations or hold evening Mass and have urged worshippers to refrain from decorating their homes. Even an appearance by Santa Claus was called off.

"Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaida against Iraqi Christians," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk. "We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak."

Christians across Iraq have been living in fear since a Baghdad church attack in October that left 68 people dead. Days later insurgents targeted Christian homes and neighborhoods across the capital with a series of bombs.

An al-Qaida front group that claimed responsibility for the church siege vowed at the time to carry out a reign of terror against Christians.

The Islamic State of Iraq renewed its threats in a message posted late Tuesday on a website frequented by Islamic extremists. The group said it wants the release of two women it claims are being held captive by Egypt's Coptic Church.

Muslim extremists in Egypt say the church has detained the women for allegedly converting to Islam. The church denies the allegations but extremists in Iraq have latched onto the issue. The message Tuesday was addressed to Iraq's Christian community and said it was designed to "pressure" Egypt.

Sunni Muslim extremists that make up groups like al-Qaida perceive Christians to be nonbelievers aligned with Western countries such as the U.S.

Few reliable statistics exist on the number of Christians in this nation of 29 million. A recent State Department report says Christian leaders estimate 400,000 to 600,000 remain, down from a prewar level as high as 1.4 million by some estimates.

Since the deadly church siege, the U.N. estimates some 1,000 Christian families have fled to the Kurdish region in northern Iraq which is generally much safer.

For those who remain, this Christmas will be a somber affair.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Sako said church officials will not put up Christmas decorations outside the church and urged worshippers to refrain from decorating their homes.

A traditional Santa Claus appearance outside one of the city's churches has also been called off, he said. Money usually used on celebrations or gifts will instead go to help Christian refugees, he said.

Ashour Binyamin, a 55-year-old Christian from Kirkuk said he and his family would not go to church on Christmas but instead would celebrate at home.

At Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation church where more than 120 parishioners were held hostage by gunmen on Oct. 31, there will be no Christmas tree and Mass on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day has been canceled. Only a modest manger display representing the birth of Jesus Christ will mark the occasion.

"We have canceled all celebrations in the church," said Father Mukhlis. "We are still in deep sorrow over the innocent victims who fell during the evil attack."

In the Karradah neighborhood, where many of the city's remaining Christians live, a number of churches were guarded by security forces Wednesday and surrounded by razor wire. Shop owners in the neighborhood said few people were buying the Christmas trees and Santa Claus toys on sale.

One Christian woman vowed to go to church on Christmas Day, despite what she described as the failure of the government to protect her small minority. But she would not be visiting any friends during the holiday season because all of them have already fled the city.

"We did not put any decorations inside or outside our house this year," said Ikhlas Bahnam. "We see no reason to celebrate."

In Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Syrian Orthodox priest Faiz Wadee said there will be no public Christmas celebrations either.

Christians in Iraq's second-largest city of Basra, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad decided to cancel all celebrations as well. Saad Matti, a Christian legislator on the Basra provincial council, said the decision was made out of respect for the victims of the church siege and because of the al-Qaida threats.

"There will be only a small Mass in one church in Basra without any signs of joy or decoration and under the protection of Iraqi security forces," he said. "We are fully aware of al-Qaida threats."

Matti said Christians would also tone down their celebrations out of respect for a Shiite holiday going on at the same time. The majority of Iraqis are Shiite Muslims, especially in the south.

Even among Iraqi Christians who've managed to escape the violence here, the mood was subdued.

Maher Murqous, an Iraqi Christian from Mosul who fled to neighboring Syria after being threatened by militants, said his relatives are still at risk in Iraq. Since they cannot celebrate, neither will he.

"We will pray for the sake of Iraq. That's all we can do," he said.


Revival of Jesus' language at OxfordRSSFacebookDecember 22, 2010

The study of Aramaic has undergone a revival at Oxford, even as the effects of the war in Iraq have threatened its existence as a spoken language. Some 56 scholars are now studying language there, outpacing the number of those currently studying classical Greek.

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Chinese government rips Vatican statementRSSFacebookDecember 22, 2010

Less than a week after the Holy See denounced the Chinese government's repressive control of Church affairs, the State Administration for Religious Affairs has blasted the Vatican for its "attack on religious freedom in China."

"The Vatican's behavior is very imprudent and ungrounded," a government spokesman said. "The Vatican's position is well-known. It works to promote political ideas under the pretext of religious belief, which is very dangerous and will seriously harm the healthy development of Chinese Catholicism in China."

"Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of religion and at the same time, religious organizations should not be influenced by foreign forces," the statement continued.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

St. Juliana

St. Juliana of Nicomedia


Commemorated on December 21

The Holy Virgin Martyr Juliana, daughter of an illustrious pagan named Africanus, was born in the city of Nicomedia. As a child, she was betrothed to Elusius, one of the emperor's advisors. St. Juliana was endowed with a profound intellect and goodness of soul. She saw through the delusion and deception of the pagan faith, and secretly accepted holy baptism.

When the time of her wedding approached, Juliana refused to be married. Her father urged her not to break her engagement, but when she refused to obey him, he began to beat her viciously. Africanus then handed his daughter over to the Governor, who happened to be Elusius, Juliana's former fiancé. Elusius fervently asked Juliana to marry him, promising not to require her to abandon her faith. St. Juliana refused and said that she'd rather be put to death.

They beat Juliana harshly, but after each beating she received healing and new strength from God. Her punishment took place before a large number of people. Of these, 500 men and 150 women came to confess Christ after witnessing the steadfastness and courage of the holy virgin miraculously healed from her wounds. They were all beheaded, and were baptized in their own blood.

Convinced of the futility of attempting to separate the holy virgin from her heavenly Bridegroom, Eleusius sentenced Juliana to death. She accepted the sentence with joy and glorified the Lord for permitting her to receive a martyr's crown. The holy Martyr Juliana was executed in the year 304.

St. Juliana is the subject of an Anglo-Saxon poem, believed to have been written by Cynewulf in the eighth century.

Troparion (Tone 4) –

All-blameless bride and venerable trophy-bearer,

You are wedded to the Word of the immortal Father,

O glorious Juliana.

For having wisely disdained your mortal bridegroom,

You strove beyond nature to destroy the serpent,

And now you delight in the joys of your Bridegroom!

Kontakion (Tone 1) –

You were a beautiful virgin, wise Juliana,

and as your soul was wounded with divine love,

your body was also pierced with the wounds of martyrdom adorning you as a bride of Christ and His martyr.

Now as you dwell in the heavenly bridal chamber,

you pray for us all.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (

"The protection of human life [at all its stages] is the "rock solid and inviolable" foundation upon which all other human rights are based." - Benedict XVI

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pakistan: bishop denounces rape of 9-year-old Catholic girl RSS Facebook December 20, 2010

Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad has condemned the rape of a 9-year-old Catholic girl by a Muslim man.

"The incident is terrifying," he said. "I met the victims and I expressed my regret to them. I believe we must consider a pastoral and legal strategy, in an effort to stem the phenomenon of the abuse of Christian girl."

"Such incidents occur frequently," a local source told the Fides news agency. "Christian girls are considered goods to be damaged at leisure. Abusing them is a right. According to the community's mentality it is not even a crime. Muslims regard them as spoils of war."

While the man who raped the girl has been arrested, "the family is terrified because the village is mainly Muslim," Fides reports.

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Religious practice on the rise in England RSS Facebook December 20, 2010

Weekly Mass attendance, as well as attendance at Baptist and Pentecostal services, has increased in the United Kingdom in recent years, according to a new study published by Christian Research. While membership in the Church of England rose between 2007 and 2008, church attendance declined slightly.

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Uganda: prelate decries ritual child sacrifice RSS Facebook December 20, 2010

Speaking at the installation of a bishop on December 18, a Ugandan prelate denounced the practice of ritual child sacrifice, which the nation's leading newspaper described as "rampant."

"Why should you kill and sacrifice children in order to get rich?" asked Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu. "That is the craziness in human minds."

"Family values should be upheld," he added. "Why should one go for witchcraft and at the same time pretend to be a Christian?"

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Pope recalls dogma of Assumption, urges scholars to follow 'way of beauty' RSS Facebook December 20, 2010

In a message to Rome's pontifical academies, Pope Benedict recalled the 60th anniversary of the promulgation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"In the difficult and delicate historical moment that followed the conclusion of World War II, with that solemn gesture, Pius XII wished to indicate not only to Catholics, but to all men and women of good will, the singular figure of Mary as model and paradigm of the new humanity redeemed by Christ," Pope Benedict said.

After discussing the teaching of St. John Damascene, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and the Second Vatican Council on the Assumption, the Pontiff invited "experts in theology and Mariology to follow the via pulchritudinis [way of beauty], and I hope that, also in our days, thanks to a greater collaboration between theologians, liturgists and artists, incisive and effective messages can be offered to the admiration and contemplation of all."

"Theological and spiritual reflection, liturgy, Marian devotion, and artistic representation truly form a whole, a complete and effective message, capable of arousing the wonder of eyes, of touching the heart and of enticing the intelligence to a more profound understanding of the mystery of Mary in which we see our destiny reflected clearly and our hope proclaimed," he added.
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THEOLOGY: Christology and Marian Doctrine

Marian Doctrine and Christianity

Fr. Rudolf V. D' Souza, OCD

In the history of Christianity, the periods in which Marian doctrine and devotion have flourished are also the periods when the worship and adoration of her Son were most prominent. There were moments in the history when Mary was exalted and at the same time many heretics tried to bring devotion towards her down.

The first major period of Mariological developments ranges from the second to the seventh centuries when the Christian community reflected on Mary's role as the New Eve and acclaimed her divine maternity and perpetual virginity in various councils. This was also the period when the great Christological dogmas were debated and defined. This period saw the Councils of Nicea (325 A.D.), Constantinople I (381 A.D.), Ephesus (431 A.D.), Chalcedon (451 A.D.), Constantinople II (553 A.D.), and Constantinople III (681 A.D.).

The second period covers the eighth and ninth centuries when the Second Council of Nicea (787 A.D.) defined the veneration of images. Christians then pondered more closely Mary's relationship to her Son, her sharing in His resurrection, her freedom from sin and the importance of her intercession.

Third and Forth period on which we try to make a deeper study can be summarized as follows:

The third period was the age of the Scholastics, notably Ambrose, Aquinas and Bonaventure, who provided a systematic framework for Christology and a clearer understanding of Mary's role in the mystery of salvation. In 1215 A.D., the Fourth Council of the Lateran, and in 1274 A.D., the Second Council of Lyons, made significant pronouncements on the doctrine of the Trinity.

The fourth period stretches from 1300 A.D. to 1800 A.D., from the Renaissance through the Reformation through the Enlightenment. This was a period when many of the great truths of Christianity increasingly came under attack. The lowest point was reached with the so-called Enlightenment Era when atheism was on the ascendant and Christian doctrine was emptied of substance even within various Christian communities. Although the Protestant Reformers had initially tried to hold to some Christological and Mariological truths, many of their heirs gradually came under the influence of the Enlightenment. A famous Lutheran theologian Friedrich Heiler has written that the Marian doctrines were lost bylater Protestants because of "the spirit of the enlightenment with its lack of understanding of mystery, and especially of the mystery of the Incarnation, which in the 18th century began the work of destruction."[1]Another Lutheran scholar, Basilea Schlink, holds that "the majority of us [Protestants] have drifted away from the proper attitude towards her [Mary], which Martin Luther had indicated to us on the basis of Holy Scripture ... [partially due to the rise of Rationalism which] has lost the sense of the sacred. In Rationalism man sought to comprehend everything, and that which he could not comprehend he rejected. Because Rationalism accepted only that which could be explained rationally, Church festivals in honor of Mary and everything else reminiscent of her were done away with in the Protestant Church. All biblical relationship to the Mother Mary was lost, and we are still suffering from this heritage."[2] Despite the clouds of darkness hanging over Christendom, this period nevertheless saw the production of a number of devotional Marian masterpieces.

Major Breakthroughs

In 12th Century Feast of the Conception of Mary in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, Normandy are celebrated in many churches. The Feast of the Assumption was celebrated in the city of Rome, and in France.

Between 13th -15th century, called the Late Middle ages, devotion to Mary grew dramatically. Mary was increasingly venerated in popular piety as mediator of the mercy of Christ. Among the popular devotions that came into being at this time were the Rosary.

In 1477 Pope Sixtus IV, a Franciscan, established the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1477 with a feast of with a proper mass and office to be celebrated on December 8. This is a big feast celebrated today by Catholics all over the world.

The fifth and final period ranges from 1800 A.D. to the present day, which will not be the subject of this article. In this period it may be said that God launched a Marian counter-attack on the Enlightenment in its nerve-center through a series of Marian apparitions in France. These were the great nineteenth century apparitions of the Miraculous Medal, La Salette and Lourdes, which continue to exert a tremendous influence as tangible manifestations of the supernatural world denied by the Enlightenment theories of the middle ages. Such influential apparitions have continued into the twentieth century, the most notable example being Fatima, Portugal. Accompanying these reminders of the Marian heritage, there has been a revival of interest in Marian doctrine and devotion that continues even today. But many of the Christian communities who have rejected Marian doctrine and devotion have gradually departed from Christological doctrine as well.
Focus on the Middle Ages

During the late Middle Ages (13th century to 15th century), devotion to Mary grew dramatically. One of the principal reasons was the image of Christ that developed in the missionary efforts of the early Middle Ages. To the extent that the Goths and other tribes of central and northern Europe were Christian, they remained strongly influenced by Arianism, a teaching that denied the divinity of Christ. In response, preaching and the arts of this period particularly stressed Christ's divinity, as in the Byzantine depictions of Christ asPantokrator (universal and all-powerful ruler) and in the western images of Christ as the supreme and universal judge. As Christ became an awe-inspiring, judgmental figure, Mary came to be depicted as the one who interceded for sinners. As the fear of death and the Last Judgment intensified following the Black Plague in the 14th century, Mary was increasingly venerated in popular piety as mediator of the mercy of Christ. Her prayers and pleas were seen as the agency that tempered the stern justice of Christ. Among the popular devotions that came into being at this time were therosary (a chaplet originally consisting of 150 Hail Marys in imitation of the 150 Psalms in the psalter, later augmented by 15 interspersed "Our Father" as penance for daily sins); the angelus recited at sunrise, noon, and sunset; and litanies (invocations of Mary using such biblical titles as Mystical Rose, Tower of David, and Refuge of Sinners). Hymns, psalms, and prayers were incorporated into the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, in imitation of the longer divine office recited or chanted by monks and priests.
Doctrine of Immaculate Conception

The principal theological development concerning Mary in the Middle Ages was the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. This doctrine, defended and preached by the Franciscan friars under the inspiration of the 13th-century Scottish theologian John Duns Scotus; maintains that Mary was conceived without original sin. Dominican teachers and preachers vigorously opposed the doctrine, maintaining that it detracted from Christ's role as universal saviour. Pope Sixtus IV, a Franciscan, defended it, establishing in 1477 a feast of the Immaculate Conception with a proper mass and office to be celebrated on December 8.[3]

Marian shrines and places of pilgrimage were found throughout the world. At Montserrat in Spain the Black Virgin has been venerated since the 12th century. The icon of Our Lady of Czêstochowa has been venerated in Poland since the early 14th century. The picture ofOur Lady of Guadalupe commemorates an alleged apparition of Mary to Native American Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531. In the 19th century a number of apparitions of Mary were reported that inspired the development of shrines, devotions, and pilgrimages - for instance, in Paris (1830, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal); Lourdes (1858, Our Lady of Lourdes); Knock, in Ireland (1879, Our Lady of Knock); and Fatima, in Portugal (1917, Our Lady of Fatima).

Lutheran Attacks and Counter Attacks

The Anglican scholar A. Lancashire shows in Born of the Virgin Mary that a Christianity without Mariology cannot have an orthodox Christology: "A rejection of Mariology must inevitably lead to a rejection of orthodox Christology. ... Devotion to Mary, far from leading men away from Christ, draws the Church into a deeper recognition of the mystery of God's loving activity directed towards man in Christ."[4]

Cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Oneness Pentecostals that accept the divine inspiration of the Bible but reject the doctrine of the Trinity have simply taken Fundamentalism to its logical conclusion. When you reject the binding interpretations of the historic Faith there is no doctrine that is safe. Moreover, the history of doctrine shows that the rejection of Marian doctrine leads sooner or later to the rejection of the Christological and Trinitarian affirmations. It is Marian doctrine and devotion that preserved the truth of the Trinity. When the Christian believer sees the biblical portrait of Mary as Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, he grasps forcefully the distinctions between the Three Persons. The doctrine of the Trinity becomes a reality for him. On the flip side, the idea of "Jesus alone" with no reference to Mary leads to a focus on God only as Father (Jehovah's Witnesses and some Fundamentalists) or a focus on Jesus that excludes the Father and the Holy Spirit (most Fundamentalists) or an exclusive focus on the Holy Spirit (Fanatic Charismatics/ Pentecostals). With a healthy Marian devotion comes an authentic understanding and a conscious grasp of the doctrine of the Trinity. Marian doctrine is equally important for Christology. For instance, the declaration that Mary is the Mother of God said two clear things about Christ: He is one Person, a divine Person; He is a human being because His mother is human. Once the declaration of Mary's Divine Maternity was rejected the next step was to reject the affirmation that Christ is a divine Person.

Finally, each one of the Marian doctrines is in reality both a Christological doctrine and an application of Christology to the human condition. The Marian doctrines not only tell us the central truths of Christology but show their application in the life of humanity as a whole. To say that Mary is the Mother of God is to say that Jesus is God and Man. To teach Mary's Perpetual Virginity is to teach the Virgin Birth and the supernatural nature of the birth of Jesus. To proclaim the Immaculate Conception is to proclaim the reality of the redemption wrought by the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world - to realize moreover that the redemptive effects of His death transcend time. To acclaim the Assumption of Mary is to celebrate the fact that the Resurrection of Christ not only took place but that it opens the door to our own resurrection from the dead. To affirm the mediation of Mary is to affirm both the supreme mediation of Christ and the possibility and the obligation of our participating in this mediation.

Martin Luther and Marian Doctrine

Contrary to popular belief, Martin Luther basically did not reject major Marian doctrines although some of his immediate followers and present day heirs have done so. This point is well argued by the Lutheran Charles Dickson: "After five centuries of Church history since the period of the Reformation, Catholics and Protestants alike assume the reformers downplayed the role of the Virgin Mary in God's plan of salvation. Actually the facts are otherwise. While it is true that many of the radical leaders who followed the original reformers sought to eliminate the Mother of our Lord from their theology, and in many cases were successful in all but doing so, this does not represent the position of the early leaders. ... Perhaps in no other place is the discrepancy more evident than in the example of the viewpoints of Martin Luther contrasted with the practices and beliefs of modern Protestants. What did Luther really believe about Mary? For an answer to that question, we must search through his original writings. Some interesting points emerge as a result of that investigation. First, Luther referred to Mary as "the workshop of God" and decried Protestant antagonism toward her as an offshoot of Church conflict. Luther believed in the help of the Virgin Mary for all worthwhile endeavors. In his letter to Prince John Frederick, duke of Saxony, in 1521 as a prologue to his commentary on the Magnificat of the first chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, he wrote, "May the tender Mother of God herself procure for me the spirit of wisdom profitably and thoroughly to expound this song of hers." Not only did Luther believe Mary helped Christians who call on her for assistance, he also supported prayers to her. Again, in his commentary on the Magnificat, he wrote, "O Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, what great comfort God has shown us in you by so graciously regarding your unworthiness and low estate." For those who would follow in the faith, he desired a continued honor of Mary by stating, "The Virgin Mary means to say simply that her praise will be sung from one generation to another so that there will never be a time when she will not be praised." While he was concerned about any beliefs or practices that might tend to make her equal with Christ in our redemption, in accord with Catholic theology throughout history, he referred to Mary as "Queen of Heaven" and called this a "true enough name". Luther's belief in the position of Mary in salvation history is summed up in his conclusion to the commentary on the Magnificat where he states, "We pray God to give us a right understanding of thisMagnificat, an understanding that consists not merely in brilliant words, but in glowing life in body and soul. May Christ grant us this through the intercession and for the sake of His dear Mother Mary."[5]


It is a hard fact of history that Marian doctrine and devotion have been an indivisible part of Christian belief - both in the East and the West - for 20 centuries. The primary sources of Marian doctrine and devotion are the following: Sacred Scripture, the divinely inspired inerrant Word of God; the earliest Teaching of the Apostolic Community which in the first four centuries served as the main framework of instruction for believers prior to the fixing of the canon of Scripture; the inner dynamic of Christianity as this emerged through the authoritative interpretation of Scripture by the Councils and Creeds; the liturgy which reflected the Apostolic Faith; the reflections of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church; the testimony of the Holy Ones and Martyrs; the consensus of the faithful. United with all of this also was the living experience of Mary enjoyed by millions.

By establishing its basis in Scripture and the apostolic community's interpretation of Scripture, Mariology seeks to show that Marian doctrine and devotion are (a) fundamental to historic Christianity and (b) acceptable to all Christians regardless of denominational background. Differences on other issues such as the Papacy and the Sacraments, important as these may be, are not the subject of these volumes since the objective is simply to introduce Bible-believing Christians to their common Mother. Fortunately, there is today a cross-denominational rediscovery of Mary and a renaissance of Marian thought among Protestant Christians. The Ecumenical Society for the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded in 1966, has played an influential role in the contemporary rediscovery. Among the most important recent books on Mary by Protestant Christians are Mary for all Christians by John Macquarrie (Anglican); Down to Earth: The New Protestant Vision of the Virgin Mary by John de Satge (Evangelical); A Protestant Pastor Looks at Mary by Charles Dickson (Lutheran) and Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Neville Ward (Methodist).

We Catholics know that the importance of Mary will be truly rediscovered only if the doctrine is based on the unity of their faith. They must resolve considerable discrepancies of doctrine concerning the mystery and ministry of the Church, and sometimes also concerning the role of Mary in the work of salvation. The dialogues begun by the Catholic Church with the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West are steadily converging upon these two inseparable aspects of the same mystery of salvation. If the mystery of the Word made flesh enables us to glimpse the mystery of the divine motherhood and if, in turn, contemplation of the Mother of God brings us to a more profound understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation, then the same must be said for the mystery of the Church and Mary's role in the work of salvation. By a more profound study of both Mary and the Church, clarifying each by the light of the other, Christians who are eager to do what Jesus tells them as their Mother recommends (cf. Jn. 2:5) will be able to go forward together on this "pilgrimage of faith." Mary, who is still the model of this pilgrimage, is to lead them to the unity which is willed by their one Lord and so much desired by those who are attentively listening to what "the Spirit is saying to the Churches" today (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17).

Foot Notes

[1] Friedrich Heiler, "Die Gottesmutter im Glauben und Beten der Jahrhunderte," Hochkirche 13 (1931), p. 200.

[2] Basilea Schlink, Mary, the Mother of Jesus (London: Marshall Pickering, 1986), 114-115.

[3] This feast was extended to the whole Western church by Pope Clement XI in 1708. In 1854 Pope Pius IX issued a solemn decree defining the Immaculate Conception for all Roman Catholics, but the doctrine has not been accepted by Protestants or by the Orthodox churches. In 1950 Pope Pius XII solemnly defined as an article of faith for all Roman Catholics the doctrine of the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven.

[4] A. Lancashire, Born of the Virgin Mary, London: The Faith Press, 1962, pp. 142-3.

[5] Charles Dickson, A Protestant Pastor Looks at Mary, 40-2

The author, Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza, is a member of the Karnataka-Goa province of Discalced Carmelites and is well known for his seminars, workshops and conferences on Prayer in India and abroad. He did his specialization in Christian Spirituality in Spain, Rome and India. His books have been appreciated by many people and some have gone into several impressions.

Among the many published so far are: When I cannot pray, A mind less travelled, Awareness and union with God, Meeting in God experience, The Bhagvadgita and St. John of the Cross. All these books are available from our Dhyanavana publications.

The author is presently parish priest of the second largest parish in the Archdiocese of Bombay at Mira Road. He can be contacted at:

St. Joseph's Church
Krista Shanti Dham
Near Holy Cross Convent School
Mira Road (E), Thane District
Mumbai - 401 107 (Maharashtra)