Search This Blog

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Monsignor Burnham Reflects on "Small Beginnings"

LONDON, APRIL 24, 2011 ( This week, some 900 Anglicans joined the Catholic Church. While this may be a small start to some, Monsignor Andrew Burnham is encouraging his flock to remember that there were even fewer Christians at the first Easter.

Some 30 groups of former Anglicans, including more than 60 clergy, joined the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the new ordinariate for former Anglicans coming into the Catholic Church under the plan proposed by the Pope in "Anglicanorum Coetibus."

At the reception of some 20 new members on Tuesday at the Oxford Oratory, Monsignor Burnham noted that even 1,000 new Catholics is still not "statistically significant." The priest is one of three former Anglican bishops who were ordained to the Catholic priesthood in January.

"Every time we hear a set of national statistics," he said, "even the statistics for rare diseases, the numbers seem to be in the 1,000s and tens of thousands. What significance have 20 or 30, 60, 900 or 1000?"

He warned of a "dangerous" scenario that the "groups of incoming Anglicans will simply melt into the crowd," and that the "Pope's imaginative and prophetic gesture in 'Anglicanorum Cœtibus' will have come to nothing."

"But, there is a much more exciting scenario which could unfold," Monsignor Burnham continued. "And here we need to go back to the first Easter. Even smaller numbers than now were involved.

"By the end of the Last Supper the disciples were down to eleven. By the time Jesus died on the cross there were only two there -- Our Blessed Lady and John the Beloved Disciple. At the Garden of Resurrection there were ones and twos."

"From those small beginnings," he affirmed. "Christianity moved from being a small suspiciously-Galilean, rather unfashionable Jewish sect to becoming the official religion of the known world. And not entirely successfully at first."

"I pray that groups of former Anglicans, as here in Oxford, may grow and flourish within the fertile soil of the Catholic Church," the monsignor stated, adding that the growth of the Church lies in "the contribution of each one of us."

Blessed Feast of the Prophet Jeremiah

Image of Moissac Abbey

South Portal (1120-25): Jeremiah

Moissac Abbey: South Portal (1120-25): Jeremiah

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Ordinariate faithful have arrived in the Catholic Church. 

What difference will they make?

By Damian Thompson Religion Last updated: April 21st, 2011

Mgr Keith Newton receives an Ordinariate members into the Church (Photo: Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham)

Mgr Keith Newton receives an Ordinariate member into the Church (Photo: Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham)

589 Comments Comment on this article

By the end of Holy Week, nearly 1,000 former Anglicans will be members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, an entirely new structure within the Roman Catholic Church. For an indication of what a big deal this is, look at the picture above. Mgr Keith Newton is wearing a mitre and holding a crozier – yet he is not a bishop. These are symbols of an office within the Church that did not exist until Pope Benedict XVI created it especially for ex-Anglicans. And they are also symbols of freedom: that is, the freedom of members of the Ordinariate to organise their own liturgy under the supervision of their own superior rather than that of a diocesan bishop.

Now we enter delicate territory. I don't want to suggest that there is tension between the Bishops of England and Wales and the Ordinariate: on the contrary, the Bishops' Conference is far more warmly disposed towards the new body than we could have anticipated a year ago. That is one of the fruits of the papal visit. Also, I've yet to come across any evidence that these new Catholics see themselves as a Church within a Church: for example, the former parish priest and many parishioners of Holy Trinity, Reading, are clearly looking forward to becoming integral to the town's Roman Catholic community, celebrating their own Mass at St James's, the town centre Catholic parish.

But one thing the former Holy Trinity people will be bringing with them is a meticulous and dignified Anglo-Catholic tradition of interpreting the Roman rite. In England, at least, this could turn out to be the essence of the "Anglican patrimony" of the Ordinariate. Many of those coming over anticipated the Benedictine liturgical reforms that, until now, the Catholic bishops have been slow to implement. If the Ordinariate congregations celebrate the Eucharist in the spirit of the great Mass at Westminster Cathedral that the Pope attended on the Saturday of his visit – a rare glimpse of Benedict's ideals put into practice – then Rome will be delighted. And, at long last, cradle Catholics will be shown a path out of the aesthetic desert in which they have been wandering for 40 years.

Tags: Mgr Keith Newton, Personal Ordinariate, Pope Benedict XVI

The Royal Wedding

By Damian Thompson Royal family Last updated: April 29th, 2011

65 Comments Comment on this article

Rowan Williams was magnificent (Photo: BBC)

Rowan Williams was magnificent (Photo: BBC)

It pains me to say it, but when it comes to religious pageantry, Catholics cannot hold a candle to the Church of England. The Anglican choral tradition is the finest in the world; its anthems perfectly capture the sentimental grandeur of great state occasions. Listen to the way the fanfare from Parry's I Was Glad melted into Edwardian gracefulness asKate Middleton walked down the nave. And only an Anglican clergyman can invest the words "Dearly Beloved" with a tone that takes us back to the school chapel or the close at Barchester. The theology of the C of E is a Catholic/Protestant compromise that can play havoc with certain sacramental services, such as Holy Communion: High and Low are miles apart. But, when it comes to state baptisms, weddings and funerals, Protestant austerity and Catholic flamboyance balance each other to perfection. It's what the Church of England is for – and, for once, no one can question the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I've said some disobliging things about him in the past, watching him helplessly trying to control an unruly Synod – but today Dr Rowan Williams was simply magnificent. The service made me proud to be English and – just for a split-second – wish I was an Anglican.

Tags: Kate Middleton, Rowan Williams, Royal wedding

Beijing against new Tibetan premier, "illegal" and "unrecognised"

"No country in the world recognises this organisation," which was "set up overseas by the Dalai Lama," a Chinese Foreign Ministry official says. Meanwhile, repression against Tibetan religious continues; a Buddhist nun is beaten and arrested for demanding Tibetan independence.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Chinese government attacked the new prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, saying it had no intention of dealing with him or his government. At the same time, Chinese authorities continue their crackdown against religious activities by Tibetans. A Buddhist nun was beaten and later arrested in the southwestern province of Sichuan because she had leaflets calling for Tibet's freedom.

A Harvard researcher, the new Tibetan premier takes over all the political functions exercised by the Dalai Lama for centuries as the 'god-king' of the mountain land. Fourteenth 'Ocean of Wisdom,' Nobel Peace Prize winner Tenzin Gyatso gave up temporal power about a month ago, but remains the spiritual leader and guide of Tibetan Buddhism.

The 43-year-old Sangay, who teaches at Harvard, won 55 per cent of the vote (of 49,189 voters who cast their ballot in the election held on 20 March), beating out Tethong Tenzin Namgyal, from Stanford University (who won 8,646 votes). Tashi Wangdi, representative of the Dalai Lama in Brussels, New York and Delhi, came in third.

Lobsang Sangay was the frontrunner before the vote. He had distinguished himself from Tibet's spiritual leader by saying that Tibet's complete independence from China was a possibility. By contrast, the Dalai Lama has always insisted on a large degree of autonomy from Beijing for his nation.

A former president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which China considers a terrorist organisation, Sangay is now the target of Communist authorities.

"The so-called Tibet government-in-exile is an illegal political organisation set up overseas by the Dalai Lama to engage in Tibet independence activities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. "No country in the world recognises this organisation," he added, without elaborating.

In the meantime, human rights groups are demanding justice for Jampa Tso, a nun from Badak Phuntsok Choeling Nunnery (one of the centres of anti-Chinese unrest in 2008).

She was "was on a large bridge in the [Derge] county seat calling for freedom for Tibet," said Jampel Monlam, spokesman for the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). "She was handing out leaflets" and "was beaten up by the police, and then [. . .] taken away."

Obviously, no one could get in touch with her. Her "family was told that Jampa Tso had committed a serious crime and that no one could talk to her under any circumstances," he added. "However, all she did was to express her opinion, which is a right no one can deny."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Three Vietnamese priests running for election to Communist ruling bodyRSSFacebookApril 27, 2011

Three Catholic priests are candidates for election to the Vietnamese national assembly, the "highest organ of state power" under the nation's constitution.

The candidacy of the three priests has prompted criticism among Vietnamese Catholics, in light of the clear Church policy against political activity by priests, and also in light of these priests' clear support for the Communist government.

Father Tran Manh Cuong and Father Le Ngoc Hoan, of the dioceses of Ban Me Thout and Bui Chu, respectively, are already members of the current 12th national assembly; they are running now for membership in the 13th assembly, which will be elected on May 22. A third priest, Father Phan Khac Tu of the Saigon archdiocese, is running for the first time, and his candidacy has drawn more public attention.

Father Tu is chief editor of Catholics and People, a magazine that was founded with government support in 1975 and became known for its frequent criticism of Pope John Paul II and the Vatican. His election campaign has highlighted Father Tu's involvement in the Vietnam war, even claiming that he built a secret factory to produce bombs that could be used against American soldiers. In an interview with a state-run media outlet, Father Tu voiced his pride in running such a factory inside a church in central Saigon.

The Code of Canon Law (285-3) forbids clerics from holding political office "if it means sharing in the exercise of civil power." In an open letter to the Vietnamese hierarchy, several priests—including Father Nguyen Van Ly, a prominent dissident who has spent almost 15 years in prison—argue that membership in the national assembly falls into that proscribed category, since the group exists to legitimize decisions of the Communist Party. "It is clear from Church teachings that no true Catholic can ever be a Communist, or condone Communism," the priests add. They ask the Vietnamese bishops to take disciplinary action against the priests who are candidates for election.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

BELARUS: Catholics ask for return of Cathedral

Catholics In Eastern Belarus Want Cathedral Returned

April 27, 2011
MAHILEU, Belarus -- Catholics in the eastern Belarusian city of Mahileu are collecting signatures for a petition asking city officials to give them the St. Stanislaus Cathedral, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The Holy Mother Mary and St. Stanislaus parish claims the cathedral, which is currently owned by the city, should become the property of the church congregation.

The church originally belonged to the Catholic community but was confiscated when the communists came to power in the Soviet era.

Parish representatives told RFE/RL that local authorities are demanding that rent be paid by the congregation. Parish officials say that if the cathedral is officially transferred to the parish's ownership it will be able to find money for badly needed repairs and renovations. 

St. Stanislaus Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Mahileu, having been built in 1740. The parish of the Holy Mother Mary and St. Stanislaus has been operating in Mahileu since 1614.

The cathedral resumed operating as a church for Catholics in Mahileu in 1990. During the Soviet era the cathedral was used for storage by the city's maintenance departments.

Many of Belarus's Catholics are ethnic Poles who live in the western part of Belarus along the border with Poland. The overwhelming majority of Belarusian citizens are Orthodox Christians.

With some 367,000 people, Mahileu is the third-largest city in Belarus.


Newt Gingrich: Why I Became Catholic

A Register series

CNS photo

I am often asked when I chose to become Catholic. However, it is more truthful to say that over the course of several years I gradually became Catholic and then decided one day to accept the faith I had already come to embrace.
My wife, Callista, is a lifelong Catholic and has been a member of the choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., for 15 years. Although I was Southern Baptist, I had attended Mass with Callista every Sunday at the basilica to watch her sing with the choir.

I accompanied Callista to Rome in 2005, when the choir was invited to sing at St. Peter's Basilica. While there, I had the opportunity to talk at length with Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the basilica in D.C., about faith, history and many of the cultural challenges, including secularism, facing our country. Our conversations were enlightening and intriguing.

During that trip, I experienced my first visit to St. Peter's Basilica, and I recall marveling at being in the presence of the historic truth of the Church that day.

At the same time, I was being influenced by several books I was reading, including George Weigel's The Cube and the Cathedral, about the crisis of secularism in Europe, and his book The Final Revolution, about the role of Christianity in freeing Eastern Europe from an atheistic dictatorship.

I was also moved by Pope Benedict's reflection in his book Jesus of Nazareth that, "God is the issue: Is he real, reality itself, or isn't he? Is he good, or do we have to invent the good ourselves?"

Throughout our travels, whether Callista and I were in Costa Rica or Africa, she was adamant about finding a local Mass on Sunday. Listening to "Amazing Grace" being sung in Chinese at Mass in Beijing was a beautiful experience, and worshipping with believers across the world opened my eyes to the diversity and richness of the Catholic Church. 

Over the course of a decade, the depth of faith and history contained in the life of the Catholic Church were increasingly apparent to me, and the centrality of the Eucharist in the Catholic Mass became more and more clear.

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States in April of 2008 was a turning point for me. The Holy Father presided over solemn vespers with the U.S. bishops in the Crypt Church at the basilica in Washington. Callista's choir was asked to sing for Pope Benedict at vespers, and as a spouse, I had the unique opportunity to attend the papal visit and was deeply moved by the occasion. 

Catching a glimpse of Pope Benedict that day, I was struck by the happiness and peacefulness he exuded. The joyful and radiating presence of the Holy Father was a moment of confirmation about the many things I had been thinking and experiencing for several years.

That evening I told Msgr. Rossi I wanted to be received into the Catholic Church, and he agreed to join Callista as my sponsor. Under his tutelage, I studied the Catechism of the Church over the next year and was received into the Church in March of 2009 in a beautiful Mass at St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill.

After a decade-long — perhaps lifelong — faith journey, I was finally home.

Newt Gingrich is a former congressman from Georgia and speaker of the House of Representatives from 1994-1999. He and his wife Callista run Gingrich Productions, which made the film Nine Days That Changed the World.

VIETNAM: Bishop held on charges of having "baptized people"

Bishop of Kontum held by police on charges of having "baptized people" 
by J.B. An Dang

Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh was able to celebrate Easter Mass in the Montagnard village of Lang Son, where he was prevented froming celebrating Christmas. He found policemen and women of the Communist League outnumbering the faithful. 

Kontun (AsiaNews) - He was able to celebrate Easter Mass, but was detained and brought to the police station, on charges of of having baptized people. It is yet another violation of religious freedom by the authorities of Lang Son, K'Bang County (central Vietnam), in the area of the Montagnards and it happened to Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, who was previously prevented from celebrating mass for Christmas in the same village.

In view of Easter, the bishop had sent numerous petitions to the authorities at all levels, asking for permission to celebrate Mass in a village where it has never been possible to celebrate the Eucharist. Permission was granted.

But when Msgr. Duc Oanh arrived, along with a priest, he found a hostile atmosphere because police and women of the Communist League outnumbered the faithful, controlling and mocking the Catholics and the bishop. A long queue of Catholics requested permission to confess. The celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation took place to the sound of laughter and jokes at the gestures of the faithful.

And after the Mass, the bishop and the priest were brought to the police station and subjected to interrogation for hours. The officials accused the bishop of violating the permit that "only allowed the celebration of Easter Mass, as he had also" baptised persons "," deliberately exceeding what was allowed".

The bishop protested, denying that he had "baptized people," he explained that he had only helped the faithful to reconcile themselves with God. "Before eating - he said - you wash your hands. Likewise, before attending the Mass, we wash ourselves, reconciling ourselves with God."

The concern of the communist authorities and their charges are explained by the fact that the diocese is witnessing a large number of conversions, with 50 thousand baptisms over the past two years.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

FRANCISCANS in Africa !!!


"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

ORTHODOX EASTER in GHANA, West Africa !!! :)

Patriarch Kirill, Easter in Moscow, with messages to the Pope and Protestants 

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the Resurrection. Message to the Pope and the Protestants for a common witness of God's truth Poll: Only one Russian in ten attends religious services. 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Proclaiming the traditional 'Christos Voskrese!' (Christ has risen) and the response of the faithful 'Voistinu voskrese' (Truly he has risen), Patriarch Kirill invited Russian Orthodox attending Easter ceremonies in the Cathedral Christ the Savior in Moscow to change their lives "in agreement with this great hope" that is the Resurrection. "Rejecting what belongs to darkness, what does not belong to Christianity: evil, hatred, envy". Orthodox Easter this year coincided with the Catholic Easter and on the eve of the festival, the Patriarch sent a message to the Pope and Protestant leaders calling for "common witness to the truth of God ... to profess peace, justice and love."

In Moscow, Kirill also celebrated the Vigil on Saturday in the presence of President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, both accompanied by their wives. In the cathedral a symbol of the religious revival of the post-Soviet Russia, the Patriarch officiated the traditional fire ceremony and led the procession circle (symbol of eternity) within the church. The rite is the search for Jesus after his death at its end the Resurrection is proclaimed and the bells rung. Kirill invited the community to be optimistic: "The Resurrection is the victory of life over death ... our vision of the world should be peaceful and joyful because Christ is risen." The message of Easter greetings was also an occasion for the head of the Kremlin to reassert the importance of orthodox values in strengthening the foundations of Russian society as well as inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony in Russia. Fruitful interaction with the State and Orthodox Church - Medvedev added - helps the development of our country. "

According to a poll by the Levada Center, the majority of Russians celebrate Easter according to tradition: coloured eggs, paskha cake, the Kulich, the Russian cake commemorating bread Jesus broke during the Last Supper and all the dishes prohibited during the 'great fast' that preceded the religious holiday (candied fruit, cheese, butter, almonds, vanilla). 27% of Russians also organized the typical family picnic on the grave of a deceased relative, a custom unrelated to faith, but nonetheless widespread. So much so that the authorities have imposed a two-day ban on the sale of alcohol in the vicinity of cemeteries in the area of Moscow. On Easter evening, the Russians continued to celebrate with a feast based on different types of meat, fish and mushrooms. According to the Levada poll, however, only 9% of the population took part in religious services. This is mostly students and people over 55 years, residents of small towns and villages. (N.A.)

INDIA: Serving the Dying Poor

When John Paul II embraced Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the dying 
by Nirmala Carvalho

On the eve of the beatification of John Paul II, we present testaments to the late Pope's legacy in in Asia. Archbishop Henry D'Souza, former Archbishop of Calcutta and Sister Glenda, superior of the Nirmal Hriday in Calcutta speak of his visit to India in 1986. The fruits of living a "new solidarity" with the Hindus. 

Kolkata (AsiaNews) - Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1 this year, but for many around the world, he is already a saint. It is the same the fate of Mother Teresa, beatified October 19 2003 by the Polish pope, but for a long time widely considered to be a saint. The two giants of the faith met many times, but the most anticipated encounter took place February 3, 1986 in Calcutta, with the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Nirmal Hriday Ashram, the home for the dying to Kaligath. Mother Teresa called it "the happiest day of my life."
25 years later, in the megalopolis of 13 million inhabitants, there are many who remember this event. First, the bishop at the time, Mgr. Henry D'Souza, who accompanied the pope.
"The impact of our beloved Pope on the city was immense. The Holy Father captured the hearts and minds of the people of Calcutta. People of all faiths lined the 10 km route from Dum Dum to the Nirmal Hridaya. Looking through the crowd, the Pope said to me: You have many Catholics here in Calcutta! I told him no and explained that these people were people of all faiths come to welcome the head of the Catholic Church, waiting for a blessing from him. "
"For the people of Calcutta - continues Mgr. D'Souza – it was very significant that John Paul II began a visit to the city at the Nirmal Hridaya. This showed that the Pope's first concern were the poor, the dying, the suffering. With this act of love, compassion and kindness, he won the hearts of the people. "
The other important fact was when the pope kissed Mother Teresa. This unusual sign of affection showed the compassion of the Divine Mercy of Jesus that embraces the poverty of the human person. He, the Pope had come to quench the thirst of Christ and witness to the poor. "
Mother Teresa opened her first hospice in 1952 near the temple of the goddess Kali in Kaligath, changing its name to Nirmal Hriday, "House of a pure heart." From then until now, the hospice has received at least 50 thousand dying.
On his arrival, Pope John Paul II visited the length and breadth of the Nirmal Hriday for at least 40 minutes. He defined the hospice where there are 120 beds for sick and dying as a sacred place where "the mystery of human suffering encounters the mystery of faith and love."
Our beloved Pope said he had no easy answers to the terrible poverty he saw. "I cannot fully answer all your questions; I cannot take away all your pain. But of this I am sure: God loves you with an everlasting love. You are precious in his sight".
During his visit to the ashram, the pope was led by Mother Teresa, stopping at each of the 86 patients beds day, blessing them one by one. The visit was closed to the media, but a Vatican spokesman who accompanied the Pope said that the pontiff had been "deeply moved".
The vast majority of patients were Hindus, but the Pope gave each a rosary and blessed the corpses of four dead gathered in the small morgue with holy water.
Pope John Paul II has also helped the Missionaries of Charity to serve the evening meal to the sick, made of bread, curry with potatoes and pudding. "I do not know who he is - said one of the patients - but he must be a great leader."
In the late evening, the Pope met with religious and cultural city leaders and urged them to forge a "new solidarity" with the dying and the abandoned on the streets of Calcutta. "The saints - he said - and men and real women of every religion have always been moved to a powerful and active compassion for the poor and suffering ... Today, our religious and social consciousness is challenged by the growing inequality between developed areas and those that are increasingly dependent; injustice of the necessary resources channelled into the production of weapons of terrible death and destruction. "
In 1989, in an interview, they asked Mother Teresa what was the most beautiful place she visited.  "Kaligath – she said - where people die in peace, in God's love: this is the most wonderful thing."
25 years after the visit of Pope John Paul II, Nirmal Hriday was  restored and renovated in many parts, but the memory of his visit is still alive, as are the picture of him with the mother while the children sing and dance welcome him.
For Sister Glenda, 57, current superior of Nirmal Hriday, the definition of the logo given by John Paul II remains true: a sacred place where "the mystery of human suffering encounters the mystery of faith and love."
"For us it is a joy to be here. Jesus is here every day, in the flesh of abandoned ... To date there are 110 patients dying, suffering from all kinds of terminal illness. AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis ... We welcome them here and we feel that Jesus comes to visit us. "
The idea of a "new solidarity", launched by the pope, still bears fruit today. "If you look at the list of donors - says Sister Glenda - all of our donors are Hindu. None of them has ever opposed our presence. Kaligath for us is the source of every blessing, because it was the first house opened by Mother Teresa. Even the Hindus consider it a source of blessing. "

LEBANON: Faith in adversity

Bearing witness in Lebanon
Thursday, March 24, 2011

In a recent interview, Father Raymond Abdo, the Provincial of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers in Lebanon, said that the most important thing that can be done for Christians in the Middle East is to help them not to emigrate, because everyone from the East should "bear witness to the Faith in the East."

Speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Abdo pointed out that the earliest missionaries in the Church had proclaimed the Gospel and been murdered for it.  According to the priest, it is in the nature of Christianity "that we proclaim the gospel by our very own lives."
Fr. Raymond Abdo, OCDThe Carmelite priest  went on to say that while many Western countries were glad to see people leaving their homelands, seeing in them a source of cheap labor, this was not good for the gospel. 
Father Abdo said that he understands that it is difficult to persuade Christians to remain in the Middle East, since many of them can see no hope for themselves or their children; indeed, in many countries their very lives are threatened. As for himself, however, he is committed to staying and to so bear witness that "it is possible to stay."
The Carmelite Fathers in Lebanon are working hard to create reasons to give the local Christians some hope for the future. The most important thing is to convince Christians not to sell their land and homes, Father Abdo believes. He told ACN that money coming out of Iran and the Gulf states is being used to buy property in Lebanon, and this is something that must be prevented.
Father Abdo also sees the need to create employment for Christians in the Middle East, since they are often discriminated against in their search for work. By creating employment, it is possible to give them a reason to stay.
One Lebanese Christian has established an international software firm, and the Carmelite monastery in Kobayat has provided him with a place where he can immediately begin work. In this way 45 jobs have been created in this village close to the Syrian border and far away from the capital Beirut. The company was set up a year ago and hopes within a year to be able to create over 100 jobs for both women and men.
At first glance there are many problems in Lebanon, the Provincial explained. Yet, as a Christian he is "optimistic," he told ACN. "We might suffer, we might have difficulties, but when we are united with Christ, then we are bearing witness to him and giving hope to others. We are also giving hope to the Muslims and the other communities, since without us they would not have the opportunity to come to know Christ," he emphasized.
Moreover, he can detect many signs that give grounds for hope. For example, the climate of society in Lebanon is a moderate one and there are many Catholic schools and universities in which there is a good dialogue with Muslims. Of the 200,000 or so students attending Catholic schools in Lebanon, roughly half are Muslims, he told ACN. The same is true of Catholic universities.
As a result there are many opportunities every day for Christians to meet with Muslims and make contact with them, and many Muslim children are taught by Christian teachers. Even in politics there is a "good dialogue," he said, even though this is "not always founded on the right principles." The approach to political questions was different from the religious approach, he explained, in that often one side is asking "if they will get anything out of it if they engage in dialogue," whereas in the religious sphere "it is a matter of respecting the other person and their identity."
The Carmelite order in Lebanon has six monasteries with 31 monks, over half of whom are aged 35 or under. This particular province of the order was established 40 years ago, and is a growing one. The Carmelite Fathers have been present in Lebanon since as early as 1643.
There continue to be vocations, Father Abdo told ACN, but they are fewer than in the past. Since Christian families in particular attach great importance to education and often make great financial sacrifices in order to be able to send their children to private universities, the climate of vocations is not as favorable as it once was. In addition, young people are now becoming connected via the Internet with the whole world, and so there are "the same problems as everywhere in today's world," said the priest.
Yet, young men continue to ask themselves if they have a vocation, Father Abdo believes, and "when Jesus Christ enters into a person's heart, he does not ask permission of the mind or the culture, but simply says 'Come!'..." Only recently, the Carmelite Fathers had the joy of seeing another monk take his final vows, and the previous year there were three ordinations. Moreover, many Lebanese priests are working as missionaries in other parts of the world, he recalled.
One shrine that is of particular importance for the Carmelites in the country, and for the ordinary faithful, too, is the shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague in the monastery of St. Elias in Maaysrah Kesrwan. Since 2006, a copy of the image of the Infant Jesus of Prague has been venerated here which was sent to the Fathers by their confreres in the Czech Republic. The Infant Jesus of Prague is highly venerated in Lebanon and more and more of the faithful are coming to this shrine, where they have often experienced great graces and answers to prayers. As Father Raymond remarked, "The most important thing is that we feel ourselves close to God and loved by him. Then we also feel that it is not so hard to love him and to touch him, for he is a Child!"
While as recently as 40 years ago Lebanon was still the only country in the Middle East with a Christian majority – even up to 70% – today Muslims are a majority and Christians make up only 45% of the population.
ACN has repeatedly helped the Carmelite Fathers for the training of their new vocations, and for the renovation of their monasteries. The charity also helps with Mass stipends.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Resurrection gives all Christians a "missionary mandate", Pope says
During the Regina Caeli, in Castel Gandolfo, Benedict XVI said the Church was given a mission to evangelise. "May the peace born from the triumph of the Lord over sin spread across the earth," he said in his Spanish greetings. 

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) – With the Resurrection, Jesus "defeated death, caused by our sin, and led us back to immortal life". He also gave the Church a missionary mandate, which involves all Christians, everywhere and at all times, Benedict XVI said on Easter Monday, before the Regina Caeli, to a crowd of 2,000 gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope has been staying for a brief period of rest since yesterday."The Resurrection of the Lord," he said before the Marian prayer, "marks the renewal of our human condition. Christ defeated death, caused by our sin, and led us back to immortal life. The entire life of the Church and the existence of Christians spring from that event. We read this, on Easter Monday, in the first missionary address by the nascent Church, 'God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear' (Acts, 2:32-33)".
"One of the characteristic signs of faith in Resurrection is the greeting Christians exchange at Easter, inspired by the ancient liturgical hymn, 'Christ is risen; indeed, he is risen!' It is profession of faith and a commitment of life, like that of the women described in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, "And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage." Jesus met them and said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me" (28:9-10)".
"Thus," wrote the Servant of God Paul VI, "it is the whole Church that receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important for the whole. [. . .] She remains as a sign—simultaneously obscure and luminous—of a new presence of Jesus, of His departure and of His permanent presence. She prolongs and continues Him" (Es. Ap. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, 15: AAS 68 [1976], 14).
"How can we meet the Lord and become his true witnesses? asked Saint Maximus of Turin, 'Whoever wants to reach the Saviour must first place him with his faith to the right of the divinity and set him with the heart's persuasion in the heavens' (Sermo XXXIX a, 3: CCL 23, 157). In other words, he must learn to raise constantly mind and heart to God's height, where the Risen Christ stands. In praying and worshipping, God thus meets man. For Theologian Romano Guardini, 'worship is not something incidental, secondary . . . . It is the ultimate interest of sense and being. In worship, man recognises what matters in a pure, simple and holy sense' (La Pasqua, Meditazioni, Brescia 1995, 62). Only if we know how to address God, pray to him, can we discover the deepest meaning of our life, and the daily journey is illuminated by the light of the Risen."
Following the Marian prayer, in his Spanish greetings the Pope said, "May the peace born from the triumph of the Lord over sin spread across the earth, especially in those regions that need it most."

Saturday, April 23, 2011



Does not a ray of light
issue from Jesus,
growing brighter across the centuries,
that could not come from any mere man
and through which 
the light of God truly shines into the world?
Could the apostolic preaching have found faith 
and built up a worldwide community
unless the power of truth
had been at work within it?

Benedict XVI

Beauty and Perception

 In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.  During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.
About 4 minutes later:
 The violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
 At 6 minutes:
 A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
 At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.  The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time.  This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.
 At 45 minutes:
 The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.  About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.
 After 1 hour:
 He finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed and no one applauded.  There was no recognition at all.
 No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.  Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.
 This is a true story.  Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.
 This experiment raised several questions:
       *In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
       *If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
       *Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
 One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
 If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . ...
 How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?
 Enjoy life NOW .. it has an expiration date.