Personal Reflections: April 2005 Archives

Contra Costa Times has taken note of Catholic Blogging. You can find the article here.

Their premise seems to be captured in the following quote:

In a way, Benedict's election has done for Catholic blogs what the presidential election did for political blogs last year.

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I am so tired of hearing some of this stuff. This talking heads are just filling empty space. Some of it is good but then it all changes when they only tell half the story. I am so tired of hearing Benedict XVI called a hardline conservative. He is not Conservative, he is Catholic. Until the media begins to understand what it means to be Catholic, they will simply categorize the New Pope in narrow terms in an effort to prevent us from listening to what he really says.

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From my Roman Correspondent:

By the grace of God and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we have a Pope!!

The whole Church rejoices at the election of our Most Holy Father, Benedict XVI, the Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Servant of the Servants of God!!

As a student in Rome, it was my profound pleasure to meet Cardinal Ratzinger on several occasions. Not only does he have a brilliant mind and boundless abilities, but his is a truly pastoral heart. On each occasion, I was stuck by his humility, his gentleness, and, yes, his shyness. He lives his spirituality in a most direct way, and I have no doubt that he truly believes those first words spoken as Pope – he sees himself as nothing more than God’s humble servant. What an inspiration to us all.

And how appropriate to take the name Benedict! With that choice, he evokes the richness of the Benedictine tradition and the great motto of the Rule: ora et labora. Prayer and work. Surely this will guide his service to the whole Church.

God bless Benedict XVI!!

Viva il Papa!!!

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Gasparian Echoes


There is something amazingly Gasparian about this. It is Gaspar who said that the Lord chooses the weakest instruments to accomplish his greatest work. It gives me great hope to hear this echoed in our new Pope.

Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me — a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.

The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.

In the joy of the risen Lord, trusting in his permanent help, we go forward. The Lord will help us and Mary his very holy mother stands by us."

Pope Benedict XVI

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Benedict XVI

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We announce to you great joy, another shepherd to serve in the Vineyard of the Lord. What a blessing!

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My Roman correspondent indicates that the Litany of Saints was prepared especially for this event and wanted me to know that Saint Gaspar had been included in the Litany of Saints. Of course I heard it twice. I heard Gaspar's name sung when they were transpering the body to the Basilica, and also when they sang the litany of saints during the funeral. I got up and watched the funeral in its entirety in real time. Other correspondents also wrote to ask if I had noticed. (Thanks, Don Marco)

You can find the litany here: The Funeral Mass for Pope John Paul. The text here is in Italian and the other languages used at the Mass.

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A Priest friend in Rome writes:

There are no words to adequately describe the funeral Mass of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. The pictures and images were carried live around the world – and will probably be played over and over – but there is something to be said for the feeling of being present in that space and sensing the palpable grief of the crowd that video just cannot express. Rather than trying to narrate such an indescribable event, allow me to share some moments and impressions that stood out for me as capturing the moment with clarity and poignancy.

“Santo Subito!”

I was sitting behind the rows of bishops where I had a view of the entire Square. The moment Cardinal Ratzinger finished the homily, the crowd burst into applause and suddenly 30 or so large banners and sighs were unfurled in the crowd, all saying the same thing: Santo Subito! “A Saint – right now!” The signs were spread out all through the Square and down the street. They disappeared for the Creed, but appeared again after Communion – this time accompanied by a loud chant: Giovanni Paolo – Santo!! To see those dozens of banners and to hear that chant! It gave me chills, and I started noticing the Archbishops and Bishops fidgeting, nervously looking at the College of Cardinals (particularly at Cardinal Ratzinger) and whispering to each other. One Italian bishop near me turned to another and said simply: Will he do it?

It was common in the first Millennium of the Church’s history to proclaim saints by public acclamation. It hasn’t been done in centuries, but it is part of the tradition. Today I witnessed a true acclamation. Those 4 million people wanted John Paul declared a saint, and they wanted it now. Ratzinger paused for a while and let the crowd have its moment and voice its will. He then pushed on with the funeral rites, out of deference to prudence I am sure. The next pope will probably open John Paul’s cause for canonization almost immediately and allow the scrutiny to run its proper course. I don’t think the ultimate outcome is at all in doubt – John Paul will be declared a saint. But I could not help but wonder what would have happened today if prudence gave way to boldness. As Cardinal Dean, Ratzinger could have polled the College for their opinion. He could have asked the nearly 600 assembles bishops for their assent. He could have made the proclamation and just asked the next pope to confirm the universal acclamation of the Church. Santo Subito! Though this did not happen, Cardinal Ratzinger did however make his own views on the matter very clear. In the homily, he made reference to the Pope “standing at the window of the Father’s house, greeting us and blessing us.” For the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this is a huge statement! He told us where to look for our beloved John Paul: in the House of the Father, the dwelling of the saints.

Prayer of the Eastern Church

After Communion, Cardinal Ruini, the Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, led the Church of Rome in Latin litanies and prayers for the repose of the pope’s soul. Immediately after that, the Patriarchs of the Eastern Oriental Churches gathered around the coffin and chanted the prayers for the dead in Greek. The Greeks, it turns out, know how to mourn. The chants for the dead can only be deceived as wails of pain, heartrending yet hauntingly beautiful – even of you don’t understand a word of Greek. It was at that moment that the whole feeling of the crowd changed. From then on, the crowd of 4 million people was silent. This ancient expression of grief and hope in God’s power to save even from death opened up a cathartic moment for the people present in the Square. That is when many began to cry. That is when they started to say farewell. From that moment until the end of the Mass, the “spectacle” disappeared and was replaced with an intimacy that was always a hallmark of John Paul’s presence. The priest next to me was looking out at the crowd, absorbing the tremendous waves of emotion that were pulsing up towards us. As he looked out, he spoke, probably not even realizing that he was saying the words out loud: “You can just feel his absence. They certainly now know that he has gone.” By that time, the Patriarchs had finished, and Cardinal Ratzinger began the Commendation of the Dead. It was time to say good bye.

The Last Farewell

As the Mass ended and the Cardinals processed into the Basilica for the burial, the pall bearers lifted the casket off the ground and carried it to the front doors of the basilica. There, they turned around and tipped the foot down so the body of John Paul could face the crowd one last time. One is not accustomed to seeing bishops cry, but at that moment they all did. As I wiped away my own tears, I thought of the appropriateness of that simple gesture of facing him out towards the crowd one last time. His was the window on the world. For twenty six years he looked out on the crowd like Jesus in the Gospels. Moved with pity, he spoke to them of God’s love, of the power of the truth, of the call to holiness and virtue. As his body “looked out” this final time, it saw the largest gathering of world leaders in history. It saw nearly 4 million people of every race, culture, nation, and way of life gathered in peace, in faith, and in charity. Even in death, John Paul the Great continues to unite people and promote peace. And that is not a bad sight to look out upon at all

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His Legacy

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Commercial Media have spent a great bit of time discussing Pope John Paul II's legacy. I have been amused by the people I have seen reporting on who he is and what he has accomplished. I flipped on the TV in a spare moment the other day and there was Newt Gingrich reporting on the Pope's legacy.

Certainly, there is much to speak of:

Overcoming Communism
An approach to suffering and death
A dedication to culture of life
Ministry to Youth
use of the media
his writings of plays and poetry

In my opinion, without diminishing his importance in any of the above, the most important part of his legacy is overlooked.

Here is what will be, for me, the most important part of his legacy that will endure and will effect life and ministry for years to come.

1. The Theology of the Body, human love as part of the divine plan. The Audience addresses that he presented from 1979 to 1984. The Body as revealing the gift of Christ, the original meaning of human experience, the incomparable dignity of the human person, the person as gift in freedom of love.

All this may have been interpreted basically as of set of rules or part of his conservative agenda. He may be dismissed as someone who knows little about sex or marriage, but those who have taken up the task of listening to him, have discovered the freedom of the Gospel of Christ and how to apply it to their very selves. Human life, what responds to its essential dignity, authentic development: it is not about what we can do; It is about who we are!

His laboratory was the teaching of the church and the tools of philosophy, but his laboratory was also young people and conversation, camping trips filled with fun and prayer. This laboratory produced an new ethic of love and responsibility that is now celebrated the world over by those who have discovered its freedoms.

This is a man who knew love. He knew what it was, how it was supposed to be lived and shared, given and received. It was a learning born in a crucible of suffering of death and resurrection. He knew love, he knew love himself, Jesus Christ, He knew love personally, and he is still able to show us.

2. The remainder of his audience addresses, especially those on the Creed and on the psalms and Canticles of Morning and Evening prayer.

3. The Catechism of Catholic Church

4. The reform of Canon Law

5. His encyclicals. My favorite are Redemptoris Missio and Evangelium Vitae.

I have seen none of this discussed in the print or visual media. Certainly I have not had the time to sit in front of a Television set all day so I may have missed it.

So, what is the most imprtant and most significant aspect of his legacy? Let me know what you think of my list, and let me know what your favorote enclicals are.

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NY Times

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Watching the coverage of the Holy Father has been both fascinating and frustrating. All I can say about reading the Times this mornng is, that if they were that ignorant if reporting on football, they would be fired.

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Happy Birthday Dad, 1920-1976 pictured here in 1929, front row, far left He would have been 85 today.
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I was a bit shocked to see that my post on the Holy Father had 188 comments. Nothing I have ever said got that many posts. Then I was even more saddened to discover many were being mean and disrespectful. Certainly there were a few kind words there, but I simply did not have time to read 188 messages before this evening's mass. So I deleted them all.

To those who had the audacity to enter into my home and my blog and shout obscenities about this man who is truly a saint, you are forgiven, but you are challenged to find in yourselves some human dignity. It was sorely absent in you today.

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John Paul II


This is a picture I took of Pope John Paul II at his summer residence during the Wednesday audience in July, 2003. CPPS priests from around the world were present in Rome for the Summer workshop and we attended the Audience together. I have had many opportunities to hear the Holy Father speak. Those his vocal abilities decreased over the years, the power of his words were as strong as ever. I was present at Audiences in 1987, 1998, 2001, and twice in 2003. I have a framed picture taken in 1987 on my wall of him shaking my hand. Of course I have been able to read hundred's of his audiences on line and in various books published. My favorite book is the one known as "Theology of the Body" and I am sure that it will serve as significant resource for many years to come.

In spite of press reports, we are ignorant of the Pope's condition today. This is as it should be. We do not know when he will die. It is probably sooner rather than later. What is clear is that he will be missed. I am sure that we are seeing the passing of a saint. His words, his actions have been enormously significant to believers and unbelievers alike. I am sure that he will be known as John Paul the Great.

Many of us will have events and memories to share. The time will be a great opportunity for us to reflect upon our identity as family, the communion saints, the ministry of Peter and our experience as members of the Body that is Church.

In the meantime this is a time of reflection and prayer.

Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd,
look kindly on John Paul II,
your vicar on earth,
and grant him relief from his sufferings.

To this herald who has bravely proclaimed your Gospel,
give the consolation of your word.
To this faithful guardian of your Church,
send an angel to shield and protect him.
To this Priest who comforted and anointed the sick,
now bring peace in his own time of trial.

Hear the prayers of those who trust in you,
O Risen Lord and Savior,
who are seated at the right hand of the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Here are a few passages from his talks, memories that are significant for us:

Pope John Paul II, October 22, 1986:

"The spirituality of Saint Gaspar ... is truly at the heart of the Christian life: the Most Precious Blood of our Lord has always been the object of a special attention on the part of all the saints: it is the school of sanctity, of justice, of love... Never delve deeply into this mystery of justice and love: diffuse it into the whole world."

John Paul II, October 19, 1989:

I wholeheartedly bless these efforts, and encourage you to continue them, and to model on the cult of the Precious Blood the spiritual path of your lives and your apostolic activity. Be witnesses of that communion which Christ brought about through the gift of his Blood.

John Paul II, September 14, 2001

Two centuries later, another Pope summons the sons of Saint Gaspar to be no less bold in their decisions and actions - to go where others cannot or will not go and to undertake missions which seem to hold little hope of success. I ask you to continue your efforts to build a civilization of life, seeking the protection of all human life, from the life of the unborn to the life of the aged and infirm, and promoting the dignity of every human person, especially of the weak and of those deprived of their rightful share of the earth's abundance. I urge you to pursue a mission of reconciliation, as you work to rebuild societies torn by civil strife, even bringing together victims and perpetrators of violence in a spirit of forgiveness, so that they may come to know that "it is [the blood of Christ] that is the most powerful source of hope; indeed it is the foundation of the absolute certitude that in God's plan life will be victorious"

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  one of Fr. Keyes' photos

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Personal Reflections category from April 2005.

Personal Reflections: March 2005 is the previous archive.

Personal Reflections: May 2005 is the next archive.

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