Thursday, October 08, 2015

The lampooning of Pope Francis: Shame on George Will

Is anti-Catholicism again becoming mainstream in America? Catholic ridicule is fair game these days for comedians and artists, for Broadway shows and talk radio. Once relegated in the media world to the kooky fringe of Xeroxed screeds about the whore of Babylon, in recent years anti-Catholicism has become a regular visitor in the hateful nastiness of online trolls.  Over the past summer, ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States this week, discriminatory, anti-Catholic bigotry has crept from online comment sections to rear its ugliness prominently in cable TV commentary and newspaper op-eds.  
Last week Washington Post columnist, George Will, attacked Pope Francis for the pontiff’s moral teaching regarding care for creation. I disagree with Will’s boosterism for technology, synthetic fertilizers and fabrics, pesticides, consumerism, and “industrialization powered by fossil fuels.” But I will not take issue here with his claims about the purported miracles of our global economic system and its industries. 

It’s Will’s treatment of things Catholic that is more concerning. What is profoundly appalling is the vitriolic temper of Will’s remarks about the pope. His tone and language are shocking, coming as they do not from a scurrilous, fly-by-night website but from the op-ed page of one of America’s most respected newspapers. All Catholics should be disturbed. Most shameful is the columnist’s ad hominem, sarcastic, and demeaning ridicule of His Holiness, Pope Francis.

The moral teachings that His Holiness reaffirmed in this summer’s encyclical, Laudato Si’—teachings preached as well by Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II—have been at the heart of Catholic analysis of our responsibilities in modern life since Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891. Crudely, Will smears these traditional teachings as “Francis’s fact-free flamboyance.” Lampooning Pope Francis for “trailing clouds of sanctimony,” Will dismisses papal teachings as “demonstrably false and deeply reactionary” and as “woolly sentiments that have the intellectual tone of fortune cookies.” He parades around with the hoary banner of Galileo and against Catholic “medieval stasis.” He demands that “Americans cannot simultaneously honor” Pope Francis “and celebrate their nation’s premises.”

The historian Arthur Schlesinger once called anti-Catholicism “the deepest bias in the history of the American people.” I’ve never actually agreed with that argument. Racism, anti-Semitism, and a peculiar American misogyny are equally deep and certainly more virulent. But, on the left and on the right, anti-Catholicism has always had a kind of pass in otherwise polite corners of American public life where other overt discriminatory language is disparaged.
You are certainly free to disagree with Pope Francis, Mr. Will. You are certainly free to disagree with Catholic teachings and to contest them in any forum. But surely you would agree that the American public square should long ago have forsworn the ridicule of others’ religious teachings and the person of their religious leaders.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

October 7: Our Lady of the Rosary

A Propos of The Battle of Lepanto (1570) and War

Mary and the Muslims

Fulton J. Sheen

            Islam is the only great post-Christian religion of the world. Because it had its origin in the seventh century under Muhammed, it was possible to unite within it some elements of Christianity and of Judaism, along with particular customs of Arabia. Islam takes the doctrine of the unity of God, his Majesty and his Creative power, and uses it, in part, as a basis for the repudiation of Christ, the son of God. Misunderstanding the notion of the Trinity, Muhammed made Christ a prophet announcing him, just as, to Christians, Isaias and John the Baptist are prophets announcing Christ.

            The Christian European West barely escaped destruction at the hands of the Muslims. At one point they were stopped near Tours [in southern France], and at another point, later on in time, outside the gates of Vienna. The Church throughout northern Africa was practically wiped out by Muslim power, and in recent times the Muslims are beginning to rise again.

If Islam is a heresy, as Hilaire Belloc believes it to be, it is the only heresy that has never declined.

            Others have had a moment of vigor, then gone into doctrinal decay at the death of the leader, and finally evaporated in a vague social movement. Islam, on the contrary, has only had its first phase.

            The missionary effort of the Church toward this group has been, at least on the surface, a failure, for the Muslims are so far almost unconvertible. The reason is that for a follower of Muhammed to become a Christian is much like Christian becoming a Jew. The Muslims believe that they have the final and definitive revelation of God to the world and that Christ was only a prophet announcing Muhammed, the last of God’s real prophets.

            At the present time, the hatred of the Muslim countries against the West is becoming a hatred against Christianity itself. Although the statesmen have not yet taken it into account, there is still grave danger that the temporal power of Islam may return and, with it, the menace that it may shake off a West that has ceased to be Christian and affirm itself as a great anti-Christian world power. Muslim writers say, `When the locust swarms darken vast countries, they bear on their wings these Arabic words: “We are God’s host, each of us has 99 eggs, and if we had a hundred, we should lay waste the world with all that is in it.”’

            The problem is, How shall we prevent the hatching of the hundredth egg? It is our firm belief that the fears some entertain concerning the Muslims are not to be realized, but that Islam, instead, will eventually be converted to Christianity and in a way that even some of our missionaries never suspect. It is our belief that this will happen not through the direct teaching of Christianity but through a summoning of the Muslims to a veneration of the Mother of God. This is the line of argument:

Mary in the Koran:

            The Koran, which is the Bible of the Muslims, has many passages concerning the Blessed Virgin. First o fall, the Koran believes in her Immaculate Conception and also in her Virgin Birth. The third chapter of the Koran places the history of Mary’s family in a genealogy that goes back through Abraham, Noah, and Adam. When one compares the Koran’s description of the birth of Mary with the apocryphal gospel of the birth of Mary, one is tempted to believe that Muhammed very much depended upon the latter. Both books describe the old age and the definite sterility of the mother of Mary. When, however, she conceives, the mother of Mary is made to say in the Koran: `O Lord, I vow and I consecrate to you what is already within me. Accept it from me.’ When Mary is born, her mother says: `And I consecrate her with al of her posterity under they protection, O Lord, against Satan!’

            The Koran passes over Joseph in the life of Mary, but the Muslim tradition knows his name and has some familiarity with him. IN this tradition, Joseph is made to speak to Mary, who is a virgin. As he inquired how she conceived Jesus without a father, Mary answered: “Do you not know that God, when He created the wheat, had no need of seed, and that God by his power made the trees grow without the help of rain? All that God had to do was to say, `So be it,’ and it was done.”

            The Koran has also verses on the Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity. Angels are pictured as accompanying the Blessed Mother and saying: `Oh, Mary, God has chosen you and purified you, and elected you above all the women of the earth.’ In the nineteenth chapter of the Koran there are forty-one verses on Jesus and Mary. There is such a strong defense of the virginity of Mary here that the Koran, in the fourth book, attributes the condemnation of the Jews to their monstrous calumny against the Virgin Mary.

Our Lady of Fatima:

            Mary, then, is for the Muslims the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Muhammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Muhammed wrote: `Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary.’ In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say: `I surpass all the women, except Mary.’

            This brings us to our second point, namely, why the Blessed Mother, in the 20th century, should have revealed herself in the insignificant little village of Fatima, so that to all future generations she would be known as Our Lady of Fatima. Since nothing ever happens out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as `Our Lady of Fatima’ as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Muslim people and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too.
            Evidence to support these views is found in the historical fact that the Muslims occupied Portugal for centuries. At the time when they were finally driven out, the last Muslim chief had a beautiful daughter by the name of Fatima. A Catholic boy fell in love with her, and for him she not only stayed behind when the Muslims left but even embraced the Faith. The young husband was so much in love with her that he changed the name of the town where he lived to Fatima. Thus, the very place where Our Lady appeared in 1917 bears a historical connection to Fatima the daughter of Muhammad.

            The final evidence of the relationship of the village of Fatima to the Muslims is the enthusiastic reception that the Muslims in Africa and India and elsewhere have to the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima, as mentioned earlier. Muslims attended the church services in honor of Our Lady; they allowed religious processions and even prayers before their mosques; and in Mozambique the Muslims, who were unconverted, began to be Christian as soon as the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was erected.

            Missionaries in the future will, more and more, see that their apostolate among the Muslims will be successful in the measure that they preach Our Lady of Fatima. Mary is the advent to Christ, bringing Christ to the people before Christ himself is born. In any apologetic endeavor, it is always best to start with that which people already accept. Because the Muslims have a devotion to Mary, our missionaries should be satisfied merely to expand and to develop that devotion, with the full realization that Our Blessed Lady will carry the Muslims the rest of the way to her Divine Son. She is forever a `traitor’ in the sense that she will not accept any devotion for herself, but will always bring anyone who is devoted to her to her Divine Son. As those who lose devotion to her lose belief in the divinity of Christ, so those who intensify devotion to her gradually acquire that belief.

            Many of our great missionaries in Africa have already broken down the bitter hatred and prejudices of the Muslims against the Christians through their acts of charity, their schools and hospitals. It now remains to use another approach, namely that of taking the 41st chapter of the Koran and showing them that it was taken out of the Gospel of Luke, that Mary could not be, even in their own eyes, the most blessed of all the women of heaven if she had not also borne One who was the Savior of the world. If Judith and Esther of the Old Testament were prefigures of Mary, then it may very well be that Fatima herself was a post figure of Mary! The Muslims should be prepared to acknowledge that, if Fatima must give way in honor to the Blessed Mother, it is because she is different from all the other mothers of the world and that without Christ she would be nothing.[1]

1. The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, which gradually took form in the second millennium under the guidance of the Spirit of God, is a prayer loved by countless Saints and encouraged by the Magisterium. Simple yet profound, it still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to “set out into the deep” (duc in altum!) in order once more to proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), “the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn”.1
The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium.
* * * * * *

Prayer for peace and for the family
6. A number of historical circumstances also make a revival of the Rosary quite timely. First of all, the need to implore from God the gift of peace. The Rosary has many times been proposed by my predecessors and myself as a prayer for peace. At the start of a millennium which began with the terrifying attacks of 11 September 2001, a millennium which witnesses every day innumerous parts of the world fresh scenes of bloodshed and violence, to rediscover the Rosary means to immerse oneself in contemplation of the mystery of Christ who “is our peace”, since he made “the two of us one, and broke down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). Consequently, one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling caught up in a clear commitment to advancing peace, especially in the land of Jesus, still so sorely afflicted and so close to the heart of every Christian. 
A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue: the family, the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole. The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis typical of our age.

* * * * * * *
Mary's memories
11. Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son's side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life.
Even now, amid the joyful songs of the heavenly Jerusalem, the reasons for her thanksgiving and praise remain unchanged. They inspire her maternal concern for the pilgrim Church, in which she continues to relate her personal account of the Gospel. Mary constantly sets before the faithful the “mysteries” of her Son, with the desire that the contemplation of those mysteries will release all their saving power. In the recitation of the Rosary, the Christian community enters into contact with the memories and the contemplative gaze of Mary.
* * * * * * *
The Rosary, “a compendium of the Gospel”
18. The only way to approach the contemplation of Christ's face is by listening in the Spirit to the Father's voice, since “no one knows the Son except the Father” (Mt 11:27). In the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus responded to Peter's confession of faith by indicating the source of that clear intuition of his identity: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:17). What is needed, then, is a revelation from above. In order to receive that revelation, attentive listening is indispensable: “Only the experience of silence and prayer offers the proper setting for the growth and development of a true, faithful and consistent knowledge of that mystery”.27
The Rosary is one of the traditional paths of Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ's face. Pope Paul VI described it in these words: “As a Gospel prayer, centred on the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, the Rosary is a prayer with a clearly Christological orientation. Its most characteristic element, in fact, the litany- like succession of Hail Marys, becomes in itself an unceasing praise of Christ, who is the ultimate object both of the Angel's announcement and of the greeting of the Mother of John the Baptist: 'Blessed is the fruit of your womb' (Lk 1:42). We would go further and say that the succession of Hail Marys constitutes the warp on which is woven the contemplation of the mysteries. The Jesus that eachHail Mary recalls is the same Jesus whom the succession of mysteries proposes to us now as the Son of God, now as the Son of the Virgin”.28 
A proposed addition to the traditional pattern
19. Of the many mysteries of Christ's life, only a few are indicated by the Rosary in the form that has become generally established with the seal of the Church's approval. The selection was determined by the origin of the prayer, which was based on the number 150, the number of the Psalms in the Psalter.
I believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion. In the course of those mysteries we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God. Declared the beloved Son of the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ is the one who announces the coming of the Kingdom, bears witness to it in his works and proclaims its demands. It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light:“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). 
Consequently, for the Rosary to become more fully a “compendium of the Gospel”, it is fitting to add, following reflection on the Incarnation and the hidden life of Christ (the joyful mysteries) and before focusing on the sufferings of his Passion (the sorrowful mysteries) and the triumph of his Resurrection (the glorious mysteries), a meditation on certain particularly significant moments in his public ministry (the mysteries of light). This addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer's traditional format, is meant to give it fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the Rosary's place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and of glory.
 * * * * * * * * * *

25. In my testimony of 1978 mentioned above, where I described the Rosary as my favourite prayer, I used an idea to which I would like to return. I said then that “the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life”.31
In the light of what has been said so far on the mysteries of Christ, it is not difficult to go deeper into this anthropological significance of the Rosary, which is far deeper than may appear at first sight. Anyone who contemplates Christ through the various stages of his life cannot fail to perceive in him the truth about man. This is the great affirmation of the Second Vatican Council which I have so often discussed in my own teaching since the Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis: “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man is seen in its true light”.32The Rosary helps to open up the way to this light. Following in the path of Christ, in whom man's path is “recapitulated”,33 revealed and redeemed, believers come face to face with the image of the true man. Contemplating Christ's birth, they learn of the sanctity of life; seeing the household of Nazareth, they learn the original truth of the family according to God's plan; listening to the Master in the mysteries of his public ministry, they find the light which leads them to enter the Kingdom of God; and following him on the way to Calvary, they learn the meaning of salvific suffering. Finally, contemplating Christ and his Blessed Mother in glory, they see the goal towards which each of us is called, if we allow ourselves to be healed and transformed by the Holy Spirit. It could be said that each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man. 
At the same time, it becomes natural to bring to this encounter with the sacred humanity of the Redeemer all the problems, anxieties, labours and endeavours which go to make up our lives. “Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Ps 55:23). To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother. Twenty-five years later, thinking back over the difficulties which have also been part of my exercise of the Petrine ministry, I feel the need to say once more, as a warm invitation to everyone to experience it personally: the Rosary does indeed “mark the rhythm of human life”, bringing it into harmony with the “rhythm” of God's own life, in the joyful communion of the Holy Trinity, our life's destiny and deepest longing.

[1]From “The World’s First Love, Mary Mother of God” by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Chapter 17; Ignatius Press.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Homily by Francis Opening the Ordinary Synod on the Family

Homily by Pope Francis opening the 2015 session of the Synod on the Family - October 4, 2015
“If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn 4:12).
This Sunday’s Scripture readings seem to have been chosen precisely for this moment of grace which the Church is experiencing: the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which begins with this Eucharistic celebration. The readings centre on three themes: solitude, love between man and woman, and the family.

Adam, as we heard in the first reading, was living in the Garden of Eden. He named all the other creatures as a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power, over all of them. Nonetheless, he felt alone, because “there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20). He was lonely.

The drama of solitude is experienced by countless men and women in our own day. I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture.

Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them; many sophisticated means of entertainment, but a deep and growing interior emptiness; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom… The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.

Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability. The image of this is the family. People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad. Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past. It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth-rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.

In the first reading we also hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness. He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen2:18). These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as today’s Psalm says (cf. Ps 128).

This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self. It is the same plan which Jesus presents in today’s Gospel: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24).
To a rhetorical question – probably asked as a trap to make him unpopular with the crowd, which practiced divorce as an established and inviolable fact – Jesus responds in a straightforward and unexpected way. He brings everything back to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus re-establishes the order which was present from the beginning.

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mk 10:9). This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan.
Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense. For God, marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude! Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyzes the human heart.

Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving.

“Now that we have fully tasted the promises of unlimited freedom, we begin to appreciate once again the old phrase: “world-weariness”. Forbidden pleasures lost their attraction at the very moment they stopped being forbidden. Even if they are pushed to the extreme and endlessly renewed, they prove dull, for they are finite realities, whereas we thirst for the infinite” (JOSEPH RATZINGER, Auf Christus schauen. Einübung in Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Freiburg, 1989, p. 73).

In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love. To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.

To carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 3).
To carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.

A Church which teaches and defends fundamental values, while not forgetting that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27); and that Jesus also said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17). A Church which teaches authentic love, which is capable of taking loneliness away, without neglecting her mission to be a good Samaritan to wounded humanity.

I remember when Saint John Paul II said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time” (JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Members of Italian Catholic Action, 30 December 1978). The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock: “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11).

In this spirit we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide his Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.

Jess Gascon Caluncagin, died September 26, 2015 at 10:43pm, in the ICU at New York Presbyterian Hospital after 20 months of almost continual hospitalization,the majority of which was in the Medical Intensive Care Unit.  On October 3, 2015 in St. Paul's Church in Congers, N.Y., the Mass for Christian Burial was celebrated. With the permission of the pastor, Fr. Vladimir and his associate, Fr. Roman, Jess Gabriel Caluncagin began to pronounce the follwing eulogy for his father:

People know me as Jay. But I am Jess Gabriel Calungcagin (it has been an honor to carry this name), and I have named my son Jess Gregory Calungcagin to honor my father.  Jess means: “The Lord Exists.” 

And I thank everyone for their prayers, helping keep our family strong 
- the Medical staff for taking care of dad 
- the Hospital staff for taking care of my mom 
- Dr. Brian Scully for spearheading the mission, taking good care of dad, keeping a close eye.
 -Fr. Bob Connor for taking care of my dad’s spiritual needs.
 -Vincent Ogutu & John Coverdale for being good friends and keeping my dad’s spirits up

    I would like to begin with a quote which my father used at his own father’s memorial mass. It is a quote from St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. I quote: “…the only goal is to arrive at the glory of heaven. And if we did not reach heaven, the whole thing would be useless.” This was a good quote to use because it will help us understand my father’s approach to life and all that it encompasses.

 Let’s start at the beginning. He was born a son in 1953 to Lucio and Catalina Calungcagin. 

   As a son, he truly honored his father and his mother. He was obedient and respectful. Even as their roles changed, and they reached an elderly state, he continued to be a loyal son, never talking above them, but remaining always at their service.

   As a brother, he was a close friend and a great confidant amongst his siblings. And being the middle of seven, he was also a good mediator. I have been told he was their calm, serene, gentle voice of reason. He lived his family life with humility, always concerning himself with their needs before his own. 

   As husband, he was my mom’s best friend, as he was her best friend. Throughout their marriage, they always maintained the courtship of their youth. As quoted from my parents’ wedding invitation from June 1980: A line from St. Josemaria: “I constantly tell those who have who have been called by God to form a home to love one another always, to love each other with the love of their youth.” Someone said the other day; they would see my parents after so many years of marriage, still holding hands, like a young couple. I’ve heard how their marriage was admired by many, and some aspire to love each other in marriage the way they have. Within our family, his wife, my mom, was his number one priority. He did his children a great service by showing us his love for our mother. He would always make her laugh, with their inside jokes, and with his straight-faced one-liners. 

   As a father, he was our provider and our protector, never wavering, always constant, always present. He showed his sons how to be men of virtue: Respecting others, honoring commitments, working hard, staying humble, talking care of others, and always remembering to give any personal glory back to God. He fostered a love for music within my brother, teaching him how to play the guitar. They would stay up late, jamming away to James Taylor & Eric Clapton. He fostered a love for sports within me, baseball, basketball, boxing, tennis. He would always take me to watch Tyson pay-per-view fights, or whip me around the tennis court. There was never a day I saw my dad stagnant. He was always moving, going to work, working on the house, landscaping, he surely had a green thumb, bringing any wilting plant back to its healthy state. He also grilled a mean steak. That common caricature we hear of the “lazy dad on the couch,” that was never him. You would always hear him downstairs loudly clapping and cheering on the Yankees and Giants, but if anyone needed him at that moment, sports was the last thing on this mind. He showed his daughters, by loving our mother, the qualities of a man, which they should seek to, marry, should that be their calling. He raised strong daughters, showing them how to command respect and carry themselves with dignity. As an older brother, that made my life a lot easier. He taught us all this, sometimes with words, but always through action. 

   The women in the family were his treasures. He would never let my mom or sisters do the driving, always ensuring them to their destination, also maybe because he didn’t trust their driving. Rain or shine, he would always pull the car up for them. During the week, he would wake up an extra hour earlier than he should, only to see my sister out the door and wish her a nice day at work. He was a proud grandfather of eight, and God-willing still counting, a True expert at putting the children to sleep, effortlessly. Always holding, hugging, and squeezing them. Where he left off with us, own children, he picked up and continued on with his grandchildren. As an uncle to many, his presence was like that of their own father. He would play with them, coach their teams, teach them, and drive them around. He was there to clean up scraped knees, and rock them to sleep. To his nieces and nephews, he stood as strong role model in their lives. 

   As a friend, relative, and a man in the world, he lived with integrity. The man, who you saw at the workplace, was the same man we saw at home. The man you saw at friendly gatherings was the same man you saw at Sunday mass. He lived a unity of life, never having a dichotomy of personality, truly consistent in all things in his life. He was a charitable man, volunteering at various functions, always helping the community around him. He was truly a Good Samaritan. One night a boy ran up to our door bloody and beaten. He had escaped his own father’s home, asking for help. My dad took him in, changed him out of his bloody shirt, and gave him one of his own. He fed him, made some phone calls, and ensured him to safety. On another occasion, my mom and dad were driving, and witnessed a car crash, without second thought, my dad ran over to the car, pulled the door open, and rescued a woman and her child. He aided them as they were bloodied and injured, until medical help arrived. At a more personal level, he truly connected with people, speaking with them as if they were the only person in the room, taking genuine interest in their interests. At gatherings, if there was anyone remotely feeling displaced, lonely, or off-to-the-side, there you would find my dad engaging them, making them feel welcome and at home. I recall a family gathering, where a particular relative was going through a rough patch, and perhaps even intentionally isolating themselves from everyone. It was not before long; there you would see my dad, in the corner with them, engaging in a gentle conversation, perhaps comforting them, seeing them eye-to-eye, and empathizing with them. Letting them know they were not alone. Some of you relatives are probably thinking, “Who was it?” But over the years, it may very well have been many of us. My father “flew under the radar” throughout his life. No ego, no bravado. No grand entrances, no grand exits. Always passing unnoticed, never calling attention to himself, but he was ever-present, in the middle of the world, having yet another meaningful encounter with someone. 

   We could ask ourselves, “What drives a man to live life with such virtue?” If I may, I’d like to share an experience I had with my father, which helped me understand how my father lived his life. I was in my early 20’s working a temporary office job. With my dad in the kitchen, and me in sitting in the dining room, I asked my dad, “How do you do it? Because here I am, staring at a computer screen from 9 to 5 and I feel miserable working, it’s not fun, I don’t enjoy it, and I think I’m going to go crazy if I had to do this for the rest of my life.” And he said to me, “That’s how you earn Heaven, with Love. No matter what you do, whether you enjoy it or not, you do it with Love. With the big things like work, or little things in everyday life, you do it with Love. If it happens to be something you like, you do it with Love. If it is trying and difficult, you do it with Love. You can hold a high position in society, you can cure many diseases, you can be one of the richest people in the world, you can even enjoy what you do, but if you don’t do it with Love, you cannot earn Heaven.” My father was a man of Faith. He never referred to himself as a “Man of God,” but rather, a “Child of God.” Yes, a child, like a little child, the kid that runs to his parents for everything. At work, during his lunch hour, before grabbing his favorite slice of pizza, you would find him running down from #2 World Financial Center over to Daily Mass down the street, going to see his Christ in the Eucharist, praying for things, asking for things, like a child would. On his train ride commute, you would find him reading the Gospel, getting to know his Faith. Though he may have appeared to be sleeping on the train, he would be engaged in mental prayer, meditating on his Faith. Every Tuesday night, he would receive the sacrament of Reconciliation, always going to weekly confession, asking for forgiveness, and beginning anew, hoping and praying for a better week ahead. In the car, before turning on the news, or listening to music, he would pray the Rosary, running to the Virgin Mary, his mother, seeking comfort and solace. All these daily practices, helped him prepare him for his greatest feat, his encounter with HLH, Lymphoma, and the daily grind in the ICU for almost 2 years. Tired, confused, and frustrated, my father took his stance, doing his very best to take on what was to come. 

    The diseases took a heavy toll on my father’s body, breaking him down severely. The fevers, the pain, the discomfort, I couldn’t even imagine. But attached to every pin-prick of the needle, attached to every tube that was inserted, every grueling headache, and body sore, there was a name attached to it. A name, a person, he was offering up the pain as prayer for that person. For every new pain, there was a new name, always offering up his pain for everyone. Maybe for me, maybe for you, but here he was, uniting his suffering with Christ’s suffering on the Cross. Any brief moment he was aware of, he recited the Hail Mary, again, and always, running to the Virgin Mary, his mother, for comfort. Even from the hospital bed, he was asking how others were doing, asking when a certain friend was getting married, asking how work was, inquiring about people’s well-being, still continuing to live his life from the ICU with Love. Moreover, he brought so many people closer to God. I’ve been told by his good friend Vincent, there are hundreds of people praying for him. People, who haven’t spoken to God in years, were suddenly reaching out to God on my dad’s behalf. Vincent would go on to add, that the word of my dad’s illness had spread, and there were hundreds of people on 6 of the 7 continents praying for my dad. 

   Midway through his stay, in one of my mom’s last conversations with him, she said, “Jess, I wish I could switch places with you.” My dad replied, “But why?” She said, “Because you’ve been through so much…” He stopped her there and said, “No, God has his plan for you. This is God’s plan for me. Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to, and everyone will benefit from this.” My dad took his last breath on a Saturday, a day dedicated to the Virgin Mother, September 26, 2015 at 10:43pm, in the ICU at New York Presbyterian Hospital. So as we enter in this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, let us not only remember my father, Jess Gascon Calungcagin, but let us reflect and meditate on how we too, can live our lives with more Love, and how we can give glory to God by uniting ourselves to the Cross.

Opening of the Ordinary Synod on the Family

To put the Ordinary Synod in context, let me reprint a paragraph from the last pre-synodal address of the Holy Father on the family before going to Cuba on Septmber 21, 2015. He is presenting salvation through liberation - libertation from what he calls the "colonization of money" - but not with the weakness of a revolutionary Marxist liberation theology, but rather achieving liberation through the sanctification of family life. Both alternatives are liberation theology but the one is by revolution of one against the other, the other is by the gift of self to each other with openness to life.

"... a new alliance of man and woman becomes not only necessary but also strategic for the emancipation of people from the colonization of money. This alliance must return to orientate politics, the economy and civil coexistence! It decides the habitability of the earth, the transmission of the meaning of life, the bonds of memory and of hope.

   "Of this alliance, the conjugal-family community of man and woman is the generative grammar, the “golden bond,” we could say. Faith draws it from the wisdom of the creation of God, who has entrusted to the family not the care of an intimacy that ends in itself, but rather the exciting project of rendering the world “domestic.” The family, in fact, is at the beginning, at the base of this global culture that saves us. It saves us from so many, so many attachments, so many destructions, so many colonizations, such as that of money or those ideological ones that threaten the world so much; the family is at the base to defend oneself."
   And with that, the Ordinary Synod opens:
Dear Beatitudes, Eminences, Excellencies, brothers and sisters,
The Church today takes up once again the dialogue begun with the announcement of the extraordinary Synod on the family, and certainly even long before that, to evaluate and reflect on the text of the Working Document (Lt. Instrumentum laboris), elaborated on the basis of the [Extraordinary Assembly’s] final report (Relatio Synodi) and the responses of the Bishops’ Conferences and from the other organizations with the right to contribute.
The Synod, as we know, is a journey undertaken together in the spirit of collegiality and synodality, on which participants bravely adopt parrhesia, pastoral zeal and doctrinal wisdom, frankness, and always keep before our eyes the good of the Church, of families and the suprema lex, the Salus animarum.
I should mention that the Synod is neither a convention, nor a parlor, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises. The Synod is rather an Ecclesial expression, i.e., the  Church that journeys together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God; it is the Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.
The Synod moves necessarily within the bosom of the Church and of the holy people of God, to which we belong in the quality of shepherds – which is to say, as servants. The Synod also is a protected space in which the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit. In the Synod, the Spirit speaks by means of every person’s tongue, who let themselves be guided by the God who always surprises, the God who reveals himself to little ones, who hides from the knowing and intelligent; the God who created the law and the Sabbath for man and not vice versa; by the God, who leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep; the God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations.
Let us remember, however, that the Synod will be a space for the action of the Holy Spirit only if we participants vest ourselves with apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trusting prayer: with that apostolic courage, which refuses to be intimidated in the face of the temptations of the world – temptations that tend to extinguish the light of truth in the hearts of men, replacing it with small and temporary lights; nor even before the petrification of some hearts, which, despite good intentions, drive people away from God; apostolic courage to bring life and not to make of our Christian life a museum of memories; evangelical humility that knows how to empty itself of conventions and prejudices in order to listen to brother bishops and be filled with God – humility that leads neither to finger-pointing nor to judging others, but to hands outstretched to help people up without ever feeling oneself superior to them.
Confident prayer that trusts in God is the action of the heart when it opens to God, when our humors are silenced in order to listen to the gentle voice of God, which speaks in silence. Without listening to God, all our words are only words that are meet no need and serve no end. Without letting ourselves be guided the Spirit, all our decisions will be but decorations that, instead of exalting the Gospel, cover it and hide it.
Dear brothers, as I have said, the Synod is not a parliament in which to reach a consensus or a common accord there is recourse to negotiation, to deal-making, or to compromise: indeed, the only method of the Synod is to open up to the Holy Spirit with apostolic courage, with evangelical humility and confident, trusting prayer, that it might be He, who guides us, enlightens us and makes us put before our eyes, with our personal opinions, but with faith in God, fidelity to the Magisterium, the good of the Church and the Salus animarum.
In fine, I would like to thank: His Eminence Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod; His Excellency, Archbishop Fabio Fabene, Undersecretary; and with them I thank the Rapporteur, His Eminence Cardinal Peter Erdő and the Special Secretary, His Excellency Archbishop Bruno Forte; the Presidents-delegate, writers, consultors, translators and all those who worked with true fidelity and total dedication to the Church. Thank you so much!
I also thank all of you, dear Synod Fathers, fraternal delegates, auditors and assessors, for your active and fruitful participation.
I want to address a special thanks to the journalists present at this time and to those who follow us from afar. Thank you for your enthusiastic participation and for your admirable attention.
We begin our journey by invoking the help of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Thank you.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Catholic Internecine War: Paranoia of Conservatives - Frantasy of Liberals (Austen Ivereigh)

The danger of the moment: the Church in the United States (and perhaps Europe and the world) is split between ideologies of “solid doctrine” and “social concern.” Austen Ivereigh referred to this split as the paranoia of the conservatives and the fantasy of the liberals.

Cases in point: R.R. Reno in First Things (August-Sept issue): “Laudato Si seeks to continue in that tradition [i.e.the tradition of the encyclical as a reasoned orientation in living the experience of Christ], offering both theological critique and endorsement of a collation of the well-intentioned. But it falls into contradiction because there are no clearly articulated principles guiding analysis of the ecological and social crises precipitated by global capitalism” (italics-bold bloggers).

Robert Royal: “There’s much to be said against rigid institutions that betray the freedom and action of the Spirit, but much also to be said in favor of those institutions, and the good and faithful pastors who run them, that support us all through the many twists and the turns of earthly life, which cannot solely be met with spontaneous recourse to the Spirit, but must also engage the dumb practicalities of daily life."

The Kim Davis firestorm that is put forward as the pope’s endorsement of radical conservatism while he did not excoriate the “conservatives” who did not push across – while speaking to Congress - the bills to cut government funding of Planned Parenthood. Etc. There are two ideologies that have been long buried in the consciousness of the Christian West that have been brought out into the open by Pope Francis, and each is trying to get a piece of him to legitize itself, but can't.

                 My suggestion is that the root of the pope’s mind is the same Truth that is the consciousness of the Person of Christ. It is a consciousness that comes from a lived faith as prayer and that becomes conceptual in Peter’s objective proclamation:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16).

   What I have in mind is Joseph Ratzinger's presentation in his "Behold the Pierced One:" 1) The Person of Jesus Christ is prayer as "Son;" 2) the fundamental philosophical epistemology of knowing: like is known by like; 3) Only in prayer can one know (intellegere  = ab intus legere = to read from within) Jesus Christ as divine Person only by becoming like Him by continuous prayer as an anthropology of self-gift.
      In reality, the truth of Christian Faith is the very Person of Christ [who is the Prototype of every human person] that becomes consciousness in every person who goes out of himself in obedience to God and service to the other as in the Good Samaritan, and as a result becomes “another Christ.” This is the nub of the point that has to be discovered and become an “aha” moment.  The action of self-giving generates the truth of Christ in oneself and one comes to understand that there  is not a dichotomy between Love as self-giving to the other and Truth, but that they are the same thing. In reality, Love, Truth and Life are the same Reality: the Person of Christ. Until that is hit upon, we will continue to be mired in a false dichotomy of     liberal and conservative as irreducible ideologies and engage in an internecine intra-ecclesial civil war over it. To the delight of the enemies of the Church who will make money from stoking the phantasmas.

   This is the crisis of the present moment with the Church in the United States, and globally, i.e., the universal call to holiness in ordinary life (family and work) - turning all the circumstances and events of secular, ordinary life into occasions of service and self-forgetfulness: prayer. Nothing other than that will suffice.

Consider Austen Ivereigh's remark:  "His [Bergoglio's] generation had succumbed to the temptations of the revolutionary messianism of the guerrillas or the anti-communist crusade of the men in khaki, and the result was diabolic: the Body of Christ had been split along temporal lines, and orders such as his own [Jesuits] had seen their members dwindle and disperse. In reforming the Society of Jesus in Argentina, Bergoglio wanted the Jesuits to surrender their all-too-human schemes and be shaped by the 'periphery' - the pastoral needs of the poor" [Austen Ivereigh, "The Great Reformer" Henry Holt (2014) 142].
   This is Francis' proposal to the universal Church and the world.