Thursday, April 28, 2011

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Final pregnancy

In 1961, Gianna was once again expecting. During the second month, Gianna developed a fibroma on her uterus. After examination, the doctors gave her three choices: an abortion, a complete hysterectomy, or removal of only the fibroma. Though the Catholic Church forbids all direct abortion even when the woman's life is in danger, Catholic teaching would have allowed her to undergo a hysterectomy, which would have resulted in her unborn child's death as an unintended side-effect.

"Abortion – that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus – is never permitted...Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child." – The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERD) Directive 45
Gianna opted for the removal of the fibroma, wanting to preserve her child's life.
After the operation, complications continued throughout her pregnancy. Gianna was quite clear about her wishes, expressing to her family, "This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other -- I want them to save my baby."

On April 21, 1962, Good Friday of that year, Gianna went to the hospital, where her fourth child, Gianna Emanuela, was successfully delivered via Caesarean section.[1] However, Gianna continued to have severe pain, and died of septic peritonitis 7 days after the birth.
[edit] Canonization

Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and officially canonized a saint on May 16, 2004. Gianna's husband Pietro and their last child, Gianna, were present at the canonization ceremony.

The miracle recognized by the Catholic Church to canonize Gianna Molla involved a mother, Elizabeth Comparini, who was 16 weeks pregnant in 2003 and sustained a tear in her placenta that drained her womb of all amniotic fluid. Because a normal term of pregnancy is 40 weeks, Comparini was told by her doctors the baby's chance of survival was "nil."

Comparini asserted that through praying to Gianna Molla and asking for her intercession, she was able to deliver a healthy baby despite the lack of amniotic fluid.
In his homily at her canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II called Gianna "a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love."[2]

Maria Zita (Mariolina) Molla died in 1964 at the age of six, from a rare complication of measles.
Pietro Molla, died at 97 in 2010 nearly 50 years after Saint Gianna died.

St. Gianna is the inspiration behind the Gianna Center in New York City. It is the first pro-life, Catholic healthcare center for women in New York. The Gianna Center provides comprehensive primary care with specialized gynecologic care.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some Reactions to "There Be Dragons"

Here are a few of (many) the reactions that the producers have received after “There be Dragons” was shown in the theaters in Spain. No more discussion of divorce

Gentlemen: I am writing to thank you for having made this film. A few weeks ago I called a friend of mine to tell him that my wife and I had decided to divorce. We have a daughter. This friend told me: "Before you do that, you have to watch There Be Dragons." I went to see the movie with my wife, accompanied by this friend. We left the theater crying and unable to speak. We spent all that night talking about it, because we realized that the problem was not in our relationship as husband and wife, but that we had not been able to identify and overcome our own inner dragons. The real problems were in each one of us. So we have decided to focus our struggles on that, to overcome our dragons, and not to talk about divorce any more. We have also decided to try to have a new child.

Enrique Lorenzo, Madrid, April 20, 2011

I disconnected from God when my sister died

I just saw There Be Dragons and I need to write to you right away. I have indeed found "my dragons." I felt that I was totally reflected in the character of Manolo: I felt his rage when my 15 year-old sister was taken from this world. I felt that rejection toward God because my sister was the purest thing that existed in this world: a good student, generous, affectionate, self-sacrificing, always cheerful, ready to pull you out of your little daily drama with a dance or a joke ... and she had to be taken away ... Why, if she was only 15? Weren’t there enough terrorists in the world to send them a cancer like my sister’s? The best persons should stay on earth, like Josemaría, to give a little kindness to the world. Why does God want my sister in heaven, which is already full of goodness?

But seeing the development of Manolo's character in the movie, I have decided to turn my eyes to God. The film I saw yesterday stirred something inside me that was silenced at that time. It has re-awakened what I have not felt since I was 18 years-old when I was very religious and was very practicing. Now I have found my dragons and I'm going to face them. Thank you for this movie!

Ana A., March, 29, 2011

Mother and daughter again after 18 years

I wish to thank Mr. Roland Joffé very much for this film. I am 41 years-old and have gone 18 years without talking to my mother, because when I was 23 and she 43, she had a personal relation with the man who was my boyfriend at that time. I've had a miserable life hating her ever since. I have never understood that, as the film says, when you forgive, it frees someone: yourself. I have lived all these years unhappy being a slave to this, because I had not forgiven my mother, even though she asked for my pardon many times. Now I have forgiven her and we are mother and daughter again. And I'm happy once again. Thank you once more.

Lucía Morales, April 3, 2011

My daughter has come back to home ... and to God

Good morning. I am writing you because yesterday a man who comes to my parish told me that that his daughter had left home some time ago. A few months later she came back home because she had run out of money, but she came with a bad attitude. This weekend she went to a multiplex theater and, by mistake, saw There Be Dragons. When she left the movie, she went straight to a church and went to confession. At home she apologized to her parents and now she is a different girl, totally new. This gentleman asked me to write to thank you for making this film. He was excited and happy.

Rafael, Majadahonda, April 15, 2011

Priests are good persons?

Two Goths (who wear black, carry chains and like morbid things) were at a multiplex movie theater on Friday. Reading the list of movies they discovered There Be Dragons, and thinking that it was a movie about Merlin and swords and so on, they bought tickets. When the film ended and the theater emptied out, I saw that they were not moving from their seats. I asked them how they had liked the movie. "Too much," replied one. "We never imagined that priests were such good people."

Sean, April 13, 2011

I leave wanting to be a better person

Thank you, Roland Joffé. You have managed that a person, at the end of the film, is left with desires to be a better person and with the clear idea that it is not worth letting yourself be carried away by your passions. To behave in a decent, human way will at times lead to suffering, and acting badly perhaps has some advantages and saves you some blows in life . . . but it is not worth it. Thank you for this beautiful film.

José Ignacio, Madrid, March 30, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Resurrection Sunday is the First Day of the Week Whereas Sabbath Was The Last Day

The Resurrection overturns the perception of the created world. It introduces another dimension and experience of being into the world. The meaning of the human person is Christ. His resurrection from the dead introduces the historical and existential center of creation: “All things are your… and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor. 3, 23). In the Jewish perception, the Sabbath was the last day of the week, the day of rest. Now, with the Resurrection, the Sabbath is now Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, and it is the first of the week. That is, what took place in Christ is ontologically deeper than creation itself. It is a new creation. God Himself has entered into His creation as Himself. Guardini wrote: “The person of Christ unprecedented nd therefore mearurable by no already existing norm. Christian recognition consists of realizing that all things really began with Jesus Christ; that he is his own norm – and therefore ours – for he is Truth.

“Christ’s effect upon the world can be compared with nothing in its history save its own creation: ‘In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.’ What takes place in Christ is of the same order as the original act of creation, though on a still higher level. For the beginning of the new dcreation is as far superior to the love wehich created the stars, plants, animals and men.That is what the words mean: ‘I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?’ (Lk. 12, 49). It is the fire of new becoming; not only ‘truth’ or ‘love,’ but the incandescence of new creation.”[1]

This ontological dimension of Christ is constitutively relational. That means that to be = to be gift in Him, and, since we are made in His image and likeness, we are made to be gift. And since man has been created to subdue the earth (beginning with himself = priesthood], the “earth” must be lifted into the relational realm of giftedness. This is the meaning of work and economy.


Benedict XVI's Holy Saturday Homily

"The Church ... Brings Man Into Contact With God"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 23, 2011 ( Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Easter Vigil, held tonight in St. Peter's Basilica.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The liturgical celebration of the Easter Vigil makes use of two eloquent signs. First there is the fire that becomes light. As the procession makes its way through the church, shrouded in the darkness of the night, the light of the Paschal Candle becomes a wave of lights, and it speaks to us of Christ as the true morning star that never sets – the Risen Lord in whom light has conquered darkness. The second sign is water. On the one hand, it recalls the waters of the Red Sea, decline and death, the mystery of the Cross. But now it is presented to us as spring water, a life-giving element amid the dryness. Thus it becomes the image of the sacrament of baptism, through which we become sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Yet these great signs of creation, light and water, are not the only constituent elements of the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. Another essential feature is the ample encounter with the words of sacred Scripture that it provides. Before the liturgical reform there were twelve Old Testament readings and two from the New Testament. The New Testament readings have been retained. The number of Old Testament readings has been fixed at seven, but depending upon the local situation, they may be reduced to three. The Church wishes to offer us a panoramic view of whole trajectory of salvation history, starting with creation, passing through the election and the liberation of Israel to the testimony of the prophets by which this entire history is directed ever more clearly towards Jesus Christ. In the liturgical tradition all these readings were called prophecies. Even when they are not directly foretelling future events, they have a prophetic character, they show us the inner foundation and orientation of history. They cause creation and history to become transparent to what is essential. In this way they take us by the hand and lead us towards Christ, they show us the true Light.

At the Easter Vigil, the journey along the paths of sacred Scripture begins with the account of creation. This is the liturgy’s way of telling us that the creation story is itself a prophecy. It is not information about the external processes by which the cosmos and man himself came into being. The Fathers of the Church were well aware of this. They did not interpret the story as an account of the process of the origins of things, but rather as a pointer towards the essential, towards the true beginning and end of our being. Now, one might ask: is it really important to speak also of creation during the Easter Vigil? Could we not begin with the events in which God calls man, forms a people for himself and creates his history with men upon the earth? The answer has to be: no. To omit the creation would be to misunderstand the very history of God with men, to diminish it, to lose sight of its true order of greatness. The sweep of history established by God reaches back to the origins, back to creation. Our profession of faith begins with the words: "We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth". If we omit the beginning of the Credo, the whole history of salvation becomes too limited and too small. The Church is not some kind of association that concerns itself with man’s religious needs but is limited to that objective. No, she brings man into contact with God and thus with the source of all things.

Therefore we relate to God as Creator, and so we have a responsibility for creation. Our responsibility extends as far as creation because it comes from the Creator. Only because God created everything can he give us life and direct our lives. Life in the Church’s faith involves more than a set of feelings and sentiments and perhaps moral obligations. It embraces man in his entirety, from his origins to his eternal destiny. Only because creation belongs to God can we place ourselves completely in his hands. And only because he is the Creator can he give us life for ever. Joy over creation, thanksgiving for creation and responsibility for it all belong together.

The central message of the creation account can be defined more precisely still. In the opening words of his Gospel, Saint John sums up the essential meaning of that account in this single statement: "In the beginning was the Word". In effect, the creation account that we listened to earlier is characterized by the regularly recurring phrase: "And God said ..." The world is a product of the Word, of the Logos, as Saint John expresses it, using a key term from the Greek language. "Logos" means "reason", "sense", "word". It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense. The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason. Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom. Here we are faced with the ultimate alternative that is at stake in the dispute between faith and unbelief: are irrationality, lack of freedom and pure chance the origin of everything, or are reason, freedom and love at the origin of being? Does the primacy belong to unreason or to reason? This is what everything hinges upon in the final analysis.

As believers we answer, with the creation account and with John, that in the beginning is reason. In the beginning is freedom. Hence it is good to be a human person. It is not the case that in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it. If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason. And because it is Reason, it also created freedom; and because freedom can be abused, there also exist forces harmful to creation. Hence a thick black line, so to speak, has been drawn across the structure of the universe and across the nature of man. But despite this contradiction, creation itself remains good, life remains good, because at the beginning is good Reason, God’s creative love. Hence the world can be saved. Hence we can and must place ourselves on the side of reason, freedom and love – on the side of God who loves us so much that he suffered for us, that from his death there might emerge a new, definitive and healed life.

The Old Testament account of creation that we listened to clearly indicates this order of realities. But it leads us a further step forward. It has structured the process of creation within the framework of a week leading up to the Sabbath, in which it finds its completion. For Israel, the Sabbath was the day on which all could participate in God’s rest, in which man and animal, master and slave, great and small were united in God’s freedom. Thus the Sabbath was an expression of the Covenant between God and man and creation. In this way, communion between God and man does not appear as something extra, something added later to a world already fully created. The Covenant, communion between God and man, is inbuilt at the deepest level of creation. Yes, the Covenant is the inner ground of creation, just as creation is the external presupposition of the Covenant. God made the world so that there could be a space where he might communicate his love, and from which the response of love might come back to him. From God’s perspective, the heart of the man who responds to him is greater and more important than the whole immense material cosmos, for all that the latter allows us to glimpse something of God’s grandeur.

Easter and the paschal experience of Christians, however, now require us to take a further step. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. After six days in which man in some sense participates in God’s work of creation, the Sabbath is the day of rest. But something quite unprecedented happened in the nascent Church: the place of the Sabbath, the seventh day, was taken by the first day. As the day of the liturgical assembly, it is the day for encounter with God through Jesus Christ who as the Risen Lord encountered his followers on the first day, Sunday, after they had found the tomb empty. The structure of the week is overturned. No longer does it point towards the seventh day, as the time to participate in God’s rest. It sets out from the first day as the day of encounter with the Risen Lord. This encounter happens afresh at every celebration of the Eucharist, when the Lord enters anew into the midst of his disciples and gives himself to them, allows himself, so to speak, to be touched by them, sits down at table with them. This change is utterly extraordinary, considering that the Sabbath, the seventh day seen as the day of encounter with God, is so profoundly rooted in the Old Testament. If we also bear in mind how much the movement from work towards the rest-day corresponds to a natural rhythm, the dramatic nature of this change is even more striking. This revolutionary development that occurred at the very the beginning of the Church’s history can be explained only by the fact that something utterly new happened that day. The first day of the week was the third day after Jesus’ death. It was the day when he showed himself to his disciples as the Risen Lord. In truth, this encounter had something unsettling about it. The world had changed. This man who had died was now living with a life that was no longer threatened by any death. A new form of life had been inaugurated, a new dimension of creation. The first day, according to the Genesis account, is the day on which creation begins. Now it was the day of creation in a new way, it had become the day of the new creation.

We celebrate the first day. And in so doing we celebrate God the Creator and his creation. Yes, we believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And we celebrate the God who was made man, who suffered, died, was buried and rose again. We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation. We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence. We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that reason is stronger than unreason, truth stronger than lies, love stronger than death. We celebrate the first day because we know that the black line drawn across creation does not last forever. We celebrate it because we know that those words from the end of the creation account have now been definitively fulfilled: "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31). Amen.

[1] Romano Guardini, “The Lord,” Regnery (1955) 306.

Roland Joffe - "Wobbly Agnostic:" There May be Something Besides Us Humans

The writer and director of There Be Dragons, Roland Joffé, is not a believer in God; he has called himself a “wobbly agnostic.” His thoughts from a press conference in October of 2010 are not only interesting in themselves but also helpful for understanding the unique perspective he brought to the movie, “There Be Dragons.”

“I think very few movies dare address the question of the divine. In fact, people think I’m mad, and there’s certainly one English newspaper that’s said ‘Joffe’s gone mad,’ thinking he’s going to do a movie about God. And I think that’s highly amusing. Why we should be considered mad because we think that there’s a God, but sane if we think there isn’t, I can’t understand….

“It seems to me that there’s a beauty in the idea that there’s a Creator and in the idea of God that’s lacking in the idea of… well, the kind of existential idea of the world which suggests that there’s nothing but us human beings. So it seems to me, if one can take the choice, why not take the choice that offers the most beauty and the most richness in human experience; which religion in many ways has shown us that it can do….

“But religion offers something else still. I mean, particularly religion. It offers us the idea that there is something other than us, and we are not the only measure of ourselves. And that the measure of us is more glorious and more extraordinary than we can imagine. I think that’s not a bad illusion, if it is an illusion to have. And if it’s the truth, that’s pretty wonderful.”

Joffe's Criterion: Experiencing The Beauty that There's Something Besides Us Humans

BXVI Easter "Urbi et Orbi" 2011

"In Our Hearts There Is Joy and Sorrow, on Our Faces There Are Smiles and Tears"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Easter message delivered today at midday before he imparted his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world).

* * *

"In resurrectione tua, Christe, coeli et terra laetentur! In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice!" (Liturgy of the Hours).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and across the world,

Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new: Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalem twenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heart lives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdalene and the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peter and the other Apostles.

Right down to our own time – even in these days of advanced communications technology – the faith of Christians is based on that same news, on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who saw firstly the stone that had been rolled away from the empty tomb and then the mysterious messengers who testified that Jesus, the Crucified, was risen. And then Jesus himself, the Lord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all eleven, gathered in the Upper Room (cf. Mk 16:9-14).

The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculation or mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history, nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indelible mark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb has traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light, that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world the splendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.

Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silent hymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes her pilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universe and above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God, giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth.

"In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice." To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart of the Church, the "heavens" respond fully: the hosts of angels, saints and blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peace and gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, the Easter alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet it was for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin, including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own. So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation, it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a time of suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom, justice and peace.

May the Land which was the first to be flooded by the light of the Risen One rejoice. May the splendour of Christ reach the peoples of the Middle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence. In the current conflict in Libya, may diplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid. In the countries of northern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people, work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person.
May help come from all sides to those fleeing conflict and to refugees from various African countries who have been obliged to leave all that is dear to them; may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them, so that the pressing needs of so many brothers and sisters will be met with a concerted response in a spirit of solidarity; and may our words of comfort and appreciation reach all those who make such generous efforts and offer an exemplary witness in this regard.

May peaceful coexistence be restored among the peoples of Ivory Coast, where there is an urgent need to tread the path of reconciliation and pardon, in order to heal the deep wounds caused by the recent violence. May Japan find consolation and hope as it faces the dramatic consequences of the recent earthquake, along with other countries that in recent months have been tested by natural disasters which have sown pain and anguish.
May heaven and earth rejoice at the witness of those who suffer opposition and even persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. May the proclamation of his victorious resurrection deepen their courage and trust.

Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Movie: "The King's Speech"

The movie is a masterpiece of personal depth. It is a dramatic presentation of the failure to achieve identity because of non-affirmation in youth. This failure of identity outs in the personality of the Prince of Wales - about to be king - as stuttering and stammering in the most conspicuous situation possible: as King of England on the brink of war with Germany, and the need, as king, to rally the country and the entire Empire to the cause. The Duke of Windsor-to-be-king could not read a continuous sentence without halting and stammering.

A non-credentialed master of speech therapy - an Australian - who learned the trade rehabilitating shell-schocked soldiers rattled to the bottom of their psyche by battle fatigue, is discovered by the wife, the Duchess of Windsor. The therapist, as professional and man, is the real thing, establishes an authentic relationship of person to person, and leads him out of himself - to find himself. The therapy consists in liberating the self from self-absorption. The screen play and acting here are of the highest quality. The critical moment consists in the speech that the Duke-now-king must make to rally all of England and the entire British Empire to war with Germany. The speech is delivered to the therapist - now friend - standing before the king and the microphone. It is a speech given person to person, not person to empire and world. It is the relationship of friendship at its best and the building of a man to do what he must do by becoming the man that he must be. He is drawn out of himself having been frightened into himself as a child.

Get it!

The movie may be panned for children because there are snippits of vulgarity. However, they contribute to the depth of the plot which is the relationship of the two men and the release of the interior psyche of the king to become himself.

Would God Have Become Man If Man Had Not Sinned?

Did the Son of God become man because of sin, or because He is the creating prototype of man? Asked differently, if man did not sin, would God have become man? Or yet again, is the Incarnation a consequence of sin as a kind of stupendous footnote to sin, and therefore an “accident” to the “substantiality” of sin, or is Jesus Christ the original meaning of man? And yet again, is the Resurrection the original state of man as intended at the moment of creation? And in the light of this, we can ask, is Christianity a "religion" or is it "Anthropology" with a capital "A."

The touchstone to answer these questions is the text of Ephesians 1, 4:
“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will…”

The large point the pope makes on entry to the question of the Resurrection in his “Jesus of Nazareth” II is that the Resurrection is the “criterion” (242) of all of our judgments on the human person. “Only if Jesus is risen has anything really new occurred that changes the world and the situation of mankind. Then he becomes the criterion on which we can rely. For then God has truly revealed himself” (242). Another way of stating that is: Jesus Christ is not merely a resuscitated corps (Bultmann) like Lazarus (Jn. 11, 1), the daughter of the Jairus (Mk. 5, 22) or the son of the widow of Naim (Lk. 7, 11), all three of whom, like everyone else, died again. Jesus Christ enters into what could be called an “evolutionary leap.” His existence as man is not as an individual substance but as a relational Subject whose filial relation to God the Father is “Who He is.” His existence is a “pro-existence” (134).

Benedict is making the point made by Romano Guardini in his "The Lord:"

"Christ's effect upon the world can be compared with nothing in history save its own creation: 'In the beginning God created heaven, and earth." What takes place in Christ is of the same order as the original act of creation, though on a still higher level. For the beginning of the new creastion is as far superior to the love which created the stars, plants, animals and men. That is what the words mean 'I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?' (Lk. 12, 49). It is the fire of new becoming; not only 'truth' or 'love,' but the incandescence of new creation.

" How earnest these word are is clear from those that follow: 'But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!' 'Baptism' is the mystery of creative depths: grave and womb in one. Christ must pass through them because human hardness of heart does not allow him to take the other road. Down, down through terrible destruction he descends, to the nadir of divine creation whence saved existence can climb back into being.

"Now we understand what St. Paul meant with his 'excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ:' the realization that this is who Christ is, the Descender. To make this realization our own is the appha and omega of our lives, for it is not enough to know Jesus only as the Savior....

"How long must I wait? God knows. He can give himself to you overnight, you can also wait twenty years, but what are they in view of his advent? One day he will come. Once in the stillness of profound composure you will know: that is Christ! He who is creative love brings your intrinsic potentialities to life. Your ego at its profoundest is he.

"This is the literally all-excelling knowledge to which St. Paul refers. It springs like a spark from that 'fire'... To know Christ entails accepting his will as norm. We can participate in the beginning which is he only by becoming one with his will" [R. Guardini, "The Lord," Regnery (1954) 306-307].

Recall the grave danger that always threatens this experiential knowledge of Christ:

"As soon as a religious consciousness that preaches 'pure doctrine' comes into being, and with it an authority ready to spring to its defense, the danger of orthodoxy becomes acute . For what is orthodoxy but that attitude which considers obedience to the Law already salvation, and which would preserve the purity of the Law already salvation, and which would preserve the purity of the Law at all costs - even at the price of violence to the conscience? The moment rules of salvation, cult and communal pattern are fixed, one is tempted to believe that their strict observance is already holiness in the sight of God. The moment there is a hierarchy of offices,and powers, of tradition and law, there is also the danger of confusing authority and obedience with the kingdom of God. The moment human norms are applied to holiness, inflexible barriers drawn between right and wrong, the danger of laying hand on divine freedom, of entangling in rules and regulations that which falls from God's grace alone becomes considerable. No matter how noble a thought may be, once it enters the human heart it stimulates contradiction, untruth and evil. The same fate awaits that which comes from God. Order in faith and prayer, in office and discipline, tradition and practice is of genuine value; but it opens up negative possibilities. Wherever a decisive either-or is demanded in the realm of sacred truth; where the objective forms of cult, order and authority are all that count, there you may be sure, is also danger of 'the Pharisee' and his 'Law.' Danger of accepting outer values for intrinsic; danger of contradicting attitude and word; danger of judging God's freedom by legal standards - in short, danger of all the sins of which Christ accuses the Pharisees. The history of the Mosaic Law is a terrible warning. What had come, a holy thing, from God, was turned into an instrument of disaster. The moment definite revelation, the positive ordering of existence by God is believed, this possibility presents itself. It is good for the belilever to know this, that, as a member of the second covenant, he may be spared the fate of the first" [Guardini 171].

The Meaning of Eschatology

This, the above, is the grounding of Christian eschatology, the so-called “last things.” The point is that Christ is “the last thing” of man. The “last thing” for man is already here in that Christ is already here. He rose, and He lives!! He is present in the world but cannot be seen because we have lost the capacity to re-cognize Him. One must be like Him to experience Him within oneself – cognizing Him – and, therefore, when presented with His visible perception in the world, re-cognizing Him.

The eschaton as the “Last Thing” will come not only at the end of the world as The Second Coming. In reality it has already come. In fact it has always been here. We are looking right at it but cannot re-cognize it. God in Christ has pre-existed the world. Christ accompanied the People of God into Egypt, and out. In the exodus, He was the Fire by night, the Cloud by day, the rock that followed them in the desert, which, when struck, watered them. He was the manna that fed them as bread and fowl as meat. He was the Word spoken by the angel, received by the Virgin, made Flesh in her womb, lived an ordinary working life, spoke Himself as Word of God, suffered for our sins, died, rose, ascended to the right Hand of the Father and continues to be “with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28,20).

In His three years of public life, He restored the twelve tribes with the twelve apostles and told them to gather all the nations into a People of God – a Church – that will be a single Christ by the power of three sacraments: Baptism, Order and Eucharist. Nothing more is essentially needed. The danger has always been dressing David in the armor of Saul to defeat Goliath. Baptism yields the layfaithful; Order gives the hierarchical minister in direct tactile union with Christ; Eucharist is the action of self gift whereby the Church of always passes from the Christ of “already” to the Christ of the “not yet” through the Christological anthropology of self-gift in work.


The Christological Anthropology of Resurrection

Continuing the line of thought in Benedict’s Easter Vigil Homily, he asks: “What happened there? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and for me personally? Above all: what happened? Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is in a totally new life. But how could this happen? What forces were in operation?” He answers: “The crucial point is that this man Jesus was not alone, he was not an “I” closed in upon itself. He was one single reality with the living God, so closely united with him as to form one person with him. He found himself, so to speak, in an embrace with him who is life itself, an embrace not just on the emotional level, but one which included and permeated his being. His own life was not just his own, it was an existential communion with God, a `being taken up’ into God, and hence, it could not in reality be taken away from him. Out of love, he could allow himself to be killed, but precisely by dong so he broke the definitiveness of death, because in him the definitiveness of life was present. He was one single reality with indestructible life, in such a way that it burst forth anew through death. Let us express the same thing once again from another angle. His death was an act of love. At the Last Supper he anticipated death and transformed into self-giving. His existential communion with God was concretely an existential communion with God’s love, and this love is the real power against death, it is stronger than death. The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of `dying and becoming.’ It ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.”The Christology is the following: The divine nature and the human nature are not sitting in parallel next to each other tied together by the Person of the Logos. We have seen in other postings below that the act of existence and dynamics of the man, Jesus of Nazareth, is the Esse of the divine Logos. That means, not that the humanity of Christ existed in fact and functioned as a “pure nature” endowed with human intellect and will as the knowing and consenting source of the crucifixion. Rather, it means that the humanity of Jesus Christ is the humanity of the Person of the Logos and that He willed obedience to the Father’s will. He said “Yes” to the will of the Father, and the human will and divine will were one “Yes” of the “I” of the Son of God. To give this some clarity, elsewhere Benedict said:“In the manuals, the theological development after Chalcedon (451) has ordinarily come to be little considered. The impression thus frequently remains that dogmatic Christology finishes up with a certain parallelism between the two natures of Christ. The impression has also been the cause leading to the divisions since Chalcedon. But in effect the declaration of the true humanity and the true divinity of Christ can retain its significance only when there is clarification also of the mode of unity of the two natures, which the Council of Chalcedon has defined by the formula of the `one person’ of Christ, at that time not yet fully examined. In fact only that unity of divinity and humanity which in Christ is not parallelism, where one stands alongside the other, but real compenetration – compenetration between God and man – means salvation for humankind. Only thus in fact does that true `being with God’ take place, without which liberation and freedom do not exist.” The key here is that the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth (no human person is present) is totally absorbed, not by a “divine nature,” but in the divine Person of the Logos. The result is that the human will of Jesus is the will of the divine Person Who says “Yes” to the Father with it, and with it ladened with all the sins of all men of all time (2 Cor. 5, 21: “He made him to be sin”). The assumption of the human will by the Person of the Logos is not an absorption by a parallel divine nature which would overpower and annul its humanness. Rather, this concrete human nature becomes that of the divine Person who lives out His divine Personhood precisely as human. The relation, or self-gift, of the Person-divinity brings the initial imaging of God that man is to fulfillment. Gaudium et spes #22 says: “He” – the divine Person - “worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart, he loved.” Instead of annulling human freedom, the assumption and exercise of the humanity by the divine Person increases that freedom and brings it to its fulfillment. Notice that John Paul II teaches that “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully I the total gift of himself and call his disciples to share in his freedom”[10] The obedience of Christ to death precisely with the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth does not remove its autonomy and freedom. It enhances it. It is precisely the divine Person of the Logos saying and living out the “Yes” of obedience with the human will that is our Redemption. It is not a parallelism of natures bound together by the glue of the “glue” of the divine Person, but the compenetration of nature and Person that is Incarnation and RedemptionBenedict continues:“If God joins himself to his creature – man/woman – he does not wound or diminish it: he brings it to its plenitude. But on the other hand (and this is no less important) there remains no trace of that dualism or parallelism of the two natures which in the course of history was frequently judged necessary to defend the human liberty of Jesus. Such studies forgot that the assumption of the human will into the divine will does not destroy freedom, but on the contrary generates true liberty. The Council of Constantinople has analysed concretely the problem of the will of joss. We are reminded firmly that there exists a specific will of the man Jesus that is not absorbed into the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes a single will with it, not, however, in a forced way but by way of freedom. The metaphysical duplicity of a human will and a divine will is not eliminated, but in the personal sphere, the area of freedom, there is accomplished a fusion of the two, so that this becomes not one single natural will but one personal will. This free union – a mode of union created by love – is a union higher and more intimate than a purely natural union. It corresponds to the highest union which can exist, the union of the Trinity. The Council explains this union by a saying of the Lord given in the Gospel of John: `I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me’ Jn. 6, 38). Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his will the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38, the council proves the unity of the subject: in Jesus there are not two `I,’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the `I;’ this has become his `I,’ has been assumed into his `I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become our assent to the will of the Father…“(T)he Logos stoops to assume as his own the will of man, and speaks to the Father with the `I’ of this man, and thereby transforms the word of a man into the eternal word, into his own blessed `Yes, Father.’ While giving to this man his own `I,’ his own identity, the logos frees the man, saves him, divinizes him. We here touch almost palpably on the reality meant by the phrase `God became man:’ the Son transforms the anguish of a man into the obedience of the Son, transforms the speech of the `servant’ into the words transformation of any person, which is at the same time the one thing ultimately desirable: divinization. Thus the prayer which enters into the prayer of Jesus, and which in the body of Christ becomes the prayer of Jesus Christ, can be defined as the `laboratory’ of freedom. Here and in no other place occurs that profound change in a person which we need for the world to become better.” Ultimately, we are looking here at the anthropology of divinization and therefore resurrection.Semantically, the hagiographers of the New Testament used different words for “life” and “living” to communicate this anthropology of divinization. For example, when Jesus Christ refers to Trinitarian Life or eternal life, St. John as well as the synoptic writers use the Greek word ζωη.

Benedict asserts the significance of the Greek words, particularly two of them: ζωη and βίος with regard to the Resurrection: “It goes without saying that the life of him who has risen from the dead is not once again βίος, the bio-logical form of our mortal life inside history; it is ζωη, new, different, definitive life; life which has stepped beyond the mortal realm of βίος and history, a realm which has here been surpassed by a greater power. And in fact the resurrection narratives of the New Testament allow us to see clearly that the life of him who has risen again does not lie within the historical βίος, but beyond and above it. It is also true, of course, that this new life begot itself in and had to do so, because after all it is there for history, and the Christian message is basically nothing else than the transmission of the testimony that love has here broken through death and thus transformed fundamentally the situation of al of us. Once we have realized this, it is no longer difficult to find the right kind of hermeneutics for the difficult business of expounding the biblical resurrection narratives, that is, to acquire a clear understanding of the sense in which they must properly be understood.”[15]In another rendering of the same argument, Benedict says: “Jesus is not one who has `returned’ from the dead like for example the young man of Naim and Lazarus, called back again to an earthly life, which then had to end in a final death. The Resurrection of Jesus is not, for example, an overcoming of clinical death, which we also know about today, which must however at a certain moment end in a clinical death without return. That matters do not stand like this is not only shown by the Evangelists, but also by the same Credo of Paul’s (1 Cor. 15, 3-11) in so far as it describes the successive appearances of the risen Jesus with the Greek word ophthe, customarily translated as `he appeared;’ perhaps we should say more correctly: `made himself seen.’ This formula would make clear that what is treated of here is something different: that Jesus, after the Resurrection, belongs to a sphere of reality which is normally withdrawn from our senses. Only so can it be explained that Jesus was not recognized, as all the Evangelists agree in telling us. He no longer belongs to the world perceptible to the senses, but to the world of God. He can therefore be seen only by one to whom he grants it. And involved also in such a way of seeing are likewise the heart, the spirit, the whole inward person. Even in everyday life, seeing is not that simple process we generally take it to be. Two people looking at the world at the same time rarely see the same thing. Moreover seeing is always from within. According to circumstances, one person can perceive the beauty of things or only their usefulness; one can read in another’s countenance preoccupation, love, hidden s suffering, dissimulation, or notice nothing. All of this appears manifest to the sense also but comes however to be perceived only by a process of the mind and senses together, which is all the more demanding, the more profoundly the sensible manifestation of a thing arises from the depths of reality. Something analogous is true of the risen Lord: he manifested himself to the senses, and yet can stimulate only those senses that sees better than through the senses.“Taking the whole passage into account, we should then admit that Jesus did not live like are-animated corpse but in virtue of divine power, beyond the region of what is physically and chemically measurable. But it is also true that he himself, this person, the Jesus sentenced two days earlier, was alive…. Resurrection and appearance are two distinct facts, clearly separated in the confession. The Resurrection does not come to an end with the appearances. The appearances are not the Resurrection, but only its reflection. Before all this it is an event for Jesus himself, occurring between him and the Father in virtue of the power of the Holy Spirit; then the event happening to Jesus himself becomes accessible to other people because it is he who makes it accessible. And with this we are back again at the question of the tomb, for which the answer is now found. The tomb is not the central point of the message of the Resurrection; it is instead the Lord in his new life.”

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday - April 2011

Benedict XVI: “Now we know who God is!” Answer: He is the radical gift of Himself to the Father. He is nothing but pure relation to the Father. Therefore, in Himself, He is nothing. And that is what He is reduced to on the Cross. He is revealing that there is nothing in Him that is Him except relation to the Father.

J. Ratzinger - Colosseum 2005:

“In Greek and Latin, the two international languages of the time, and in Hebrew, the language of the Chosen People, a sign stood above the Cross of Jesus, indicating who he was: the King of the Jews, the promised Son of David. Pilate, the unjust judge, became a prophet despite himself. The kingship of Jesus was proclaimed before all the world. Jesus himself had not accepted the title "Messiah", because it would have suggested a mistaken, human idea of power and deliverance. Yet now the title can remain publicly displayed above the Crucified Christ. He is indeed the king of the world. Now he is truly "lifted up". In sinking to the depths he rose to the heights. Now he has radically fulfilled the commandment of love, he has completed the offering of himself, and in this way he is now the revelation of the true God, the God who is love. Now we know who God is. Now we know what true kingship is. Jesus prays Psalm 22, which begins with the words: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:2). He takes to himself the whole suffering people of Israel, all of suffering humanity, the drama of God's darkness, and he makes God present in the very place where he seems definitively vanquished and absent. The Cross of Jesus is a cosmic event. The world is darkened, when the Son of God is given up to death. The earth trembles. And on the Cross, the Church of the Gentiles is born. The Roman centurion understands this, and acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God. From the Cross he triumphs ­ ever anew.”

Who, then, is God? He is the radical gift of Himself to the Father. He is nothing but pure relation to the Father. Therefore, in Himself, He is nothing. And that is what He is reduced to on the Cross. He is revealing that there is nothing in Him that is Him except relation to the Father. The name “Jesus Christ” means that He is Jesus, the Christ. His teaching is not His own. His work is not His own. His being is not His own. “The Son is Son, and in so far as He is Son, does not proceed in any way from himself and so is completely one with the Father; since he is nothing beside him, claims no special position of his own, confronts the Father with nothing belonging only to him, retains no room for his own individuality, therefore he is completely equal to the Father. The logic is compelling: if there is nothing in which he is just he, no kind of fenced-off private ground, then he coincides with the Father, is ‘one’ with him.”[1] In a word, “substance” is not word that can describe the ontological reality that is the Son as the Person of Jesus Christ. And if Jesus Christ is the prototype of the human person, and the human person must find his ontological fulfillment in the Person of Christ, then, the human person cannot be described by “substance” either, where relation to the Father could be construed as “happening” to the person as “accident.”

Benedict XVI in “Jesus of Nazareth” II: “Recent theology has rightly underlined the use of the word ‘for’ in all four accounts, a word that may be considered the key not only to the Last Supper accounts, but to the figure of Jesus overall. His entire being is expressed by the word ‘pro-existence’ – he is there, not for himself, but for others. This is not merely a dimension of his existence, but its innermost essence and its entirety. His very being is a ‘being-for.’ If we are able to grasp this, then we have truly come close to the mystery of Jesus, and we have understood what discipleship is” (134).

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 134.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday 2011

1) The Last Supper precedes the Paschal meal. According to John, Christ is crucified the day whose evening is the Paschal Feast itself. He is killed at the same time as the lambs are sacrificed in the Temple. Benedict affirms the Pasch to take place on Friday that year [what year?]. Hence, the Crucifixion had to take place on Thursday, and the new Paschal Meal (Christ's Last Supper which now became the paschal meal), perhaps took place on Wednesday. At the last supper, there could not be any lamb since Christ's death coincided with the slaughter of the lambs, He clearly being the Lamb of the Paschal Meal, and his Blood the warding off of the Avenging Angel. See "Jesus of Nazareth" II pp. 106-115.

Scott Hahn follows Annie Jaubert's acceptance of the two calendars: "I find the supposed conflict between the synoptics and John is resolved to my satisfaction by Annie Jaubert, The Date of the Last Supper (Staten Island: Alba House, 1965). She argues two calendars were operative in Christ’s time and accepts the ancient Syriac testimony of a "Holy Tuesday" institution of the Eucharist. Granted, there are difficulties in that, but her work helps harmonize the five trials of Jesus (Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and Pilate), which fit much easier into a Tuesday to-Friday time frame than in a Thursday-midnight-to-morning frame. She also published an article arguing that even John’s account of the upper room shares a paschal background, "The Calendar of Qumran and the Passion Narrative in John," in J. Charlesworth, ed., John and Qumran (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1972), 62-75. I have read criticisms of Jaubert’s thesis, but I don’t feel much force behind them; for a popular summary of the alleged problems, see Raymond Brown, "The Date of the Last Supper," in The Bible Today Reader (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1973), 322-28.]

2) The Washing of the Feet: Recognizing that Christ is indeed Master and Lord, Peter did not want Him to wash his feet. But, Benedict says, "Jesus has to help us recognize anew that God's power is different, that the Messiah must pass through suffering into glory and must lead others along the same path" (Ibid 70).

3) The Blood of Christ: We want His Blood to be upon us because it is not the Blood of Abel that cries out to heaven for vengeance but the Blood of the real Paschal Lamb that will ward off the destruction of the Avenging Angel for the family (The Church).

4) The Bread and the Blood: Given and poured out "for us." The "pro-existence" of Jesus Christ. Here is the totality of the mind of Benedict XVI: "Recent theology has rightly underlined the use of the word 'for' in all four accoutns, a word that may be considered the key not only to the Last Supper accounts, but to the figure of Jesus overall. His entiere being is expressed by the word 'pro-existence' - he is there, not for himself, but for others. This is not merely a dimension of his existence, but its innermost essence and tis entirety. His very being is a 'being-for.' If we are able to grasp tis, then we have truly come close to the mystery of Jesus, and we have understood what discipleship is" (Ibid. 143).

5) "Bread of Life" "Life" for the Eucharist in the new-testament Greek is Zoe. It means trinitarian life as opposed to Bios and Psyche that is created-non transcendent life as biological/psychological.

Therefore, in the context of having the same mission as Christ ("As the Father has sent me, I send you" [Jn. 20, 21]), the Eucharist is the food and affirmation enabling the human person to make the gift of himself that completely transcends him without this supernatural reality to power and sustain him. In that light, consider the following remarks of Benedict XVI:

Benedict XVI:
“What does it mean, to receive the Lord? That is never just a physical bodily act, as when I eat a slice of bread. So it can therefore never be something that happens just in a moment. To receive Christ means: to move toward him, to adore him. For that reason, the reception can stretch out beyond the time of the Eucharistic celebration; indeed, it has to do so. The more the Church grew into the Eucharistic mystery, the more she understood that she could not consummate the celebration of Communion within the limited time available in the Mass. When, thus, the eternal light was lit in the Church, and the tabernacle installed beside the altar, then it was as if the bud of the mystery had opened, and the Church had welcomed the fullness of the Eucharistic mystery. The Lord is always there. The church is not just a space in which something sometimes happens early in the morning, while for the rest of the day it stands empty, ‘unused.’ There is always the “Church’ in the church building, because the Lord is always giving himself, because the Eucharistic mystery remains present, and because we, in approaching it, are always included in the worship of the whole believing, praying, and loving Church.

“We all know what a difference there is between a church that is always prayed in and one that haws become a museum. There is a great danger today of our churches becoming museums and suffering the fate of museums: if they are not locked, they are looted. They are not longer alive. The measure of life in the Church, the measure of her inner openness, will be seen in that she will be able to keep her doors open, because she is a praying Church. I ask you all therefore from the heart, let us make a new start at this. Let us again recollect that the Church is always alive, that within her evermore the Lord comes to meet us. The Eucharist, and its fellowship, will be all the more complete, the more we prepare ourselves for him in silent prayer before the Eucharistic presence of the Lord, the more we truly receive Communion. Adoration such as that is always more than just talking with God in a general way. But against that could then rightly be voiced the objection that is always to be heard: I can just as well pray in the forest, in the freedom of nature. Certainly, anyone can. But if it were only a matter of that, then the initiative in prayer would lie entirely with us: then God would be a mental hypothesis - whether he answers, whether he can answer or wants to, would remain open. The Eucharist means, God has answered: The Eucharist is God as an answer, as an answering presence. Now the initiative no longer lies with us, in the God-man relationship, but with him, and it now becomes really serious. That is why, in the sphere of Eucharistic adoration, prayer attains a new level; now it is two-way, and so not it really is a serious business."

[1] . Ratzinger, “God is Near Us,” Ignatius (2003) 89-90.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Anniversary of the Election of Javier Echevarria as Prelate

The Meaning of the Prelate:

“For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15).
Today is the birthday of Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, born June 14, 1932. As Prelate of Opus Dei and successor to the founder, St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, and his immediate successor Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, his mission is principally to continue the dynamic of the founder as “engendering sons and daughters.” By this is meant: loving them such as to empower them to make the gift of themselves as laymen and ministerial priests such that they form the family (“communio”) of Opus Dei. By forming the family of Opus Dei, they spread the charism of St. Josemaria that is the giving of the self in the exercise of ordinary secular work and family life. This actualizing the Church as communio with the “characteristic” of secularity is the mission of the Prelature, Opus Dei, as “a little bit of the Church,”
[1] as St. Josemaria once said it.
The engendering proper to true fatherhood has theological and metaphysical dimensions. Theologically, the Pope pronounced on it years ago: “the First Person does not beget the son in the sense of the act of begetting coming on top of the finished Person; it is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving…”

Metaphysically/psychologically Dr. Conrad Baars comments from clinical psychiatric experience: “Individuals who have been adequately affirmed during their developmental years by unselfishly loving, affectionate, mature parents and/or other significant persons can be said to have received the gift of themselves. They feel worthwhile, significant and lovable. They possess themselves as man or woman. They know who they are. They are certain of their identity. They love themselves unselfishly; They are open to all that is good and find joy in the same. They are able to affirm all of creation, and as affirmers of all beings are capable of making others happy and joyful, too. They are largely other-directed. They find joy in being and doing for others. They find joy in their loving relationship with their Creator. They can share and give of themselves, be a true friend to others, and feel at ease with persons of both sexes. They are capable of finding happiness in marriage or the freely chosen celibate state of life. They are free from psycho-pathological factors which hamper one’s free will and are therefore fully responsible – morally and legally – for their actions”[3].

This need for the relationality of the significant “other” that is the father stimulated then-Joseph Ratzinger to write: “But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one’s I? The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone. Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another I. We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when she takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist.”[4]

“For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15).
As Paul engendered sons and daughters into particular Churches that are the universal Church – think of Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Thessalonians Colossians - , Saint Josemaria Escriva engendered Opus Dei as a little bit of the Church analogical to a particular Church with its Christifideles and hierarchical presbyterate both of whom are under the jurisdiction of the Prelate. The particular mission of Opus Dei is to be, as someone suggested to me recently, like DNA to the Church. Opus Dei is not a particular Church, but its physiognomy is “the basic aboriginal relationship obtaining in the Church between Christifideles – called to live out the requirements and implication of their baptism – and sacred ministers, who bring in besides, the ‘ministerial’ consequences of the sacrament of Order.”
[5] Rodriguez continues: “So, what we find in Opus Dei, different yet complementing one another, are the two ecclesial forms of participating in Christ’s priesthood. We find both the ‘substantial’ priority of Opus Dei’s lay faithful, at whose service is the priestly ministry, and the ‘functional’ priority of the sacred ministry in whose head (the prelate) resides the sacra potestas that governs the prelature. The clergy’s ‘functional’ priority was described by the founder when he said that the ministerial priesthood ‘impregnates with its spirit our personal life and all our apostolic work.’”[6]
In a word, the Work is a living “communio,” an “unum” made up of irreducibly different ways of exercising the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. I say “irreducibly” because layfaithful and minister are sacramentally different ways (Baptism and Orders) of exercising the mediation that is the “gift of self.” Again, I say “mediation” because the “I” of the self subdues the self, possesses “it” and makes the gift of it to God of the others (you can only give what you own. You must “own” yourself). But the destination of the gift is ontologically different. The laity make the self-gift in secular ordinary work and are oriented to the secular common good. The ministerial priest is at the service of the laity to enable them to live out their way of living the priesthood of Christ in the world. That is, the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments and the instantiation of the Sacrifice of Calvary in the here and now, are the necessary affirmation to the laity to be able to master themselves as priests, own themselves and be able to make the gift. Hence, the laity are like Our Lady who engenders Christ and gives birth to Him – in themselves - at the center of the secular world. And since the Kingdom of God is the Person of the God-man,
[7] Jesus Christ, by becoming Christ, the instantiate the Kingdom of God here and now! Their priority over the clergy is “substantial” for this reason.” The laity must “be” Christ. Their orientation is toward the world. The clergy must “give” Christ. Their orientation is not toward the world, but to the persons of the laity and other priests. Together, the form the “communio” that is the “unum” that is the Church as Body of the one Christ. If we may, the laity is the “Church of Mary,” and the hierarchical priesthood is the “Church of Peter,” the former being superior to the latter.[8]

All of this boils down to affirming the character of communio in the Church and the Work as a fermentation – or DNA – of this spirit. Basically, “communio” means that no member of an organism can stand on its own. It is an “unum” not a unity. A “unity” is an accidental connection of individuals that each stands on its own. An “unum” can only be made up of persons, each of whom cannot “subsist” as person without being engendered by love and giving self in love. The prototype is the Trinity, its immanent image is the Church and the family, its beneficiary the secular society.

St. Josemaria Escriva: “Father”

The reality and mission of St. Josemaria was not the order, unity, apostolic effectiveness of Opus Dei. It was its very existence. Rodriguez says: “what is decisive is neither his ‘jurisdiction’ nor their obedience. Rather, what truly defines Opus Dei’s prelate is his ‘fatherhood,’ his role as a pastor who is a father to all the prelature’s faithful. That is why in Opus Dei he is usually called ‘Father.’ The prelate’s role in the life of Opus Dei deeply configures the prelature. Therefore it is important to consider it when determining the ecclesial profile of the social arrangement lived therein…. We could say that, in Opus Dei, the image or dimension of the Church’s mystery that most stands out in its ecclesial experience is that of ‘family,’ the ‘Church as family of God.’”[9]

In a word, if the Prelate of Opus Dei were not “father” to the point of affirming each person, layman or priest, man or woman with the heart of Christ which is radical in love to the point of death, Opus Dei could not be “one,” and therefore could not persist in its particular mission to be a leaven for the entire Church who’s very identity is to be “Bride” ...

“…(T)he Church is not an apparatus, nor a social institution, nor one social institution among many others. It is a person. It is a woman. It is a Mother. It is alive. A Marian understanding of the Church is totally opposed to the concept of the Church as a bureaucracy or a simple organization. We cannot make the Church, we must be the Church. We are the Church, the Church is in us only to the extent that our faith more than action forges our being. Only by being Marian, can we become the Church. At its very beginning the Church was not made, but given birth. She existed in the soul of Mary from the moment she uttered her fiat. This is the most profound will of the Council: the Church should be awakened in our souls. Mary shows us the way.”[10]

As the Church “was not made, but given birth… [she] should be awakened in our souls.” So is with Opus Dei. And this is the mission of the Prelate. The shoes that he had to fill and fills them read thus:

“‘Father, you have to try to get some sleep. His answer was, “’if I slept, it would mean I don’t love you. It’s my affection that makes me lose sleep.’”

“In dealing with his children he acted with complete trust and naturalness, with the naturalness of a father and a friend. He would address them affectionately as rogues, scoundrels, bandits, rascals, tugging at the depths of their hearts….

“Querido Quinito – Que Jesús se me guarde! ‘Who loves you more than the Father, you bandit? On this earth, no one. Is that clear…’?

“The Father strove vigilantly to be detached from everything in this world – from everything except his children, who were, as he put it, his ‘near occasion’ for stopping working, to spend time in a get-together with them. Then again, their affection for him, the delicate love with which they responded to his fatherly solicitude, helped him grow in his interior life, as he confided to them:
‘My heart attaches itself to my children – I don’t hide it, and I think you notice it – but it’s something that leads me to God. You drive me on to greater fidelity, and I always want to be more faithful, also for you…

‘When the Lord calls me into his presence, almost all of you – by the law of life – will still be here on earth. Remember then what the Father told you: I love you very much, very much but I I want you to be faithful. Don’t forget this: be faithful. I will still continue loving you when I’ve already left his world to go, by the infinite mercy of the Lord, to enjoy the Beatific Vision. You can be sure that I will then love you even more.’”[12]

After suffering in an Italian dental office [a wicked experience in my time in the 60’s], he returned home in pain and called his sons: “I love you because you are children of God, because you have freely decided to be my children, because you are trying to be saints, because you are very faithful and “majos” – all of my children are. I love you with the same affection that your mothers do. I care about everything about you: your bodies and your souls, your virtues and your defects. My children, it gives ma a lot of joy to speak to you this way? When I see you out there, I won’t be able to do that, and I admit, at times I have to force myself not to get sentimental, not to leave you with the memory of tears, not to keep repeating to you that I love you so much, so much… For I love you with the same heart with which I love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the Blessed Virgin; with the same heart with which I loved my mother and my father. I love you like all the mothers of the world put together – each of you equally, from the first to the last.”[13]

The Masculine Hand of the Father:

Escriva could not exercise true fatherhood without exercising the masculine hand. There is sin, evil, laziness, ignorance, stupidity, disobedience. To be a Father who loves means to stop evil As John Paul II said in his last writing: the only thing that stops evil, arrests it and destroys it is suffering for love. Conrad Baars writes: “It cannot be denied that there exist in this world many evils” which, “because they touch the moral core of the human being, require a good deal of personal courage, risk taking, dedication, conviction and determination. Yes, even a readiness to be hurt or even to die, and a readiness to hurt rather than merely relying on a government to provide protection from social evils from the cradle to the grave.”[14] It seems that this is one of the outstanding failures in the formation of persons in society today: the failure of men to exercise the firm hand of restraint to ward off evil, to point out, to correct, to say “No.” And this as a vital dimension of love.

Vazquez de Prada says “it was an obligation of his to correct his children, in order t o bring them close to God. It was an operation of love. If he did not carry it out, that would mean, as he told his children, that ‘I don’t love either God or you.’ He correct whenever necessary without, without discriminating in regard to occupation, experience, age, or health. And he was untiring. He repeated and hammered home all kinds of principles and counsels, regarding orderliness, practice of the virtue of poverty, care in the little things, and the importance of not leaving things half done. If, for example, a job was waiting to be done, he would ask bout the preparations being made for it. Sometimes the person in charge of it would begin with the traditional crutch of excuses: But the ‘well, you see….,’ ‘I thought that…,’ and similar phrases were things the Father did not want to hear from his sons and daughters. And any time he did hear any such expression, he took advantage of the occasion to teach a lesson on how one should fulfill one’s particular duties: with initiative, with live, using all of one’s senses, following matters closely and putting practical effort into their execution. Obeying, he explained, does not consist in something mechanical, or in operating blindly, or in being rigid, like a cadaver, because ‘the dead we piously bury.’”

[1] Pedro Rodriguez “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church,” Opus Dei in the Church, Scepter (1994) 1.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 132.
[3] Conrad Baars, M.D., “”I Will Give Them a New Heart,” St. Pauls (2008) 190.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1987) 79-80.
[5] Rodriguez, “The Place…,” op. cit. 38.
[6] Ibid.
[7] See Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth” Doubleday (2007) 49-57.
[8] John Paul II, “The Marian dimension of the Church is antecedent to that of the Petrine, without being in any way divided from it or being less complementary. Mary Immaculate precedes all others, including obviously Peter himself and the Apostles. This is so, not only because Peter and the Apostles, being born of the human race under the burden of sin, form part of the Church which is ‘holy from out of sinners,’ but also because their triple function has no other purpose except to form the church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary. A contemporary theologian has rightly stated that Mary is ‘Queen of the Apostles without any pretensions to apostolic powers: she has other and greater powers (H. U. von Balthasar, Neue Klarstellungen). Address to the Cardinal and Prelates of the Roman Curie (December 22, 1987); L’OR, December 23, 1987.

[9] Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church,” op. cit 56-57.
[10] J. Ratzinger, “The Ecclesiology of Vatican II,” Conclusion.
[11] Andres Vazquez de Prada, “The Founder of Opus Dei” III, Scepter (2005) 271.
[12] Ibid 272-273.
[13] Ibid 271.
[14] Baars, op. cit 166.
[15] Vázquez de Prada, op. cit 274-275