Swans Swim in Sea of Green

swansea city afcOn the Premier League site, a Twitter analysis of how twenty football teams are followed around the world. Not being active on Twitter, I did not register anything for Swansea City in the upper Midwest. I noted that slim piece of black in a sea of Liverpool supporters across Wales.

I notice Cardiff now follows Man United. Funny that their vehemence against their team’s “new” color is contraindicated by the shade on the map in the Wales capital city. And I might point out, they support a premier league team that was vanquished twice by the Swans this season. So there.

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Misericordiae Vultus 8: The Relationships of Jesus

head of ChristThe opening sentence of this section we imagine a face-to-face relationship with the Lord.

8. With our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of divine love in its fullness. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16), John affirms for the first and only time in all of Holy Scripture. This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously. The relationships he forms with the people who approach him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs he works, especially in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.

Consider the many examples of Jesus encountering people during his life on Earth:

Jesus, seeing the crowds of people who followed him, realized that they were tired and exhausted, lost and without a guide, and he felt deep compassion for them (cf. Mt 9:36). On the basis of this compassionate love he healed the sick who were presented to him (cf. Mt 14:14), and with just a few loaves of bread and fish he satisfied the enormous crowd (cf. Mt 15:37). What moved Jesus in all of these situations was nothing other than mercy, with which he read the hearts of those he encountered and responded to their deepest need. When he came upon the widow of Naim taking her son out for burial, he felt great compassion for the immense suffering of this grieving mother, and he gave back her son by raising him from the dead (cf. Lk 7:15). After freeing the demoniac in the country of the Gerasenes, Jesus entrusted him with this mission: “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mk 5:19). The calling of Matthew is also presented within the context of mercy. Passing by the tax collector’s booth, Jesus looked intently at Matthew. It was a look full of mercy that forgave the sins of that man, a sinner and a tax collector, whom Jesus chose – against the hesitation of the disciples – to become one of the Twelve. Saint Bede the Venerable, commenting on this Gospel passage, wrote that Jesus looked upon Matthew with merciful love and chose him: miserando atque eligendo.[Cf. Homily 22: CCL, 122, 149-151] This expression impressed me so much that I chose it for my episcopal motto.

Why would we think things have changed? The needy, the sinners, the wounded–all experienced compassion and freedom through their encounters with the Lord. It should be the same with any of us, right?

The highlighted text is © copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the document in its entirety on the Vatican website here.

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DPPL 284: A Golden Age for Pilgrims

STA altar at night smallIn order to travel, one must have some means. Perhaps personal wealth. Maybe a certain skill at begging. I know I can’t just run off to another continent, as much as I would like to.

284. The middles ages were the golden age of pilgrimage. Apart from their strictly religious function, they played an extraordinary part in the development of Western Christianity, the amalgamation of various nations, and to the interchange of ideas and values from every European civilization.

It wasn’t just Jerusalem, where Jesus lived, but also sites dear to Christians because of the faith witness of men and women who followed in the Lord’s pilgrim footsteps themselves.

There were numerous places of pilgrimage. Jerusalem, despite its occupation by the muslims, still remained a great spiritual attraction for the faithful, and gave rise to the crusades whose purpose was to make Jerusalem accessible to the faithful who wished to visit the Holy Sepulchre. Numerous pilgrims flocked to venerate the instruments of the Passion: the tunic, the holy towel of Veronica, the holy stairs, and the holy shroud. Pilgrims came to Rome to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul (ad Limina Apsotolorum), the catacombs and basilicas, in recognition of the service rendered to the universal Church by the successor of Peter. The shrine of Santiago di Compostela from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries was frequented by countless pilgrims. They came on foot from various countries and reflect an idea of pilgrimage that is at once religious, social, and charitable. The tomb of St. Martin of Tours was another important centre of pilgrimage, as was Canterbury, the place of the martyrdom of St. Thomas à Becket. These places of pilgrimage had enormous influence throughout Europe. Monte Gargano in Apulia, San Michele della Chieusa in the Piemonte, and Mont St. Michel in Normandy, all dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, were important pilgrim centres, as were Walsingham, Rocamadour and Loreto.

I know we have readers far more familiar with Europe than I. Has the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy missed any site of importance from the Middle Ages?

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Humanae Vitae 10: Responsible Parenthood

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. If HV 9 seemed sound, if somewhat incomplete, some Catholics might find this section a bit more problematic. Let’s read carefully, ponder, then discuss:

10. Married love, therefore, requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood, which today, rightly enough, is much insisted upon, but which at the same time should be rightly understood. Thus, we do well to consider responsible parenthood in the light of its varied legitimate and interrelated aspects. With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person. (See St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 94, art. 2)

So far, so good. Indeed, parenting children can be complex, and couples may find conflict in important aspects.

With regard to innate (human) drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that (human) reason and will must exert control over them.

I think caution of (human) drives is well-considered. We are not animals, after all, and enslaved to instinct without will. However, the emotional lives of human beings are more advanced than all or nearly all of the natural world. The human affect is not something so easily dismissed as illogical or something wild or in need of being controlled. Sometimes, it is human intelligence and cleverness that need to be tempered, not the feelings. Inevitably, human emotions are entwined with the care of spouse and children. I do not think they can be as easily dismissed as Pope Paul attempts here.

With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.

Pope Paul makes an important point here: morality is not subjective, and a “right,” well-formed conscience is vital to tackle conflicting issues here. One cannot dive into marriage and family on autopilot. The issues must be engaged, wrestled with, and often will involve a genuine struggle. Sometimes the choice for more children is not driven by prudence or generosity, but by narcissism and selfishness. The interior of a person determines the true motivation, not the external appearances.

Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society. From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow.

This will undoubtedly move against the grain of many individualistic westerners. But it is true: there are duties and responsibilities that inconvenience us. Best to admit it, find the grace in it, and accept it as a mutuality in a human society.

On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out. (See Gaudium et Spes 50-51)

You can access that reference on the Vatican site, or even here and here when we discussed nine years ago. (Has it been that long?)

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Misericordiae Vultus 7: Psalm 136

head of ChristThe Psalter’s grand litany of mercy is one of three common psalms for Easter. It should not surprise us that the Church surfaces an expression of gratitude and mercy as a song of praise in response to the Lord’s triumph over sin and death.

7. “For his mercy endures forever.” This is the refrain repeated after each verse in Psalm 136 as it narrates the history of God’s revelation. By virtue of mercy, all the events of the Old Testament are replete with profound salvific import. Mercy renders God’s history with Israel a history of salvation. To repeat continually “for his mercy endures forever,” as the psalm does, seems to break through the dimensions of space and time, inserting everything into the eternal mystery of love. It is as if to say that not only in history, but for all eternity (people) will always be under the merciful gaze of the Father. It is no accident that the people of Israel wanted to include this psalm – the “Great Hallel,” as it is called – in its most important liturgical feast days.

Before his Passion, Jesus prayed with this psalm of mercy. Matthew attests to this in his Gospel when he says that, “when they had sung a hymn” (26:30), Jesus and his disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. While he was instituting the Eucharist as an everlasting memorial of himself and his paschal sacrifice, he symbolically placed this supreme act of revelation in the light of his mercy. Within the very same context of mercy, Jesus entered upon his passion and death, conscious of the great mystery of love that he would consummate on the cross. Knowing that Jesus himself prayed this psalm makes it even more important for us as Christians, challenging us to take up the refrain in our daily lives by praying these words of praise: “for his mercy endures forever.”

Perhaps the 136th Psalm is at least as fitting as the go-to Psalm 34 for a Communion song. “Taste and see” for an enduring mercy.

The highlighted text is © copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the document in its entirety on the Vatican website here.

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DPPL 283: Pilgrimages in Late Antiquity

STA altar at night smallThe West has much for which to thank Egeria, that 4th century pilgrim. Jerusalem became a Destination.

283. In the Constantinian era, following the rediscovery of the places associated with the Passion of Our Lord and the of the relics of the Passion, Christian pilgrimage made significant progress: pilgrimage to Palestine was especially important in this regard, since its holy places, starting with Jerusalem made it a “Holy Land” . Contemporary accounts make this clear, as can be seen in the fourth century Itenerarium Burdigalense and the Itenerarium Egeriae.

Christians emerged from houses and catacombs to worship at important locations:

Basilicas were built on the site of the “holy places”: the Anastasis on the Holy Sepulchre, the Martyrium on the Mount Calvary, and quickly became places of pilgrimage. The sites associated with the infancy and public life of Christ also became places of pilgrimage. Pilgrimages began to be made to some of the site associated with the Old Testament, such as Mount Sinai.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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Humanae Vitae 9: Married Love

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Another section with common sense and insight, and that goes beyond what passes for common knowledge these days and back in 1968:

9. In the light of these facts the characteristic features and exigencies of married love are clearly indicated, and it is of the highest importance to evaluate them exactly. This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive.

Of course.

Love is a choice. Especially in marriage, but even among relationships outside of a married couple, love involves commitment, sacrifice, and most especially, human will. Will is something that goes beyond heart and head. It is something much deeper. When our head tells us we’re crazy and our heart complains of dryness or indifference, it is the will that sustains our love for another.

It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment. It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves (a) partner loves not only for what (she or) he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of (self).

This is well-spoken–could have come from a married person.

Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.

This is true. But married couples would likely all attest that it takes more than platitudes and confidence from celibate clergy to maintain fidelity and commitment in times of great difficulty. Marriages last far longer than they did in medieval times, and even a century or two ago. When I see twenty- and thirty-year marriages fall apart, some of the blame has to lie with a certain cockiness on the part of observers.

Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.” (Gaudium et Spes 50)

This is true, but it gives an incomplete picture of the fecundity of marriage. And I’m not just hinting at adoption, foster parenting, being grandparents, or mentors of young people. Generativity in marriage is not limited to biology. Indeed, one might suggest that there’s a higher calling for human beings, given how we are made as a species. And for believers, there’s certainly a life-giving and nurturing responsibility beyond producing bodies and educating them. Faith formation certainly must sit among marital responsibilities, with nothing likely more important. Any comments?

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