Misericordiae Vultus 2: Contemplating Mercy

head of ChristPope Francis urges us to look at mercy. It is something we must contemplate–that is, bring to our inner places, our mind and heart, and to encounter it in something different from a clinical and calculating mode.

It is also a quality that requires more than a special year. Mercy is something always before us. The Holy Father reminds us mercy is part of the very fabric of salvation. Strict justice might demand something totally different of believers, even. Where would we be without mercy? Likely very, very far from any sort of oasis.

2. We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it.

  • Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.
  • Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.
  • Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life.
  • Mercy: the bridge that connects God and (people), opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

What do you make of these four bullet points of definition? Mercy is a revelation, an act, a law, and a bridge. Mercy invites a person into something more grand than can be believed, and most unexpected.

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 277: Sanctuaries and Ecumenical Commitment

STA altar at night smallShrines: not for Catholics only. I’d like to think it goes without saying, but the Church says it:

277. The shrine, as a place of proclamation of the Word, of call to conversion, of intercession, of intense liturgical life, and of charitable works, is, to a certain extent, a “spiritual benefit” shared with our brothers and sisters not in full communion with the Catholic Church, in accord with the norms of the Ecumenical Directory (Cf. Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Directoire pour l’application des Principes et des Normes sur L’Oecuménisme (25.3.1993): AAS 85 (1993) 1039-1119).

“Ecumenical commitment” is cited. What does that mean? How committed must we be?

In this sense, the shrine is called to be a place of ecumenical commitment, fully aware of the grave and urgent need for the unity of those who believe in Christ, the one Lord and Savior.
Rectors of shrines will therefore make pilgrims aware of that “spiritual ecumenism” of which Unitatis redintegratio (n. 8) and the Directory on Ecumenism (n. 25) speak, and which should be constantly remembered by the faithful in their prayers, in the celebration of the Eucharist and in their daily lives (Cf. Directory on Ecumenism 27). Prayers for Christian unity should therefore be intensified in shrines especially during the week of prayer for Christian unity, as well as on the solemnities of the Ascension and Pentecost, in which we remember the community of Jerusalem united in prayer while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit to confirm their unity and their universal mission(Cf. Directory on Ecumenism 110).

This is nothing different and no less the commitment Catholics are urged to in our own parishes, families, and other faith communities. Shrines should take care to keep with the program–that is all.

Shrines should also be prepared to offer a more concrete witness, should The Holy Spirit nudge toward ecumenical prayer:

Were the opportunity to arise, the rectors of shrines should encourage prayer meetings for Christians from various confessions from time to time. These meetings should be carefully and collaboratively prepared. The Word of God should be preeminent in them and they should include prayers drawn from the various Christian denominations.

A good final point to keep in mind:

In certain circumstance, and by way of exception, attention may be given to persons of different religions: some shrines, indeed, are visited by non-Christians who go there because of the values inherent in Christianity. All acts of worship taking place in a shrine must always be clearly consistent with the Catholic faith, without ever attempting to obfuscate anything of the content of the Church’s faith.

Catholic shrines indeed attract a wide swath of people. We shouldn’t be surprised. We should also conduct ourselves in such a way as to welcome such persons, present the faith well, and be available for dialogue. Are we always prepared to accompany others? That’s a message not just for the shrine, but for the committed Christian. As with exemplary liturgy, shrines are called to do no less for the cause of ecumenism and Christian unity.

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

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Humanae Vitae 6: The Magisterium’s Reply

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Today we read of why Pope Paul VI set aside the conclusions of his commission:

6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church. Consequently, now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions.

Lack of “complete” agreement, variance from previous moral teaching: these are serious matters. From here we move into the core of the document. But for now, any comments or questions?

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DPPL 276: The Shrine as Cultural Center

STA altar at night smallThis section is one of my favorites, as you might guess:

276. Shrines are often of cultural or heritage significance in themselves. They synthesize numerous expressions of popular culture: historical and artistic monuments, particular linguistic and literary forms, or even musical compositions.

Along with evangelization and charity, culture is so important to the life of the Church, and many shrines contribute mightily to this.

In this perspective, shrines can often play an important role in the definition of the cultural identity of a nation. Since a shrine can produce a harmonious synthesis between grace and nature, piety and art, it can also be presented as an example of the via pulchritudinis for the contemplation of the beauty of God, of the mystery of the Tota pulchra, and of the wonderful accomplishment of the Saints.

As a musician, I appreciate the citation of harmony (the wider spiritual value, even) as vital to the mission of a shrine.

Education should not be overlooked as part of the value of a shrine, nor the arts outside of music:

The tendency to promote shrines as “cultural centers” must also be acknowledged. Such efforts include the organization of courses and lectures, from which important publications can derive, as well as the production of sacred “representations”, concerts and other artistic and literary activities.

A caution that the cultural aspects of a shrine be seen as means to a greater end; that education, music, art, and other aspects do not overtake the primary mission, that is, the presentation of the Gospel of Christ.

The cultural activities of a shrine are undertaken as collateral initiatives in support of human development. They are secondary to the shrine’s principal functions as a place of divine worship, of evangelization and charity. The rectors of shrines will therefore ensure that the cultic functions of such places will not be superceded by any cultural activities taking place in them.

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

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Misericordiae Vultus 1: Face of the Father’s Mercy

head of ChristRoman documents are known by the first few words of the Latin text. “Misericordiae vultus” refers to the “face of mercy.” Pope Francis means the face of Jesus which reveals to human beings what God thinks of us, loves in us, and how he chose to relate to us:

1. Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. The Father, “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), after having revealed his name to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature. In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person [Dei Verbum 4] reveals the mercy of God.

And so Pope Francis begins the document announcing the Jubilee of Mercy. The incarnation is a profound gesture of mercy. Not to minimize the Passion, but the event of the Nativity and God coming among us in human form is a significant gesture of mercy and love. We will be getting a lot of Scripture for the next few posts. Any comments as we commence?

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

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DPPL 275: Shrines as Charitable Centers

STA altar at night smallCharity and justice are part of the mission of special sites of faith. Let’s read of the importance of mercy:

275. The exemplary role of shrines is also expressed through charity. Every shrine in so far as it celebrates the merciful presence of the Lord, the example and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, “is in itself a hearth radiating the light and warmth of charity” (Central Committee for the Marian Year, Marian Sanctuaries, 4 (Circular Letter 7. 10. 1987)). In common parlance and in the language of the poor “charity is love expressed in the name of God” (Ibid.). It finds concrete expression in hospitality and mercy, solidarity and sharing, assistance and giving.

There are four important ways shrines contribute to charity. Let’s read of serving the needy, of hospitality, of attention to those with special needs, and a basic posture of service to all:

Many shrines are centers mediating the love of God and fraternal charity on the one hand, and the needs of (humankind) on the other. This is made possible by the generosity of the faithful and the zeal of those responsible for the shrines. The charity of Christ flourishes in these sanctuaries which seem to be an extension of the maternal solicitude of Our Lady and of the compassionate presence of the Saints expressed:
• in the creation and development of permanent centers of social assistance such as hospitals, educational institutions for needy children, and in the provision of homes for the aged;
• “in the hospitality extended to pilgrims, especially the poor, to whom the opportunity for rest and shelter should be offered, in so far as possible;
• in the solicitude shown to the old, the sick, the handicapped, to whom particular attention is always given, especially in reserving for them the best places in the shrine: without isolating them from the other pilgrims, celebrations should be made available at convenient times, taking into account their ability to participate at them; effective collaboration should also exist between the shrines and those who generously provide for transport;
• in availability and service to all who come to shrines: educated and uneducated members of the faithful, poor and rich, locals and strangers” (CDWDS, Circular Letter, Orientations and proposals for the Celebration of the Marian Year, 76).

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

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Humanae Vitae 5: Special Studies

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

A bit of history in this section. The commission that was involved in these issues of the transmission of life was set up by St John XXIII.

5. The consciousness of the same responsibility induced Us to confirm and expand the commission set up by Our predecessor Pope John XXIII, of happy memory, in March, 1963. This commission included married couples as well as many experts in the various fields pertinent to these questions. Its task was to examine views and opinions concerning married life, and especially on the correct regulation of births; and it was also to provide the teaching authority of the Church with such evidence as would enable it to give an apt reply in this matter, which not only the faithful but also the rest of the world were waiting for*. When the evidence of the experts had been received, as well as the opinions and advice of a considerable number of Our brethren in the episcopate—some of whom sent their views spontaneously, while others were requested by Us to do so—We were in a position to weigh with more precision all the aspects of this complex subject. Hence We are deeply grateful to all those concerned.

* See Paul VI, Address to Sacred College of Cardinals: AAS 56 (1964), 588 [TPS IX, 355-356]; to Commission for the Study of Problems of Population, Family and Birth: AAS 57 (1965), 388 [TPS X, 225]; to National Congress of the Italian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology: AAS 58 (1966), 1168 [TPS XI, 401-403].

If the laity and people outside the Church were “waiting for” the word, it would seem a delay in giving it would not have been welcomed. Was Humanae Vitae too hasty? Too soon? What do you think?

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