Archive for September, 2010

CELL TALK

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Recently and amazingly a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Judge Royce Lamberth, ruled that two scientists who appeared before his court seeking injunctive relief would indeed suffer immediate and non-reversible harm if he did not place a hold on embryonic stem cell research while the constitutionality and ethics of the procedure were under judicial review. Embryonic stem cell research has been approved by President Obama and federal funds directed to it. The two research scientists convinced the judge who ordered a temporary halt to further research pending the outcome of the larger case. On Tuesday, not unpredictably, a three-judge federal appeals court over-ruled their lower court brother and voted to allow the federal government to keep on financing embryonic stem cell research. Editorially this morning THE NEW YORK TIMES crowed about the appeals court ruling, seeing it as providing relief for victims of Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries and other serious ailments. There are two things horribly wrong with this line of argumentation.

Embryonic stem cell harvesting precludes human life from coming into existence and is a form of abortion, against the law of God and also the laws of humankind for most of our history. There is little argument about the fact that taking embryonic stem cells takes human life. The second never mentioned fallacy of the proponents of embryonic stem cell research (Florida voters should take note of the positions of the candidates for the U.S. Senate on this issue) is that after about a decade of the deadly embryonic stem cell research, there has yet to be one success, one result which would sustain the hope of those with these horrible diseases. Bluntly put, immoral means leads in this instance to totally unsuccessful end.

There is real promise to be found in adult stem cell research, however, and there are already successful applications arising from the research. One sign of hope is occurring here in the Diocese of St. Petersburg and involves St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa. Our Church allows and strongly encourages adult stem cell harvesting and research. A company begun in Pittsburgh by two venture capitalists with an uncompromising commitment to what is both ethical and moral has opened a laboratory in Clearwater for adult stem cells. Stemnion, Inc. began its life with research grants from the United States Government, the United States Department of Defense, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a few other sources to produce ethically and morally a protocol for more rapid and complete healing of severe burns. Archbishop Donald Wuerl while still bishop of Pittsburgh visited Stemnion’s Pittsburgh lab and blessed it and those engaged in the search for a real cure (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Article). The results today have been very positive and now the company awaits FDA approval to begin marketing its findings. To continue its forward looking and thus far successful research, Stemnion approached the Catholic Health Association and its President, Sister Carol Keehan, DC, to held them find a source for adult stem cells taken from the placentas of women who have just given birth. She suggested they contact St. Joseph’s Womens and following the statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which said, “We must pursue progress in ethically responsible ways that respect the dignity of each human being. Only this will produce cures and treatments that everyone can live with” St. Joseph’s Women’s began their Placental Tissue Donation Opportunity. Stem cells from adult tissues, umbilical cord blood and placenta can be obtained without harm to the mother or child and with the expectant mother’s prior consent and when the birth is by C-section only, the placenta is donated to Stemnion, Inc to be used to manufacture investigational treatments that promote rapid healing of tissue of burn victims and other types of wounds. C-section birth mothers are told that “at a time when you are starting a new life with your family, consider giving the gift of your placenta to help others have a better chance at life.”

This was no small commitment for St. Joseph’s Women’s to make as there is no money in it for the hospital or mother and the former must at a very busy time when the mother who has just given birth and her prior consent require the first and immediate attention, the nurses must harvest and collect the placenta, put it into a proper transportable container, give it to a waiting courier and get its to Stemnion’s lab where the window of opportunity is open for only two hours from delivery to freezing in the Stemnion Lab after proper analysis of the incoming tissue. One bad day on the Howard Franklin and the effort will have been for naught as the window is only 120 minutes.

So like Archbishop Wuerl at the Pittsburgh Lab I blessed and invoked God’s blessing on the Clearwater Stemnion lab and employees. Their work is already bearing substantial results from a moral and ethical procedure. But, politicians and newspapers still back a horse which has yet to make it out of the starting gate and tend to ignore those who are already rounding the three-quarter pole and sprinting for the finish.

+RNL

Update: You can read the article from the Catholic News Service on the web site of the Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and about the whole process in Catholic Health World.

FORTY-FIVE YEARS AGO NEXT MONDAY, OCTOBER 4

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

It is not all that easy for me at 69 to recall vividly things which happened to me when I was 24 but there is one, vivid memory of 1965 which I have never consigned to the dead-letter file and that was the visit of Pope Paul VI to the United Nations headquarters in New York for a day that began for him in Rome and finished thirty hours later when his plane touched down in Rome. To b e a Catholic that day was to be especially proud. Popes just did not travel outside of Rome and certainly not by jet plane across the span of an ocean for fourteen hours in one place and then back home again. The triumphant arrival of Pope Paul, his talk at the United Nations General Assembly and then very late in the day at Mass in Yankee Stadium saw most Catholics glued to their black and white televisions, listening to the commentary of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen who told us that “TWA”, the initials of the airline flying the Holy Father back to Rome meant “Travel With Angels” and as his plane took off around midnight from JFK Airport, the good Bishop ended the day with a line from Shakespeare: “Good Night, Sweet Prince.” The Holy Father personally and the Catholic Church in the United States generally gained enormous credibility that day. All of this is by forward to share with you the homily which I gave last Sunday at the seminary for the Eucharistic Liturgy and Installation of Lectors and Acolytes (see the previous blog entry). The Gospel that day was the same as Sunday’s, Lazarus and the rich man.

Homily at Mass of Installation of Lectors and Acolytes
Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul
Boynton Beach, FL
Sunday, September 26, 2010
26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Celebrant and Homilist

A week from tomorrow, Monday, October 4, 2010 will mark the forty-fifth anniversary of an extraordinary moment in the life of the Catholic Church in the United States and of the papacy. It was on that very day that the first Pope in history set foot on American soil. He came as an uninvited guest to our country to speak to and at the sole invitation of the United Nations in a speech that was widely praised throughout the world. At the annual meeting of the General Assembly to which he had been invited, speaking in French, he spoke the now famous words, “no more war, war never again. Peace, it is peace that must guide the destinies of all mankind.” He might have easily left this continent at the conclusion of his historic visit to the U.N. but he had one more thing to do prior to departing for Rome. Paul VI took his remaining time to speak to the United States, to we Catholics who were so proud that day, this time at the old Yankee Stadium, late in the day, and the Gospel was today’s, Lazarus and the Rich Man, the poor and the rich, people and nations, all God’s children.

I can not forget that night, transfixed in front of a television set, watching the frail figure of the successor of St. Peter in the house that the non-biblical Ruth built challenge myself and the country I love to do more than merely send the “scraps” of our plenty to the poor in our country and in the world but instead to share of our substance. It was at that precise moment, I recall, that I first began to understand both the power of God’s Word which some of you this morning will be formally allowed to proclaim. There is power to be found even in simply proclaiming the Word of God.

The first reading from Amos when read with passion puts all of us on notice that too much comfort can lead to complacency and too much complacency can lead to eternal exile. The second reading when read with feeling stirs in the hearts of the listeners Paul’s exhortation to cloth ourselves not in rich purple robes, green vestments, lace garments, for they will amount to little in the final reckoning but rather in righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Paul says, “pomp” doesn’t work; instead we must humbly bring our gifts to the competition for the faith of our human family. To proclaim the word of God is to share one’s faith, one’s belief, and one’s hope.

As that night in Yankee Stadium grew darker and colder and midnight Eastern time approached, Paul VI talked about the table of plenty, filled with the manifest blessings of God, but which in the name of humanity needed to be shared with the Lazarus’ of the world.  Think for a moment how little we know about either Lazarus or Dives, the name history has given to the rich man for the bible fails to name him. What was the source of Lazarus’ poverty? Ninety-five percent of the population of Palestine at the time of Jesus was desperately poor. So he had sores, that much we know. Was he the precursor of the homeless woman or man at the intersection of streets whose sign reads: “hungry, will work for a dollar?” We only know that Dives looked the other way, ignored the poor person before him. And what of Dives? Was he an officer of ENRON or AIG or a man who accumulated his wealth honestly and in a socially responsible manner? All we know is that he was blind and indifferent to the need both in front of and around him.

In the end, in eternity, the rich man’s last words are a plea to warn his brothers [and sisters] so that they [we] do not succumb to the same fate. Paul VI used this Gospel to draw the attention of humanity to its own table of plenty and beg those of us so richly blessed to share with those who have so little. And then, as I shall do, he invited those in the stadium and the world to share at the one table which makes no distinction between rich and poor, between male or female, between gloriously garbed or wrapped in the rags of manual labor. He celebrated the Eucharist. How blessed we are who are ordained to stand close to the altar and Christ eucharistically present. How blessed you are who are to be formally installed as acolytes no matter how many times you have served Mass up to this moment, to have your Church say “draw closer, watch, pray, invite, share.”

Glamour and glitter in priestly ministry leads to spiritual macular degeneration. A bishop friend of mine recently recounted how during the summer he faced an urgent pastoral emergency in one of his parishes, a financially challenged parish of tri-cultural and language reality. He turned to a priest with a doctorate degree who had served for a number of years in a more specialized ministry in the diocese, asked him to drop everything and fill a huge, gaping pastoral hole. While expressing a concern for the needs of the ministry he had been in, this priest immediately said “yes” and reminded his bishop that at his ordination he had promised obedience and respect, so of course he would go. That bishop said to me and to other bishops who heard him tell the story, that he wished there were more like this priest, able to see beyond the comfort of the familiar to the challenge of the desperate.

There are times when I worry that I am too comfortable in this life. Personally, I think God took care of my vanity thirteen months ago. There are no glorious gowns to be found among hospital wear! I now better and more deeply understand humility after sixty-eight years. Unless we are humbled, we can too easily succumb to the comforts that are ours and ignore the discomfort of others.

Let me begin to close with this insight from the absolutely best book I have read in the last decade at least, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything by Father James Martin, S.J.:

If we dismiss the insights which come from the poor and reject the invitation to simplicity by saying, “I can’t live like that,” then these insights and invitations will never make any difference in our lives. Making the invitation unattainable also makes it easier to reject. Likewise, when we wallow in guilt and decide that it is impossible to change, we are subtly letting ourselves off the hook, excusing ourselves from change. . . .But it is an invitation to freedom and not to guilt.. . . Ultimately, it moves us closer to the forgotten and outcast, something at the heart of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.”[1]

From this Eucharistic table, O Lord, may we always see and respond to the poor and the needy who sit and pray before us.


[1] James Martin, S.J., The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, New York, Harper One, 2009, p. 202-203.

TO SERVE AND PROCLAIM

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I seem to be spending a lot of time in the seminary these days. Week before last I attended the Board of Trustee Meetings at both seminaries and this past week-end, I was invited back to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist  and install some of the seminary community officially as lectors and acolytes. There were also candidates for the permanent diaconate of the Diocese of Palm Beach included in the large number to receive these ministries. Before the changes brought about in the simplifications which followed the Second Vatican Council there used to be eight steps leading to ordination of priests:

1. TONSURE – When a young man had made his first commitment to being ordained and had chosen a diocese or religious order for which he would be ordained, he was “tonsured.’ This involved the bishop coming and presiding at a ceremony and each candidate would come forward and be “tonsured” which meant that the bishop cut a lock of his hair off from the top of his head. The tonsuring bishop wore gloves at ceremonies then and there were all kinds of stories about him snipping the finger tips of his gloves while looking for a thinning lock of hair. The ceremony itself was a symbol that the candidate for priesthood was willing to sacrifice worldly affectations and esteem. Classic pictures of monks and friars like St. Francis of Assisi show the tonsure or shaved spot on the top of one’s head. God Himself took care of my tonsure!

2. PORTER – At this preparatory step, the bishop handed the candidate for ordination the keys to the Church and the latter went out and locked and unlocked the doors, an indication that some day soon, the candidate would be responsible for the safe-keeping of the sacred as well as safeguarding entry into sacred space.

First theology seminarian Bradley Reed receives the Gospel Book and is installed in the Ministry of Lector.

3. LECTOR – In this step the candidate would be given the Lectionary as a symbol that they could now proclaim the first reading at Mass (there was generally no second reading at that time or better put, the second reading was the Gospel which then and now can only be proclaimed by a deacon or priest or bishop). This “minor order” survived the changes.

Second theology seminarian Brian Fabiszewski receives the chalice and is installed in the Ministry of Acolyte.

4. ACOLYTE – In this step one was allowed to touch the sacred objects used at Mass such as the chalice, ciborium in which the consecrated hosts were contained, etc. One could also wash the sacred cloths used to purify the sacred vessels after Mass and the sacred vessels themselves. Much more reverence was given in those days to those items which were used in the consecration of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This minor order remained but sacristans and others could touch and wash the linens, clean the vessels, etc. And as we know, boys and girls were allowed to serve at Mass. This minor order remains and those invested with it are allowed to distribute the Eucharist at Holy Communion time by virtue of their “order” as an acolyte.

5. EXORCIST – This was the fourth and last of what were called the “minor orders” leading to the major orders leading to the priesthood and in my day this was a symbolic office, not to be exercised (spelled differently please note).

6. SUBDEACON – The preceding five steps were simply ceremonies of conferral of minor orders but the subdiaconate was an actual ordination ceremony, the first of three possible ordinations; subdiaconate, diaconate. and priesthood. The subdeacon was ordained in a ceremony and it was his lot in life at Mass to hold the sacred paten on which the Body of Christ would rest from the Our Father to Communion. He wore what was called a tunic which looked an awful lot like the dalmatic which was worn by the next order.

7. DIACONATE – All the aforementioned except the ministries of lector and acolyte  were eliminated and the diaconate became the first of three surviving ordination ceremonies. (Liturgical sharpies are thinking the bishop has made a glaring mistake! With the reforms bishops were no longer considered consecrated but rather ordained to the episcopal office which explains why I deliberately did not include episcopal ordination in #6 above). The deacon was ordained by the imposition of hands but chrism was not used and still is not used. The deacon’s ministry in the transitional and restored rite at Mass is to proclaim the Gospel, minister the cup at communion, lead the penitential intercessions, invite to share the sign of peace, and dismiss. Additionally a deacon is an ordinary minister of baptism, may witness marriages, and may preach the word plus all manner of other responsibilities.

8. PRIESTHOOD – This one is a no-brainer

9. EPISCOPACY   – This one is also no brainer.

Anyway, yesterday at St. Vincent de Paul I instituted   future priests as lectors and   as acolytes. It was a privilege and since a number of those instituted are our own men, it was a double source of joy.

+RNL

Ordination Class for 2015

Curtis Carro, Anthony Ustick, Bradley Reed, and Chuck Dornquast (all first theologians) after their installation into the Order of Lector.

Kyle Smith, Jonathan Emery, Brian Fabiszewski - the Ordination Class of 2014 minus Bill Santhouse. The Assistant Master of Ceremonies for this occasion was Victor Amorose who will be ordained a deacon next Spring, priest in 2012 and he is on the far right.

DEM BONES, DEM BONES, DEM SAINTLY BONES

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

In all my sixty-nine years, I would  never have guessed that I would be leading prayer in a Cathedral Church, anywhere, in the presence of the human remains of a great saint but today that was indeed the case. My diocesan family knows that for twenty-six hours beginning last night at 7 p.m. we had the incredible privilege of having the relics of Saint John Bosco in our midst. The local media, and particularly the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES in articles written by Waveney Ann Moore (all linked on the diocesan web site’s relic visit page) have been most generous in providing coverage of this historic moment. For those of you reading this and not living in our five counties, in preparation for the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Salesian order of religious women, brothers, priests and lay cooperators, a casket containing a wax image of the famous saint of the youth and a major portion of the bone structure of his arm is making the rounds of Salesian places throughout the world. Last night and today are our turn because we have been blessed to have the community here in the diocese for a long, long time (Mary, Help of Christians, St. Joseph’s Tampa, Villa Madonna, St. Petersburg Catholic High School and until a few years ago at Christ the King).

About seven hundred people filled the Cathedral last night for the Prayer Service of Welcome, a similar number this morning for Mass in the presence of the relics, and then about 2700 sixth through twelth graders this afternoon who spent the day at St. Petersburg Catholic, had lunch and then processed to the Cathedral to see the relics and pray with me. Throughout the night the Cathedral was open and there was a line last night until eleven and always about thirty praying at a time. Incredible witness to a powerful presence even in our own lifetime. I can not say enough good things about the wonderful cooperation received from the Knights of Columbus who have stood guard, the City of St. Petersburg and its police department [motorcycles led the procession of the youth] and the faculty, students and staff of St. Petersburg Catholic High School.

Relics not unlike indulgences have slipped from our modern Catholic parlance since the Second Vatican Council so I was amazed at both the interest in and the effect of this saint on those who have come to pray and witness. It is an example of the power of “popular piety” which intuits important things which can not always be clearly explained. Going back to early Christian times when believers went to the catecombs not so much for safety but to be in the decomposed presence of their ancestors and other saintly people, a relic is a treasured momento of some person of the past who has been declared officially by the Church to be a saint. Catholic altars usually always contained an “altar stone” which itself was the home of a first class relic of a saint. [“First Class Relic” is a piece of bone or a hair of a canonized saint; “Second Class Relic” is something which the saint most likely wore; etc.] Today, few altars contain either stones or relics. Today relics are usually found only in a glass container in some Churches and even some homes, accompanied by proper papers attesting to their authenticity.

Wikipedia and the Salesian website all have wonderful narratives of the life of this great saint and his total dedication to the education of youth and particularly poor youth, of which he was once one.

Faith-filled Catholics and the inquiring minds of our children turned out in great number today to touch the glass casket, pray at the site of the relic and recall the incredible presence today, one hundred and twenty-five years or so after his death. His legacy which has long outlived him is the similar dedication of his sisters, brothers and priests. If you are reading this and I do not yet have some pictures of the day’s events, come back and look. I will put them up as soon as they are available to me.

Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!

+RNL

THROUGHOUT THESE FORTY DAYS, O LORD

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Bishop Lynch gathers with a group in prayer at the 40 Days for Life Prayer Vigil

Bishop Lynch gathers with a group in prayer at the 40 Days for Life Prayer Vigil

The Diocese and other sponsoring Churches have just begun the now annual “Forty Days for Life” effort which spans some of September and all of October which in our Church has traditionally been RESPECT LIFE MONTH. Father Bob Morris, our Vicar General and I have been gathering for prayer vigils within the legal distance of abortion offices throughout the diocese. Happily we are joined by ministers of other faiths who are either themselves pro-life or their Churches are. We pray, sing and hope during these vigils for an end to abortion-on-request as currently practiced in our country. Throughout these days at least two people will stand vigil on the sidewalks outside of the abortion parlors, praying that women who enter will change their mind. They know for certain that during last year’s forty days, at least four women did and their babies are now alive. It is impressive to me that every hour is covered at the Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa abortion sites from eight in the morning until five at night, Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. This principle of the exercise of free speech is peaceful and non-confrontational but highly symbolic. We are slowing changing public opinion on abortion-on-request in our country and courageous and dedicated people standing vigil aid in this educational effort.

Respect Life Program 2010-11 PosterWhile the 40 Days observance focuses on abortion, RESPECT LIFE MONTH from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concentrates on many other life issues as well. These span the gamut from abortion and euthanasia to access to health care, immigration, affordable housing and care for the elderly and, of course, to the one life issue that only Popes and Bishops seem prone to talk about, capital punishment.

It is not by accident that Respect Life month comes in October because this month for generations has been the month of the Holy Rosary and second only to May, the month of the Blessed Mother. But once every two years it is also the month just prior to national elections. No political party that I am aware of is truly pro-life according to the teachings of the catechism, Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae or the materials annually prepared by the Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. And quite frankly, I for one do not find one party even more amenable to pro-life issues or any candidates for that matter. I had occasion to review last week the early responses of the candidates for Governor and Senator for and from Florida and none of them perfectly meets the matrix of the broad range of “pro-life” issues. So once again, as so often before, the voter of conscience spends these forty-days wondering  who is the lesser of two evils. The Florida Catholic Conference Candidate Questionnaire with the responses of our candidates will be published shortly and well before the election.

So you may not be joining us in the prayer service near abortion clinics or on a picket line but you can use these “run-up” days to study the issues and the stand of the candidates on the broad range of pro-life issues. Abortion is the worst of all the evils but it is not alone in its threat to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

+RNL

DAMNABLE TRAFFIC

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

First, this entry has nothing to do with I-275 through Tampa or the Howard Franklin causeway on a bad day. I do have opinions about that also but it is hardly relevant. The traffic of which I speak has to do with the horrible sin, and crime, of human trafficing. It may surprise you to know, as it surprised me very much to learn, that among the fifty states, Florida is third highest in the number of persons who have been illegally brought into the United States for purposes of exploitation, prostitution and modern day slavery. Such human traffic of persons is not only against the law of civilized society but it is also against God’s law.

The bishops of Florida in concert with other bishops throughout our country have begun a public education campaign to make people like myself more aware of the scope and significant of this sin which cries to heaven for vengeance. Soon, we Catholics in Florida will be made more aware of the depth of this evil in our midst in the hope that more and more people will become aware of this modern day slave trade, report instances of it to the authorities and seek more enforcement and investigation to attempt to stop it. Material which we have already prepared can be accessed by clicking here for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and and here for the United States Department of Health and Human Services. I will have more to say on this topic in the coming months.

I found it interesting last night when I stumbled onto what must have been the inaugural showing of the new, revised and much “spiffed-up” TV show of my young adult days, HAWAII 5-0, human trafficing was a major sub-plot of the first episode. The more we learn and know about this topic, the more alert we can become and the police and law enforcement people can root them out, arrest them and then, “book-em, Danno!”

+RNL

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Last Saturday night I had the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist with about 140 doctors and their spouses in what is called the “White Mass”, obviously taking its name from the color of the coat that many doctors used to and still wear when seeing patients. We have a somewhat embryonic attempt at organizing a local chapter of the Catholic Physicians Guild and Saturday’s gathering gives myself and the organizers great hope for the future. It is not easy to get physicians to take the time and come to an event of this nature given the challenges of their schedules.

Group photo after the White Mass and Dinner at the Bethany Center

Group photo after the White Mass and Dinner at the Bethany Center

A local physician, Dr. Averill  from Clearwater and a member of St. Catherine of Siena parish who has combined his practice with his promises as a Third Order Franciscan was the principal speaker. He commented, and it was the first time I heard this, that many modern day graduates of medical schools either do not take the Hippocratic Oath or take a revised oath which meets the requirements more of political correctness than the traditional oath. Each year at the annual Red Mass for judges and lawyers, I hear these men and women repeat their oaths taken at the time of their admission to the bar and admire their promises to their profession and I have always until now assumed and admired the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians. It is a sad commentary on our times that this very important foundation of medical practice is falling into disuse.

Bishop Lynch with students from USF Medical School

Bishop Lynch with students and physicians from the USF Medical School after the White Mass & Dinner

The Liturgy was followed by a dinner and brief program at our beautiful Bethany Center and it was wonderful being with these fine Catholic women and men. Also, ten students from USF’s Medical School with one resident and one of their mentors were in attendancee, two of them graduates of the University of Notre Dame, and they have asked for a follow-up retreat at Bethany prior to entering their respective practices and upon completion of their residency programs. That, good people, is a very, very positive sign and a benefit coming from the work of the Guild.

The encounter Saturday evening followed three days of meetings on our Southeast coast of the Board of Trustees of both St. John Vianney College Seminary and St. Vincent de Paul theologate and a third meeting on Saturday morning of the Florida bishops for the Florida Catholic Conference. I am of the mind that when and if I get to heaven’s gate, if there is a meeting board announcing a meeting for newcomers, I think I may wish to go the other direction.

+RNL

FROM THE TIBER TO THE THAMES

Thursday, September 16th, 2010
John Henry Cardinal Newman (W. W. Ouless, 1879), http://www.newmancause.co.uk/newman.html

Jon Henry Cardinal Newman (W. W. Ouless, 1879)

This morning, Rome time,  Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican to begin a visit to England during which he will beatify John Henry Cardinal Newman, the nineteenth century scholar and intellectual who converted to Roman Catholicism having been at one time or another a Calvinist, then an Anglican priest and finally a Catholic priest. Beatification means simply and only that at this time the Church publicly acknowledges and recognizes Newman as having been a holy and saintly man. It does not mean that he is a saint and as a matter of fact, the universal Church will have no feast day or even an option of memorializing “blesseds” which Cardinal Newman will become. Some people easily and understandably confuse beatification with canonization. The latter is the proper name for the public acknowledgment by the Church that it believes that a person is in eternal life, is a saint and is worthy of public intercessory prayer.

“Blesseds” can have Masses and ritual texts, however, which can be prayed in the place where they lived, died, served or by their own religious community  but only there and not by the universal Church. Beatification is the final step on the journey to public witness of a person’s saintliness and holiness, requires one uncontestable miracle to be attributued to the person (canonization will require a second miracle) and comes at the end of a long process of investigation, challenge and discernment. Most of my generation grew up with a concept of what was called “the devil’s advocate” which was actually a person assigned by Church authority whose sole task it was to prove that the candidate was indeed not what his or her proponents proposed. Pope John Paul II changed the rules and regulations of beatification and canonization and simplified them to the point that there was no longer a person to be deputized as “the devil’s advocate” but the assertions and assumptions in favor of the candidacy of a person would be thoroughly examined, challenged and proven true.

John Paul II had long had his eye on Cardinal Newman because the latter was an academic, theologian, disputacious defender of the faith (eventually) and today thought to be a model for campus ministry. Catholic England has long admired Cardinal Newman but knew there were figuratively “warts and wrinkles” which needed analysis. Pope Pius IX, no stranger to attempting to sniff out heretics never trusted Newman but his successor to the See of St. Peter, Pope Leo XIII did and it was he who made Newman a member of the College of Cardinals but I do not think he was ever ordained a bishop (it is not necessary for cardinals to be bishops).

Newman wrote hymns, the best known being “Lead Kindly Light” and he was a prolific author whose greatest work was his own autobiography entitled Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Newman as a Catholic priest became a member of a religious community called the Oratorians. His cardinalatial motto was “from heart to heart.” He and Cardinal Manning, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster,  (which includes London) often disagreed, publicly, privately, and sometimes not very elegantly. Manning has also been proposed by the Church in England, Scotland and Wales for canonization. It has been suggested that in heaven, hatchets having been buried, Newman and Manning were seen sharing a glass of port as Newman inquired, “tell me Manning, how is your beatification progressing?”

There is a second and very unusual aspect to this beatification. Pope John Paul II loved nothing more than celebrating all beatifications and canonizations in St. Peter’s Square. He knew it would bring great throngs of people from distant countries and Europe and like so many things in his pontificate he used these occasions to evangelize. Bear in mind that he alone made more “blesseds” and “saints” than almost all of his predecessors combined. Immediately upon being elected, Pope Benedict made it clear that while he would personally be present to canonize new saints, others would stand in for him at beatifications. He has done none – until September 19th when he will beatify Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, and do so at Coventry, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, where Newman’s beloved Oxford University resides. Perhaps the Holy Father has taken seriously the Newman’s own words in the hymn which will surely be sung at Mass, “Lead Kindly Light.”

+RNL

FEVER

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

This morning I woke up only to find that I had a “fever.” No, my temperature was 98.6 and I am not suffering from the sweats or anything like that but I do have a fever. It’s called pennant fever. First, a confession is in order. I am a die hard Rays fan, almost addicted to this team. I listen to their games on the radio when I am traveling throughout the diocese, I come home and watch the conclusion of the games on TV even when they are on the West coast and I attend whenever my schedule will allow it, which is not that often. But I was there last night for one of the greatest pitching duels I have ever seen between the New York Yankee’s veteran C.C. Sabathia and our young David Price. Only a hardened heart (or worse, a Yankee fan) could not have been proud of what our team accomplished last night in the first of seven final games with the Bronx bombers. If we are successful, it looks like we might once again win the American League East Division and at the worst, we may just about have earned the wild card spot for the Fall Classic. I find my interest getting stronger even though I know I have a ton of things to do between now and the Series which will take my attention away from my beloved Rays.

Rays Jerseys for Longoria, Peña, Bishop Lynch, and Crawford

The Jerseys of 1 Rays fan with some Rays stars.

I remember when I was a child in the forties and the priests did listen to Notre Dame football games while hearing confessions, using the revolutionary new toy called a “transistor radio.” Now I struggle with NOT connecting my iPhone to an ear bud and listening to the Rays on WDAE. Tonight is a good example as is tomorrow night. I have a Mass and dinner tonight for the local chapter of a fine Catholic organization called LEGATUS at the Bethany Center. The game will be half over before I can tune in from the car coming home. Tomorrow night I am in Miami for the first of our two seminary Board meetings. Thanks to MLB.com, I will still be able to listen to Andy Freed and Dave Wills on my iPhone but it will not be like watching the team on the tube. I find that in the morning upon waking I get up and before Morning Prayer or the Mass, I must read today’s Gospel according to Marc Tompkin, Gary Shelton, John Romero or Joe Smith, the four evangelists of sports in my life. It is definitely a fever, an addiction, a marvelous distraction.

Fortunately, there is the Lord’s work to be done and a lot of it right now and I feel so blessed to be back at it with full strength. To continue the baseball metaphor, last year I was on the injured reserve list and this year I have been called back by the Lord from the farm team to the big leagues. Like the Rays who delight in playing before a large crowd of fans who are into the game at a much deeper level than even myself, it is wonderful once again to be back on the roster. On Saturday night I attended the special dinner that our married, permanent deacons held during their annual retreat and thought to myself, how lucky I am to be here when last year I could not even summon up the strength to ordain the new nineteen deacons. Earlier in the day, I attended the Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting and yesterday attended and participated in a meeting of the Dean’s of our diocese and the twenty-six member Priests’ Council. For me the Fall Classic is not the best of seven but rather the wonderful work being your bishop entails.

One more baseball analogy and I will bring this “fantasy baseball” metaphor to a conclusion. This Fall as I enter what is my own “Fall classic” which will precede the Winter and Spring classics which follow, I must be feeling something like a major league pitcher whose pitching arm elbow simply gave out on him. After “Tommy John” surgery and a long period of rehab, he finally comes back to his major league team and while he may not pitch a perfect game, he does finish it and helps his team accomplish their goal. That’s exactly what I feel like this Fall. I still have a few more seasons in me, games to pitch and complete for the Gospel and for the Lord. It is not just my beloved RAYS who have helped me back on my feet but all of you by your prayers, love and support. Now it is time to try for a “spiritual sweep.” I promise, this is the last baseball talk, even when we beat the Philadelphia Phillies in October (you see, that is the team of the author of the mother of all ecclesial blogs). To my great team mates in the Church of St. Petersburg, its priests, deacons, religious and good people, let’s play ball together until His Kingdom comes.

+RNL

The Rays Jerseys of Longoria, Peña, Fr. Morris, and Crawford

The Vicar General wears Number 2 for the Rays

BURN NOTICE

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

One of the sad facts of American life and history has been the tendency of some to denigrate other people, faiths, symbols by burning. In the height of their bigotry, the Ku Klux Klan burned crosses to show their hatred toward black people, Catholics and other Christian expressions they did not like. After the Vietnam War, it became fashionable here in the United States and throughout the rest of the world to vent one’s antipathy toward the US, its government, elected leaders by burning the American flag. And now, a minister in our own state chooses to show his contempt for the religion of Islam by burning the Koran, the bible of the Muslim faith. What is there about fire that when applied to symbols and objects held sacred serves notice of anger at the minimum and perhaps hatred as the maximum? The current controversy has consequences which even affect our women and men serving in the armed forces in largely Muslim countries but as of yesterday, it seems to have made no difference. How callous can humanity become? The Third Reich, perhaps the darkest period of the last century, began with symbolic “burnings” of synagogues and symbols of the Jewish faith. The current controversy in our state is legal and protected under the free speech doctrine of our Constitution but what a sad, deplorable state to which some have sunk. Putting people, religions and religious faiths on notice by burning something they hold holy simply serves notice that we have a long way yet to go to implement the vision and words of the angels at the birth of the Messiah, “peace on earth and good will among all [women and] men.” It’s ugly out there folks!

+RNL