Richard Chonak: April 2003 Archives

Écrasez l'infâme!

"Squash the wretched thing!" In this case, the thing needing to be squashed was the self-promotion of a phony mystic who brought her "messages" from Scottsdale to Maryland and tried to start a lay movement around herself. The Vatican has confirmed that Cdl. Keeler had the right to put a stop to Gianna Talone-Sullivan's prayer meetings. CNS says:

Vatican affirms Baltimore cardinal's decision against alleged visions

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The Vatican has confirmed Baltimore Cardinal William H. Keeler's September 2000 decision to prohibit prayer services at a Maryland church in which a woman claimed to receive messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Gianna Talone-Sullivan said she received messages from Mary during Thursday evening prayer services at St. Joseph Church in Emmitsburg from 1993 until the archdiocesan ban. In an April 2 letter to Vincentian Father William O'Brien, pastor of St. Joseph, Cardinal Keeler reported the Feb. 15 ruling of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that Baltimore's archbishop is in a position to conclude the matter with a decree that the alleged apparitions are clearly not miraculous ("constat de non supernaturalitate"). Cardinal Ratzinger said his opinion on the decree was made after careful consideration of the report of a three-member theological Commission of Inquiry appointed by Cardinal Keeler. The commission concluded there was nothing supernatural going on and that there were, in fact, "negative elements" contained in some of the apocalyptic prophecies that Talone-Sullivan made public.

Phony apparitions and locutions were really a scourge of the Church from the '70s to the '90s, luring the faithful into various kinds of error and sometimes apocalyptic sectarianism. While they demand great credulity, they are harmful to the virtue of faith, which believes what is revealed by God without seeking constant reassurance from miracles, visions and oracles. A faithless generation demands signs and wonders (cf. Matt 12:39).

Cardinal Keeler's panel, after interviewing worshippers who attended the services and conducting a 16-month investigation, wrote in its review that with a worldwide "growing addiction to the spectacular, we think that the Church should not promote or encourage persons claiming to have extraordinary channels to God."

...the panel also noted that Mrs. Talone-Sullivan's proclamations included "apocalyptic forebodings and the prediction of catastrophic events," such as the death of all the fish in the world. (AP)

(Thanks, Amy, for mentioning the announcement.)

The self-nomination process is already underway, as intrepid Pew Lady Kelly Clark reports.

Anglican Use coming to NYC?

From the Whys Guys.

Morrison on the road

It was a pleasure to hear and to meet David Morrison at Boston College Monday night. He spoke in a two-man panel discussion with Andrew Sullivan on "Homosexuality in a Catholic Context: What Has Been Said About It? What Else Can Be Said?"

Homosexuality has probably been much talked about at BC lately, given that the school has recently given approval to a "gay-straight alliance" student group. Assurances that the group won't reject Catholic teaching on chastity don't give much confidence to skeptics, and neutrality on this subject is simply not enough.

Morrison did an able job of setting the Church's teaching in a larger context, or rather two larger contexts. The teaching on homosexuality has to be seen as part of the larger picture of sexual ethics, and the decision to pursue chastity has to be seen as part of Christian discipleship. The story of his conversion to Christ and to the Catholic Church drew the attention of the audience, and his personal testimony of how he chose chastity out of love for his partner -- and maintained their close and supportive relationship afterward -- stood in contrast to Sullivan's claim that the Church was commanding gays into a despairing, lonely life.

Early in his talk, Morrison read a quote from the Catechism that could well serve as the banner of Courage:

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Who else is out there telling the world that people who experience same-sex attraction can, with the help of grace, seek to become saints?

(Thanks for the link, Eric.)

Fire from Heaven (with a little help)

In the Roman rite, the Easter Vigil service of Holy Saturday night starts with the blessing of fire and the lighting of the Paschal candle. The Orthodox churches have a similar rite in the Divine Liturgy said on Great and Holy Saturday, called the "Blessing of the New Light": "Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has shone upon you."

In Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher (a/k/a the Church of the Resurrection), the arrival of the New Light is taken as an annual miracle in which fire descends from Heaven to the candle of the Orthodox patriarch who prays for it in the tomb of Christ; and from there it is given to the faithful in a rush of candle-lighting. The miracle, so it is said, happens in various forms.

The Telegraph says that tensions between the various churches sharing the basilica were a bit high this year, understandably enough:

Relations between the clergy who preside over the miracle have been inflamed since last year when the ceremony was marred by a brawl within the shrine.

Out of sight of the faithful, the two churchmen - the Armenian participating for the third time, the Greek for the first - fiercely disagreed on a matter of precedence. Should the Greek patriarch emerge first with the Holy Fire or the Armenian? Would the Greek or the Armenian Orthodox community be first to receive the light?

When Patriarch Irineos fought his corner by twice blowing out the Armenian's candle, the Armenian felt obliged to resort to a shameful expedient to obtain some Holy Fire.

"In this worst situation I had to use my emergency light, a cigarette lighter," he later admitted.

Happily, Voice of Russia radio mentioned in its news today that the bishops worked out a last-minute compromise to conduct the rite, and when they did so, the candles of the faithful spontaneously and simultaneously took fire. So they say.

As the Telegraph writer mentions, Catholics do not participate in this rite, even in years when our Holy Saturday falls on the same day as that of the Orthodox; and I don't think Catholics are obliged to believe any related claims of miraculous goings-on. In fact, an inside participant has given his description of what really happens at the tomb.

(But if you are looking for a visible miracle to celebrate, let's just rejoice in the fact that the old Soviet Communist station Radio Moscow has been sufficiently converted that it reports this Christian event favorably.)

Where would you like your heart buried? Apparently it used to be a grand romantic gesture to ship it off someplace else when you die. That's why Chopin's heart is in a church in Warsaw, while the rest of him's in France.

This sort of thing is out of fashion now, but maybe it'll make a comeback, at least as this week's animal-rights stunt (last week's having gone nowhere). PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk wants to give animals her last full measure of devotion by having her body cooked and recycled into protest props, but she wants to save her heart for use in an homage to auto racing. There's a country song in here somewhere: bury my heart with Pennzoil, but roast me with A-1.

By the way, since "pet" is not the politically correct term for a companion animal, why does her group still have such a retrograde name?

No Divine Mercy for you Torontoans

I mean Torontans, or Torontonians... (uh, Pete?)

Because of the dangers of SARS, the Marian Fathers in Stockbridge, Mass., have asked Toronto pilgrims to stay home and not attend this Sunday's observance at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy. (Please note that the notice on their website is incorrectly worded: it doesn't apply to Canada in general.)

The current flap over Senator Rick Santorum's remarks brings attention to the efforts of "gay" activists to have same-sex orientation treated as a characteristic like ethnicity: based on genetics, inherited and unchangeable, and in fact a plus for social diversity. The claim doesn't happen to be true: a newly updated statement on "Homosexuality and Hope" from the Catholic Medical Association confirms that same-sex attraction is a matter of human development and is treatable and even preventable.

Boston area readers may be interested in hearing Courageous David Morrison and, um, dissenting Andrew Sullivan in a panel discussion Monday, April 28 at Boston College.

More on eulogies (Globe and Mail)

The bishop of Calgary has reminded the clergy that eulogies are not permitted during funeral Masses. Hm: I wonder why that is....

The Newark archdiocese cited one eulogist who spoke for 43 minutes during the mass, another who ran to a piano and began accompanying himself, and a third who told a joke about Osama bin Laden.
Oh. Never mind.

No such luck.

Bettnet has the story on where Monday's SSPX reconciliation rumor came from: mere speculation.

Good news comes in threes

The word came out last week that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Ecclesia Dei commission, had decided to celebrate the old form of Mass in the basilica of St Mary Major on May 24. It's a milestone in itself: the first such celebration in a major basilica since 1970, and undertaken at the cardinal's own initiative, not at the request of the laity. Members of a chant choir in Paris were invited to sing for the Mass, leading to the suggestion that there weren't enough cantors in Italy familiar with the old rite to do the occasion justice.

Today's report (subscription required) that three of the four bishops of the Lefebvre movement will return to ecclesial communion and mark the event at that Mass (see also Ad Orientem) is a very hopeful sign.

Even the bad news -- the one bishop not including himself in the reconciliation -- is sort of good news. Given his reputation for bizarre opinions, Bp. Williamson does not really seem to be suitable for the episcopal dignity.

Northeastern Brazil, that is. The NYTimes (LRR) takes a look at the country's largest open-air theater spectacle: a family-run Passion Play that started over 50 years ago. It began with kids wearing sheets from the family's hotel, but now features well-known actors.
This year Jesus in the Pacheco production is played by Luciano Szafir, the handsome, dark-haired star of a popular [TV] Globo soap opera called "The Clone," who was promoted from the role of Pontius Pilate. At the premiere, when his shirt was removed during a poignant scene in which Jesus is whipped and a crown of thorns is placed on his head, clusters of teenage girls began to squeal and take his photograph.
It has even spawned a rival production in Recife:

From Drudge: The Weekly Standard reports that Bp. Robert Carlson of Sioux Falls has told abortion-supporting Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle to stop promoting himself as a Catholic in good standing. Thank you, Bishop Carlson!

Rome and Russia

A couple of newly announced episcopal appointments suggest possible movement in Vatican-Russian relations.

Bishop Jerzy Mazur, SVD, has been named bishop of the city of Elk in Poland. Since 1998 he served as bishop in Irkutsk in Siberia, but after the Pope formally established Bp. Mazur's territory as a diocese in 2002, Russian authorities revoked his visa and have impeded him from returning there.

Bishop Cyryl Klimowicz, now an auxiliary in Minsk (Belarus), has been named to succeed Bp. Mazur. Is this Rome's way of finessing the conflict?

The English version of the encyclical is out

The Pope is scheduled to sign it later today at the Holy Thursday evening liturgy.

samples from Ecclesia de Eucharistia

Here's a quick translation of some excerpts:

(10)... I trust this encyclical will contribute effectively to dispel the shadows of unacceptable doctrines and practices, that the Eucharist show forth brilliantly in all the splendor of its mystery....

(25) The worship given to the Eucharist outside of Mass is of inestimable value in the life of the Church. This worship, is inextricably united with the celebration of the eucharistic Sacrifice. The presence of Christ under the sacred species which continues after the Mass -- a presence that endures as long as the species of bread and of wine subsist -- derives from the celebration of the Sacrifice and is directed toward sacramental and spiritual communion. It is for the Pastors to encourage, including with their personal testimony, eucharistic worship, particularly the exposition of the Most Holy Sacrament and the adoration of Christ present under the eucharistic species.

It is beautiful to be with Him and, leaning upon his breast as did the beloved disciple, to feel the infinite love of his heart. If Christianity needs to distinguish itself in our time above all by the "art of prayer", how shall we not feel a renewed necessity to spend much time in spiritual conversation, in silent adoration, in an attitude of love, before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How many times, my dear brothers and sisters, have I had this experience and in it have encountered strength, consolation, and support! ...

(38)... The Eucharist, being the supreme sacramental manifestation of communion in the Church, requires that it be celebrated in a context of integrity of the links, including the external ones, of communion. In a special way, in order that it be "the consummation of spiritual life and the end toward which all the sacraments are directed", it requires that the bonds of communion in the sacraments be real, particularly Baptism and priestly Ordination. No one may give communion to an unbaptized person or to one who rejects the integral truth of the faith regarding the eucharistic Mystery. Christ is the truth and gives testimony to the truth; the Sacrament of his body and his blood does not permit fictions."

Ecclesia de Eucharistia

The Holy Father's encyclical on the Eucharist is scheduled to be released on Holy Thursday.
A copy in Spanish is circulating on the net (Acrobat/PDF format, 114 KB).

Good news on the cloning front

SciAm: "...reproductive cloning of primates, including humans, is unachievable using current techniques."

Whither Stanbrook Abbey?

This news is a year old, but I just happened to hear about it today. After 168 years in their current home, the Benedictine nuns of Stanbrook Abbey (Worcester, England) have decided to sell the property and move. Maybe the place is too much for a community of only 28.

Here's a piece telling the story of how the nuns bought the property in the first place, hiding their identity from the unfriendly owner.

...including Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson, whose family spoke about their Catholic faith in an interview March 25. (AP photo)

The Bridegroom is coming

Christ the Bridegroom comes into our lives in a time and manner of His own mysterious choosing. In Holy Week He comes beaten, bound, and crowned with thorns, as the icon of "Extreme Humility" shows Him.
Behold, the Bridegroom is coming in the middle of the night: blessed is the servant He shall find awake. But the one He shall find neglectful will not be worthy of Him. Beware, there-fore, O my soul! Do not fall into deep slumber, lest you be delivered to death and the door of the kingdom be closed on you. Watch instead, and cry out: "Holy, Holy, Holy are You, O God! Through the intercession of the angels, have mercy on us." (Troparion of the Bridegroom, Matins of Great and Holy Tuesday)
Bishop John Elya reminds us in his Lenten message to keep alive our first love, our desire for the second coming of Christ.

Where are we?

For bloggers interested in arranging regional meetings, I've put together a list of "St. Blog" weblogs by country and US state, to the extent I could figure them out. Please drop me a note if you can help fill in the missing info, or have any corrections. My list is based on Gerard Serafin's roster.

A couple of news items

Respect for life:
Singapore archdiocese takes measures to reduce SARS risk

Maybe not quite so good a respect for life:
Hit-and-run nuns on the loose in Bergamo

The board of the Catholic Charitable Bureau of the Archdiocese of Boston has voted to accept a donation (with strings attached) from the dissenters of VOTF. Bp. Lennon, the apostolic administrator, is exercising some forbearance and not sacking them.

Board leaders declined to give the exact tally, but it was nearly unanimous, according to chairman Neal F. Finnegan.

The decision followed a private meeting Friday at which Finnegan and vice chairman Peter Meade said they told Lennon they were caught between obeying him or taking money to help the poor.

These men seem to have forgotten that Catholic Charities isn't supposed to operate as a secular humanitarian agency, but as part of the Church's mission, and according to the Church's values. If the board helps VOTF play its political game, it's harming peace and communion in the Church.

I guess it's time for me to drop CC a note and ask them to refund whatever donations I made to them in the past. There are plenty of organizations fulfilling the Gospel's calling to help the poor.

(1) Do try to give up the cussin' and blasphemin', especially during Lent.

(2) Don't use your real name.

(3) Vary your modus operandi.

(Hey, Mark Shea, are these going to be useful in your new job?)

Musik zum Sonntag

I never heard of this German pop duo "Riviera" before, but their a cappella rendition of the folk song Maria durch ein Dornwald ging ("Mary walked through a thorny wood") is very sweet.

[Update: Here's an English lyric I made up, for those of you who aren't polygons:]

Once Mary walked through thorny wood, Kyrie eleison;
Where seven year no leaf had stood; O Jesus, O Mary.

What bore she under her heart-beat? Kyrie eleison;
'Twas Jesus Christ, our Lord most sweet; O Jesus, O Mary.

And as they wandered on that morn, Kyrie eleison;
A rose sprang up from every thorn; O Jesus, O Mary.

For something completely different: Victor Lams sends up the pseudo folk-song "Lord of the Dance" in the style of a '70s TV theme ("Shaker Funk"). I'll listen to that while meditating on this "icon" (thanks, Fr. Sibley).

Orthodox writer Frank Schaeffer on his son's decision to become a Marine

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The grandson of Protestant theologian Francis Schaeffer follows his Christian vocation in an unexpected direction:

ABC: John Schaeffer's decision to enlist as a Marine after high school baffled his family and community. He was the product of a New England prep school, a young athlete and poet from a family of intellectuals.

"To the outside world, I was somewhat embarrassed," his father, Frank, tells ABCNEWS. "When a kid joins the military, you know, the idea is, 'Oh, that's for the working class. That's for people who couldn't make it in school. That's for someone who wants benefits.'"

John's unorthodox decision profoundly changed the way he and his father thought about each other, about family, community and even their country. Together they wrote a book, Keeping Faith, recounting their journey.

Unlike the other services the Marines did nothing to sweeten the pill. When Genie, looking concerned and somewhat drawn, turned to one and asked, "But when he's done with the Marines, I mean, what will he have?" The recruiter replied, " 'Have,' ma'am? I don't understand you."

"I meant what will he, uh, get out of it?"

The recruiter sat up a little straighter and his cheeks flushed. "He'll be a United States Marine, ma'am!"

According to Father [Denis] Como [S.J.], every day I spend time with these refugees, celebrating Mass for them, trying to explain why the U.S.A. that says their leader is evil to his people, wont let this same people [emigrate to] the U.S.A.

So here I am, without a big printed-out plan of tasks, just ready to walk with these people and listen and make them laugh by yelling out quaint Iraqi phrases, he states.

Ministering to this community is often emotionally draining, admits Father Como. I spend time, and lots of prayers, trying to find ways of helping these Iraqis face the fact that they are a people in-between.

My toughest moment is when I am celebrating the Chaldean Mass, facing the people so crowded in the church that they come a foot from the altar, and hearing them sing so loud and from their guts that I could cry aloud, he says.

For our Lady, on Saturday

From the Byzantine Akathist Hymn:


Priest: O Mother of God, we see the best of speakers become as mute as fish in your regard, for they could not explain how you could give birth while remaining a virgin. As for us, while marvelling at the mystery, we cry out to you with faith:

Hail, O Container of God's Wisdom;
hail, O Treasury of His Providence!
Hail, O Reproof of Foolish Philosophers;
hail, O Confusion of Speechless Wise Men!
Hail, for you perplexed the inquisitive minds;
hail, for you dried up the inventors of myths!
Hail, for you ripped the Athenians' meshes;
hail, for you filled the Fishermen's nets!
Hail, O Retriever from the Abyss of Ignorance;
hail, O Lamplight of Knowledge to Many!
Hail, O Ship for Those Who Seek Salvation;
hail, O Harbor for the Sailors of Life!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

Resp.: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!


P.: Desiring to save the world, the Creator of All came down to it of His own will. Being at the same time our Shepherd and our God, He appeared among us, a human like us. And so the like called upon the Like, and as God He heard: Alleluia!

R: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

[Those Byzantine folks are allowed to use the A-word during Lent.]

Maggie Gallagher sums up why the UN is not (and probably cannot be) the moral voice of the international community:

We stopped short at the Kuwaiti border last time because that is what the United Nations wanted us to do. U.N. mandates are not concerned about the fate of the Iraqi people. Once the aggression against Kuwait was repelled, the United Nations was satisfied. Bush the elder knew that pushing forward to Baghdad would have sparked international outrage, as this war has.

The United Nations is a collection of states, not a creation of the people. It reflects above all the interests of those in power, which means the right to stay, unmolested, in power. The United Nations exists to protect borders of existing states -- the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.

A little April Foolery

On the "Practical Christian Life" mailing list (mainly populated by Protestant folks), somebody posted a book review for a very romantic literary work, and the reviewer even quotes chapter and verse!

Summary/Advisory: Song of Songs' biggest problem is its matter-of-fact attitude toward sex.... definitely off-limits for casual dinner conversation between husband and wife....

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Richard Chonak in April 2003.

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