Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Corpus Christi: Krakow Today

Cardinal Dziwisz Venerates the Altar at the beginning of Mass
Participants and Onlookers

One of the Stational Altars

Cardinal Macharski

Cardinal Dziwisz Gives the Final Blessing

The tradition of the Corpus Christi procession in Krakow continues in this day, pretty much as it has for centuries. The celebration begins with a Mass celebrated by the Archibishop of Krakow outside of the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Wenceslaus and Stanislaus, on Wawel Hill, and then processes down the hill to four stational altars. The altars are located at the corners fo the main market square, and at each altar, one of the many auxiliary bishops of Krakow preaches and gives a reflection.

This year, the theme was the 30th anniversary of the visit of John Paul II to Poland in 1979, which as Cardinal Dziwisz recently pointed out, was the beginning of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The texts used at the altars were taken from the words of John Paul II to the Poles of thirty years ago, and are certainly as applicable today, as they were then. John Paul II emphasized the relationship between Christ and the history of Poland. Indeed, the very first words of his first encyclical were "Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of Man, is the center of the universe and of history."

With this message, John Paul II arrived in Poland, to the trembling of the communist authorities, and encouraged the people by preaching the truth about the course of human events and of the history of Poland: from its inception, Poland began as a Christian nation with the baptism of Mieszko I, a pagan tribal chief, in 966. From that day, Christianity has survived, flowered, and blossomed in Poland, and has played a role in the very heart and soul of Poland for a longer time than the ancient Orthodoxy of Kievan Rus or Muscovy. With that momentous decision in the backwoods of north central Europe in 966, a Christian nation was born and the blood of the martyrs began to flow through the lifeblood of Poland. This is the truth that the Marxists sought to deny. They sought to understand man through materialistic and economic worldviews, and Poland through the eyes of an anti-religious dialectic. What they failed to account for is the instrinsic connection between the Christian faith of the Poles and the transcendence and dignity of the human person, the capability of the human spirit, and in this case, the Polish spirit, to only understand itself fully through reference to the truth about the good.

This is the message that John Paul II came to preach, and only his words can express it most perfectly:

" It is right to understand the history of the nation through man, each human being of this nation. At the same time man cannot be understood apart from this community that is constituted by the nation. Of course it is not the only community, but it is a special community, perhaps that most intimately linked with the family, the most important for the spiritual history of man. It is therefore impossible without Christ to understand the history of the Polish nation—this great thousand-year-old community—that is so profoundly decisive for me and each one of us. If we reject this key to understanding our nation, we lay ourselves open to a substantial misunderstanding. We no longer understand ourselves. It is impossible without Christ to understand this nation with its past so full of splendour and also of terrible difficulties. It is impossible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, that undertook in 1944 an unequal battle against the aggressor, a battle in which it was abandoned by the allied powers, a battle in which it was buried under its own ruins—if it is not remembered that under those same ruins there was also the statue of Christ the Saviour with his cross that is in front of the church at Krakowskie Przedmiescie. It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaus in Skalka to Maximilian Kolbe at Oswiecim unless we apply to them that same single fundamental criterion that is called Jesus Christ.
The Millennium of the Baptism of Poland, of which Saint Stanislaus is the first mature fruit—the millennium of Christ in our yesterday, and today—is the chief reason for my pilgrimage, for my prayer of thanksgiving together with all of you, dear fellow-countrymen, to whom Christ does not cease to teach the great cause of man; together with you, for whom Jesus Christ does not cease to be an ever open book on man, his dignity and his rights and also a book of knowledge on the dignity and rights of the nation.
Today, here in Victory Square, in the capital of Poland, I am asking with all of you, through the great Eucharistic prayer, that Christ will not cease to be for us an open book of life for the future, for our Polish future.

We are before the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the ancient and contemporary history of Poland this tomb has a special basis, a special reason for its existence. In how many places in our native land has that soldier fallen! In how many places in Europe and the world has he cried with his death that there can be no just Europe without the independence of Poland marked on its map! On how many battlefields has that solider given witness to the rights of man, indelibly inscribed in the inviolable rights of the people, by falling for "our free­dom and yours"!
"Where are their tombs, O Po-land? Where are they not! You know better than anyone—and God knows it in heaven" (A. Oppman, Pacierz za zmarlych).
The history of the motherland written through the tomb of an Unknown Soldier!
I wish to kneel before this tomb to venerate every seed that falls into the earth and dies and thus bears fruit. It may be the seed of the blood of a soldier shed on the battlefield, or the sacrifice of martyrdom in concentration camps or in prisons. It may be the seed of hard daily toil, with the sweat of one's brow, in the fields, the workshop, the mine, the foundries and the factories. It may be the seed of the love of parents who do not refuse to give life to a new human being and undertake the whole of the task of bringing him up. It may be the seed of creative work in the universities, the higher institutes, the libraries and the places where the national culture is built. It may be the seed of prayer, of service of the sick, the suffering, the abandoned—"all that of which Poland is made".
All that in the hands of the Mother of God—at the foot of the cross on Calvary and in the Upper Room of Pentecost!
All that—the history of the motherland shaped for a thousand years by the succession of the generations (among them the present generation and the coming generation) and by each son and daughter of the motherland, even if they are anonymous and unknown like the Soldier before whose tomb we are now.
All that—including the history of the peoples that have lived with us and among us, such as those who died in their hundreds of thousands within the walls of the Warsaw ghetto.
All that I embrace in thought and in my heart during this Eucharist and I include it in this unique most holy Sacrifice of Christ, on Victory Square.
And I cry—I who am a Son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul II—I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost:
Let your Spirit descend.
Let your Spirit descend.
and renew the face of the earth, the face of this land.

With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that fateful day on Victory Square in Warsaw, the victory of truth over falsehood, of freedom over slavery, of transcendence over conformism began, and the history of the world changed forever.

Corpus Chrisit Procession: Krakow 1937

This is the Corpus Christi Procesison in Krakow in 1937, when Prince Adam Cardinal Sapieha was the Archbishop of Krakow, before World War II. Karol Wojtyla was only 17!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Segments of the (Faithful) Church Working with Obama

I recently opened up two of the newspapers to which I subscribe: Today's Catholic and the National Catholic Register. Both of the newspapers ran stories that were re-printed from other news agencies, such as the Catholic News Service, and L'Osservatore Romano.

I have almost come to the point of desperation and am tempted toward hopelessness: not only is the American liberal media in a love affiar with President Obama, but so also is the Catholic press, and even the Vatican. Why? Obama has brilliant political strategists: he knows that a slim majority of Catholics voted for him, based on his presentation of social policies and an agenda that fits some aspects of Catholic social teachings. He knows that he needs to maintain and count on support from Catholics in order to further his agenda and goals. So begins the onslaught against faithful Catholics who believe in the Church's teachings on the dignity of each human life, and the hierarchy that accompanies the gravity of certain moral issues in relation to others:

-the Notre Dame affair: a speech through which Obama deludes many Catholics with his conciliatory rhetoric and appealing notion of "common ground" in a politically and socially divided nation. He is met with applause and warm congratulations by Fr. Jenkins, who has demonstrated compelte disregard for millions of Catholics in this nation.

-the appointment of Kathleen Sebelius as the HHS, as well as Alexia Kelley (from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good) as an adviser in this department

-the appointment of Miguel Diaz as the new US Ambassdor to the Vatican. Dr. Diaz was on the Catholics for Obama steering committee, donated $1000 to the Obama campaign, and signed a petition in favor of Sebelius' nomination. He is a Rahnerian theologian who is interested in liberation theology (not that there is anything wrong per se either of the two).

--the nomination of the reverse-racist and liberal Justice Sotomayor for the Supreme Court position.

Why has Obama not selected pro-choice atheists or liberal Protestants for any of these positions? The Catholic Church would be better off.

Two things come to mind.

First, a spiritual persepctive: The devil is at work in our culture and our society, perhaps right now in a way more than ever before. One of the dangerous and effective ways in which the devil works is in small and unnoticeable ways, seemingly insignificant things that, after a period of time, contribute to the downfall of the good and the creation of scandal so as to sow discord. If one looks at the specific choices of these liberal Catholics, we can see the hand of the devil at work. Sure, on the surface, some of these persons will be "nice people," say they are "faithful to the Church," and even claim to be pro-life. But all one has to do is look at the president whom they support, and to whose campaign they have contributed time and money. So as a good friend of mine who is a priest said to me not too long ago, we would definitely see a great rise in the influence of evil working subtly if Obama were to be elected. To put it logically:

The devil hates the Catholic Church and will seek to destroy it.
The Catholics chosen for these posts support policies detrimental to the witness of the truths proclaimed by the Church.
These persons have been chosen by Obama.
Obama is cooperating with the work of the devil.

I am not saying Obama is possessed, but that there are certainly evil influences guiding his actions. I think this is his deliberate strategy, because he knows that the more he can break up the Catholic Church, the more divided will be the voice of opposition to his abysmal pro-life record.

Second, why in the world can't the Catholic media undestand this?

For weeks now, the editor of the L'Osservatore Romano has been defending his soft stance on the Obama administration's policies, even going so far as to say on Italian television that "I don't believe that Obama is a pro-abortion president."

Are you kidding me? Do you actually live in the United States? Why in the world is the editor of the quasi-officialVatican newspaper even involving himself in making political statements like this?

Then, I find out that Archbishop Pietro Sambi thinks Diaz is "an excellent choice because he knows very well the United States and because of his background in the Catholic Church." Furthermore, he thinks "Latin Americans should be very proud." Since when is evertyihg a racial issue? Why need the ambassador be selected on the grounds of his race?

The, I find out that Obama's speech in Cairo, in which he cites the Koran and offers a "we will now work with all of you together to find common ground" content, is praised by the local hierearchy of the Middle East. "It's the beginning of a new process, a new era. Obama really wants to change things, and the image of the United States will benefit from it," said the Chaldean bishop of Cairo.

Are you kidding? Why in the hell does a Catholic bishop care about the 'image of the United States?"

The only image I can think of that our country is projecting is that we do not value human life, but place a price on the hierarchy of its worth (utilitarianism): if you're alive, great. If you're alive and handicapped, that's too bad. If you're old, your life sucks. If you're not born, we can decide what to do with you. If you're not alive, we can bring you to life. Now let's export this mentality to Africa and South America through the UN and programs such as USAID.

As Michael Novak has said, we ask Rome for a sip of water, and they give us a bag of stones.

Maybe I am particularly sensitive to the issue, since I am a double domer and was heavily involved in ND Response to protest Obama. But the fact of the matter remains: the Catholic hierarchy, even within high levels in the Curia, are expressing themselves in a manner that undercuts and undermines the efforts of faithful, pro-life Catholics to expose the truth of the Obama agenda. I don't care if statements have to be made for political or for reasons of politeness: say something, but don't praise Obama, don't suggest your agreement with his policies, and for heaven's sakes, don't undercut the work of many good and faithful Catholics who already find themselves in a very difficult position to defend human life at all stages.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Theology of the Body and the Need for Beauty in Catechesis


Here is a talk that I gave not too long ago at a conference on catechesis in our diocese:

Since the beginnings of our Western intellectual tradition, philosophers, poets, and artists have expressed the universal human longing for beauty. Humans all desire beauty, long for it, and cannot live without it. An encounter with a beautiful landscape, piece of art, or person leads us to transcend ourselves, and carries us into the realm of the eternal, the unknown, the mysterious, and the sacred. Dostoevsky wrote that the “world will be saved by beauty.” How true it is that an encounter with a truly beautiful person (not necessarily only physical beauty), can carry us into a new dimension of existence, can bring joy into our day, and inspire us to do the good. This is because such a person lives out the truth of their humanity. We think of Mother Teresa serving the poorest of the poor, in spite of fifty years of spiritual darkness. We think of Maximilian Kolbe, sacrificing his life voluntarily for the life of a stranger, and thus living out the truth of his human person, to live as self-gift. The saints are beautiful people because they witness to us the truth about the human being.

True beauty is in reality authentic love, living out the call to holiness. “Man cannot live without love; he remains a being incomprehensible to himself,” wrote John Paul II in his inaugural encyclical, Redemptor hominis. “Beauty is the splendor of truth,” wrote Plato. It is this “splendor of truth” that John Paul II discussed throughout his life, in his academic works from the period before his papacy, and in his encyclicals and papal documents, even titling one of them with this very phrase.
Unfortunately, we live in a world often devoid of beauty, truth, and goodness. The walls of the dark halls through which our culture passes are plastered with images of the grotesque; the immoral and the evil is often presented as good; there is a contempt for truth, as expressed in the “dictatorship of relativism,” in which objective and transcendent truths about creation, and most especially, the human person, are presented as socially constructed, malleable norms which have changed and continue to change over time.

The dignity of the human person is trampled upon through wars, poverty, materialistic consumerism, and most especially through attacks on the dignity of men and women, and the gift of human sexuality. It is difficult to see how Saint Irenaeus could have said that the “glory of God is man fully alive.” What does it even mean for “the human person to be fully alive,” when even many members of our own Church pass through life apathetically, distracted by the pursuits and pleasures of this world, without placing their thoughts, hopes, and dreams in the world to come? How are we called to live beautiful lives, in conformity with the truth about our existence as human beings? How can the Church minister to its young faithful, who are often hopeless, disillusioned, or apathetic about their lives?

A calling to be “fully alive,” to live out the deepest and most authentic human vocation, seems difficult if not impossible. We have lost our vision of what it means to be “fully alive,” to possess life “abundantly” here on this earth, in anticipation of the world to come. Our world espouses an attitude that seeks to build a utopia on earth. Such an attitude, a lack of an eschatological perspective, is seen in a particular way in the prevalent attitude toward sexuality. Sexuality is seen as a commodity to trade, and the desire for “great sex” is an important part of many peoples’ lives. Just look around in the magazine stands in the grocery store. Though original sin is a reality in the course of human history since the Fall, in a particular way, the twentieth century was especially characterized by these attitudes towards sex and the human person, which we will call heresies.

The nature of a heresy, according to Chesterton, is that it is at best a half-truth, a fragment of the truth that is exaggerated at the expense of the rest of the truth. It is so insidious because it is so attractive. Many “heresies” have been spread about the nature and meaning of human beings and their gift of sexuality. One writer said, “I would go even so far to state that there is no other source of true contentment or understanding of life values than that which comes from the realization of love in marriage…” Pretty good words. These are from Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. She goes on to say, “Through sex mankind may attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, which will light up the only path to an earthly paradise.” Sanger recognizes the sacredness of sex, that sexuality has spiritual dimensions, that sex can be a great source of joy and fulfillment, and it is realized in the love of marriage. At the same time, she proposes that sex is a beautiful thing whose end is to build up a utopia on earth. Since she believes there is no eternal end for human beings, this great sacredness of sex can be the key to an earthly paradise. This leads her to conclude that sex is a primary end of human existence, and therefore unlimited access to this commodity, made possible through birth control, can “break women’s bonds…and free her to understand the cravings and soul-needs of herself and other women. It will enable her to develop her love-nature separate from and independent of her maternal nature.”

This author’s ideas are alive today in the spirit of the sexual revolution, which is built upon the heresy that sex is sacred and must therefore be used by an individual, and that an individual can use others to obtain it. If a woman espouses these views about herself and her sexuality, Sanger proposes, then she will come to see men as “veritable gods…worthy of the profoundest worship.” Michael Waldstein asks whether this attitude has truly turned men into “veritable gods,” or whether such a philosophy has developed a culture of “users and consumers,” who can dispense with their sexual objects once the thrill and “erotic excitement ebbs away?”
This example of a modern “heresy,” which reduces sexuality to a commodity to be traded and a means for using other people to gain one’s own satisfaction, lies at the foundation of many of the problems we face in our cultural edifice today, in which women especially have suffered greatly as a result of the confusion regarding sexuality. At a more fundamental level, this outlook contradicts the proper ordering within and meaning of a human person.

Sanger died just over forty years ago, and her ideas seem to have taken hold of a good portion of cultural attitudes. Thousands of miles away, behind the Iron Curtain, another contemporary philosopher reflected upon the meaning of human sexuality and human love. This man had suffered much in his early childhood, and lost his entire family by his mid twenties. Life brought him many challenges and tests of human love, but by the 1940’s, he wrote that he had “learned to fall in love with human love.” As a young priest, this philosopher was placed in a parish and his pastoral assignment was to minister to college students and young married couples, whose hopes, dreams, failures, and struggles under a communist regime he had quickly come to appreciate.

These experiences, the desire to help young families grow in love in the midst of anti-family pressure from the government, widespread encouragement of abortion, rampant alcoholism, and economic policies that sought to break down the family, led this man to compile a book that would encourage young people to live their humanity to its fullness. In this book, entitled Love and Responsibility, which our philosopher Karol Wojtyła published in 1959, he sought to discuss human love from a philosophical perspective. He asked, “What can we know of the human person and the universal phenomenon of love, based on experience, reason, psychology, and sexuality?” Drawing upon his discussions with philosophers, psychologists, and mostly his conversations with the young friends to whom he ministered, Wojtyła argued that the opposite of love is not hate, but “use”: using another person as an object, as a means to an end. The key to this authentic understanding of human dignity lies in Wojtyła’s personalisitc norm, which can either be presented in a negative or positive way. Fundamental to the protection of human dignity is the insight that a “person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end.” Wojtyła reformulates this philosophical principle and points out, “the person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love.”

Furthermore, this attitude of love must be understood in a personal way, taking into account that we are all sexual beings. Love itself, as Pope Benedict points out in Deus Caritas Est, can be a confusing term, especially for us anglophiles who only have one word for the concept. Wojtyła proposes four kinds of love. Love as attraction is a type of love, by which we are drawn to the sexual values of another person. These values reside in a specific person. “The attraction on which love is based must originate not just in a reaction to visible and physical beauty, but also in a full and deep appreciation of the beauty of the person.” So we arrive back at our universal longing for beauty. We are all attracted to beauty, and physical beauty is a valid and important attraction, but it is not enough. We must learn to desire a person.

Desire, the second type of love, is “of the essence of love” because we are all limited and finite human beings, who are not self-sufficient and therefore “need other beings.” This explains why we can all become lonely, and sometimes feel an inexplicable longing in our hearts. Augustine realized that this longing to “be with” another can only be fully satisfied by God, when he said, “My heart is restless until it rests in You.” Desiring after another person can be authentic when we realize that a person is a “good for me.” Thus, it is good for a husband to desire his wife, who brings the best qualities out in him. It is using her when he desires her simply because he wants to get his pleasure and satisfaction. Love as desire is therefore not complete. “It is not enough to love a person as a good for oneself, one must also, and above all, long for that person’s good.”
To truly love another person is to desire their good. For this reason, parents sacrifice their time, money, and leisure for the care of their children. A priest starts adoration at his parish for the spiritual good of his parishioners. Love as goodwill is therefore “selflessness.” In Wojtyła’s view, therefore, true and fully authentic love consists in the sacrificial and unselfish love in which a person makes a gift of his person to another. For a man and a woman, authentic love “cannot but be love as desire, but must as time goes by, move more and more in the direction of unqualified goodwill.”

Finally, “Love finds its full realization” not in the individual, but “in a relationship between…persons.” Betrothed love consists in self-giving, which differs from “desiring the good” for another. Death to self serves as the foundation of this highest form of love. Though a doctor, pastor, or teacher might give of herself, this might only be the result of circumstance, goodwill, or friendliness. Betrothed love, however, is self-surrender to a “chosen person.” This is the most perfect, sacrificial love that each human being is called to.

These key insights about human love and about a utilitarian mindset that entered into our cultural understanding of human relationships and sexuality, in a particular way, from the early days of the twentieth century, as seen in the writings of Margaret Sanger, form a foundation of Wojtyła’s thought. Love and Responsibility, became a “bestseller,” and Janet Smith has proposed that this work belongs on the list of the classic books of western civilization, alongside Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Dante: “The pope’s book belongs in this group, since I think generations to come will read his book — they certainly should do so, for if they do they will find that it boldly confronts questions we all have about life and offers a way of viewing human relationships which, if accepted, would radically alter the way in which we conduct our lives.” The book was so popular that the philosopher-priest (a bishop by this time), decided to write a sequel to this book, examining the human vocation to love from a theological perspective.
In a particular way, he sought to address some of the important developments in the Church and society since the publication of Love and Responsibility, especially the promulgation of Humanae Vitae and its aftermath. Karol Wojtyła desired to articulate clearly the “adequate biblical anthropology” necessary for a complete and comprehensive understanding of the encyclical and its implications. He thus wrote this book, largely a commentary on the Book of Genesis, the Gospels, and the Letters of Saint Paul, and titled it, “Man and Woman He Created Them,” a “theology of the body.” Before the volume was published, however, Wojtyła, as we all know, ascended the throne of St. Peter. Since at the time, it was not customary for a pontiff to publish a book, John Paul II decided to convert his work, written in Kraków, into a series of catecheses, given at the weekly Wednesday audiences. Thus, the first five years of his catechesis as pontiff was born.

This catechesis formed the foundation of his pontificate, and throughout his encyclicals, documents, speeches, homilies, letters, and other works, the pope referred to the concepts he had introduced in the theology of the body, as a result of his many years of pastoral experience and philosophical and theological training. Vatican II reminds us that, “Preaching and catechetical instruction…always hold the first place” in a bishop’s activity (Christus Dominus 13). In these catecheses, though written before he was elected pope, the pope speaks as (1) pastor of the universal Church; (2) in a form central to his office; (3) on a topic central to the faith (human and divine love). They can therefore be considered authoritative and to hold primacy of place in the ordinary Magisterium of the Bishop of Rome as pastor of the universal Church, to which the catecheses are addressed.[1]

These catecheses seek to provide a lens through which to view the Catholic Church’s teachings on morality, sexuality, the human person, nature, grace, and indeed, as George Weigel has written, theology of the body “will compel a dramatic development of thinking about virtually every major theme in the creed.” John Paul II re-orients us to the “beginning” of the Book of Genesis, and the “beginning” of human existence as created by the Trinitarian God. John Paul II himself points out that the themes in theology of the body, among others that we are created to dwell in communion with one another, as an image of the communion of Persons in the Trinity, and that true love consists in self-gift, the relationship that characterizes the Persons of the Trinity, are meant to remind us of “the final and grandiose goal of all evangelization.” (3/10/1987, Buenos Aires).

That human beings are beautiful, that we are created to love with a total self-surrender and in a gift of our whole selves to another, and that we can one day participate in the very life of the Trinity itself, a foretaste of which can be had here on earth, are central themes of this work. In a particular way “the Church addresses [these] to the young, who are beginning their journey towards marriage and family life, for the purpose of presenting them with new horizons, helping them to discover the beauty and grandeur of the vocation to love and the service of life.” (Familiaris Consortio 1)

Of course, the Church always recognizes that the domestic church is the primary place of catechesis of the young. “The Christian family, in fact, is the first community called to announce the Gospel to the human person during growth and to bring him or her, through a progressive education and catechesis, to full human and Christian maturity.” (FC, 2) The theology of the body is therefore fundamentally important for families, and the domestic church is to become a school of prayer, of love, and of primary education in the faith. However, the pope recognizes that “In so far as the ministry of evangelization and catechesis of the Church of the home is rooted in and derives from the one mission of the Church and is ordained to the upbuilding of the one Body of Christ,(128) it must remain in intimate communion and collaborate responsibly with all the other evangelizing and catechetical activities present and at work in the ecclesial community at the diocesan and parochial levels.” (FC, 53)

It is therefore not only the work of individual families to take seriously the pope’s teachings presented beautifully in the theology of the body, and in the accompanying papal documents, but it is a task of the entire ecclesial community. At World Youth Day in Toronto, the pope encouraged young people, and indeed all Catholics, to “not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart…You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life. If you have an ardent desire for the Lord you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society.” (Message for XVII World Youth Day)

It is time to once again re-propose wholeheartedly to those around us, in particularly the young, with whose spiritual formation we have been entrusted, to always strive for what is good, beautiful, and true. We have seen from the saints, human beings who have been fully alive, that the world will truly be saved by beauty, in the splendor of its truth.

[1] See Catechesi Tradendae, 7 for JPII’s understanding of catechesis. In the audiences, he is commenting on the Catechism, providing a lens through which to read it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Trinity Within

Pope Benedict's angelus address yesterday, during this week after Trinity Sunday, was unusually beautiful and clear. This is another exmaple of this pope's ability to preach about the most complex and deepest of the Christian mysteries in a manner that is accessible to all and inspiring to even those without any theological education.

I have not been able to find the entire text online in English (for the Italian, see here), but Zenit has excerpts from the address:

Christ revealed that "God is love 'not in the unity of a single person, but in the Trinity of a single substance,'” the Holy Father said, quoting the preface."The Trinity is Creator and merciful Father; Only Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, dead and risen for us; it is finally the Holy Spirit, who moves everything, cosmos and history, toward the final recapitulation," the Pontiff explained. "Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is love and only love, most pure, infinite and eternal love.""The Trinity does not live in a splendid solitude," he added, "but is rather inexhaustible font of life that unceasingly gives itself and communicates itself."Benedict XVI said one could get a sense of the Trinity simply by observing nature from the most elementary cellular levels to the planets, stars and galaxies."The 'name' of the Most Holy Trinity is in a certain way impressed upon everything that exists, because everything that exists, down to the least particle, is a being in relation, and thus God-relation shines forth, ultimately creative Love shines forth," he said."All comes from love, tends toward love, and is moved by love, naturally, according to different grades of consciousness and freedom," the Pope affirmed."Every being," he continued, "by the very fact of existing and by the 'fabric' of which it is made, refers to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life that gives itself, in a word: to Love." Benedict XVI affirmed that there is proof that human beings are made in the image of the Trinity, because "only love makes us happy, because we live in relation, and we live to love and be loved.""Using an analogy suggested by biology," he concluded, "we could say the human 'genome' is profoundly imprinted with the Trinity, of God-Love.”

This gives me great ideas about our own presentations to eighth graders. Part of our job consists of presenting chastity to eighth graders, and it is impossible to speak of chastity without reference to the Trinity. Why is this so? Simple.

We've all heard that we "look like our mom" or that we "look like our dad." By looking at a child, we are able to understand something about its parents, and by looking at the parent's features, we are able to understand that the child has its "father's nose" or its "mother's cheeks." We are, in a certain sense, made in the image and likeness of our parents.

We've also all heard from the very beginning of the Book of Genesis that we are made in the "image and likeness of God." Well, if we are made in the image and likeness of God, and God is Trinity, and God is also Love, then it is impossible to understand who we are as human persons without reference to the mytery of the Three Persons of the Trinity who dwell with each other in a communion of self-giving love. This, I think, is one of the deepest insights that has been at the forefront of the teaching of both Pope Benedict and of John Paul II. It is certainly a fundamental insight, and "thesis" of the Theology of the Body. We are made in the image of the Trinitarian God, three Persons who dwell in a relation of self-giving love with and to one another, and we can only find ourselves through the living out of this gift of self (see Gaudium et Spes 24).

Thus, Pope Benedict is reminding us --and this is one of the important features of the Trinity Sunday--that when we think of being in the "image and likeness" of God, it is not just through our ability to think and to choose, reason and intellect, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in our ability to enter into relationship with one another, in the midst of a community of love. We are therefore called to live out God's image by living in a communion of love, with our spouses, our children, at the parish level, and even in the relationships we establish in the professional arena.

I find Pope Benedict's speech fascinating, since many modern biologists (mostly atheistic materialists) are also arguing that human beings are pre-programmed genetically with a "morality gene." I don't find a problem with this. It simply is further scientific proof that we, as human beings, have the first precept of the natural law written into our very genetic strucutre: to do good and avoid evil. As Christians, however, we understand that love is the fulfillment of the law, and the only way to live out who we are to be is to be governed by thi self-giving, relational love of which Benedict speaks.

I will write more about this later, especially as it relates to the Christopher West debate--although this has been raging on the blogs, I hope to contribute my own thoughts about it, from a persepctive that I do not think has been raised by either West, Schindler, Smith, or Waldstein. More on that later...

Monday, June 08, 2009

I'm back for good

Wow! I did not realize that it's been over a year since I have posted anything on this blog. Life has moved forward in many amazing ways, and I hope to start publishing here more frequently, especially since I am not a student anymore, and have more time on my hands.