Friday, December 21, 2012


The past weeks of final examinations seem to have overexcited my neurons and had pushed me to be especially fertile and productive in the literal sense. The analysis offered by Armando Doronila in the Philippine Daily Inquirer ("The RH Bill Debacle", December 20, 2012 issue) has piqued my curiosity and has set my thinking gears turning. It’s strange to note that precisely in a time when everything seems to settle down for a well-earned respite from intellectual work after the exams, the brain starts to function.

The Doronila’s article provides an analysis concerning the outcome of the recent debate on the Reproductive Health (or otherwise, Responsible Parenthood) bill, which I think would be remembered in Philippine contemporary history as one of the most divisive in society. Centering on the clash between the Catholic Church and the bill’s proponents in the legislature, not only does it recount the facts about the final stages of the debate, but in order to reinforce the author’s point concerning the   ideological conflict between both, Doronila goes back in history, and points out the actuation of both parties in the debate concerning the legislation allowing for the compulsory reading of Rizal’s Noli and Fili in Philippine schools way back in the late 1950’s. In this debate, the Church (vehement against its application in the Philippine educational system) lost the debate, and the novels became part of the school curriculum. But as Sen. Joker Arroyo mentioned in his intervention during the Senate voting on the RH bill, in this 1956 debate, nobody lost face, neither the Church nor the politicians who sponsored the bill.

Doronila also mentions another episode in which the Church took a crucial part, and this was in ousting Marcos from power, effectively ending a twenty-year old regime. Here, the memorable role of the late Cardinal Sin was crucial in calling all Filipinos to the streets, a decision which was not done in the spur of the moment, but something that was taken after intense hours of prayer.  Referring to this episode, the author of the article concludes that “in this role, Church intervention in state affairs was at its best and most welcomed by the Filipino people. It was the height of the influence and power of the Church in the development of democracy”.

He goes on, winding up a rather insightful analysis, commenting on the fact that since then, the Church’s influence has waned, and could not be regained by interventions related to population and its implications related to economic growth and poverty.

Doronila begins with what amounts to a general assumption: “the Roman Catholic Church suffered its most crushing defeat in its collision with the Philippine state in 13 years when Congress decisively voted on Monday to pass the Malacañang-certified reproductive health bill  providing government funding for contraceptives and sex education in schools.” I would say that this could be taken as an apparent assumption, and this could be interpreted in many ways, depending on the perspective from which one may prefer to look at it.

Basically this was one statement that set me thinking. Certainly the votes of the anti-Rh legislators, backed by the bishops and the Catholic laity, were outnumbered by a comfortable margin by the pro-RH camp and the bill’s authors. Tactically, numerically and apparently, the outcome transformed the parties in the debate, turning it from a debate between pros and antis into one between the gleefully victorious and the defeated.

The day the results were officially made known to the public, placing the bill one step ahead into legality, many people expressed their dismay and their sadness on the outcome. Both news reached me as I surveyed the world in the internet. I guess the latter’s expressions of sadness and dismay personally irritated me more than the victory of the Pro-RH camp in the bicameral vocations,  though their reaction is perfectly understandable. The day the results went out, I didn’t have that sense of defeat, personally because it don’t see it as such. To express it more exactly, the legislators contrary to the bill lost in the votation; they may have been on the same side that the Catholic Church was championing, but it was the anti-RH votes that lost (as a parenthesis, I congratulate these legislators for being heroic in standing their ground, as much as I respect the rest of the other legislators in the other camp).

I don’t feel that there should be talk of the Catholic Church being defeated as yet, for the simple reason that the law still has to prove itself capable of bringing what it was supposed to bring on. It’s too premature to celebrate. I would grant victory to the supporters of the RH bill as a law if it has indeed been able to make true its provisions, and has uplifted the poor, helped in defending the rights of women, and aided in the true education of the youth. But the mere fact of it’s being passed into law is no guarantee that it will work. I’m not saying that it won’t work, it could be effective…but as the Holy Writ would express it, it would only be through the fruits that we would be able to see the true victory of this bill once enacted into law, and this will not happen at the spur of the moment.

I don’t think the Church has suffered a crushing defeat; a setback in its hold and influence (as the Inquirer would put it) perhaps, but a humiliated  Church, I don’t think so. In the academic jests that we would throw at each other in the residence where I live in, we would debate upon the excellence of our fields: Canon lawyers would pit themselves jokingly against dogmatic theologians, moralists against philosophers, each saying their field is better and the studying the rest is an absolute waste of time. One day they turned to me, the only historian in the residence (there aren’t much of us in the Faculty of Theology, there are only about six of us, and I’m the lone Filipino) and asked me in jest concerning any importance my field would have. I replied smugly, “I don’t need to answer that question. I just have to direct you to the fact that chapter one in all of your respective textbooks would talk about the history of your specializations. Go and deduce the answer for yourselves. We historians cannot enter into your debates; transcending such conflicts, we have the duty to be observers of everything that takes place in time and space”. Message relayed ad verbatim. I suppose I felt smug like Buddha or some other oriental sage, because my companions backed a hasty retreat and went for another to pounce on.

There is a lot to be learned in history, and in a way, it gives you a perspective that helps orient things, and it is only when things are in place could one be at peace. The outcome of the RH bill debate, its impact on the Church and upon its public image in Philippine society, and the analysis afforded by Doronila brings be back to the case of the Protestant Reformation. The Reform wrought by Luther had huge consequences in European history. It was a tragic episode with respect to the history of European unity, as with the Reform movement, that millenary political, cultural and religious unity termed as Christendom was irreparable shattered. The revolution instigated by Luther’s defiance to authority, no matter how corrupt, started a long period of wars, which culminated in the rise of modern states, each with its own handling of religion. Far from being a principle of unity, it shattered it.

For the Church, the Reform brought heavy consequences. It was a huge blow, and perhaps historically, it was the greatest crisis that the Catholic Church had ever faced since the Great Schism in the fifteenth century, since it constituted a scandalously huge rift within the Church itself, that mystical body termed by saints and Christian thinkers as that “seamless robe of Christ”, which the Protestant Reform had torn apart.

The Catholic Church was down, evidently…but that painful episode brought immediately brought forth one of the greatest moments of splendor that the Church has ever had in terms of art, intellectual science, administration, and most important of all, sanctity. The succeeding period brought forth a rich harvest of examples of  lives that mirrored the holiness and the love of God. above everything, this is the victory that crowns them all. The seventeenth century, heir of the woes of it turbulent predecessor, was a moment of unparalleled glory in many aspects of the Church’s life.

I don’t feel defeated in any way, nor do I think that the Church in the Philippines should feel otherwise…aside from the reasons that I’ve expressed above, whatever low moments we may find ourselves in, the Church must always see as opportunities to rise. To feel sad at an apparent setback is an error which the Catholic Church in the Philippines does not have the luxury to commit at this point in time. Her critics and detractors are right when they say that this marks a new period for the Church, and they are equally right when they say that it is time for a humbler Church.

I think that it is time for the Church in the Philippines to let go of any triumphalist tendency that it may have inherited from its colonial past. It is a triumphalism that we have inherited from the times when bishops and priests, religious and wealthy lay people WERE the Church. This triumphalism has given birth to a certain clericalism that does not speak true of the Gospel of Christ in contemporary Filipino society. True, the people don’t listen anymore to bishops and priests pontificating in their pulpits. But they cannot resist in listening to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. People have that erroneous image of the Church as being merely the bishops and the priests and religious. No, they are not the Church. The lay people in themselves  aren’t the Church either. We may sometimes have forgotten that the Church is neither of these. The deepest truth about the Church is that it is the mystical Body of Christ; not just any mere human institution with its own aims and history. Many people wouldn't care to realize that The Church is of God, Christ is its head, and only if we let this word of Christ shine more brilliantly in the foreground, with us priests and bishops and lay people forming the mere background, wouldn’t the people listen more?

The RH Bill debates have merely set, with respect for the Church, the fertile ground upon which to grow stronger, by allowing it to see that its force is not in the numbers that it muster, but in the Truth that it needs to proclaim. For it to proclaim it as such, it needs to humble. Yes, humble, but not humiliated, as the Church’s detractors would have her. A humble Church in the Philippines will speak out all the more, forcefully than ever. A Church that does not base her power in a system of privilege, but on the Gospel of Life, a Church that is prophetic in its denunciation of evil, and active in works of charity in truth, both of which are the only driving force behind any initiative that can truly uplift the Filipino, especially the poor, the women, and the youth.

This is the Church that we are called to be with the help of God’s grace, one which our country needs. And I believe optimistically, that the odds are helping us in achieving that.

Perhaps now you may understand why I don’t think of it as a defeat.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gaudete Sunday: TRUE JOY

(I'm offering the English translation after the Spanish version)

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete!
Avanzamos en nuestro camino hacia la fiesta de la Navidad, plenamente conscientes de que este tiempo preparatorio de Adviento es un espacio verdaderamente de penitencia. Y así hemos comenzado y vivido estos días. En el domingo pasado hemos escuchado las palabras del profeta Isaías que dijo: Preparen el camino del Señor, hagan rectos sus senderos. Estos palabras  constituyen el corazón del mensaje de san Juan Bautista, el precursor de nuestro Señor. Efectivamente, al rectificar nuestros caminos, rellenando las valles de nuestra ignorancia, rebajando las montañas de amor propio y la soberbia que estan en nuestros corazones, estamos respondiendo a la llamada de la conversión. Es una llamada perenne, de toda la vida, pero que se revista con especial urgencia estos días.

El tercer domingo de adviento, el domingo Gaudete, nos muestra a su vez que el fruto de la verdadera penitencia y conversión no puede ser otra cosa que la verdadera alegría. El apóstol san Pablo nos exhorta de estar alegres siempre, porque siempre estamos en camino de la conversión. En cuanto nos pongamos en este camino, respondiendo fielmente a esa llamada a la conversión, nos acercamos continuamente al Señor, cuya presencia entre nosotros y en nosotros es fuente de toda alegría: Dominus enim prope est. El Señor está cerca.

La liturgia nos muestra, pues,  que la alegría cristiana no es la mera alegría de un animal sano, que se pone a reír y alegrarse  porque se está físicamente bien: come bien, duerme bien, se divierta. No, la alegría de verdad brota y cunde de la presencia del Señor al que hemos dado la bienvenido en nuestro corazón, en nuestra vida. Es una alegría que vemos evidente en la vida de los santos, primeramente de María nuestra madre santísima, que a pesar de las fatigas, reveses y contradicciones de la vida, están llenos de alegría serena. Es una alegría que se tiene que propagar; una que tiene que contagiar a los demás en el alrededor.

La liturgia del domingo Gaudete nos enseña también que la alegría que tenemos en este vida no es definitiva, sino que llegará a su plenitud con la venida definitiva del Señor. Hace cinco años, en un domingo de Gaudete tal como hoy, celebré solemnemente por primera vez la Santa Misa, y a pesar de las grandes ganas que tenía de entonar el himno gozoso de la Gloria, no pude, porque no estaba previsto por las rubricas. Nosotros cantaremos la Gloria definitiva en el final, pero se trata de un himno de alabanza que esta ya incoada en nuestros corazones, manifestado en nuestra vida. El Gaudete nos orienta para ver que esta vida con sus alegrías no es definitiva, y que por lo bonita que sea, hemos de mirar hacia la gran fiesta que está por llegar con nuestra unión con Dios en el cielo.

Termino con unas palabras de un gran pensador, Juan Escoto Eriugena: “No se debe desear otra cosa sino la alegría de verdad, que es Cristo, ni evitar otra cosa sino estar alejados de él, pues esto se debería considerar como causa única de tristeza total y eterna. Si me quitas a Cristo no me quedará ningún bien, y nada me asustará como estar lejos de él. El mayor tormento de una criatura racional es estar privado de él o lejos de él”. Que estas palabras nos ayuden en nuestro empeño de estar más cerca de Cristo, única fuente de nuestra alegría. AMEN.

(The English translation)

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete!
We are moving forward on our way towards the great feast of Christmas, fully aware of the fact that Advent is also a time of true penance. As such we have started this season and we have lived all throughout this time. Last Sunday we heard the words of the prophet Isaiah who said: prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. These words are at the heart of the message of St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Lord. Truly, when we make straight our path, filling up the valleys of our ignorance and apathy, and allowing the mountains of our pride and self-love made low, we are responding to the call of conversion. It is a call that is being made out to us always, but which we could hear with special urgency in this season of advent.

The third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, allows us to see as well that the fruit of true penance and conversion is true joy. The apostle St. Paul exhorts us in his letter to the Philippians to be joyful always, and this is because we are on the road of conversion. Inasmuch as we faithfully respond to the call of conversion, we draw nearer always to the Lord, and the Lord makes himself present in our lives. His presence is precisely the cause of true joy in our lives and in our hearts: Dominus prope est, the Lord is near.

The liturgy shows us therefore, that true Christian joy is different from just being that of a healthy animal, one that laughs and is happy because it is physically well. No, true joy springs from the presence of the Lord, whom we have truly welcomed in our hearts and in our lives. It is a joy that is most evident in the lives of the saints, especially in that of Mary, our mother; despite of the sufferings and contradictions that life held in store for them, they were able to go through all of it serenely, in joy. This is the gladness that we need to have, and that which we need to spread, wherever we may find ourselves in.

The liturgy of Gaudete Sunday also teaches us that whatever joy we may have is never definitive, but rather that which will reach its fullness only when the finally comes. Five years ago, in a Gaudete Sunday such as this, I solemnly celebrated for the first time the holy Mass, and despite of the great urge to intone that joyful hymn of the Glory, I couldn’t, simply because it wasn’t prescribed by the rubrics, it being a Sunday of Advent. We shall definitively sing the Glory in the end, when we come face to face with God in heaven. But this song of joy has already begun in our hearts, and is present already in our lives. Gaudete Sunday directs us in order to see that even the positive joys of life are not lasting, that this life is not definitive, no matter how beautiful it may be. We need to look forward, turning our eyes towards the great feast that is yet to come, the feast of our perfect union with God in heaven.

I would like to end with these words of a great Christian thinker, John Scotus Eriugena: “One ought not desire any other thing than true joy, who is Christ, and avoid anything else but be far from him, because this is what ought to be considered as the only cause of true and total sadness. If Christ were to be taken from me, this would be really unfortunate; nothing would make me fear than being far from him. The greatest torment any rational creature could have is to be deprived of him or be far from him”. May these words help us in our effort to be closer to Christ, the only true source of our joy. AMEN.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


To say LOVE IS GOD and GOD IS LOVE is not the same: as two paths, one leads to the abyss, the other leads to self-realization and salvation. To make LOVE one’s religion is to succumb to the merciless dictatorship of the sentiments and rosy—but empty—concepts, concepts that cannot save man from the specter of emptiness. Such is a love that does not distinguish between anything, since it is formless, without foundation. In such a love there is no future. But to submit oneself to a GOD  who is LOVE, made flesh and taking part in human history, is to open one’s horizon to the infinite eternity of a LOVE who has a name and a face, and who can give me LIFE UNLIMITED.

LOVE IS NOT MY RELIGION; rather, I worship a GOD whose love allows me to touch and embrace him through the HUMANITY that HE shares with me, from the moment that he accepted the “yes” of a humble Virgin. It is a humanity which I fervently hope he would eternally glorify in me when the EVERLASTING DAY comes at last.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


A simple video I made to celebrate the seventy-five years of grace that has been granted to the Archdiocese of Palo. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012


The liturgy of the past days has been leading up to this point. After painting for us a truly apocalyptic picture of the end times, we come to realize once again that, frightening though it may seem, the end turns out not to be a simple end after all, but rather a climax, a fulfillment, a culmination. In this feast that we are celebrating this Sunday, we gaze upon Christ in whom—as the opening prayer of the Mass tells us—the Father’s will to restore all things is accomplished. The solemn feast of Christ the King allows us to reflect once again that human history—and that of creation—ends in the same place from where it started: in the loving hands of God, a God whom man has come to love and embrace in Christ.

This is a positive thing, and this teaches us that the Christian, the child of God, has nothing to fear of the future, because though things may seem to fall apart, we will still fall into the hands of our Father God, to whom we approach in Christ.

The feast also allows us to contemplate the face of Christ. This is a face that we have adored as an infant in Bethlehem, as a man in his prime; one that has left us speechless as we gazed upon it, disfigured, bruised, bloody as he hung on the cross. This was the face that the disciples had seen glorified after the resurrection.

Once again we fix our gaze upon it, a face that is majestic and full of glory. It is precisely this that the readings of the liturgy would like to direct us to: the glory of the Son of Man, majestic, kingly, exercising dominion and authority over all creation, over the universe, over the cosmos. This is not merely the majesty of some great king, but one who has the very characteristics of God: in the vision of the prophet Daniel in the First Reading, we see the one like a Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, who received dominion, glory and kingship. The same is said in the book of Revelation, in the Second Reading, which speaks to us of Jesus Christ,  coming amid the clouds, to whom has been given glory and power forever and ever. To walk among the clouds is characteristic only of God, and the liturgy is clear in pointing out that this kingship is something that Jesus has received not from any earthly power, but one that has been granted to him by his heavenly Father.

My kingdom does not belong to this world, we hear Jesus responding to Pontius Pilate in the Gospel. That Jesus is king is not based on any human conquest nor lineage by blood, but on divine love, a love that has been manifested to a supreme degree on the cross. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever.

Our Christian response, which is fruit of our prayer and after having received his Word, is to place ourselves authentically under the rule of such a mighty king. Throughout the history of grace, which is something that could be said of the two thousand years of the Church of God here on earth, thousands upon thousands of saints have placed themselves under the sweet yoke of this king. How do we live this feast fruitfully in our present situation as Christians?

My kingdom does not belong to this world, the Lord says; this kingdom does not recognize no other boundary than that which has been established by our heart. This is precisely the place where Christ would want to reign. Jesus Christ does not wish to rule on governments, in parliaments or in monarchies: he wishes to rule in each of our hearts. Acceptance of his kingship entails the acceptance of his word, of his law of Love. Submission to Christ means being serious in the constant battle against sin in our life. Conversion to Christ is the necessary and primary consequence of having accepted Christ as our Lord and King, he and none other.  Conversion entails diving head on into the battle against everything that keeps Jesus from taking total possession of our lives, of our very being; it means that we have to be radical in our struggle to reject sin. In the end, the Lord knows his true followers: to those who have persevered in being faithful to him he would grant the prize reserved to victors; those who had not been true servants of his, an eternity of anguish and torment separated from him, in hell.

My kingdom does not belong to this world: this, nevertheless, does not mean that our submission to this great king has nothing to do with how we live our lives in society, in relation to the world around us. Enthroning Christ in our lives and in our hearts should not only serve to transform us from within, but also be agents of this transforming grace in society ourselves, To have Christ as king means committing ourselves to promoting the peace of Christ (which is the only true and lasting peace) in society. Such peace is not possible in a society where God is ignored, where his “rights” are denied and suppressed, when people are made to live as though he did not exist, and as a consequence, no true human and religious values are made to flourish.


The feast of Christ the king is one whose spiritual message has social consequences in the modern world. When Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) established it for the whole Church, he was addressing a world which had just suffered the devastating conflict of the First World War; it was a world that was trying to rebuild itself from the ruins. Pius—whose motto was Pax Christi in regnum Christi, the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ—believed that for a humane society to rise from the ashes of the war, it must be rebuilt upon the values that are deeply founded on the Gospel of Christ. These are values that are in favor of the dignity of the human person, because they hold in consideration the creator of man, God himself, from whom true justice and peace spring. From the start of his pontificate, the Pope made extended to the whole Church two great feasts that correspond to the divine mercy and the divine kingship of Christ: the feast and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the feast of Christ the King.

These were established as a response to the events that had just taken place in Europe, and a warning as well: against the horrors of war and crimes committed against humanity, the Pope urged devotion to the humanity of Jesus, honored in the devotion to his Sacred Heart; against the budding totalitarian ideologies of Nazism, communism and fascism, he reiterated that only the dominion of God in men’s hearts can save the human race, and not any ideology. Anything else would end in disaster and carnage. The subsequent outbreak of the Second World War—more terrible than the first—proved the wisdom of Pius XI.

We cannot accept Christ as king and be quiet about it with our neighbors and in society at large. The example of the Mexican martyrs of the 1920’s teach us that there is only one way to proclaim the kingship of Christ in the world: shouting it out with courage. In their cry “Viva Cristo rey!” we learn that we cannot keep the news of Christ’s kingship to ourselves, but it is something that we have to proclaim to the world for its own good, most especially in ensuring that the voice of God is heard in society, and in the halls of public debate.

When we live our Christian vocation faithfully in the silence of our ordinary life, we shout out this truth. When we give testimony to Christ by our constant decision to live in a way pleasing to God, a moral life, we shout this out. When we lend our voice with courage in defense of the truth about life from conception to natural death, about marriage between man and woman, about the family, we show that Christ—and not mere public opinion or consensus—is King.

 Each one of us will have to come up with firm resolutions of how to live this kingship of Jesus Christ in our lives. The one thing that we have to keep in mind is that the acceptance of Christ as king has its inevitable consequence: our personal conversion from sin and rebirth in God’s grace, a real transformation. Furthermore, it means that we cannot stand by with arms crossed; we must realize that we have the commitment to spread the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ, to use that favorite phrase of Pius XI. This means that we have to work for peace and justice as well in our present society in everyway possible. this can only be done by basing ourselves upon the Truth, of which God is the first guarantor. AMEN!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


As the AMALAYER phenomenon, one of the hot trending topics during these couple of days, gradually slides into collective oblivion, I think it’s a subject worthy of being given one last look. The collective memory of the netizens (and people at large) seem to have a very short memory (I’m talking about Filipinos, but then, it could as well apply to anyone else). Mostly, intelligent conversation in cyberspace (which at times may only have the appearance of intelligence) depend on the topics that are trendy, and it seems to me that these don’t last very long in their respective places on the charts; people prefer to talk about that which is as the moment the most popular topic, but then with this I digress.
The phenomenon that has taken society by storm has made me reflect about certain things. First, there seems to be this phenomenon on the rise, one that has these elements: an aggressed party who happens just to be doing his job, not usually a high-paying one but rather humble (a security guard, a reporter, a traffic enforcer, to mention an example), an apparent aggressor (usually an educated person, from the higher strata of society or who pretends to be such, but whose manners belie such high, well-schooled breeding. They are usually fluent in English, and are of what tagalog slang would call coño, which is just about everything that I have said earlier).
I must add two other elements: a brash encounter that soon turns into a heated argument, with its inevitable result (usually a blow, a shove, a slap or a sharp phrase), and—of course—a recording device, usually a camera.
In many, if not all, of the cases, the story is basically the same: the humble worker chances upon the “educated” person (or vice-versa), there is a tussle between human rights and laboral duty and obligation, the episode becomes ugly and it happens that someone is always there to record the scene, whether overtly or otherwise. Then the video gets to be uploaded on the Internet, where it is received by netizens who rain righteous anger on the coño aggressor. Less than an hour or two later, humorous memes, photos and jokes surface in the social networking sites, adding fuel to the fire. As a trend in the internet, it may last for 24 hours or if its good enough, it may even be there for days. The aggressor becomes the aggressed party, and is subject to public ridicule; the aggressed worker is hailed as a hero of humble occupation.
In the media limelight, the now aggressed party, tarred and feathered and chastised, apologizes publicly; everybody is content that “they” have taught him or her a lesson. The public is appears smug and secure in the tribunal into which they have established themselves in: as judges of good and right. The fire having burned out, they move to the next trend, leaving the new victim’s reputation—and self-confidence—in shreds. The once-proud eagle has been crushed to the ground; it’s time to move to the next trending topic.
This phenomenon, which is getting repetitive, has shown me two things. I shall start from the positive side. From the point of view of our workers in a more humble position—janitors, traffic enforcers, security guards—at least they’re getting more the respect that they deserve, and the public is getting more aware of the value of the service that they are doing in favor of the larger community. Another thing is that nobody is ever above the law of civility and respect, both based on Christian charity. Nobody could ever press to have more claims over anybody just because they have received more education. In fact, the more well-off a person is, whether socially or in terms of educational attainment, the more the person should be more prudent, educated, and restrained.
On the negative side, the phenomenon has shown the public to be more pharisaical than ever, and a pharisaical judge at that. Much as such arrogance moves us to righteous indignation, such indignation does not give the public the right to subject the person to public ridicule, with the risk of committing the same mistake as the offender.
On certain occasions, it would be a merit to let the public know of an injustice done, but when we divulge an image or a video into the public domain, we have to be responsible for the consequences that our action may unleash.
Looking at what had taken place from the positive side, it shows that we are more sensitive to issues of justice and the respect for the rights of persons. But on the other hand, the same subject has raised a warning for us with a specter: the specter of a nation of sensationalist voyeurs, waiting to pounce on the mistakes of other people other than ourselves, in order to judge them with the hypocritical pointed finger, and gloat over the public ridicule that our pharisaical thirst for sensationalist “justice” has provided as the fitting sentence.

The words of the Gospel, “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone” (Jn 8:7), ought to serve as criteria in matters such as these. Safeguarded by these words, correction becomes based on the understanding that all of us have ugly moments, and that these need to be addressed in all justice, one that is based on charity. Justice based on charity doesn't mean closing one's eyes to the evil done; it rather means--among other things--passing the sentence that would make the offender grow into a better version of himself. Tearing him to shreds in public obviously doesn't accomplish this. This is an antidote to the sensationalism and hypocrisy that is one of the ills of our society today.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

30th Sunday: TO BELIEVE IS TO SEE!

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.

This Sunday allows us to consider the story of one of the most fascinating characters of the Gospel. Of Bartimaeus, we don’t know much, except that he was blind, and that he is identified only in relation with his father, Timaeus. The episode of this Sunday’s Gospel affords us with a lot of avenues for contemplation, doors through which we are able to encounter Christ and listen to his words, and allow our daily lives to be transformed by his Word. Nobody may know exactly who Bartimaeus was, how he was before Christ walked into his life that day as he sat in his usual place outside Jericho. What we know certainly, however, is that in his story we see our own reflected. For though all of us are able to see and are well off because of it, nevertheless, we know that we too are handicapped at some point. Looking deep into our personal life, we can see that we ourselves are in darkness; there are some dark areas of our life which we dare not enter, areas which are touched by our rejection of God’s love. We know all to well that our lives are painfully touched by sin, by that darkness that comes from our willful rejection of God’s love and his plan for our life. it is a darkness that blinds us to what is true, that which is truly good, truly beautiful.

But we too are aware that like Bartimaeus, we are identified because of our relationship with our Father, whose name is beyond any other, and whose face shines in the human face of Jesus. Thus, the person of the blind man of Jericho brings out to us two important things about ourselves: our personal blindness and our need for light, for someone to take us by the hand, and the fact that our personal identity is marked by our relationship with our Father.

In Bartimaeus, this need for healing, this need for freedom from the darkness that enfolds him pushes him to cry out: Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me! Having heard of Jesus’ approach, the blind man saw in his heart that it was precisely this person who could save him from his darkness. Looking back into our own lives, the consideration of our own wretchedness, of our own sinfulness, of our own darkness, should not push to despair and self-pity; rather, the knowledge of our sinfulness should push us to conversion, to tend toward Christ, to ask for his divine mercy, to grasp his hand, asking him to make us whole. The blind man was not content to remain in his blindness; we should not be complacent in our own sinfulness. This is true even when the world, the “crowd” pressures us to shut up, to desist in our struggle to respond to the call to conversion, to give up in our tending towards God. Bartimaeus was told to shut up by the crowd, but far from doing what they wanted him to do, he cried out all the more, calling out to the One who could save him: Son of David, have pity on me!, clearly alluding to his firm faith than the one who stood before him was the Christ, despite of the fact that he could not see Jesus.

The attitude of the blind man should inspire us to cry out, even though circumstances (and even persons) would tell us to give up. The chief enemies of our move towards holiness (the world, the flesh and the devil, and, also most often, the “old man” in us) would tell us that everything is futile, resistance to the force of gravity (that pulls us to the depths of our sinfulness) is useless. Sometimes we may even consider that they’re right, because we don’t seem to see Jesus with us. We might think that there’s no point in smiling on a cold, rainy day; why should we, since the sun hadn’t come out anyway?

But then the truth is, the Lord hasn’t abandoned us to our darkness. This is the same Lord who in the First Reading we see delivering his people, gathering them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst. He is the God of Israel consoles and guides them, leading them to brooks of water, and leading them on a level road, so that none shall stumble. This is the same Lord who says: For I am a father to Israel. How can he not hear the cry of the heart that is crushed by its sins, the cry of the sinner who has placed himself at the Master’s feet, asking for freedom? When Jesus asks the blind man what was it that he wanted, was it because he didn’t know? What more could a blind man ask, but that he be delivered from his blindess? What more could we ask from the Lord, but that we be brought back from the darkness of sin into the light of day, Jesus, the Day that knows no night?

The blind man pushes forward in his desire, despite of the fact that he does not see. This is what faith means: to move forward, not because we see clearly and are convinced of the way, but because we trust in the hand and in the voice that leads us on. What moves us to believe is not the fact that the revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who neither deceive nor be deceived” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 156). In the end, it was the faith of the blind man that allowed him to recover his sight. Faith is the condition that allows the grace of God to enter into our lives, transforming it, filling it with life. As the letter of the Holy Father at the start of the Year of Faith would suggest, faith is a door (porta fidei) that allows us to feel the caress of God. It is the sine qua non, that without which we cannot have a relationship with God. In the end, what is true is that to believe is to see, and not much seeing in order to believe.

The experience of Bartimaeus, and the incidence of this Year of Faith, invites us once again to be well-grounded in our faith in Christ. It is through faith that we are able to touch the face of God in Jesus Christ; it is through faith that we are able to see and contemplate the loving smile of the Father, through the human face of Jesus. It is only through faith that we can show it likewise to the world, in much need of the new evangelization.

In the Gospel we hear the words of the crowd surrounding Jesus: “Take courage, get up, Jesus is calling you”. We too have the responsibility of inviting those around us to see Jesus, that they too may be touched by his grace. This is what our role in the new evangelization entails: to show that face of Jesus, to encourage others to come into contact with him, and to live with the very life which the Lord gives as a gift. But this is only possible if Jesus has touched us ourselves. We can only make Jesus transparent to others, if our own eyes have seen him.

May Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary, who constantly gazes on her Son, help us to be renewed by the freshness of the Gospel, so as to be evangelizers in this modern age, as each of us need to our part in the new evangelization. AMEN!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: NOT TO BE SERVED, BUT TO SERVE

(NOTE: the following is the full text of the homily of Pope Benedict XVI on 22 October, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod and five others in St. Peter's Square. Yours truly was among the crowd.)

The Son of Man came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45)

Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the Church listens again to these words of Jesus, spoken by the Lord during his journey to Jerusalem, where he was to accomplish the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection. They are words which enshrine the meaning of Christ’s mission on earth, marked by his sacrifice, by his total self-giving. On this third Sunday of October, on which we celebrate World Mission Sunday, the Church listens to them with special attention and renews her conviction that she should always be fully dedicated to serve mankind and the Gospel, after the example of the One who gave himself up even to the sacrifice of his life.

I extend warm greetings to all of you who fill Saint Peter’s Square, especially the official delegations and the pilgrims who have come to celebrate the seven new saints. I greet with affection the Cardinals and Bishops who, during these days, are taking part in the Synodal Assembly on the New Evangelization. The coincidence between this ecclesiastical meeting and World Mission Sunday is a happy one; and the word of God that we have listened to sheds light on both subjects. It shows how to be evangelizers, called to bear witness and to proclaim the Christian message, configuring ourselves to Christ and following his same way of life. This is true both for the mission ad Gentes and for the new evangelization in places with ancient Christian roots.

The Son of Man came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45)
These words were the blueprint for living of the seven Blessed men and women that the Church solemnly enrols this morning in the glorious ranks of the saints. With heroic courage they spent their lives in total consecration to the Lord and in the generous service of their brethren. They are sons and daughters of the Church who chose a life of service following the Lord. Holiness always rises up in the Church from the well-spring of the mystery of redemption, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah in the first reading: the Servant of the Lord is the righteous one who “shall make many to be accounted as righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities” (Is 53:11); this Servant is Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and living in glory. Today’s canonization is an eloquent confirmation of this mysterious saving reality. The tenacious profession of faith of these seven generous disciples of Christ, their configuration to the Son of Man shines out brightly today in the whole Church.

Jacques Berthieu, born in 1838 in France, was passionate about Jesus Christ at an early age. During his parish ministry, he had the burning desire to save souls. Becoming a Jesuit, he wished to journey through the world for the glory of God. A tireless pastor on the island of Sainte Marie, then in Madagascar, he struggled against injustice while bringing succour to the poor and sick. The Malagasies thought of him as a priest come down from heaven, saying, You are our “father and mother!” He made himself all things to all men, drawing from prayer and his love of the sacred heart of Jesus the human and priestly force to face martyrdom in 1896. He died, saying “I prefer to die rather than renounce my faith”. Dear friends, may the life of this evangelizer be an encouragement and a model for priests that, like him, they will be men of God! May his example aid the many Christians of today persecuted for their faith! In this Year of Faith, may his intercession bring forth many fruits for Madagascar and the African Continent! May God bless the Malagasy people!

Pedro Calungsod was born around the year 1654, in the Visayas region of the Philippines. His love for Christ inspired him to train as a catechist with the Jesuit missionaries there. In 1668, along with other young catechists, he accompanied Father Diego Luís de San Vitores to the Marianas Islands in order to evangelize the Chamorro people. Life there was hard and the missionaries also faced persecution arising from envy and slander. Pedro, however, displayed deep faith and charity and continued to catechize his many converts, giving witness to Christ by a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel. Uppermost was his desire to win souls for Christ, and this made him resolute in accepting martyrdom. He died on the April 2nd 1672. Witnesses record that Pedro could have fled for safety but chose to stay at Father Diego’s side. The priest was able to give Pedro absolution before he himself was killed. May the example and courageous witness of Pedro Calungsod inspire the dear people of the Philippines to announce the Kingdom bravely and to win souls for God!

Giovanni Battista Piamarta, priest of the Diocese of Brescia, was a great apostle of charity and of young people. He raised awareness of the need for a cultural and social presence of Catholicism in the modern world, and so he dedicated himself to the Christian, moral and professional growth of the younger generations with an enlightened input of humanity and goodness. Animated by unshakable faith in divine providence and by a profound spirit of sacrifice, he faced difficulties and fatigue to breathe life into various apostolic works, including the Artigianelli Institute, Queriniana Publishers, the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth for men, and for women the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord. The secret of his intense and busy life is found in the long hours he gave to prayer. When he was overburdened with work, he increased the length of his encounter, heart to heart, with the Lord. He preferred to pause before the Blessed Sacrament, meditating upon the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, to gain spiritual fortitude and return to gaining people’s hearts, especially the young, to bring them back to the sources of life with fresh pastoral initiatives.

“May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you” (Ps 32:22). With these words, the liturgy invites us to make our own this hymn to God, creator and provider, accepting his plan into our lives. María Carmelo Sallés y Barangueras, a religious born in Vic in Spain in 1848, did just so. Filled with hope in spite of many trials, she, on seeing the progress of the Congregation of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching, which she founded in 1892, was able to sing with the Mother of God, “His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). Her educational work, entrusted to the Immaculate Virgin Mary, continues to bear abundant fruit among young people through the generous dedication of her daughters who, like her, entrust themselves to God for whom all is possible.

I now turn to Marianne Cope, born in 1838 in Heppenheim, Germany. Only one year old when taken to the United States, in 1862 she entered the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis at Syracuse, New York. Later, as Superior General of her congregation, Mother Marianne willingly embraced a call to care for the lepers of Hawaii after many others had refused. She personally went, with six of her fellow sisters, to manage a hospital on Oahu, later founding Malulani Hospital on Maui and opening a home for girls whose parents were lepers. Five years after that she accepted the invitation to open a home for women and girls on the island of Molokai itself, bravely going there herself and effectively ending her contact with the outside world. There she looked after Father Damien, already famous for his heroic work among the lepers, nursed him as he died and took over his work among male lepers. At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm. She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis.

Kateri Tekakwitha was born in today’s New York state in 1656 to a Mohawk father and a Christian Algonquin mother who gave to her a sense of the living God. She was baptized at twenty years of age and, to escape persecution, she took refuge in Saint Francis Xavier Mission near Montreal. There she worked, faithful to the traditions of her people, although renouncing their religious convictions until her death at the age of twenty-four. Leading a simple life, Kateri remained faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer and to daily Mass. Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. She lived a life radiant with faith and purity.

Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture. In her, faith and culture enrich each other! May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are. Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America! May God bless the first nations!

Anna Schaeffer, from Mindelstetten, as a young woman wished to enter a missionary order. She came from a poor background so, in order to earn the dowry needed for acceptance into the cloister, she worked as a maid. One day she suffered a terrible accident and received incurable burns on her legs which forced her to be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. So her sick-bed became her cloister cell and her suffering a missionary service. She struggled for a time to accept her fate, but then understood her situation as a loving call from the crucified One to follow him. Strengthened by daily communion, she became an untiring intercessor in prayer and a mirror of God’s love for the many who sought her counsel. May her apostolate of prayer and suffering, of sacrifice and expiation, be a shining example for believers in her homeland, and may her intercession strengthen the Christian hospice movement in its beneficial activity.

Dear brothers and sisters, these new saints, different in origin, language, nationality and social condition, are united among themselves and with the whole People of God in the mystery of salvation of Christ the Redeemer. With them, we too, together with the Synod Fathers from all parts of the world, proclaim to the Lord in the words of the psalm that he “is our help and our shield” and we invoke him saying, “may your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you” (Ps 32:20.22). May the witness of these new saints, and their lives generously spent for love of Christ, speak today to the whole Church, and may their intercession strengthen and sustain her in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world.

After the Canonization Mass

Saturday, October 13, 2012



“I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me…yet all the good things came to me in her company, and countless riches in her hands”.

The words of the First Reading, taken from the book of Wisdom, brings to mind the episode in the book of Kings, when Solomon succeeded his father David, and had asked the Lord not for possessions, wealth and honor, but rather for the wisdom and knowledge in order to rule (cf. 2 Chr 1:11). Solomon’s petition is granted, and all of the rest that he had not asked for himself was granted besides. Wisdom is a deep understanding of the true nature of things. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who probes the depths of God and penetrates all things. Normally we could say that a person is wise, that he possesses wisdom, but scriptural tradition also mentions that she possesses the wise man. Whatever the case, wisdom, which comes as a perfect gift from on high, is something that allows us to see the true worth of things, and thus allows us to order our life’s search for the things that really matter. It distinguishes that which is vain and useless in this life, and allows us to head for that which could really make us happy. The Responsorial Psalm is a prayer in which we ask that we may be taught by God “to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart”. Wisdom does not merely mean intellectual brilliance. The sapientia cordis (wisdom of heart) which the psalmist asks is that which precisely allows man to head for that which really matters, one that makes man truly happy: union with God.

This wisdom of heart makes us more attentive to hear God’s word. In the Scriptures, this is precisely one characteristic of the wise: they delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate on his law day and night (cf. Ps 1:2). We encounter the Lord in our reading and reflection of his word in the Sacred Scriptures. This encounter is done in our private reading, and also in the public celebration of the liturgy of the Church, where God’s Word is proclaimed in the assembly. The Year of Faith, which we have just joyfully begun, should push us to resolve to read the Word of God more often, even daily, and listen to it, because it is not something that comes to us from the past, but something that is living and effective, as the Second Reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrew, tells us. It is a Word that challenges us whenever we come into contact with it, transforming us, affecting our way of life in our present circumstance. It is a powerful Word that cuts through our mediocrity and tepidity, pruning and probing the very depths of our life, so that we may become truly wise in our struggle to live according to the truth of God and live as sons and daughters of the light. It makes us wise and holy. May this Year of Faith allow us to be more familiar with God’s Word in the scriptures that we read and hear proclaimed in our assemblies.

The wisdom that is found in the reception and meditation of God’s Word leads us to God, who alone is good, as we hear Jesus declare in the Gospel of today (cf. Mk 10:17-30). In Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, we have a teacher who can teach us what true wisdom is, and the real happiness to which it leads. Jesus is the perfect teacher because He himself is the Truth, the Wisdom of the ages. True wisdom allows us to realize that it is important to follow the commandments of God; it impresses upon us the need to live a life that is morally coherent, one that is lived according to the Law of God. The Scriptures are clear in saying that true foolishness is found in the rejection of the Law: the fool is he who does not live according to the commandments of God.

But then, as we would see in the Gospel, living according to the commandments is not enough for one to be truly wise. Jesus says to the young man—who speaks for each one of us in our search for that which could truly give meaning into our lives—that for one to have treasure in heaven, one must go, sell everything one has to the poor, and then come and follow him. The Gospel records that at these words, the young man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. He had the audacity to search for that which would truly make him happy, but lacked the courage do what it took to attain it.

Wisdom of heart and true holiness springs also in following Jesus, imitating him as his true disciples, and living his life in us. This allows us to view the commandments and the demands of the moral law not as mere external impositions, but as something that sets us free as daughters and sons of God. This wisdom of heart that comes also as a fruit of our daily encounter with Christ in the Scriptures that we read and in the sacraments that we celebrate, drives us to live to the full the commandment of love that Christ has enjoined us to live. It does not leave us indifferent to the plight of our neighbors, of our brothers and sisters, but pushes us to do good works, both of prayer and service in the community.

The Year of Faith gives us a wonderful opportunity to live in our life these things that we have pondered upon in our reflection of the Sunday readings: a deeper familiarity with the Word of God in the Scriptures, a renewed decision to live a life in intimate union with Christ in prayer and the sacraments, and the renewed dedication to live the witness of a life lived according to the commandments, and lived in the service of charity in the community. May our daily communion with Jesus, Master, Lord and Savior, provide us with the strength to rise from our mediocrity and tepidity in order to proclaim Him in whom we have placed our trust in this Year of the Faith. AMEN!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A BLAST FROM THE PAST: The Opening Discourse of Vatican II.

Pope John XXIII
October 11, 1962
Mother Church rejoices that, by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the longed-for day has finally dawned when–under the auspices of the virgin Mother of God, whose maternal dignity is commemorated on this feast–the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is being solemnly opened here beside St. Peter's tomb.
The Ecumenical Councils of the Church
The Councils–both the twenty ecumenical ones and the numberless others, also important, of a provincial or regional character which have been held down through the years–all prove clearly the vigour of the Catholic Church and are recorded as shining lights in her annals. In calling this vast assembly of bishops, the latest and humble successor to the Prince of the Apostles who is addressing you intended to assert once again the magisterium (teaching authority), which is unfailing and endures until the end of time, in order that this magisterium, taking into account the errors, the requirements, and the opportunities of our time, might be presented in exceptional form to all men throughout the world.
It is but natural that in opening this Universal Council we should like to look to the past and to listen to its voices whose echo we like to hear in the memories and the merits of the more recent and ancient Pontiffs, our predecessors. These are solemn and venerable voices, throughout the East and the West, from the fourth century to the Middle Ages, and from there to modern times, which have handed down their witness to those Councils. They are voices which proclaim in perennial fervour the triumph of that divine and human institution, the Church of Christ, which from Jesus takes its name, its grace, and its meaning.
Side by side with these motives for spiritual joy, however, there has also been for more than nineteen centuries a cloud of sorrows and of trials. Not without reason did the ancient Simeon announce to Mary the mother of Jesus, that prophecy which has been and still is true: "Behold this child is set for the fall and the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted" ( Lk. 2: 34 ) . And Jesus Himself, when He grew up, clearly outlined the manner in which the world would treat His person down through the succeeding centuries with the mysterious words: "He who hears you, hears me" (Ibid. 10:16), and with those others that the same Evangelist relates: "He who is not with me is against me and he who does not gather with me scatters" (Ibid. 11 :23).
The great problem confronting the world after almost two thousand years remains unchanged. Christ is ever resplendent as the center of history and of life. Men are either with Him and His Church, and then they enjoy light, goodness, order, and peace. Or else they are without Him, or against Him, and deliberately opposed to His Church, and then they give rise to confusion, to bitterness in human relations, and to the constant danger of fratricidal wars.
Ecumenical Councils, whenever they are assembled, are a solemn celebration of the union of Christ and His Church, and hence lead to the universal radiation of truth, to the proper guidance of individuals in domestic and social life, to the strengthening of spiritual energies for a perennial uplift toward real and everlasting goodness.
The testimony of this extraordinary magisterium of the Church in the succeeding epochs of these twenty centuries of Christian history stands before us collected in numerous and imposing volumes, which are the sacred patrimony of our ecclesiastical archives, here in Rome and in the more noted libraries of the entire world.
The Origin and Reason for the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council
As regards the initiative for the great event which gathers us here, it will suffice to repeat as historical documentation our personal account of the first sudden bringing up in our heart and lips of the simple words, "Ecumenical Council." We uttered those words in the presence of the Sacred College of Cardinals on that memorable January 25, 1959, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, in the basilica dedicated to him. It was completely unexpected, like a flash of heavenly light, shedding sweetness in eyes and hearts. And at the same time it gave rise to a great fervour throughout the world in expectation of the holding of the Council.
There have elapsed three years of laborious preparation, during which a wide and profound examination was made regarding modern conditions of faith and religious practice, and of Christian and especially Catholic vitality. These years have seemed to us a first sign, an initial gift of celestial grace.
Illuminated by the light of this Council, the Church–we confidently trust–will become greater in spiritual riches and gaining the strength of new energies therefrom, she will look to the future without fear. In fact, by bringing herself up to date where required, and by the wise organization of mutual co-operation, the Church will make men, families, and peoples really turn their minds to heavenly things.
And thus the holding of the Council becomes a motive for wholehearted thanksgiving to the Giver of every good gift, in order to celebrate with joyous canticles the glory of Christ our Lord, the glorious and immortal King of ages and of peoples.
The opportuneness of holding the Council is, moreover, venerable brothers, another subject which it is useful to propose for your consideration. Namely, in order to render our Joy more complete, we wish to narrate before this great assembly our assessment of the happy circumstances under which the Ecumenical Council commences.
In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse, and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, none the less, the teacher of life. They behave as though at the time of former Councils everything was a full triumph for the Christian idea and life and for proper religious liberty.
We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.
In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men's own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfilment of God's superior and inscrutable designs. And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church.
It is easy to discern this reality if we consider attentively the world of today, which is so busy with politics and controversies in the economic order that it does not find time to attend to the care of spiritual reality, with which the Church's magisterium is concerned. Such a way of acting is certainly not right, and must justly be disapproved. It cannot be denied, however, that these new conditions of modern life have at least the advantage of having eliminated those innumerable obstacles by which, at one time, the sons of this world impeded the free action of the Church. In fact, it suffices to leaf even cursorily through the pages of ecclesiastical history to note clearly how the Ecumenical Councils themselves, while constituting a series of true glories for the Catholic Church, were often held to the accompaniment of most serious difficulties and sufferings because of the undue interference of civil authorities. The princes of this world, indeed, sometimes in all sincerity, intended thus to protect the Church. But more frequently this occurred not without spiritual damage and danger, since their interest therein was guided by the views of a selfish and perilous policy.
In this regard, we confess to you that we feel most poignant sorrow over the fact that very many bishops, so dear to us are noticeable here today by their absence, because they are imprisoned for their faithfulness to Christ, or impeded by other restraints. The thought of them impels us to raise most fervent prayer to God. Nevertheless, we see today, not without great hopes and to our immense consolation, that the Church, finally freed from so many obstacles of a profane nature such as trammeled her in the past, can from this Vatican Basilica, as if from a second apostolic cenacle, and through your intermediary, raise her voice resonant with majesty and greatness.
Principle Duty of the Council: The Defense and Advancement of Truth
The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously. That doctrine embraces the whole of man, composed as he is of body and soul. And, since he is a pilgrim on this earth, it commands him to tend always toward heaven.
This demonstrates how our mortal life is to be ordered in such a way as to fulfill our duties as citizens of earth and of heaven, and thus to attain the aim of life as established by God. That is, all men, whether taken singly or as united in society, today have the duty of tending ceaselessly during their lifetime toward the attainment of heavenly things and to use. For this purpose only, the earthly goods, the employment of which must not prejudice their eternal happiness.
The Lord has said: "Seek first the kingdom of Cod and his justice" (Mt. 6:33). The word "first" expresses the direction in which our thoughts and energies must move. We must not, however, neglect the other words of this exhortation of our Lord, namely: "And all these things shall be given you besides" (Ibid. ). In reality, there always have been in the Church, and there are still today, those who, while seeking the practice of evangelical perfection with all their might, do not fail to make themselves useful to society. Indeed, it from their constant example of life and their charitable undertakings that all that is highest and noblest in human society takes its strength and growth.
In order, however, that this doctrine may influence the numerous fields of human activity, with reference to individuals, to families, and to social life, it is necessary first of all that the Church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers. But at the same time she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world, which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate.
For this reason, the Church has not watched inertly the marvellous progress of the discoveries of human genius, an has not been backward in evaluating them rightly. But, while following these developments, she does not neglect to admonish men so that, over and above sense–perceived things–they may raise their eyes to God, the Source of all wisdom and all beauty. And may they never forget the most serious command: "The Lord thy God shall thou worship, and Him only shall thou serve" (Mt. 4:10; Lk. 4:8), so that it may happen that the fleeting fascination of visible things should impede true progress.
The manner in which sacred doctrine is spread, this having been established, it becomes clear how much is expected from the Council in regard to doctrine. That is, the Twenty-first Ecumenical Council, which will draw upon the effective and important wealth of juridical, liturgical, apostolic, and administrative experiences, wishes to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion, which throughout twenty centuries, notwithstanding difficulties and contrasts, has become the common patrimony of men. It is a patrimony not well received by all, but always a rich treasure available to men of good will.
Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the Church has followed for twenty centuries. The salient point of this Council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all.
For this a Council was not necessary. But from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council, the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.
How to Repress Errors
At the outset of the Second Vatican Council, it is evident, as always, that the truth of the Lord will remain forever. We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations. Not, certainly, that there is a lack of fallacious teaching, opinions, and dangerous concepts to be guarded against an dissipated. But these are so obviously in contrast with the right norm of honesty, and have produced such lethal fruits that by now it would seem that men of themselves are inclined to condemn them, particularly those ways of life which despise God and His law or place excessive confidence in technical progress and a well-being based exclusively on the comforts of life. They are ever more deeply convinced of the paramount dignity of the human person and of his perfection as well as of the duties which that implies. Even more important, experience has taught men that violence inflicted on others, the might of arms, and political domination, are of no help at all in finding a happy solution to the grave problems which afflict them.
That being so, the Catholic Church, raising the torch of religious truth by means of this Ecumenical Council, desires to show herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness toward the brethren who are separated from her. To mankind, oppressed by so many difficulties, the Church says, as Peter said to the poor who begged alms from him: "I have neither gold nor silver, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise and walk" (Acts 3:6). In other words, the Church does not offer to the men of today riches that pass, nor does she promise them merely earthly happiness. But she distributes to them the goods of divine grace which, raising men to the dignity of sons of God, are the most efficacious safeguards and aids toward a more human life. She opens the fountain of her life-giving doctrine which allows men, enlightened by the light of Christ, to understand well what they really are, what their lofty dignity and their purpose are, and, finally, through her children, she spreads everywhere the fullness of Christian charity, than which nothing is more effective in eradicating the seeds of discord, nothing more efficacious in promoting concord, just peace, and the brotherly unity of all.
The Unity of the Christian and Human Family Must Be Promoted
The Church's solicitude to promote and defend truth derives from the fact that, according to the plan of God, who wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (l Tim. 2:4), men without the assistance of the whole of revealed doctrine cannot reach a complete and firm unity of minds, with which are associated true peace and eternal salvation.
Unfortunately, the entire Christian family has not yet fully attained this visible unity in truth.
The Catholic Church, therefore, considers it her duty to work actively so that there may be fulfilled the great mystery of that unity, which Jesus Christ invoked with fervent prayer from His heavenly Father on the eve of His sacrifice. She rejoices in peace, knowing well that she is intimately associated with that prayer, and then exults greatly at seeing that invocation extend its efficacy with salutary fruit, even among those who are outside her fold.
Indeed, if one considers well this same unity which Christ implored for His Church, it seems to shine, as it were, with a triple ray of beneficent supernal light: namely, the unity of Catholics among themselves, which must always be kept exemplary and most firm; the unity of prayers and ardent desires with which those Christians separated from this Apostolic See aspire to be united with us; and the unity in esteem and respect for the Catholic Church which animates those who follow non-Christian religions.
In this regard, it is a source of considerable sorrow to see that the greater part of the human race–although all men who are born were redeemed by the blood of Christ–does not yet participate in those sources of divine grace which exist in the Catholic Church. Hence the Church, whose light illumines all, whose strength of supernatural unity redounds to the advantage of all humanity, is rightly described in these beautiful words of St. Cyprian:
"The Church, surrounded by divine light, spreads her rays over the entire earth. This light, however, is one and unique and shines everywhere without causing any separation in the unity of the body. She extends her branches over the whole world. By her fruitfulness she sends ever farther afield he rivulets. Nevertheless, the head is always one, the origin one for she is the one mother, abundantly fruitful. We are born of her, are nourished by her milk, we live of her spirit' (De Catholicae Eccles. Unitate, 5).
Venerable brothers, such is the aim of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which, while bringing together the Church's best energies and striving to have men welcome more favourably the good tidings of salvation, prepares, as it were and consolidates the path toward that unity of mankind which is required as a necessary foundation, in order that the earthly city may be brought to the resemblance of that heavenly city where truth reigns, charity is the law, and whose extent is eternity (Cf. St. Augustine, Epistle 138, 3).
Now, "our voice is directed to you" (2 Cor. 6:11 ) venerable brothers in the episcopate. Behold, we are gathered together in this Vatican Basilica, upon which hinges the history of the Church where heaven and earth are closely joined, here near the tomb of Peter and near so many of the tombs of our holy predecessors, whose ashes in this solemn hour seem to thrill in mystic exultation.
The Council now beginning rises in the Church like daybreak, a forerunner of most splendid light. It is now only dawn. And already at this first announcement of the rising day, how much sweetness fills our heart. Everything here breathes sanctity and arouses great joy. Let us contemplate the stars, which with their brightness augment the majesty of this temple. These stars, according to the testimony of the Apostle John (Apoc. 1:20), are you, and with you we see shining around the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, the golden candelabra. That is, the Church is confided to you (Ibid.).
We see here with you important personalities, present in an attitude of great respect and cordial expectation, having come together in Rome from the five continents to represent the nations of the world.
We might say that heaven and earth are united in the holding of the Council–the saints of heaven to protect our work, the faithful of the earth continuing in prayer to the Lord, and you, seconding the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order that the work of all may correspond to the modern expectations and needs of the various peoples of the world.
This requires of you serenity of mind, brotherly concord moderation in proposals, dignity in discussion, and wisdom of deliberation.
God grant that your labours and your work, toward which the eyes of all peoples and the hopes of the entire world are turned, may abundantly fulfil the aspirations of all.
Almighty God! In Thee we place all our confidence, not trusting in our own strength. Look down benignly upon these pastors of Thy Church. May the light of Thy supernal grace aid us in taking decisions and in making laws. Graciously hear the prayers which we pour forth to Thee in unanimity of faith, of voice, and of mind.
O Mary, Help of Christians, Help of Bishops, of whose love we have recently had particular proof in thy temple of Loreto, where we venerated the mystery of the Incarnation dispose all things for a happy and propitious outcome and, with thy spouse, St. Joseph, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, intercede for us to God.
To Jesus Christ, our most amiable Redeemer, immortal King of peoples and of times, be love, power, and glory forever and ever