CNA STAFF, Aug 15, 2010 (CNA) - Today, Catholics and many other Christians will celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The significant feast day recalls the spiritual and physical departure of the mother of Jesus Christ from the earth, when both her soul and her body were taken into the presence of God.
Venerable Pope Pius XII confirmed this belief about the Virgin Mary as the perennial teaching of the Church when he defined it formally as a dogma of Catholic faith in 1950, invoking papal infallibility to proclaim, “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
His Apostolic Constitution “Munificentissimus Deus” (Most Bountiful God), which defined the dogma,
contained the Pontiff's accounts of many longstanding traditions by which the Church has celebrated the Assumption throughout its history.
The constitution also cited testimonies from the early Church fathers on the subject, and described the history of theological reflection on many Biblical passages which are seen as indicating that Mary was assumed into heaven following her death.
Although the bodily assumption of Mary is not explicitly recorded in Scripture, Catholic tradition identifies her with the “woman clothed with the sun” who is described in the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation.
The passage calls that woman's appearance “a great sign” which “appeared in heaven,” indicating that she is the mother of the Jewish Messiah and has “the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Accordingly, Catholic iconography of the Western tradition often depicts the Virgin Mary's assumption into heaven in this manner.
Eastern Christians have also traditionally held Mary's assumption into heaven as an essential component of their faith. Pius XII cited several early Byzantine liturgical texts, as well as the eighth-century Arab Christian theologian St. John of Damascus, in his own authoritative definition of her assumption.
“It was fitting,” St. John of Damascus wrote in a sermon on the assumption, “that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death,” and “that she, who had carried the creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles.”
In Eastern Christian tradition, the same feast is celebrated on the same calendar date, although typically known as the Dormition (falling asleep) of Mary. Eastern Catholic celebration of the Dormition is preceded by a two-week period of fasting which is similar to Lent. Pius XII, in “Munificentissimus Deus,” mentioned this same fasting period as belonging to the traditional patrimony of Western Christians as well.
The feast of the Assumption is always a Holy Day of Obligation for both Roman and Eastern-rite Catholics, on which they are obliged to attend Mass or Divine Liturgy. In 2010, however, it falls on a Sunday.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 15, 2010 (CNA) - World Youth Day (WYD) Madrid has opened four more language-specific pages on Facebook, bringing its total Facebook pages to 18. The pages were created thanks to young volunteers who see the importance of having WYD information available in their own language.
Japanese, Vietnamese, Maltese and Croatian are the latest languages to have WYD outposts on Facebook. World Youth Day Madrid organizers credited the pages to “the determination and the excitement of the youth.”
Tran The Vinh, one of the administrators of the Vietnamese-language Facebook page, first suggested the creation of a page in her language. She said she believes the page is important because it overcomes “the obstacle of speaking in a language other than your own.”
Vinh, a 23-year-old architecture student, spends three to five hours daily administrating WYD’s profile, with the help of other administrators. She answers questions form page subscribers, translates information coming from Spain and promotes WYD.
Viktorija, an education student at the University of Zagreb, is one of the four administrators of the Croatian WYD page. She said the WYD Facebook page serves as a place where youth can resolve their doubts or reunite and share their experiences.
A participant in previous WYD gatherings at Cologne and Sydney, Viktorija said her attendance at WYD Madrid will be “special” because it will mark the first time she will participate as a volunteer.
Ai Hongo, the 44-year-old administrator of the Japanese Facebook page, described herself as “young at heart.” In her view, videos are the best way to promote WYD because “they show in the best possible way what a day in WYD is like.”
The administrator of the Maltese WYD Facebook page is Mariam de Giorgio. She said she felt that the Madrid event will be “one of the most unforgettable WYDs ever,” in part because she will have the opportunity to meet in person the various friends she has made through social networks.
According to WYD Madrid, Spanish was the first language to have a WYD Facebook page, followed by English, French and Chinese.
Links to the WYD Madrid Facebook pages are available at the event website, http://www.madrid11.com
Denver, Colo., Aug 15, 2010 (CNA) - At a recent film event in Denver that explored the topic of violence in movies, Archbishop Charles Chaput weighed in on the issue, telling CNA that he believes violence to be appropriate in film only if it's the kind “that teaches us not to be violent.”
Along with a local film critic and actor, the Denver archbishop discussed the theme of violence in motion pictures at an event on August 12 titled, “Blood on Our Hands: Morality and Violence in Movies.” The discussion, held on the campus of the University of Colorado at Denver, was part of the Colorado Cinema Salon, a new program presented by the Denver Film Society and hosted by renowned film critic Robert Denerstein.
The event opened with a 10 minute reel of graphically violent scenes from movies such as "Psycho," "Scarface," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Hostel," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Godfather."
After the gruesome montage, Denerstein initiated a panel discussion between himself, Archbishop Chaput and local actor Donnie L. Betts. The three addressed topics such as whether or not violence in films affects behavior in American society, whether or not there are different types of violence in film and what, if any, is justifiable. The panelists also fielded numerous questions and comments from a well-attended and diverse audience, which included young and old alike of various backgrounds.
CNA caught up with Archbishop Chaput following the event, who explained the significance behind his decision in taking time from his schedule and attending a relatively small, independent film seminar.
“I chose to participate because I think that it's important for the Church to be involved in the culture and in the broader society and I think movies are hugely influential,” the Denver prelate said.
“So I jumped at the opportunity to speak, just so the Church would have a face here,” he added, “but also to meet the community that gathers for this kind of discussion because I think it has a huge impact on our culture and I think it's important for them to know that the Church is both interested and aware of what's going on.”
CNA then asked Archbishop Chaput if violence is ever contextually appropriate in film or if it is gratuitous in all instances.
“I think the only kind of violence that's good in movies is the violence that teaches us not to be violent,” he underscored. “I think sometimes that graphic violence can demonstrate how damaging violence is.”
War movies, for instance, “really teach us that war is always horrible and always to be avoided,” he noted.
Archbishop Chaput then cited the example of an earlier clip shown from the movie "The Godfather," where scenes that show a mob boss attending a baptism and repeating the vows are juxtaposed with images of the mob boss' enemies being ruthlessly killed at his behest.
“'The Godfather' violence demonstrates hypocrisy and how people can say one thing and lead entirely different lives,” the archbishop said. “When you're confronted with that in such a graphic way, it makes you look at the hypocrisy in your own life.”
The prelate added a caveat, however, saying that violence in film “always has to be the kind of violence that educates us on the ugliness and damage” of violence in real life.
Archbishop Chaput also spoke on his own love of film and earlier aspirations as a young boy to be a stunt man when he grew up. He then commented on the gifting and potential influence for the good those in the movie industry have.
To “those who are involved,” in the industry, he noted, “I congratulate them and bless them and I hope that they really will use their talents to make sure that film is transformative of society in a good way.”
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 15, 2010 (CNA) - The destination of Mary assumed is a reality founded on the love of God, taught the Pope on Sunday. The Christian promise of heaven, he said, brings great joy and encourages believers to work for the construction of a "world of God."
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the intimate atmosphere of the pontifical parish of St. Thomas of Villanova for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the town of Castel Gandolfo. During the celebration, attended by parishioners and a select few military, civil and religious leaders, the Holy Father spoke of the destination of Mary as she left earth.
He explained that in the Assumption, "we believe that Mary, as Christ her Son, defeated death and triumphs already in the celestial glory in the totality of her being, 'in body and soul'."
Expanding on the idea of the "celestial glory" to which Mary arrived, Pope Benedict noted that people today are conscious that by "'heaven' we are not referring to just any place in the universe, to a star or something similiar" but "to something much bigger and more difficult to define with our limited human concepts.
"With this term 'heaven'," he said, "we wish to assert that God, the God made close to us, does not abandon us even after death, but has a place for us and gives us eternity…”
He explained that in order to understand this we can look to our own lives and the way loved ones live on in our hearts after they die but only as a "shadow" because also this memory is destined to expire with the death of those who conserve it.
"God, on the other hand," he taught, "does not ever pass and we all exist in accordance with His love. We exist because he loves us, because he has thought of us and he called us to life. We exist in the thoughts and in the love of God. We exist in all of our reality, not only in our 'shadow'."
The serenity, hope and peace of man is founded on God's thought and love, Benedict XVI explained, "he does not survive just in a 'shadow' of ourselves, but in Him, in His creative love, we are protected and introduced with all our life, with our being in eternity."
"It is His love that defeats death and gives us eternity, and it is this love that we call 'heaven' ..."
This is a truth, concluded the Pope, "that should always fill us with profound joy:" the Christian promise of eternal life in heaven.
This gives Christians "a strong hope in a bright future and opens the way towards the realization of this future," he added.
"We are called, as Christians, to edify this new world," he said, "to work so that it might become one day the 'world of God,' a world that surpasses all that we ourselves can build. In Mary assumed in heaven, fully participating in the resurrection of the Son, we contemplate the realization of the human creature according to the 'world of God.'
"We pray that the Lord makes us understand how much our life is precious to His eyes; (that He) reinforces our faith in eternal life; that he makes us men of hope, who work to build a world open to God, men full of joy, who know how to see the beauty of the future world among the worries of daily life and live, believe and hope in this certainty."
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Although Mary was assumed into heaven, she "has not abandoned her mission of intercession and salvation" on Earth, explained Pope Benedict, using the words of one of his predecessors. Before the Marian prayer at noon on Assumption Sunday, he highlighted Mary's historic role in the Church, inviting continued trust in the Mother of God and prayer for her aid on earth.
The Holy Father met with pilgrims in the courtyard of the pontifical villa at Castel Gandolfo for the Angelus after having celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the nearby parish of St. Thomas of Villanova. Walking to the church for the celebration and then returning again on foot afterwards for the Angelus, he was able to greet many people personally along the way.
During the pre-Angelus catechesis, he said that on the Solemnity of the Assumption "we celebrate the passage from the earthly condition to the celestial bliss of She who generated in the flesh and received in faith the Lord of Life."
The Virgin Mary has been venerated since the Church's foundation and the first Marian feasts were observed already in the 4th century, he pointed out, highlighting that some were in recognition of her role in the history of salvation and others for major moments in her earthly life.
"The meaning of today's feast," he explained, "is contained in the conclusive words" of Venerable Pope Pius XII from his definition of the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in 1950. In the document “Munificentissiums Deus,” he asserted that "the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."
Turning to the Virgin Mary's presence in the Church, Pope Benedict said that "artists of every age" have decorated churches with works depicting the holiness of the Lord's Mother while poets, writers and musicians have rendered her tribute in liturgical hymns and chants.
"From East to West," he observed, "the 'Tuttasanta' (all holy) is invoked as the Heavenly Mother, who sustains the Son of God in her arms and under whose protection all of humanity finds refuge ..."
Illustrating this point, he recited the ancient Marian prayer from the Byzantine tradition: "Beneath your compassion we take refuge, O Virgin Theotokos: Despise not our prayer in our need, but deliver us from danger, for you alone are pure and blessed."
In Sunday's Gospel, the Pope continued, the fulfillment of salvation through Our Lady is described by St. Luke who relates the story of Mary, "in whose womb the 'little Omnipotent one' is made," who goes immediately to her cousin Elizabeth after the Angel's announcement "to bring her the Savior of the world.
"And, in fact, 'as Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.' The two women, who awaited the fulfillment of the divine promise, anticipate, then, the joy of the coming of the Kingdom of God, the joy of salvation."
Concluding, the Holy Father exhorted all people to entrust themselves to Mary, who, as Pope Paul VI said, despite being "assumed into heaven ... has not abandoned her mission of intercession and salvation.
"To Her, the guide of the Apostles, the support of the Martyrs, the light of the Saints, we turn our prayer, asking her to accompany us on this earthly life, to help us to look to Heaven and to receive us one day alongside Her Son Jesus."
South Bend, Ind., Aug 15, 2010 (CNA) - A vocation to work in Catholic education is “a noble mission, a holy mission,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades told more than 300 participants and staff in Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) during a grotto prayer gathering at the University of Notre Dame on the evening of Thursday, July 22.
Participants in the ACE formation programs for teachers and principals, preparing to fan out to serve in Catholic schools around the country, assembled for two traditional culmination ceremonies, along with parents and various members of Notre Dame’s growing ACE community.
The grotto service was followed the next morning by a missioning Mass celebrated in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart by Bishop Thomas J. Curry, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and a leader in Catholic elementary and secondary schooling.
Bishop Curry, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Catholic Education, addressed those awaiting the challenges and rewards of working in hardpressed schools. They are “beacons of hope,” he told them, “because you are beacons of faith and beacons of learning.”
“You are in the forefront of the movement for reform, for change, and for excellence in education,” said Bishop Curry in praising the ACE program, which began in 1993. He noted that Catholic schools have historically brought hope and education to the children of immigrants and continue to confront America’s dominant culture with “a different model” of education.
Bishop Rhoades, in his separate remarks amid the glimmering candles and chirping crickets around the grotto, described Catholic education as a service to the Church that promotes “the increase of the kingdom of God in the world.” He praised the ACE participants and described the difference they make: “You recognize the mind, body and spirit” of children in Catholic schools.
He called on those in the ACE academic courses to pray regularly as they undertake their apprenticeships in schools and classrooms.
Seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother, who teaches us, he said. “Mary accompanies you on your mission.”
Printed with permission from Today's Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend, Indiana.