Archive of September 4, 2011

Military chaplain has unique papal zucchetto collection

Colorado Springs, Colo., Sep 4, 2011 (CNA) - Anyone who is planning a trip to Rome and wants to bring back a unique papal souvenir may want to consider stopping at Gammarelli’s tailor shop before attending an audience with the Holy Father.

With an investment of about $50 and a little opportunism, visitors to the Eternal City could come back with a zucchetto worn by the Pope himself, even if only for a few minutes. A zucchetto is a skull cap worn by Catholic clergy; the Pope’s are always white.

“There’s a very old tradition in which, if you purchase a white zucchetto at the Pope’s tailor shop, you can hold it up during a papal audience and the Swiss Guards will swap yours for the one the Pope is wearing,” said Father Kevin Peek.

Gammarelli’s, established in 1798,  has served five Popes, including John Paul II. It carries a wide variety of religious apparel, including chasubles and miters, stoles, and even cardinal red socks.

Fr. Peek, a priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta who most recently served as an Army chaplain in Afghanistan and was stationed at Fort Carson, has over the past 16 years obtained three zucchettos worn by three different popes. He proudly displays them in a custom-made glass case.

He snagged his first zucchetto while still a seminarian in December 1996. His class traveled to Rome and was granted a private Mass and audience with Blessed John Paul II. Earlier in the day, while his class was on a walking tour of Rome, he managed to duck into Gammarelli’s, which is located behind the Pantheon, and purchase a zucchetto. He was the only one in his group of seminarians to do so.

During the Mass in the Pope’s private chapel, Fr. Peek was seated toward the back. He was one of the last ones to exit the chapel, so he ended up in the front of the line of seminarians waiting to meet the Pope. After the Pope greeted him and gave him a rosary, Fr. Kevin pulled out the zucchetto and showed it to Blessed John Paul II’s secretary.

The papal secretary rolled his eyes, fearing that every seminarian had come armed with a zucchetto, Fr. Kevin recalled. But he cooperated nonetheless, and removed the zucchetto the Pope was currently wearing, replacing it with the new one.

At the end of the audience, the secretary returned the zucchetto Fr. Peek had purchased, so the exchange was not permanent. Nonetheless, Fr. Peek treasures the zucchetto that the now-beatified Pope wore for about 40 minutes.

Ten years later, Fr. Peek’s zucchetto quest continued, this time during a pilgrimage to Rome that included a Wednesday audience with Pope Benedict XVI. As the audience was ending, Fr. Peek desperately tried to get the attention of the Swiss Guards, but they brushed him off.

Fearing that his opportunity was slipping away, Fr. Peek jumped over the barricades separating the general public from the area where Pope Benedict was meeting with a private group. Again the Swiss Guards ignored him, but as the Holy Father got into the popemobile and started driving away, Fr. Kevin managed to get his attention. Pope Benedict himself, who “loves traditions like this,” Fr. Peek said, reached down and grabbed the new zucchetto, handing the priest the one he had been wearing. The crowd around him was stunned, and everyone wanted to know just what had happened, he recalled.

The third of Fr. Peek’s prized zucchettos came to him by a different route. An elderly priest in the archdiocese of Atlanta owned a zucchetto worn by Pope Pius XII and worried that, once he died, no one would appreciate the item enough to take care of it. When he heard of Fr. Peek’s interest in zucchettos, the elderly priest mailed it to him in a manila envelope.

“I was just floored,” Fr. Peek said. He added that it is interesting to view the three side-by-side because it is evident that they are three different sizes.

Printed with permission from the Colorado Catholic Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

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New Yorkers wonder if US heard spiritual 'wake-up call' of 9/11

New York City, N.Y., Sep 4, 2011 (CNA) - When Robert Harding saw the World Trade Center collapse four blocks from his Manhattan loft on September 11, 2001, he felt God calling people of every nation, race, language, and religion to repentance.

“When I saw the Towers come down, I didn't think 'God is punishing me' – but I did feel that it was a spiritual event. I literally felt the presence of a tremendous spiritual power. It was almost like a wake-up call, to me: 'Look at what you're doing, humanity. Take stock of yourselves. This is where you are, so wake up.'”

But many Americans who hoped for a new era of national purpose and unity after 9/11 find themselves disappointed. Harding, an internationally exhibited artist and lifelong Catholic who grew up during the Second World War, now thinks America might have missed the worldwide “wake-up call.”

Harding serves an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, one block from what's now known as Ground Zero. He and his young son were at home in his loft near the Twin Towers on the morning of the attacks, while his wife had traveled uptown for the day.

Startled by a “loud banging” noise, he walked out onto his fire escape.

“It was quiet. Not much traffic, suddenly,” he told CNA on September 1. “In the distance, about three or four blocks away, I could see paper – it looked like confetti – falling out of the sky.” He didn't know that a plane had just crashed into the North Tower of the landmark near his loft.

A group of Harding's neighbors, mostly fellow artists, started gathering outside. “As we looked south, we could see the North Tower had a big hole in it, and smoke was coming out.”

“Some guy came running up from the west, and said: 'A plane hit the tower! I saw a plane hit the building!'”

Around nine o'clock, Harding – still holding his two-year-old boy – was discussing the report with his neighbors. “Suddenly, the South Tower exploded in a huge plume of black smoke, and flame, and debris flying out of the building. That was the second plane.”

Debris from the explosion hit the roof of Harding's parish. Meanwhile, the World Trade Center “looked literally like it was going to fall down on us. And from where we were, that would have meant it was going to fall pretty much on top of us.”

He was standing on the street with a group of people that happened to include Mayor Rudy Giuliani, when he heard “a rumbling behind us … We saw that the North Tower was coming down. It took only about 10 seconds.”

Trailed by a cloud of “volcanic-like ash,” Harding made his way north with his son, making contact with his wife later that day. One of his friends worked at the South Tower's Windows on the World Restaurant, but hadn't gone into work that morning. “As it turned out, all of her friends were killed.”

Harding, who was born in 1938 and lost his father in World War II, says he felt less shocked by the events than many younger Americans. For him, the attack by radical Muslims was “the extension of a long history of the United States … being a target of tremendous resentment or competition from other sectors in the world,” as it had been during the Second World War.

But he believes the U.S. lost its way in some respects after 9/11, rather than rising to the occasion. He is struck by the “failure of leadership in America,” on the part of politicians he says are “exploiting our differences for narrow political ends of getting re-elected,” and “not really talking to America and the world about very fundamental things.”

Harding also believes Americans gave in to fear after the attacks, placing their trust in morally questionable tactics in the interest of national security.

“I never thought, in my lifetime, that I would hear people on television debating whether, and what kind of torture, we should be using. Didn't we have the (Imperial Japanese) Bataan death march? What is going on here? This is crazy … It's fear. Where there is fear, there cannot be faith.”

For Harding, the most profound lesson of 9/11 is that people around the world “have to be humble, and accept that reality is ruled by a power greater than ourselves.”

Harding's pastor, Father Kevin Madigan, had just finished hearing confessions and offering Mass at St. Peter's on September 11, 2001, when his secretary told him a plane had hit one of the towers. Later that day, wounded and dying people were brought to his church en route to the hospital or morgue.

After the attacks, Fr. Madigan found that many New Yorkers needed “a deeper, more expansive vision of God, and a deeper relationship with God, that's able to be sustained even when things are not going my own personal way.”

Fr. Madigan recalled noticing other positive, but fleeting, changes in the city during the fall of 2001.

“In the weeks afterward, I saw a great change in people. Just the average person on the street would be much more compassionate, much more caring. People seemed to be more tuned in to what were the important things in life.”

“But I think one way of putting it, is that the alarm went off – and people hit the 'snooze' button soon afterwards. They went back to sleep.”

As the U.S. marks the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon as well as United Flight 93, Fr. Madigan also wonders whether American Christians are prepared to consider the event in light of their faith.

“We've been in a state of perpetual war for the past ten years – in Afghanistan, in Iraq, now in Libya. And is it going to be someplace else, maybe Yemen, next?”

“As Christians,” Fr. Madigan wonders, “how do we begin to work toward the way of peace?”

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St. Peter Claver, Jesuit apostle to African slaves, honored Sept. 9

Denver, Colo., Sep 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

On September 9, the Catholic Church celebrates St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit missionary who spent his life in the service of African slaves brought against their will to South America during the 17th century.

Peter Claver was born into a farming family in the Spanish region of Catalonia during 1581. He studied at the University of Barcelona as a young man, and joined the Jesuits as a novice at the age of 20.

While studying philosophy in Tarragona, Peter developed a friendship with an older Jesuit lay brother, Alphonsus Rodriguez. Although Alphonsus spent his days doing menial work as a door-keeper, he had immense insight into spiritual matters and encouraged Peter to become a missionary in the Spanish colonies. Pope Leo XIII would later canonize both men on the same day, almost two centuries later.

In 1610, Peter Claver – now a priest – arrived in Cartagena, a port city in present-day Colombia. Despite Pope Paul III's repeated condemnations of slavery during the previous century, European colonists continued importing African slaves, often sold by their own rulers, to work on plantations and in mines. Those who survived the ship journey could expect to be worked to death by their masters.

Peter was determined to sacrifice his own freedom to bring material aid and eternal salvation to the African slaves, in keeping with his vow to become “the slave of the blacks forever.” The young priest made and kept this resolution despite his own health problems (aggravated by Cartagena's tropical climate) and the language barrier between himself and the population he served.

Many Spanish Royal officials in Cartagena appreciated Claver's work, and made contributions toward the slaves' relief and religious education. The slave traders, on the other hand, found the priest and his interpreters to be a nuisance. Meanwhile, some Spanish expatriates who sought out the priest because of his holy reputation, refused to enter the same church or confessional as the black slaves.

In order to minister to speakers of a foreign language, Claver often employed pictorial representations of Catholic truths. He also communicated by means of generosity and expressions of love, giving food and drink to the ailing workers and visiting them during bouts of sickness that often proved fatal.

“We must speak to them with our hands,” he reasoned, “before we try to speak to them with our lips.”

In keeping with his vow of “slavery,” Peter survived on minimal amounts of food and sleep. His life of humility and penance led to miraculous occurrences – as when he healed the sick with the touch of his cloak, or appeared surrounded by a supernatural light during his hospital visits.

St. Peter Claver's work came to an end with his death on September 8, 1654. He had baptized and taught the faith to more than 300,000 slaves during his four decades in Cartagena.

During the Vatican's Synod for Africa in 2009, Cartagena's Archbishop Jorge Enrique Jiménez Carvajal lamented the fact that his city had been the center of an “awful commerce.”

But he spoke with gratitude for the fact that the same city had become the home of such a “great witness to sanctity,” the “apostle of the slaves, whose body rests in our cathedral, who lived to protect them and lead them towards the faith” in which they could experience God's love.

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Pope stresses need for ‘fraternal correction’ in Christian life

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Correcting the behavior of those gone astray is an essential part of Christian life, said Pope Benedict XVI in his Sunday Angelus address Sept. 4.

“This approach is called fraternal correction: it is not a reaction to injury suffered, but is moved by love for one’s brother,” said the Pope to pilgrims gathered at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

The Pope made his comments in the light of today’s Gospel in which Jesus suggests that “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”

The text of the Gospel “tells us that brotherly love also involves a sense of mutual responsibility,” said the Pope, “so if my brother sins against me, I must use love towards him and, first of all, speak to him personally, pointing out that what he has said or done is not good.”

The Pope quoted the 4-5th century theologian, St. Augustine of Hippo, who said Christians cannot be indifferent to the “severe wound” a fellow believer may have inflicted upon themselves through sin.

However, St. Augustine also stressed that any subsequent fraternal correction has to be animated by love and not revenge insisting “you have to forget the hurt you have received, not the wound of your brother.”

If a fraternal correction is rebuffed, said the Pope, then Christians should follow the advice of Jesus - seek the witness of others and, if necessary, the sanction of the wider Church.

“All this indicates that there is a shared responsibility in the way of Christian life,” said Pope Benedict, “everyone, aware of their limitations and defects, is called to welcome fraternal correction and help others with this particular service.”

The Pope suggested this was a reminder of the communal nature of the Christian faith – as confirmed by the subsequent promise of Christ in today’s Gospel that “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

For while “personal prayer is certainly important, indeed essential,” said the Pope “the Lord assures his presence in the community” at prayer because it “reflects the reality of the Triune God, the perfect communion of love.”

Thus, concluded the Pope, through communal prayer and fraternal correction “which requires a lot of humility and simplicity of heart” we can journey together towards God as “a community truly united in Christ.”

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