Archive of June 16, 2013

Monastic founder St. Romuald remembered June 19

Denver, Colo., Jun 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Saint Romuald, who founded the Camaldolese monastic order during the early eleventh century, has his liturgical memorial on June 19.

Working within the Western Church’s Benedictine tradition, he revived the primitive monastic practice of hermit life, allowing for greater solitude in a communal setting.

Born into an aristocratic family during the middle of the tenth century, Romuald grew up in a luxurious and worldly environment, where he learned little in the way of self-restraint or religious devotion. Yet he also felt an unusual attraction toward the simplicity of monastic life, prompted by the beauty of nature and the experience of solitude .

It was not beauty or tranquility, but a shocking tragedy that spurred him to act on this desire. When Romuald was 20 years old, he saw his father Sergius kill one of his relatives in a dispute over some property. Disgusted by the crime he had witnessed, the young man went to the Monastery of St. Apollinaris to do 40 days of penance for his father.

These 40 days confirmed Romuald’s monastic calling, as they became the foundation for an entire life of penance. But this would not be lived out at St. Apollinaris, where Romuald’s strict asceticism brought him into conflict with some of the other monks. He left the area near Ravenna and went to Venice, where he became the disciple of the hermit Marinus.

Both men went on to encourage the monastic vocation of Peter Urseolus, a Venetian political leader who would later be canonized as a saint. When Peter joined a French Benedictine monastery, Romuald followed him and lived for five years in a nearby hermitage.

In the meantime, Romuald’s father Sergius had followed his son’s course, repenting of his sins and becoming a monk himself. Romuald returned to Italy to help his father, after learning that Sergius was struggling in his vocation. Through his son’s guidance, Sergius found the strength to persist in religious life.

After guiding his penitent father in the way of salvation, Romuald traveled throughout Italy serving the Church. By 1012 he had helped to establish or reform almost 100 hermitages and monasteries, though these were not connected to one another in the manner of a distinct religious order.

The foundations of the Camaldolese order were not laid until 1012 – when a piece of land called the ”Camaldoli,” located in the Diocese of Arezzo, was granted to Romuald. It became the site of five hermits’ quarters, and a full monastery soon after. This combination of hermits’ cells and community life, together with other distinctive features, gave this monastery and its later affiliates a distinct identity and charism.

Romuald’s approach to the contemplative life, reminiscent of the early Desert Fathers, can be seen in the short piece of writing known as his “Brief Rule.” It reads as follows:

“Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms – never leave it.”

“If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.”

“Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor. Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.”

St. Romuald of Ravenna died in his monastic cell on June 19, 1027. Pope Gregory XIII canonized him in 1582.

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Archbishop Mueller: human dignity central to education

Glasgow, Scotland, Jun 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking at the launch of a foundation at the University of Glasgow, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stressed the importance of upholding human dignity in education.

Archbishop Gerhard L. Mueller delivered the Cardinal Winning Lecture on June 15 at the Scotland university. 

The lecture marks the launch of the Saint Andrew's Foundation for Catholic Education, a new venture to form Catholic educators. It is the fruit of a partnership among the Church, the University of Glasgow and the Scottish government.

Archbishop Mueller's talk focused on the nature and distinctiveness of Catholic education, as well as the challenges it both faces and presents in today's world.

Catholic education, he said, arises out of the encounter between the Church and cultures. He recalled Saint Augustine's vision of his own culture, the best of which he thought “had its roots in Plato and Aristotle … who had articulated the truth of the supreme Good.”

This supreme Good, for those thinkers, was “the development of the rational mind in conformity with the truth and the nourishing of the will through the attainment and practice of the virtues.” The basis for this vision was the human person, and his natural drive for the good and the true.

St. Augustine added to this foundation the theological virtues which, “in addition to the natural goods and virtues of the human person, are the heart of education.”

Archbishop Mueller advocated for an understanding of “Catholic” which includes the breadth of “all that is good in the philosophies of societies and human culture.”

“To equip Catholic teachers with this broad philosophy of life is the key to the mission of the new St. Andrew’s Foundation. This will serve the self-confidence of Catholic teachers in their work in schools and provide a contribution to society as a whole.”

Focusing on education, the archbishop spoke of relativism as a threat, because the objects of education, the true and the good, “stand in some way outside the person” and are transcendent.

“A danger in the relativism of modern society is the assumption that human freedom essentially entails creating one’s own truth and moral good.”

The implications of relativism, he said, “would lead to the breakdown of society...if pursued to their logical conclusion.”

Archbishop Mueller examined the underlying purpose of education, saying, “it is surely part of the enterprise of higher education that it not simply mirror back the values of the society at large, nor simply that it produce those who will serve the economy through excellence in business or industry, science or the arts.”

“An important element is also the ability to take a critical stance and examine the underlying assumptions, philosophies and ideologies in society today and especially those underlying the very disciplines that higher education pursues.”

He encouraged the St. Andrew's Foundation to be a place for “critical engagement” with the philosophies underpinning education, suggesting that many academic disciplines are value-laden, contrary to popular belief.

Archbishop Mueller said that education has a “central place” in proclaiming the dignity of the human person. He lauded the vision of Blessed John Henry Newman, whom he said was “firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach” to education.

“He sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together,” reflected the archbishop.

This holistic approach must take into account the communal aspects of the person, as well as his overall dignity, he explained.

“The Church is almost alone, it seems, in being prepared to assert the dignity the human person as bearing the image of God – a vision available to reason, and once deep at the heart of western culture, but which is now so generally denied,” he said.

He lamented that the youth are growing up in a culture of relativism, individualism, utilitarianism and “a lack of interest in the fundamental truths of human life.”

In such an atmosphere which denies the dignity of the human person, “freedom is reduced to mere arbitrary whim, and the pursuit of true value is reduced to a consumerism that never satisfies,” he said.

“The Church must give back to young people the true understanding of their own value that has been taken from them,” through communication of the faith and our destiny in Christ in Catholic education. 

“This re-proclamation and defense of humanity and its true worth lies at the center of the Church's Mission,” Archbishop Mueller said.

He added that he hopes the St. Andrew Foundation will study this vision, form teachers according to it, and support the schools “in which this vision becomes realized.”

During his visit to Scotland, the congregation head also visited a primary school, addressed clergy at the cathedral of the Motherwell diocese, and delivered a message from Pope Francis to the Catholics of Scotland.

Pope Francis, said the message, hopes the St. Andrew Foundation “will help promote and improve the quality of instruction … given to future educators in the country’s Catholic schools.”

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Pope: Selfish living leads to slavery, death

Vatican City, Jun 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As he met with thousands of pro-life advocates from around the globe, Pope Francis stressed that the Gospel is the “way to freedom and life,” but lifestyles that are “dictated by selfishness” lead to slavery and death.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope urged, “let us look to God as the God of Life, let us look to his law, to the Gospel message, as the way to freedom and life. The Living God sets us free!”

He addressed his homily for the June 16 Mass in St. Peter’s Square to pilgrims from Australia, Asia, Europe and North and South America, who filled the famous piazza up to its gates.

They were also joined in the square by around 1,400 people on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles, who came to Rome to celebrate 110 years of the iconic American machine and to receive the Pope’s blessing during the Angelus prayer that followed the Mass.
Pope Francis based his homily on the first reading from 2 Samuel, which recounts King David committing adultery with Bathsheba and conspiring to have her husband killed, and the Gospel reading from Luke 4, where Jesus forgives the adulterous woman of her sins.

The Holy Father distilled his reflections into three simple points: “first, the Bible reveals to us the Living God, the God who is life and the source of life; second, Jesus Christ bestows life and the Holy Spirit maintains us in life; and third, following God’s way leads to life, whereas following idols leads to death.”

King David’s adultery serves to show “human drama in all its reality: good and evil, passion, sin and its consequences,” the Pope said, underscoring that despite his evil actions, God brought life to David when he repented.

“Whenever we want to assert ourselves, when we become wrapped up in our own selfishness and put ourselves in the place of God, we end up spawning death,” he said as he examined the consequences of David’s actions.

This raises the question of what our image of God is, Pope Francis remarked.

“Perhaps he appears to us as a severe judge, as someone who curtails our freedom and the way we live our lives. But the Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living One, the one who bestows life and points the way to fullness of life,” the pontiff preached.

He then turned to the Gospel reading from Luke, in which Jesus allowed himself to be approached by a woman who was a sinner and forgave her sins.

The Pope said that in this interaction it can be seen how “Jesus is the incarnation of the Living God, the one who brings life amid deeds of death, sin, selfishness and self-absorption.

“Jesus accepts, loves, uplifts, encourages, forgives, restores the ability to walk, gives back life. Throughout the Gospels we see how Jesus by his words and actions brings the transforming life of God,” he preached.

Thelife-giving power of God is also given through the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis taught.

“The Christian is someone who thinks and acts in everyday life according to God’s will, someone who allows his or her life to be guided and nourished by the Holy Spirit, to be a full life, a life worthy of true sons and daughters. And this entails realism and fruitfulness,” he explained.

The Pope cautioned that this “does not mean that we are people who live ‘in the clouds,’ far removed from real life, as if it were some kind of mirage. No! Those who let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit are realists, they know how to survey and assess reality. They are also fruitful; their lives bring new life to birth all around them.”

Returning to the theme of the weekend – The Gospel of Life – Pope Francis made his final point: that following God leads to life but all other ways lead to death.

“But all too often, people do not choose life, they do not accept the ‘Gospel of Life’ but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others,” he said.

This way of living is not new, the Pope explained, calling it “the eternal dream of wanting to build the city of man without God, without God’s life and love – a new Tower of Babel.”

“It is the idea that rejecting God, the message of Christ, the Gospel of Life, will somehow lead to freedom, to complete human fulfillment,” he noted.

The result of this turning away from God is that he “is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death,” the Pope stated.

He finished his homily by invoking the intercession of “Mary, Mother of Life,” asking her “to help us receive and bear constant witness to the ‘Gospel of Life.’”

After the Mass finished, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the faithful and gave a special mention to the Harley-Davidson contingent.

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Pope's friendliness impresses Harley-Davidson crowd

Vatican City, Jun 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Harley-Davidson owners flocked to St. Peter’s Square today for a chance to greet Pope Francis, and they came away struck by his friendliness and closeness to the people.

“To be here and see the Pope is absolutely amazing. He’s so friendly, he’s just so friendly,” said Bob from the Lakeside, England chapter as he spoke to CNA June 16.

His fellow Lakeside member Harry agreed. “He’s so friendly, and he comes to you,” he commented.

A Swiss motorcyclist went even further in her esteem for the new pontiff. “For me, he is the best Pope now – Papa Francesco,” said Simone from Lucerne.

For his part, Pope Francis offered a short greeting to the motorcyclists after celebrating a Mass for the Gospel of Life weekend that was organized by the Vatican as part of the ongoing Year of Faith.

Before praying the Angelus, the Pope noted with pleasure that Edward Focherini, a journalist and father of seven who was killed by the Nazis because of his faith, was beatified yesterday in Carpi, Italy.

“He saved many Jews from Nazi persecution. Together with the Church in Carpi, we give thanks to God for this witness of the Gospel of Life!” he declared.

Pope Francis also offered his sincere thanks to everyone who came “from Rome and from many parts of Italy and the world, especially families and those who work more directly for the promotion and protection of life.”

In his homily for the Gospel of Life Mass, the Pope underscored the importance of following God’s call for living a fruitful life, contrasting it with self-centered lifestyles that lead to slavery and death.

The crowd of pro-life pilgrims and the Harley aficionados certainly brought a different feel to the atmosphere in St. Peter's Square, but regardless of their reasons for being there, they all heard what the Pope had to say.

The motorcyclists drove to Rome from all over Europe and even overseas to take part in the 110th anniversary celebrations for the Harley-Davidson brand. They began invading the city on Thursday, and the low rumble of their engines has been present around the Vatican since then.

Via della Conciliazione, the street that leads to St. Peter’s Square, was packed with rows of Harleys parked along both sides of the road, about four or five bikes deep. Many of the motorcyclists decked out their rides with flags, stickers with the Vatican keys or pictures of Pope Francis.

Besides seeing the Pope, the “Harleyste” – as they are known in Italian – enjoyed the world famous architecture, such as the Coloseum. “The old buildings are just amazing and this place (St. Peter’s) is just fantastic,” said Bob from the Lakeside Chapter.

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