Thursday, September 22, 2011

Full text: Benedict’s homily in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium

Full text: Benedict’s homily in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium:

Dear Brother Bishops, dear Brothers and Sisters, as I look around the vast arena of the Olympic Stadium, where you have gathered today in such large numbers, my heart is filled with great joy and confidence. I greet all of you most warmly – the faithful from the Archdiocese of Berlin and the Dioceses of Germany as well as the many pilgrims from neighbouring countries. It was fifteen years ago that Berlin, the capital of Germany, was first visited by a Pope. We all remember vividly the visit of my venerable predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, and the beatification of the Berlin Cathedral Provost Bernhard Lichtenberg – together with Karl Leisner – here in this very place.

If we consider these beati and the great throng of those who have been canonized and beatified, we can understand what it means to live as branches of Christ, the true vine, and to bring forth rich fruit. Today’s Gospel puts before us once more the image of this climbing plant, that spreads so luxuriantly in the east, a symbol of vitality and a metaphor for the beauty and dynamism of Jesus’ fellowship with his disciples and friends.

In the parable of the vine, Jesus does not say: “You are the vine”, but: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:5). In other words: “As the branches are joined to the vine, so you belong to me! But inasmuch as you belong to me, you also belong to one another.” This belonging to each other and to him is not some ideal, imaginary, symbolic relationship, but – I would almost want to say – a biological, life-transmitting state of belonging to Jesus Christ. Such is the Church, this communion of life with him and for the sake of one another, a communion that is rooted in baptism and is deepened and given more and more vitality in the Eucharist. “I am the true vine” actually means: “I am you and you are I” – an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, his Church.

On the road to Damascus, Christ himself asked Saul, the persecutor of the Church: “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). With these words the Lord expresses the common destiny that arises from his Church’s inner communion of life with himself, the risen Christ. He continues to live in his Church in this world. He is present among us, and we are with him. “Why do you persecute me?” It is Jesus, then, who is on the receiving end of the persecutions of his Church. At the same time, when we are oppressed for the sake of our faith, we are not alone: Jesus is with us.

Jesus says in the parable: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (Jn 15:1), and he goes on to explain that the vinedresser reaches for his knife, cuts off the withered branches and prunes the fruit-bearing ones, so that they bring forth more fruit. Expressed in terms of the image from the prophet Ezekiel that we heard in the first reading, God wants to take the dead heart of stone out of our breast in order to give us a living heart of flesh (cf. Ez 36:26). He wants to bestow new life upon us, full of vitality. Christ came to call sinners. It is they who need the doctor, not the healthy (cf. Lk 5:31f.). Hence, as the Second Vatican Council expresses it, the Church is the “universal sacrament of salvation” (Lumen Gentium, 48), existing for sinners in order to open up to them the path of conversion, healing and life. That is the Church’s true and great mission, entrusted to her by Christ.

Many people see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the “Church”. If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and deep mystery of the Church is no longer seen.

It follows that belonging to this vine, the “Church”, is no longer a source of joy. Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people’s superficial and mistaken notions of “Church”, their “dream Church”, fail to materialize! Then we no longer hear the glad song “Thanks be to God who in his grace has called me into his Church” that generations of Catholics have sung with conviction.

The Lord’s discourse continues: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me … for apart from me [i.e. separated from me, or outside me] you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4f.).

Every one of us is faced with this choice. The Lord reminds us how much is at stake as he continues his parable: “If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned” (Jn 15:6). In this regard, Saint Augustine says: “The branch is suitable only for one of two things, either the vine or the fire: if it is not in the vine, its place will be in the fire; and that it may escape the latter, may it have its place in the vine” (In Ioan. Ev. Tract. 81:3 [PL 35, 1842]).

The decision that is required of us here makes us keenly aware of the existential significance of our life choices. At the same time, the image of the vine is a sign of hope and confidence. Christ himself came into this world through his incarnation, to be our root. Whatever hardship or drought befall us, he is the source that offers us the water of life, that feeds and strengthens us. He takes upon himself all our sins, anxieties and sufferings and he purifies and transforms us, in a way that is ultimately mysterious, into good wine. In such times of hardship we can sometimes feel as if we ourselves were in the wine-press, like grapes being utterly crushed. But we know that if we are joined to Christ we become mature wine. God can transform into love even the burdensome and oppressive aspects of our lives. It is important that we “abide” in Christ, in the vine. The evangelist uses the word “abide” a dozen times in this brief passage. This “abiding in Christ” characterizes the whole of the parable. In our era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived, when in our need we cry out like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Lord, stay with us, for it is almost evening and darkness is all around us!” (cf. Lk 24:29), then the risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. When drought and death loom over the branches, then future, life and joy are to be found in Christ.

To abide in Christ means, as we saw earlier, to abide in the Church as well. The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ. In Christ we belong together. Within this communion he supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another. They stand firm together against the storm and they offer one another protection. Those who believe are not alone. We do not believe alone, but we believe with the whole Church.

The Church, as the herald of God’s word and dispenser of the sacraments, joins us to Christ, the true vine. The Church as “fullness and completion of the Redeemer” (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, AAS 35 [1943] p. 230: “plenitudo et complementum Redemptoris”) is to us a pledge of divine life and mediator of those fruits of which the parable of the vine speaks. The Church is God’s most beautiful gift. Therefore Saint Augustine also says: “as much as any man loves the Church of Christ, so much has he the Holy Spirit” (In Ioan. Ev. Tract. 32:8 [PL 35:1646]). With and in the Church we may proclaim to all people that Christ is the source of life, that he exists, that he is the one for whom we long so much. He gives himself. Whoever believes in Christ has a future. For God has no desire for what is withered, dead, ersatz, and finally discarded: he wants what is fruitful and alive, he wants life in its fullness.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! My wish for all of you is that you may discover ever more deeply the joy of being joined to Christ in the Church, that you may find comfort and redemption in your time of need and that you may increasingly become the precious wine of Christ’s joy and love for this world. Amen.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Israel premia a fallecido sacerdote católico que salvó a judíos en 1944

Israel premia a fallecido sacerdote católico que salvó a judíos en 1944

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Essays by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Essays by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein): Brethren: Peace be with you. I found these while surfing about and thought that you may benefit from them.
  • Feminine vocations - The woman who "suits" man as helpmate does not only participate in his work; she complements him, counteracting the dangers of his specifically masculine nature.
  • On the history and spirit of Carmel - To stand before the face of the living God, that is our vocation.
  • Love of the cross - Voluntary expiatory suffering is what truly and really unites one to the Lord intimately.
  • Woman’s formation - The primary and most essential Educator is not the human being but God Himself.
  • Woman’s soul - The world of the spirit is founded on sensuousness which is spiritual as much as physical: the intellect, knowing its activity to be rational, reveals a world; the will intervenes creatively and formatively in this world; the emotion receives this world inwardly and puts it to the test.
  • Source:

    Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection of Christ?

    Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection of Christ?:

    Brethren, peace and good to you in Jesus’ holy name. Exploring about the ‘Net I found the site dedicated to the James Gregory Public Lectures on Science and Religion, a series of 12 public lectures by eminent British and international speakers held at the University of St Andrews over a 4-year period between Dec 2007 and June 2011 on a wide range of contemporary issues in Science and Religion. According to the website, the basic aim was “to encourage constructive and open dialogue and an exchange of ideas on many intriguing points of contact between Science and Religion. With a rise of unhealthy fundamentalism, it was felt there was a need to increase understanding, so that we may be better informed about the nature of the scientific enterprise and of religious thought. Both Science and Religion have key insights about our human nature, our creativity and our possible future” quote.

    Anglican Bishop N.T. “Tom” Wright was one of the lecturers. He’s an outstanding theologian, New Testament scholar, and historian with a great talent for oral and written communications. His lecture, Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection? is available at the site in the following formats:

    These lectures are also available at the site:

    Great lectures by lots of smart people. Enjoy!

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    The Spiritual Struggle of Mother Teresa

    The Spiritual Struggle of Mother Teresa:

    I have always admired this great Catholic nun who gave of herself to the poorest of the poor. Today she is being remembered by our Catholic friends and I want to share this sermon by Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis given in reflection upon her spiritual struggle. Some in the media latched upon details of her struggle in an attempt to discredit her and Fr. Stavros points out how we all face these struggles in one way or another. I am reminded of a quote I recently read attributed to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from The Gulag Archipelago that refers to this common struggle:

    If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

    Besides being inspired by her concern for the poorest of the poor, I am inspired by her spiritual struggle. But, enough already. Here’s Fr. Stavros’ sermon:

    The Spiritual Struggle of Mother Teresa

    Reprinted with permission from Orthodoxy Today

    Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

    Sermon delivered September 9, 2007

    I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day when a headline article on one of the check-stand magazines caught my eye. It read in bold letters, “The Dark Side of Mother Teresa.” Wow, I thought, has another one of the people we looked up to been tainted by scandal? Or was this another attempt by secular America to discredit a pious Catholic nun?” I guess the magazine achieved its goal, I bought the magazine and read the article.

    It seems that a collection of the late-Mother Teresa’s letters has been published and that her writings reveal that in her life, she suffered through crises of faith, which are referred to as “dark nights of the soul.” As I read the heading to the article, I immediately questioned its objectivity, as the author of the article is a self confessed leading critic of the late Catholic nun. In his opening paragraph, he poses the question: “Which is more striking: that the faithful should bravely confront the fact that one of their heroines all but lost her own faith, or that the Church should have gone on deploying, as an icon of favorable publicity, a confused old lady whom it knew had for all practical purposes ceased to believe?” And as I finished the article, and finding myself in total disagreement with its thesis, I pose a question: “Which is more striking: that a man who wrote a book entitled ‘God is not great’ finds himself qualified to comment on the life of Mother Teresa, or that a popular news magazine would print such a piece taking obvious swipes at a major religious figure in its religion section? (Newsweek magazine, “The Dogmatic Doubter” by Christopher Hitchens, September 10, 2007)

    What causes spiritual despair? First, relentless attacks from the devil. The devil attacks the one struggling to grow in Christ. The devil doesn’t bother with the casual Christian or the habitually immoral person — they do not need the devil to attack and destroy them, they are self-destructive. The devil attacks the committed Christian.

    A priest once shared this story with me:

    It seems that a certain monk in a monastery had an ability to see demons attacking people. And so one day, the abbot of his monastery sent him to the nearby city to see how many demons were there. So, the monk ventured down the road from the monastery towards the city. It was a large city, filled with all kinds of people doing all kinds of things. And as he journeyed through the city, he looked and he looked and he saw no demons. He was very puzzled by this. All these people, and yet no demons attacking them. Finally, he saw one demon laying under the shade of a tree, and the demon was sleeping. The monk headed back towards the monastery. And as he approached the monastery, he saw legions and legions of demons, climbing up the monastery walls, tearing at the gates, sitting in the bell tower of the church, and going in and out of the windows of the cells where the monks lived. The monk reported to the Abbot, “I went to the city where there are many people and I saw only one demon and he was sleeping. Why at this monastery, where we are but a few monks, why are there so many demons all around us?” The Abbot answered, “My son, you see in the city, people are so busy, there lives are filled with things, they succumb to temptations constantly, they have squeezed God out of their lives, there is no work for the demons to do. So they leave the people alone. But here in the monastery, where we try to pray constantly, where we try to rejoice in the things of God constantly, this is where they are at work constantly!”

    The devil tempted Christ Himself, we read in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. And Christ was hungry and in His own agony — He wasn’t surrounded by throngs of people, or by a circle of His disciples and close friends. He was alone in the desert, praying and fasting for forty days, and this is where the devil made his attack. So, if the devil can attack the Lord Himself, then it is no surprise that the devil can attack someone like Mother Teresa, or you and me.

    That’s why when we strive to pray, sometimes it is a struggle-it doesn’t bring great serenity each time we bow our head in prayer, or even each time we come to the Liturgy. Sometimes there are weeks and even months of spiritual struggle, spiritual despair, even spiritual sadness and despondency, when God feels like He is absent. This is not so much a test from God, as it is a temptation from the devil, to attack our spiritual joy and turn it into despondency and doubt.

    So, it is not a surprise when we hear that Mother Teresa struggled in her faith, at times wondering even at the existence of God in the face of what seemed like prolonged absence of God, because she was in the throes of spiritual warfare. Rather than showing insincerity or cynicism, as the author of the article would suggest, I find this kind of honesty refreshing. If Mother Teresa struggled with her faith, then I need not become despondent when I struggle in mine. If she could be honest and write about her spiritual struggles, I can be honest about mine.

    At the summer camp I direct, one of the exercises we use in staff training and also with the campers is called a trust walk. It involves people walking in pairs where one person is blindfolded. The person who can see leads the person who cannot on a walk through various obstacles and after a period of time, the two switch roles. In the camp setting, this facilitates building trust between two staff people who will work together during the week. It demonstrates also the role that the camp counselor plays in guiding the activities of the week. But from a theological perspective, is illustrates the journey of the Orthodox Christian. In debriefing this activity, there are many participants who feel a little unnerved when they can’t see, especially people who have never been to the camp who walk a considerable distance having no idea where they are going. I ask people, did anyone become frustrated in this activity? The answer is always yes, especially from people who have a hard time trusting others, who always want to be the leader, and who aren’t patient. I ask, if we did this activity for an hour, instead of for twenty minutes, who would have begun to lose patience? And nearly everyone said they would have. And I ask, was there anyone who was worried that they wouldn’t eventually reach our destination safely, even though you didn’t know where it was? And on careful examination, it seems that everyone, even those who had their reservations and frustrations, agreed that they knew they would eventually reach the end point of the journey, so long as they put one foot in front of the other and put faith in their leader.

    Now, in our lives, as in this activity, we will each be in the role of the follower. The journey to salvation is long, at times it will be frustrating, and at times that path will not be clearly visible. We will have to trust the leader. And who is the leader in this journey? Obviously, God, and the church, the scriptures, the clergy, even our fellow Christians. And believe it or not, we will all take a turn not only as a follower, but as a leader. We will each have an opportunity to lead someone else in their journey of faith-perhaps as a parent, as a teacher, as a friend, as a camp counselor, or even as someone just setting a good example. And in the role of leader, we need to encourage, set a good example, guide, help and pray for our followers. And in the role of the follower, which we will all play throughout our lives, we need to trust and most importantly, we need to put one foot in front of the other.

    There are a few ways that the trust walk is not done successfully-careless leadership, and unwillingness of the follower to follow. The leadership of our faith-God, the scriptures, Orthodoxy theology, is rock solid. It is not careless. The leadership of the church, mine included, is not always as rock solid as it could be. That’s because while in the role of leader, I am also in the role of follower, and sometimes in my own spiritual journey, I become lost or discouraged, just as Mother Teresa reveals that she did in hers. And the church itself, is an institution that is led by human beings, each of us in a sinful state. Realizing that, the occasional scandal or cynicism or disappointment doesn’t shake my faith. It makes me realize just how much more we need to pray for our church, especially its priests and hierarchs.

    The followers of the faith are each different. Some are enthusiastic and trust easily. Some are cynical and question everything. Some are impatient and sit down and stop. And others are disobedient-they hear the instruction and decide to take another path. Obviously, these are the ones that get lost, and never find their way to God. The essence of life’s journey of faith mirrors the essence of the trust walk I described-placing our trust in the leader and then following by putting one foot in front of the other, even when the journey gets long, even when we become discouraged.

    I find Mother Teresa’s struggles encouraging. They don’t make me cynical, rather they are inspiring. Here is someone who struggled in her faith, as everyone does who is sincere in their journey to Christ. But here is someone who continued to put one foot in front of the other in her journey. Here is someone who could be honest with herself that the journey to salvation isn’t all that easy. If Mother Teresa were indeed insincere about her faith, why continue living in the slums of Calcutta, living an austere existence? I believe the answer is that a deep seeded and abiding faith allowed her and helped her to put one foot in front of the other so to speak, to continue to her ministry as a servant of God, even when she could not actively feel His presence, even in her times of self described spiritual darkness.

    The Spiritual life is a struggle. Indeed, if a person has no struggle in their spiritual life, then there might be a question of how sincere that struggle is. For just as in the busy city where only one demon was found sleeping, no demon will attack you if you aren’t sincere or trying to grow in your faith. Here is the great irony, however-the more one tries to pray and to follow Christ, the harder the journey gets. That’s why Mother Teresa wrote about such profound struggle in her life. That’s why Christ Himself, when He was about to go forth to His Holy Passion, was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and His sweat became as drops of blood, that’s the kind of spiritual agony He was in. And this is where the hope comes in-Christ didn’t abandon the Cross and Mother Teresa didn’t abandon the poor, even in the darkest of hours. And so, when God seems absent because life’s circumstances are cruel, or because we find ourselves surrounded by temptation rather than encouragement, take a message of hope that if we continue to follow the leader and put one foot in front of the other, eventually, we will come out of the darkness because just being able to continue and not quitting, with God’s help, will provide the joy and the inspiration to carry on. In a war, one doesn’t win every battle. In the spiritual war, not every day will bring us a victory. The victory in battle often goes to the side with the strongest will, with the greatest endurance. And so the spiritual war is won by the Christian who has patience, endurance, and never stops putting one foot in front of the other, never stops praying or worshipping, even when it gets hard, even when God seems like He is far away, because he realizes that God holds the hand of every one of His children, even when we sometimes think He isn’t.

    Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis is the priest of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL and is the director of St. Stephen’s Summer Camp for the Metropolis of Atlanta.