Sunday, November 27, 2011


In his blog, Whispers In The Loggia, Rocco Palmo asks how things went in the “roll-out” of the new Missal. After exactly 1 Eucharistic celebration with the Tertio Editio Typica, here are my thoughts:

A couple of weeks ago, borrowing language from the theatre, I suggested that we’d all be “on book” for a while, until we were comfortable with the new “script.” And so we were. But knowing what to use when made things a bit easier, especially for the singing of the new setting of Mass parts (we are using Dan Schutte’s Mass of Christ the Savior).

Were there some glitches? Of course—some “And also with you” mixed in with “And with your spirit,” a few “It is right to give Him thanks and praise” added to “It is right and just,” and so on. That’s OK; we’re getting it.
There were glitches on my part, as well: lapsing into the “old” prayers for the Preparation of the Gifts (mercifully, done silently as the congregation was singing); getting a bit tongue-tied in singing the Preface (not only different words, but the chant patterns are different), and so on.
Am I (are we) now “slaves of the book”? Perhaps, but not for long, I think. Familiarity breeds—well, familiarity, finally!

Is it difficult/impossible to pray? One priest commenting to Rocco seemed to think so. I partially understand what he was saying. Surely after (for me) 20 years of being able to lapse into sets of words like a comfortable pair of bedroom slippers, now having really to think about the words, makes this flow less automatically and smoothly. But being “automatic” or “rote” doesn’t necessarily make for better prayer, only unself-conscious prayer (which may or may not be “prayerful” at all, depending).

The new Missal is indeed heavy (it weighs more than some of our altar servers!). So I have a chapel-size edition at the chair that they can manage; the large one is brought up only to be used at the altar. I discovered that I need a pillow to prop up the Missal since I have to be far more careful about words now; I can see them more easily when they are at an angle. But this is a small “adaptation.”

At the end of Mass, everyone seemed to be able to agree with me that “We did it!” It will become 2nd nature to us after a while, and I am convinced that by serious (and cheerful) preparation, always insisting “We can do it!” the transition is going to be that much more effective. I hope the Missal itself will help us all to be more effective—in our prayer, and therefore in our faith-walk as followers of Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Instead of standing in line in the wee hours of the morning at a mega-store for sales, I offer the words below for consideration:

If…a direct appeal is made to [the] instincts—while ignoring in various ways the reality of the person as intelligent and free—then consumer attitudes and life-styles can be created which are objectively improper and often damaging to physical and spiritual health.

It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards “having” rather than “being”, and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself.

…alienation—and the loss of authentic meaning of life—is a reality in Western societies too. This happens in consumerism, when people are ensnared in a web of false and superficial gratifications rather than being helped to experience their personhood in an authentic and concrete way.

A person who is concerned solely or primarily with possessing and enjoying, who is no longer able to control his instincts and passions, or to subordinate them by obedience to the truth, cannot be free: obedience to the truth about God and man is the first condition of freedom, making it possible for a person to order his needs and desires and to choose the means of satisfying them according to a correct scale of values, so that the ownership of things may become an occasion of growth for him. This growth can be hindered as a result of manipulation by the means of mass communication, which impose fashions and trends of opinion through carefully orchestrated repetition, without it being possible to subject to critical scrutiny the premises on which these fashions and trends are based.

          --excerpted from Pope John Paul II:  Centesimus Annus, ##36, 41

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Thanksgiving:  a time of rejoicing in blessings, particularly the blessings of family, friendships, and faith (and yes, to be honest:  food and football, as well!).  Of all these, faith perhaps gets the shortest shrift on this day, and yet the essence of Christianity is that it is a eucharistic (thanks-giving) faith.  In the words of the Exultet, the great hymn of the Easter Vigil:  "Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed."

To celebrate properly, an excerpt from Messiah for everyone's holiday pleasure.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2011


The laws of physics (as we know them today, thanks to Albert Einstein) insist that there is one constant in the universe, and it isn’t necessarily death or taxes: it is the light-speed barrier. According to Einstein, c (the standard abbreviation for the speed of light: ~186,000 miles/second) is absolute. And so it is. Or so it was…
Two separate experiments seem to demonstrate that neutrinos (sub-atomic particles with neutral electrical charge) in fact break the cosmic speed-limit. What does this mean?

The first conclusion is that it means all our science is wrong. This is perhaps too radical, but when fundamentals are proved inadequate, it is hard to see why such a conclusion would not be jumped to. Yet when Einstein’s mathematics showed that Newton was not 100% precise in all cases, this did not mean Newton was “wrong”—only incomplete.

Still, the history of science in the last century has demonstrated one thing in complete clarity: what we think we know is nowhere near so certain as what reality is in itself.

Atoms were once supposed to be the fundamental building-blocks of all matter: yet they themselves, as it turns out, are made up of an almost infinite range of smaller particles.

I could go on, but you would be better served by watching NOVA’s series “The Fabric of the Cosmos” with Brian Greene (or, better still, reading his book). What is clear is that, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet told Horatio (Hamlet, I, v, 166) there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in [our] philosophy.

This is not a bad thing—why should we think we can easily and simply explain and understand the reality of Reality? If we believe the universe is expanding (and accelerating, at that), in what is this expansion taking place? We have no answers. We talk about “multiverses,” series of parallel universes, yet we doubt the possibility of a Being beyond this cosmos. Why?
Peter Kreeft, borrowing a turn of phrase from C S Lewis, titled one of his books Chance—Or the Dance? I am happy to accept that any cosmic “dance” has steps far more complicated than I could ever learn. But that is not a bad thing.  God is GOD, after all...  And don't we ALL hope, one day, that we can travel (like the star-ship Enterprise) at warp-speed??

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The dedication of a church is usually an “internal affair” in terms of celebration: one celebrates this anniversary when actually in that particular church. But then, St John Lateran is no ordinary church. One of the great patriarchal basilicas of Rome (along with St Peter’s, St Mary Major and St Paul Outside the Walls), it is in fact THE church of Rome.

It is the oldest Christian building, given by Constantine on what was once property belonging to the Laterani family (which came to belong to the family of his wife)—thus, the church was on private (imperial) land. It is the cathedral of Rome, and it is the home-church to the pope as bishop of Rome.

It has been the site of 5 ecumenical councils (the last one, in 1510, a “reforming council” that, sadly, failed utterly).

It is the church in which Pope Innocent III first encountered St Francis of Assisi, and it was this church that featured in the pope’s famous dream of an earthquake shaking the building, its being held up by a little man in a brown robe.

It is the place where St Francis and St Dominic met.

From this church the very first “Holy Year” was proclaimed (by Pope Boniface VIII, in 1300). On a column in the left-hand aisle there is a fragment of a fresco by Giotto which depicts the event.

It is the church where, every Holy Thursday, the pope presides at the Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper and washes the feet of twelve people.

When a pope speaks ex cathedra to define an article of the Faith (which has happened formally only twice, actually) the "cathedra" (bishop's chair) of St John Lateran is what is referred to, even if the “chair of Peter” is preserved in the monument of the same name in the basilica of the same name.

She calls herself the mother and head of all churches in the city and the world. And so she is, for Catholics. Could she ever be more, for other Christians?
The keynote speaker for our Lutheran-Anglican-Roman Catholic Conference, Dean Thomas Ferguson, spoke very wistfully about the meeting between Pope John Paul II and President George W Bush, in which the pope spoke strongly against the 2nd Iraq war. Ferguson said, “I wish, when he was speaking, that he were speaking also for me.” Then he added, “I wonder—in Ut Unum Sint (the pope’s encyclical on church unity) John Paul asked us to help him re-imagine the office of Peter to be a source of support and unity: could we do this?” Theologian Robert Jenson has also reflected such a desire. This longing comes from Episcopalian and Lutheran voices. What a joy it would be if such a vision could become a reality, and St John Lateran would truly be a motherly voice for ALL the Christian world.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


In the context of a press conference discussing the upcoming (9-11 Nov 2011) convention on adult stem-cell research, former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson had this to say. Especially in the light of the wonderful speech given by Lila Rose at our annual 2B pro-life banquet, exposing the fraudulent (and criminal) practices of some Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, this makes for important reading. There is so much we can do; why drive the agenda bus any further with regard to the supposed necessity of abortion and embryonic stem-cells as the only way forward in this research?

Footnote: in the near future Our Savior will sponsor an evening with myself and Dr Richard Duffey to discuss the ethical and political implications of our stem-cell policies. It will be a follow-up to the presentation Dr Duffey made earlier here, presenting the medical and scientific basis of stem-cell research and treatments.


Thank you so much, Card. Ravasi, and thanks also to NeoStem, The Stem for Life Foundation, and of course, The Vatican for bringing us all together on this historic day.
As many of you know, I was The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2001 to 2005. This was obviously a great privilege for me, and while I am no scientist or doctor, the job gave me a unique understanding of the many issues driving today’s dialogue on healthcare.

And adult stem cells deserve to be at the heart of this discussion – and it’s a subject I’m very passionate about.

Throughout the course of my career, whether in the public or private sector, the best ideas I’ve come across have always been the simplest ones. And frankly, I just don’t believe that man can engineer something superior to what The Good Lord has already given us. That’s what I love about adult stem cells – we’re using the divine wisdom inside of us to supercharge our bodies and wipe away disease. And as we do this, not one single human embryo is destroyed.

And that to me is a very big idea – but this idea has been shrouded in an ugly political argument that has served no one.

When I talk to the average American about adult stem cells, many of them are really surprised. All they have ever heard about are embryonic stem cells and this political battle about who is right and wrong. They see the constant finger pointing in Washington – and instead of focusing on "what we can do right now" with adult stem cells, our leaders argue about "what we should not do" with embryonic stem cells.

That doesn’t make any sense to me at all – and that’s why today is such an important, historic day, and I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.

The 246 million people in this world suffering from diabetes need to hear our voices today. The 770,000 Americans that will have a heart attack or stroke this year need to hear this message. Our men and women in uniform need to know that there is so much to be hopeful for – a day when our wounded veterans can regrow their own skin, organs and bones. And maybe, just maybe, one day our quadriplegics will rise up from their wheelchairs.

This is not wishful thinking, folks – that day is here if we want it – and that’s why I want to share my vision for a future of cellular collaboration.

President John F. Kennedy once challenged the nation and in fact the whole world to put a man on the moon in a historic research and development initiative. It was a race against the clock and an unprecedented era of scientific collaboration.

Ladies and gentleman, if we can put a moon on the moon, then we can surely unite to return health to the hundreds of millions of people suffering needlessly throughout the world. And we can do so without destroying one human life.

And we’re in our own race against the clock. The American baby boomers are just hitting retirement, so we’re going to see a huge spike in chronic disease in the years ahead. Just look at diabetes. Currently, one out of every eight Americans has diabetes and by 2050 one out of every three of us will have it. And already our nation is spending $200 billion dollars per year to manage this disease.

Can you believe this? $200 billion a year for this one disease? Can you imagine what diabetes will cost us when one third of all Americans have it?

This makes no sense to me. We’re wasting money managing a chronic disease instead of finding a cure for it. And ironically, the cure is sitting right inside of our own bodies, a divine intelligence just sitting there to be harvested and given back to us.

So why not create a coordinated network of scientists and professionals devoted to discovering and funding these vital therapies? We must tap the best of private enterprise to "get the job done fast". We must turn to America’s brightest companies and business leaders to take the best research from our universities and translate them into here-and-now cures.

Today I am calling on President Obama to create a Presidential-level commission of private sector business leaders to begin this important work. This group should evaluate all of the Federal efforts to date surrounding regenerative medicine, and they should make specific recommendations to our President on how we can better coordinate these efforts and unite them with the best of private enterprise. And I’m not alone in calling on our President to lead us in this initiative. Just this year The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine called on The Obama Administration to develop a national strategy for regenerative medicine.

But to date, nothing has been done.

That’s why I am so excited to be with all of you. Today, here in The Vatican, we are beginning that process – we are ushering in a new era of scientific collaboration – a true ‘race for the cure’ that will bring hope to the entire world.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening. And now I’ll be glad to answer any of your questions…

[01563-02.02] [Original text: English]

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It is All Souls’ Day—a time of commemoration of all those who have died, praying for them that they might enjoy redemption, healing, forgiveness and final transformation into children of light (and of the Light).

Is it morbid to see the skull-decorated altars of Mexico, or the “Bone Church” of the Cappuccini in Rome? Is there a connection to them with Halloween and our carved pumpkins?

The key here is self-understanding. In the crypt of Santa Maria della Concezione (aka, the “Bone Church”) there is a script (repeated in other churches throughout Italy) that allows the bones to speak to observers, saying (typically in Latin): “What you are, we once were; what we now are, you will become.” This is a direct and awesome slap in the face of reality, is it not? We all know that death and taxes are the only two guarantees in our life; do we really think it might happen to us, though—perhaps today?

If we were truly (and regularly) aware of our mortality, how differently might we live our lives? What that we think so critical to happiness now might be seen as irrelevant? Perhaps a re-reading of Luke 12:16-21 would help us (“You fool! This night your life will be demanded”)…

As Catholics, we believe our prayers can make a difference in others’ lives: here, and hereafter. Today of all days, we should concentrate on how we might make sacrifice for others (perhaps, also, for ourselves) and know that one day the “Day of the Dead” will be celebrated on our behalf.