Posts Tagged ‘love’

Father Cantalamessa Analyzes Relationship

ROME, OCT. 4, 2007 ( Here is the text of a commentary written by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, on the relationship between Sts. Francis and Clare.

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It has become commonplace to speak of the friendship between Clare and Francis in terms of falling in love. In his essay “Falling in Love and Loving,” the sociologist F. Alberoni says that “the relationship between St. Clare and St. Francis has all the characteristics of falling in love, sublimated or transferred to the Godhead.”

Francis, like any man even if he is a saint, may well have experienced the attraction of woman and the call of sex. The sources tell us that in order to overcome a temptation of this kind the saint once rolled around in the snow in the depths of winter.

But it was not Clare who was the object of the temptation! When a man and woman are united in God, this bond, if it is authentic, excludes all attraction of an erotic kind, without even a struggle. He or she is, as it were, sheltered. It is another kind of relationship. Between Clare and Francis there was certainly a very strong human bond, but it was paternal or fraternal in kind, not spousal. They were like two trees joined by their foliage, not by their roots.

The extraordinarily profound understanding between Francis and Clare, which features so strongly in the Franciscan epic, does not come from “flesh and blood,” like that between Eloise and Abelard, or Dante and Beatrice (to quote two equally famous examples). If it had done so, it might have left some trace in the literature, but not in the history of sanctity. In one of Goethe’s well-known expressions, we could call the friendship of Francis and Clare an “elective affinity,” as long as we understand “elective” not only in the sense of people who have chosen each other, but who have made the same choice.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote that “being in love does not mean looking at each other, but looking together in the same direction.” Clare and Francis really didn’t spend their whole lives gazing at each other and feeling good together. They exchanged the fewest of words, probably only those reported in the sources. There was a tremendous reserve between them, so much so that at times the saint was affectionately chided by his brothers for being too harsh with Clare.

Only at the end of his life do we see this rigor in the relationship soften, and Francis visits his “little plant” more and more frequently in search of comfort and confirmation. As death draws near and sickness consumes him, San Damiano becomes his refuge, and it is at her side that he intones the Canticle of Brother Son and Sister Moon, with its praise of “Sister Water,” “useful, humble, precious and chaste,” which might have been written with Clare in mind.

Instead of looking at each other, Clare and Francis looked in the same direction, and we know what “direction” that was in their case. Clare and Francis were like two eyes always looking in the same direction. Two eyes are not just two eyes, I mean, not just one eye repeated. Neither of the two eyes is just an extra or a spare eye. Two eyes looking at an object from different angles give depth and relief to the object, enabling us to enfold it in our gaze. That is how it was for Clare and Francis.

They looked at the same God, the same Lord Jesus, the same crucified one, the same Eucharist, but from different “angles,” each with their own gifts and the sensitivity proper to a man and a woman: masculine and feminine. Together, they understood more than two Francises or two Clares could have done.

Recently, a good television film was made, called “Francis and Clare,” produced by Fabrizio Costa. It will run on Channel 1 of Italian Television (RAI Uno) on Oct. 6 and 7, and will soon be seen on English-language television, as it was originally shot in English. Better than Franco Zeffirelli’s “Brother Sun and Sister Moon,” it manages to avoid the romantic charm of a human love story.

In the past there was often a tendency to present the personality of Clare as too subordinate to that of Francis, exactly like a “sister Moon” who lives in the reflected light of “brother Sun.” The latest example of this is John M. Sweeney’s study “Light in the Dark Age: the Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi.”

All the more praiseworthy, then, the fact that the authors of this television fiction have chosen to present Francis and Clare as two parallel lives, interweaving and unfolding synchronically, with equal space given to the one and the other. This has never been done in this form before, and it echoes the sensitivities of today and contemporary efforts to highlight the important presence of women in history. But in this case, it is not a matter of ideological spin, but a portrayal of reality.

Watching the preview of the film “Francis and Clare,” what struck me most was the symbolic opening scene. Francis is walking through a meadow and Clare follows him, almost playfully putting her feet in the footsteps left by Francis. He, asks her: “Are you following in my footsteps?” She replies brightly: “No, much deeper ones.”


“Sure Guidance for Pastoral Activity in Years to Come”

JULY 1, 2007 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the explanatory note released Saturday by the Vatican with the publication of Benedict XVI’s letter to the Catholics in China.

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“Letter to Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China”

By his “Letter to Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China”, which bears the date of Pentecost Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI wishes to express his love for and his closeness to the Catholics who live in China. He does so, obviously, as Successor of Peter and Universal Pastor of the Church.

From the text two basic thoughts are clear: on the one hand, the Pope’s deep affection for the entire Catholic community in China and, on the other, his passionate fidelity to the great values of the Catholic tradition in the ecclesiological field; hence, a passion for charity and a passion for the truth. The Pope recalls the great ecclesiological principles of the Second Vatican Council and the Catholic tradition, but at the same time takes into consideration particular aspects of the life of the Church in China, setting them in an ample theological perspective.

A – The Church in China in the last fifty years

The Catholic community in China has lived the past fifty years in an intense way, undertaking a difficult and painful journey, which not only has deeply marked it but has also caused it to take on particular characteristics which continue to mark it today.

The Catholic community suffered an initial persecution in the 1950s, which witnessed the expulsion of foreign Bishops and missionaries, the imprisonment of almost all Chinese clerics and the leaders of the various lay movements, the closing of churches and the isolation of the faithful. Then, at the end of the 1950s, various state bodies were established, such as the Office for Religious Affairs and the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, with the aim of directing and “controlling” all religious activity. In 1958 the first two episcopal ordinations without papal mandate took place, initiating a long series of actions which deeply damaged ecclesial communion.

In the decade 1966-1976, the Cultural Revolution, which took place throughout the country, violently affected the Catholic community, striking even those Bishops, priests and lay faithful who had shown themselves more amenable to the new orientations imposed by government authorities.

In the 1980s, with the gestures of openness promoted by Deng Xiaoping, there began a period of religious tolerance with some possibility of movement and dialogue, which led to the reopening of churches, seminaries and religious houses, and to a certain revival of community life. The information coming from communities of the Catholic Church in China confirmed that the blood of the martyrs had once again been the seed of new Christians: the faith had remained alive in the communities; the majority of Catholics had given fervent witness of fidelity to Christ and the Church; families had become the key to the transmission of the faith to their members. The new climate, however, provoked different reactions within the Catholic community.

In this regard, the Pope notes that some Pastors, “not wishing to be subjected to undue control exercised over the life of the Church, and eager to maintain total fidelity to the Successor of Peter and to Catholic doctrine, have felt themselves constrained to opt for clandestine consecration” to ensure a pastoral service to their own communities (No. 8). In fact, as the Holy Father makes clear, “the clandestine condition is not a normal feature of the Church’s life, and history shows that Pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith and to resist interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the Church’s life” (ibid.).

Others, who were especially concerned with the good of the faithful and with an eye to the future “have consented to receive episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate, but have subsequently asked to be received into communion with the Successor of Peter and with their other brothers in the episcopate” (ibid.). The Pope, in consideration of the complexity of the situation and being deeply desirous of promoting the re-establishment of full communion, granted many of them “full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction”.

Attentively analyzing the situation of the Church in China, Benedict XVI is aware of the fact that the community is suffering internally from a situation of conflict in which both faithful and Pastors are involved. He emphasizes, however, that this painful situation was not brought about by different doctrinal positions but is the result of the “the significant part played by entities that have been imposed as the principal determinants of the life of the Catholic community” (No. 7). These are entities, whose declared purposes — in particular, the aim of implementing the principles of independence, self-government and self-management of the Church — are not reconcilable with Catholic doctrine. This interference has given rise to seriously troubling situations. What is more, Bishops and priests have been subjected to considerable surveillance and coercion in the exercise of their pastoral office.

In the 1990s, from many quarters and with increasing frequency, Bishops and priests turned to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Secretariat of State in order to obtain from the Holy See precise instructions as to how they should conduct themselves with regard to some problems of ecclesial life in China. Many asked what attitude should be adopted toward the government and toward state agencies in charge of Church life. Other queries concerned strictly sacramental problems, such as the possibility of concelebrating with Bishops who had been ordained without papal mandate or of receiving the sacraments from priests ordained by these Bishops. Finally, the legitimizing of numerous Bishops who had been illicitly consecrated confused some sectors of the Catholic community.

In addition, the law on registering places of worship and the state requirement of a certificate of membership in the Patriotic Association gave rise to fresh tensions and further questions.

During these years, Pope John Paul II on several occasions addressed messages and appeals to the Church in China, calling all Catholics to unity and reconciliation. The interventions of the Holy Father were well received, creating a desire for unity, but sadly the tensions with the authorities and within the Catholic community did not diminish.

For its part, the Holy See has provided directives regarding the various problems, but the passage of time and the rise of new situations of increasing complexity required a reconsideration of the overall question in order to provide the clearest answer possible to the queries and to issue sure guidance for pastoral activity in years to come.

B – The history of the Papal Letter

The various problems which seem to have most seriously affected the life of the Church in China in recent years were amply and carefully analyzed by a special select Commission made up of some experts on China and members of the Roman Curia who follow the situation of that community. When Pope Benedict XVI decided to call a meeting from 19-20 January 2007 during which various ecclesiastics, including some from China, took part, the aforementioned Commission worked to produce a document aimed at ensuring broad discussion on the various points, gathering practical recommendations made by the participants and proposing some possible theological and pastoral guidelines for the Catholic community in China. His Holiness, who graciously took part in the final session of the meeting, decided, among other things, to address a Letter to the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful.

C – Content of the Letter

“Without claiming to deal with every detail of the complex matters well known to you”, writes Benedict XVI to the Catholics of China, “I wish through this letter to offer some guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master Jesus Christ wants from you” (No. 2). The Pope reiterates some fundamental principles of Catholic ecclesiology in order to clarify the more important problems, aware that the light shed by these principles will provide assistance in dealing with the various questions and the more concrete aspects of the life of the Catholic community.

While expressing great joy for the fidelity demonstrated by the faithful in China over the past fifty years, Benedict XVI reaffirms the inestimable value of their sufferings and of the persecution endured for the Gospel, and he directs to all an earnest appeal for unity and reconciliation. Since he is aware of the fact that full reconciliation “cannot be accomplished overnight”, he recalls that this path “of reconciliation is supported by the example and the prayer of so many ‘witnesses of faith’ who have suffered and have forgiven, offering their lives for the future of the Catholic Church in China” (No. 6).

In this context, the words of Jesus, “Duc in altum” (Luke 5:4), continue to ring true. This is an expression which invites “us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence”. In China, as indeed in the rest of the world, “the Church is called to be a witness of Christ, to look forward with hope, and — in proclaiming the Gospel — to measure up to the new challenges that the Chinese people must face” (No. 3). “In your country too” the Pope states, “the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen will be possible to the extent that, with fidelity to the Gospel, in communion with the Successor of the Apostle Peter and with the universal Church, you are able to put into practice the signs of love and unity” (ibid.).

In dealing with some of the more urgent problems which emerge from the queries which have reached the Holy See from Bishops and priests, Benedict XVI offers guidance regarding the recognition of ecclesiastics of the clandestine community by the government authorities (cf. No. 7) and he gives much prominence to the subject of the Chinese Episcopate (cf. No. 8), with particular reference to matters surrounding the appointment of Bishops (cf. No. 9). Of special significance are the pastoral directives which the Holy Father gives to the community, which emphasize in the first place the figure and mission of the Bishop in the diocesan community: “nothing without the Bishop”. In addition, he provides guidance for Eucharistic concelebration and he encourages the creation of diocesan bodies laid down by canonical norms. He does not fail to give directions for the training of priests and family life.

As for the relationship of the Catholic community to the State, Benedict XVI in a serene and respectful way recalls Catholic doctrine, formulated anew by the Second Vatican Council. He then expresses the sincere hope that the dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese government will make progress so as to be able to reach agreement on the appointment of Bishops, obtain the full exercise of the faith by Catholics as a result of respect for genuine religious freedom and arrive at the normalization of relations between the Holy See and the Beijing Government.

Finally, the Pope revokes all the earlier and more recent faculties and directives of a pastoral nature which had been granted by the Holy See to the Church in China. The changed circumstances of the overall situation of the Church in China and the greater possibilities of communication now enable Catholics to follow the general canonical norms and, where necessary, to have recourse to the Apostolic See. In any event, the doctrinal principles which inspired the above-mentioned faculties and directives now find fresh application in the directives contained in the present Letter (cf. No. 18).

D – Tone and outlook of the Letter

With spiritual concern and using an eminently pastoral language, Benedict XVI addresses the entire Church in China. His intention is not to create situations of harsh confrontation with particular persons or groups: even though he expresses judgments on certain critical situations, he does so with great understanding for the contingent aspects and the persons involved, while upholding the theological principles with great clarity. The Pope wishes to invite the Church to a deeper fidelity to Jesus Christ and he reminds all Chinese Catholics of their mission to be evangelizers in the present specific context of their country. The Holy Father views with respect and deep sympathy the ancient and recent history of the great Chinese people and once again declares himself ready to engage in dialogue with the Chinese authorities in the awareness that normalization of the life of the Church in China presupposes frank, open and constructive dialogue with these authorities. Furthermore, Benedict XVI, like his Predecessor John Paul II before him, is firmly convinced that this normalization will make an incomparable contribution to peace in the world, thus adding an irreplaceable piece to the great mosaic of peaceful coexistence among peoples.

WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 15, 2007 ( Mother Angelica remains relevant to people because they can’t turn away from her directness, her passion and her lovable humor, says friend and biographer Raymond Arroyo.

Arroyo, director of EWTNews and host of “The World Over,” is the author and editor of two books on the woman religious. “Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles” was a New York Times best-seller and has recently been translated into Spanish.

He is also the editor of the recently released “Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality.” It is a collection of the nun’s unpublished private lessons and prayers.

In this interview with ZENIT, Arroyo discusses the life of the cloistered nun, and what lead to her success in the global world of television and radio.

Q: Has the popularity of your books on Mother Angelica surprised you?

Arroyo: No, I can’t say that it has. Mother is one of those beloved figures in the Church who resonates with people around the world.

Much like Pope John Paul II or Mother Teresa, Mother Angelica has touched people by her witness. But unlike those iconic figures, Mother comes into people’s homes each day.

For decades she has brought them hope in those moments of despair or confusion — and that leaves an incredible impact. She is truly a spiritual mother to millions.

I think that the biography of Mother Angelica helped the public see the personal side of this woman of faith — and to appreciate her great sacrifices and daring. It’s also a heck of a story.

The recent collection of her unpublished teachings and advice, “Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality,” has given people an opportunity to profit from Mother’s personal philosophy and practical spirituality. The mail I’ve received from readers is truly remarkable.

Q: Mother Angelica is not a stereotypical nun and your biography makes this clear. In what ways do you think her particular feminine genius can inspire others?

Arroyo: Mother is definitely not a stereotypical nun. She appears stereotypical, but beneath the habit is this gutsy, determined woman who wields an incredible faith.

Her feminine genius resides just there I think: in her radical faith, in her abandonment to God’s will in the present moment. Additionally, she had an intuition that allowed her to see events as they were and to follow her heart and God, always.

We need that feminine aspect in the Church today. Mother used to say that the faith had become too “heady,” too theoretical. And I think she is right.

In the new book she says, “Most people today are seeking master’s degrees, then they forget the Master.” She never forgot her Master.

Isn’t it curious that some of the same people who were the most outspoken advocates of “women’s power” in the Church, were the first ones trying to shove Mother Angelica back into the cloister once she appeared on the scene?

The idea of an orthodox, faithful woman leading people to Christ was a threat somehow. It shouldn’t have been. Time has shown that it was actually a blessing.

Q: How would you describe Mother Angelica’s spirituality?

Arroyo: Mother described her approach as “nitty-gritty,” “sock-it-to-’em” spirituality.

Her style was always very practical, and easily applicable to the lives of her listeners. She grew up on the streets of Canton, Ohio, among poor, working class immigrants.

Those are the people she attempted to reach, whether in person or on television. But buried in her funny, earthy approach was always the profound wisdom of the Church.

She used to say, “If you have two legs and you’re breathing –you’re called to holiness, sweetheart.” And people believed her. She didn’t teach theology, she taught people to be more like her Spouse.

She held that living example of Jesus up for the world to see and dared all comers to try to match it. The reason she remains relevant is that people can’t turn away from her directness, her passion and her lovable humor.

I mean, how many nuns do people know who describe the eternal judgment to intimates this way: “Everyone drags his own carcass to market, so be careful.”

Q: What do you think was Mother Angelica’s most significant contribution to Catholic television and to Catholic media, in general?

Arroyo: Global Catholic media is Mother’s great contribution to the Church. Before her there was no readily available Catholic network in the United States or anywhere else — and after her there is much talk and a lot of public relations, but nothing with the reach of her enterprise.

Mother Angelica is the first woman, never mind nun, in the history of broadcasting to found a nonprofit cable network, and the only religious to ever do so.

The Eternal Word Television Network is now seen in more than 140 million households around the world, heard on over 100 AM/FM stations in the United States, on its own shortwave radio network, and on a stand-alone Sirius channel.

Pretty good work for a crippled, cloistered nun with only a high school degree and innumerable physical ailments. Her whole life is a witness to the power of faith and to what she tagged the “theology of risk.”

Q: What has been the most profound lesson you’ve learned from Mother Angelica?

Arroyo: For years, Mother had been urging me, and her legions of viewers, to live in the “present moment.”

The week before the biography was published in 2005, Hurricane Katrina took our home and evicted my family and me from New Orleans.

We didn’t know where we were going to live, where we were going to send the kids to school, where our friends were. And yet there was this sense that this was part of God’s plan for us.

Mother often says that “most people live in the past or in the future.” We fret about the things we can’t control or stew over things long gone. In doing so we are not at “home in the present moment.”

I once asked Mother to describe the present moment for me, and she said: “We have to ask God, ‘What are you calling me to do, right now in this present moment?’ Not yesterday or tomorrow, but right now. God’s will is manifested to us in the duties and the experiences of the present moment. We have only to accept them and try to be like Jesus in them.”

This living in the present moment kept Mother attuned to the desires of God throughout the day and attentive to what he expected of her moment by moment.

The teaching became a great consolation to my family and myself after Katrina, and I continue to practice it even now. Three weeks after we lost the house, I became the only homeless author on the New York Times best-seller list.

The present moment is funny that way.

Q: What do you anticipate happening in the future of Catholic media? Will it continue to grow as it has under Mother’s watch?

Arroyo: All of Mother’s efforts were rooted in her prayer life. She didn’t play a nun on television; she was a nun.

If Catholic media efforts are to thrive in the future, they must find their sustenance in prayer. They must also be attentive to the needs of their audience in this “present moment.”

Mother reached people where they were and translated the timeless teachings of the Church into an idiom and a format that could reach a contemporary audience. If others can follow her example, they will flourish.

There is whole chapter on “Embracing Inspiration and Risk” in the new book. In it Mother says: “Never put a lid on God. … Your plans, your projects, your dreams always have to be bigger than you are so God has room to operate. Nothing is too much for the Lord to do — accent on the ‘the Lord!'”

Given the culture we find ourselves in today, and the anemic Catholic efforts out there, there is little time to waste. Mother would say: “Get cracking.”

Interview With Father Raniero Cantalamessa

ROME, May 31, 2007 ( Though we are in an age of communication, there is growing incommunicability among people, says the preacher of the Pontifical Household.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa says that using communication media to evangelize can help resolve the negative aspects related to the communication world. In this interview with ZENIT, he speaks of the problems caused by media and the secret for Catholics trying to help.

Q: What is your perception of mass media today?

Father Cantalamessa: The characteristic of our day and age, its most brilliant achievement and success, is information, in other words, mass communication: the press, cinema, television, Internet, cellphones.

Mass media are the great protagonists of the moment. Anyone can, at any time of day or night, find out what is going on in the world and establish direct contact with someone else at any point of the globe. All this is a sign of great progress and we ought to be grateful to God for the technology which has made it possible. However, there are serious dangers and negative aspects involved in social communications today.

Q; What exactly do you have in mind?

Father Cantalamessa: The means of communication are consumerist, in the sense that they encourage people to consume, and they are consumed and come to an end in themselves. Communication media are exclusively horizontal. People exchange their news items and, since we are ephemeral and transitory beings, news is equally ephemeral. Each item cancels out the previous one.

Along with an increase in communications, there is a growing experience of incommunicability. Communications are limited to sounds, to rumors. Rumors assure us that we are not alone; however, there is a lack of vertical, creative communication, a total absence of others. Communication media become a mirror reflecting the image of human misery and the echo of human emptiness.

In short, modern communication media convey sadness. The media place far more stress on the evil and tragic side of the world than on the good and positive aspects.

Q: What other risks do you see in mass media?

Father Cantalamessa: Mass media set before our eyes, at all times, what we could be and are not, what others do and we do not do. This gives rise to a feeling of resigned frustration and passive acceptance of one’s own fate or, on the contrary, to an obsessive urge to struggle out of anonymity and impose oneself on other people.

Another negative feature in mass communication, particularly in show business, is the exploitation of women, the abuse of their bodies and, in general, a negative view of the relationship between the sexes.

Q: Could you describe the characteristics of communications based on the Christian outlook, which could serve to offset the methods and content of today’s communication?

Father Cantalamessa: I think the Gospel can help us change this situation. It is the Good News of God’s love for mankind. God knows us perfectly well, but he does not use this knowledge to judge us. His correction is love.

I can say, as a Franciscan, that we must contribute to spreading hope and joy. Francis is the man of perfect happiness, God’s minstrel — not an illusory happiness, but a happiness based on hope. We have to insist on this ground of faith — deep union with Christ and, particularly, with Christ’s cross.

Q: So then, is there any secret to Catholic communications?

Father Cantalamessa: If we want to evangelize through mass media, the secret is quite simple: to be in love with Christ.