Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Director of Laity Council’s Sports Section Speaks on Prayer and Role Models

By Kathleen Naab

ROME, JAN. 13, 2012 ( The director of the “Church and Sport” section at the Pontifical Council for the Laity admits that the “Tim Tebow phenomenon” has heightened his interest in the NFL playoffs.

Legionary of Christ Father Kevin Lixey works in the Roman Curia helping the Church make a contribution to the world of sport, with the aim of promoting a sports culture suitable to the integral development of the individual.

ZENIT spoke with Father Lixey about the Denver Broncos quarterback, Tim Tebow, after Tebow led his team to an overtime win in last Sunday’s playoff game.

Those familiar with the NFL — and even those who are not — might have heard of Tebow for more than his unique style as a quarterback. His outward expressions of his Christian faith are being talked about by all sorts of commentators, in the world of American football and beyond. Though certainly not the only athlete to publicly express his faith on the field, Tebow is drawing more attention than usual. We asked Father Lixey what he thinks about that.

ZENIT: Do you see Tim Tebow’s public expression of faith as a positive or negative phenomenon? Certainly it is drawing a lot of attention to Christ, in one form or another …

Father Lixey: The hype over Tim Tebow is certainly an interesting phenomenon in an ever more secularized world. I consider it something very positive. Even at the college level, while quarterback for the Florida Gators during the 2009 Bowl Championship Series title contest, Tebow wrote “John 3:16” on his eye black. The Palm Beach Post reported that 92million people Googled the verse following the game … impressive!

But, it is not the mere public expression of faith — as Tebow drops a

knee to give thanks after a touchdown, or prays with other players who include teammates and opponents after the game — that is attracting people; it is his entire person.

I had the chance to speak with the offensive coordinator who coached Tim at the Florida Gators. He said he was a very unique player who was spiritually on another stratosphere with respect to the rest of the team. Yet, Tim was respected by his teammates because he was genuine. And this is the point I would like to touch on. As one reporter noted (Chuck Klosterman, Dec. 6, 2011): “This, I think, is what makes Tebow so maddening to those who hate him: He refuses to say anything that would validate the suspicion that he’s fake (or naïve or self-righteous or dumb).”

While Tebow certainly sticks out for these external manifestations of his faith, not to mention his unorthodox playing style as an NFL quarterback, his personal background is also not typical for an NFL quarterback. It is a real “Cinderella” story — although those who have to tackle Tim would not consider him a Cinderella.

First of all, Tim Tebow was born in the Philippines to American parents who were serving as Baptist missionaries, as his father is a pastor. His mother, while pregnant, suffered a life-threatening infection and was advised to have an abortion but she decided not to, and both Tim and his mother survived a difficult pregnancy. Another unique aspect is that Tim, like his four older siblings, was home-schooled. Thanks to legislation that was passed in Florida in 1996, home-schooled students were allowed to compete in local high school sporting events.

ZENIT: OK, but does prayer really have a place in football? Surely God doesn’t care about who wins the Super Bowl — or does he?

Father Lixey: Judging from his public statements, Tebow is one of the few and most prominent religious athletes to recognize that God does not care about the score of football games. Tebow considers his missionary and philanthropic work much more important than football, but at the same time, possible, because of it. We all too often equate prayer with only asking good things from God, where prayer is only used “to obtain something” i.e., victory, health, or a miracle. The Catechism reminds us that prayer is also “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God” and that we “we must remember God more often that we draw breath.”

Certainly there are moments and places more conducive to prayer, but there is no reason that all religious manifestations be entirely banned from the public square. These external manifestations of one’s beliefs are impressive precisely because they are public. Just as Christians once fell to their knees at the sound of the Angelus bell to remember the Incarnation, or just as the cab driver makes the point of getting out of his car to bow down toward Mecca in prayer, I see no reason why a professional football player cannot offer a prayer of thanksgiving or point to heaven instead of doing a lewd victory dance in the end zone.

Nonetheless, these external manifestations can make some people feel uneasy and it is not certain how long this will be “allowed” in the NFL. The Danish Football Federation complained to FIFA for permitting members of the Brazilian national to gather together in prayer after their victory of the 2009 Confederations Cup. FIFA’s president responded by warning that any religious manifestation would not be permitted in the 2010 World Cup.

ZENIT: Along those lines, the Tebow “phenomenon” comes at a time when the U.S. bishops are particularly concerned about religious freedom. Is reaction to Tebow’s public expression of faith a sign that their concern is warranted? Or misplaced? Or is religious freedom on the playing field one thing, and in the public square something else?

Father Lixey: Pope Benedict XVI is also particularly concerned about religious freedom and touched upon this point Monday in his address to members of the diplomatic corps, noting: “In many countries Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes.”

Obviously the Holy Father was not speaking about the FIFA decision to sideline religion. But it does raise the question: “What is the public square today?” Is it literally that quaint square in front of a town hall somewhere in New England, where perhaps it is no longer permissible to display a Nativity scene? Or is it the Internet, a person’s desk at work, or the professional football stadium?

I think many are impressed with Tim Tebow’s courage in professing his faith for he certainly is mocked for it. When he received flack for doing a pro-life ad with “Focus on the Family” that ran during the 2010 Superbowl, he said: “I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe in.” This is all Tim is asking. Whether it is standing up, or taking a knee, for what he believes in, many people do respect this, that he stands up for what he believes. Yet, others become infuriated as they consider Tebow guilty of breaching the line that all are supposed to respect, namely, that which separates the secular from the religious, the holy from the profane, the sacred from the everyday.

ZENIT: As Catholics, what can we learn from this situation — from Tebow himself, perhaps, and from the reactions he’s causing?

Father Lixey: Blessed John Paul II once reminded a group of top professional soccer players: “The eyes of sports fans throughout the world are fixed on you. Be conscious of your responsibility! It is not only the champion in the stadium but also the whole person who should become a model for millions of young people, who need ‘leaders,’ not ‘idols.’ They need men who can convey to them the zest for challenge, a sense of discipline, the courage to be honest and the joy of unselfishness.”

I believe Tim Tebow is trying to live up to these words of John Paul II and his example can prompt other athletes to be “leaders” and not idols, being a model on and off the field, especially of the corporal works of mercy. As Tim shares in his own words: “When I was a student at the University of Florida, I found great joy in taking time to encourage children suffering from cancer in hospitals or visiting a prison or juvenile detention center, or doing mission work with my family at Uncle Dick’s Orphanage in the Philippines. … Football is so popular (that) it enables an athlete like me to establish a platform for doing good deeds … to take this experience to an even greater level of outreach and influence. … After my professional career, I plan on giving my life full time to this outreach.”

That’s not a bad role model for the youth. … It’s not a bad example for us to follow either.



Interview With the Prioress of Regina Laudis Abbey

BETHLEHEM, Connecticut, AUG. 30, 2007 ( Adherence to the Benedictine tradition of work and prayer is the key to the success of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, according to its prioress, Mother Dolores Hart.

The Abbey of Regina Laudis is the topic of the recently released book “Mother Benedict,” written by Antoinette Bosco and published by Ignatius Press.

Mother Benedict Duss founded the Benedictine monastery 60 years ago, after the Second World War. She died in 2005.

In this interview with ZENIT, Mother Dolores discusses the history of the monastery, her own personal journey from Hollywood film star to Benedictine nun, and the personality of the abbey’s founder.

Q: Mother Benedict, the founder of the first contemplative Benedictine Abbey for women, is described in the book as strong and determined, but also a gardener, both of flowers and of souls. What was she able to accomplish through this unique set of personality traits?

Mother Dolores: Mother Benedict loved to garden. She said her ideal monastic life was gardening and studying.

God had other ideas, however, and she was driven to establish a foundation because she could see that is was what God wanted.

Mother Benedict was also a very creative, intelligent woman who cultivated many friendships and who always had time for a crisis.

Q: Can you explain the connections between General George Patton and the Abbey of Regina Laudis at the end of World War II?

Mother Dolores: General George Patton, Sr., liberated France as the commanding general of the Third Army. His was the army that liberated Jouarre, the abbey where Mother Benedict was in hiding.

Years later his granddaughter, the daughter of General George Patton, Jr., Mother Margaret Georgina Patton, found her way to the Abbey of Regina Laudis, and that began the conscious connection between the liberator and Mother Benedict.

This connection continues through the whole Patton family to this day.

Q: Many convents, during the turbulent time after the Second Vatican Council, were forced to close for one reason or another. What do you think kept Regina Laudis not only stable, but flourishing during that time?

Mother Dolores: Regina Laudis suffered its own turmoil during those years. What kept Mother Benedict going was her adherence to Benedictine tradition in work and prayer and a dedicated program of renewal, engaged in by the whole community.

For Mother Benedict this did not mean throwing everything out, but taking on perennial values with a new dedication.

Q: Your own life could be a story, going from a movie star, in roles opposite Elvis Presley and George Hamilton, to a cloistered Benedictine nun. In what way were you drawn from your Hollywood lifestyle, to the quiet, contemplative life at Regina Laudis?

Mother Dolores: My life will soon become a story by the good grace of my long time friend and collaborator, Dick DeNeut, who headed Globe photos in Hollywood for many years.

My good fortune was to have him as a professional contact who made certain that my reputation in the press never went the way of becoming a “starlet.” I learned very early in my career that good complements held your life intact, and I was indeed graced.

Hal Wallis signed me to a seven-year contract when I was only 17. In those seven years to follow, I was the leading lady for Elvis Presley, Montgomery Clift and Stephen Boyd, and I learned my trade from such greats as Karl Malden, Anthony Quinn and Cyril Richard.

To experience the fullness of my profession through the gifts of these artists and many more who came my way in the short years of my time in Hollywood was a gift from God that I never had dreamed possible. Yet it was one I had prayed for since I was a small girl, watching the films on Saturday afternoons in my grandfather’s movie projection booth.

I was watching for my Daddy who was an actor and had been whisked off to Hollywood by a talent scout because he looked like Clark Gable. I vowed that I would do this too.

But God had other plans for me. I had to acknowledge the vocation I had been trying to run from for years. I knew this the first time I came to Regina Laudis. I was finally home.

Q: In the preface of the book, you discuss Mother Benedict’s wisdom on living out one’s sexuality even under the vow of virginity. Can you describe her thoughts on this?

Mother Dolores: There is no contradiction between virginity and sexuality. To be truly virginal is to be fully oneself. To be fully a woman, one’s sexuality must be integrated and expressed in all that one does.

This integration should lead to the ability to collaborate with men or women, lay or religious, in creative movements within the community or with laity, according to one’s mission.

Sexuality is not limited to genital expression but pervades all we do. In a life dedicated to virginity the genital expression is sacrificed, but not the total giving of oneself to the mission.

Q: The book ends shortly after the death of Mother Benedict. Now, after nearly 60 years since the abbey’s founding, how do things look today at the Abbey of Regina Laudis?

Mother Dolores: Today, the Abbey of Regina Laudis is blessed in a number of ways.

On July 11, the feast of St. Benedict, we were privileged to receive the archbishop of Hartford, His Excellency Henry Mansell, for an unprecedented ceremony of monastic consecration in which the archbishop consecrated five members of our community who had been married before they entered religious life. This was an enormous blessing for all of us.

We are also planning for the November release of our new CD, “The Announcement of Christmas,” that celebrates our work in chant covering the season of Christmas from the beginning of Advent through the close of the season at Epiphany.

This will allow listeners to enjoy the musical treasures of the church’s liturgy that are often hidden from the ears of everyday churchgoers. These time-honored chant melodies for centuries have so beautifully expressed the glory of Christ’s continual coming through the ages in the Flesh of Humanity.

There is also our own birth, in August, as the community celebrates the ceremony of “clothing,” which welcomes the entrance of a postulant into the novitiate, reminding us that Our Lady’s gift of fecundity is ever-present in the growth of our own community.

And Regina Laudis remains hopeful for continuity as a new postulant has arrived to fill the new novice’s place in the ranks.

We are reminded in Romans 5 that it is through faith that we are in grace and so we pray for this gift continually, that we may be worthy of him to whom we have pledged our lives.

Father John Zuhlsdorf Analyzes

ROME, JULY 8, 2007 ( Benedict XVI’s letter on the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope John XXIII is an opportunity for Church members to widen their hearts, according to liturgy expert Father John Zuhlsdorf.

On Saturday, the Vatican released the apostolic letter issued “motu proprio,” on one’s own initiative,” titled “Summorum Pontificum,” along with an accompanying letter to bishops.

For an analysis of the documents, ZENIT turned to Father John Zuhlsdorf, author of the column on liturgical translation titled “What Does the Prayer Really Say,” published in the national Catholic weekly journal The Wanderer.

The column turned into a popular blog of the same name.

Q: What is a “motu proprio?”

Father Zuhlsdorf: A “motu proprio” is a document issued by a Pope “by his own motion,” that is, on his own initiative and signed by him. It very often is a rescript, or a written response sent back about a question put to him, or on some burning issue.

Famous “motu proprio” letters are “Tra le Sollecitudini” of Pope St. Pius X in 1903 on Sacred Music and, of course, John Paul II’s “Ecclesia Dei Adflicta” in 1988 after Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated bishops without pontifical mandate.

Q: Can you summarize the main points of the document?

Father Zuhlsdorf: There are not many new things in “Summorum Pontificum.” Many of its provisions were already in place after “Ecclesia Dei Adflicta,” which broadened, but in a vague way, the restrictive legislation in the 1986 document “Quattuor Abhinc Annos.” This 2007 “motu proprio” removes ambiguities and resolves disputes. It levels the playing field in a way the previous documents did not.

For example, it makes clear that use of older liturgical books was never totally forbidden. The old form wasn’t “abrogated.” Some thought it was. All priests will be able to say Mass with the older “use” in private. That had been a disputed point.

In the matter of public Masses, where there are stable groups of people who desire them, pastors can schedule a regular Mass in parishes. There are some reasonable restrictions for Good Friday, Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil.

Parishes or oratories can be erected where only the older liturgical books are used. Bishops could do that before, of course.

As the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” clarified years ago, it is possible, not obligatory, to use the lectionary of the Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI, the new readings, in the Missal of John XXIII. It was never spelled how that would be done. “Summorum Pontificum” doesn’t either. The Pontifical Commission will have to figure that out.

The older books may be used for other sacraments as well: baptism, penance, extreme unction. Only bishops will be able to confer confirmation and holy orders, of course. Priests will be able to use the pre-conciliar Roman Breviary instead of the usual Liturgy of the Hours.

A new point is that the older form of Mass is regarded by the Pope as an extraordinary “use” of the one Latin Rite, while the Missal of Paul VI, or “Novus Ordo,” remains the ordinary “use.” Benedict stresses there are not two rites, but one rite in two expressions or “uses.” This has been a matter of deep debate.

Many say the “Novus Ordo” is so different from the Missal of John XXIII, or Tridentine form, that it constitutes a different rite — the rupture with tradition was supposedly that profound. There are good arguments for that claim, but the Holy Father is leading us in the other direction on this question.

Another new point, though we will see how this works, is that the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” will have to be reinvigorated, and given its due role.

The document aims to promote unity and people’s rights. Critics of the Pope’s move, not a few bishops included, have warned that this derestriction will cause disunity in parishes and dioceses, chaos will reign, the council will be undermined, and the clock will start whirling backward.

Frankly, I think most of the opposition from bishops was really motivated by concern that this document would restrict the bishops’ own authority. Benedict XVI built in safeguards for the bishops to exercise oversight in their dioceses. That is good and prudent. It must be so.

But he makes it clear that there is a new model to be followed by everyone, bishops included. This cannot be emphasized too much. By this “motu proprio,” Benedict XVI asserts that traditionally minded Catholics are not to be seen as the nutty aunt to be locked up in the diocese’s attic. They have valuable contributions to make. They have rights.

One of the most important aspects of this “motu proprio” is that it underscores the rights of priests and laypeople. It does not cut the legs from under the bishops. But it is a shot in the arm for lay people. The Pope is showing confidence in lay people with a concrete act, but also to priests and bishops. This is a beautiful continuation of John Paul II’s call for mutual respect and generosity.

Benedict XVI is asking everyone to open their hearts. In his explanatory letter he even quotes 2 Corinthians 6:13: “Widen your hearts!” When you read “Summorum Pontificum” with a wide heart, no one need fear that rights will be trampled or due authority undermined.

Q: Why is the “liberalization” of the1962 Roman Missal necessary after the world’s bishops were granted permission to allow this rite to be celebrated over 20 years ago?

Father Zuhlsdorf: At first there was a very strict permission granted by John Paul II in 1986 to use the 1962 “Missale Romanum.” After Archbishop Lefebvre illicitly consecrated bishops in June of 1988, Pope John Paul issued his “motu proprio” “Ecclesia Dei Adflicta” which effectively relaxed the restrictive permission of 1986, but in a vague way.

In that document John Paul II called, actually decreed by his apostolic authority, for bishops and priests to be generous and to show respect to those who wanted older expressions of the liturgy. Some did. More didn’t.

Meanwhile, the gap between the late Archbishop Lefebvre’s group, the Society of St. Pius X, has in some respects grown wider, in some respects less. The dispute over the use of the Missal of Paul VI, or “ordinary” use, has not settled down, in spite of numerous disciplinary documents issued by the Holy See. It is as if we have lost sight of where our liturgy comes from and what it is supposed to be.

Long before his elevation to the See of Peter, Benedict XVI wrote and spoke about the continuity our liturgical rites and practice must have with our Tradition. Liturgy grows organically over a long period from living the faith and coming in contact with various cultures.

The Missal of Paul VI was, in some ways, pasted together on desks by experts, some of whom it must be said had their own ideological agendas. Together with an unbridled attitude of “out with the old,” there was a perceived rupture in the Church’s liturgical tradition.

This break in the Church’s liturgical life has not borne exclusively happy fruits. Among other wounds, it gave an impression that if the liturgy could change almost overnight and old forms be banished, anything could change — even doctrine.

But let’s cut through the theory. Restoring the older way of saying Mass is simply the prudent thing to do. As Benedict XVI has written, it was unreasonable to ban so suddenly a form of the Mass that shaped Catholic identity for centuries. That did damage to our Catholic identity. We have to heal the wounds.

Q: Many commentators view the “motu proprio” as an attempt to heal the schism between the Holy See and traditionalist sects. What is your view?

Father Zuhlsdorf: This ought to help remedy the break between the Society of St. Pius X and the Holy See.

My view is that extending this faculty to all priests will help, but it won’t solve anything. There are deeper issues that will not be easily resolved.

The matter of what book a priest can say Mass from, or lifting the excommunication imposed on the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, can both be resolved with the stroke of the Pope’s pen.

But yet to be resolved are theological issues such as the Second Vatican Council’s teaching about religious liberty and how the Church is to interact with the world. That is why I don’t think this “motu proprio” is primarily about the break with the Society of St. Pius X.

People on both sides of the issue have long looked at the other with what I call “funnel vision.” When we look at each other with Christ’s heart, through “the invisible wound of love” as Richard of St. Victor called it, many problems melt away. It is time to heal.

Q: Other analysts argue that the purpose of the “motu proprio” is to help foster genuine liturgical renewal of the Missal of Paul VI — along the lines of a “reform of the reform.” How might this occur?

Father Zuhlsdorf: As I said before, liturgy grows organically over a long period from living the faith and coming in contact with various cultures. Historically, different rites of Mass influenced each other.

What will happen with the derestriction of the older form of the Mass will be a cross-pollination, as it were, use of one Mass influencing the other. This is already the case.

Since Pope John Paul II’s original derestriction, many young priests have become interested in older forms of Mass. They didn’t really know the “Tridentine” Mass, but they also aren’t lugging around the baggage of the 60s and 70s. They aren’t trapped in that false “Spirit of Vatican II.”

The same goes for some older priests who get reacquainted with the “extraordinary” form of the Mass after years without contact. When they start studying the older form, they adjust the way they celebrate the “Novus Ordo.” They begin to re-root their style of celebration of Mass in our profound tradition.

They develop a different sense of the “ars celebrandi,” the proper liturgical manner and attitude spoken of by Pope Benedict in his post-synodal exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis.”

In an ironic sense, I have heard some quip that the “Novus Ordo” gets better the more you celebrate it as if it were the older form of Mass.

On the other hand, people using the older form of Mass have learned from the last few decades of the “Novus Ordo.” They probably say and participate in the Tridentine Mass better now than people did before all the changes.

The lack of the older missal for so long increased our appreciation of its riches. The good and the bad experiences, even the abuses, have taught us lessons.

When I watch priests celebrate the older form, I can tell they are acutely aware that there are actually people in the pews. There is a strong connection between the priest and congregation. The bottom line is that the different uses will have an influence on the whole liturgical life of the Church. We will all be enriched. There are no losers here. We are all winners.

Q: What does the “motu proprio” have to do with what the Holy Father calls “the hermeneutic of continuity?”

Father Zuhlsdorf: Let’s make a couple of distinctions. I try to examine important documents by considering what they say to the Church — “ad intra” — and also to the world — “ad extra.”

From the “ad intra” point of view, Benedict XVI wants to heal breaks in continuity in various spheres of the Church’s life. The derestriction will, as I said, re-root celebrations of Holy Mass in our deep liturgical tradition.

In his 2005 Christmas address to the Roman Curia, the Holy Father spoke of a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” after the Second Vatican Council. A “hermeneutic” is a principle of interpretation, like a lens through which you examine a question. For many it was as if nothing good or worth preserving happened before Vatican II. Anything old was bad.

The council documents don’t call for a rupture. A false “Spirit of Vatican II,” of discontinuity and rupture, captivated many influential people in the Church. This “hermeneutic of discontinuity” was applied in parishes, seminaries, universities, chanceries, and in Catholic media. It created fractures in nearly every aspect of the Church’s life after the council.

This “motu proprio” is a concrete step in Benedict XVI’s promotion of a new way of seeing how past, present and future are connected. He proposes a “hermeneutic of reform,” as he called it in that same Christmas address in 2005.

You will hear some use the cliché that this is a move to “turn the clock back.” They misread the motive. It is a way to implement the Council more authentically. The derestriction of the older form of Mass must be seen as just one part of Benedict XVI’s vision for reform. He is rebuilding continuity with the Church’s tradition. “Ad intra,” the document is all about healing.

Rebuilding continuity leads us to what the “motu proprio” says “ad extra,” to the larger world.

Everyone knows about the efforts to silence and belittle the Catholic Church in public debate, politics and academic settings. Catholics are marginalized if they open their mouths. In short, faith is being shoved off to the side as mere a “private” matter, not to be expressed in public.

Benedict XVI holds that the Church has a right to her own language, symbols and identity. We have a right to express ourselves in the public square with our Catholic identity intact. We must make a contribution as Catholics.

At the same time, Benedict XVI defends the concept of properly understood laicality, but insists on bringing Catholic concerns out in public. In Italy this has started to cause unrest. The Italian bishops are rediscovering their voice in the piazza and their opponents are furious.

For this dimension of Benedict XVI’s vision to bear fruit, we must begin to rediscover and reintegrate an authentically Catholic identity. The “motu proprio” to derestrict the form of Mass that shaped Catholic identity for centuries is a major move in the Pope’s project to recover continuity with our tradition, to start the healing, and therefore reinvigorate the Church in an ever more secularized and relativistic world.