Posts Tagged ‘priests’

Institute’s New Director on Speaking Truth in Understandable Ways

By Kathleen Naab

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, JAN. 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A Philadelphia-based educational institute focused on promoting Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body has named a new executive director.

The 7-year-old Theology of the Body Institute picked Damon Owens, a successful businessman turned marriage promoter. Included on his extensive resume is his work as the Archdiocese of Newark’s Natural Family Planning and Marriage Preparation Coordinator, and leadership with the Life Education And Resource Network (L.E.A.R.N.), the largest African-American, pro-life ministry in the country.

Owens is himself a certified Natural Family Planning instructor who has counseled more than 20,000 couples over the last 16 years. He often appears on Catholic television and radio, sharing various aspects of the theology of the body, as well as commentating on topics related to marriage and family. He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for 18 years and have eight children.

ZENIT spoke with Owens about the Theology of the Body Institute and its work, and the difficulties facing those who promote Blessed John Paul’s message.

ZENIT: The Theology of the Body Institute exists to promote John Paul II’s theology at the secular level, too. Is that truly possible and if so how?

Owens: Our mission is to train and educate men and women to understand, live and promote Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body. While most of the individuals who come in contact with our programs are Catholic, our on-site and Certification courses regularly draw non-Catholics and non-Christians. It is not only possible, but it is critical that we evangelize the broader culture. Our preparation as believers for the “springtime of the new evangelization” includes a deeper grounding not only in the “what’s” of our faith, but the “why’s” behind them.

As believers, we accept even what we cannot fully understand about God’s revelation, because we love and trust him. Still, our faith is reasonable. There is a tremendous amount of truth that can be encountered before an assent of faith. There is a tremendous amount of beautiful and compelling meaning that can be successfully proposed even to a darkened intellect and hardened heart.

Rooted in objective truth, the theology of the body provides a personalistic approach that is well-suited for evangelizing in the modern culture. Our sexuality — masculinity and femininity — carries deep meaning for the identity and vocation of every human person. It is also the place of deep wounds for so many. The Theology of the Body Institute desires to help persons in every state of life gain an understanding of what it means to be created in God’s image and to live out their call to love as he loves. Only from this foundation can an authentic culture of life and love take root and flourish.

ZENIT: Linked to the previous question, statistics about Catholic married couple’s use of artificial contraception seem to indicate there is plenty need for Catholics as well to hear and accept John Paul’s theology. What are your thoughts in this regard? Must we first clean up our own camp before engaging the secular world?

Owens: Beginning with your last question, evangelization is, of course, intimately connected with catechesis (the head) and conversion (the heart). It is always a messy, personal, and inefficient work! Our witness is hurt by our own sin, ignorance, and lack of faith. On one hand, our ongoing conversion strengthens our witness. On the other hand, we have to be careful about setting too high a standard of personal perfection before witnessing to perfection. Without question, contraception is a tap-root of nearly every modern evil. Moreover, the prevalence of Christians contracepting is both a cause and an effect of the rise of other grave evils such as pornography, divorce, violence against women, abortion, fornication and homosexuality. These were the predicted consequences of their widespread use, and the subsequent result of their widespread acceptance.

The question remains, however: How do we reach people’s heads and hearts to reject the evil of contraception? It cannot just be emphatic instruction on the mortal sin of contraception (the head). It must include a compelling invitation to a true conversion of heart. Their hearts must “see” how contraception is a withholding of themselves that deforms the marital act and stifles the very love they long for. Theology of the body is a means to illumine the immutable meaning of things (natural law) in the heart of the person.

Fortunately, the great majority truly desire love. Whether they are in a pew or at the mall on Sunday, they deserve to hear the truth in a way that they can understand it. It is in our heart — or inner life — that we as unique and unrepeatable persons encounter the One True God. While we certainly wish there were a more authentic faith witness from Catholic married couples today, we at the Theology of the Body Institute have been just as awed by conversions in the Faith as by those to the Faith. We remain passionately committed to the simple mission of educating and training men and women to understand, live, and promote the Theology of the Body.

ZENIT: Tell us about the institute and plans you have for it as the new executive director.

Owens: The Theology of the Body Institute was formed in 2004 with the simple mission to educate and train men and women to understand, live and promote the theology of the body. Each of the founders experienced a profound conversion through Blessed John Paul II’s great work and continue to be animated by the desire to make it accessible to the world — Christian and secular — in an understandable, engaging and attractive manner. Ours is an integrated educational approach that presents the rich intellectual theology in an environment that encourages a real encounter with Our Lord. As we often say, it is an immersion of the head and the heart!

Our certification program with its retreat-format courses is the heart of our mission. These courses include Theology of the Body I, II, & III, Love & Responsibility, Catholic Sexual Ethics, Writings of John Paul II on Gender, Marriage, & Family, The Thought of Karol Wojtyla, and Theology of the Body & the Interior Life. Our on-site events at schools, parishes, seminaries and conferences around the world complement these courses and have grown in number and size every year.

We have a world-class faculty that includes Dr. Janet Smith, Dr. Michael Waldstein, Christopher West, Bill Donaghy, Dr. John Haas, and beginning for 2012-2013, Dr. Peter Kreeft and Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV. To date, more than 1,600 individuals have come to Pennsylvania for our week-long certification courses, and thousands have attended our on-site events around the world. We also held the first Theology of the Body Congress in 2010 bringing together leaders from around the world to explore the diverse applications of TOB. So, I begin with an organization that I consider successful in its mission.

My plans are to build on this success with an enhanced Clergy Enrichment Program for priests and seminarians that enriches both their priestly identity and vocation as fathers. We also plan to expand both our faculty and our Certification course offerings to reach even more lay and clerical leaders. The fact remains that only a small percentage of people in the world are familiar with this profound teaching. I see my role as expanding this success, as opposed to any real change in direction.

ZENIT: You are taking over leadership of the institute when the push for same-sex marriage and adoption is unprecedented. What do you hope to contribute to this battle?

Owens: We are an educational apostolate, so our contribution to social issues such as these is teaching the meaning of things. What is marriage? What does our sexuality mean? What is love, truth, freedom, or joy? What does it mean to be a human person? How do I choose, act, and live in accord with these truths and meanings? These cultural issues ultimately represent a critical loss of the meaning and dignity of human personhood. God bless those who are taking up these issues in the public square. I did that for years and deeply appreciate the need for, and difficulty of, these urgent defenses. It is abundantly clear, however, that these issues incubated long-term in a culture steeped in a disintegrated concept of human personhood. Sexual complementarity devolved into sexual difference, now sexual difference has been denied all together. Equality is argued as sameness. So, the argument continues, since men and women are the same, there is no difference between a husband and a wife or a mother and a father.

This is an identity crisis that requires long-term reformation and restoration. If we don’t know who — and whose — we are, we won’t know how to behave in a way that is in accord with our dignity and brings us true joy. Sexuality, sexual morality, love, marriage, fatherhood, motherhood, family, and life itself are integrated realities that flow from who God has revealed himself to be — a Trinitarian Communio: Three Divine Persons in such union that they are truly One.

The Gospel is “good news” precisely because it reveals to us the deepest truths of our identity created in the “image and likeness” of God, and subsequently our vocation to love. The language, approach, and appeal of the theology of the body gives us a means to understand and embrace the Gospel by rereading the language of the body. Simply put, as the body reveals the person, masculinity and femininity reveal the original, enduring, and eternal meaning of personhood as a call to communion. Love is self-gift. By rereading the language of the body in truth, we see love as not simply something we do, but as a universal human vocation that flows from who we are.

With regard to the specific question of redefining marriage, students of theology of the body are equipped to articulate not mere disagreement, but why it is simply not possible.

“Sure Guidance for Pastoral Activity in Years to Come”

JULY 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- 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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EXPLANATORY NOTE

“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.

Important to Recover the Capacity for Interior Silence”

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square when he led the praying of the midday Angelus.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today’s solemnity of Corpus Domini, which in the Vatican and other nations was already celebrated this past Thursday, invites us to contemplate the great mystery of our faith: the most holy Eucharist, the real presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the altar.

Every time that the priest renews the Eucharistic sacrifice, in the prayer of consecration he repeats: “This is my body … this is my blood.” He does this giving his voice, his hands, and his heart to Christ, who wanted to remain with us as the beating heart of the Church. But even after the celebration of the divine mysteries, the Lord Jesus remains living in the tabernacle; because of this he is praised, especially by Eucharistic adoration, as I wished to recall in the recent postsynodal apostolic exhortation, “Sacramentum Caritatis” (cf. Nos. 66-69).

Indeed, there is an intrinsic connection between celebration and adoration. The holy Mass, in fact, is in itself the Church’s greatest act of adoration: “No one eats this food,” St. Augustine writes, “if he has not first worshipped it” (Commentary on Psalm 98:9; CCL XXXIX, 1385). Adoration outside holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what happened in the liturgical celebration and renders a true and profound reception of Christ possible.

Today, then, in all Christian communities, there is the Eucharistic procession, a singular form of public adoration of the Eucharist, enriched by beautiful and traditional manifestations of popular devotion. I would like to take the opportunity that today’s solemnity offers me to strongly recommend to pastors and all the faithful the practice of Eucharistic adoration. I express my appreciation to the institutes of consecrated life, as also to the associations and confraternities that dedicate themselves to this practice in a special way. They offer to all a reminder of the centrality of Christ in our personal and ecclesial life.

I am happy to testify that many young people are discovering the beauty of adoration, whether personal or in community. I invite priests to encourage youth groups in this, but also to accompany them to ensure that the forms of adoration are appropriate and dignified, with sufficient times for silence and listening to the word of God. In life today, which is often noisy and scattered, it is more important than ever to recover the capacity for interior silence and recollection: Eucharistic adoration permits one to do this not only within one’s “I” but rather in the company of that “You” full of love who is Jesus Christ, “the God who is near us.”

May the Virgin Mary, Eucharistic Woman, lead us into the secret of true adoration. Her heart, humble and silent, was always recollected around the mystery of Jesus, in whom she worshipped the presence of God and his redemptive love. By her intercession may there grow faith in the Eucharistic mystery, the joy of participating at holy Mass, especially on Sunday, and the desire to bear witness to the immense charity of Christ.

[After the Angelus, the Pope said in Italian:]

Unfortunately, I receive frequent requests for intervention on behalf of persons — some of whom are even priests — who have been seized for different reasons and in different parts of the world. I carry all in my heart and they are present in my prayer. I think, among other cases, of the painful situation in Colombia. I direct my solicitous call to the authors of such detestable deeds that they reflect on the evil they have done and return those they hold prisoner as soon as possible to the affection of their loved ones. I entrust the victims to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of all men.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[In English, he said:]

I greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who have gathered here for the Angelus. On this day, many are celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Most Holy Eucharist. We give thanks to God for the great gift of the Eucharist, the sacred banquet in which we receive Christ. We remember his sufferings, our minds are filled with his grace and we receive a pledge of the glory that is to be ours. I pray that all of you may grow in love for the Lord through the great sacrament of his Body and Blood. May God bless you all.