Monday, April 27, 2009

Some friends on TV

A long time ago, back in 1981, I was a Religion Teacher at St. John Vianney High School. One of my favorite students was a young woman named Betty Figler. She was one of my favorites because she really tested me in many ways, but she always had a great smile for me at the end of the day.

Betty is now known as Betty Hayes, one of the stars of "Table for 12" on TLC. Betty and her husband Eric are the parents of two sets of twins, and then sextuplets. I pray for Eric and Betty often as they deal with 10 kids, and I pray especially that they have more patience than I had with Betty in high school.

Declining Laetare

Thaks to Rocco over at Whispers in the Loggia for this great piece:

A full update on the continuing controversy surrounding President Obama's selection as Notre Dame's commencement speaker is in the works... in the meantime, however, just hitting the wires comes news that former US ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, the intended recipient of the university's highest honor, the Laetare Medal, has declined the award, citing "the very serious problems" raised by the university's invite -- one taken, she said, "in disregard of the settled position of the US bishops."

Long ago dubbed "God's Lawyer" and the "First Lady" of the Stateside church, the Harvard law prof -- a highly-respected figure at the Holy See -- made the announcement in an open letter to University President Fr John Jenkins CSC published this morning by First Things, whose site is currently down, ostensibly crashed from the demand.

Glendon received notice of her selection as the Medal's 127th winner in December, months before the President's appearance at the 17 May ceremonies was arranged.

More soon -- as always, stay tuned.

SVILUPPO: As the FT site's still down for the count, here's the letter's fulltext....

April 27, 2009
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon

Friday, April 24, 2009

Catholic Charities Ray of Hope Gala

Tonight we had another very succesful Ray of Hope Gala dinner dance to benefit Catholic Charities of Monmouth County. It was great to see so many people committed to furthering the mission of Catholic Charities in our area. Thanks to the very generous staff of Eagle Oaks Golf Club, we had a very beautiful environment for our dinner. Thanks to all who support the work of Catholic Charities!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

900 years since the death of St. Anselm

Mike Lindner sent the following link with resources for learning more about our patronal saint, St. Anselm of Canterbury. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Getting ready for Confirmations!

We're getting ready to welcome Archbishop Donald Reece from Kingston, Jamaica. His Grace will be conferring the Sacrament of Confirmation for our young people on Wednesday, May 6 here at St. Anselm parish.

We're very excited to welcome Archbishop Reece back to St. Anselm, since we've started a twinning relationship with the parish of St. Anthony's in Jamaica. Our Jamaica Project team will update the Archbishop on the status of our twinning efforts, and we hope to present him with several gifts to bring back home. If you have any ideas about how we can further our relationship with the parish in Jamaica, shoot me an email!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Who is Saint Anselm?

A lot of people have been asking me recently, "Who was Saint Anselm?" Here's the entry for St. Anselm, (Feast day: April 21) from Fr. Richard McBrien's book: Lives of the Saints.

Anselm of Canterbury, bishop and Doctor of the Church

Anselm (1033-1109), a major theologian and archbishop of Canterbury, gave the Church the most enduring definition of theology, "faith seeking understanding." Born at Aosta in Lombardy, he spent his early childhood in Burgundy, France with his mother's family. Because of the reputation of Lanfranc, abbot of Bec in Normandy, Anselm moved to Normandy and, after much hesitation, became a monk at Bec ca. 1060. He studied in depth the writings of Augustine and wrote several major works, including the Proslogion (Gk, "allocution"), in which he presented his famous argument for the existence of God (as an idea greater than which no other idea can be conceived). In 1078 he was elected abbot, keeping all the while in close contact with his mentor Lanfranc, who had become archbishop of Canterbury. Upon Lanfranc's death in 1089, Anselm was the clear choice of the clergy to succeed to the office. But King William II resisted and kept the see open for four years (and kept its revenues for himself as well). Only when the king seemed sick unto death did he relent and approve the appointment. But the king survived, and the two men found themselves constantly at loggerheads over papal jurisdiction, lay investiture, and the primacy of the spiritual over the temporal.
When Anselm steadfastly refused to support the antipope against Urban II, William exiled him in 1097. Anselm spent some time at first at Cluny and then at Lyons. He offered his resignation to the pope, but the pope instead threatened the king with excommunication--a threat that became moot upon the king's sudden death in 1100. It was in exile that Anselm wrote his famous work on the Incarnation, Cur Deus Homo? (Lat., "Why God Became Man"), which described Christ's death on the cross as an act of satisfaction, returning to God the honor stolen by human sin. He also took a leading role at the Council of Bari (10988) in defense of the double procession of the Holy Spirit ("from the Father and the Son"; Lat. Filioque) against the Greeks ("from the Father through the Son"). At a council in Rome soon thereafter, Anselm spoke strongly against the interference of temporal rulers in the investiture of bishops and abbots.
Anselm returned to England in 1100 with the accession of Henry I, but he was exiled again in 1103 over the very same investiture issue. A compromise was reached in 1106, and Anselm was allowed to return to England yet again. He remained there for the rest of his life, enjoying such an excellent relationship with the king that the king appointed him guardian of his son and viceroy of the whole kingdom while he, the king, was away in Normandy. As bishop, Anselm insisted on a strict enforcement of clerical celibacy, and he strengthened the primatial claims of the see of Canterbury, especially with relation to York. Anselm died on April 21, 1109, but his cult was slow to develop and, in any case, was destined to be overshadowed by Thomas Becket's. There is no formal record of his canonization, but a late twelfth-century Canterbury calendar lists two feast days, one for his death and one for the transfer of his remains. In 1734 he was named a Doctor of the Church. His feast is on the General Roman Calendar and is also celebrated by the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the USA, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The President and the Superior General

Recently, the Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross (CSC), the Rev. Hugh Cleary, CSC wrote a lengthy letter to President Obama. Fr. Cleary, an American citizen, and native New Yorker, writes in the wake of the controversy involving the University of Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to speak at the Commencement exercises in a few weeks. The full text of the letter to the President was recently published in America magazine.

A Letter to President Obama
From the Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross
Hugh Cleary | MARCH 30, 2009
D ear Mr. President,

As Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross and an alumnus of the University of Notre Dame I wish to offer you some personal reflections on the university’s decision inviting you to campus to deliver this year’s commencement address and to honor you with a Doctor of Laws degree.

In reflecting on your upcoming presence at Notre Dame, I am reminded of the way you seized an opportunity in your presidential campaign to address the issue of racial bigotry in our American culture. You used the occasion as a teachable moment for the nation.

In a similar way your presence at Notre Dame affords all of us, including yourself, a teachable moment. President Obama, you are superbly versed in the issues of our day. I have no doubt that your policy convictions are grounded in rigorous study and that all your important decisions are supported by your conscience. I am confident that you are likewise well versed in the Catholic faith conviction that human life begins at conception. Therefore, through this open letter, I would like to take advantage of your appearance at Notre Dame to ask you to rethink, through prayerful wrestling with your own conscience, your stated positions on the vital “life issues” of our day, particularly in regard to abortion, embryonic stem cell research and your position on the Freedom of Choice Act before Congress.

Perhaps such an impertinent request rings with insolence. I mean you no disrespect. But why not seize this moment as an opportunity to pray over the sacred truths we hold to be self-evident: "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life …”

Mr. President, you expressed our most essential faith conviction in your remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast this past February 5th, when you said: “There is no God who condones taking the life an innocent human being. This much we know.”

This much we know, President Obama, your statement on the unconscionable taking of an innocent life is truly our belief. It is the kind of clear, straightforward talk of your conscience convictions that we find so appealing. But sadly for us Catholics, your words do not express our meaning.

Innocent human life is conceived through sexual intercourse meant to be love’s most intimate, expression, save giving up one’s life for another. It is true that sometimes, tragically, life is formed in the brutality of rape or in the shame of incest. Likewise life is often conceived unintentionally through the enjoyment of sexual pleasures. An “unwanted” child comes in many forms such as an untimely presence; a disabled or deformed creature; an embryo of the wrong sex; a baby conceived out of wedlock, a child bearing a child.

Tragically, we have a tradition in our United States culture giving us permission to define the parameters of human life to suit our self-interest. Did we not justify our tradition of slavery by denying that a black human being of African decent was fully human? As I understand it, President Lincoln had a contrary view and took us to civil war for the sake of unifying our country’s conscience. And so now today we are engaged in a great civil war over conscience formation. The defense of human life is an obligation for all humanity, not just for Catholics.

President Obama I am embarrassed to admit that I could not participate in the last election cycle. I wanted to vote for you, but I just could not because of your position on abortion. In fact, I am finding it more and more difficult to vote for the candidates of our major political parties. My friends tell me to vote by all means, vote for the lesser of the evils. Unfortunately today’s evils seem so much larger than my conscience can bear, whether they pertain to abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, immigration, the economy, housing for the poor, gun control, health care for the uninsured, the environment, war for oil or weapons of mass destruction. I do love my country and I do want to vote. I just do not know how to vote while remaining true to my conscience formed by my faith convictions.

When I was a young man I thrilled to the stirring words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. calling us to stand before the door of a great truth and open it wide: “to stand up for that which is right and that which is just…We die when we refuse to stand up for that which is right. We die when we refuse to take a stand for that which is true. So we are going to stand up right here.”

Perhaps, Mr. President, at the University of Notre Dame, you can stand up for the great truth of life, walk through that door and take us, as a nation, with you. If you do, I have no doubt whatsoever, your greatness will be realized.

Be assured of my prayers, Mr. President, for you and your good and delightful family. What a blessing your family is to the nation. May God’s grace expand the love in your hearts day in and day out.

Respectfully yours,
Rev. Hugh W. Cleary, C.S.C.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Notrre Dame, President Obama....the latest

I know that times are tough under the golden dome of Notre Dame. The administration of the University has invitedd President Obama to speak at the commencement. He has accepted the invitation.

Many people are upset about this situtation. The graduating seniors are thrilled (98%) that the currently sitting President of the United States will speak at their Commencement Exercises. Many of the alumni of Our Lady's University are displesead that the President will be addressing our Alma Mater's commmunity at commmencement.
Let's try to pray for each other in these coming days. May we pray that we will all be open to the surprising ways of the Holy Spirit in these Easter Days.

Come, Holy Spirit!