Thursday, May 28, 2009

The next Ambassador to the Holy See

Tonight, President Obama nominated a Latino Catholic Theologian to be the next ambassador to the Holy See. Check out this report from the AP:

Hispanic theologian chosen for Vatican ambassador
By ERIC GORSKI – 3 hours ago

A Hispanic Roman Catholic theologian who was an adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign will be nominated to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, the White House announced Wednesday.

Miguel H. Diaz, 45, an associate professor of theology at St. John's University and the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota, would be the first Hispanic to serve as ambassador to the Vatican since the United States and the Holy See established full diplomatic ties in 1984. Diaz was born in Havana.

The announcement comes in the same week Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, to the Supreme Court. She would be the high court's first Hispanic justice.

The selection of a Vatican ambassador rarely attracts scrutiny. But Diaz's nomination comes as tensions run high in the U.S. church over Catholics' voice in the public square and the politics of abortion.

Obama's recent commencement speech and acceptance of an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame — Diaz's alma mater and the nation's flagship Catholic university — provoked controversy and criticism from dozens of Catholic bishops because Obama's abortion stance clashes with a core church teaching.

The previous ambassador to the Vatican was Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University professor and conservative Catholic scholar with longtime Vatican ties. Glendon turned down Notre Dame's top honor, the Laetere Medal, because of the school's decision to honor Obama.

In an interview with Catholic News Service at Obama's inauguration, Diaz said he was looking forward "to moving beyond the politics of fear to the politics of hope." He said Obama was "committed to working" with people who defend "life in the womb" and deeply respects people who hold positions he does not agree with.

"Wherever we can, we should advance life at all stages," Diaz said.

Reached at his home Wednesday, Diaz read a brief statement expressing gratitude for the opportunity and saying, "I wish to be a diplomatic bridge between our nation and the Holy See, and if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, I will continue the work of my predecessors and build on 25 years of excellent relations with the Holy See."

He declined to answer questions about his positions on issues, saying it would be inappropriate before his confirmation hearing.

One potential point of conflict is Diaz's support for the nomination of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic whose abortion rights record angered conservative Catholics. Diaz was among 26 Catholic leaders and scholars who signed a statement hailing Sebelius as "a woman of deep faith" and citing her a record on immigration, education, health care and reducing abortion rates in Kansas.

The son of a waiter and a data-entry operator, Diaz was the first person in his family to attend college. He taught religious studies and theology at Barry University, the University of Dayton and Notre Dame. From 2001 to 2003, he was academic dean at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Diaz is fluent in English, Spanish and Italian. He is past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States, and a father of four.

According to public records, Diaz donated $1,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint committee of Obama and the Democratic National Committee. He served on the Obama campaign's Catholic advisory board.

Diaz was far from the most visible — or controversial — Catholic to campaign for Obama. Douglas Kmiec, a Catholic law professor and former Reagan administration lawyer, was targeted by conservative Catholics and denied Communion by one priest for his support for Obama.

Kmiec, who was mentioned as a possible Vatican envoy, applauded the choice of Diaz on Wednesday, calling him "a gifted theologian and a natural teacher. And his love for the faith is unquestioned."

Cathleen Kaveny, a Notre Dame law and theology professor who also served on the Obama campaign's Catholic advisory committee, said it was significant Obama chose a theologian and a representative of one of the fastest growing demographics in the U.S. church, Hispanics.

"He is not a big donor, he's not a big professor," she said. "He's someone very knowledgeable about the Catholic tradition and Catholic theology. What you see is President Obama taking seriously not just Catholicism as a political force but as an intellectual force."

The advocacy groups Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good issued statements Wednesday night praising the choice of Diaz.

Obama is scheduled to travel to Italy in July, and the next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican would likely play a role in arranging a possible meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Other shared interests between the U.S. and the Vatican include Middle East peace and relations with the Muslim world.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On Memorial Day...

Thanks to friends at The Deacon's Bench for this great video for this weekend.

Thanks to old friend Fr. Austin Fleming, for this prayer for Memorial Day:

Memorial Day Prayer

In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,
let us call on the name of the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing…

You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.

Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone…

Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own:
give us hearts as generous as theirs…

Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,
and accept the gift of their sacrifice…

Help us to shape and make a world
where we will put down the arms of war
and live in the harvest of justice and peace…

Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones:
in our hearts let your healing be our hope.

Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension Thursday?

We celebrated one liturgy today, Ascension Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Thanks to our music ministry, we had a full choir. But we had less than two hundred people in the congregation. Like other pastors in this section of the country, I believe we have to ask our Bishops to reconsider the placement of this feast. No longer can we call this a "Holy Day of Obligation" to attend Mass, when 90% of our faithful absent themselves from Mass.

I believe that it's time to join the rest of the country, and the world, in celebrating the Ascension on the 7th Sunday of Easter. Let's eliminate the Feast on a Thursday, and move the Feast to a weekend. I know that I'm one of a small number of priests in this area calling for this change, but tonight's experience has confirmed suspicions I've had for a long time.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The President at ND

Click to View Complete text of President Obama's speech at Notre Dame today.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Commencement Eve

Later today, at the University of Notre Dame's Commencement, President Obama will speak to the graduates and to the University community, and to the nation, and in many ways to the entire planet.

Many Catholics have mixed feelings about this speech. Many Catholics have very strong feelings about this speech. Many Catholics feel honored that the first black President of the United States is speaking at the premier Catholic University in the Western Hemisphere 85 years to the day when members of the KKK marched on Our Lady's campus and were repelled by the fists of the "Fighting Irish" who would not tolerate their prejudice and hatred and exclusionary attitudes.

Whether you agree or disagree with this appearance, let us all pray for peace to reign at Our Lady's University. May it continue to be a place of intellectual inquiry, a place of great faith, and a place where, as St. Anselm described "theology": it can contiue to be a a place where faith continues to seek understanding.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Check this out...

I've read that this video has been viewed by a huge amount of people. Hopefully, it will generate some interest in this Marian devotion, especially among young people.
I find the video pretty inspiring.

In these days leading up to Sunday's visit of President Obama to the Commencement exercises at the University of Notre Dame, I've been gathering reports from friends still on campus, and other sources about the many activities on ND's campus these days. I was especially happy to hear that the Bishop of Fort-Wayne/South Bend, John M. D'Arcy, while absenting himself from the Graduation exercises, is making his presence felt on campus in other ways. He will be present at Saturday's Baccalaureate Mass, and then he will be meeting with a group of ND students to pray the Rosary in the Grotto.

I can't think of a better way for a Bishop to celebrate a graduation weekend with Catholic students than that.

A letter from the President (of N.D.) to the class of '09

Below is the text of a letter sent to the graduating seniors and graduate students receiving degrees this May, 2009 from Father John Jenkins, CSC, the President of the University of Notre Dame. I think it will help us get a better perspective on the news of President Obama speaking at the Commencement exercises.


May 11, 2009

Dear Members of the Notre Dame Graduating Class of 2009:

This Sunday, as you receive your degrees at Commencement, your joy – and that of your families – will be shared by the faculty, staff, and administration of the University. We have had the privilege of laboring with each of you to inquire and discover, to teach and to learn, and we will send you off with affectionate and fond hopes for the future.

For those of you who are undergraduates, I feel a special kinship. You arrived in your dorm rooms as I arrived in the President’s Office. You have learned much; I may have learned more. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to learn with you, come to know you, and to serve you during our time together at Notre Dame.

During your years here we have endeavored to train you in the various disciplines and urged you to ask the larger questions – discussing not only the technical and practical but also the ethical and spiritual dimensions of pressing issues. I have been proud of you as you’ve grappled with intellectual, political, and spiritual questions. But I have never been more proud than I have been watching the way you’ve conducted yourselves over the past several weeks.

The decision to invite President Obama to Notre Dame to receive an honorary degree and deliver the Commencement address has triggered debate. In many cases, the debate has grown heated, even between people who agree completely on Church teaching regarding the sanctity of human life, who agree completely that we should work for change – and differ only on how we should work for change.

Yet, there has been an extra dimension to your debate. You have discussed this issue with each other while being observed, interviewed, and evaluated by people who are interested in this story. You engaged each other with passion, intelligence and respect. And I saw no sign that your differences led to division. You inspire me. We need the wider society to be more like you; it is good that we are sending you into that world on Sunday.

I am saddened that many friends of Notre Dame have suggested that our invitation to President Obama indicates ambiguity in our position on matters of Catholic teaching. The University and I are unequivocally committed to the sanctity of human life and to its protection from conception to natural death.

Notre Dame has a long custom of conferring honorary degrees on the President of the United States. It has never been a political statement or an endorsement of policy. It is the University’s expression of respect for the leader of the nation and the Office of the President. In the Catholic tradition, our first allegiance is to God in Christ, yet we are called to respect, participate in, and contribute to the wider society. As St. Peter wrote (I Pt. 2:17), we should honor the leader who upholds the secular order.

At the same time, and born of the same duty, a Catholic university has a special obligation not just to honor the leader but to engage the culture. Carrying out this role of the Catholic university has never been easy or without controversy. When I was an undergraduate at Notre Dame, Fr. Hesburgh spoke of the Catholic university as being both a lighthouse and a crossroads. As a lighthouse, we strive to stand apart and be different, illuminating issues with the moral and spiritual wisdom of the Catholic tradition. Yet, we must also be a crossroads through which pass people of many different perspectives, backgrounds, faiths, and cultures. At this crossroads, we must be a place where people of good will are received with charity, are able to speak, be heard, and engage in responsible and reasoned dialogue.

The President’s visit to Notre Dame can help lead to broader engagement on issues of importance to the country and of deep significance to Catholics. Ultimately, I hope that the conversations and the good will that come from this day will contribute to closer relations between Catholics and public officials who make decisions on matters of human life and human dignity.

There is much to admire and celebrate in the life and work of President Obama. His views and policies on immigration, expanding health care, alleviating poverty, and building peace through diplomacy have a deep resonance with Catholic social teaching. As the first African-American holder of this office, he has accelerated our country’s progress in overcoming the painful legacy of slavery and segregation. He is a remarkable figure in American history, and I look forward to welcoming him to Notre Dame.

As President Obama is our principal speaker, there will no doubt be much attention on your Commencement. Remember, though, that this day is your day. My fervent prayer is that May 17 will be a joyous day for you and your family. You are the ones we celebrate and applaud. Congratulations, and may God bless you.

In Notre Dame,

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Parish Pastoral Council Meeting tonight

Tonight, at our monthly meeting of our Parish Pastoral Council, we had a lively discussion about our current practices regarding Confirmation, Holy Communions, and who should celebrate these sacraments and when and how we should celebrate them. The major factor influencing our discussion was the recent celebrations of First Communions and Confirmation, and the FACT that most of the families present at those celebrations have not been at a regular Sunday Mass in months or years. Archbishop Reece had to stop the distribution of Holy Communion 4 times because people had received Communion, and walked away without ingesting the Sacrament! I had the experience of holding up the Sacrament, saying, "The Body of Christ" and receiving no response, or people grabbing the host out of my hands, or saying "Thanks." Needless to say, I am not a happy camper these days.

Needless to say, as I stood beside the Archbishop at the Confirmations, I was appalled, and embarassed beyond belief. Truth be told, I wanted to transfer to a missionary outpost in the South Pacific to become a missionary, rather than to stay as the pastor of St. Anselm. It was bad! I'm not blaming anybody but myself for this situation. I'm very grateful for all of the hard work of our staff in the Religious Education program, and our many committed volunteers, teachers and aides.

The problem of initiating young people into the Catholic Church when their families are not regular participants in the liturgical life of the Church is a serious problem. In the Diocese of Trenton, we've noticed a marked increase in parishes reporting this problem. It's time that we tackle this problem. I know this as a long-time member of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, and a volunteer in the Office of Worship for the Diocese. It's a problem for our Religious Educators, our liturgists, and our pastors throughout the entire Diocese. We need to come together to combat this situation.

I've posted a picture of the sower sowing seeds, from the Gospel story. It's a reminder that Jesus is the sower, and we are the ground where the seeds land. Some of us are rocks, some full of weeds, some of us are good soil ready to receive and nurture the good seeds to enable the seed of faith to grow into abundant food and fruit.

Let's pray that in the coming days, we can all be united in our efforts to become a stronger, more vibrant community of faith, as disciples of the Lord who truly know Him, love Him, and Follow Him.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Great Confirmation Celebration!

Tonight we had two wonderful celebrations of Confirmation with Archbishop Donald Reece of Kingston, Jamaica. We were delighted to have the Archbishop celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation within the context of Mass, which is the best way to celebrate the sacrament.

For many years, I've been trying to teach our young people about the intimate connection between Confirmation and Eucharist and Baptism, the three sacraments of initiation. It's very tough trying to teach our young people the importance of celebrating the Eucharist on a regular basis, when our culture seems to be increasingly dismissive of regular religious practice.

Archbishop Reece urged the young people to bring more light into this world, which seems to be growing more DIM with the Light of Christ. He referred to the Opening Rites of the Easter Vigil, and asked the confirmandi about them. Truth be told, only a handful of the young people had ever been to an Easter Vigil Mass....but a few of them, mostly altar servers....they got the Archbishop's references to the "power" of the "light shining in the darkness."

His Grace urged the confirmandi to be (D)isciples who are (I)ntimately involved with Jesus, who urges us to be (M)issionaries of His Good News!

We are rejoicing in the grace that the Archbishop revealed in these wonderful celebrations, and his beautiful message of encouragement to our young people to be faithful, and regular disciples who are weekly nourished at the Lord's table.

We welcome our young brothers and sisters, and we rejoice with them as they join us on the journey as fellow disciples. We pray that they will help us to continue the work of the Lord Jesus, and to further the universal mission of the Church to spread the Good News that Jesus is Lord!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Check out "America" magazine--100 years old!

Very interesting editorial in the current issue of "America" magazine on the rise of sectarian Catholics and their effect on the relationship between Catholic universities and politicians and public discourse. Congratulations to "America" on it's 100th Anniversary!

Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J., was one of my esteemed professors of Ethics at the University of Notre Dame in the 1980's. Drew now serves as the Editor in Chief of "America" magazine.

I find that the writings in America continue to be some of the best and most thought-provoking of any Catholic publication in the United States. I sometimes disagree with their positions, but I can never say their articles aren't consistently well-researched and balanced, and charitable.

I think the virtue of Charity in public discourse, especially in the areas of church and politics, is in sad decline. I agree that the Bishops of the U.S. need to champion the virtue of Charity in these matters. When we get away from charitable discourse, we hurt our credibility.

Check out this excellent editorial: