“A radiation of joy in the world” – Joseph Ratzinger: New Springtime depends on youth

Praying with Pope Benedict at St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney
Praying with Pope Benedict at St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney
This is the closest I’ve been to Pope Benedict XVI (Stations of the Cross, World Youth Day Sydney, 2011, St. Mary’s Cathedral).

The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) recently encored an interview with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the man who would soon afterwards become Pope Benedict XVI. It’s now available on YouTube.

The future Pope speaks about what the ‘New Springtime’ of the Church looks like — a period of renewal which he and John Paul II saw happening in their times. If there is renewal, where is it?

Today, it would be an error to think, ‘Now, within 10 years with the New Springtime, all people will be Catholic.’ This is not our future or our expectation. But we will have really, convinced communities… very convinced persons with the joy of the Faith. Smaller numbers, I think, but from the smaller numbers, we will have a radiation of joy in the world…

If we have young people really with joy of the Faith, and with radiation of this joy of the Faith, this will show to the world… even if I cannot convert it in this moment; here is the way to life for tomorrow.

As a member of the ‘John Paul II generation’ (persons born during, or shortly before, Blessed John Paul II’s pontificate), I wholeheartedly agree with the then-Cardinal Ratzinger. In fact, it was during my two weeks in Sydney, Australia that I realized the certainty of this New Springtime. I spent the first week with Pope Benedict XVI and 400,000+ young people from all around the world — first and third-world countries — who had traveled there to spend time in charitable service, fellowship, and prayer with each other and the Pope.

Riding on the metro train, walking down Sydney’s streets, we were all filled with an undeniable joy. We sang, we danced, we clapped, we smiled, we laughed, and we each had the chance to answer Sydneysiders who asked, “Why are you here?” with joy… to be with the Pope! To celebrate our Faith! To share the reason for our joy with the world!

That year’s theme: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses. (Acts 1:8)

A ‘New Springtime’ is real and alive in the Catholic Church. It’s the fostering of truly convinced young people who will be joyful witnesses. We have a “future filled with hope” (cf. Jeremiah 29:11)!

The new pope should know media. [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

Pope Benedict XVI in Portugal (Photo by Ricardo Ramalho)
Pope Benedict XVI in Portugal (Photo by Ricardo Ramalho)
Pope Benedict XVI in Portugal, 2010 (Photo by Ricardo Ramalho)

In an article at the Catholic Education Resource Center, journalist and author William Bole discussed a rarely-noticed section of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: Extensions of Man (1964) in which McLuhan points to the need for a pontiff who knows media:

“Pope Pius XII was deeply concerned that there be serious study of the media today,” wrote McLuhan, who was raised in a devoutly Methodist family in Alberta and became a Catholic at age 25, captivated by Catholic writers, especially G.K. Chesterton. He taught most of his career at St. Michael’s College, part of the University of Toronto…

The book related a quote from a public message by Pope Pius in February 1950: “It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of modern society and the stability of its inner life depend in large part on the maintenance of an equilibrium between the strength of the techniques of communication and the capacity of the individual’s own reaction.” In other words, the more powerful these media are, the more adept we must be at discerning their messages or effects, ill or good.

McLuhan commented: “Failure in this respect has for centuries been typical and total for mankind. Subliminal and docile acceptance of media impact has made them (the media) prisons without walls for their human users.”

As we reflect back on the popes’ public teachings, we see that each (with the obvious exception of John Paul I) spoke more than his predecessor about the importance of understanding media’s effects on humanity. Benedict XVI has been most vocal in this regard.

Perhaps Benedict XVI’s “last word” on media can be found in his February 7 message to participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the focus of which was youth:

Indeed, many factors contribute to highlighting an increasingly fragmented cultural panorama that is constantly and very rapidly evolving. Far from foreign to this panorama are the social media, the new means of communication that encourage and at times give rise to continuous and rapid changes in mindset, morality and behaviour.

Consequently a widespread atmosphere of instability is to be found whose effects are being felt in the cultural sphere and likewise in that of politics and the economy…

Approaching the sedevacante, we can only hope that the next pope will continue this pattern of conscientious media engagement with similar wisdom and enthusiasm.

Good that we are here: My time atop Mt. Tabor

Sanctuary: Church of the Transfiguration, on Mt. Tabor
Sanctuary: Church of the Transfiguration, on Mt. Tabor

I’d like to share my experience atop Mt. Tabor with you. This was written October 2010, during my Holy Land pilgrimage:

In the morning, we rode taxis that spiraled up to the top of Mt. Tabor, the place where Jesus was transfigured. The church, cared for by the Franciscan friars, was simple and beautiful. After an introduction to the site and surrounding area, we had an hour to experience God in silent prayer, meditation, and/or Confession.

Immediately, I was drawn to the chapel left of the main altar (see photo), where the Blessed Sacrament is kept. There, pilgrims from around the world were prostrate at the feet of the Lord, much like Peter, James and John fell prostrate at the sound of the Father’s voice (Mt. 17:6). So I sat down on the floor amid them, and opened my Bible to Matthew 17 — the Transfiguration.

Side chapel at Mt. Tabor
Side chapel at Mt. Tabor

In an experience that I can only describe as Spirit-led, I became completely immersed in this relatively short Scripture passage. Previously, the story had not meant much to me. It had seemed like a story that just told us how these three disciples knew Jesus’ glory.

Yet, as I sat there at the feet of Jesus atop this blessed mountain, God guided my eyes to read each verse over and over again. With each reading, I began to understand – the eyes of my mind were enlightened.

I saw Jesus bringing his three close friends aside, trekking the Galilean terrain with them, and making the long, steep climb to the top of this mountain – which stands high above the rest. I marveled at Jesus’ glory revealed to the three in his transfiguration. I laughed at Peter’s eagerness to begin erecting tents. I understood the disciples’ fear upon hearing the voice of the Father booming from Heaven. I found comfort in the fact that, when they lifted their eyes after being afraid, they only saw Jesus.

By the time I was finished, I was so convinced of God’s presence and majesty in that place that I knelt with my face to the ground. My mind had no words or images… All I could do was worship the Son of God.

YouTube: Reflect on Sunday Gospels with Franciscan Friars

Franciscan Lenten videos

Looking for a way to prepare yourself more for Sunday Mass this Lent?

The Franciscans (O.F.M.s) have a nifty YouTube channel where they’re posting a video for each Sunday of Lent. Videos feature a Franciscan friar reflecting on the Sunday gospel, and you’ll usually find them posted a few days prior to Sunday.

For a taste, watch Father Michael F. Cusato, OFM, present a thought-provoking reflection for the First Sunday of Lent (click here for video).

Subscribe to HolyLandFranciscans on YouTube, and enjoy!

Seven new ways to pray the Stations of the Cross

El Greco's "Christ Carrying the Cross" (1578)
El Greco's "Christ Carrying the Cross" (1578)
El Greco’s “Christ Carrying the Cross” (1578)

You may be praying the Stations of the Cross at your local parish, which is a beautiful practice. Generally speaking, parishes use the traditional Stations, with prayers by the incomparable St. Alphonsus Liguori.

Not yet praying the Stations of the Cross? Overwhelmed by the traditional method? We’re all different; one way of meditation may not be best for everyone. I invite you to find a method of meditation upon Christ’s Passion that helps you grow closer to Him.

1. Experience the Stations (Video)
Spirit Juice Studios has created a video meditation, about 45 minutes long, meant to help us understand Christ’s Passion on an experiential level. What was he thinking? How can the stations apply to our lives? For the first time, the entire “Experience the Stations” video is available online; view it here.

2. Divine Mercy Way of the Cross
The Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a new religious order founded to serve the New Evangelization, offers a Way of the Cross based on St. Faustina’s diary. Each Station offers relevant revelations to Faustina by Our Lord, with Faustina’s reflection, and a prayer.

3. Scriptural Stations of the Cross
In 1991, Pope John Paul II developed Stations of the Cross based on the Scriptural account of Our Lord’s Passion, which vary slightly from the traditional Stations that developed in the early days of the Church among Holy Land pilgrims. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offers this Scriptural version here.

4. Stations of the Cross MP3 (Audio)
Pray along with Greg and Jennifer Willits, based on John Paul II’s Scriptural Stations. Download it here.

5. Short Way of the Cross
Have only a few minutes but want to pray the Stations? The Franciscan Friars use a very short version while on their missions. I happily practiced some penance and typed it for you, below.

6. Stations of the Cross with Meditations by Saints (eBooks)
John Henry Newman: Pray along with one of the most beloved converts of the 19th century. Includes prayers, descriptions of each Station, and spiritual meditations. Obtain this free in eBook or plain ol’ HTML format, from SQPN.
Francis of Assisi: Meditate with the saint whose spiritual sons now care for the holy sites. Obtain this free in eBook or plain ol’ HTML format, from SQPN.

7. Laudate (iOS App)
Need a visual aid? Download the free Catholic app, “Laudate” from the iTunes store for your iOS (Apple) device. Not only will you find the Stations of the Cross, but tons of other Catholic content, like the Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, Catechism, basic prayers, and more.

Do you have a unique way of praying the Stations of the Cross? Please share!

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Rapidly-changing world needs a pope [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

Photo of Benedict XVI by Oliver Bonjoch
Photo of Benedict XVI by Oliver Bonjoch

Pope Benedict XVI’s surprising announcement of his plans to abdicate the papacy were, for me, not surprising—once I read his official message. I think it’s become clear (to informed and unbiased persons) that Benedict XVI’s announcement was made in profound humility. He acknowledges that our world is moving at lightning-fast speed:

…in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

This reminded me so much of our favorite media philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s words to Fr. Patrick Peyton in the 1970s:

The rapid change of environment exerts a sort of transforming, all-changing power on the people who are subjected to this interface, and so for many people, the new electric surround is a rip-off which destroys their image of themselves. Their identities, all the familiar boundaries, all the familiar landmarks of their world have been eroded instantly by this electric invisible surround of information. All the institutions of our world have been given this kind of overall new treatment—a new environment of instant information.

Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope to be completely and entirely immersed in an Internet-saturated world. He has done quite an extraordinary job of reminding the world to make personal and to ‘humanize’ social communications, in order to counteract the effect that McLuhan foresaw.

I’m not big into ‘predicting’ popes, since the Holy Spirit is so unpredictable in that area, but I will venture to say: in our ‘disincarnating’ world where people are more often pixels than flesh before our eyes, the next Holy Father will continue pushing forward the importance of upholding the dignity of every human person AND the centrality of our encounter with Christ. These two themes have rung forth quite significantly from the papal throne since Paul VI, and I believe that’s strongly connected to society’s electronic media-saturation beginning about his reign (1963–78).

“The Holy Spirit does not go on holidays.” – My favorite reaction to Pope’s announcement

Carinal Arinze

This week we’ve all been bombarded with reactions to Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement. I’m sure many of you are quite tired and have resigned to prayer by now.

The North American cardinals’ reactions are available from our dear brother Rocco Palmo’s blog. While I love them, I also have a special affinity for Africa’s Francis Cardinal Arinze, whose sense of humor and reverence are unmatched in my book.

He was in the room when the Holy Father made his statement. Here’s Cardinal Arinze:

Some of my favorite bits:

  • “The Holy Spirit does not go on holidays.”
  • “We all are servants. We all come and go. Christ doesn’t come and go. He stays on.”
  • “The pope is a servant. Indeed, one of his titles is Servant of the Servants of God. He’s not there for himself, or self-glory. So, his act yesterday was like saying, ‘I am a servant. I think another servant should come on.'”
  • “Pope Benedict may be teaching us many more things than we realize.”

Valentine’s Day YouTube playlist: Catholic artists, great music

Cory and Marie Heimann

It’s Lent, you’re fasting and praying, and you’ve somehow gotta get through today without chocolate…


Please enjoy this Valentine’s Day gift to you, my blog readers: a YouTube playlist, over 1 hour of music made by Catholics, and it’s all about love. If you’ve never heard some of these artists, make sure to check out the award-winning podcast Catholic Rockers, at CatholicJukebox.com

Valentine’s Day YouTube Playlist: <—- click it

  1. Audrey Assad – “Sparrow”
  2. Jackie Francois – “Divine Comedy”
  3. Rachael Lampa – “Remedy”
  4. Jon Niven – “Sometimes”
  5. Fr. Rob Galea – “Song of Love (Wedding Song)”
  6. David Kauffman – “I Am A God Nearby”
  7. Fire and Flame – “Keep You Close”
  8. Marie Miller – “Make the Most of Me”
  9. Rich Dittus – “Welcome Home”
  10. Cory and Marie Heimann – “Home”
  11. Josh Blakesley – “Let Your Love Come Down”
  12. JungleHeart/Clark Jaman – “John Paul II Singing Dynamite”
  13. Mars iLL – “Love’s Not”
  14. L’Angelus – “Ca C’est Bon”
  15. Elijah and Elisha – “Open Arms”
  16. Move Merchants – “Get Over”

5 Tips for Your Best Lent Yet

The Desert

The Desert

I have been on a real JOURNEY the past few months, moving from spiritual shallowness, to realizing a need for healing in my life, and seeking the resources to obtain that. In the process, I’ve come to see Lent as an opportunity to become

  • more whole
  • more truly yourself
  • more free

which, the saints tell us, means holiness. Yep, the point of Lent is not to leave a dent in chocolate sales; the point is growth in holiness. Here’s 5 tips to help you take advantage of Lent as an opportunity to grow, rather than a random break in your chocolate-eating habits…

1. Sacrifices don’t have to be extraordinary. Giving up chocolate for Lent is an extraordinary way to practice self-control. What about the ordinary things? What usually sets you off? What makes you really tick? Does your co-worker often say or do something annoying? Does your spouse have a habit about which you constantly complain? Your ordinary sacrifice of holding your tongue may be more effective a sacrifice than giving up chocolate.

2. Do what makes you more whole. Have you been working overtime and aching for family time? Have you been putting off seeing a mental health professional? God needs you to be you at your best. When we’re stressed out, overtired, wounded, and weary, we’re weak and more vulnerable to temptation; eventually we’ll let off steam–lose our temper, overindulge, give in to laziness, etc. This Lent, discern what will help you become a better instrument of God’s grace and become stronger against temptation.

3. Pick a Lenten practice that fits your personality. Do you have severe ADHD? Deciding to pray an entire Rosary kneeling at your bedside may not be best for you. Your Lenten practice should not convince you that you’ll never ‘measure up’ in the faith department. What’s something that can actually work, for you, and will challenge you enough to grow? We’re all different. Even canonized saints achieved holiness in a variety of situations, each with their own personal weaknesses and strengths. Speaking of which…

4. Let a saint or two help you. Whether or not you’ve decided what to ‘give up’ or ‘add on’ for Lent, ask God to bring a saint into your life who will intercede for you, encourage you, and generally help you through this Lenten journey. Ask for their prayers frequently; put their picture in a place you’ll see often (fridge, desk, mirror, etc.).

5. Ask for accountability. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a community to grow in holiness! Never was Christianity meant to be a Lone Ranger religion. After choosing your Lenten sacrifice / practice, ask a friend to keep you accountable. Maybe they can call or text: “Did you ____ yet?” Perhaps they can pester you for periodic updates. Whatever their methods, you’ll have to answer to someone else, and that may be the extra motivation you need.

Do you have any tips for a better Lent? Please share!