Wa Habibi – Good Friday hymn in Arabic



Ever since I heard “Wa Habibi,” this Good Friday hymn has become one of my favorite songs. Arabic music has beautiful melodic qualities, and is part of our musical ancestry as Christians. (Our Lord’s mother tongue was, after all, Aramaic – the linguistic ancestor of both Arabic and modern Hebrew.)

“Wa Habibi” (My Beloved), here sung by Fairouz, has become a welcome aid to my prayer life. May it bless you, as well.

English translation:

My beloved, my beloved
What state are you in?
He who sees you, for you would cry
You are the one and only sacrifice

My beloved,
What blame have the nations put upon you?
They melted you with wounds,
To which no healing would do

When in the dark orchard at night
The God Creater kneeled and prayed
Life was praying with the One
Who gave life hope and prayer

The olive trees are crying
As the lips of men quiver
My beloved how will you go?
Has loyalty gone forever?

My beloved, my beloved
What state are you in?
He who sees you, for you would cry
You are the one and only sacrifice

Stereotypes Broken: ‘Axis of Evil’ Comedy



Need a laugh today? I’ve been wanting to share some funny bits with you – the standup comedy of a Middle-Eastern native who’s trying to break stereotypes. And Catholics, let’s be honest: we are not the only ones stereotyped in news, TV, movies, etc.!

“There are good people everywhere,” stresses Iranian-American comedian-actor, Maz Jobrani. (You may have seen him in The Interpreter…great film.) Jobrani says, “I try with my standup to break stereotypes, present Middle-Easterners in a positive light, present Muslims in a positive light. And I hope that in the coming years, more film and television programs come out of Hollywood presenting us in a positive light.”

On that note, my husband and I recently watched Taken 2 (starring Liam Neeson). Afterwards, I told my husband, “You know, I’m really tired of Middle-Eastern, Muslim movie bad guys.” Isn’t it getting old with you, too?

One of the greatest ways to foster universal brotherhood between persons is laughter. Enjoy these clips from Maz’s internationally-flavored standup comedy:

Marshall McLuhan’s Holy Week & Conversion

Jerwood Library at Trinity Hall (Photo by Andrew Dunn, 2005)
Jerwood Library at Trinity Hall (Photo by Andrew Dunn, 2005)
Jerwood Library at Trinity Hall (Photo by Andrew Dunn, 2005)

Holy Week – the week known for its especially rich liturgies and devotions, is upon us. For many Catholics, Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil Mass is the ‘favorite’ Mass of the year, when thousands formally join the Catholic Church across the globe.

For our friend Marshall McLuhan, Holy Week served as a fitting atmosphere for his transition into the Church. After his exposure to great Catholic minds such as Aquinas and Chesterton, McLuhan prayed for two years about possibly becoming Catholic. Still, he waited. His son, Eric, describes the climax:

…sometime before the Holy week in 1936, his father was among friends in Trinity Hall [at Cambridge University] and he was talking, again, about religion. At that point, one of the attendants said to him: “Marshall, since you can’t stop talking about these things, why don’t you convert?” Marshall looked at him and said: “Why not?” and a few weeks later became a Catholic. He then wrote to his father that he had become deeply troubled by the fact that he did not have a faith during his undergraduate years in Canada, and that he had prayed for two years, on his knees before he made the decision to become a Catholic. He hoped that this decision would not hurt his father’s strong Baptist feelings. Herbert McLuhan’s reaction was moderate but Marshall’s mother burst into tears and said that he would never become a university president. (Source)

Let’s challenge ourselves to let Holy Week be a time of conversion for us, too.

Surprises from Pope Francis, Cardinal Tagle, and more!



Surprises, surprises! Just a few inspiring surprises from this week:

Pope Francis celebrated Mass for his gardeners

His Holiness once again recognized the workers in his midst by sneaking up on them (see above) today and celebrating Mass.

Cardinal Bergoglio planned to retire and live in an elderly priests’ home

Looks like Our Lord is continuing to foil the plans of Cardinals planning retirement! I wonder if this’ll be part of Francis’ discussion with the Pope Emeritus during their lunch tomorrow.

Cardinal Tagle is a talented singer! (H/T Mike Hayes)

‘Peter’ and ‘Andrew’ unite at inauguration

For the first time since the Great Schism nearly 1,000 years ago, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople – His All-Holiness Bartholomew – attended the Inauguration of Pope Francis into the Petrine Ministry. I am so, so excited about this wonderful surprise. The Patriarch addressed the newly-installed pontiff, indicating dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches as a high priority:

The unity of the Christian Churches is surely our foremost concern as one of the fundamental prerequisites for the credibility of our Christian witness in the eyes of those near and afar. In order to achieve this unity, we must continue the inaugurated theological dialogue so that we may jointly appreciate and approach the truth of faith, the experience of the saints, and the tradition of the first Christian millennium shared by East and West alike.

Read the rest at the Patriarchate’s beautiful website. I’m also excited that Bartholomew invited Francis to Jerusalem this year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the embrace between Paul VI and Athenagoras.

What were your favorite surprises this week?

Pope Francis in the global theater [MMM follow-up]

ABC News on Pope Francis

ABC News on Pope Francis

Reflecting on Marshall McLuhan’s words concerning the Church’s relevancy in our connected world (“global theater”), last Monday I wrote:

Whomever the good cardinals choose, I pray that our new pope will be a man who can make a positive, lasting impression in the global theater.

Just about every pundit and person in the pews – myself included – was expecting a younger, charismatic John Paul III of sorts to emerge from last week’s conclave. We were all thinking inside the box, weren’t we? Here comes a more mature, Latin American Jesuit leader who names himself after a lover of the poor.

Marshall McLuhan also spoke about the relevancy of the Roman Curia in his day, and that question was undoubtedly on the cardinals’ minds this time around. Their (or perhaps we should say the Lord’s) innovative answer to this question was to choose a man who is an outsider to the Roman Curia, a man who prefers personal witness and pastoral care to administrative work, a man who has never pursued higher office in the Church.

Today, Vatican News announced that the new pope “wishes to reserve time for reflection, prayer, and dialogue before any final appointment or confirmation is made” for members of the Curia. Many Cardinals have said they expect Francis to transform the Curia into less of a bureaucracy and more of an evangelical arm of the Church.

It all makes me wonder what McLuhan would have said about Pope Francis.

Here’s ABC News on the Pontiff:

Fun, Inspiring Bits about Pope Francis

Francis - by RomeReports

Francis - by RomeReports

This morning, I had a premonition about the new pope picking the name Francis. “Hmm…” I thought, “I guess he would be the first Francis! That would be cool.” From then on, I thought nothing of it. My gut had a feeling, still, that we’d see the election of our pope today.

As white smoke poured out of that little chimney, my coworkers and I jumped up and down, clapping our hands, and headed for the TV. Then, the news… who is this guy? I’ve never heard that name before... FRANCIS??!!?? Wow!

I couldn’t believe it. Life is full of surprises!

Some wonderful, short stories are emerging about our new Holy Father. Here are some of my favorites.

Wednesday’s election aftermath:

“When he came out, a throne-like chair had been set on a platform but Francis preferred to greet the cardinals from a chair at their own level, (Cardinal Timothy) Dolan said.” – Reuters


“The newly elected pope decided to take the bus back to the hotel Wednesday with the rest of the cardinals instead of riding in the Holy Father’s car.”

“‘So we take the buses over and cardinals kind of wait outside to greet the new Holy Father as he comes back to Doma Santa Marta…and as the last bus pulls up, guess who gets off the bus? Pope Francis,’ (Cardinal Timothy) Dolan said. ‘So I guess he told the driver, “That’s OK. I’ll just go with the guys on the bus.”‘” – CBS News

“On dinnertime toast from cardinals, Pope Francis responded, ‘May God forgive you.'” – @RoccoPalmo

His personality:

“A man who cooks for himself, takes public transport rather than using cars and who is a simple pastor. This is the portrait of Pope Francis I painted by a fellow Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, Holy See Press Office Director, in the immediate aftermath of the announcement that ‘Padre Jorge’ – as he was known in Buenos Aires among his faithful – had been elected Pope.” – Vatican News

“He studied chemistry, and graduated as a chemical engineer. […] He taught literature and psychology at Buenos Aires.” – RomeReports

“As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he showed compassion for the victims of HIV-AIDS and in 2001, visited a hospice to kiss and wash the feet of 12 AIDS patients.

In 2008, the Catholic News Agency reported that Bergoglio washed the feet of 12 recovering drug addicts at a rehabilitation center in Buenos Aires…” – CBS News

“He is a soccer fan (well, in his hometown the sport is called ‘football’), and follows Argentina San Lorenzo de Almagro, one of the five most popular teams in his native Argentina.  […]  In 2008, on the 100th anniversary of the team, he was given a ‘centennial membership’ by the team’s managers and invited to celebrate their anniversary mass.”  – Kathy Schiffer

“When he became a bishop in 1992, Bergoglio chose as his motto miserando atque eligendo, ‘lowly and yet chosen.’ The phrase comes from a homily of the Venerable Bede reflecting on the Call of Matthew. Matthew knew himself to be unworthy (read: ‘human’) yet Jesus chose him, not despite but because of, his humanity. These words signal humility, and may also reflect a common formulation of Jesuit identity: ‘What is it to be a Jesuit? It is to know that one is a sinner; yet called to be a companion of Jesus.’” – The Jesuit Post

His relationship with God:

In his words: “Everything in our life, today just as in Jesus’ time, begins with an encounter. An encounter with this Man, the carpenter of Nazareth, a man like all men and yet different. […] I dare to say that the privileged locus of the encounter [with God] is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin.

[…] You can’t convince anybody. The encounter occurs. You can prove that God exists, but you will never be able, using the force of persuasion, to make anyone encounter God. This is pure grace. Pure grace. In history, from its very beginning until today, grace always primerea, grace always comes first, then comes all the rest.” Source: Silvina Premat

His attitude toward the Church:

In his words:”We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a Church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a Church becomes like this, it grows sick. It is true that going out onto the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. But is the Church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first one.”

“I must not be scandalised by the fact that the Church is my mother: I must look at its sins and shortcomings as I would look at my mother’s sins and shortcomings. And when I think of her, I remember the good and beautiful things she has achieved, more than her weaknesses and defects. A mother defends herself with a heart filled with love before doing so with words.” Source for both quotes: Andrea Tornielli

His attitude toward evangelization:

His words describing Buenos Aires’ approach: “We seek to make contact with families that are not involved in the parish.  Instead of just being a Church that welcomes and receives, we try to be a Church that comes out of itself and goes to the men and women who do not participate in parish life, do not know much about it and are indifferent towards it. We organise missions in public squares where many people usually gather: we pray, we celebrate mass, we offer baptism which we administer after a brief preparation. This is the style of the parishes and the diocese itself. Other than this, we also try to reach out to people who are far away, via digital means, the web and brief messaging.” Source: Andrea Tornielli

Be sure to read this wonderful translation of Cardinal Bergoglio’s letter for this Lent. It is bold and unwavering. I love it. A quick gem from it, and then I invite you to continue reading…

“Lent is presented us as a shout of truth and certain hope that comes us to say ‘Yes, it is possible to not slap on makeup, and not draw plastic smiles as if nothing happened.’  Yes, it is possible that all is made new and different because God remains ‘rich in kindness and mercy, always willing to forgive’ and He encourages us to begin anew time and again.”

Are the Church and pope relevant in a global theater? [Marshall McLuhan Monday] + Cardinal Dolan

Cardinal Dolan - Catholicism

Cardinal Dolan - Catholicism

Are the pope and the Church irrelevant?

Mainstream news analysts, talk show hosts, bloggers, and the like, have been offering a plethora of answers to this question over the past month or so. I’d say that the majority lean toward, “Yes.” While many Catholics have been quick to argue against such assertions (very understandably), I wonder if we’re actually considering what this question’s really all about.

Perhaps we should re-visit our Church’s lengua and the etymology of “relevant.”

From the Latin relevare “to raise, alleviate,” from re-, intensive prefix, + levare “to lift up, lighten,” from levis “not heavy” (source)

Then, literally speaking, “The Church is irrelevant” means that it ‘weighs lightly on’ people’s minds and lives, or that it has little bearing on public life.

Considering the entire history of the relationship between Church / organized religion and the state, and the visibility of the Church in public life, I think we could all agree that – relatively speaking – today the Church is indeed irrelevant, most certainly in the West. One could point to a few exceptions, but overall, our hyper-connected society rarely refers to the Church. Why?

Among Marshall McLuhan’s major contributions to communications studies is his observation of the relationship between media and our human senses. In the connected and electric age, McLuhan predicted an atmosphere of ‘global theater.’ He said:

Further improvements in travel and communication brought the pontiff into more immediate personal relation to his subjects…. What, therefore, is called the de-Romanization of the Roman Church is quite simply its electrification. When things speed up hierarchy disappears and global theater sets in. […]

I think today that we have to say that it’s the pope’s spoken word that counts, the word that he utters, not the encyclical. In the electric age, live speech comes back to its own: it no longer needs to be hardened into documents. (Source)

How many non-Catholics do you know who regularly read papal encyclicals, bulls, etc.? How many of them form their impression of the pope from soundbites and Facebook memes?

We’re living in a global theater, and the Church is fighting a hard battle: We’ve had a hierarchy since the time of Christ. We’ve had a Curia and a bureaucracy for hundreds of years. Those are a few, major reasons why the Church appears so backward to a world that prefers immediate, one-to-one connection, and where emotions run high. I’m not suggesting anyone scrap current Church structure. I am, however, pointing to the necessary reality: Church officials must consider the “global theater” and take appropriate action.

Among the Cardinals who have successfully done so, in my humble opinion, is Cardinal Timothy Dolan. I know…I’ve heard so much about Cardinal Dolan’s ‘possible pope street cred’ that I’m beginning to wonder whether it will amount to anything. Surprisingly, however, Fr. Robert Barron isn’t counting out His Eminence for the papacy quite yet. “My own view,” says Fr. Barron, “is that what the Church needs now is someone like Cardinal Dolan, to give us a new face—that kind of exuberant, life-affirming, joyful orthodoxy.”

In this trailer of Fr. Barron’s forthcoming major project, Catholicism: The New Evangelization, he calls Cardinal Dolan “the greatest evangelist in the Church today.” Why? Watch:

Whomever the good cardinals choose, I pray that our new pope will be a man who can make a positive, lasting impression in the global theater.

What do you think?

More (Reliable) Sources for Papal Conclave Updates

Journalist John Paul Shimek joins us Catholic Weekend panelists from Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
Journalist John Paul Shimek joins us Catholic Weekend panelists from Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
Journalist John Paul Shimek joins us Catholic Weekend panelists from Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

Habemus datam! (We have a date!)

As we enter into the week of the conclave, prepare for another tidal wave of ignorance about the Catholic Church from mainstream media. (Hey, it’s true!) Last week, I introduced you to several news sources on which I’m relying for reliable coverage of these events. Since I can’t blog the news 24/7, I rely on other bloggers to inform you lovely readers from a Catholic perspective:

Fr. Robert Barron – Word on Fire

NBC hired Fr. Robert Barron as a special correspondent and analyst for the papal conclave. They’re smart; he’s one of the most articulate Catholic voices today. Keep an eye out for his coverage via NBC News and Word on Fire.

Archdiocese of Boston’s media team – The Good Catholic Life

Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston, MA, has been blazing media trails for years in his Archdiocese. For this conclave period, his archdiocesan media team reports from Rome as pilgrims, journalists, talk show hosts, and – of course – Catholics. They’re wonderfully documenting the goings-on from their unique perspective and credentials.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York – The Gospel in the Digital Age

Cardinal Dolan’s been blogging from Vatican City since he arrived for the cardinals’ pre-conclave general congregations. While he isn’t blogging specifics about the papal election process (about which he’s promised to remain silent), it’s certainly interesting to read his thoughts during this historic event.

Lisa Hendey – A Good Measure @ Patheos

Having been invited to the Vatican’s Blogger Meeting last year, Lisa Hendey now sees the news from Rome with different eyes. She’s a speaker in high demand across the United States about new media, Catholics saints and parenthood. At her blog, you’ll find everything from news commentary to related links and tools for conclave-tracking!

John Paul Shimek at Catholic Vote

This morning, I had the privilege of ‘hanging out’ with pilgrim-journalist John Paul Shimek, a member of the “JPII Generation” like me, who is reporting from inside the Vatican for several publications through Holy Week. He was a gracious guest to our weekly Catholic Weekend podcast, and gave us some great insider impressions — answering questions like, ‘Why do so few mainstream journalists understand the Church?’ and ‘How many young people are in the Vatican?’ Listen to the podcast episode 163, to be published soon here.