Pope’s Way of the Cross

This Lenten season has witnessed a renaissance of the Stations of the Cross devotion in the Suprenant household. We invite a family to share soup (asking them to bring a vegetable to add to the soup) and bread for dinner, followed by a “way of the Cross” that leads through our home, complete with meditations by St. Alphonsus Liguori and of course the traditional “At the Cross her station keeping . . .”

For that reason, I was especially delighted to come across the following news item, courtesy of ZENIT:

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 28, 2011 (Zenit.org). An Augustinian woman religious will write the meditations for the Way of the Cross led by Benedict XVI on Good Friday in the Colosseum.

The Pope has given the task to Mother Maria Rita Piccione, a contemplative who is president of the Federation of Augustinian Nuns, the Vatican press office reported Friday.

The illustrations that will accompany each station in the booklet have been created by Sister Elena Manganelli, another Augustinian religious.

This is not the first time that a woman writes the Good Friday meditations. In 1993, Pope John Paul II entrusted the task to Benedictine Mother Anna Maria Canopi; and two years later, Sister Minke de Vries, from a Protestant convent in Switzerland, wrote them.

In 2002, five laywomen collaborated with 11 men — journalists accredited to the Holy See — in writing the meditations.

The tradition of praying the Stations of the Cross in the Colosseum was reinitiated by Pope Paul VI in 1964; the tradition goes back to the Holy Year of 1750.

Pope John Paul II decided in 1985 to ask contemporaries to prepare the meditations; previously they had been drawn from writings of the saints.

Vocations in Japan

Last week, the Holy See’s Press Office announced the appointment of two new bishops in Japan:

–Appointed Fr. Paul Sueo Hamaguchi, pastor of the cathedral church of Takamatsu, Japan, as bishop of Oita (area 14,071, population 2,376,414, Catholics 6,288, priests 50, religious 228), Japan. The bishop-elect was born in Higashi Shutsu, Japan in 1948 and ordained a priest in 1975.

–Appointed John Eijro Suwa of the clergy of Osaka, Japan, moderator and pastor of the pastoral zone of Kochi Takamatsu, as bishop of Takamatsu (area 18,903, population 4,031,481, Catholics 5,100, priests 46, religious 84), Japan. The bishop-elect was born in Kobe, Japan in 1947 and ordained a priest in 1976. He succeeds Bishop Francis Xavier Osamu Mizobe, S.D.B., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

My first thought on reading about these appointments was to pray for the new bishops as they begin their episcopal ministry amidst the immediate aftermath of the horrific happenings in their native country.

My second thought was wonderment at the universality of the Church.

But then I took a closer look at the numbers. Here in the United States we have approximately 68 million Catholics, well over 20% of our country’s population. However, we have only about 46,000 priests and 60,000 or so religious. Both of those figures are less than 0.1% of the total number of Catholics.

As you can readily see in the above information published by the Vatican, the two Japanese dioceses that received new bishops have miniscule Catholic communities in comparison to the total population of the diocese. However, nearly one percent of the Catholics in those dioceses are priests, and more than one percent are consecrated religious.

Is that significant? Well, several parishes here in Kansas City have 5,000 or more Catholics. If we had priests in the same proportion as Japan, we’d have 50 priests per parish, with over 130 consecrated religious. Not too shabby! 

As we continue to pray for the people of Japan and contribute to relief efforts, let us also continue to pray that the Church in Japan, originally evangelized by the great Jesuit missionary, St. Francis Xavier, will see a new springtime of faith and holiness.

Priests on Facebook?

Today I thought I would give a plug to an excellent, new Catholic website called Catholic Lane. There are already several interesting items archived at the vocations page, including a series of testimonies entitled, “The JPII Generation Tells Its Story” and a thought-provoking four-part series entitled, “Reflections on Latin and the Catholic Church’s Memory and Identity.”

The article that really caught my attention, though, is the one entitled, “What Do You Think: Is Facebook a Place for Priests?”–a topic that I’ve often wondered about myself.

The author, Thomas A. Flynn, a seminarian with the Legionaries for Christ, is not on Facebook himself, but even-handedly sets forth both the pros and cons–some of which I think would apply to religious and laity as well. Check it out here.

While on the subject of the use of new technology by priests and religious, I encourage readers to consider attending this year’s national meeting of the Institute on Religious Life, April 30-May 1 in Mundelein, Illinois. The theme is “Go Make Disciples,” and the conference will focus on how best to utilize the new media in the new evangelization. For more information or to register now for the event, click here.

Vocation Directions

One of the top ten vocation websites for 2011 as identified by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is the site of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors.

The USCCB’s listing for this site highlights the map of the United States with easy-to-access contact information for all diocesan vocation offices. I think this excellent page provides a welcome service not only for those wanting to contact a vocation director, but also for diocesan and religious vocation directors who can compare their site with others in the field.

There are other interesting features on this site, such as an outstanding resources page with interesting items such as “Ten Things That Promote Vocations” by Fr. David Toups. In case his name sounds familiar, he was mentioned in last week’s vocation news roundup.

Vocation News Roundup

I’ve come across many news stories this past week that relate to the subject of vocations. Here is a sampling:

Nuns say relatives often discourage them from taking religious vows (Religion News Service) We treated this topic in previous posts, especially this one, but author provides interesting commentary.

Sixteenth annual Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta to focus on vocations, including vocations to married life (Georgia Bulletin)  I was happy to see that this annual mega-conference is still going strong, and that this year’s event will focus on vocations.

Serrans pilot “Catholic Connection” program in Sioux City (The Catholic Globe) The idea behind this program is to help Catholic students remain connected with the Church as they go off to college. Studies show that young Catholics who practice their faith in college are more likely to attend Mass more often after graduation, become leaders in their parishes, and consider a religious vocation.

Benedict XVI: Priesthood Is a Vocation, Not a Job (Zenit, Catholic Online)  Pope Benedict’s reflections on the happy occasion of the 60th anniversary of his ordination.

Transition of leadership in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (Catholic News Service/St. Louis Review) Archbishop Gomez identifies the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life as one of his “five basic priorities” as he takes the reins in Los Angeles. 

From Frat Boy to Priest: A Vocation Story (www.tampabay.com) The story of Fr. David Toups, a dynamic, young priest in Florida. I was drawn to his “survival guide” for parish priests and his refreshing emphasis on the spiritual life.

Courageous religious sisters continue mission in Japan (Catholic News Agency)  Uplifting piece on the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

Catholic News Agency launches new online resource to affirm men in lay vocations  “Catholic Men” column launched this week to strengthen men in their commitments to marriage, fatherhood, and the single life.

Sisters kick off year 125 in Oregon (Catholic Sentinel) I don’t know anything about this community, but I wish them another 125 years of faithful service in the Pacific Northwest. And the young nun in the accompanying photo looks very cheerful and fulfilled.

Bishop Aquila’s keynote address at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Diocese of Fargo)  Text of excellent, at times hard-hitting talk given on March 18th at the 10th Annual Symposium on the Spirituality and Identity of the Diocesan Priest in Philadelphia, PA. The symposium was co-sponsored by The Institute for Priestly Formation.

Bishop Aquila discussed four ways to develop receptive hearts in seminarians to prepare them to exercise the authority of Christ: practicing lectio divina, focusing on “the school of Nazareth,” regularly celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and having “a deep love for the daily celebration of the Eucharist.” He told the seminarians in attendance, “In the Eucharist we learn to lay down our lives with Jesus and offer them to the Father.”

And of course, Archbishop Dolan on 60 Minutes (CBS) I thought readers might want to view this, as the show aired during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. (Go Jayhawks!) The program portrayed Archbishop Dolan as a force to be reckoned with in the Catholic Church, as he deftly responded to all the tough questions about the sex-abuse crisis and the influence of the Church in secular society.

From Adoration to Evangelization

“In order to evangelize the world, we need experts in celebration, adoration, and contemplation of the Holy Eucharist” (Pope John Paul II).

“From Adoration to Evangelization” is the theme of a major International Conference on Eucharistic Adoration to take place June 20-24, 2011 in Rome.

Organized by the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist, a new community founded by Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon, France in 2007, Adoratio 2011 brings together a wide range of international speakers, including six prominent Cardinals, among them Cardinals Francis Arinze and Raymond Burke.

“We must regain the ability to adore Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist if we are to bring the men and women of the twenty-first century to faith in Jesus Christ. This is one of the key themes of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI,” Bishop Rey emphasized, “which is why we are taking this initiative.”

This event has particular significance for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, noted in a letter earlier this month to Bishop Rey that Eucharistic adoration is “an effective means toward promoting the sanctification of the clergy, reparation for sin, and vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.”

“With courage, we must ask the Lord to send forth new laborers into the harvest,” Cardinal Piacenza affirmed. He urged that “in every diocese there should be at least one church, chapel, or shrine set aside for perpetual adoration of the Eucharist, specifically for the intention of the promotion of new vocations and the sanctification of the clergy.”

Cardinal Piacenza expressed his hope to conference organizers that bishops, priests, and religious would consider attending the Eucharistic adoration conference.  “A renewed sense of devotion to Christ in the Eucharist,” he said, “can only enrich every aspect of the Church’s life and mission in the world.”

Abandonment to Divine Providence

Today I thought would share with our readers an inspiring reflection by Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P. entitled “A Matter of Abandonment to Divine Providence.”  

One particularly vivid image from this reflection is the idea that a monastery is to a diocese what a tabernacle is to a parish church. The monastery or cloister is a lighthouse set on a hill, serving as a reminder of God’s presence to all.

The cloister embodies the attitude of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was able to say “let it be done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). It represents the silence and abandonment to God’s will that allows us, like our Blessed Mother, to ponder God’s Word in our hearts (cf. Luke 2:19, 51) and allow it to change us. 

Read the entire reflection here.

On a separate note, today is the feast (or “commemoration”) of St. Turibius of Mogrovejo. For more on this saint, click here.

New Home for Benedictine Sisters

Earlier this month there was an open house at Our Lady of Ephesus Priory in Gower, Missouri. This is the new home of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, an IRL affiliate. Click here for photos taken at the open house, courtesy of Kansas Catholic.

The community strives to imitate Our Lady’s retirement from the world in quiet seclusion, as well as her apostolic charity. Consecrated entirely to her and filled with her spirit, which is none other than the Holy Spirit of God, they aspire to be, to the successors of the Apostles in our times, what she was to the Apostles in the beginning: behind-the-scenes encouragement, assistance, and support.

Go Make Disciples

The Institute on Religious Life cordially invites you to attend its annual regional conference this coming Saturday at the Franciscan Prayer Center in Independence, Missouri. This year’s theme is “Go Make Disciples: The Consecrated Life and the New Evangelization.”

Pope John Paul II devoted the last twenty years of his pontificate calling for a “new evangelization,” a call now taken up by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, who has even made the “new evangelization” the subject of the next worldwide Synod of Bishops. 

Yet do we really understand what this “new evangelization” is all about?

The glossary to the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “evangelization” as “the proclamation of Christ and His Gospel by word and the testimony of life, in fulfillment of Christ’s demand.” In short, it involves putting people in touch with the person of Jesus Christ.

The new evangelization must not degenerate into mere activism, be it social or political. Rather, it must be rooted in our desire to allow Christ to transform us. Therefore, it requires learning once again to direct our gaze upon the face of Christ, the one Savior of the world.

This year’s regional meeting will offer reflections on Christ’s command to “Go Make Disciples,” with special emphasis on how it relates to the consecrated life. Everyone is welcome to attend this day of spiritual
renewal, reflection, and affirmation of the consecrated life. I will be there and look forward to seeing many of you!

The Heart of a Father

In the Church, we have the beautiful feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with the heart symbolizing the immense love of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother for each one of us.

Catholic men might also consider meditating on the heart of St. Joseph, the third member of the Holy Family. His heart is an apt symbol of the love he contributed to the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation that was unfolding under his watch.

And now that same masculine vigilance and love, once focused on his beloved wife and the Christ child, is bestowed on each one of us, as he is universally invoked as the patron of the Catholic Church.

At the outset of St. Luke’s Gospel, we learn that part of St. John the Baptist’s role in preparing the people for the imminent coming of the Messiah was to turn the hearts of fathers to their children so as to make ready for the Lord a people that was truly prepared for Him (Lk. 1:17; cf. Mal. 4:5-6). In St. Joseph, we find a father whose heart is already exquisitely calibrated.

His heart was always in the right place, and God was able to accomplish great things through this eminently just and faithful man.

St. Joseph’s fatherly heart jumps off the page throughout the biblical accounts of Christ’s childhood. Let’s take a brief look at just one such familiar episode: the Finding of Jesus in the Temple (Lk. 2:41-52).  Continue reading The Heart of a Father