Love beyond naiveté and romance

Several years ago, a Presbyterian minister I know challenged his congregation to open its doors and heart more fully to the poor. The congregation initially responded with enthusiasm and programs were introduced that actively invited people from the less-privileged economic areas of the city, including a number of street people, to come to their church.

But the romance soon died as coffee cups and other loose items began to disappear, some handbags were stolen and the church and meeting space were often left messy and soiled. A number of people began to complain and demand an end to the experiment: “This isn’t what we expected! Our church isn’t clean and safe any more! We wanted to reach out to these people and this is what we get!”  

Franciscans think UNESCO status could complicate rules at holy sites

JERUSALEM - Palestinians are hopeful that UNESCO will recognize the city of Bethlehem as the first Palestinian World Heritage Site, but Franciscans in charge of the city's holy places say they do not want them included in the classification.

"We don't want the (UNESCO) recognition for the holy places," said a Franciscan source who asked not to be named. "We fear it could lead to nationalization of the shrines. The shrines are not tourist places, but are places of prayer and worship."

The custos of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, told the Italian bishops' news agency, SIR, that the Greek Orthodox and Armenian patriarchates had joined him in asking the Palestinian Authority to exclude the Church of the Nativity in the application for the UNESCO World Heritage Site classification.

In Benin, Pope urges Africa to uphold values of family, human dignity

COTONOU, Benin - Arriving in Benin for a three-day visit, Pope Benedict XVI urged the African continent to protect its ancient values in the face of spiritual and ethical erosion.

"The transition to modernity must be guided by sure criteria based on recognized virtues ... firmly rooted in the dignity of the person, the importance of the family and respect for life," the Pope said after arriving Nov. 18 at Cardinal Bernardin Gantin International Airport in Cotonou.

The 84-year-old Pope was welcomed by President Thomas Yayi Boni, church and civil dignitaries and an exuberant crowd of singing, scarf-waving women who danced in salutation.

Missal will bring consistency to Mass texts of English-speaking world

TORONTO - Not every region in the English-speaking dioceses across the world currently uses the exact same texts during Mass, said Gregory Beath of the archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Formation for Discipleship.

But with the introduction of the new Roman Missal, that will change.

“This is the first time that we will have across the world a standard English translation of the Roman Missal,” he said.

Speaking to an audience of about 30 people Nov. 9, Beath gave a presentation on the new Roman Missal at the Chancery Office of the archdiocese of Toronto. The third edition of the Missal is effective the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27.

Since it’s become a popular choice for those in other countries to learn English, the Vatican was concerned about standard English, said Beath.

While communities that have strong roots in the Latin language, like Italian and Spanish, will probably have a lot of scholars in the Church that work with Latin regularly and help translate between Latin and those receiving languages, there are many languages that may not.

In these cases, since people are more likely to translate from the English translation, the Vatican wanted it to be as exact as possible, he said.

“The Vatican’s concern is that they don’t want anything to get lost in translation,” said Beath.

And English lacks specific words to mean the same thing which the Latin uses in the original text, said Beath, referencing information from a presentation by Fr. Bill Burke, director of the National Liturgy Office for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

One example can be found in the third preface for the Rite of Marriage, he said. Latin uses five different words as synonyms: pietas, which is the love a parent has for a child; consortia, which designates the companionship of two people sharing a life; amor, which is closely rendered “love” in English; caritas, which is a nobler form of love captured by the English cognate “charity”; and dilectio, which is related to the English word “delight.”

The new Missal will also be more singable, he told the audience.

“The liturgy lends itself to being sung so you’ll notice that some of the prayers will be more singable and we’ve encouraged priests to sing the preface and sing the doxology.”

For more information on the Missal, see www.archtoronto.org/romanmissal.

Belief in Resurrection means belief in final victory of love, pope says

VATICAN CITY - Believing in Christ's resurrection means that no matter how difficult life gets, one believes that love and goodness are far more powerful than hatred and evil, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Yes, in the world there is much evil, there is a permanent battle between good and evil and it seems that evil is stronger. But, no, the Lord is stronger," the pope said Nov. 16 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"Despite all the things that make us doubt the positive outcome of history, Christ wins and goodness wins. Love, and not hatred, wins," he said.

Missal brings greater appreciation of liturgy

TORONTO - I’ve come to know, over the last few years of teaching at Regis College in Toronto, that if I want to understand something well, my best strategy is to teach it. And so, about a year ago, as we in the Canadian Church began to receive reports of the progress of the Canadian edition of the new Roman Missal while it went through the approval process, I proposed a six-week continuing education course to the college administration as a support to the efforts of the archdiocese of Toronto to prepare for the arrival of the new Missal.

Through the months of research and teaching — I’ve now taught the course in the six-week format, as an online course and in a one-day workshop form — I’ve realized that what excites my students is not so much the English translation we will receive on the first Sunday of Advent, but rather some key developments in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. I am convinced that these developments are the most important treasure of the new Missal.

Jesus is present in humble ways

First Sunday of Advent (Year B) Nov. 27 (Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1, 3-8; Psalm 80; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37)

Children often play hide-and-seek with adults in a rather amusing way. They cover their face with their hands and then squeal “You can’t see me!” People play a similar game with God but with a twist: “I can’t see you so you either aren’t there or don’t exist!”

The author of Isaiah’s passage is almost sick with yearning as he calls to mind the times in Israel’s past when God seemed so close and the manifestations of divine power so overwhelming. Now it seems that God has disappeared. The author’s cry of the heart resonates with people in all ages: If only you would tear open the heavens and come down! Come down and fix everything, come down and comfort us, come down and defeat our enemies. But God cannot be manipulated or summoned on demand.

Loneliness is the ultimate agony

When I was 22 years old, a seminarian, I was privileged to have a unique kind of desert experience. I sat with my siblings in a palliative care room for several weeks, watching my father die.

My father was young still, 62, and in good health until being struck with pancreatic cancer. He was a man of faith and he brought that to his final struggle. He wasn’t afraid of God, whom he had served all his life, nor of the afterlife, which his faith assured him was to be joy-filled. Yet he couldn’t let go of life easily, struggling almost bitterly at times to surrender. There was a deep sadness inside him, ultimately more soft than bitter, during his last weeks of life. He didn’t want to die.

Pope asks for prayers for Benin trip

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI asked for prayers for his trip to Benin and for those suffering from violence on the African continent.

The pope, addressing pilgrims at his noon blessing Nov. 13, said he was traveling to Benin "in order to strengthen the faith and hope of Christians in Africa."

"I entrust this trip and the inhabitants of this beloved continent to your prayers, especially those who experience insecurity and violence," he said. He prayed that Mary give support to all those working for reconciliation in Africa.

Christian volunteers are signs of God's love, Pope says

VATICAN CITY - Through volunteer work, Christians become signs of God's love in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Especially at a time of serious economic crisis, moral uncertainty and social tension, Christian volunteers show "that goodness exists and that it is growing in our midst," the Pope said Nov. 11 in a speech to participants at a Vatican meeting on Catholic volunteer activity in Europe.

The two-day meeting, sponsored by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charity, was held in conjunction with the European Year of Volunteering. It brought together about 160 bishops and representatives of charitable organizations from 25 countries.

At audience, pope appeals for victims of flooding around world

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI offered prayers for victims of recent flooding in Central America, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world and urged people to be generous in helping those suffering the effects of natural disasters.

In a sunny St. Peter's Square, after days of rain in Rome, Pope Benedict made his appeal at the end of his weekly general audience Nov. 9.