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The Christ-Centered Pope

The Catholic Church and the world wrestle with an evangelical papacy.

Perhaps the most revealing detail in Pope Francis’s lengthy interview, conducted by the Italian Jesuit Antonio Spadaro and published yesterday in English translation in the Jesuit journal America, is the pontiff’s reflection on one of his favorite Roman walks, prior to his election:

George Weigel 

When I had to come to to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighborhood of the] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio. That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. . . . This is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.

The Calling of St. Matthew is an extraordinary painting in many ways, including Caravaggio’s signature use of light and darkness to heighten the spiritual tension of a scene. In this case, though, the chiaroscuro setting is further intensified by a profoundly theological artistic device: The finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew, seems deliberately to invoke the finger of God as rendered by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Thus Caravaggio, in depicting the summons of the tax collector, unites creation and redemption, God the Father and the incarnate Son, personal call and apostolic mission.

That is who Jorge Mario Bergoglio is: a radically converted Christian disciple who has felt the mercy of God in his own life and who describes himself, without intending any dramatic effect, as “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” Having heard the call to conversion and responded to it, Bergoglio wants to facilitate others’ hearing of that call, which never ceases to come from God through Christ and the Church.

And that, Bergoglio insists, is what the Church is for: The Church is for evangelization and conversion.

Read the rest here: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/359042/christ-centered-pope-george-weigel

Poking the Pope

Standing on My Head

The Holy Father’s interview published today is the first time we’ve had a chance for an in depth look at the man. One of the frustrating things about his papacy so far is that it has been big on dramatic gestures and small on content. There’s not anything wrong with that. He clearly prefers the off the cuff remark and the spontaneous homily to the careful, well thought out theological treatise. It is also true that he has the style of a prophet, and prophets are good at preaching through dramatic gestures and actions as well as words.

His interview reveals a simple man of the poor–a compassionate and humble man who has people as the heart of his concern. He wishes for a church that is outgoing, creative and risk taking. He wants a gospel that is lived in a compassionate, forgiving and Christ-like manner. He pushes against a Catholicism that is legalistic, puritanical and condemnatory. He wants a church that reaches out to the poor, the rejected and the forgotten. He wants to show a church that loves the sinner.

All this is well and good, but I have some worries. Every pope is both empowered and limited by his own history and culture. Pope Francis is from a generation and a culture which is Catholic. For the most part everyone is Catholic. They understand the basics of Christian morality and the fundamentals of the Christian story and the basic elements of the Catholic faith. Too often, however, that Catholic culture was impeded by a Church that had become overly clericalized, legalistic, condemnatory and hide bound.

Francis’ message to that kind of Catholic culture and that kind of Catholic Church is sharp and necessary. It’s fresh, creative and powerful. He’s basically saying, “Get out of your churchiness and get into the streets. Be with the people and share your faith together and bring Christ to those who have forgotten how to find him in the church.” As such his message is relevant and vital for the Church in South America and Central America where Catholics are being wooed away by Evangelicals who do present a vital, relevant and compassionately involved message.”

Read the rest here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2013/09/poking-the-pope.html

It’s a Great Time to be Catholic in America

Kresta Commentary
September 20, 2013
By Al Kresta
Dear friends,
Because I am on the road today, I wanted to post my continuing reflections on the Pope Francis interview. Continue Reading

U.S., business appeal on birth-control mandate


Posted Thu, September 19th, 2013 2:29 pm

UPDATE 4:28 p.m. The Obama administration has taken its own case to the Supreme Court on the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law. The petition and appendix, a large file, are here; they were filed Thursday afternoon. The government petition raises only an issue under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not under the First Amendment. The Tenth Circuit Court had struck down the mandate as applied to the arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby, based on RFRA and not on the Constitution. The government petition is docketed as No. 13-354. No number has been assigned yet to the petition described in the post below. (FURTHER UPDATE 6:28 p.m.: The Conestoga petition has now been docketed as 13-356.)
Lawyers for a family-owned woodworking business in Pennsylvania on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to bar the government from requiring the firm to provide birth-control health insurance for its workers, under the new federal health care law. This is the first of multiple cases on the issue that likely will reach the Court out of the sixty-plus cases working their way through lower courts. The new petition (a large file) is here.

The chances are strong that the Court will agree to rule on one or more of the challenges, since federal appeals courts are now split on the question. Moreover, the Obama administration is expected to file its own appeal on the issue, as early as next week.

Read the rest at: http://www.scotusblog.com/2013/09/birth-control-mandate-issue-reaches-court/

Religious Statues Decapitated Outside Church in Gloucester County

Cleve-Bryan-web-headshotReporting Cleve Bryan
By Cleve Bryan
MALAGA, N.J., (CBS) – Members of St. Mary’s Malaga are in disbelief after vandals smashed the heads off of statues of Virgin Mary and Jesus.
In all, nine statues were damaged including three statues that are about five-feet-tall – Sacred Heart of Jesus, Virgin Mary, and Our Lady of Fatima.
“For a statue to be defamed in this way in this very holy ground and this very holy church it is crushing to me,” says long-time parishioner Cynthia Hetzler.

Franklin Township Police believe the vandalism happened between 2 and 4 a.m. on Thursday. The parish has a 24-hour prayer group so someone is almost always at the sanctuary, but so far no witnesses have come forward.
Investigators say they’ll review surveillance from businesses down the street and are hoping for tips at (856) 694-1415.
Depending on what police learn, Chief Michael Rock says vandalism charges could be upgraded to a hate crime.
“If we could determine that this was the result of a bias incident then obviously the charges will be enhanced,” says Rock.
Spokesperson for the Camden Diocese Peter Feuerherd says upon looking at the damages it seems clear the person responsible has it out for the church.
“These are important symbols of the Catholic faith and in that way when you attack the symbols of faith you attack the faith,” says Feuerherd who assured Eyewitness News the church will go through insurance to have the statues rehabilitated if possible.

Source (CBS Philly) – click here to see the CBS video report: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2013/09/19/religious-statues-decapitated-outside-church-in-gloucester-county/

7 Reasons Why Pope Francis Worries Some Catholics & Why They Shouldn’t Worry

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Aggie Catholics
It seems our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, rubs a number of Catholics the wrong way. He certainly isn’t the first Pope to do so, but the difference is he troubles a much different group of Catholics than our previous Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI did.

Some said Benedict was a “conservative” and that he wasn’t open-minded, caring, loving, or other accusations. These are not accurate descriptions and he doesn’t deserve to be accused of such things. Rather, he (like Francis) is CATHOLIC. That means he doesn’t fit into the neat political framework of being either liberal, conservative, progressive, traditionalist, moderate, etc.

Take these quotes from BXVI for example – most would call them “liberal”:

**”It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”

**“It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity. Through Mary, and the other holy women, the feminine element stands at the heart of the Christian religion.”

**”the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism”

**”If we refuse to share what we have with the hungry and the poor, we make of our possessions a false god. How many voices in our materialist society tell us that happiness is to be found by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can! But this is to make possessions into a false god.”

So, what label should we put on Benedict? How about Catholic. Just as Benedict shouldn’t be reduced to political labels, neither should Francis. It isn’t fair to either of them.

Why is it that Francis gets some people upset? I think there could be several reasons and here are 7 of them.

  1. Many Catholics are stuck in a model of catechetical formation. This means they see the work of the Catholic Church is to hand over doctrines and teachings. While this is one important role, this isn’t the mission of the Church. The mission of the Church is to make followers of Jesus. This is done by evangelization. Evangelization must be centered on relationships. Our relationship with another (through word and witness) helps someone form a relationship with Jesus. If some get the mission of the Church wrong, then they won’t understand the focus Francis has on making disciples as one that is in the heart of the Church. Doctrinal formation necessarily must follow the proclamation of the Gospel. NOT the other way around.
  2. Francis is frequently speaking to those on the fringes of the Church and outside the Church – not those who are already faithfully Catholic. If he doesn’t focus on what many Catholics find are the most important issues (culture war topics (e.g. abortion, sex, etc.) then he must not care about them. This is false. He has said he is a child of the Church and accepts all the Church teaches. If he doesn’t focus on them, it is because he knows that he will drive more away than he will attract if he starts with those topics.

READ THE OTHER FIVE HERE: http://marysaggies.blogspot.com/2013/09/7-reasons-why-pope-francis-worries-some.html

A Big Heart Open to God

The exclusive interview with Pope Francis

Thinking Faith

Pope Francis and Antonio Spadaro SJ
Pope Francis and
Antonio Spadaro SJ

Editor’s Note: This interview with Pope Francis took place over the course of three meetings during August 2013 in Rome. The interview was conducted in person by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal. Father Spadaro conducted the interview on behalf of La Civiltà Cattolica, Thinking Faith, America and several other major Jesuit journals around the world. The editorial teams at each of the journals prepared questions and sent them to Father Spadaro, who then consolidated and organised them. The interview was conducted in Italian. After the Italian text was officially approved, a team of five independent experts were commissioned to produce the English translation, which is also published by America.

Father Spadaro met the pope at the Vatican in the pope’s apartments in the Casa Santa Marta, where he has chosen to live since his election. Father Spadaro begins his account of the interview with a description of the pope’s living quarters.

this article
in PDF

The setting is simple, austere. The workspace occupied by the desk is small. I am impressed not only by the simplicity of the furniture, but also by the objects in the room. There are only a few. These include an icon of St. Francis, a statue of Our Lady of Luján, patron saint of Argentina, a crucifix and a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. The spirituality of Jorge Mario Bergoglio is not made of “harmonised energies,” as he would call them, but of human faces: Christ, St. Francis, St. Joseph and Mary.

The pope speaks of his trip to Brazil. He considers it a true grace, that World Youth Day was for him a “mystery.” He says that he is not used to talking to so many people: “I can look at individual persons, one at a time, to come into contact in a personal way with the person I have before me. I am not used to the masses,” the pope remarks. He also speaks about the moment during the conclave when he began to realise that he might be elected pope. At lunch on Wednesday, March 13, he felt a deep and inexplicable inner peace and comfort come over him, he said, along with a great darkness. And those feelings accompanied him until his election later that day.

The pope had spoken earlier about his great difficulty in giving interviews. He said that he prefers to think rather than provide answers on the spot in interviews. In this interview the pope interrupted what he was saying in response to a question several times, in order to add something to an earlier response. Talking with Pope Francis is a kind of volcanic flow of ideas that are bound up with each other. Even taking notes gives me an uncomfortable feeling, as if I were trying to suppress a surging spring of dialogue.

READ THE REST HERE: http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/20130919_1.htm

Mary of Nazareth: How Coordinating a Faith-Based Film Event Could Change Your Life

By – Posted on

MARY OF NAZARETH - Theatrical movie posterFor the past few weeks, you’ve heard us sharing the good news about the beautiful movie Mary of Nazareth which will be opening on October 1st around the country. The unusual thing about this movie — along with its beauty and ability to be a true tool of the New Evangelization — is the fact that all screenings are being organized and sponsored by volunteers. Ignatius Press, the film’s distributor, is actively seeking parishes and individuals who will step forward in faith to bring this lovely film to their communities. They provide all the tools you need to make your screening a great success, but it’s up to you and I to prayerfully consider how we might be a part of sharing this stunning film with our friends and loved ones.

To encourage you to consider volunteering, today I’m sharing a recent conversation I had with someone just like us — a busy, working wife and mom — who organized a similar screening of the film Restless Heart a few years ago in her home town. What Marsha discovered was not only the joy of sharing a movie with friends. Indeed through her efforts, she was able to raise over $6,000 for a crisis pregnancy center in her community! Imagine making this happen in your home town, and supporting your parish, school or organization at the same time…
I hope you enjoy this interview. For additional information, visit the Mary of Nazareth website.

Calling All Franco-phobes, “Be not afraid!”

A lot of people–especially conservatives and traditionalists–are freaking out about Pope Francis comments, especially his most recent interview for America magazine.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not unsympathetic.  Even though Pope Francis is not overturning any doctrines or giving out “Get Into Heaven Free” passes to the lowest bidders, he does have a VERY different style [Read More...]

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" – September 19, 2013

Talking about the “things that matter most” on September 19

4:00 – 6:00 – Catholic Relief Services and the Population Research Institute Come Together to Air Their Differences AND We Analyze the Pope’s Lengthy Interview in America Magazine that is Capturing the World’s Attention Today
Big show today as we bring together representatives from Catholic Relief Services and the Population Research Institute to discuss the controversy raised in a 100+ page report issued by PRI criticizing some of the work of CRS in Africa. We try to shed light and get to the heart of the disagreement. Also, a lengthy interview that Pope Francis granted America Magazine is sending shockwaves around the world – and great amounts of misreporting. We look at what was ACTUALLY said and what he did not say.
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