Tag Archives: Benedict

The Pope & the New Evangelization

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that evangelization should teach ‘the art of living’ . . .

Dr. Edward Sri

In an address to catechists and educators in the Jubilee Year 2000, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that the New Evangelization entails more than proclaiming doctrines and moral truths. More fundamentally, it is teaching what he calls “the art of living.”

“How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness? To evangelize means to show this path — to teach the art of living,” he says.

Living well isn’t easy. It requires many skills that are learned like an art form. Indeed, to find fulfillment in life’s most fundamental relationships (marriage, parenting, friendship, relationship with God), one must have an array of virtues such as patience, generosity, self-control and charity. For hundreds of years, men and women learned the art of living from a Christian culture that handed on the wisdom of how to live a happy life from one generation to the next.

But our de-Christianized, relativistic, “anything goes” society has cut itself off from this tradition. And Ratzinger is concerned that the essential values to live a happy life are no longer being passed on. Young people might learn how to succeed in a job, but they aren’t trained in the basics of how to build a successful marriage. We might learn how to invest our money wisely, but we’re unsure how to raise our children in the faith. Ratzinger says our relationships are stunted by the inability to possess joy and love:

“The deepest [human] poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice — all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world. This is why we are in need of a new evangelization — if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works.”

But how can the art of living be made known today? How can the Church make its voice heard in our relativistic world?

Ratzinger says we must make use of modern methods of communication. He underscores, however, that the New Evangelization will be carried out even more by the witness of Christians who embody a new way of life — Christians who question the mainstream and choose “not to live as all the others live, not to do what all do, not to feel justified in dubious, ambiguous, evil actions just because others do the same.” Christians who “look for a new style of life” different from what the world offers will illuminate the true path to happiness.

The fruit of the New Evangelization, however, won’t be seen quickly. Ratzinger warns of the temptation of impatience. The Roman Empire was not converted quickly, but over time and through small Christian communities. Even though the Christians were insignificant according to the standards of the world, they proved to be like leaven that eventually permeated the whole empire (Mt 13:33).

“New evangelization cannot mean immediately attracting the large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods,” Ratzinger says. Instead, “it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mk 4:26-29).”

The name that Cardinal Ratzinger chose for his pontificate points in this direction. In a book-length interview published in 1997 as Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium, Ratzinger turns to St. Benedict as a model for the kind of renewal that the world needs today. In late antiquity, just as the decadent Roman Empire was starting to collapse on itself, a young Roman nobleman named Benedict abandoned the mainstream ways of living. Though escaping the notice of most people in his time, St. Benedict and the monastic communities he founded carried the Gospel through difficult times and attracted many others to a better way of life. Benedict’s small movement eventually became what Ratzinger calls “the ark on which the West survived.”

Similarly, the Church today is entering a new era which will be characterized by the mustard seed — small groups that seem to have little significance in the world, Ratzinger says. But these small groups of Christians who, like St. Benedict, depart from the secular, individualistic patterns of living pave the way for new models of life in our morally chaotic society.

“There are Christians who drop out of this strange consensus of modern existence, who attempt new forms of life,” he says in Salt and Light. “To be sure, they don’t receive any public notice, but they are doing something that really points to the future.” For the Holy Father, the New Evangelization will be carried out in a particular way through new movements, families and other small Christian communities who, like those followers of St. Benedict, will be the seemingly insignificant mustard seed that eventually transforms the culture.

Edward P. Sri, STD, is provost and professor of theology and scripture at the Augustine Institute in Denver. The author of two Catholic best-selling books, he is a founding leader of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and often speaks to Legatus chapters.

Family and solidarity

Carl Anderson discusses the breakdown of the family and the importance of solidarity . . . 

Carl Anderson

Carl Anderson

Speaking of the Christian family in terms of “solidarity” in our day and age may seem obvious. However, to have spoken of the Christian family and solidarity together at an earlier time would have seemed radical and even contradictory. As then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once noted, solidarity “comes to us from outside … developed initially among the early socialists by Pierre Leroux … in contraposition to the Christian idea of love, as the new, rational and effective response to social problems.”

Leroux had abandoned Christianity. To compensate, he developed the idea of a new “religion of humanity.” Although many don’t consciously follow his “religion of humanity” as the basis of solidarity, nevertheless solidarity and the unity of the human race is often divorced from God and the Christian idea of love. So it’s important to understand how Pope John Paul II purified the concept of solidarity and advanced it far beyond the limited socialist concept so he could describe it as “undoubtedly a Christian virtue” which “finds its deepest roots in Christian faith.”

If we are called as a society to this purified solidarity, we are called to it even more in our own families. Both John Paul and Benedict XVI have spoken often of the need for love in the family — and of the family as the cornerstone of society. During his Jan. 19, 2006, audience, Benedict said, “From one’s family one opens wide to the larger family of society, to the family of the Church, to the family of the world.”

John Paul said the family is “the school of love,” so it’s little wonder that Benedict has seen the lessons learned in that school as the key to harmony and peace at every level of society. Speaking last year on the World Day of Peace, he said:

“In a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace.

“It is no wonder, therefore, that violence, if perpetrated in the family, is seen as particularly intolerable,” he continued. “The family is the foundation of society for this reason too: because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family. Where can young people gradually learn to savor the genuine ‘taste’ of peace better than in the original ‘nest’ which nature prepares for them?”

Solidarity may seem unattractive if it is seen as a reward for behavior rather than as a response to a person. But the answer is to see the truth about the human person that binds us together in a way far stronger than any political or economic ideology.

The truth is this: Although a person can be isolated socially and geographically from other people, no one can survive without others and community. For this reason, radical autonomy cannot exist; nor is it an ideal to aspire to. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “Whenever there is an attempt to free ourselves from this pattern, we are not on our way to divinity, but to dehumanization, to the destruction of being itself through the destruction of the truth.”

When Marcello Pera, the Italian philosopher and politician, lamented that “people no longer believe in ‘ultimate’ foundations,” it was in the context of lamenting Europe’s detachment from its historical and moral Christianity. But this detachment from foundations is part of a more fundamental detachment seen also at the level of the person, especially within the family. Through divorce, abandonment and some uses of fertility technology, parenthood is separated from presence. That is, for many children today being from a parent no longer means being with a parent and thus no longer means having a parent present being for that child.

Likewise, parenthood is separated from marriage, when being with a spouse is separated from the openness of a child being from the couple. The result is what sociologist and historian Carle Zimmerman described as the “atomistic family.”

In John Paul II’s first apostolic journey, he came to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and called us to a new evangelization, beginning by preaching the truth about the human person. In Benedict XVI’s first apostolic journey to the Marian Shrine at Aparecida, he called us to build not only a Continent of Hope throughout our hemisphere but to build a Continent of Love. And now, we await our Holy Father’s next encyclical — Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth) — addressing social issues and globalization.

As we focus on the issues we confront in our lives, we should take time to examine not only the condition of our countries and our continents, but also of our families. In her Nobel Prize address, Mother Teresa famously used the refrain “love begins at home.” What kind of foundation for solidarity is there, if it is not present within the family, with the presence of children whose very existence depends on the goodness of others?

Carl Anderson is Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization.

Journey of faith

Pope Benedict  XVI’s May 8-15 visit to Jordan and Israel will hold deep significance. . .

Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Holy Land in May

Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Holy Land in May

Pope Benedict XVI will see many contrasting images on his first papal trip to the Holy Land — the soft hills of Israel’s countryside and the security wall cutting through Palestinian territory; ancient churches built over biblical sites and bullet marks on the church of the nativity.

It’s a reminder of the deep spiritual heritage of this land as well as the ongoing strife between Palestinians and Jews. Against this backdrop, the Pope’s every word and gesture during his May 8-15 visit to Jordan and Israel will hold deep significance.

Christian minority

One of the primary reasons for any papal visit is to strengthen local Christian communities — and the Holy Land’s Christians are in dire need of support. Israel is home to about 150,000 Christians — less than 2% of the population. About 35 years ago, Christians made up 80% of Bethlehem’s population; today they are 9%. The decades-long conflict has caused a mass migration.

Additionally, unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank tops 85%. Besides poverty, Christians also face harassment by Muslim neighbors.

“They can’t baptize anyone but their own children, and they can’t build churches,” said Sandra Keating, theology professor and interreligious dialogue expert at Providence College. “They cannot live as Christians where they are, just as martyrs. Many have simply left, and those left behind are in a worse situation.”

The security wall in the Palestinian territories was built to keep suicide bombers from entering Israel, but it has also trapped innocent Palestinian Christians.

Steve Ray, a registered tour guide in Israel and At Large Legatus member from Michigan, knows its effects firsthand.

“My friend Raji’s brother had a heart attack,” he said. “They went to a checkpoint and were held up for three hours before they could get to a hospital. The brother ended up dying. If the wall hadn’t been there, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Papal journey

During this trip, Pope Benedict will visit sites that are sacred to Jews like Mount Nebo and the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. He will also meet Israel’s two chief rabbis.

Pope John Paul II prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on March 26, 2000

Pope John Paul II prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on March 26, 2000

Like John Paul II, who visited the Holy Land in 2000, Pope Benedict will lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and meet with Holocaust survivors. However, his stop will avoid the memorial’s museum, which includes a controversial placard denigrating Pope Pius XII’s efforts to aid Jews during World War II.

“The placard is a huge problem and scandal,” said Ray, a best-selling author and evangelist. “It presents Pope Pius as being silent at best or collaborating with the Nazis.”

The Vatican’s relationship with Jews was strained in January when the Pope lifted the excommunication for a Lefevrite bishop who was later discovered to be a Holocaust-denier. Since then, the Pope has clarified the Holy See’s position on the Holocaust and apologized for the lack of a better background check.

“Though this caused a ruckus with the Jewish community, enough good will already existed from years of dialogue,” said Keating. “This issue has really passed.”

Muslim dialogue

Besides Jews and Christians, Pope Benedict will also meet with Muslim leaders. He will visit mosques in Jordan and Israel, including the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem — the third holiest Muslim site after Mecca and Medina.

“This is a major event for the Muslim world,” said Keating. “It is the place where Muslims believe that Mohammed made a night journey to heaven by the help of angels.”

The Dome of the Rock is one of the most challenging issues for Israel because it forms the basis for Muslim claims to the Holy Land. It’s built on the site of the Jewish temple destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

“Our Holy Father has done an outstanding outreach to the Muslim world,” said Steve Colecchi, director of the USCCB’s Office of Justice, Peace and Human Development. “He invited Muslim scholars to the Vatican in response to an open letter written by Muslim leaders to the Christian world in 2007. They met in the Vatican in November 2008. The Pope will be well received by Muslim leaders.”

The open letter written by 138 Muslim scholars to Christian leaders was the first time a group of high-profile Muslims united to call for peace. The Pope’s visit to the Holy Land is expected to help build the Church’s relationship with Islam.

Call for peace

Another relationship on the Holy Father’s mind will be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pope Benedict continues to call for peace and dialogue despite talks being at a standstill. In his Urbi et Orbi message on Easter Sunday, he said that “reconciliation — difficult, but indispensable — is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence” in the Middle East. His trip should give renewed energy to the peace process.

The Pope is also expected to reach out to the Israeli government. The Vatican is asking for protection of Church lands, a clear juridical status for Church entities in Israel and tax exemptions for property. Discussions on these issues have been at a standstill since 1993 when the Fundamental Accord between the Vatican and Israel was established.

Pope Benedict will carry the weight of these troubles as he travels the land where Jesus walked. When Pope John Paul II traveled to Israel in 2000, he won over both Israelis and Palestinians. He is especially remembered for slipping a prayer note into the crevices of the Wailing Wall.

If the past few years are any indication, Pope Benedict will certainly win over the region’s heart with his humility and sincere concern for its people.

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a staff writer for Legatus Magazine.

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Legatus Holy Land pilgrimage

Steve Ray

Steve Ray

Legatus will host a Holy Land pilgrimage from Oct. 10-19 with expert guides Steve and Janet Ray — the writers, producers and hosts of the award-winning documentary series The Footprints of God.

“The pilgrimage will spend 2.5 days in Galilee, one day in Bethlehem, three days in Jerusalem and one day in the south visiting Masada, Qumran and Jericho,” Ray said.

There will be memorable experiences for participants every day.

“We’ll renew baptismal vows at the Jordan River,” he explained. “Depending on the priest, we may get water sprinkled with a branch — or we may be asked to walk in up to our knees.

“We’ll walk the Via Dolorosa and we’ll all get to touch Mount Calvary. In Cana, we renew wedding vows. We’ll go on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. In Capernaum, we’ll have Mass at St. Peter’s house where Jesus lived for three years.”

Three must-see sites include Bethlehem, the Holy Sepulchre and Nazareth. “We would not have the Incarnation without Nazareth,” Ray said.

“It was a village of 30 caves — and Mary lived in one of them.”

In Bethlehem, pilgrims will visit the Church of the Nativity, the only major church in the Holy Land that survives intact from the early Christian period. Depending on crowds, Legates may be able to touch the actual spot where Jesus was born.

With regards to safety, Ray notes he has traveled to the Holy Land more than 60 times.

“I have never felt danger,” he explained. “I cannot over-emphasize this. The violence is in Gaza, which is one little corner of this country. Since the security wall was built, there have been no problems.”

To register or for more information, visit legatus.org or call (313) 565-8888 ext 121.

St. Scholastica (480-547 AD)

Feast Day: February 10

Canonized: Pre-Congregation

Born in Nursia, Italy, Scholastica was St. Benedict’s twin sister. They were raised together and enjoyed a close relationship. Years after Benedict left home to pursue his studies, Scholastica left home and founded a religious convent for women at Plombariola. This was near Monte Cassino, the famous monastery in central Italy founded by her brother. She became the community’s abbess and the group was likely under Benedict’s direction.

Saint Scholastica would meet with Benedict every year at a house outside of her convent and her brother’s monastery. This particular meeting site near Monte Cassino was necessary since Scholastica was not allowed by rule to enter her brother’s monastery, and Benedict and his monks were required to spend the night in their monastery.

The siblings would spend much of their time discussing deep spiritual matters. On one particular evening, when Benedict indicated it was time for him to leave, she protested, begging him to stay so they could continue their discussions. Adhering to his rule of not staying all night outside of the monastery, Benedict declined the offer.

Scholastica bowed her head in prayer, asking God to intervene so her brother could stay with her longer. Suddenly, a violent thunderstorm arose, making her brother’s travel back to the monastery impossible. Benedict confronted his sister and accused her of provocation, to which she replied, “I asked a favor of you and you refused it. So I asked it of God and He granted it!”

Saint Scholastica died three days after this last visit. While Benedict was in his cell praying, he had a vision of his beloved sister’s soul ascending to Heaven in the form of a dove. Saint Scholastica was buried in the tomb that Benedict had prepared for himself. She is the patron saint of convulsive children and nuns. She is invoked against storms and rain.

This column is produced for Legatus by the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate for high school-age teens and college-age young adults. On the web: deadtheologianssociety.com.