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JPII and St. Nicholas

Monday, July 10, 2017

JPII Locates "Patron of Europe": St. Benedict of Nursia

T.S. Eliot lhad the European Continent in mind when he composed “The Wasteland”.  Georg Ratzinger[1] was present and on-site when the oldest monastery in the world, Monte Cassino, was destroyed by American artillery in World War II.  Much of the visible roots of Christian Europe were literally ‘uprooted’ by open warfare in the 20th century, including July 11th’s Saint’s final resting place, as I said regarding Monte Cassino.  Thankfully, new monastic life is taking root at the very site of Benedict of Nursia’s original monastery despite a few natural disasters[2].  As Patron of Europe, St. Benedict’s intercession is not limited to the post-war “Wasteland”, but can truly help to rejuvenate a “new springtime” in more ways than one (Lectio Divina, Ora et Labora, etc.)

St. John Paul II located Blessed Paul VI’s Apostolic Letter Pacis Nuntius of 1964 as the first time that St. Benedict was named “Patron of Europe”.  It’s no small title as JPII linked the Saint with the likes of Cyril and Methodius, the former of whom still has owns the secular right of claiming the Russian language under his namesake, Cyrilic.  Wojtyla writes:

The ever-living relevance of the eminent figures of Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, as concrete models and spiritual aids for the Christians of today, and especially for the nations of the continent of Europe, which, especially through the prayers and work of these saints, have long been consciously and originally rooted in the Church and in Christian tradition[3].    

These three saints launched never before seen waves of culture that still inspire hope and consolation in the midst of the “Wasteland”.  After all, once the Roman Empire fell, the dark ages posed a similar threat to today’s paganism and degeneration.  I’m reminded actually of the present day situation in inner city Detroit, a veritable “wasteland” that has hints a tremendous spiritual renewal with the latest “Unleash the Gospel” from Archbishop Vigneron[4]! 

Furthermore, St. Benedict’s legacy contributed immensely to Christian culture in the USA as well!  Abbot Boniface Wimmer brought the Benedictine Rule to Pennsylvania in the 19th century and founded the Archabbey of St. Vincent[5] where I have visited multiple times and learned Lectio Divina.  There are also Benedictine Universities across the country, some in need of renewal (especially in Minnesota) and some in excellent standing, like Wimmer’s own St. Vincent’s!

There is still much to be accomplished through the living and prophetic intercession of St. Benedict of Nursia all over the world.  St. John Paul II did well to emphasize patron of Europe in the letter of Paul VI, and Pope Emeritus Benedict was on the mark by choosing Benedict as his namesake.  Despite the wasteland, there is over generations of faithful in the land a guarantee of a new springtime in Europe.  

[1] http://www.ignatius.com/promotions/my-brother-the-pope/the-book.htm
[2] http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/03/10/echoes-of-st-benedict-as-norcia-monks-rebuild-after-earthquake/
[3] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_19850602_slavorum-apostoli.html
[4] http://www.unleashthegospel.org/
[5] http://amcass.org/

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Wojtyla's Confirmation and Cardinal Sapieha

The response of Karol Wojtyla to a challenge from Adam Cardinal Sapieha is what every hard-working DRE would hope for from the youth:

Cardinal Sapieha played a key role in Karol Wojtyła’s vocation. In 1938, he went to the town of Wadowice for confirmation. Among those confirmed was Wojtyła. Sapieha asked him what his plans for the future were. When he learned that he planned on studying Polish literature in Krakow, Sapieha lamented that he didn’t choose the seminary instead. During the war, Wojtyła studied in Sapieha’s illegal seminary. After the war, the future pope – smitten with the writings of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila – asked him if he could leave the diocesan seminary and become a Carmelite monk. Sapieha denied the request, instructing him to instead finish what he had started. (Many believe that Sapieha was in part motivated by the fact that Poland, whose clergy was murdered on a massive scale in concentration camps, desperately needed new diocesan priests.)

I recall teaching Confirmation classes in Detroit and praying for responses like Wojtyla's.  More often than not, however, the students wanted to be confirmed simply for the Quinceañera which was promised them by their padres...After that celebration though, what next?  Hopefully both men and women would desire Carmel like Wojtyla!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Wojtyla's Comradeship + Friendship

Love and Responsibility goes into great depth about the difference between Comradeship and Friendship; so much so, that I think Comradeship deserves its own formula as does Karol Wojtyla[1]!  He emphasizes the objective qualifiers[2] in Comradeship as prerequisites for friendship.  In other words, somewhat like sympathy, comradeship is a great aid to friendship.  I would attempt to formulate it like this, with explanation to follow:

ᵾ Work or ᵾ Company + ᴲ individual’s role at work or company → ᵾ public ᴲ identity with both ᴲ role & ᵾ Company  

Wojtyla’s argument for the value in comradery is that it fosters community; it essentially brings the existential into the universal.  While not sacramental, like a marriage involving the friendship between a man and a woman, comradeship does allow for a kind of stewardship of family in the broader environment of neighborhood and city, etc.  Simply put, it brings people together for a common purpose akin to solidarity.

In other sections of Love and Responsibility, he calls the process of fostering community “integrating”[3] the exclusive love between man and woman into the broader network of relationships.  He even warns that if a couple fails to integrate; their own relationship may not succeed.  In terms of comradery then, it can determine the success or failure of a friendship.

Seen side by side, the two formulas (friendship and comradeship) look like this.  *Please note, sympathy as defined by Wojtyla simply means "shared life together":

 ᴲ Sympathy→ Conformity of Wills- ᵾ -( ᴲ Trust & ᴲ Sympathy, ᴲ Forgiveness & ᵾ Reconciliation) → ᴲ Virtue of Hope ᵾ (ᴲ Trust & ᴲ Sympathy) = Friendship

ᵾ Work or ᵾ Company + ᴲ individual’s role at work or company → ᵾ public ᴲ identity with both ᴲ role & ᵾ Company = Comradeship

Integrated together, I would say they look like this (where “Comradeship” respresents its own formula in the form of just the single word) :

ᴲ Sympathy→ Conformity of Wills- ᵾ -( Comradeship ᵾ, ᴲ Trust & ᴲ Sympathy, ᴲ Forgiveness & ᵾ Reconciliation) → ᴲ Virtue of Hope ᵾ (ᴲ Trust & ᴲ Sympathy) = Friendship

I added “Comradeship” to the “Conformity of Wills” section of the Friendship formula on account of it being integral to function of community.  Even St. Paul refers to the “proper functioning of each part” of the Body of Christ, and if certain parts compete or are envious of each other, then functioning is disintegrated. 



[1] Wojtyla, Karol.  Love and Responsibility.  “From Sympathy to Friendship”. P. 94  Ignatius: San Francisco, 1993
[2] Ibid
[3] Wojtyla, Karol.  Love and Responsibility.  “The Problem of Integrating Love”. P. 114-118  Ignatius: San Francisco, 1993
Fr. John Nepil has a thorough article on the quality of certain friendships: pleasant or true, according to Aristotle and the process of either making beer or scotch.  I found it interesting in that the chief distinguisher between a true friendship and a pleasant one is reconciliation.  In other words, true friendship—like the intense process of making scotch (chemical change and transformation after distilling) —requires painful and transforming demands of forgiveness and reconciliation.  His approach adds wholly new (ᴲ) existential and (ᵾ) universal qualifiers to my formula for friendship derived from Karol Wojtyla:

ᴲ Sympathy→ Conformity of Wills- ᵾ -(ᴲ Trust & ᴲ Sympathy, ᴲ Forgiveness & ᵾ Reconciliation) → ᴲ Virtue of Hope ᵾ (ᴲ Trust & ᴲ Sympathy)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

1994, St. Dominic of Silos' Chant and JPII

It is hard to believe that in 1994 when the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos released an album of Gregorian chant, my little league baseball coach played it for us.  He was a former bull-pen catcher for the Boston Red Sox and truly reached heroic status for our team (hitting homers from both sides of the plate @ 350 yards!).  When he started playing chant though, we were a bit skeptical...until we started hearing it everywhere.  St. John Paul II had been Pope for nearly 16 years!

I still love this chant, and had memorized the whole album by the time I was 12.

St. Dominic de Silos, ora pro nobis! (memorial 12/20) 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thatcher and JPII

Recorded history attests to a cross-continental alliance between Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.  After all, she celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall: but to her dismay, the Euro, the Maastricht treaty (EU) and political integration followed.  Recent events with Brexit, however, may prove to be her last laugh!

Margaret Thatcher was raised in the Methodist tradition in rural England.  John O’Sullivan calls her, “the incarnation of provincial Methodist virtues—a very simple person, not riven by doubt about essentials, and decisive for that reason.” (ibid)  She was decisive about a few principles that appear in the Pope’s Centesimus Annus: subsidiarity and moral free-market capitalism.  These two Catholic social teachings unconsciously informed her worldview, although she may have called them simply “Euro-skepticism”.  As I mentioned, the EU formed soon after Thatcher’s resignation, but her legacy continues even to the present day, as seen in the British patriotism of Daniel Hannan .   

But for a British Prime Minister to align herself with the Bishop of Rome in the Cold War is truly an irony of history as well.  Certainly Elizabeth the 1st would not have made such an alliance.  Yet, Thatcher and the Pope were not necessarily aligned afterward as best indicated by the dispute over the Falklands.  The Pope openly opposed her aggression in that regard.  For this and other reasons of sheer stubbornness, she was known as the “Iron Lady Thatcher”.