“Who do people say that I am?”

Jesus already knew the answer to that question (Mark 7,27-30). He is God.
For that matter, Jesus was the only one of them who knew at that time that He is God.
Then why did Jesus ask the question?
Not for His benefit but for their benefit. For our benefit.

Calling of Peter and Andrew (Duccio, 1308-1311)

It shows us that Peter learned it from heaven (Matthew 16,17), that Peter knew about Jesus not just from paying attention and doing his homework but because of help from heaven.

And the subsequent exchange (Mark 8,31-33) demonstrates that Peter is not immune from the deleterious influence of hell, especially when left to his own devices.

The unfolding of Our Lord’s agony and arrest in the garden and subsequent shameful interrogation showed Peter subject to the same conflicting currents. After his repeated denials of knowing Jesus (Mark 15,66-72) at the moment the cock crows, Jesus’ words (Mark 15,30) come back to Peter and he is reduced to tears of contrition.

Christ before Annas and Peter Denying Christ
(Duccio, 1308-1311)

Will Peter be perfect? No.
But will he ruin God’s work? No.
Will he ignore a prompt from heaven? Not ever.
Will he get to the point of being beyond criticism? Not likely.
But will he fail in any significant way? No.
Will any of this be new? No.
And will any of this change? Not if Jesus is God and His promises (Matthew 16,18-20 and Luke 23,31-32 and John 21,3-19) mean anything.

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter (Pietro Perugino, 1481-82)

Jesus’ choice of Peter as head teacher and chief fisherman was deliberate and should shape every Bible-reader’s Christian obedience to and reasonable expectations of Peter and his successors.

Christ’s Charge to Peter (Raphael, 1515)

The scoundrels that have sat on that chair, as much as the saints, prove true the promise of Our Lord in matters of necessity, in matters of doctrine. In matters personal, prudential and political the Holy Spirit does damage control, then and now.

It explains why full-blooded Christians both rely on the Pope serenely and pray for him constantly.

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Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows deserves a memorial the day after the celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  It helps us remember that the Cross was not all flowers and sunshine.

The Alleluia Verse at Mass today suggests that Sept 15 is not so simply a sad day to balance out a day of celebrating the Cross: “Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed are you, O Blessed Virgin Mary, without dying you won the martyr’s crown beside the cross of the Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.” Rather, we can think of Our Lady being grateful to God for having been allowed to be with her Son at His Death. When a loved one dies we are grateful – not happy but grateful -for being able to care for them and suffer with them.

Yesterday we celebrated the glory that was won by the Cross. Today we celebrate the painful privilege of having been with Him when the victory was won.

Pietà (Michelangelo, 1498-1499) detail

“Simeon said to Mary:
Behold, this child is destined for the ruin and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign of contradiction
and your own soul a sword will pierce.'”
Luke 2:34-35
Entrance Antiphon, Mass for the Memorial

Pietà (Michelangelo, 1498-1499)

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’
Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
John 19:25-27

Pietà (Bellini, 1505)

“Even now I find joy in the suffering I endure for you.”
Colossians 1,24a
Reading from Morning Prayer

Pietà di Luco (Andrea del Sarto, 1523-1524)

“Let us rejoice that we have been made sharers in Christ’s passion.”
Antiphon from Morning Prayer

Pietà (Bouguereau, 1876) detail

Rejoice, O sorrowful Mother; after your great sufferings,
you shine forth as Queen, enthroned beside your son.
Antiphon from Morning Prayer

Pietà (Bouguereau, 1876)

Our Lady of Sorrows,
pray for us
that we love enough
to be grateful to have suffered
with our beloved.

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Pope on Pilgrimage. Post-Synodal Promulgation. Protester Perishes.

Stories from Day One of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Journey to Lebanon:

Pope Press Conference on Flight to Beirut
(Vatican Radio)

Pope Arrives in Lebanon as a Friend
of All the Inhabitants of the Middle East

Papal Speech at the Welcome Ceremony (Vatican Radio)

Under the Sign of Brotherhood and Dialogue
(l’Osservatore Romano)

Pope at Greek Melkite Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa
(Vatican Radio)

Papal Speech at Signing of Apostolic Exhortation
(Vatican Radio)

Summary of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
(Vatican Radio)

Pope visits Lebanon torn by Syria crisis (BBC)

Pope urges religions to root out fundamentalism (BBC)

One killed in Lebanon protest
over anti-Islam film, pope

Lebanon profile (BBC)

nothing (DrudgeReport)

nothing (HuffPo)

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Benedict Bound for Beirut

Apostolic Journey to Lebanon
(14-16 September 2012)

on the occasion of the signing and publication
of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops

Missal for the Apostolic Journey

14 September 2012

Welcoming Ceremony (Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport)

Visit to St. Paul’s Basilica (Harissa)
and the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente”

15 September 2012

Meeting with members of the government, institutions of the Republic, the diplomatic corps, religious leaders and representatives of the world of culture
(May 25th Hall of the Baabda Presidential Palace)

Meeting with Youth (Square across from the Maronite Patriarchate of Bkerké)

16 September 2012

Holy Mass
Presentation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East
(Beirut City Center Waterfront)

Recitation of the Angelus

Departure Ceremony (Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport)

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Extraordinary Catholics in Austria

The Archduke and Archduchess of Austria were married in Washington DC
on the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 8 September 2012,
in the Traditional Latin Liturgy.

Rev. Msgr. Charles Pope offered the Holy Mass and preached.
Rev. Gregory Thompson served as deacon. Rev. Edwin Perez served as sub-deacon.

Archduke Imre and Archduchess Kathleen
(Spiering Photography)

The Most Rev. Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington attended in choir, blessing the newlyweds and conveying to the Benediction of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Most Rev. Paul S. Loverde
(Spiering Photography)

Check out more official photographs by Craig Spiering.

The choir sang Franz Schubert’s Mass II.

Archduke & Archduchess of Austria

The wedding of Katie Walker and Archduke Imre of Austria caught the attention of WashPo this week. Long ago the groom’s great-grandfather , Charles I of Austria, had caught the attention of Pope John Paul II.

Blessed Karl von Habsburg (1887-1922)

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The Holy Name of Mary

On a day when the world woke up again to graphic examples of Islamic violence, the Catholic Church celebrated the Memorial of the Holy Name of Mary.

Why on the 12th of September?

The feast originated in Spain and was approved by the Holy See in 1513; Innocent XI extended its observance to the whole Church in 1683 in thanksgiving to our Lady for the victory on September 12, 1683 by John Sobieski, king of Poland, over the Turks, who were besieging Vienna and threatening the West. This day was commemorated in Vienna by creating a new kind of pastry and shaping it in the form of the Turkish half-moon. It was eaten along with coffee which was part of the booty from the Turks.

(from Mariology by Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., courtesy of www.catholicculture.org)

Behold the quintessential Vatican breakfast:

Time to wake up and smell the coffee. Buon giorno.

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On a Crisp Clear Second Tuesday of September

Something awful did not have to happen.

And a thought occurred to me.

Thousands who died will not return to this soil. Many, many more who were injured carry scars inside and out. Across the country, personal liberty in transit and in just being left alone has eroded.

On a fundamental level, though, what changed? Perhaps nothing more than Americans’ awareness of how much some people hate us and what they are willing to do accordingly. The world did not become a worse or more dangerous place as much as America became more like the rest of the world.

But the fallen angels who would seek to ruin our eternal salvation are far more clever. They do their utmost to avoid notice (cf. Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis in PDF format). Amidst worries about the stock market and the price of gas, our society has grown accustomed to death. Laughter and mockery are the usual responses to concern about abortion and contraception in public policy, let alone the ravages of divorce and daycare. Those who warn about to the specter of euthanasia are wakening up to a threat that has been under way for decades. With the water slowly reaching a boil, maybe a jolt of domestic intolerance of religion is just what the doctor ordered.

When others would likely have told them to eat this or drink that or rub this on what ails you, the crowd who sought out Jesus for freedom from their diseases knew that heavenly grace has power over earthly woe. They were perceptive to signs that they needed to be closer to God.

A great crowd of His disciples and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon
came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases;
and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.
Everyone in the crowd sought to touch Him
because power came forth from Him and healed them all.
Luke 6,17b-19

The Good News is that Jesus does not make us walk too far to reach Him. He came to us, to rescue us, to offer us a lasting peace that will begin to be ours as we conform our lives to His justice, a peace which will be everlasting once our zip code is heaven. To make it as easy as possible, He lets us experience tastes of heaven while still making our way through this valley of tears. He remains in the world and comes into our lives every day on the altar.

God is good.

In gratitude for all those who laid down their lives to defend and protect and for those still willing to do so today, we pray

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan
and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.

Our Lady, Queen of Peace,
pray for us.

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Cardinal Dolan’s Prayer at the Close of the Democratic National Convention

Good? Yes. Courageous? Maybe not. (see Luke 17,10)

Courtesy of C-SPAN

With a ‘firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,’ let us close this convention by praying for this land that we so cherish and love.

Let us Pray.

Almighty God, father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, revealed to us so powerfully in your Son, Jesus Christ, we thank you for showering your blessings upon this our beloved nation. Bless all here present, and all across this great land, who work hard for the day when a greater portion of your justice, and a more ample measure of your care for the poor and suffering, may prevail in these United States. Help us to see that a society’s greatness is found above all in the respect it shows for the weakest and neediest among us.

We beseech you, almighty God to shed your grace on this noble experiment in ordered liberty, which began with the confident assertion of inalienable rights bestowed upon us by you: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thus do we praise you for the gift of life. Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected. Strengthen our sick and our elders waiting to see your holy face at life’s end, that they may be accompanied by true compassion and cherished with the dignity due those who are infirm and fragile.

We praise and thank you for the gift of liberty. May this land of the free never lack those brave enough to defend our basic freedoms. Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty: the first, most cherished freedom bequeathed upon us at our Founding. May our liberty be in harmony with truth; freedom ordered in goodness and justice. Help us live our freedom in faith, hope, and love. Make us ever-grateful for those who, for over two centuries, have given their lives in freedom’s defense; we commend their noble souls to your eternal care, as even now we beg the protection of your mighty arm upon our men and women in uniform.

We praise and thank you for granting us the life and the liberty by which we can pursue happiness. Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community. May we welcome those who yearn to breathe free and to pursue happiness in this land of freedom, adding their gifts to those whose families have lived here for centuries.

We praise and thank you for the American genius of government of the people, by the people and for the people. Oh God of wisdom, justice, and might, we ask your guidance for those who govern us: President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, Congress, the Supreme Court, and all those, including Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, who seek to serve the common good by seeking public office. Make them all worthy to serve you by serving our country. Help them remember that the only just government is the government that serves its citizens rather than itself. With your grace, may all Americans choose wisely as we consider the future course of public policy.

And finally Lord, we beseech your benediction on all of us who depart from here this evening, and on all those, in every land, who yearn to conduct their lives in freedom and justice. We beg you to remember, as we pledge to remember, those who are not free; those who suffer for freedom’s cause; those who are poor, out of work, needy, sick, or alone; those who are persecuted for their religious convictions, those still ravaged by war.

And most of all, God Almighty, we thank you for the great gift of our beloved country.

For we are indeed “one nation under God,” and “in God we trust.”

So dear God, bless America. You who live and reign forever and ever.


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DNC Unable to Reinstate God and Jerusalem without Running Roughshod over Delegates Opposed

As seen today on C-SPAN:

The Democratic National Convention amended arm-twisted the Party Platform as moved by former Governor Ted Strickland:

“As an ordained United Methodist minister, I am here to attest and affirm that our faith and belief in God is central to the American story and informs the values we’ve expressed in our party’s platform.

In addition, President Obama recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and our party’s platform should as well.”

Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles, Democratic Convention Chairman, then put it to a voice vote… three times. Adoption required two-thirds majority. The first vote was unsuccessful. The “No”s grew louder each time. It is worth watching.

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unstained by the world

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1,27

Sounds simple. Like a Cub Scout project.

However, “unstained by the world” can mean more than refraining from the sins that pollute the world, which could be accomplished by even a timid soul. She might be able to reach out to the downtrodden, but it likely will be in the form of a fake smile worn as a mask or in a sort of camaraderie of the beleaguered.

If “unstained by the world” means that your hope and joy are undimmed, your charity and kindness undiminished, this simple phrase describes a soul with the deepest spiritual life, a courageous, undaunted hero whose ordered life begets peace, resists discouragement and suffers purposefully. She loves every face she sees. Being in her presence means being prized and enjoying her glance means sharing in the hope that fills the eyes of those whose gaze is fixed on the joy of heaven.

She is Immaculate.

La Vierge Consolatrice (Bouguereau, 1877)


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