President George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Saint Peter's Catholic Church, Columbia, South Carolina - "Forty Days and Forty Nights"


From my own parish, Saint Peter's Catholic Church, Columbia, South Carolina.  Hymn in Procession: Ash Wednesday 2012.  "Forty Days and Forty Nights."  Mark Husey, Organist; III/38 Peragallo pipe organ.  The church has historic and magnificent Tiffany Studios windows.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Father Rutler: The Continuing Agony of Christ

Father George W. Rutler
An engineer in Alexandria named Ctesibius is said to have invented the pipe organ around 265 B.C., originally an “hydraulis” using water to raise air pressure. Although there was a “water organ” in the narthex of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople for heralding the Emperor, one theory holds that organs are not commonly used in the Byzantine rite because they are reminders of the horrors endured by the holy martyrs as pagan entertainment. There were many places in the various circuses and amphitheaters throughout the Empire where these spectacles took place. Possibly the first to be sentenced to the damnatio ad bestias, or being fed to wild beasts, in the Flavian amphitheater of the Colosseum of Rome, was Ignatius, bishop of Antioch.

On February 24, that Colosseum will be floodlit red, along with churches in Syria and Iraq, to publicize the persecution of Christians in our own day. The sponsoring organization, Aid to the Church in Need, reports that in a dozen countries, conspicuously in Egypt and Turkey, anti-Christian persecution has reached a new peak. The situation has worsened in Nepal since new “blasphemy” laws were introduced. While crowds applaud the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang to the sound of music, around 70,000 Christians are languishing in North Korean labor camps. There is a faint echo here of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, but at least they had Jesse Owens.

Floodlighting may be one vivid way to awaken the attention of people in more comfortable lands to what is happening. Much of our media, as they either willfully or uncomprehendingly ignore the persecution, are like the idols that “have mouths but cannot speak; eyes, but cannot see; ears, but cannot hear” (Psalm 115:5-6). Looking the other way can become a habit. For instance, much of the world ignored the deportations by the Nazis in 1942 from Lyons, France, when those marked for death were herded into the same Colosseum where the saints Blandina, Ponthinius, Epidodius and Alexander were brutalized in the second century.

The modest abstinences and disciplines of Lent should awaken the senses to perceive things of God more clearly. They can also alert somnolent consciences to harsh realities in other parts of the Church. In Holy Week the Church will remember how Christ awakened the three apostles as they slept through his agony. Pascal said, “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.” It was the triumphant risen Lord who asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting me?”—for heaven does not ignore earth: “… to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). The Resurrection acclamation, “Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat! – Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!” was inscribed on the obelisk that is now in St. Peter’s Square, but that once stood in the Circus of Nero and cast its shadow on the suffering martyrs. 


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Attende Domine"


Sung Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the chapel of what was my high school, Holy Family Diocesan High School, now St. Anthony's High School, Huntington, Long Island, New York, March 12, 2010.  Father Brian Austin, celebrant, with Our Lady of the Angels Schola.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

An Open Letter to Conferences of Catholic Bishops across the World

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An Open Letter to Conferences of Catholic Bishops Across the World Regarding the Possible Agreement Between the Holy See and the Government of the People’s Republic of China

 

Your Eminence and Most Reverend,

We are a group of Catholics. Recently there has been news reports indicating that the Holy See and the government of the People’s Republic of China will soon reach an agreement over the issue of bishop appointment, as well as recognition of seven illicit “bishops”. We are deeply shocked and disappointed. With our love and allegiance to the Holy Mother Church, we hope you and the bishops conferences would pay attention to such development.

According to the teachings of the Holy Mother Church, bishops are the successors of the Apostles, bearing the duties of leading and tending the flock: “The Church is apostolic. She is built on a lasting foundation: “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” ( Rev 21:14). She is indestructible (Mt 16:18). She is upheld infallibly in the truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other apostles, who are present in their successors, the Pope and the college of bishops.”(Catechism, 869) All bishops must therefore be appointed by the Successor of Peter — the Holy Father, the Pope. And they must be men of moral principles and wisdom. The government must play no role in the selection process:

“[T]he right of nominating and appointing bishops belongs properly, peculiarly, and per se exclusively to the competent ecclesiastical authority. Therefore, for the purpose of duly protecting the freedom of the church and of promoting more conveniently and efficiently the welfare of the faithful, this holy council desires that in future no more rights or privileges of election, nomination, presentation, or designation for the office of bishop be granted to civil authorities.” (Christus Dominus, para. 20)

Yet, the seven illicitly ordained “bishops” were not appointed by the Pope, and their moral integrity is questionable. They do not have the trust of the faithful, and have never repented publicly. If they were to be recognized as legitimate, the faithful in Greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China.

We fully understand that the Holy See is eager to be able to evangelize in China more effectively. However, we are deeply worried that the deal would create damages that cannot be remedied. The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, and the Patriotic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the Church. Religious persecution has never stopped. Xi has also made it clear that the Party will strengthen its control over religions. So there is no possibility that the Church can enjoy more freedom. In addition, the Communist Party has a long history of breaking promises. We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power. The Church would no longer be able to have the trust of people, and “serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into God’s family.” (Gaudium et Spes, 40)

In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, our beloved Pope Francis writes: “Sometimes I wonder if there are people in today’s world who are really concerned about generating processes of people-building, as opposed to obtaining immediate results which yield easy, quick short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fullness… The Lord himself, during his earthly life, often warned his disciples that there were things they could not yet understand and that they would have to await the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:12-13). The parable of the weeds among the wheat (Mt 13:24-30) graphically illustrates an important aspect of evangelization: the enemy can intrude upon the kingdom and sow harm, but ultimately he is defeated by the goodness of the wheat.” (224-225) The Spirit of God sometimes does not allow us to proceed. (ref. Act 16:6) Though the force of evil is growing, time belongs to God. By putting our trust in the Lord, the dark night will eventually pass. Rushing for a quick achievement, taking a wrong step, can  result in total failure.

His Holiness has always been attentive to the sufferings of persecuted Christians. He once said: “Legal systems, therefore, whether state or international, are called upon to recognize, guarantee and protect religious freedom, which is an intrinsic right inherent to human nature, to the dignity of being free, and is also a sign of a healthy democracy and one of the principal sources of the legitimacy of the State.” “It causes me great pain to know that Christians in the world submit to the greatest amount of such discrimination. Persecution against Christians today is actually worse than in the first centuries of the Church, and there are more Christian martyrs today than in that era.” We believe that persecution of Christians in China also pains His Holiness. Therefore, we urge that any agreement must be grounded in the protection of religious freedom, and an end to religious persecution. Unfortunately, as a newly-revised Regulation on Religious Affairs, which allows for stricter scrutiny over religions, has just been put into effect in early February, we cannot see any possibility that the coming agreement can result in the Chinese government stopping its persecution of the Church, and ceasing its violations of religious freedom.

Your Eminence and Most Reverend, we earnestly hope that, you, your brothers and your flock continue to pray for the communion of the Church in China, as well as her pastoral ministry. We earnestly ask you, with the love on the people of God, appeal to the Holy See: Please rethink the current agreement, and stop making an irreversible and regrettable mistake.

May the Almighty God bless the Church in China!

Martyr Saints of China, pray for us!

(Click to join the petition)

The initiators are university professors, lecturers, researchers, human rights activists and lawyers:

Dr. Kenneth Ka-lok Chan (Hong Kong)
Prof. Joseph Yu-shek Cheng (Hong Kong)
Mr. Yiu-leung Cheung (Hong Kong)
Dr Rodney Wai-chi Chu (Hong Kong)
Dr. Martin C. K. Chung (Hong Kong)
Mr. Yan-ho Lai (London, UK)
Dr. Wing-kwan Lam (Hong Kong)
Dr. Lisa Yuk-ming Leung (Hong Kong)
Mr. Kwok-ming Ma (Hong Kong)
Mr. Chit-wai John Mok (Irvine, US)
Mr. Benedict Rogers (London, UK)
Dr. Yik-fai Tam (San Francisco, US)
Prof. Wai Ting (Hong Kong)
Mr. Yiu-ming To (Hong Kong)
Mr. Patrick Yu (Northern Ireland, UK)

Click to join the petition

 

 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Father Rutler: A Life's Goal

Father George W. Rutler
There are different theories as to why Schubert did not finish the Unfinished Symphony. Although his Symphony in B minor lacks two movements, it has two. And explaining why it began is as challenging as explaining why it did not end. Mozart did not finish his Requiem for the simple reason that he died. That also is why Thucydides did not finish his History of the Peloponnesian War, Raphael’s Transfiguration was incomplete, Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus was left for Titian to complete, and Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov had unrealized chapters.
 
A Roman soldier’s sword prevented Archimedes from resolving a mathematical problem. Chaucer did not finish his Canterbury Tales because he had to go back to work as a clerk in the Port of London, and Spenser did not finish the last six books of The Faerie Queene for political reasons. Coleridge could not complete his Kubla Khan because someone awoke him from a laudanum stupor. Perhaps the arrival of Alessandro de’ Medici caused Michelangelo to quit Florence without finishing the statue that still puzzles experts, who are not sure if it is Apollo or David. We do know that Donatello deliberately used his non finito technique to give a kind of emerging vitality to his figures.
 
Artists rarely think that they have completed a work. Tolkien, for example, kept re-writing The Silmarillion. At least they have an intuition, a mental sense, of what should be realized with paint or pen. But if life has no goal, there is nothing to complete. Chesterton said that man has always been lost, but modern man has lost his address and cannot return home. Far different was Saint Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). His faith was trust that life has a goal, and it is realized in the eternal existence offered by the Creator who made us in his image. “In him you have been made complete” (Colossians 2:10).
 
The days of Lent are like signposts toward the goal. Meanwhile, we are “works in progress.” The question is, “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3). When Ash Wednesday is coincident with St. Valentine’s Day, there is a stark contrast between love and sentiment. The martyr Valentine loved so much that he sacrificed his life for the love of God. To reduce him to some sort of cupid, is never to finish the picture.
 
The world’s greatest Lover shouted from the cross: “It is finished!” That tetelestai is an accounting term meaning “paid in full.” The Son cried out to the Father that he had paid the debt incurred by human pride. It is what every composer, painter, writer or scientist wants to be able to say, but can only be said satisfactorily when Christ is seen “face to face, and not as a stranger” (1 John 3:2).