Friday, August 15, 2008

Assumpta Est

Back from hiatus? Not so fast... but soon enough.

Anyways, greetings from a couch at the Shore -- where, in the grand tradition of this Assumption Day, the annual Weddings of the Sea have yet again taken place. (First miracle: the forecast thunderstorms never materialized....)

As always, a world of thanks for the truckload of e.mails; getting back to 'em (or trying to) one at a time, so please be patient. In the meantime, though, as one writer noted that he'd yet to see "an actual copy" of the recent ruling on the Tetragrammatron, for anyone else in the same boat the CDW Letter to the Bishops' Conferences on the Name of God is posted below, with the cover letter from the USCCB's Committee for Divine Worship; the files are jpeg, clicking on the thumbnails should open each page as full size:

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Looking back for a moment, this Assumption Day -- the 218th anniversary of the ordination of John Carroll of Baltimore as the first American bishop -- likewise marks a more recent milestone of Stateside church history: fifteen years exactly since the close of World Youth Day in Denver, whose five days marked the "second founding" of the church in the Rockies and transformed the triennial gathering from Karol Wojtyla's ambitious vision into the global church's enduring "Olympic event."

From the day's memorable homily at Cherry Creek State Park, a snip:
The Eighth "World Youth Day" is a celebration of Life. This gathering has been the occasion of a serious reflection on the words of Jesus Christ: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly". Young people from every corner of the world, in ardent prayer you have opened your hearts to the truth of Christ’s promise of new Life. Through the Sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist, and by means of the unity and friendship created among so many, you have had a real and transforming experience of the new Life which only Christ can give. You, young pilgrims, have also shown that you understand that Christ’s gift of Life is not for you alone. You have become more conscious of your vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. For me, our meeting has been a deep and moving experience of your faith in Christ, and I make my own the words of Saint Paul: "I have great confidence in you, I have great pride in you; I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy"

These are not words of empty praise. I am confident that you have grasped the scale of the challenge that lies before you, and that you will have the wisdom and courage to meet that challenge. So much depends on you.

This marvelous world – so loved by the Father that he sent his only Son for its salvation (Cfr. Io 3,17) – is the theater of a never-ending battle being waged for our dignity and identity as free, spiritual beings. This struggle parallels the apocalyptic combat described in the First Reading of this Mass. Death battles against Life: a "culture of death" seeks to impose itself on our desire to live, and live to the full. There are those who reject the light of life, preferring "the fruitless works of darkness" (Eph 5,11). Their harvest is injustice, discrimination, exploitation, deceit, violence. In every age, a measure of their apparent success is the death of the Innocents. In our own century, as at no other time in history, the "culture of death" has assumed a social and institutional form of legality to justify the most horrible crimes against humanity: genocide, "final solutions", "ethnic cleansings", and the massive "taking of lives of human beings even before they are born, or before they reach the natural point of death" (Dominum et vivificantem, 57).

Today’s Reading from the Book of Revelation presents the Woman surrounded by hostile forces. The absolute nature of their attack is symbolized in the object of their evil intention: the Child, the symbol of new life. The "dragon" (Apoc 12,3), the "ruler of this world" (Io 12,31) and the "father of lies" (Io 8,44), relentlessly tries to eradicate from human hearts the sense of gratitude and respect for the original, extraordinary and fundamental gift of God: human life itself. Today that struggle has become increasingly direct.

Dear Friends, this gathering in Denver on the theme of Life should lead us to a deeper awareness of the internal contradiction present in a part of the culture of the modern "metropolis".

When the Founding Fathers of this great nation enshrined certain inalienable rights in the Constitution – and something similar exists in many countries and in many International Declarations – they did so because they recognized the existence of a "law" – a series of rights and duties – engraved by the Creator on each person’s heart and conscience.

In much of contemporary thinking, any reference to a "law" guaranteed by the Creator is absent. There remains only each individual’s choice of this or that objective as convenient or useful in a given set of circumstances. No longer is anything considered intrinsically "good" and "universally binding". Rights are affirmed but, because they are without any reference to an objective truth, they are deprived of any solid basis. Vast sectors of society are confused about what is right and what is wrong, and are at the mercy of those with the power to "create" opinion and impose it on others.

The family especially is under attack. And the sacred character of human life denied. Naturally, the weakest members of society are the most at risk: the unborn, children, the sick, the handicapped, the old, the poor and unemployed, the immigrant and refugee, the South of the world!

Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the "path to life" (Ps 16,11). The challenge is to make the Church’s "yes" to Life concrete and effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life!

Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for Life is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with much suffering. This certainty is what the Second Reading declares: "Christ is now raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. in Christ all will come to life again" (1Cor 15,20-22). The paradox of the Christian message is this: Christ – the Head – has already conquered sin and death. Christ in his Body – the pilgrim People of God – continually suffers the onslaught of the Evil One and all the evil which sinful humanity is capable of.

At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to your generation. Like the great Apostle Paul, you too must feel the full urgency of the task: "Woe to me if I do not evangelize" (1Cor 9,16). Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life. The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of Life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people’s hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love. Now more than ever, in a world that is often without light and without the courage of noble ideals, people need the fresh, vital spirituality of the Gospel.

Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (Cfr. Rom 1,16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (Cfr. Matth 10,27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern "metropolis". It is you who must "go out into the byroads" (Matth 22,9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father.

Jesus went in search of the men and women of his time. He engaged them in an open and truthful dialogue, whatever their condition. As the Good Samaritan of the human family, he came close to people to heal them of their sins and of the wounds which life inflicts, and to bring them back to the Father’s house. Young people of "World Youth Day", the Church asks you to go, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to those who are near and those who are far away. Share with them the freedom you have found in Christ. People thirst for genuine inner freedom. They yearn for the Life which Christ came to give in abundance. The world at the approach of a new millennium, for which the whole Church is preparing, is like a field ready for the harvest. Christ needs laborers ready to work in his vineyard. May you, the Catholic young people of the world, not fail him. In your hands, carry the Cross of Christ. On your lips, the words of Life. In your hearts, the saving grace of the Lord.

Buona festa and buon ferragosto to one and all, and hope everything's going great wherever you're at. Prayers, please, and know you've got mine, always. More soon.

PHOTO: William Thomas Cain/Getty