At every canonization ceremony in the Catholic Church, people connected to the new saint carry to the altar a relic in a reliquary which is often an ornate work of art in gold or silver.
A relic is a keepsake, a tangible reminder that the new saint was human yet heroically lived a life of holiness.
The relic may be the purported or actual physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. The authenticity of any given relic is often a matter of debate; for that reason, some churches require documentation of the relic’s provenance.
In the Catholic Church, a reliquary, also known as a shrine or by the French term châsse is used as a container for relics.
The relic presented at the Mass for St. Teresa of Calcutta was a few drops of her blood contained in a phial embedded within the centre of a wooden reliquary in the form of a simple cross reflecting her life and values.
The back of the cross-shaped reliquary is made from Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani), a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region, known as a symbol of nobility and spiritual greatness.
The front of the large cross is made of wood taken from places associated with Mother Teresa’s works of mercy: The first home for the dying she established in Calcutta, a home for those with Hansen’s disease, an immigrants’ boat, a Gypsy shack, and wood from the kneeler of a confessional because Mother Teresa believed the “Sacrament of Penance” also known as “Confession” or “Reconciliation” was the greatest expression of God’s mercy.
In the centre of the cross, the phial of Mother Teresa’s blood is sealed in a glass orb in the shape of a water drop as a symbol of her vow to quench the thirst of those literally without water and those dying in the aridness of being unloved.
A roughly sculpted wrinkled hand supports the glass to symbolize that it carries this drop of water, full of love, in response to the cry of Jesus “I thirst” on the cross echoed by millions of people around the world.
The religious dress of the Missionaries of Charity bears special significance. The white colour of their sari stands for truth and purity and the three blue borders each signify the vows that the nuns of the Order take: the first thin band represents “Poverty”, the second thin band represents “Obedience”, and the third broad band represents the vows of “Chastity” and of “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.
The water drop on the reliquary is framed by a heart of three sweeping bands of blue on the left and a white band on the right to symbolize the sari St. Teresa adopted as a habit for her sisters of Missionaries of Charity as well as to express devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The three sweeping bands of blue on the left side of the heart are curved and bent to represent St. Teresa’s own curved form bent in prayer. The white band on the right side of the heart displays the words, “I thirst“ in gold, reproduced in St. Teresa’s handwriting.
The base of the reliquary is made of battered iron to represent how society always sees the poor people whom Mother Teresa loved with her whole heart.
At the end oflife, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” – Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the “nun of the gutters”, a champion for the poor, the dying and the unborn died on September 5, 1997.
Scarcely two years after her death Monsignor Henry D’Souza, the then Archbishop of Calcutta, requested Pope John Paul II to dispense with the five-year waiting period required before beginning the process of beatifying and canonizing Mother Teresa.
As a fitting climax to a process that stretched on for almost 19 years, Pope Francis on Sunday, September 4, 2016, a day before Mother Teresa’s 19th death anniversary, formally declared Mother Teresa, as the newest saint of the Catholic Church at a ceremony that drew 100,000 pilgrims from around the world to St Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
“For the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta be saint and we enroll her among the saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Holy Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.“
Pope Francis, however, acknowledged that despite the fact she now has a formal title as “Saint Teresa of Calcutta“, she will always remain “Mother Teresa” to the world. The pontiff said:
“We may have some difficulty in calling her ‘Saint’ Teresa, her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful that we continue to spontaneously call her “Mother”. She made her voice heard before the powers of this world so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes of poverty they created.”
“If I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness’. I will continually be absent from Heaven —to (light) the light of those in darkness on earth.”
– Prophetic words of Mother Teresa
Born Agnes Bojaxhiu to an Albanian family in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Mother Teresa became world-famous for her devotion to the destitute and dying. The religious congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, she established in 1950, has more than 4,500 religious sisters around the world.
In 1979, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize for her lifetime of service to humanity.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta died on September 5, 1997.
Scarcely two years after her death Monsignor Henry D’Souza, the then Archbishop of Calcutta, requested Pope John Paul II to dispense with the five-year waiting period required before beginning the process of beatifying and canonizing her.
Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., one of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, was appointed on March 9, 1999, as postulator (a person who presents a case for the canonization or beatification) of Mother Teresa’s cause.
The first session of the process of beatification leading to canonization took place at St. Mary Parish, in Rippon Lane, Calcutta, close to the Missionaries of Charity’s motherhouse.
As soon as the first stage of the process concluded on August 15, 2001, the second stage began in Rome.
Thirty-five thousand pages of documentation called the “Position” were collected in 2001 and 2002.
In the Catholic Church, humanitarian work alone is not sufficient enough for canonization as a saint. It is mandatory that a candidate for sainthood must be associated with at least two miracles to demonstrate that he or she, worthy of sainthood, must be in heaven, interceding with God on behalf of those in need of healing.
Robert Emmet Barron is an American prelate of the Catholic Church, author, theologian and evangelist, known for his Word on Fire ministry. As a frequent commentator on Catholicism and spirituality, he says:
“A saint is someone who has lived a life of great virtue, whom we look to and admire. But if that’s all we emphasize, we flatten out sanctity. The saint is also someone who’s now in heaven, living in this fullness of life with God. And the miracle, to put it bluntly, is the proof of it.”
In 2002, the Vatican officially recognised a miracle Mother Teresa was said to have carried out after her death in 1998. This miracle became the first milestone to sainthood of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Born and raised in Calcutta and a resident of the city during the period of Mother Teresa’s activity there, Aroup Chatterjee, a physician working in England authored the book Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict.
In the book Chatterjee challenges the widespread regard of Mother Teresa as a symbol of philanthropy and selflessness, accuses her of unfairly damaging the city’s reputation, that she exaggerated the work she did among the poor, that she failed to use the very large amount of money donated to her on helping the poor, and claims that the medical care given to people in homes run by Missionaries of Charity was grossly inadequate.
Channel 4, a British television channel aired a documentary named “Hell’s Angel” inspired by Chatterjee’s criticism. Christopher Hitchens, an Anglo-American author, social critic, journalist, and a well-known critic of Mother Teresa wrote and co-produced it with Tariq Ali.
In 2003, Aroup Chatterjee and Christopher Hitchens testified as two official hostile witnesses against the late nun as a so-called devil’s advocate to Church procedures for the beatification of Mother Teresa.
The miracle of curing the Bengali tribal woman was the first milestone to sainthood of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The First Miracle
Monica Besra hails from a tribal community in Nakor village, in Dakshin Dinajpur district, 280 miles north of Kolkata in eastern India. Now she is 50 years old and a mother of five children.
About 15 to 17 years back she developed an abdominal tumour. She was taken to the nearby government hospital. The treatment for her ailment was expensive and her family had to mortgage their land. Even after undergoing a lengthy medication process she was so sick she could barely walk.
In 1998, when everything else failed, Monica’s sister took her to the then-recently-opened Missionaries of Charity centre near their village.
She was so ill she couldn’t eat anything. If she ate, she would immediately throw up.
The Sisters of Missionaries of Charity took her to a doctor in Siliguri who said that she might not regain consciousness if operated upon.
On September 4, 1998, a day before Mother Teresa’s first death anniversary, the Sisters of Missionaries of Charity took Monica to a small church in the premises to pray. As Monica was too ill to move, two Sisters supported her. There was a photograph of Mother Teresa there.
When she entered the Church a blinding light that emanated from Mother’s photo enveloped her. She did not know what was happening. The sisters prayed. Manica was too ill to sit for long and was soon brought back to her bed.
That night one of the Sisters after saying a prayer to Mother Teresa to help Monica get well soon tied a medallion of Mother Teresa on Monica’s abdomen.
After that, Monica who had trouble sleeping due to pain, fell asleep immediately. At about 1 AM she woke up to go to the bathroom. She was surprised to see her stomach was flat and the tumour was gone. She did not feel any pain. She went to the bathroom without help from anyone. When she returned from the bathroom, she woke up the woman sleeping in the adjacent bed and told her what had happened to her tumour.
In the morning MonicaI told the Sisters. and they took her to a doctor for a checkup. The doctor confirmed that she was cured of the tumour.
Back in 1998, Monica Besra’s claim of the miraculous cure by the intercession of the late Mother Teresa was, however, not without its detractors. The ‘miracle’ was hotly contested by doctors and rationalists alike. The doctors who had attended to her at the district hospital claimed that Monica was in fact cured because her tumour was detected at an early stage and by the medicines they gave her
Kolkata-based Prabir Ghosh, president of the Science and Rationalist Association of India, also challenged the miracle claims and the Canonization. He said:
“If people want to revere Mother Teresa for her social work, I have no problem. But these miracles are unreasonable. I challenge the Pope to cure every poor person in India who cannot afford medical care, by praying to Mother.”
Nonetheless, Monica Besra, her family members, and many others in her community firmly believe in the miracle and attend the local church regularly.
A board of medical specialists worked with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to study the alleged miracle. After combing the records and interviewing the medical staff involved, the committee determined that the healing was medically inexplicable.
As a first step towards sainthood, Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II approved the miraculous cancer cure that occurred on the first anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, in a fast-tracked process on December 20, 2002, barely five years after Teresa’s death. About 300,000 pilgrims attended the beatification ceremony at St. Peter Square on October 19, 2003 (World Missions Day).
The Second Miracle
The second miracle that took place in December 2008 involves Marcilio Haddad Andrino, a now-42-year-old mechanical engineer from Santos, Brazil.
In 2008, the recently married 35-year-old Andrino was affected by a bacterial infection in the brain which caused severe brain abscesses and agonizing head pain.
A priest, a friend of his told Andrino and his wife, Fernanda Nascimento Rocha, to pray to Mother Teresa for help cure his ailment.
Andrino underwent medical treatment. When the treatments failed, he slipped into a coma. While Rocha prayed to Blessed Teresa, he was taken in for a last-ditch surgery.
When the surgeon entered the operating room, he found Andrino fully awake asking him what was going on.
Andrino made a full recovery. Now, the couple has two children. Even though it was deemed a near medical impossibility by doctors, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., the postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause, referred to their children as a second miracle.
In December 2015, in an interview with the press, Father Kolodiejchuk explained why there was a delay between 2008 and 2015 in reporting the second miracle.
According to Father Kolodiejchuk, the miracle happened in 2008, but he became aware of it only in 2013.
The neurosurgeon who attended on Andrino was not a Catholic. Somehow, after the visit of Pope Francis to Brazil, something prompted him to tell one of the priests of Santos. This news eventually made its way to Father Kolodiejchuk and the postulation office and started the chain of events.
A board of medical specialists worked with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to study the alleged miracle in Brazil. In September 2015, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints accepted the findings of the medical commission and presented the report to Pope Francis for his final approval. On December 17, 2015, the Holy Father officially recognized the second miracle that was needed for Mother Teresa to be canonized.
The Vatican scheduled September 4, 2016, the day before her 19th death anniversary, as the canonization date for Blessed Mother Teresa, who thereafter will be known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, (Luke 1:41)
is reflected in
But the children jostled each other in the womb so much that she exclaimed, “If it is like this, why go on living!” She went to consult the LORD, (Genesis 25:22)
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:14-16)
cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. (Luke 1:42)
has similarities in
While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:27-28)
Most blessed of women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, blessed among tent-dwelling women! (Judges 5:2)
Then Uzziah said to her, “Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies. (Judith 13:18)
Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks! (Deuteronomy 28:4)
And then Elizabeth says,
“And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)
Even before his birth, Jesus is identified in Luke as the Lord through the phrase,
“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45)
Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah,
“But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:20).
Mary’s role as a believer in the infancy narrative should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believed” after the resurrection at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles:
All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:14).
Although Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord and because of her belief, she reacts as the servant in a psalm of praise, the Magnificat.
The Magnificat or “[My soul] magnifies” in Latin is also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary. It is a canticle frequently sung liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn. The name comes from the first word of the Latin version of the canticle’s text.
Because there is no specific connection of the canticle in the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat with the possible exception
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)
may have been a Jewish-Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story. Even if this canticle was not composed by Luke, it fits in well with the themes found elsewhere in Luke:
joy and exultation in the Lord;
the lowly being singled out for God’s favor;
the reversal of human fortunes;
the fulfillment of Old Testament promises.
The loose connection between the hymn and the context is further seen in the fact that a few Old Latin manuscripts identify the speaker of the hymn as Elizabeth, even though the overwhelming textual evidence makes Mary the speaker.
The Song of Hannah
The canticle echoes several biblical passages from the Old Testament. The most pronounced allusions are to the Song of Hannah, from the Books of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10) ,
1 And Hannah prayed:
“My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted by my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in your victory.
2 There is no Holy One like the LORD; there is no Rock like our God.
3 Speak boastfully no longer,
Do not let arrogance issue from your mouths.
For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who weighs actions.
4 “The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength.
5 The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry no longer have to toil.
The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes.
6 “The LORD puts to death and gives life, casts down to Sheol and brings up again.
7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich, humbles, and also exalts.
8 He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap lifts up the poor,
To seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.
“For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and he has set the world upon them.
9 He guards the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness; for not by strength does one prevail.
10 The LORD’s foes shall be shattered; the Most High in heaven thunders; the LORD judges the ends of the earth.
May he give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!”
Along with the Benedictus, as well as several Old Testament canticles, the Magnificat is included in the Book of Odes, an ancient liturgical collection found in some manuscripts of the Septuagint.
English Scripture text: Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition
My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden, For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm: He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent empty away. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
Latin (present official Roman Catholic form)
Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum, et exsultávit spíritus meus in Deo salvatóre meo, quia respéxit humilitátem ancíllæ suæ.Ecce enim ex hoc beátam me dicent omnes generatiónes, quia fecit mihi magna, quipotensest, et sanctum nomen eius, et misericórdia eius in progénies et progénies timéntibus eum. Fecit poténtiam in bráchio suo, dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui; depósuit poténtes de sede et exaltávit húmiles. Esuriéntes implévit bonis et dívites dimísit inánes. Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum, recordátus misericórdiæ, sicut locútus est ad patres nostros, Ábraham et sémini eius in sæcula.Glória Patri et Fílio et Spirítui Sancto. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculórum.
In the Catholic Church to choose a new pope, it is mandatory for every cardinal under the age of 80 to travel to Rome to take part in the secret conclave election process which begins with a mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica followed by a procession to the Sistine Chapel.
Before the cardinals arrive, the Sistine Chapel goes through a comprehensive check or unauthorized microphones, recording or other communication devices. The phones of the cardinals are also blocked to prevent them from communicating with anyone about the election.
At the outset, the 115 cardinals participating in the election process this year took an oath of secrecy. After that the first voting process began. Each cardinal could cast one vote, except for himself. A candidate for the papacy must receive two-third of the total votes. This voting process continues with four voting sessions – two in the morning and two in the afternoon – for five consecutive days, or until the pope is chosen.
At the end of each voting session the smoke from the burned ballots billowing out of the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel reveals to the public the outcome of that voting session: black smoke to mean no consensus reached, and white smoke to announce the successful choice of a new Pope.
On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, white smoke appeared out of the Sistine Chapel chimney shortly after 7 pm Rome time. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the senior cardinal in the order of the deacons, appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and announced in Latin: “Habemus Papam!” (English: “We have a pope!”). Cardinal Tauran then revealed the pontiff’s birth name and the name he has chosen for himself as pope.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a Jesuit, is the new pope of the Catholic Church. He has taken the name of Francis.
Vatican deputy spokesman Thomas Rosica said the new pontiff had chosen the name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, and had done so because the he was a lover of the poor. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a participant in the proceedings of the Conclave, confirmed that the new pope said, “I choose the name, Francis, in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi”.
This is the first time in papal history the name “Francis” used by a Pope, and the first time a serving Pope held a name unused by a predecessor since the brief reign of Pope Lando (also known as Landus) from July or August 913 until his death in February or March 914.
His Holiness, Pope Francis I, (though technically he can’t be called the first until there is a second pope Francis) is the first pope from the Americas. South America’s Catholics make up an estimated 40%, the largest regional following, of the 1.2 billion strong Catholic Church worldwide. He is a non-European.
“Non-European” can have two different meanings: ethnicity, and nationality. As in the U.S., many citizens of Argentina are descendants of immigrants, and most of them are of European descent. Pope Francis I, former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is an Argentine citizen. He was born in Buenos Aires to Italian immigrants of Piedmontese origin and hence is ethnically Italian. He grew up in the Argentine capital. His father, Mario José Bergoglio was a railway worker, and his mother Regina María Sivori, a housewife.
The Pope’s decision to pick the name “Francis” shows his simplicity and humility. His personal style is the antithesis of Vatican splendor. He believes in social justice and living a simple lifestyle. Though he was the Cardinal of the Catholic Church in Argentina, he passed on the right to have a chauffeured limousine and instead used public transport. He lived in a small apartment eschewing a formal bishop’s palace and reportedly cooked his own meals.
Here are some points to ponder:
He graduated from a technical secondary school as a chemical technician.
He decided to become a priest at the age of 21.
He speaks Italian fluently, as well as Latin, Spanish, German, French, and English.
He is the first Jesuit Pope.
He has lived for more than 50 years with one functioning lung. His other lung was removed as a young man due to infection.
He washed and kissed the feet of Aids patients in a hospice in 2001.
He has opposed the legislation that allows same-sex marriage introduced in 2010 by the Argentine Government.
He has served on the Congregation of Clergy, Congregation of Divine Worship and Sacraments, Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life, the Congregation of Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Commission on Latin American and the Family Council.
He requested Argentinians not to spend money on travel to Rome to celebrate if he was appointed. He asked them to give that amount to the poor instead.
He is a conservative on Church doctrine. However, he has criticized priests who refuse to baptize children born to single mothers.
He opposes vulgar ideas such as gay marriage unlike some other heads of states.
He believes that condoms “can be permitted” to prevent sex-transmitted infection.
He once called abortion a “death sentence” for unborn children, during a speech on October 2, 2007. He said: “we are not in agreement with the death penalty, but in Argentina we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.”
In 2006, when I was still an Episcopalian priest, Joy and I visited Rome. Intellectually we were coming to recognize that the Catholic Church was the true Church, but we needed the emotional push to bring the decision to fulfillment.
In Rome, we were able to take the Scavi tour underneath Saint Peter’s Basilica. At the end of the tour, we saw the bones of Saint Peter. I prayed earnestly that I would soon enter into full communion with Saint Peter and his successor on earth, Pope Benedict XVI.
After the tour, the Belgian priest, who had been our tour guide, stayed behind and struck up a conversation with us. We had been so excited and impressed by the tour. When I told him that we were not Catholics, but that I was an Episcopalian priest, his face lit up. He was writing his dissertation in Rome on some ecumenical matter.
Then he surprised us with a question: “Would you like to attend Holy Mass with the Pope this evening?” The answer to that question was obvious. The Belgian priest was pleased to make arrangements. We walked from the Scavi entrance on the south side of Saint Peter’s, across Saint Peter’s Square, and then up a staircase to the north. At the top were two Swiss Guards with pikes. The Belgian priest told us to wait there. He mumbled some Italian to the guards and disappeared.
A few minutes later he returned with two orange tickets, which were marked with that evening’s date and were issued by the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano. The Belgian priest told us to return to Saint Peter’s an hour before the Mass with those tickets. We had a nice chat, and the priest went about his business. To my shame, I don’t know his name. (Father, if you’re out there, let me know!)
That evening, my wife and I attended the Holy Mass of the Purification with Pope Benedict. At this particular Holy Mass the Holy Father recognized the various religious orders of the world. We were in line with hundreds of nuns, friars, and monks. We were clearly out of place—a married Episcopalian priest in a cassock with a pregnant wife. My dear! I hope we did not scandalize all those nuns.
The Holy Mass was glorious. It began in total darkness.Pope Benedict XVI entered the back doors with only a candle. From this candle was lit all the candles of the nuns, monks, and friars. For the whole Mass, we were near the bronze statue of Saint Peter. I could see the Holy Father clearly. I knew that His Holiness was the true successor of the Fisherman, and recalling that just that morning I had been deep underneath that altar at the bones of Saint Peter, the connection between the ministry of Saint Peter the First Pope and that of Benedict XVI the present Pope was made manifest right before my eyes.
When it came time for Holy Communion, I knew that I could not go forward to receive. Although the Basilica was now lit with glorious light and joy, my soul remained in the darkness.
I was not a Catholic. I was not in communion with the Holy Father. I was in schism. It was a sickening feeling. I was out of communion with the Vicar of Christ, and I knew in that moment that my relationship with Christ was impaired. I also knew what I had to do. I had to resign the Episcopalian priesthood and become a Catholic.
That Mass was one of the most important events in my life. When we got back from Rome, the process began. When I think of Pope Benedict, I’ll always recall that Holy Mass on February 2, 2006 – a Holy Mass that changed my life forever. Viva Papa!
“I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April, 2005” – Pope Benedict XVI
On Monday February 11, 2013, during a routine morning meeting of Cardinals in the Vatican Pope Benedict XVI dropped a bombshell by announcing his resignation in Latin thus becoming the first pontiff to step down after 600 years. Even his close associates had no advance knowledge about his decision to resign.
Pope Benedict XVI, formerly German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican’s chief orthodoxy watchdog had plans to retire and spend his final years in his native Bavaria.
In recent years, the Pope has visibly slowed down. He reduced foreign travel and placed a limit on his audiences. Now, a moving platform carries him to and from the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, and on some occasions, he uses a cane.
As early as 2010, the Pope began to look tired and worn out. He lost weight and did not seem fully engaged when visiting bishops briefed him on their dioceses. He then had made it clear that he would step down if he became too old or infirm to do the job. However, the Cardinals were surprised and remained shocked when the Pope said that he could not carry on as “both strength of mind and body are necessary – strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me.” He added that he would resign effective 8 p.m. local time on February 28, 2013.
The Vatican declared that no particular medical problem prompted the Pope to make the decision and stressed that he remains fully lucid and made the decision himself.
On April 19, 2005, at age 78, he was the oldest Pope elected in nearly 300 years. It was a time when anger at clerical child-sex-abuse shook the faith of many Catholics in Europe, North America, and many other countries of the world. In 2008, he expressed the abuse as “shame” and met the victims. Nevertheless, he endured criticism for not recognizing the extent of the issue during his 24-year vocation as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the primary doctrinal body of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church with its 1.2 billion followers is now scurrying to replace its leader by Easter.
The next Pope, whoever it be, will take the reins of a church in turmoil because Pope Benedict steps down from the supreme office leaving behind a Church struggling to find its place in an increasingly secular world where many believe that they do not need a God in their lives. The child sex abuse scandals involving priests have prompted thousands of Catholics to forsake the church. Rival Protestant churches, particularly the evangelical Pentecostal groups pose new competition to the Catholic Church in the developing nations. Confrontation from radical anti-Christian groups has surfaced in many Islamic countries. Though Pope Benedict distanced himself from the intrigues of the Curia, in 2012 it caught up with him in the form of “Vatileaks” scandal in which his once loyal butler Paolo Gabriele leaked to the press hundreds of confidential papal memos that revealed tensions prevailing in the Vatican.
Sources in the Vatican said that Pope Benedict would live in an uncharted territory inside the Vatican, but free to go in and out.
After the election of the new Pope how would one address the present Holy Father? Would it be “Pope Emeritus”?
The letter of resignation of Pope Benedict xvi
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
Lightning strikes St Peter’s Basilica as Pope resigns
I can still remember the day I first heard the recitation of Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven“. It was way back in 1952 when I was 11 years old studying at St. Mary’s College, Chilaw, Sri Lanka. One evening, our boarding-master, Reverend Brother Andrew Michael, a Christian Brother of the order of Saint De La Salle, recited for us that soul searching haunting poem.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
These words still linger in my mind.
Eugene O’Neill, the Irish American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature could recite this poem from memory.
J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and other tales admired it.
G.K. Chesterton, known as the “prince of paradox“, hailed Thompson as a great English poet and described him as a “shy volcano“.
The Hound of Heaven considered by many as one of the great Catholic poems, gushed out from the soul, of a deeply troubled a person who throughout his adult life battled addiction, poverty and depression.
Even though it is Victorian poetry, many, including me, still seek comfort in Thompson’s view of a loving God who constantly pursues the wayward soul.
Francis Thompson born December 16, 1859, was an English poet who later turned into an ascetic. He was the eldest son of a provincial doctor in northern England. He grew up as a shy introverted boy who loved the classics, Shakespeare, in particular. He attended Ushaw College, a Catholic institution near Durham.
If not for his frail health, he would have entered the seminary to pursue the priesthood. He then studied medicine at Owens College in Manchester complying to his father’s wish. His heart was not in medicine rather it was literature that beckoned him. He “made a pretense of study” for six years. After finishing his medical course, he never practiced medicine. He went to London aspiring to become a writer.
Francis Thompson began his career as a bookseller but was not successful. Then he found work in a shoemaker’s store; he sold matches; called cabs. Eventually, he got addicted to opium after consuming it as medicine for ill health. He became a destitute. As a vagrant, he begged for his sustenance. Soon Thompson started living on the streets of Charing Cross and slept by the River Thames along with the homeless and other addicts.
He found solace in the public libraries, but some banned him because of his ragged appearance.
A peer of Thompson wrote:
A stranger figure than Thompson’s was not to be seen in London. Gentle in looks, half-wild in externals, his face worn by pain and the fierce reactions of laudanum, his hair and straggling beard neglected, he had yet a distinction and aloofness of bearing that marked him in the crowd; and when he opened his lips he spoke as a gentleman and a scholar. It was impossible and unnecessary to think always of the tragic side of his life.
At one point of time when Thompson tried to commit suicide, a prostitute offered him a place to stay and looked after him for a while. Thompson never revealed her true identity not even her name, but later referred to her as one who saved him.
Around 1887-88, Thompson sent some poems to Wilfrid Meynell, editor of a Catholic literary magazine giving a post-office address. He added a note apologizing “for the soiled state of the manuscript. It is due, not to slovenliness, but to the strange places and circumstances under which it has been written.” After some time when Meynell read the pigeonholed manuscripts, he immediately wrote a welcoming letter to Thompson, but the post office returned it.
Wilfrid Meynell published Thompson’s poems in Merrie England so that the author might see them and disclose himself. Thompson saw his published poems and wrote to Meynell. This time he gave the address of a chemist’s shop. When Meynell reached the address, he found that Thompson owed money to the chemist for the opium he had purchased. Meynell left a note requesting Thompson to call upon him.
Wilfrid Meynell and his wife Alice Meynell (née Thompson) whose father was a friend of Charles Dickens rescued Francis Thompson from the verge of starvation and self-destruction. The first step was to restore him to better health and to wean him from the opium habit. A doctor’s care for some months at Storrington, Sussex, where he lived as a boarder at the Premonstratensian monastery, gave him a new hold upon life.
Recognizing the genius in him the Meynell couple arranged for the publication of his first book, “Poems” in 1893. The book received the attention of sympathetic critics in the St James’s Gazette and other newspapers. The English poet and critic Coventry Patmore wrote a eulogistic paragraph in the Fortnightly Review of January 1894.
In the years from 1889 to 1896, Thompson wrote the poems contained in the three volumes, “Poems,” “Sister Songs,” and “New Poems” and other works and essays.
Francis Thompson died from tuberculosis on November 13, 1907, aged forty-eight after receiving all the sacraments, in the excellent care of the Sisters of St. John and St. Elizabeth. He is buried in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Shortly after Francis Thompson’s death G. K. Chesterton said: “with Francis Thompson we lost the greatest poetic energy since Browning.“
THE HOUND OF HEAVEN
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes, I sped; And shot, precipitated, Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears. From those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbèd pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, They beat—and a Voice beat More instant than the Feet— “All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”
I pleaded, out law-wise, By many a hearted casement, curtained red, Trellised with intertwining charities (For, though I knew His love Who followèd, Yet was I sore adread Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside); But, if one little casement parted wide, The gust of His approach would clash it to. Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue. Across the margent of the world I fled, And troubled the gold gateways of the stars, Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars; Fretted to dulcet jars And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.
I said to dawn: Be sudden; to eve: Be soon— With thy young skyey blossoms heap me over From this tremendous Lover! Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see! I tempted all His servitors, but to find My own betrayal in their constancy, In faith to Him their fickleness to me, Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit. To all swift things for swiftness did I sue; Clung to the whistling mane of every wind. But whether they swept, smoothly fleet, The long savannahs of the blue; Or whether, Thunder-driven, They clanged His chariot ‘thwart a heaven Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o’ their feet:— Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue. Still with unhurrying chase, And unperturbèd pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, Came on the following Feet, And a Voice above their beat— “Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.”
I sought no more that after which I strayed In face of man or maid; But still within the little children’s eyes Seems something, something that replies, They at least are for me, surely for me! I turned me to them very wistfully; But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair With dawning answers there, Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share With me” (said I) “your delicate fellowship; Let me greet you lip to lip, Let me twine with you caresses, Wantoning With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses, Banqueting With her in her wind-walled palace, Underneath her azured daïs, Quaffing, as your taintless way is, From a chalice Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.” So it was done; I in their delicate fellowship was one— Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies. I knew all the swift importings, On the wilful face of skies; I knew how the clouds arise, Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings; All that’s born or dies Rose and drooped with; made them shapers Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine— With them joyed and was bereaven. I was heavy with the even, When she lit her glimmering tapers Round the day’s dead sanctities. I laughed in the morning’s eyes. I triumphed and I saddened with all weather, Heaven and I wept together, And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine; Against the red throb of its sunset-heart I laid my own to beat, And share commingling heat; But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart. In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek. For ah! we know not what each other says, These things and I; in sound I speak— Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences. Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake by drouth; Let her, if she would owe me, Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me The breasts o’ her tenderness: Never did any milk of hers once bless My thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase, With unperturbèd pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, And past those noisèd Feet A Voice comes yet more fleet— “Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me.”
Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke! My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me, And smitten me to my knee; I am defenceless utterly. I slept, methinks, and woke, And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep. In the rash lustihead of my young powers, I shook the pillaring hours And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears, I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years— My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap. My days have crackled and gone up in smoke, Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream. Yea, faileth now even dream The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist; Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist, Are yielding; cords of all too weak account For earth, with heavy griefs so overplussed. Ah! is Thy love indeed A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed, Suffering no flowers except its own to mount? Ah! must— Designer infinite!— Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it? My freshness spent its wavering shower i‘ the dust; And now my heart is as a broken fount, Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever From the dank thoughts that shiver Upon the sighful branches of my mind. Such is; what is to be? The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind? I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds; Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds From the hid battlements of Eternity: Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then Round the half-glimpsèd turrets slowly wash again; But not ere Him who summoneth I first have seen, enwound And now my heart is as a broken fount, Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever From the dank thoughts that shiver With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned; His name I know, and what his trumpet saith. Whether man’s heart or life it be which yields Thee harvest, must Thy harvest fields Be dunged with rotten death?
Now of that long pursuit Comes on at hand the bruit; That Voice is round me like a bursting sea: “And is thy earth so marred, Shattered in shard on shard? Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me! Strange, piteous, futile thing, Wherefore should any set thee love apart? Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said), “And human love needs human meriting: How hast thou merited— Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot? Alack, thou knowest not How little worthy of any love thou art! Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, Save Me, save only Me? All which I took from thee I did but take, Not for thy harms, But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms. All which thy child’s mistake Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home: Rise, clasp My hand, and come.” Halts by me that footfall: Is my gloom, after all, Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly? “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”
On October 8, 2012, Americans solemnly celebrated Columbus Day, marked by parades and pageantry, and mugs of fake red blood splashed on namesake statues.
A few activists consider this day as a “day of celebration of genocide. ” However, most of these protesters are unaware that the customary holiday they are protesting against previously performed an invaluable function in shaping a nation of people capable of being attentive to their issues.
Even today, Christopher Columbus is a compelling icon of American nationalism His name, transposed as Columbia, evolved into a historical and poetic term for the female embodiment of the United States of America. The American people situated their capital in the District of Columbia and adopted “Hail, Columbia!” as their unofficial anthem.
The Italian immigrants who arrived in thousands, in the later part of the nineteenth century, noticed the reverence paid to their celebrated countryman. However, they faced levels of hostility and discrimination based mainly on views that they displayed ignorance, lethargic or adverse to labor interests, and often portrayed as crude, hostile, and inassimilable into the American society, and subjected to abuse on account of their Catholicism. Several American nativists deemed Italians racially mediocre – the disparity being visible by their swarthy skins.
In 1891, New Orleans witnessed a terribly violent occasion, the lynching of 11 Italians – the largest mass lynching in American history. It provoked an international crisis. An editorial in the New York Times declared the Sicilians “a pest without mitigation.” It also asserted, “our own rattlesnakes are as good citizens as they.”
The animosity towards the Italians prompted many nativists to reject Columbus and search for a racially acceptable discoverer of the New World. They found him in a Viking explorer known as Leif Erikson, believed to be the first recorded Nordic person to have visited the area that is now the United States, Baffin Island and Labrador around 1000 CE. The Norwegian immigrants eager to find acceptance of their own promoted the exploits of the Viking explorer recorded in the Icelandic sagas.
American nativists went crazy. Artifacts purported to be of Viking origin were duly unearthed, and Viking motifs began to ornament architectural structures. The renowned Harvard chemist Eben Norton Horsford in his “Discovery of America by Northmen: Address at the Unveiling of the Statue of Leif Eriksen, Delivered in Faneuil Hall, Oct. 29, 1887” claimed for the Norsemen “the honor of having discovered America, five hundred years before Columbus.” He concluded that Leif Erikson had made landfall in Cambridge.
In 1887, a committee of assorted worthies, comprising Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Charles W. Eliot raised funds to erect a statue of Leif Erikson in the midst of the stately residences of Boston’s Back Bay.
Today, October 9, United States observe Leif Erikson Day, which does not associate with any event in his life. On October 9, 1825, the small Norwegian sloop “Resturasjonen,” often called the “Norwegian Mayflower,” arrived in New York with 52 emigrants from Stavanger, Norway. On this day onward began, the organized immigration from Scandinavia to the United States.
The campaign for Leiff Erikson routinely crossed over into an explicit denigration of Catholics and impugning Columbus. It seemed “necessary for the truth, as to the discovery of America, to be established immediately” an endorser of Norse precedence expressed lest accepting the claims of Columbus would steer Americans to “yield to the foulest tyrant the world has ever had, the Roman Catholic power!”
After all, if America did not acknowledge its existence to an Italian Catholic, then there would be no need to accept his immigrant compatriots.
Historian Joanne Mancini says, “At a moment of increasing fear that the nation was committing race suicide, the thought of Viking ghosts roaming the streets of a city increasingly filled with Irish, Italian, and Jewish hordes must have been comforting to an Anglo-Saxon elite.”
Such attacks certainly enjoyed a support for some time, but by the end of the nineteenth century, the anti-Catholic bigotry waned off. Leaders of the establishment promote a Columbus stripped of his ethnic and religious characteristics, as an icon for patriotic veneration.
Francis Julius Bellamy, Author, editor, and Baptist minister hit upon the idea of a national celebration of Columbus Day in the schools to mark the anniversary, “to assimilate these children to an American standard of life and ideas.”
For the indigenous American Indians, Columbus Day is a “celebration” of survival.
Diana King, a member of the White Earth Indian Nation in northern Minnesota and a teacher in the school system there says, “Columbus Day is a chance to teach about who we once were, what has become of us since Europeans arrived on our shores, and who we are today — a struggling but surviving people… I want teachers to teach more about Indian civilization just like they do with Egyptian or European history,”
“Our history did not begin with Christopher Columbus,” she added.
On October 14, 2013, Americans will celebrate the next Columbus Day.
One of the problems Saint Paul had to handle in Corinth was how to persuade the women to dress properly in the assembly.
In Paul’s period, women had been participating in worship at Corinth without the head-covering as was normal in Greek society. Paul’s stated that his goal was to bring these women into conformity with contemporary Jewish practice and propriety. In order to convince them, he put forward arguments from a variety of sources, though he had space to develop them only sketchily and was perhaps aware that they differed greatly in persuasiveness.
Man and Woman – 1 Corinthians 11:3-16
But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and God the head of Christ.
Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head.
But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved.
For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off.
But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil.
A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.
Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord.
For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God.
Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled?
Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been
given [her] for a covering?
But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God.
Twenty years ago, in India, all Christian women, especially Catholic women, when they entered the churches covered their heads with a veil or the fold of their saree. But now it has become a fashion with women not to cover their head in church but wear coiffures in different styles. These women and young girls scoff at those few who cover their heads labeling them as old fashioned.
Even nuns belonging to certain orders wear sarees and do not cover their heads even while dispensing Holy Communion.
What bothers me and most Catholics is the fact that our clergy express pleasure by admiring the uncovered heads of our women folk in churches, be they saree clad nuns or lay women.
So, as Catholics and Christians why not, why can’t and why don’t our women folk, whether they are nuns or not, cover their heads in churches?
Recently, I came across the following video excerpt and was impressed by what Sheikh Khaled Yasin says.