Monday, April 29, 2013

St Catherine of Siena by Fr James Martin sj

St. Catherine of Siena, the Doctor of the Church whose feast we celebrate today, was one in a long line of redoubtable saints who called the church to reform. She was also one of the saints whose manifest holiness allowed her to speak the truth to power--not for her own benefit, but for the good of the church she loved so much.
In the 14th century, for example, Catherine wrote the pope, then living in exile in Avignon, France, urging him to return to his ministry in Rome: "Be a man!" she said. "Father, I say to you: Arise!" To a group of corrupt cardinals in Rome, she wrote, "You are flowers that shed no perfume, but a stench that makes the whole world reek." When they asked how she could possibly make this judgment from her far-off post, Catherine replied that the smell reached all the way to Siena.
St. Catherine of Siena gives lie to the widely held stereotype of the docile, simpering, shrinking-violet saint, and the stereotype of the saint who never finds herself in conflict with anyone in church leadership. Other saints brought about change in the church in less confrontational but no less effective ways, but Catherine felt she that could not remain silent. St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Pope – according to Leonardo Boff

                The Pope –
 according to Leonardo Boff

by ├âlvaro Murillo (English translation by Rebel Girl) 
La Nacion (Costa Rica) 

He was an active priest who was critical towards the Vatican. He co-founded the leftist current known as liberation theology in Brazil, was punished, and therefore left the priesthood and devoted himself to promoting his human rights ideas in his role as a lay person. He also adopted the idea of environmental sustainability and works as a teacher of theology.

He came to Costa Rica, invited by La Salle University for its course on environmental sustainability, but the subject of the new pope is obligatory when facing one of the most critical voices of the Catholic Church in Latin America, the founder of the leftist Christian movement known as liberation theology. Leonardo Boff, the Brazilian former priest, hasn't ceased to be optimistic about the election of Francis.

We know your very optimistic opinions about the new Pope Francis. Why, given that you've been so critical of the Church? 
His name, Francis, is more than a name; it's a plan for the Church. It's rebuilding a Church that's in ruins because of the sexual scandals, the Vatican bank, infighting. It's providential that he's a Jesuit, well-trained and with the virtues of Saint Francis -- simplicity and the option for the poor.

He comes from the Third World, where 60% of Catholics live, while Europe is a dying region. He can bring new vigor to the Church, new hope, and he's already given very clear signs that he will be different. He's already said that pastors should smell like sheep, not like palaces, altars, and sacristies. It's a Church of all times. He will be more a pastor than a doctor.

The Church is also a system (institution)made up by authorities who are the same ones as in the previous papacy. Isn't it naive to think Francis can change what's wrong in the Church? 
He has to intervene, to use that power of absolute monarchy. He has the ability to intervene in the diseased body of the Church, in its cancer. If he doesn't do it, his name wouldn't make sense.

The problem is that the Church has completely lost credibility and is universally demoralized
. He was elected to restore that credibility in this internal crisis. He feels obliged to make a complete reform in the face of the errors of the Curia.

Will he have any leeway? The cardinals are the same. 
Maybe that's the only advantage of being an absolute monarchy. He has absolute and immediate power. He can remove a cardinal, transfer an archbishop, and he can excommunicate people at the highest level. Perhaps that would be the only advantage of being a dictatorship.

How should the churches of Latin America view all these gestures of austerity, humility, and option for the dispossessed? Is it a binding example? 
I hope so. Most of the cardinals and bishops are very devoted to the Pope; they exalt him and such. Well, now's the time for the bishops to imitate him and shed their palace titles. He's already said that "the carnival is over", when they wanted to put the garments on him. This is a scandal. With all that solemnity and habits, it looks more like the carnival in Rio. I'm one of those who's going to remind them to imitate the Pope. If they don't do it, it's a sign that they're breaking with him and his papacy.

Are you confident that they'll imitate him? 
They should, because he isn't repressive likeRatzinger, who chopped the heads of 140 theologians (because they worked for the poor).

You were one of them.

Yes, I was one of them, one among many, but it seems that's over. Francis doesn't seem so interested in doctrine, but in being a shepherd and bringing hope, being in the world of solidarity. He'll be important in the politics of Latin America, now, with the flowering of populist democracies. He has always preferred the poor, not out of philanthropy but out of justice.

That's what liberation theology says, isn't it?

Yes, that's the main point. We're very happy and it doesn't matter whether he uses the words "liberation theology" or not. What matters to us is his solidarity and his moral authority with human beings and the Earth.

Do you think the College of Cardinals knew what kind of pope they were choosing? 
I suspect that the European cardinals were embarrassed. They knew it couldn't be one of them.

Now we're seeing more and more gestures. When will we see the first decisions and what will they be? 
It will go on as it is. But perhaps another council is coming, an open council of Christianity, even including atheists, focused on life and respect for others. In 50 years (since Vatican II) humanity has changed a lot. We have to define the paths of the Church and ecumenical Christianity for the third millennium. That would be the best and it would emerge strengthened.

Is he a socialist pope?

I don't know if that label would fit him. He may be interested in the poor and in social justice, which are the classic banners of historical socialism; they're ethical banners. But using the word is a party or an ideology and they distance themselves from that. What we can say is that one should seek a socio-cosmic democracy, that also includes nature. I think that he's going along that line.

Will you help him in his projects for South America? 
My concern isn't helping the pope but taking on the cause that goes beyond him, of lives that are threatened. If he takes it on, I'll be there, but if not, we'll pressure him, because we don't have a lot of time.

Do you think he could go live outside the Vatican? 
Like John Paul I who, two days before dying, gathered the cardinals and announced that to them; two days later, he turned up dead.
Are you saying that Pope Francis would be taking a risk?

It's a risk, because there's a history in the Vatican of many assassinations, a long time ago. He should be careful because where there's a struggle for power, there's no love -- and power always seeks more power. He should handle this to make reforms without causing a schism. The base of the two previous popes was the fundamentalists like Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, and the Knights of Christ. Those groups must be very unhappy with the new pope, who is more social [justice] based." ###

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vajpayee Could Have Intervened, But Did Not’ said Justice Verma

India has lost a great Jurist as Chairman of the NHRC  in 2002 he took an honest and courageous stand against the Gujarat Govt and held it responsible for the Gujarat Carnage...May this great soul rest in peace and may Truth and Justice triumph in Gujarat!

Vajpayee Could Have Intervened, But Did Not’

Justice JS Verma, who headed the NHRC during the Gujarat carnage, tells Neha Dixit that the Nanavati Commission Report is far from the truth
11-10-2008, Issue 40 Volume 5


Current Affairs A- A+

Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Sabarmati Express after the carnage. Tehelka photo
JS Verma
Photo: AFP
The Nanavati report states that there is absolutely no evidence of any lapse on the part of the Modi government in the matter of not complying with the NHRC recommendations.
During the Gujarat riots, I was the chairperson of the NHRC. In the 11 orders passed by the NHRC between March 1, 2002, and July 11, 2003, two orders on April 1 and May 31, 2002, unequivocally indicted the state government. In the April order, the NHRC clearly stated that the government is doing little to stop the violation of fundamental rights to life and dignity of the people in Gujarat. A year after Godhra, a letter was also sent to the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to intervene and ensure that the government was proceeding with adequate integrity.
What was Vajpayee’s response?
He could have stepped in to monitor the situation and issue directives to the competent authorities, but he did not even comment. Nothing came over, except for a formal acknowledgement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The report says that the government did not slip at all in providing protection and rehabilitation to the victims… 
This is false again. Many of the largest rescue camps, including Shah-e-Alam in Ahmedabad, did not receive visits at a high political or administrative level till I visited them. This indicated a deeper malaise, discriminatory in origin and character. In its observation on the rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures, the NHRC also said that numerous complaints have been received regarding the lack of facilities in the camps.
You also raised questions on discriminatory practices during the riots. What were they?
In the NHRC REPORT for 2001-02, the commission noted two matters that raised serious questions of discriminatory treatment. The first was the announcement of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the karsevaks who perished in the attack on the Sabarmati Express, and of Rs 1 lakh for those who died in the riots. The second related to the application of POTA to the first incident, but not to the riots. These issues seriously impinge on the provisions of the Constitution that guarantee equality before the law and equal protection of the laws within the territory of India, and the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
The day the Nanavati Commission was appointed to probe the Gujarat riots, you expressed your apprehensions. Why?
I had expressed my concerns as the NHRC head. Now that I am out of it, I have nothing to say regarding this.
The Supreme Court set up a SIT under a former CBI director. Shouldn’t Nanavati have waited for their report?
This you should ask Nanavati, not me.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Feast of MARY-Mother of the Society of Jesus(April 22nd)

Evening Prayer: Today April 22 is a feast day for Jesuits: Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus. As an evening prayer, here is a version of the Regina Caeli, a beautiful hymn to Mary sung especially in the Easter season. I came to love this hymn on trips to Lourdes, the Marian shrine in Southern France, where it is sung often. It has a fairly slow pace but is, if you read the words, a song of joy. Most Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us who rejoice with you!

Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia.
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom you did merit to bear in your womb, alleluia.
Has risen, as He promised, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

APRIL 22nd 2013 - EARTH DAY!!!

The Face of Climate Change

The Face of Climate Change

For Earth Day 2013, we’ll tell the world the stories of people, animals and places affected by climate change – and of those stepping up to do something about it.
The Face of Climate Media Wall

The Face of Climate Media Wall

People sharing their stories on the impact of climate change.
Earth Day 2013
The Face of Climate Change
The Face of Climate Media Wall
The Canopy Project
Environmental Education
The Face of Climate Change Photo Mosaic - People sharing their stories on the impact of climate change
Learn More
April 20, 2013 
If you have any sense of wonder or faith in humanity, you would have to agree that Earth Day is an extraordinary event. It combines the functions of educator, movement builder and the largest public service project in the world. More than one... Read More >

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How might Jesuit spirituality influence Pope Francis' papacy?

His Way of Proceeding

Printer-friendly version James Martin, SJ
How might Jesuit spirituality influence Pope Francis' papacy?
The weeks following the election of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit elected to that office, saw more people asking questions about Jesuits than at perhaps any other time in the last 25 years. Most readers of America already know what a Jesuit is, but another question bears some reflection: How might Jesuit spirituality influence, and how has it already influenced, our new pope?
Jesuit spirituality is based on the life and teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola, the soldier-turned-mystic who founded the Society of Jesus in 1540. Much of that spirituality flows from his classic text, The Spiritual Exercises, a manual for a four-week retreat inviting a person into imaginative meditations on the life of Christ. The Exercises mean more than simply reading the New Testament. Retreatants are urged to imagine themselves, with as much vividness as possible, in the Gospel scenes. As the spiritual writer Joseph Tetlow, S.J., once wrote, the retreatant is not even observing from a distance but is “standing warm in the Temple or ankle-deep in the water of the Jordan.” Through such intense encounters with the Gospel narratives, the person praying enters into a deep, personal relationship with Jesus.
Each Jesuit “makes” the Exercises at least twice in his life: first as a novice and again, years later, at the end of the formation program during a period of time known as tertianship. Therefore, we know that Pope Francis has done this. Moreover, in the late 1960’s, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., served as the Jesuit novice director for the Argentine Province, which means that he also guided novices through the Spiritual Exercises. He is therefore deeply familiar with Ignatian spirituality.
Embedded in the Exercises are certain key spiritual themes. Jesuits and all who make the Exercises are invited to be “detached” from whatever would prevent them from following God. We are supposed to be “indifferent,” open toward anything, preferring, in Ignatius’ famous formulation, neither wealth nor poverty, neither health nor sickness, neither a long life nor a short one. It is a tall spiritual order, but a clear goal for Jesuits. Finally, Jesuits are to be disponible, a Spanish word meaning “available,” ready to go wherever God, who works through our superiors, wishes.
This may help explain the surprising accession of Cardinal Bergoglio to the papacy. Many people have wondered: Don’t most Jesuits at the end of their training make promises not to “strive or ambition” for high office in the church and Society of Jesus? In short: Yes. Ignatius was opposed to the clerical careerism that he saw in his day and built into the final vows a safeguard against that kind of climbing. But freedom is also built into Ignatian spirituality. If a Jesuit is asked to do something by the church, he is available. (And to answer a complex question: Yes, technically, Pope Francis is still a Jesuit, according to Canon 705, which states that a religious who is ordained a bishop remains a “member of his institute.”)
Other sources of Ignatian spirituality are found in the saint’s laconic autobiography; the Jesuit Constitutions, written by Ignatius; the lives of the Jesuit saints; and as John W. O’Malley, S.J., points out in his superlative book The First Jesuits, the activities of St. Ignatius and the early Jesuits. As Father O’Malley notes, it is one thing to know that the Jesuits in the 16th century were available enough to take on any kind of ministry that would “help souls,” as Ignatius put it; it is quite another to know that they opened a house for reformed prostitutes in Rome and sent theologians to the Council of Trent.

Some Ignatian Hallmarks

But what are the hallmarks of Ignatian spirituality (the broader term used these days, as a complement to “Jesuit spirituality”), and how might they influence Pope Francis? Let me suggest just a few and point out how we may have already seen them in the first few weeks of his papacy.
First, one of the most popular shorthand phrases to sum up Ignatian spirituality is “finding God in all things.” For Ignatius, God is not confined within the walls of a church. Besides the Mass, the other sacraments and Scripture, God can be found in every moment of the day: in other people, in work, in family life, in nature and in music. This provides Pope Francis with a world-embracing spirituality in which God is met everywhere and in everyone. The pope’s now-famous washing of feet at a juvenile detention center in Rome during the Holy Thursday liturgy underlines this. God is found not only in a church and not only among Catholics, but also in a prison, among non-Catholics and Muslim youth, and among both men and women.
Second, the Jesuit aims to be a “contemplative in action,” a person in a busy world with a listening heart. That quality was evidenced within the first few minutes of this papacy. When Francis stepped onto the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, he began not with the customary papal blessing but with a request for the prayers of the people. In the midst of a boisterous crowd, he asked for a moment of silent prayer and bowed his head. Offering quiet in the midst of the tumult, he was the contemplative in action.
Third, like members of nearly all religious orders, Jesuits make a vow of poverty. We do this twice in our lives—at first vows and at final vows. We are, said St. Ignatius, to love poverty “as a mother.” There are three reasons adduced for that: first, as an imitation of Jesus, who lived as a poor man; second, to free ourselves from the need for possessions; and third, to be with the poor, whom Christ loved.
But Ignatius noted that Jesuits should not only accept poverty, we should actively choose to be like “the poor Christ.” So far Pope Francis has eschewed many of the traditional trappings of the papacy. Before stepping onto the balcony, he set aside the elaborate mozzetta, the short cape that popes normally wear; since then his vestments have been simple. He elected to live not in the grand Apostolic Palace but in a small, two-room suite in the Casa Santa Marta, where the cardinals had stayed for the conclave. He is, so far, choosing the poorer option. This is not unique to Jesuits (and many of Ignatius’ ideas on poverty were inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, the pope’s namesake), but it is a constitutive part of our spirituality.
Another hallmark is occasionally downplayed in commentaries on Jesuit spirituality: flexibility. But over and over in the Jesuit Constitutions, flexibility is recommended for Jesuit superiors. Remember that Father Bergoglio, before he became archbishop of Buenos Aires, was not only the novice director and director of studies, but also the Jesuit provincial, or regional superior, for the country—three different assignments as a superior. Those roles in governance would all require knowledge of Ignatius’ understanding of flexibility.
While the Constitutions set down exacting rules for Jesuit life, Ignatius recognized the need to meet situations as they arise with creativity. After a lengthy description of precisely what was required in a particular aspect of community life, he would often add a proviso, knowing that unforeseen circumstances call for flexibility. “If something else is expedient for an individual,” he writes about Jesuits studying a particular course, “the superior will consider the matter with prudence and may grant an exemption.” Flexibility is a hallmark of the document, and it seems to be with Francis also, who seems happy to speak off-the-cuff in his homilies and adapt himself to the needs of the situation—like stopping a papal motorcade to embrace a disabled child in the crowd.

Jesus as Friend

Two more observations about Pope Francis’ Ignatian heritage. His homily for the Easter Vigil Mass seemed, at least to me, suffused with Ignatian themes. (But of course this may be my Jesuit bias!) He began by inviting his listeners to place themselves within the story, one of the key techniques of the Exercises. Imagine yourself, he suggested, as one of the women going to the tomb on Easter Sunday. “We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb, a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end,” the pope said. “Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb.”
Later in the homily the pope asked his listeners to consider Jesus as a friend. “Welcome him as a friend, with trust: He is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms.” It was easy to hear echoes of the Spiritual Exercises, in which Ignatius asks us several times to speak to Jesus “as one friend speaks to another.” It is an especially warm way of looking at the Son of God.
It would be wrong to say that knowledge of the pope’s spiritual traditions makes it possible to predict what he will do. But it would be equally wrong to say that we know nothing about his spirituality or that his spirituality will have no influence on his ministry. Like any Jesuit, especially a former novice director and superior, Pope Francis is deeply grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius and the Society of Jesus, whose seal he has placed on his papal coat of arms. I look forward to seeing how Ignatian spirituality may help him in his new office.
James Martin, S.J., is editor at large of America and the author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. Portions of this article first appeared in The Tablet of London.