Monday, 18 February 2013

Prior General's letter to the Holy Father

Rome, 12 February 2013
Your Holiness
Pope Benedict XVI

Most Holy Father,

We were very surprised and moved by the announcement today of your decision to step down from the ministry of Peter.  On my own behalf and on behalf of the whole Carmelite Order, I wish to express to you, at this moment in your life and in the history of the Church, our deepest affection and gratitude for the service that devotedly and unselfishly you have given to the community of believers in Christ. I welcome with the greatest of respect the reasons that you have revealed and I see them as a further sign of your great love for the Church and of the thoughtfulness with which you have carried out and continue to carry out your service as Universal and Roman Pastor.

I will always cherish the memory of those moments when I met you personally. I remember your expressions of close interest and support on more than one occasion, not just for me but for our Order and for its life, going back to the first public audience which I attended soon after my election as Prior General, in 2007. What joy my confreres and I and all the members of the Carmelite Family felt when on the 26th of April, 2009, we heard your voice in St. Peter’s Basilica declaring that the name of Nuno de Santa Maria was being inscribed among the saints. I was deeply moved by the interest you showed in the work that we do with young people when we came to meet you in Castelgandolfo with young people from Europe who were taking part in the “Pilgrimage of Hope” in 2010. On that occasion you said to me that the Carmelites are the people “who teach us how to pray”. I can assure you that those words have remained in each one’s heart ever since. A year later a number of those young people along with myself and a number of Carmelite friars and sisters, took part in the World Youth Day in Madrid, where once again we were able to hear your strong message  encouraging everyone to follow Jesus Christ and to bring him to the world. More recently I had the opportunity to offer you my good wishes during the general audience of the 19th of September, 2012, on the occasion of the International Congress for Lay Carmelites.

I thank you for the beatifications which you approved and celebrated during your pontificate, some of which were in the time of my predecessor, Fr. Joseph Chalmers: Bl. Maria Crocifissa Curcio, Bl. Maria Teresa Scrilli, Blesseds Angel Prat and companions, carmelite martyrs, Bl. Candelaria de San José and Bl. Angelo Paoli. Two further groups of martyrs in Spain in the 20th century are due to be beatified this coming October. Similarly, the heroic virtue of a number of important figures, known for their holiness, has been recognised. To all of them and the Saints of Carmel I entrust you so that they may help you and protect you always.

We are indeed well aware of your love for the Mother and Sister of Carmel and on many occasions, we have rejoiced at your references to her. We have also appreciated that you have not forgotten that for many years you lived within the boundaries of the parish of Santa Maria in Traspontina and you visited the Church on many occasions as a Cardinal, especially during a novena in preparation for the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and to lead a lectio divina.

We thank you for the courage and the hope with which you spoke of your resignation, hope and courage which you always saw as essential to Christian life. We feel that we are close to you Holy Father in this important moment in your own life and in our life as Catholics. As we have done in the past and now more than ever, we assure you of our prayer and affection, certain as we are that your decision is a sign of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, for the good of the Church.

Together with my brother and sister Carmelites I once again offer my filial devotion to the Church, to you Holy Father and to whomsoever the Holy Spirit and the Cardinals will give us as the next successor of Peter.

P. Fernando Millán Romeral, O.Carm.
Prior General

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Popal Abdication - What next?

While the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is a first for the church in centuries, it also leads to a complicated period of transition that ends in the election of a new pope.

Regulated by ancient traditions and recent rules, the period between popes -- known by the Latin term "interregnum" -- will begin exactly at 8 p.m. Rome time Feb. 28, a date and time Pope Benedict stipulated in a declaration he made Feb. 11 for when the See of Rome and the See of St. Peter will be vacant.

Normally the interregnum begins with a pope's death and is followed by a period of mourning.

This time the pope will resign from his ministry and spend a short period of prayer and reflection at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, before moving to a monastery at the Vatican.

The rules governing the interregnum are matters of church law, not dogma.

The apostolic constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis" confirms that as long as the Holy See is vacant, the universal church is governed by the College of Cardinals, which cannot, however, make decisions normally reserved to the pope. Such matters must be postponed until the new pope is elected.

Until there is a pope, the Roman Curia -- the Vatican's network of administrative offices -- loses most of its cardinal supervisors and cannot handle any new business.

The College of Cardinals is to deal solely with "ordinary business and matters which cannot be postponed." At present, there are 209 cardinals, and all of them are asked to meet in Rome to help administer the transition period. The College of Cardinals does this through two structures: a general congregation, in which all the cardinals are to meet daily; and a particular four-member congregation, consisting of the chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and a rotating team of three cardinal assistants.

Only those cardinals under age 80 will be eligible to vote in the coming conclave. Cardinals who are age 80 or over by the time the conclave starts are excluded from the closed-door proceedings. There will be 117 cardinal-electors when the "sede vacante" begins Feb. 28; by March 5, that number will be 116.

As chamberlain, Cardinal Bertone is to administer the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See until the election of a new pope.

Meanwhile, the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, is charged with making preparations for a conclave to elect a new pope, and the cardinals must set the time for the conclave to start.

The word conclave comes from Latin, meaning literally "with key," and reflects the previous tradition of locking the cardinals in an area where they would spend day and night until the new pope's election.

On the day set for entry into the conclave, the cardinal-electors assemble in St. Peter's Basilica to attend morning Mass. In the afternoon, they walk in procession to the Sistine Chapel, located just to the north of St. Peter's. The voting may begin that afternoon with one ballot; on following days, normally two ballots are held in the morning and two in the afternoon.

A pope is elected when he obtains a two-thirds majority, reflecting a change Pope Benedict established in 2007 that effectively undid a more flexible procedure introduced by Blessed John Paul. According to the new rule, the two-thirds-majority rule cannot be set aside even when cardinal-electors are at an impasse.
If the cardinals are deadlocked after 13 days, the cardinals pause for a day of prayer, reflection and dialogue, then move to runoff ballots between the two leading candidates. A papal election will continue to require a majority of two-thirds of the voting cardinals.

All voting is secret, in writing, on paper ballots, which are deposited in a receptacle by each elector, then counted. Ballots are taken to any cardinals residing at the Domus Sanctae Marthae but who are too sick to come to the Sistine Chapel. After each morning and afternoon round of voting, the ballots are burned. By tradition but not by rule, they are burned with special chemicals to produce the black smoke signifying an inconclusive vote, or white smoke if a new pope was elected.

Due to confusion in the past as people in St. Peter's Square tried to determine what colour smoke was coming out of the Sistine Chapel smokestack, the basilica's bell is also rung to confirm a successful election.

Once a new pope has been elected, he is asked if he accepts the office -- he is encouraged but not bound to do so by the current rules -- and is asked to choose a name. Traditionally, the senior member of the cardinal deacons -- currently Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, 69 -- announces the successful election results from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. After the new pope has donned papal robes, he proceeds to the balcony, where he greets the public and offers his first blessing.

At a time designated by the pope, usually a few days later, he officially opens his ministry with an investiture Mass at St. Peter's. The new pope is no longer crowned with a papal tiara, but receives a pallium, or stole, in recognition of his authority.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Ordination Joy

The Carmelite family in Britain and Ireland have had a wonderful week of celebration and thanksgiving. On the 2nd of February, Dave Twohig, O.Carm., was ordained priest in Whitefriars Dublin. The following day, Fr. Dave presided at a Mass of Thanksgiving in the Church of the Nativity, Beaumont. Dave grew up in Beaumont and the people of the parish were delighted to welcome one of their own amongst them as a priest. In His homily for the ordination, Archbishop Martin commented on how vocations are born from loving communities of the people of God.
Fr. Dave at his Mass of Thanksgiving in Dublin
On the 11th of February, Carmelites from Britain, Ireland, and Indonesia, gathered in the chapel of the Carmelite nuns in Thicket, for the ordination to the diaconate of Br. Ged Walsh. Ged has always had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes and it is fitting that his ordination was celebrated on her feast
Bishop Terry Drainey, ordaining Br. Ged Walsh, O.Carm to the ministry of Deacon

The Carmelite Family gathered in Thicket Priory for Br. Ged's Ordination

Fr. Dave will continue his ministry with the Whitefriars community in Dublin. Br. Ged will remain in York with chaplaincy ministry to the university and hospital.

Deacon Ged Walsh, O.Carm & Fr. Dave Twohig, O.Carm
Photos: Johan Bergstromm-Allen

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Am I worthy

Ruebens 'Fishers'

Am I Worthy?

We are now well into Jesus’ Galilean ministry, the one he began in Nazareth.

But this Sunday contains a surprise development. The Church’s Fifth Sunday finds three of the greatest witnesses in the Bible—Isaiah, Paul and Peter—expressing their own worthlessness. They are worthless.

What is your attitude toward worthiness? Do you agree with today’s psychologized sentiment that, “I AM worthy,” or “I’M ok, YOU’RE ok,” or “I buy this product because I’m WORTH it”?

Let’s look at these three witnesses and see if they are worth it.

First, Isaiah receives a vision of heaven itself (First Reading). The Lord is seated on a high and lofty throne. The Seraphim angel choir is crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”*

Isaiah’s reacts with shame, or so it seems. “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" In response an angel swoops down with a burning coal to cleanse his lips!!!! He is doomed, alright, but doomed to be made clean through suffering, to be made able to speak of God.

Second, St. Paul says that Christ appeared to him last of all, as to one born abnormally (Second Reading). “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Unworthy but did the grace of God discard him? No, it appointed him an Apostle even though he had never even met Jesus.

Then there is the famous Gospel story. Jesus tells Peter, James and John to fish in the deep water (where they had been fishing and fishing and fishing all night with no result). Without warning their nets are bloated with fish. Peter cries out, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

So we have a problem here. Isn’t the experience of God supposed to lead to peace, forgiveness, and joy instead of shame?

Make a distinction. The real reaction of all three figures is not really shame, which means concluding that they are each worthless. Instead we could see that they are finding their real place in reality. They are expressing a kind of humility

How? Each of these men is forced to compare himself directly with the presence of God. But when people meet the holiness of God head-on, they are able to see humanness in themselves. It is as full of holes as a sponge. None of them could pretend that they shone like the stars because they saw the real star bursting with light.

An experience of God lets them understand that they are far, far less than God. This is not bad, it is good. Our own elegance cannot make us holy but God can. We can be proud to be unworthy if reception of God’s love is the result. 

So at Mass we echo the Roman centurion: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” When we react with shame, God does not say in return, “I reject you,” but “I love you dearly. Come be with me, you fine human being.”

 Fr. John Foley, S. J.


Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Reflecting on Vocation

An excerpt from the novel Cosmas or the Love of God by Pierre de Callan.

“A vocation is not open to empirical investigation. The Lord is relentless when he wants to enlist someone in his service; but he is also incredibly self-effacing. One cannot possibly understand the signs of a vocation unless one remembers that god, because He is Love, woos souls with all the delicacy and shyness of a lover. Even those who can say that they never had the slightest doubt about their vocation still feel overwhelmed and at a loss to explain exactly what this means. For here contradictory truths inaccessible to ordinary human logic, come together: there is a sense of being led by someone stronger than oneself, and yet remaining free; the feeling that it will pursue us in season and out of season, and yet that it is within our power at any given moment not to heed it; the understanding that god has need of our so-operation to lead us wherever He desires. Mary was free to say no to the Angel.

Moreover, God’s call comes to us in a human context which may be ambivalent and need sorting out: family circumstances; the influence of a priest or of relations or friends; an example one feels impelled to follow; a book we have read, or a felling; psychological or emotional events. All these can be exploited by the Lord to incline us to follow His path”