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December 4 to December 10, 2013

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No 4851

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Reviewing the Year of Faith in SA and Rome

Pages 3,8& 9

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Page 5

Family survey: What comes next? BY CLAIRE MATHIESON

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HE Southern African bishops will collate the consultation of the laity on family life, held in preparation for next October’s extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops, in January, according to their communications officer. In November the bishops issued the Vatican’s questionnaire to each diocese in order to get results from all corners of the country on the synod’s theme of “Pastoral Challenges to the Families in the Context of Evangelisation”. “It is the first time ever that such a vast spectrum of people are invited to answer a questionnaire in preparation for a synod,” said Fr S’milo Mngadi, communications officer of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC). The priest, who is coordinating the findings from around the country, said traditionally a synod takes six stages, including the announcement and the distribution of a questionnaire, called a lineamenta, which is to be answered by bishops and other concerned people. In this particular case, the views of all Catholics will be considered. Answers from the questionnaire are then collated at the conference level and sent to the synod council. “The synod council formulates the working document, called instrumentum laboris, which is sent to the synod participants—the bishops,” Fr Mngadi explained. Some time after the synod assembly takes place the pope will issue a post-synodal exhortation. “So, we are at stage two of the process; the answering of the lineamenta,” Fr Mngadi said. While some dioceses around the world have asked laity to fill out online surveys, the SACBC decided that the questionnaire should be answered at the level of each diocese in an attempt to include as many views as possible. “Catholics need to check with their priest or bishop as to what process their diocese will follow,” said Fr Mngadi.

H

e said the greatest challenge facing the success of the survey is the limited time frame. “The collated document from our conference should be submitted to Rome at the beginning of February 2014. Since our dioceses are different operationally, each one chooses the most expedient way to get the answers, collate them and submit them to the conference before January 13, 2014.”

In this way each diocese has to determine its collation teams at the level of the parish, deanery and diocese, depending on the method it has chosen. At the level of the bishops’ conference, a team has been appointed to collate diocesan reports into a single report, Fr Mngadi told The Southern Cross. The priest said while the move to include the views of lay Catholics is profound, the process must not be seen as a referendum on the doctrines of the Church governing family life. “It is actually an effort at how to minister the eternal Gospel to and with the families better in this day and age,” he said. The survey “will help to ascertain how much of the Church’s teaching about the family is known to the laity—in other words, how good is our catechesis about families,” said Fr Mngadi. He said the bishops are eager to get the involvement of priests, deacons, religious, lay ministers and laity in the parishes of their dioceses.

Fr Cyril Axelrod CSsR with Steven Lombard and Faith Conwright of the Cape Town Deaf Association who flew to London to witness the South African-born priest’s award by Queen Elizabeth II of the Order of the British Empire medal. Fr Axelrod founded the Cape Town Deaf Association. (Photo: Majella Williams)

Queen honours deaf-blind SA priest STAFF REPORTER

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Seen supporting The Southern Cross at the closing ceremony of the Year of Faith in Pretoria is Steve Mokone, who every Sunday sells the newspaper at St Anne’s parish in Atteridgeville, Pretoria. (Photo: Mathibela Sebothoma)

HE queen of England told Johannesburg-born deaf and blind Redemptorist priest Fr Cyril Axelrod that she knew of his work and commended him for it. Queen Elizabeth II awarded Fr Axelrod the Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal for his worldwide work in training sighted people to guide and communicate with deaf-blind people. The priest, a convert from Judaism, was the first deaf-blind person ever to receive the medal. He was born deaf, and in his 40s developed the Usher syndrome which caused his blindness. Fr Axelrod, 71, was accompanied by his close friend Fr Larry Kaufmann, provincial of the Redemptorists in South Africa, through whom the priest and the queen communicated. Both priests wore their Redemptorist habits to the ceremony at Windsor Castle. “She pinned the medal on and said, ‘I have received a copy of your book. Thank you for it. I will read the enclosed letter’,” Fr Kaufmann told The Southern Cross. Fr Axelrod told the queen that “my disability is a gift from God”. The queen replied: “No doubt, you have used it well. I am aware of the work you have done throughout the world. May you have good health to continue your services you have begun.” Fr Kaufmann said that Queen Elizabeth and others “were clearly fascinated as I put

Fr Axelrod (left) with Fr Larry Kaufmann CSsR outside Windsor Castle. her words into finger spelling”, by writing words on the palm of Fr Axelrod’s hand. At a function after the investiture ceremony, Fr Axelrod donated his OBE and citation to the Hong Kong Society for the Blind, which he founded and which nominated him for the OBE. During apartheid, Fr Axelrod established a multi-racial school for deaf children in Soweto, a hostel for deaf homeless people in Pretoria, and an employment centre in Cape Town. The England-based priest visits South Africa regularly to lead retreats with his Redemptorist community.

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The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

LOCAL

Mother Teresa’s sisters celebrate BY SYDNEY DUVAL

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HE Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, celebrated their 25 years of ministry and service in South Africa, beginning in Cape Town, with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St Raphael church, Khayelitsha. The celebration included 25 candles being placed around the sanctuary for each of the years the sisters had been living in Cape Town’s biggest township. The principal celebrant, Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, assisted by Archbishop Emeritus Lawrence Henry and parish priest Fr Audecius Tindimwebwa AJ, expressed the heartfelt gratitude of the archdiocese of Cape Town to all the sisters, those here present and those who have gone before. “We thank you for the work you have done among the poor and sick and vulnerable, but most importantly we thank you for your vocation and for your response to God. It is not just about work. It’s about transformation of ourselves and witnessing to Jesus Christ.” Archbishop Brislin thanked late Archbishop Stephen Naidoo for the work he put into bringing the sisters to Cape Town. He also thanked Archbishop Henry for the tremendous support he had given the sisters over the years and continued to give. Among the several priests present was Fr Desmond Curran, who was parish priest at St Raphael when Mother Teresa established an initial presence in Khayelitsha’s Z Section. In his homily, based on the readings of the day, Fr Craig Holmes spoke of Mother Teresa’s constant faithfulness to Our Lord and his

Members of the Missionaries of Charity during a Mass commemorating the 25th anniversary of the visit of their foundress, Mother Teresa, to South Africa. The Mass was celebrated at St Raphael’s church in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. (Photo: Sydney Duval) commandments, especially the Gospel call to “love one another as I have loved you”. He said her life was a constant prayer before the throne of God, a prayer flowing out from the depths of her heart. “For this reason, you will always see the words ‘I thirst’ lovingly written alongside the crucifix in the chapel wherever Missionaries of Charity have their convents,” he said, adding that Mother Teresa

used these words of Our Lord, spoken from the Cross, to remind us that Jesus thirsted for our hearts and yearned for our souls, not for temporal waters. Mother Teresa strived to answer that utterance from the Cross each and every day of her life. She did this in the realisation that by loving the poorest of the poor with total self-sacrifice and unconditional love of Jesus Christ, she would slake

The Prayer of Parents to St Joseph for the Children

his thirst and quench the yearning and longing in his heart. Fr Holmes said: “This is what we call ‘consoling Jesus in his Passion’. It is the hallmark of great sanctity, and something the saints engage in, almost as if they are in another dimension of intimacy with Jesus while on this earth. But this level of intimacy with Christ only comes as the fruits of complete self-sacrifice, and it is only granted to those who

offer their lives as a complete oblation, in the service of the Church and the community of humanity. “We can only understand this profound intimacy of the heart when we realise that the Cross is indeed a great blessing, a great sign of favouring and a precious gift from Jesus Christ. We are all invited to this intimacy with Christ; everybody is included in the invitation, and nobody is exempt.” Fr Holmes lauded “25 beautiful years of unselfish service and commitment, to the poorest of the poor in Cape Town”. Sr Charbel Marie MC outlined the history of the Missionaries of Charity, also recalling Mother Teresa’s arrival in Cape Town on November 8, 1988 with Srs Audrey, Kulpulpushpa, Bethany and Concessa who were later joined by Sr Gustava Maria. She also shared details of the work carried out by the sisters in the following years. The house superior, Sr Cyrila, thanked all for sharing in the Mass of thanksgiving, saying: “A shared joy is a double joy.” She said: “We thank God for trusting us, allowing us to establish this house here and take care of his people; for his providential care all these years, for inviting many people to be his instruments of love. May we all continue doing daily something beautiful for God.” Four Missionaries of Charity from their houses in Durban and Johannesburg—Srs Marie Jose, Bonita, Pierita and Profula–—joined Khayelitsha’s Srs Cyrila, Charbel Marie, Kamal, Marlina, Mercy and Joy for the jubilee celebration.

O Glorious St Joseph,

to you God committed the care of His only begotten Son amid the many dangers of this world.

We come to you and ask you to take under your special protection the children God has given us born and unborn.

Through holy baptism they become children of God and members of His Holy Church.

We consecrate them to you today, that through this consecration they may become your foster children.

Guard them, guide their steps in life, form their hearts after the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

St Joseph, who felt the tribulation and worry of a parent when the

Child Jesus was lost, protect our dear children for time and eternity.

May you be their father and counsellor. Let them, like Jesus, grow in age as well as in wisdom and grace before God and men. Preserve them from the corruption of this world and give us the grace one day to be united with them in heaven forever.

Amen.

Members of the Filipino community with Fr Eduardo Guarin SVD at Sacred Heart cathedral in Pretoria after a special Mass was held for victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Philippines thanks SA Church BY CLAIRE MATHIESON

A

SPECIAL Mass dedicated to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan was held at the cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pretoria where the ambassador of the Philippines to South Africa, Constancio Vingno, thanked locals for the outpouring of concern and offers of support from individuals and groups in South Africa. “We thank God that distance has not hindered your charity,” the ambassador said. The special Mass was concelebrated by Fr Victor Phalana, vicargeneral of the archdiocese of Pretoria, and Fr Philemon Thobela, vicar-general of the diocese of Tzaneen, with Fr Eduardo Guarin SVD, a Filipino priest based in Johannesburg, giving the homily. A great number of members of the Filipino community in Gauteng attended the Mass. The ambassador said he believed many Filipinos—most of whom are dedicated Catholics—considered the message of support from Pope Francis to be the most special. Pope Francis led a special prayer at the Vatican for victims of the typhoon. He also called for concrete help to be provided to them. Mr Vingno asked the apostolic nuncio of South Africa, Archbishop Mario Cassari, to convey to the pope “our most sincere thanks for his sup-

port and prayers. The power of his love and concern, especially for the most vulnerable of the victims, continues to give us hope and the will to carry on”. “Whenever calamities strike our country, the Filipino people have always relied on their unwavering faith in Christ to give them comfort and to provide strength to persevere and rebuild,” Mr Vingno said. “In this instance of horrific damage and pain inflicted upon our countrymen by this super typhoon—one of the fiercest ever to make landfall in recorded history—Our Lord has moved the hearts of people all over the world to offer their assistance and support to the Philippines,” Mr Vingno said. He added that “we are truly moved by their immense generosity and solidarity, and pray that the Almighty shower these donors with blessings.” In his homily, Fr Gaurin called for the perpetrators of climate change to be held accountable. “As the Philippines is faced with this colossal devastation, Somalia and Cape Town have also become vulnerable to massive flooding. The poor often have to pay for the price of a warming planet. It’s time to stop this madness! Global warming is nothing next to eternal burning.”


The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

LOCAL

At the closing of the Year of Faith in Pretoria, Fr Obed Ramoipone of Temba (right) holds the staff which was given by Archbishop William Slattery to all the deans to “take care of the sheep”. He is accompanied by Fr Molewe Machingoane of Waterkloof, rector of St John Vianney Seminary. (Photo: Mathibela Sebothoma)

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The archdiocese of Cape Town closes the Year of Faith in the Velodrome in Bellville. (Photo: Sydney Duval)

Year of Faith closed, but its work must go on BY MATHIBELA SEBOTHOMA & SYDNEY DUVAL

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HERE were no seats in the grandstand of the Pilditch Stadium as Catholics from all over the Pretoria archdiocese gathered to celebrate the official closing of the Year of Faith, while the faithful of Cape Town archdiocese gathered at the Bellville Velodrome for a closing Mass. With the Pretoria stadium filled, hundreds more found shelter under the trees in the sweltering heat. Archbishop William Slattery had ruled that no Masses should be celebrated in individual parishes that Sunday as a sign of unity and solidarity. Archbishop Slattery said South Africans are looking up to the Pretoria archdiocese as the capital and seat of government. He said Pretoria is “where all nations come together”. He said the adage of South Africa as a “rainbow nation”, coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, must become a reality for the citizens of

the archdiocese. “Jesus is not only a historical figure but he is the man of today, and as such we must allow him to influence and change our lives for the betterment of society,” the archbishop said. He called on all parishes to “become the kingdom of God. When people are poor or sick, the whole parish must react, instead of expecting the priest to do the ministry alone.” Archbishop Slattery criticised some parishes for entertaining petty squabbles, gossip and personal differences instead of doing genuine pastoral work and tackling evils such as xenophobia and racism. He said each parish must have a “Dysmas book” into which the names of returning Catholics and those who encouraged them should be written. Dysmas is the supposed name of the repentant thief who was crucified with Jesus. “Go and tell all lapsed Catholics that God loves them,” Archbishop Slattery told the crowd. Decrying many problems faced

by families, he said: “As we close the Year of Faith, we must introduce the year of evangelising the family.” Fr Obed Ramoipone, dean of the Northern deanery, testified that “the Year of Faith has given us the opportunity to contemplate the door of faith as an entryway to faith. We have had the experience of living our faith in Jesus Christ. As we reach the end of this occasion, now is the time for us to consider carefully the way to be and act going out the door, living and proclaiming our faith in the world”. “The Year of Faith has been a moment of grace,” said Kuki Mbatha, chair of Pretoria’s archdiocesan pastoral council. “Throughout the archdiocese we have entered the opening of this door and taken the opportunity to respond to God’s grace and made the most of it through prayer, worship, study, and living our relationship with Jesus Christ.” Maureen Lekalakala of Majaneng parish testified that the Year of Faith strengthened her faith as her life was beset with many problems, in-

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cluding sickness and death of family members. She thanked the priests for restoring her hope and faith in God and the Church.

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N Cape Town, Catholics gathered in their thousands at Bellville Velodrome to celebrate the closing Mass for the Year of Faith, bringing clergy, religious and laity together in a celebration of a journey into the heart of life and faith that was coming to an end. The end came with Archbishop Stephen Brislin extinguishing the Year of Faith candle that had symbolised the local Church’s deeper exploration of faith as a source of spiritual renewal through closer intimacy with God—of coming closer to one another in prayer and service and as a community of faith. The final act of closure was preceded by the “rite of sending out”, when Archbishop Brislin gave a copy of Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, to each parish chair and representatives of the religious communities. They were each also given a can-

dle as a symbol of ongoing faith life. Archbishop Brislin called on the gathering and the whole archdiocese to continue the journey of faith and to live that faith as a gift of life, truth, love and hope. The light of faith is not to be hidden under a bushel, he said. “It gives me great joy to give the encyclical to each parish to inspire you—you are the light of the world and together we are called to spread the faith and the light of faith.” Those carrying the candles and encyclicals then processed out of the stadium to take the light of faith into the world, bearing witness to the light of Christ. Archbishop Brislin had earlier announced that Pope Francis had extended his apostolic blessing and a plenary indulgence to all present. Assisting Archbishop Brislin as principal celebrant were Archbishop Emeritus Lawrence Henry, retired Auxiliary Bishop Reginald Cawcutt and vicars-general Fr Peter-John Pearson and Mgr Clifford Stokes, surrounded by priests and deacons and Knights of da Gama.

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The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

INTERNATIONAL

Manifesto of a papacy BY FRANCIS X ROCCA

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N his first extensive piece of writing as pope, Pope Francis has presented a vision of the Catholic Church dedicated to evangelisation in a positive key, with a focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged and unborn. Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) is an apostolic exhortation, one of the most authoritative categories of papal document. (Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, published in July, was mostly the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.) The pope wrote the new document in response to the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation, but declined to work from a draft provided by synod officials. Pope Francis’ voice is unmistakable in the 50 000-word document’s relatively relaxed style—he writes that an “evangeliser must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!”—and its emphasis on some of his signature themes, including the dangers of economic globalisation and “spiritual worldliness”. The Church’s message “has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary,” he writes. “In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God

made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.” Inspired by Jesus’ poverty and concern for the dispossessed during his earthly ministry, Pope Francis calls for a “Church which is poor and for the poor”. The poor “have much to teach us”, he writes. “We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voices to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.” Charity is more than mere handouts, “it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor”, the pope writes. “This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.”

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ope Francis reiterates his earlier criticisms of “ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation”, which he blames for the current financial crisis and attributes to an “idolatry of money”. In a critique of capitalism, he writes: “[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will in-

evitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system.” He emphasises that the Church’s concern for the vulnerable extends to “unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us,” whose defence is “closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right”. The pope writes that evangelisation entails peacemaking, among other ways through ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. He “humbly” calls on Muslim majority countries to grant religious freedom to Christians, and enjoins Catholics to “avoid hateful generalisations” based on “disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism”.

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ope Francis characteristically directs some of his strongest criticism at his fellow clergy, among other reasons, for what he describes as largely inadequate preaching. The pope devotes several pages to suggestions for better homilies, based on careful study of the Scriptures and respect for the principle of brevity. Pope Francis reaffirms Church

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A copy of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is seen at a news conference at the Vatican. (Photo: Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters/CNS) teaching that only men can be priests, but notes that their “sacramental power” must not be “too closely identified with power in general”, nor “understood as domination”; and he allows for the “possible role of women in decisionmaking in different areas of the Church’s life”. As he has done in a number of his homilies and public statements, the pope stresses the importance of mercy, particularly with regard to the Church’s moral teaching. While lamenting “moral relativism” that paints the Church’s teaching on sexuality as unjustly discriminatory, he also warns against overemphasising certain teachings out of the context of more essential Christian truths. In words very close to those he used in an oft-quoted interview with a Jesuit journalist in August, Pope Francis writes that “pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not

obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed”, lest they distract from the Gospel’s primary invitation to “respond to the God of love who saves us”. Returning to a theme of earlier statements, the pope also warns against “spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, [but] consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being”, either through embrace of a “purely subjective faith” or a “narcissistic and authoritarian elitism” that overemphasises certain rules or a “particular Catholic style from the past”. Despite his censures and warnings, the pope ends on a hopeful note true to his well-attested devotion to Mary, whom he invokes as the mother of evangelisation and “wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones”.—CNS

Evangelii Gaudium: Pope Francis’ key points BY CINDY WOODEN

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ERE are a some main features of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: l With a mix of conversational style and formal papal magisterial language, Pope Francis sets forth a vision for giving the entire Church, at every level, a missionary thrust; he anticipates some objections and confusion, but asks everyone to give it a try. l He calls for renewal and rethinking of the way every person and every institution—from the pope and the Roman curia down to the parish and its parishioners—live their faith and focus their energies. l The pope recognises the Church must be realistic about the challenges individuals and the world pose to belief today, but—as a Jesuit—he encourages an Ignatian reading of the situation, looking for the people, places and trends where God is present. l Pope Francis sees the Christian life as being based on knowing and experiencing God’s love, mercy and salvation offered to all through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Evangelisation programmes and catechesis must be designed to help people return to that basic knowledge and experience and help them understand Church teaching in light of God having revealed himself as loving and merciful. l He spends a long section talking about the importance of homi-

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lies as the one opportunity each week most priests have to encourage Catholics to live the faith. He provides detailed suggestions on reading the biblical texts for the Mass, writing the homily and delivering it. l The pope recognises that some Church teachings and positions on modern issues are confusing to many people, especially outside the Church. He affirms Church teaching that women cannot be priests, but also says women must be involved more in Church decisionmaking. He also insists that the defence of the life of the unborn flows from the conviction that every life is sacred, and is a position that will not change. l Pope Francis says that the heart of the Christian moral message is love for one another, which must motivate Christians to share the Gospel, help the poor and work for social justice. l He warns of “spiritual worldliness” which leads apparently good Catholics to be concerned almost exclusively with power or appearances or judging others rather than recognising their own sin and reaching out to others with the same mercy God offers them. l The pope highlights Mary not only as a model of faith and fidelity, but as a strong woman and mother who shared many of the joys and sorrows facing people today and, therefore, understands the challenges they face.—CNS

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INTERNATIONAL

The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

Pope: Keep eye on Christ BY CAROL GLATz

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OPE Francis closed the Year of Faith by calling on people to keep Christ at the centre of their lives, especially in times of trouble. “When Jesus is at the centre, light shines even the darkest moments of our lives; he gives us hope,” he said in his homily. The closing Mass in St Peter’s Square also saw, for the first time, the exposition for public veneration of bones believed to be those of St Peter. The apostle is believed to have been martyred on a hill overlooking St Peter’s Square and buried in a tomb now located two levels below the main altar of St Peter’s basilica. Eight bone fragments, each 23cm-long, were nestled in an open bronze reliquary displayed to the side of the altar. During the ceremony, Pope Francis—the 265th successor of Peter— held the closed reliquary for several minutes in silent prayer while choirs sang the Nicene Creed in Latin. The bones, which were discovered during excavations of the necropolis under St Peter’s Basilica in the 1940s, are kept in the pope’s private chapel but had never been

Pope Francis censes the relics of St Peter on the altar in St Peter’s Square. (Photo: Stefano Rellandini, Reuters/CNS) displayed in public. While no pope has ever declared the bones to be authentic, Pope Paul VI said in 1968 that the “relics” of St Peter had been “identified in a way which we can hold to be convincing”.

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ope Francis began his homily by thanking retired Pope Benedict XVI for establishing the Year of Faith, calling it a “providential initiative” that gave Christians “the opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our baptism”. The pope then greeted patriarchs and archbishops of the Eastern Catholic churches, who were in

Rome for a meeting, and extended those greetings to all Christians living in the Holy Land, Syria and the East, wishing “them the gift of peace and harmony”. He expressed his appreciation for their fidelity to Christ, which comes “often at a high price”. In his homily, the pope focused on “the centrality of Christ” and how the faithful are expected to recognise and accept “the centrality of Jesus Christ in our thoughts, words and works”. “When this centre is lost, because it is replaced with something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves,” he said. With an estimated 60 000 people gathered in the square for the Mass, a special collection was taken up for victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. At the end of the Mass, the pope formally presented his first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”)—prior to its official release—to representatives of the Church community, including bishops, seminarians, catechists, Catholic journalists and a woman with a visual impairment, who received her copy as an audio file on a CD-ROM.—CNS

Pope’s critic gets papal phone call

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TRADITIONALIST writer who co-authored an article critical of Pope Francis received a phone call from the pontiff, who knew that the writer is gravely ill. Mario Palmaro said that “Pope Francis...is a very special priest and bishop, by calling me and paying attention to my health condition. He just wanted to tell me that he is praying for me.” The phone call lasted “just some minutes”, and they “talked only about a few things, because I was so moved from the phone call that I was not able to conduct so much conversation,” Mr Palmaro said. Pope Francis called Mr Palmaro’s home, and when his wife answered the phone, he could hear a “known voice asking her if it was my house and if she was my wife”.

After getting affirmative answers, Pope Francis said: “Madam, I know that your husband is very sick, and I would like to speak with him.” During the conversation, Mr Palmaro reminded the pope that he had co-authored an article in which he criticised him. The article, headlined “The reason why we don’t like this pope”, was written with journalist Alessandro Gnocchi, and published in Italian newspaper Il Foglio on October 9. The article focused, among other things, on Pope Francis’ assertion that “Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture”. Messrs Gnocchi and Palmaro argued that “the world is not anymore shaped in the light of the Gospel, while the Gospel is deformed in the

Good Shepherd Sisters

light of the world”. “We were aware, and we wanted, to open a debate, and even to pay the consequences of what we were going to write,” Mr Palmaro said. “After six months of the pontificate, in the midst of the huge consensus the pope had, we found it impossible that no one would bring up some questions.” When he got the phone call, Mr Palmaro said he felt a “duty to tell the pope that I had criticised him. I did not think he would have read my articles, but I thought I was a coward in receiving such a great gift as a pope’s phone call and not being sincere with him.” Pope Francis told Mr Palmaro that he “understood that the critics had been moved by love for the pope”.—CNA

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The catacomb of Priscilla in Rome, used for Christian burials from the late 2nd century to the 4th century, has been reopened to the public after years of restoration. Users of Google Maps now can see virtually through the underground corridors of the catacombs. (Photo: Max Rossi/CNS)

Ancient Roman catacombs now on Google Maps BY FRANCIS X ROCCA

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ARLY Christian burial sites are now easier to see, both in person and via the Internet, thanks to 21st-century technology and collaboration between Google and the Vatican. “This is perhaps the sign of the joining of two extremes, remote antiquity and modernity,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi at a news conference at the Catacombs of Priscilla in north-east Rome. The cardinal, president of both the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, lauded recent restoration work by the archaeological commission inside the complex of early Christian tombs. Using advanced laser techniques, restorers have uncovered vivid late fourth-century frescoes depicting Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and Ss Peter and Paul accompanying Christians into the afterlife. Jesus’ face resembles portraits of the Emperor Constantine, who legalised Christian worship in 313. Cardinal Ravasi also heralded the debut of the catacombs on Google’s Street View feature, a project he said had grown out of a conversation he

had with the Internet giant’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt. Google Maps offers a “see-inside” option for the catacombs, which allows them to move virtually through the narrow corridors tunneled out of soft tufa stone, and to see high-resolution images of the interiors from practically every angle. The brilliantly lit views are in startling contrast to the shadowy reality of an in-person visit. Google’s Giorgia Abeltino told reporters that almost the entire 12km complex of catacombs is now accessible online. However, there is no underground map to let users know exactly what they are seeing. Google also launched a Street View of the catacombs of the Ipogeo di via Dino Compagni, located in south-east Rome. The catacombs are privately owned and not open to the public, so the virtual mode is the only way to visit them. The news conference at the Catacombs of Priscilla was held above ground in the reconstructed fourthcentury basilica of St Sylvester, where a new museum displays hundreds of fragments of ancient marble sarcophagi, also recently restored. A glass floor offers views of the sites of ancient tombs below.—CNS


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The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

LEADER PAGE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Book not magisterial document

Editor: Günther Simmermacher

Finding the true meaning of Christmas

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VERY year during Advent— and, increasingly, weeks before that—we are likely to hear the call to observe “the true meaning of Christmas”. Usually the phrase intends to highlight positive seasonal virtues which might be summed up as representing a general generosity of spirit. Works of fiction—in literature, in movies and on television— have done much to entrench this notion of “true meaning of Christmas” as a response to assorted Scrooges, Grinches and other people of ill will who require a conversion. These conversions tend to exclude, however, Jesus, whose birth the feast of Christmas marks. So the “true meaning of Christmas” is interpreted not as a celebration of the birth of the King of Peace, but as a vague concept that involves a set of agreeable virtues. Of course, these qualities correspond with the attributes of good Christian living, but they do not constitute “the true meaning of Christmas” as the followers of Christ would define it. Certainly, these virtues should be exercised all year around, not only when the jingle bells are jingling. To the perceptive Christian, it is evident that in films and on television, in shopping malls and in many homes, the jolly Santa Claus—who himself is based on a Christian saint—has taken the Holy Family’s place. It makes little difference whether the hymn “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” provides the soundtrack to our collective Christmas experience, or the secular “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. The meaningless phrase “season’s greetings” (or, worse, “compliments of the season”) has usurped the more traditional, Christ-centred salutations. Christ truly is absent at his own feast, despite the Nativity scenes in some shops. Shopping malls have indeed become the new cathedrals “where we worship material things and riches”, as the late English Cardinal Basil Hume so strikingly put it. Many Catholics have capitulated and joined the secular razzmatazz, save for Christmas

Tribute to priest

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T was good to read the letter by Mgr Paul Nadal “Tribute to a visionary priest” (November 6) about Fr Matthew McDonald. To add, Fr Matthew was part of the elite Irish founders of St John Vianney Seminary. Under Franciscan high command, he was allowed to develop as a great pastor and teacher. His olive brown eyes, interested in everything created, the charm of his Irish smile, were Franciscan. The possibility of a little temper was just

The Editor reserves the right to shorten or edit published letters. Letters below 300 words receive preference. Pseudonyms are acceptable only under special circumstances and at the Editor’s discretion. Name and address of the writer must be supplied. No anonymous letter will be considered.

Mass and perhaps the lighting of Advent candles. Much of their time is spent in frantic preparation for Christmas, office parties, the obligatory New Year’s Eve bash, and planning the summer holidays, which coincide with the seasons of Advent and Christmas. For decades Christians have campaigned to “Put Christ back into Christmas”, to little avail. Indeed, historically Christmas was a time for unedifying revelry, interrupted by some liturgical events before the raucous celebrations could continue. It could be said that Christ rarely was in Christmas in the first place. Our nostalgic, idealised image of Christmas as a homely family event is relatively modern, having been shaped in the 19th century—perhaps not coincidentally a time when it also became increasingly commercialised and gradually secularised. The weeks before Christmas, our Advent season, are a hectic period. The call to put Christ back into Christmas is one that should find resonance firstly among Christians. Good as it is to amplify in our society the adage that “Jesus is the reason for the season”, it must be directed primarily at ourselves, reminding us to take time out from the holiday bustle and prepare for the birth of the Redeemer. For the busy family, this inherently requires the simultaneous celebration of two Advents and two Christmases: the noisy secular affair, which involves often excessive spending and consumption; and the more thoughtful religious variant, which involves reflection, prayer and joy at the birth of our Lord— as well as reaching out to those who might not have a happy secular Christmas. Taking the time to encounter the authentic “true meaning of Christmas” can provide a spiritual oasis amid the commercial yuletide frenzy. For many families it is not possible to opt out of the secular Christmas celebrations. Indeed, these can be joyous and affirming. At the same time, however, we must find time to celebrate God’s gift of his Son to us, and the birth of Christ in our lives. human Irish. His pastoral work, incisive as his intellect, was under the auspices of St John Vianney and St Pius X, both of the third order of St Francis. A question for Mgr Nadal. Which is right? “He is now with the people of God, triumphant” or “He is now with the people, of God triumphant”. On earth, the basis of the peace Christ gives is the triumph of the Cross. In heaven, the peace we receive. Please explain Mgr Nadal. PA Jaroszyki, Johannesburg

ITH respect to the rebuke by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier to the the observations of Fr Chris Clohessey on the five archbishops’ book, God, Love, Life and Sex (November 13), and without prejudice to the teaching authority of the five metropolitans and indeed all bishops, Cardinal Napier draws a long bow in placing God, Love, Life and Sex as an authoritative magisterial document. This he implies the book is, for it is written for popular and general consumption, rather than in the singular style of authoritative teaching documents that are written for bishops and theologians to explain to the faithful. In short, the popular style of God, Love, Life and Sex leaves itself

wide open to legitimate criticism, and as such the cardinal and his coauthors—and one assumes Cardinal Napier speaks for the other four archbishops—should generously leave themselves open to criticism from whatever quarter, rather than attack a fair and reasonable critique of their authorship. With regard to the book itself, it is an excellent popular exposition of the teaching of the Church on its subject matter. I find it difficult to discern the hand of five authors, one of whom I know to be an accomplished Scripture scholar and the other a sociologist. And, indeed, I must say that I find it difficult to clearly discern the hand of a moral theologian or ethicist at all. The morphing and melding of au-

thorship may be the result of one or two possibilities; either it is the product of outstanding editorial skills, or the book is the work of one archepiscopal pen to which four other bishops appended their name. But this really does not matter: the fact is that God, Love, Life and Sex, within its popular genre, is informative and ought to be read widely as intended, but his Eminence and their Excellences ought not to elevate this work to unquestionable teaching on the matters of God, life, love and sex, nor get their backs up if others, inter alia moral theologians and ethicists, point out real or alleged shortcomings in their writings, as it fits ill with the orientation of the present bishop of Rome and me! Fr Stephen Giles MHM, Kroonstad

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Personal attack

ARDINAL Wilfrid Napier’s “Response to a critique” is an undignified ad hominem attack on a priest. As far as I know, the priest’s critique was not published in The Southern Cross. It now should be, to give readers a fair opportunity to understand what Cardinal Napier was attacking. To equate the priest and others who disagree with certain aspects and approaches of the SACBC book God, Love, Life and Sex with disagreeing with Jesus is deeply offensive. Parts of the book are good, parts of it are problematic. Question 7b of the preparatory document for the 3rd Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops poses the question, in the context of Humanae Vitae on responsible parenthood: “Is this moral teaching accepted? What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couples accepting this teaching?” That the whole Church is being asked to consider this question (and many others), without being condemned as disagreeing with Jesus, is a strikingly different approach from that adopted by Cardinal Napier. Implicit in asking the question is the possibility that many of the faithful will answer, “No, this moral teaching is not accepted”. Then we can have a mature debate on the problems without ad hominem attacks in the absence of publication of the original critique that Cardinal Napier used his own column to attack. John O’Leary, Cape Town

Critique awry

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N his critique, Fr Chris Clohessy makes despicable remarks when saying the Holy Family is inappropriate as a portrayal of a family group for our times. On another matter, Fr Clohessy should not have been allowed to lecture on the Koran as “the Book of God” in a Catholic forum. In the edition of the Koran I consulted, Christ’s divinity and resurrection are denied, as is also Catholic teaching about the blessed Trinity. That edition of the Koran has reference to some of the early teachings of the Church (teachings of Christ) as “corruptions”, needing correction. For Muslims, the Koran is the Book of God, but not for Catholics. Franko Sokolic, Cape Town

Cardinal wrong

ETHINKS the cardinal protesteth too much (November 13). When you write a book and place it in the public domain, you are fair game for criticism. Clearly, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier does not like criticism. He does not seem to understand that truth emerges from critical discussion. He has, as far as I remember, already written two long letters in The Southern Cross defending the book God, Life, Love and Sex. Now this response to Fr Chris Clohessy’s critique. He seems to be continually trying to explain what the book itself should have done in the first place. Moreover, I am shocked by the cardinal’s personal and public attack on Fr Clohessy. Debate considers arguments, not persons. And the cardinal’s statement that Fr Clohessy should have first directed himself to the bishop to whom he promised obedience is ridiculous. Obedience does not mean subservience. Fr Clohessy is a clear-headed, intelligent and dedicated priest. If anybody can discern good religious writing from poor, he can. By writing his critique he has done the Church a service. He is definitely not a populariser or trying superficially to be “with it”, as Cardinal Napier writes. His homilies are relevant, meaningful and inspiring. Brian Jacoby, Cape Town

Universal aim

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R FANO Ngcobo (November 20) either does not understand the universal teachings of the Catholic faith or more likely, refuses to understand for self-gratification. What does the post-liberation paradigm of 1994 have to do with the universal Catholic Church? How sad that people because of their “charm” can influence and sway ignorant and unsuspecting followers away from the Church. Patricia Ravells, Cape Town Opinions expressed in The Southern Cross, especially in Letters to the Editor, do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editor or staff of the newspaper, or of the Catholic hierarchy. The letters page in particular is a forum in which readers may exchange opinions on matters of debate. Letters must not be understood to necessarily reflect the teachings, disciplines or policies of the Church accurately. Letters can be sent to Po box 2372, Cape Town 8000 or editor@scross.co.za or faxed to 021 465-3850

Back page bliss

HE contributions of Frs King and Rolheiser, as well as the good old Classic Conrad and Church Chuckle make the last page of The Southern Cross the most inspirational page of the paper. I continue the habit of reading the back page first, before I move to the front page! By the way, experts regard Ronald Rolheiser as the Henri Nouwen of the 21st century. Con E Petersen, Pretoria

No to Nazi

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WAS astonished to read Franko Sokolic’s justification of the actions of the unrepentant Nazi Erich Priebke (November 20). In a war, the killing of innocent civilians by the armed forces can never be justified simply by saying that the perpetrators knew there would be reprisals. Priebke claimed he was following orders, a justification not accepted by the Nuremburg trials. Since St Augustine’s just war theory, it has been recognised that there should be attempts to exclude civilians from the effects of warfare. Priebke not only went to his grave unrepentant but was an avowed anti-Semite. The Catholic Church was complicit in allowing him to escape to Argentina and at last some vestige of justice has been done by the Church in denying such a man a Catholic funeral. By publically offering a Requiem Mass, the Society of St Pius X has confirmed its anti-Semitic views— witness how the funeral attracted neo-Nazis. Such attitudes have no place in our Church. Dr Deryn Petty, Johannesburg

Hurley thanks

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ANY thanks for publishing my letter about contributions to the Denis Hurley Centre from religious orders and congregations with which the archbishop worked closely (November 13). I am delighted to report that we have recently received a generous donation from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Obviously their gift has a special significance because Archbishop Hurley was a faithful member of this congregation from 1932 until his death in 2004. Paddy Kearney, coordinator of Denis Hurley Centre Project, Durban

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PERSPECTIVES

Power from the Psalms I N my previous column we discussed the importance of complete dependence on God in the practice of leadership; and we saw how some psalms help us to understand this. In this column we explore how complete dependence on God for leaders and others gives us the freedom to practice leadership or go about our daily duties in life without undue worry and fear. Often what makes leadership difficult is the fear of some authorities above us who want us to do what is not right, or some other powerful people who are envious of us or who want to create situations that make us fail. Faced with such opponents, our natural reaction is to take revenge and to wish that God would punish them. In the First Book of Samuel we learn about how Saul, the first King of Israel, was jealous of David, feared him and pursued him relentlessly in a bid to kill him (18 -31). For his part, David put his trust in God, and when twice he was presented with an opportunity to kill Saul, David refused to take matters into his own hands and instead declared: “the Lord himself will strike him ... But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord's anointed” (26:8-11). It is partly in this context that we can understand Psalms 23 and 27. In Psalm 23, David depicts God as a Good Shepherd who takes care of his sheep. The sheep have such complete dependence on God that they are not afraid of anything, but they are capable of facing any storms that may come their way without fear because of the knowledge that the Good Shepherd is there to protect them. David had such complete dependence in the face of Saul’s pursuit to kill him that he could say of God: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing...Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

For David, the Lord did not only protect him, he “guides me along the right paths”. In other words, God showed him how to conduct himself in a godly way, and to take decisions that were in accordance with the will of the Divine. Similarly, leaders who see God as their shepherd will be able to proclaim: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life”; so that they are not only protected by God, but also that all the decisions they make are divinely inspired and do not cause any harm to anybody.

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his is important because many in positions of influence think only of the importance of what they desire to achieve and are completely oblivious of the harm their decisions may cause to those over whom they have authority. We are often not aware that the way we treat others can lead to high blood pressure, stress, anxiety and other serious illnesses.

King David is depicted playing a harp in a statue in Jerusalem. His psalms have much to teach us about Christian leadership. (Photo: Günther Simmermacher)

The water crisis is here! W ATER is a commodity that no creature can live without. Biologists tell us that 70% of our body is water. Without it we collapse and die. It is water that supports fish that we enjoy eating; it is water that quenches our thirst; and it is water that we get on a drip when we are rushed to hospital. The water crisis is becoming an ever greater challenge in Africa. Most of the continent, which knows the scourge of drought only too well already, will increasingly face water shortages. South Africa not exempted. Some countries have begun experiencing it in urban areas where populations numbers are on the rise. In those areas water is a luxury. The water crisis is here already! Experts warn that within the lifetime of our children, by the middle of this century, wars will be fought over water. Mother Earth has more than enough fresh water that could support the seven billion people sitting on planet earth. Here in Africa, we have massive water bodies, and yet some children miss classes in order to help their parents fetch this basic commodity. Unfortunately, water is wasted in many ways. When pipes burst on our roads and the situation goes unreported for hours, huge volumes of water go down the drains while somebody else somewhere is decanting murky water in order to drink it. We use clean, piped water to irrigate our lawns while others queue for a bottle of water. To address the problem of wasting water, a modification of lifestyle is neces-

A girl carries water from a well in the village of Synthiane Ndiakri, Mauritania. Experts warn that by the middle of the century, wars will be fought over access to water. (Photo: Susana Vera, Reuters/CNS) sary, beginning at home. This is a moral issue. Of course the problem is broader than that. Water pollution is massive; our South African rivers are no longer safe to drink from, or often for fish to live in. Professor Jesse Mugambi, a Kenyan academic who teaches at Nairobi University, laments: “In my childhood, the water was so clear that you could see the hard rock at the bottom. Fishing for trout was so easy. We enjoyed it. When we used our fishing rods, we could see ourselves catching the fish.” Today most of our rivers are brown, stinking water, polluted by industrial sludge and sewerage, with polythene bags and plastic rubbish floating on their banks. The necessary change must begin with

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Christian Leadership

The unfortunate thing is that, as Christian leaders, we are often guided by secular norms of leadership and fail to integrate our leadership practices with our Christian faith—with the result that we do not see how our leadership styles have a negative or even disastrous effect on the lives of others. In Psalm 27, David declares that he fears no one because of his complete dependence on God: “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” This is the effect of faith in and complete dependence on God that one is liberated from the fear of the schemes and grand designs of those who want to see one fail. This is how the martyrs of the early Church were able to face their persecutors and their death with such great courage. Such strong faith in God also helps to alleviate the effects of stress and other modern ailments referred to above. It is in this sense that one can say with David: “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” The reason for this confidence is this: “For in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27 closes with advice to any leader, follower, worker or believer who may be facing persecution or unfair criticism: “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” The two psalms show that true faith in God has lessons for both leaders and followers. In part they show how God inspired leaders to relate to God and others, and how subordinates can cope with harsh and cruel leaders.

Anthony Gathambiri IMC

Point of Debate

us. We must form a generation that doesn’t wash clothes in running streams; that doesn’t throw bottles or chocolate wrappers anywhere, including into the water. The “green gospel” must penetrate our children, ourselves and our peers to form responsible citizens. Water consumption is increasing every day while water resources decrease. Water is becoming expensive, and it will become unaffordable to many, even as access to clean water is considered a human right. We all need to get to the businesses of conserving the little water we have. Approximately 170 million people die each year either because they didn’t have any water to drink or because they drank unclean water. This death toll exceeds that of war and other violent deaths. Church communities cannot be indifferent to that. It is our mission as Christians to protect our water, to educate people about how to harvest water, to teach people how to use it sparingly and how to conserve it. It is not enough to drill boreholes to solve the water crisis, but we also need to protect the watersheds through deforestation, lest the boreholes dry up. Our forefathers treated nature with a very high respect because they knew that God manifested himself in them. Have we forgotten that nature is God’s icon, that we do not have God’s licence to pollute the rivers and the seas?

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The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

7

Daniel Conway

Point of Reflection

It’s not enough just to say ‘thank you’

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AITH is a gift. It is a beacon of light that shines in our darkness. We all experience the pain, suffering and confusion that are caused by darkness in our lives. Sin and death are the primary expressions of darkness that no human person—except the Blessed Virgin Mary, by the grace of God—can escape. We cannot overcome the world’s darkness by our own efforts, but our faith tells us that we can open our minds and hearts to the light of Christ and, so, “journey through time” illumined by his brightness. The Church teaches that faith comes as the result of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. How well do we know him? How deeply do we love him? How effectively do we serve him by responding to the most profound needs of our sisters and brothers in faith? The light of Christ shines through our darkness. It illumines the shadows of our life and touches us in what Pope Francis describes in his encyclical, Lumen Fidei (“The Light of Faith”), as “the core of our being”. When we see with faith, we recognise the meaning of life—and of our individual lives. Through faith, our minds and hearts are opened to the truth. We are not orphans. We are the sons and daughters of God, the brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus, who are called to see and to believe with great joy! As people of faith, we are called to thank God for this great gift. But giving thanks, expressing our gratitude in thought and word, is only an initial aspect of being a grateful believer. We are called not only to say thanks to God, but to do thanks as well. This expression of gratitude to God in action is called stewardship. In a 1992 pastoral letter, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response”, the US bishops teach that authentic Christian stewardship is a disciple’s response in faith to all the gifts we have been given by a loving and generous God. When somebody gives us a gift or does us a favour, we spontaneously say “thank you”. That’s the expected response our parents taught us to make at a very early age. But just saying thanks isn’t really enough. Yes, we are expected to acknowledge in words the gift or benefit we have received, but we are expected to acknowledge it in action, too. This acknowledgment in action is not supposed to be a “payback” in which we calculate the value of what we have received and give exactly that much back to the giver. Rather, it’s intended to be a more intense expression of grateful acknowledgment, a more emphatic way of showing that we are aware of what we have received and that we want to express our sincere appreciation by giving something in return. Gratitude in action is more demanding than just expressing thanks with words. It’s more substantive. It costs more. It’s more complicated. But it is also more expressive, and the more we have been given, the more we are expected to give in return. Unless there is a willingness to give in return, the gratitude we express with words can easily become a mere formality. Stewardship is the term used to express our “sacrificial giving” in return to the Lord who has given everything to us. Stewardship is not just giving our “time, talent and treasure”. It’s not simply a technique for asking people to contribute more to the Church in order to pay the light bills and keep parish and school ministries going. Stewardship is the practice of putting our faith in action—or as one theologian has said: “Stewardship is what we do after we say we believe.” The practice of stewardship should not be a once in a while thing, any more than gratitude to God is a once in a while thing. Gratitude, and the expression of it in word and action, is supposed to be habitual in our lives. Stewardship and gratitude are part of what we are about in our day-to-day lives, every day. They are constituent elements of our Christian spirituality of faith in action. Let’s thank God for all his gifts. Let’s be grateful stewards whose words and actions show that we are responsible, generous and willing to give back to the Lord with increase. Let’s be grateful believers who do thanks as well as say it. n Daniel Conway is an internationally known author, speaker and consultant on stewardship themes. This article first appeared in The Criterion, the newspaper of the archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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also on DStv audio channel 870 & streamed on www.radioveritas.co.za


8

The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

NEW EVANGELISATION

Year of Faith was helped by having two popes The Year of Faith was a success because it benefited from the styles of two popes, Vatican insiders told CINDY WOODEN.

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HE goal of the Year of Faith, which concluded on November 24, was to educate Catholics about basic Church teachings, strengthen their faith and inspire them to share it with others. If it has succeeded, as organisers say it has, the credit ultimately lies less with its special projects and events than with the historic papal transition that occurred in its course. “The election of Pope Francis has given new visibility to the core teachings of Jesus Christ, which ultimately is what the Year of Faith sought to achieve,” said Mgr Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Both Pope Benedict XVI, who opened the celebration in October 2012, and Pope Francis who closed it last month, dedicated their Year of Faith talks to explaining the creed, looking at modern cultural challenges to faith, recognising faith as a gift, and urging Catholics to proclaim God’s love and share the Gospel. But a different pope means a different personality and a different style, even when teaching or preaching on the same themes. In addition, a new pope tends to draw more visitors to the Vatican because many Catholics are eager to meet their new shepherd. Eight months after Pope Francis’

March 13 election, the number of visitors to the Vatican continues to be higher than usual, which most observers attribute to his easy rapport with a crowd and his touching focus on children and the sick. More than 8 million Catholics came to Rome and officially registered as Year of Faith pilgrims at a visitors’ centre just down the street from St Peter’s basilica. But Fr Francesco Spinelli, an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, said the real number of participants in Year of Faith events at the Vatican is far higher, “because most come without registering at all”. The evening before he closed the Year of Faith, Pope Francis presided over the Rite of Acceptance, a brief ceremony in which adults who had been inquiring about the Catholic faith officially become catechumens preparing for baptism. The pope also published an apostolic exhortation on the new evangelisation, promoting what he calls a “culture of encounter” between Christ and humanity and among believers themselves. The document and the ceremony with future Catholics underlined a key point of Pope Francis’ teaching: Christ not only knocks on hearts to get inside, he knocks on the doors of churches asking to be let out into the world. At his general audience on October 16, the pope asked the crowd: “Are we missionaries by our words, and especially by our Christian life, by our witness? Or are we Christians closed in our hearts and in our churches: ‘sacristy Christians’?” Archbishop José Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the new evangelisation council, said that Pope Benedict proposed the Year of Faith

“to give a strong push to the new evangelisation” and to help Catholics “recognise the joy that comes from the great gift of faith” and from knowing that God loves them so much that he sent his son to save them. Pope Francis’ election during the Year of Faith can be seen as “providential”, the archbishop said. “The personality of Pope Francis, his closeness, his use of language that is simple and profound, [and] his desire to go out and meet people, has captivated people’s hearts. “The Holy Spirit knew what he was doing,” Archbishop Ruiz said. “He wanted to be sure that in the Year of Faith many people who had been far from the Church would hear an invitation to respond to the Lord.” From what bishops and pastors around the world are reporting, it seems to have worked, he added.

B

oth popes have insisted that being an authentic Christian isn’t simply about one’s private prayer life; it must be evident in the way a person interacts with others and with the world. A month before he stepped down, Pope Benedict said that believing in God “makes us harbingers of values that often do not coincide with the fashion and opinion of the moment. It requires us to adopt criteria and assume forms of conduct that are not part of the common mindset.” He added: “Christians must not be afraid to go ‘against the current’ in order to live their faith, resisting the temptation to conform.” Pope Francis, in a Year of Faith talk in April, said: “Being Christian is not just about obeying orders, but means being in Christ, thinking like him, acting like him, loving like

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him; it means letting him take possession of our life and change it, transform it and free it from the darkness of evil and sin. “This is a precious service that we must give to this world of ours which all too often no longer succeeds in raising its gaze on high, no longer succeeds in raising its gaze to God,” Pope Francis said. The two popes naturally brought distinctive styles to the Year of Faith, Archbishop Ruiz said, but it is “only a hypothesis” to think, for example, that Pope Benedict would have used the pro-life celebration in June to denounce abortion, or the family life celebration in October to denounce same-sex marriage. “Pope Benedict’s magisterium wasn’t concentrated just on that,”

Archbishop Ruiz said, and the retired pope designed the Year of Faith celebrations to be expressions of “joy and happiness”, not of protests. Mgr Tighe said: “One of the particular achievements of Pope Benedict was showing—with strong philosophical and theological arguments—the legitimate claim of faith to having a place in the public square and in public debate. “In a simpler, more directly pastoral way, Pope Francis is almost literally bringing faith to the public square, particularly in and through the media,” he said. “We see especially in social media a huge desire on the part of people to share his words and deeds.”—CNS

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The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

9

How SA Church lived Year of Faith The Year of Faith is over, and now is a good time to take stock and review the endeavours on parish and diocesan levels. PORTIA MTHEMBU spoke to three priests about their experiences.

W

HEN Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to launch a Year of Faith, to run from October 2013 till late November 2014, a Durban priest took the initiative to produce something tangible for the year. Fr Desmond Royappen of St Joseph’s parish in Morningside introduced yellow Year of Faith wristbands which he said serve several purposes. “Wristbands are very popular among all ages and we need to be authentic witnesses of Christ,” he explained. “Just seeing others wear the wristband lets us know of fellow Catholics. It identifies us as Catholics and therefore, we need to ‘band together’, to unite as a Catholic family.” The band, coloured yellow in reference to the Vatican flag, reminds the People of God of their call to be faithful to its teachings. The motto, “Credo Domine”— which means “Lord I believe” (Mk 9:24)—reminds Catholics not only of their relationship with Christ but also of the invitation to believe in a living God, his Word and in the sacraments. An additional purpose of the wristband is represented by the symbol of the fish, an ancient sign by which persecuted Christians could identify one another. The symbol of the fish serves as a reminder of the difficult situation faced by the faithful throughout the world today, from prejudice to deathly persecution. When Cardinal Wilfrid Napier presented the yellow wristband to Pope Francis, the newly-elected pontiff slipped it on his wrist. Thus a South African Year of Faith initiative spread across the world. “Pope Francis just loved it,” said Fr Royappen. “He referred to it in his speech to the cardinals and thanked South Africa for the gift.” Pope Emeritus Benedict was also presented with a band which he received from Pope Francis. Wearing the band has also had practical benefits. In one incident, a person who had been involved in a car accident was sent a priest after the band had enabled the paramedic to recognise the patient as a Catholic. The wristbands remain available even after the Year of Faith. Fr Royappen hopes they will be worn by

Pope Benedict XVI, they benefited from the occasion,” Fr Kizito said. The priest believes that the Year of Faith provided the faithful with an opportunity to know Jesus and the Catholic Church better. They have also expressed their joy at being Catholic. “This time filled our hearts with certain warmth in the dark times we have experienced in the past years. It is my hope and wish that this Year of Faith will allow people to continue being witnesses of faith to the world.”

The archdiocese of Pretoria, led by its Archbishop William Slattery, closes the Year of Faith at the Pilditch Stadium. (Photo: Mathibela Sebothoma) many Catholics for many years to come. “The symbols represented on the band are a reminder that we are Catholics and we need to be authentic witnesses of Christ,” said Fr Royappen. “Do not be ashamed of being a follower of Christ.”

B

ishop Michael Wüstenberg of Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape kicked off the Year of Faith last year by celebrating Holy Mass at Sacred Heart cathedral. At the Mass, the bishop lit the Year of Faith candle which was

shared among the three regions of the diocese. During Advent and Lent, penitential services emphasised the theme of the African Synod of reconciliation, justice and peace. In each region, the faithful were called to renew their baptismal promises. “This was a very powerful act— to be able to renounce evil ways and believe in Jesus Christ,” the diocese’s Mgr Joe Kizito told The Southern Cross. Thereafter, sodalities of the diocese were able to share stories which they had read in the booklet

The diocese of Oudtshoorn closes the Year of Faith with a procession through George. (Photo from Leveinia Botha)

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received from the bishops’ Department of Evangelisation. These stories proved to be beneficial because they dealt with the day-to-day challenges which the faithful are faced with, such as marriage and the commandment to honour one’s parents, Fr Kizito said. The diocese was presented with a letter from Bishop Wüstenberg requesting that the parish pastoral council and parish finance committee members assume leadership roles in the parishes. At a subsequent workshop members not only learnt more about the ministries they are called to do, but also formed friendships. The diocese’s priests and sisters also held a workshop with a focus on Vatican II. They reread the Vatican II documents with a new understanding of the Church, which were then applied in the diocese. Members of sodalities and the Small Christian Communities (SCC) bought the Catechism of the Catholic Church booklet which they found to be very resourceful. The Year of Faith enabled the people of Aliwal to discover and differentiate between the two types of Creed, Fr Kizito said. During homilies, the priests focused on the Creed so that the faithful could learn the different parts of it. “This gave them a beauty and understanding of their faith,” said the priest. “The faithful embraced the Year of Faith, and if they opened their hearts to the spirit and the call of

T

he Oratory parish of St Bernadette in Port Elizabeth embraced the Year of Faith with great enthusiasm, undertaking various activities, parish priest Fr Jonathan Vermaak told The Southern Cross. The parish, which has for many years run adult instruction courses, chose the Year of Faith to focus its courses on the liturgy, the Church and Revelation—themes extracted from the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council. “This turned out to be a great success. The talks were represented for Radio Veritas and subsequently put onto CD for wider distribution,” Fr Vermaak said. Other successful parish initiatives included presenting an evening on Pope Francis’ first encyclical, which it titled “Lumen Fidei Uncovered”, referencing the encyclical’s title, and adding the full text of the pope’s weekly general audience as an insert in the weekly newsletter. Both activities were well received by parishioners. “The success of these efforts is hard to measure as the purpose of the Year of Faith. Only the Lord can measure this,” Fr Vermaak cautioned. “What I can attest to is the palpable enthusiasm and love for God shown not only at St Bernadette’s but also in many parishes in Port Elizabeth,” he said. “This is inspiring for the priests, too, and next year’s adult instruction courses are already being planned and greatly anticipated.”

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Kokstad Diocesan Pilgrimage to Holy Land • Jordan • Cairo

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10

The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

COMMUNITY

The RCIA group from St Anne's parish in Sydenham, Durban, went on retreat at Red Acres retreat house, an Oblate institute in Pietermaritzburg. They are pictured with chaplain Fr Raymond Mwangala OMI.

Fifty-two matriculants of St Peter Claver High in Kroonstad, Free State. They were the first matric class since Notre Dame Convent closed in 1972. The Sisters of Notre Dame, at the urging of parents, agreed to extend the school again in 2010.

The parishioners of St Patrick’s parish in La Rochelle, Johannesburg recently completed a first phase of building maintenance which included erecting a new sign above the entrance to the church, resealing the church roof and repainting most of the buildings, including all of the catechism classrooms which host almost 250 children on Saturday mornings. Parish priests ScalabrianFathers Gerardo Garcia and Ivaldo Bettin are pictured in front of the Church together with the new sign.

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Children from Our Lady of Fatima parish in Bellville, Cape Town, received their first Holy Communion. They are pictured with parish priest Fr Bogdan Buksa and catechists Elizabeth Cader and Ursula Weber.

St Luke’s parish in Factreton, Cape Town, celebrated the unveiling of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima that was gifted to the parish by Portuguese businessman José Camara, who as a young man worked in the area 50 years ago.

The Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart welcomed two newly professed sisters in the Tzaneen diocese. They are (front second left) Sr Nkiru Okafor from Nigeria and (third left) Sr Grace Kenyonga from Uganda. As members of an international missionary congregation, they join sisters from Australia, Congo, Kiribati, Indonesia and South Africa.

Candidates received the sacrament of confirmation at St Benedict’s cathedral in Eshowe, Kwazulu-Natal. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Xolelo Thaddaeus Kumalo of Eshowe (back centre).

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Sr Carol Steemson of the Carmelite convent in Retreat, Cape Town, celebrated her 50th profession anniversary as a Carmelite.


Community Calendar

To place your event, call Claire Allen at 021 465 5007 or e-mail c.allen@scross.co.za (publication subject to space)

CAPE ToWn: Padre Pio: Holy Hour 15:30 every 3rd Sunday of the month at Holy Redeemer parish in Bergvliet. Helpers of god’s Precious infants meet the last Saturday of the month except in December, starting with Mass at 9:30 am at the Sacred Heart church in Somerset Road, Cape Town. Mass is followed by a vigil and procession to Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Bree Street. For information contact Colette Thomas on 083 412 4836 or 021 593 9875

or Br Daniel Manuel on 083 544 3375. MAriAnnHiLL:

The youth of Mariannhill are holding a piulgrimage at Kevelaer mission in Donnybrook 7-8 December. Call 031 700 2704. nELSPruiT: Adoration of the blessed Sacrament at St Peter’s parish. Every Tuesday from 8am to 4:45pm followed by Rosary Divine Mercy prayers, then a Mass/Communion service at 5:30pm.

Word of the Week

HOLY COAT: The seamless garment of Christ (John 19) for which the soldiers cast lots on Calvary. Two cities both claim to possess this garment. Trier in Germany claims that its relic was sent there by St Helena and the Coat of Argenteuil in France is mentioned in a document dating from 1156 as the cappa pueri Jesu (garment of the Child Jesus)—Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr John Hardon SJ

The Southern Cross, December 4 to December 10, 2013

Liturgical Calendar Year C Weekdays Cycle Year 1 Sunday December 8, 2nd Sunday of Advent Isaiah 11: 1-10, Psalms 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17, Romans 15: 4-9, Matthew 3: 1-12 Monday December 9, Immaculate Conception of Mary Genesis 3: 9-15, Psalms 98:1-4, Ephesians 1: 3-6, 11-12, Luke 1: 26-38 Tuesday December 10 Isaiah 40: 1-11, Psalms 96:1-3, 10-13, 17, Matthew 18: 12-14 Wednesday December 11 Isaiah 40: 25-31, Psalms 103:1-4, 8, 10, Matthew 11: 28-30 Thursday December 12 Isaiah 41: 13-20, Psalms 145:1, 9-13, Matthew 11: 11-15 Friday December 13 Isaiah 48: 17-19, Psalms 1:1-4, 6, Matthew 11: 1619 Saturday December 14 Sirach 48: 1-4, 9-11, Psalms 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19, Matthew 17: 10-13 Sunday December 15, 3rd Sunday of Advent Isaiah 35: 1-6,10, Psalms 146:6-10, James 5: 7-10, Matthew 11: 2-11

Southern CrossWord solutions

SOLUTIONS TO 579. ACROSS: 1 Vain, 3 Sincerer, 9 Noodles, 10 Rifle, 11 Last blessing, 13 Apples, 15 Used to, 17 Hot gospeller, 20 Wipes, 21 Erratic, 22 Parasite, 23 Thus. DOWN: 1 Vineleaf, 2 Irons, 4 Issued, 5 Christ’s beard, 6 Refined, 7 Reed, 8 Flabbergasts, 12 Corrects, 14 Prosper, 16 Ascent, 18 Latch, 19 Swap.

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goD bLESS AFriCA Guard our people, guide our leaders and give us peace. Luke 11:1-13

CLASSiFiEDS

Births • First Communion • Confirmation • Engagement/Marriage • Wedding anniversary • Ordination jubilee • Congratulations • Deaths • In memoriam • Thanks • Prayers • Accommodation • Holiday Accommodation • Personal • Services • Employment • Property • Others Please include payment (R1,25 a word) with small advertisements for promptest publication.

in MEMoriAM

bruYnS—Noel. Left us far too young on December 6, 2004. Still missed and remembered fondly by his colleagues at The Southern Cross.

PErSonAL

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oughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Psalm 51 THAnKS be to thee, my

PrAYErS

HoLY SPiriT you make me see everything and show me the way to reach my ideals. You give me the divine gift to forgive and forget. In all instances of my life you are with me, protecting me and opening for me a way where there is no way. I thank you for everything, and confirm once more that I never want to be separated from you, no matter how great the material desires. I want to be with you and my loved ones in your perpetual glory. Amen. Say this prayer for 3 consecutive days. Publication promised. Paolo. HoLY ST JuDE, apostle and martyr, great in virtue and rich in miracles, kinsman of Jesus Christ, faithful intercessor of all who invoke you, special patron in time of need. To you I have recourse from the depth of my heart and humbly beg you to come to my assistance. Help me now in my urgent need and grant my petitions. In return I promise to make your name known and publish this prayer. Amen. IEH. HAVE mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thor-

A group of readers is preparing audio tapes of excerpts from The Southern Cross for interested people who are blind, sight-impaired, unable to hold a newspaper or illiterate. Anyone wanting to receive tapes as part of this service, available for an annual subscription fee of only R50, may contact Mr Len Pothier, 8 The Spinney Retirement Village, Main Rd, Hout Bay, 7806 or phone 021-790 1317. This advertisement is sponsored

11

Lord Jesus Christ, For all the benefits thou hast won for me, For all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, May I know thee more clearly, Love thee more dearly, And follow thee more nearly, For ever and ever. ALMigHTY eternal God, source of all compassion, the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope. Hear the cries of the people of Syria; bring healing to those suffering from the violence, and comfort to those mourning the dead. Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbours in their care and welcome for refugees. Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms, and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace. O God of hope and Father of mercy, your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs. Inspire leaders to

ON TAPE

The Post office will deliver and return tapes without charge. Should you know of any interested blind or otherwise reading-impaired person, please inform them of this service.

choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies. Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria, and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. Prayer courtesy of the USCCB.

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The Southern Cross is published independently by the Catholic newspaper & Publishing Company Ltd. Address: PO Box 2372, Cape Town, 8000. Tel: (021) 465 5007 Fax: (021) 465 3850 www.scross.co.za Editor: Günther Simmermacher (editor@scross.co.za), business Manager: Pamela Davids (admin@scross.co.za), Advisory Editor: Michael Shackleton, news Editor: Claire Mathieson (c.mathieson@scross.co.za), Editorial: Claire Allen (c.allen@scross.co.za), Mary Leveson (m.leveson@scross.co.za) Advertising: Elizabeth Hutton (advertising@scross.co.za), Subscriptions: Avril Hanslo (subscriptions@scross.co.za), Dispatch: Joan King (dispatch@scross.co.za), Accounts: Desirée Chanquin (accounts@scross.co.za). Directors: C Moerdyk (Chairman), Archbishop S Brislin, P Davids*, S Duval, E Jackson, B Jordan, M Lack (UK), Sr H Makoro CPS, M Salida, G Simmermacher*, z Tom

opinions expressed in this newspaper do not necessarily reflect those of the editor, staff or directors of The Southern Cross.


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3rd Sunday of Advent: December 15 Readings: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10, Psalm 146:6-10, James 5:7-10, Matthew 11:2-11

A

S we approach the celebration of Christmas, we are to recognise that there is real joy here, but not the artificial joy engendered by the over-priced items that the shops are pressing upon us just now. Our joy comes from the vision offered by the readings for next Sunday; and their message to us is that, whatever it may feel like, God is at work in our world. The first reading is a beautiful song, intended to encourage the Jews exiled to Babylon to undertake the demanding journey home to Jerusalem, across a thousand kilometres of desert. The poet offers us a vision of the “desert and dry land” rejoicing: “It will blossom abundantly and rejoice—the glory of Lebanon shall be given it—they shall see the glory of the Lord, the splendour of our God.” This is a vision to keep us going at this time of the year. And the poet knows that we need the encouragement, as he says “strengthen the hands that are slack, make firm the tottering knees”. Then he offers us a further vision: “Look–your God!”, and a

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God is at work in our world Nicholas King SJ

Sunday Reflections

glimpse of what the coming of God will mean: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the dumb shall be unstopped.” Then a wonderful picture: “The lame shall leap like a deer.” The whole reading comes to its climax in its final image: “Those ransomed by the Lord shall come back, and come in song to Zion. They shall meet joy and exultation, while sorrow and mourning shall flee.” We should pray over this image in these last days of Advent, and be strengthened by it.

The psalm for next Sunday continues with this image of what God does for us: “the one who keeps integrity for ever, the one who does what is just for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry”. Then the image becomes even lovelier: “the one who opens the eyes of the blind… the one who watches over the immigrant, who holds up the orphan and the widow”. Then it ends with a picture of what we can expect at the end of our Advent: “The Lord shall reign for ever, your God, Zion, from age to age. Halleluiah!” The second reading is for those who doubt whether the Lord will come; four times it uses, as noun or verb, the word for patience: “Be patient, brothers and sisters”, James exhorts his hearers, “for the Lord’s coming”, just like farmers, and like the prophets of old “who spoke in the name of the Lord”. Children know, or learn, the need to wait for Christmas; God is indeed at work in our

When loyalty is blind, it easily becomes idolatry A

NYONE familiar with the life and writings of the French philosopher and Christian mystic Simone Weil will, I am sure, agree that she was a woman of exceptional faith. She was also a woman with an unwavering commitment to the poor. But, and this may seem anomalous, she was also exceptional and unwavering in a certain resistance she had towards the institutional Church. During her lifetime she longed for daily Eucharist, even as she resisted baptism and membership in the Church. Why? It wasn’t the Church’s faults and failings that bothered her. She was a realist and accepted that every family and institution has its infidelities, flaws, and sin. She had little problem forgiving the Church for its shortcomings. Her resistance to full genuflection within the institutional Church had its root instead in a particular anxiety she felt before any social institution, that is, she saw how an uncritical patriotism or misguided loyalty often leaves individual members of an institution unable to see the sins and shortcomings within that institution. For instance, fiercely patriotic citizens can be blind to the injustices done by their own countries, and deeply pious people can be constrained by their loyalty to the Church so as to turn a blind eye on the Church’s faults, as was the case with many saints who supported the Crusades and the Inquisition. Blind loyalty to country, church, family,

Conrad

Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI

Final Reflection

or anything else, Weil believed, becomes a form of idolatry. She’s right. Blind loyalty can easily become idolatry, despite its sincerity and high motives. It might seem wrong to criticise loyalty, but we can be too loyal; loyal to the point where our loyalty blinds us from seeing the real harm sometimes being done by those to whom we are uncritically giving that loyalty. We are all familiar with certain axioms which each in their own way, would have loyalty trumping everything else: “My country, right or wrong!” “The Church, love it or leave it!” “A family’s dirty secrets need to remain inside the family; they’re nobody else’s business!” But these axioms, with their naïve and uncritical call for loyalty to one’s own, are neither wise nor Christian. Both human wisdom and Christian discipleship call us to something deeper. All families, all countries, and all churches have their sins and shortcomings, but we show our love and loyalty when, instead of blinding our eyes to those faults, we instead challenge ourselves and everyone within that circle to look at and correct those sins and shortcomings. We can learn lessons here from Recov-

ery and 12-Step programmes. What they have learned through years of experience in dealing with dysfunction of every kind is that the loving thing to do in the face of sickness, inside of any group or relationship, is to confront that pathology. To not confront it is to enable it. Real love and real loyalty do not remain uncritical. They never say: “This is my family, my country, or my church—right or wrong!” Instead, when things are wrong, they tell us to show love and loyalty not by protecting our own, but by confronting what’s wrong. That, in fact, is the biblical tradition of the prophets; it’s exactly what the prophets did. They loved their people and were fiercely loyal to their own religious tradition, but they were not so blindly loyal as to be uncritical of the real faults inside that religious community. They were never constrained by false loyalty so as to be blind to the sins within their own religious structures and remain muted in the face of those faults. They never said of their religious tradition, “love or leave it”. Instead, they said: “We need to change this—and we need to change it in the name of loyalty and love.” Jesus followed in the same path. He was faithful and loyal to Judaism, but he was not silent in the face of its faults and wrongdoings in his time. In the name of love, he challenged everything that was wrong. He taught, and taught strongly, that blind religious loyalty can be idolatry. He would be the last person to teach that loyalty and love mean never criticising your own. Indeed, he de-literalises the meaning of family, country, and church and asks us to understand these in a higher way. He asks: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers and sisters?” And he goes on to say that these are not to be defined by biology, country, or religious denomination. Real family, he says, is made up by something else, namely, by those who hear the word of God and keep it, irrespective of biology, country, or religion. Consequently biology, country, and religion must be criticised and opposed whenever they stand in the way of this deeper union in faith and justice. Blood may be thicker than water. But for Jesus, faith and justice are thicker than blood, country, and church. Moreover, for him, genuine love and loyalty manifest themselves in a commitment to challenge things that are wrong, even when that means seeming to be disloyal to one’s own.

world, but it does not always feel like it. That is the experience of John the Baptist, who is in prison, and therefore has rather lost his faith in God, and sends messengers to enquire whether Jesus is indeed “the one to come”. In response, Jesus simply points to the evidence, and we recognise the vision of God that was painted in our psalm: “The blind recover their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached.” Then a sharp reminder to the Baptist: “and happy is the one who is not scandalised by me”. However, Jesus’ verdict on the Baptist is rather nuanced: “a prophet, and more than a prophet—he’s the one of whom it was written, ‘Look! I am sending my messenger before my face’.” However, in the vision of God, “the least in the Kingdom of the Heavens is greater than [John]”. God does not see things precisely as we do, and we shall do well to remember this as Christmas draws near.

Southern Crossword #579

ACROSS

1. Way in which to take name disrespectfully (4) 3. More candid (8) 9. Stupid persons making pasta (7) 10. Steal a firearm (5) 11. Priest’s prayer to end the Mass (4,8) 13. Did they really grow in Eden? (6) 15. Became familiar with the past (4,2) 17. He’s not a cool evangelist (3,9) 20. Pew is in regular need of these (5) 21. Carter I find to be irregular (7) 22. Hanger-on at praise (8) 23. In the bath, usually in this manner (4)

DOWN

1. It grows with the grapes (8) 2. The devil may have many of these in the fire (5) 4. Distributed like a newspaper (6) 5. A feature of the divine face (7,5) 6. Purified and elegant (7) 7. Kind of pipe in the organ (4) 8. Greatly surprises that there are fast gabblers (12) 12. Marks the errors in the text (8) 14. Succeed financially (7) 16. The upward slope of your climb (6) 18. Lock inside flat chalet (5) 19. Paws you can exchange (4) Solutions on page 11

CHURCH CHUCKLE

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he Rand finally dies and all the pieces and notes of money gather outside the gates to heaven. St Peter looks at the sorry lot, beckons the R1 coin and lets it through the gate. Then the R2 coin and the R5 coin. The higher notes of money saunter up to St Peter, but suddenly he blocks the way. “But that’s unfair,” the money notes shout. “R1, R2 and R5 got through no problem, but you won’t allow us in. Why?” “I’m sorry,” says St Peter, “but I never saw any of you in church.” Send us your favourite Catholic joke, preferably clean and brief, to The Southern Cross, Church Chuckle, PO Box 2372, Cape Town, 8000.


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