S outher n C ross
January 4 to January 10, 2017
Organ prodigy with faith delights churches
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Catholic girl a celebrated author at 7
Church to back gender equality on slave’s feast By MANDlA ZIBI
HE Southern African Catholics Bishops ‘Conference (SACBC) has proclaimed the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita on February 8 as a day of prayer and reflection on the continuing scourge of women and children abuse, particularly its ties to human trafficking. Archbishop William Slattery of Pretoria, SACBC spokesman, posed the question: “Are the churches doing enough for the progress of gender equality?” “Despite men and women being equally children of God, women have been massively discriminated against; they are paid less, even when allowed to do the same work as men; they are sexually abused; forced into early marriages; abandoned to care for children alone. They bear the brunt of domestic violence, and with children they are the objects of human trafficking,” Archbishop Slattery told The Southern Cross. The announcement follows the SACBC’s call in early in December in which the bishops enjoined the faithful to three days of prayer and fasting “for an end to abuse wherever it occurs, whether in the Church, in the family and elsewhere in society”. The statement formed part of the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign and the pope’s own injunction that “the universal Church fast and pray for the healing and consolation of those who have been sexually abused, especially women, children and vulnerable people”. In December the Catholic Church was part of a “Day of Awareness and Reflection” in Witbank, jointly organised by the SACBC’s Justice & Peace Department and the United Nations Women’s Organisation to address abuse of women and children. The gathering featured addresses by the Ndebele King, Makhosonke II, and ANC parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu. Archbishop Slattery stressed that the Church has become aware of the plight and role of women in society, and is addressing the issue of trafficking in women and children.
St Josephine Bakhita, whose feast day has been appointed as a day of prayer against the abuse of women and children. “The religious congregations have opened houses of shelter around the country and over 400 trafficked women have been rescued. Capacity-building workshops for people, especially young women, to alert them to the danger of being trafficked, have been organised, and inspired by the vision of the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life (LCCL) in South Africa,” he said, noting that the SACBC also has an office to deal with issues of human trafficking. However, the Church needs to address a bigger issue, which Archbishop Slattery identified as patriarchy. “Central to the problem of gender inequality is the culture of patriarchy. This refers to an entrenched system of domination by males,” the archbishop said. He referred to Pope John Paul II, who wrote: “Love excludes every kind of subjection whereby the wife might become a servant or slave of the husband, an object of unilateral domination. Love makes the husband simultaneously subject to the wife and thereby subject to the Lord himself, just as the wife to the husband.” Some of the major issues which stand in the way of making gender equality a reality include the devaluation of maternity, the trivialisation of abortion, the distortion of what it means to be a family, “and, above all, Continued on page 2
Men in traditional attire guide camels during a parade marking the feast of the Epiphany in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican last year. The feast of the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings’ Day, marks the adoration of the Christ-child by the Wise Men from the East and celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ. It is celebrated on January 6. In Southern Africa it has been transferred to Sunday, January 8. (Photo: Paul Haring/CNS)
Pope releases priest from jail
OPE Francis has officially granted clemency to Spanish priest Mgr Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, who had already served half of his 18-month jail sentence for leaking confidential Vatican documents. The Vatican announced that the pope had given Mgr Vallejo Balda the “benefit of conditional release” and that the priest will now fall under the jurisdiction of his home diocese of Astorga, Spain. In July, after an eight-month trial, the Vatican court convicted the priest of leaking and disseminating confidential financial documents. Mgr Vallejo was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Italian PR woman Francesca Chaouqui was found guilty of conspiring in the crime, but was not charged with the actual leak of the documents, due to a lack of evidence. After his initial arrest on November 2, 2015, Mgr Vallejo was transferred to the Vatican’s Collegio dei Penitenzieri, a residence run by Conventional Franciscans, on house arrest. However, after violating the terms, he was moved back to the cells of the Vatican Gendarme, before eventually returning to the Collegio dei Penitenzieri.
Both Mgr Vallejo and Ms Chaouqui are former members of the Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the Economic Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA). The commission was established by Pope Francis in July as part of his plan to reform the Vatican’s finances, and was dissolved after completing its mandate. After a November 6 Mass celebrated for prisoners in St Peter’s basilica, Pope Francis in his Angelus address appealed for better prison conditions and asked that as part of the Jubilee of Mercy, competent global authorities would consider granting clemency to eligible inmates. “I would like to make an appeal for better conditions in prison life, so that the human dignity of the detained is fully respected,” the pope said. He emphasised the importance of the need for a criminal justice “which isn’t just punitive, but open to hope and the re-insertion of the offender into society”. In response to an appeal made by Pope Francis for governments to grant clemency to prisoners, Cuban president Raoul Castro released 787 prisoners.—CNA.
The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
Holy Cross nuns honoured Care for lonely seafarers
A The plaque unveiled in Parow, Cape Town, to honour the Holy Cross sisters’ work during apartheid and (below) Archbishop Stephen Brislin blessing the plaque.
RCHBISHOP Stephen Brislin of Cape Town celebrated a Mass in Parow to mark the unveiling and blessing of a plaque that acknowledges the Holy Cross Sisters’ ministry in the archdiocese, particularly on the Cape Flats. In his homily during the Mass in Parow, Archbishop Brislin expressed the purpose for this initiative: to mark Parow as a sign of sorrow that began through apartheid and prevented many people from carrying out their full potential. He said that as future generations come and memories fade, it is important to remember that apartheid’s social engineering of pride and arrogance did not deter the Holy Cross sisters from emerging and producing remarkable people in their schools. The stone, he said, is dead, but it requires us to fulfil the vision as women of hope so that it becomes a living stone. Archbishop Brislin challenged the Holy Cross sisters to be more than good social workers, but to also be women of faith who bring love to people, and to be people of prayer who integrate prayer into their lives so that life works in and through them.
OR seafarers arriving at the ports of Durban and Cape Town, this Christmas season was a lonely time, hundreds or thousands of miles from their families. Many thus welcomed the sight of a port chaplain from the Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) coming on board. Before Christmas and on Christmas Day, AoS port chaplains visited many ships’ crew members, taking gifts of clothing, toiletries and treats for them. The gifts and clothing are often given by members of the local community and churches. Fr Herman Giraldo, AoS port chaplain in Durban, distributed the gifts to ships’ crews in port and at the outer anchorage. “This is our way of making sure that seafarers are not forgotten, especially during this time of
Many ships’ crew members are working during the Christmas period or docked in ports far from home. They are not forgotten and Apostleship of the Sea chaplains say Mass and give them gifts. the year,” he said. “Many of us spend Christmas with our families and friends, but ships’ crews work either out at sea or in ports.” In Cape Town, AoS port chap-
lains Frs Gerardo Garcia and Pablo Velasques celebrated Mass on Christmas Eve for seafarers. For many of them, it was the only chance to attend Mass during the Christmas period.
Players’ Guild thrilled in Mariannhill
HE Durban Catholic Players’ Guild now has a presence in Mariannhill as the monastery has given the guild the former Farm House to store its costumes and props. “We have repaired the house and moved in,” said Dawn Haynes, president of the guild. The building has been blessed by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier and Fr Brett Williams, the guild’s spiritual adviser. The Durban Catholic Players’ Guild is best-known for its productions of the Durban Passion Play and the annual “Carols by Candlelight”. In December Carols by Candlelight was presented at Greyville and at Mariannhill, with more than 1 000 people attending. In association with the event, the Knights of Da Gama collected hundreds of donated toys for its Toys for Happiness project.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Fr Brett Williams, members of the Durban Catholic Players’ Guild and guests at the blessing of the guild’s new premises at Mariannhill monastery. As a “thank you” to the Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries, the guild produced the carols service in the monastery church. “We performed and sang with great enthusiasm, even in exces-
sively hot conditions,” Ms Haynes said. “The church was full and it was a truly spiritual afternoon,” she said, adding: “This was proof of the power of drama as a means of evangelisation.”
Book launched on OP foundress
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DOMINICAN Sister now based in London launched her book on the South African-born founder of the Newcastle Dominican Sisters. Sr Marie-Henry Keane OP was in South Africa to attend the general chapter of her congregation. While in South Africa, she launched her book on the life of Mother Rose Niland, titled Neither Daunted nor Deterred, printed by Mariannhill Mission Press. Mother Rose was the granddaughter of John and Catherine Niland, 1820 settlers from Ireland, Sr Keane noted. “It was not a spirit of adventure that drove them from their much-loved homeland, but desperation,” the author said. “In the early 18th century, England’s Oliver Crowell had taken control of the most fertile parts of Ireland. He parcelled out much of that land to senior members of his British army, in lieu of wages and as gifts to friends.” John Niland was a poor tenant on an Englishman’s estate.
South African-born Mother Rose Niland OP (left) is the subject of a newly launched book by Dominican Sr Marie-Henry Keane OP (right). “He had no land, no voice in the governing of his own country, no freedom to practise his Catholic faith openly, no prospects,” Sr Keane explained. He came to the Eastern Cape believing that he would receive 100 acres of undeveloped land, when it was, in fact, Xhosa pastoral land, Sr Keane said. Neither Daunted nor Deterred tells about the Niland family’s experiences as settlers in the Eastern Cape, about the plight of the
Xhosa, the growth of the Church, the arrival of missionaries and Catholic educators, and Mother Rose’s own personal journey. “It is an easy read, mainly narrative, with coloured illustrations,” Sr Keane said. Neither Daunted nor Deterred is not available in bookshops, but at a suggested donation of R200 a limited number of copies can be ordered locally. n E-mail Sr Keane at mhkeane email@example.com
Church set to tackle patriarchy Continued from page 1 the absolutisation of personal sexuality”, Archbishop Slattery said. “The Church must promote marriage and family life with better preparation and accompaniment. If brothers learn to appreciate their sisters as equals in the eyes of God and of their parents, men will eventually come to fully respect woman-
hood,” the archbishop said, adding: “And where sex is rampant in society, violence is not far away, and with violence the physically stronger are most likely to dominate.” St Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan’s Darfur region in 1869 and died in Schio, near Vicenza in Italy, in 1947. As a young woman she was kidnapped and became a slave in
the capital Khartoum. She ended up as a nun in Italy but her early trials as a slave made her forget her real name and the name Bakhita, meaning fortunate, was given by her kidnappers. She was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Although now the patron saint of Sudan, she is also promoted as a patron saint for the victims of slavery and trafficked persons.
The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
Teen organ prodigy loves sacred music By MANDlA ZIBI
E is a teenage Capetonian, born and bred on the Cape Flats, whose idea of relaxation is a bit of Bach or Erik Satie, and he talks about “the beauty of the Catholic liturgy” as easily as he quotes Pope Benedict XVI on sacred music. Meet Dale de Windt, 16, a popular church organist at a growing number of Cape Town parishes, and clearly a star in the making. His musical journey began at the age of four when he got his tiny hands on a recorder. A year later he was playing the piano. “I got a keyboard from my dad and just started playing from memory. I believe this was God-given,” said the lad from Athlone. His first stint at the organ began at his church, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Bridgetown, a working class part of Athlone, but the mo-
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ment he first “fell in love” with the instrument was at St Mary’s cathedral in the city. “My primary school music teacher was the principal organist at that time, so I would often visit him at the cathedral, and he would allow me to sit upstairs in the loft and play after his ‘Organ Voluntary’ at the end of Mass,” Dale recalled. “I call the pipe organ ‘the king of all instruments’. It should be held in the highest esteem in cathedrals and churches. For me, the pipe organ fills the church,” said the teenager. “Playing it is not as easy as some people think, because you are using both your hands and feet,” Dale said. He singled out Johann Sebastian Bach and Sigfrid Karg-Elert as his favourite composers.
he exposure from playing at his local church led to engagements further afield until his most fervent wish came true. “I started to play at many other parishes in the archdiocese of Cape Town. My wish was always to play in the cathedral on ‘that big organ’, as I called it, and it finally came true thanks to Fr Rohan Smuts, the administrator at St Mary’s.” The gifted youngster is also someone who clearly fell in love with the Church, its ritual and style of worship, at an early age. “I would go to church every Sunday with my family and I always made sure I would get an aisle seat at the end so that I could see everything,” he said. “What fascinates me most is the beauty of the liturgy that the
Church celebrates. I love reading books on liturgy and sacred music and love watching documentaries about Catholicism.” Although practising the piano has become “a habit” and part of his daily routine, he likes to “catch up on a bit of soccer, with my favourite team being Manchester United. But the best thing is spending time with my piano. I learn something new every day,” said Dale. He illustrates his passion for music with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI: “Great sacred music is a reality of theological rank and of permanent meaning for the faith of the whole of Christianity, even if it is not necessary that it be performed always and everywhere. On the other hand, however, it is also clear that it cannot disappear from the liturgy and that its presence can be an altogether special way of participation in the sacred celebration, in the mystery of the faith.” Said Dale: “God has given me a gift and I am using it. All of us have that gift and if you have not begun, then it is time to do so, not to be shy, and just face the world no matter who says what. By doing that you are giving a gift back to God.” Since hearing Dale play the organ at St Mary’s, the vice-chair of the cathedral parish council, Michelle Perry, has become an ardent fan. “What an inspiration this youngster could be to others. Even my 15year-old son is impressed. He sets a brilliant example and he’s always on cue and attentive to what is happening during Mass,” she said.
young Dale de Windt, 16, fell in love with Church music at a young age and is an inspiring organist at many Cape Town parishes, including that of St Mary’s cathedral in the city centre.
S outher n C ross Pilgrimage
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Led by Archbishop William Slattery OFM Pilgrimage Highlights Holy Land: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, Jordan River, Cana (with renewal of wedding vows) and much more... Rome: Papal Audience, St Peter’s Basilica, Major Basilicas, Ancient and Baroque Rome, and much more... Assisi: The places associated with the lives of St Francis and St Clare, including their tombs, and much more... Greccio: A special excursion to the place where St Francis and companions stayed. It is here where St Francis invented the Nativity Scene. Cairo: Pyramids, Sphinx, Hanging Church and more...
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The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
Icons as a source of meditation P Barbara Jatta has been appointed as the new director of the Vatican Museums. (Photo: Paul Haring)
A first: Woman to head Vatican Museums By CAROl GlATZ
OPE Francis has chosen, for the first time, a woman to head the Vatican Museums. Barbara Jatta, 54, is an Italian art historian and graphic arts expert, who had been serving as vice-director of the museums, since June. She will begin her new role as director of the museums, replacing 77-year-old Antonio Paolucci, who had been director since 2007. Each year millions of people visit the Vatican Museums, which include the Sistine Chapel and more than 50 different galleries. It is one of the largest museums in the world with 200 000 objects in its collections—20 000 of which are on public display —27 000 square feet of frescoes, and 7km of exhibit space. Ms Jatta started working at the Vatican in 1996 when she was hired to head the Vatican Library’s departments of prints. In 2010, she was named curator of the artwork in the prints department at the library. She has taught history of graphic arts at the Suor Orsola Benincasa University in Naples. She is married and the mother of three children.— CNS
EOPLE think that Christian icon writing is the preserve of male painters and that only Orthodox Christians can create a good icon. But in the diocese of Hong Kong, icon painter Cindy Ng has decided to set the record straight. “The Orthodox Church accepts woman painters. In fact, I am in their internal Facebook group and they sometimes invite me to join their liturgy talks and share my work with them,” Ms Ng told ucanews.com. Ms Ng is a former schoolteacher. It was when she was studying for a master’s degree in fine arts education in 2005 that she became interested in religious art and started to study icons. She drew her first icon, St Magdalene of Canossa, in 2007, and began giving talks and teaching people how to use the icons for prayer and meditation. To become Hong Kong’s first female icon painter, she read plenty of Scripture and prayed continuously. She recalled how it subtly changed her life and also helped her recover from a serious hand injury sustained in 2007. “I did not like to show my weakness to others after I was injured. But now I have the courage to share it with others, particularly with patients with chronic illness, to let them know how I relied on my faith,” Ms Ng said. Her teachers, Lino Wong Wingkuen, a Hong Kong Catholic icon painter who lives in Italy, and Benedictine Sister Esther Pollak, who comes to Hong Kong every year for her annual icon workshop, are major influences on Ms Ng. She also receives instruction from Orthodox and Protestant pastors. “I feel acceptance and communion with the help of pastors from three Christian churches,” Ms Ng said. “They make me under-
Cindy Ng, Hong Kong’s first female icon painter, says that the Orthodox tadition accepts her as an icon painter. stand that icon painting is not just for oneself but also for a prayer tool for others,” she added. It is a challenge to draw icons while strictly following a tradition. “It is not because we are oldfashioned. The aim is to pursue the truth, love and goodness of God. It is a way to pass on our faith,” Ms Ng said.
t takes at least six weeks to complete a painting because the icon creator must understand the audience for which it is intended, spend time in prayer, and research the saint’s life and spiritual views. In a commercialised city such as Hong Kong, it is difficult for artists to make a decent living and the same holds true for new icon writers such as Ms Ng. “I feel blessed for having many Catholics supporting me by helping me buy expensive paints and drawing boards that have to be ordered from abroad,” she said. Ms Ng also finished a Chinese translation of the book Meditations
with Icons for Children and the Young at Heart. Pastors from three Christian churches helped write the preface and proofread the copy. “I hope the book can contribute to Christian unity and lead children and young people towards God,” Ms Ng said. “Hong Kong people live stressful lives without much chance to be quiet. Icon meditation is something that can help one calm down quickly by looking at God. It is also a self-healing practice when used with other tools like music, writing and dancing,” she explained When Ms Ng led an icon meditation gathering in May, a young participant shared that he often thought he could overcome life’s challenges using coping skills he learned, “but now, from the icon, I can feel God’s presence and it is he who is leading me. It gives me motivation to bring God’s love to people around me and to evangelise”.
Ms Ng prays with her students before an icon painting class. Seeing people change encourages Ms Ng to draw more. “If someone wants to learn icon painting, I am very willing to share my knowledge as I also received it free from my teachers. I would like to see more people become workers for God,” she said. The scarcity of icon writers in Hong Kong has brought many pragmatic questions to Ms Ng. Someone once asked her if her profession can “make big money” or help them “become famous”. “The basic principle of being an icon painter is to realise it is not for oneself and not for fame. One has to empty oneself in the service so that the Holy Spirit can get into one’s heart and guide us to create a fine prayer tool,” Ms Ng said. “There is no personal style in icon painting,” she added. “No matter the design, the colours, gestures or symbol of the faith, there are very strict and high standards so that people can feel the goodness of God through the painting.”—CNS
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Holy Father shops for his own shoes
HEN Pope Francis needs new shoes, he goes out to buy them himself. Shop assistants and customers were astonished when the 80-yearold pope turned up at a pharmacy in central Rome to buy a pair of orthopaedic shoes he needs to relieve pain caused by chronic sciatica, Religion News Service reported. Pope Francis happily interrupted his shopping to pose for selfies and videos. He also blessed an employee’s crucifix. Although the papal tailors have made Pope Francis a pair of red shoes of the kind worn by Pope Benedict XVI, he prefers his footwear to be black. The pope’s shoe-shopping trip recalls his habit as cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires of using public transport to get around. As pope in September 2015, he also went to an optician on Rome’s Via del Babuino to buy his own spectacles, going there in his modest Ford Focus. Pope Francis has lamented that
By CAROl GlATZ
The shoes of the fisherman as pontiff he can no longer come and go as he pleases, saying that one of the things he misses most as pope is being able to go out for a pizza. After Pope Francis’ footwear adventure, Rome resident Martina Duarte posted her delight on her Facebook page with a video of the pope and the caption: “A Tuesday with the pope…my love I am incredibly proud of you!” Another fan tweeted: “A pope who goes to buy himself a pair of orthopaedic shoes is like any citizen. A man among the people!”— CNS
cure for a professor so ill that he was thought to be beyond hope. The pope also recognised the miracle needed for the beatification of Sr Leopoldina Naudet, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Verona. Born in Florence, Italy, in 1773, she dedicated herself to the education of women and included religious and moral values in school curricula. She died in 1834 and was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. In other decrees signed at the Vatican, the pope recognised the martyrdom of Claretian Father Mateu Casals Mas, Claretian scholastic Teofilo Casajus Alduan, Claretian Brother Ferran Saperas Aluja and 106 companions killed “in hatred of the faith” during the Spanish civil war.—CNS
Task force to probe ouster of chancellor
Pope’s 2017: A year of meeting with bishops IKE Pope John Paul II did during the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope Francis suspended for the Year of Mercy the formal visits bishops from around the world make ad limina apostolorum—to the threshold of the Apostles, meaning Peter and Paul, who were martyred in Rome. And, the pope told reporters, skipping a year of meetings means that he will travel less in 2017 and spend more time at the Vatican welcoming his brother bishops and discussing with them the life of their local churches. The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will travel to Portugal on May 12-13 for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. Plus, the pope said, he hopes to travel to Asia—specifically to India and Bangladesh—during the year and to Africa, although the countries have not been identified. The dates have not been set. Before 2016 ended, though, more than 300 bishops from more than 20 countries already had dates set for their ad limina meetings with Pope Francis in 2017. The Irish bishops will kick off the series in January, followed by bishops from Serbia and other Balkan countries, and then by the first group of Canadian bishops. According to the code of canon law, every five years “a bishop is bound to make a report to the Supreme Pontiff on the state of the diocese entrusted to him” and the report should be made in conjunction with the ad limina visit. But it has been at least 20 years since the visits really were every five years. Most now occur every eight or nine years. With the growing number of dioceses—now more than 2 850—a pope would have to meet more than 570 bishops each year to hit the five-year target. Brazilian Archbishop Ilson Montanari, secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, said that proposals to change canon law to reflect that reality are considered regularly. But once the law changes, it would set things in stone. Someday, he said, a pope might be able to get things back on schedule. Pope John Paul II, who was elected at the age of 58, “was a volcano at the beginning” and, even making long trips outside of Italy, “was able to do it”. He even celebrated morning Mass with the bish-
Pope Francis poses with bishops from South Africa during a meeting at the Vatican on April 25, 2014. The bishops were making their ad limina visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses. As limina visits will resume this year. (Photo: l’Osservatore Romano) ops, invited them in small groups to lunch, met with each bishop individually and then delivered a speech to each national or regional group. Pope Benedict XVI began the practice of holding more informal meetings with groups of bishops on ad limina instead of individual meetings. Pope Francis has continued that practice, although like Pope Benedict, he also tries to grant the requests of individual bishops who feel a need for a private meeting.
hile a few bishops still send in a report every five years, as canon law asks, Archbishop Montanari said most do so only in preparation for their ad limina visit, which is arranged by the congregation along with the Prefecture of the Papal Household. The reports really are read, he said. “We use them to prepare for our meeting with the bishops, but also to prepare a memorandum for the pope on each diocese” to facilitate his meetings. “This is work that is taken very seriously, especially because there is an attempt to look behind the words and numbers, behind the data, to see the living Church, which is the most important thing,” the archbishop said. The goal of the ad limina visit, he said, always has been that it would be an experience of collegiality, “an exchange of faith and a witness”, he said. The world’s bishops have “never been ‘branch managers’” of
the Church and the meetings should reflect that. Before air travel became very common, the ad limina visits were a bishop’s rare occasion to come to Rome and to have direct contact with the pope, he said. Now, many bishops come regularly and, at the very least, have a quick word with the pope at the end of his general audience. But the formal visits still have a special character, Archbishop Montanari said. They are occasions for an “exchange of gifts” with the bishops being “confirmed in their faith” and encouraged in their ministry by the pope and the pope being strengthened by the signs of how alive the Church is in various parts of the world. “It’s a consolation” for the pope to see how the Gospel is being shared and lived because so often “the negative things are accentuated” in the news and in what people choose to speak about, he said. The bishops share problems with the pope, but they also explain “the enormous good the Church is accomplishing throughout the world”. The ad limina visits also are an opportunity for groups of bishops from neighbouring dioceses to make a pilgrimage together; the visits include obligatory prayer at the tombs of Ss Peter and Paul, but usually also include Masses in the major basilicas of Rome and other prayer opportunities.—CNS
Do you feel called to the Franciscan way of life?
By JuNNO AROCHO ESTEVES
OLLOWING the forced resignation of the grand chancellor of the Order of Malta, Pope Francis has authorised the creation of a special working group to help foster dialogue and resolve any concerns. “In his concern for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta,” the pope has decided to establish the group in order to collect the facts and “completely inform” the Holy See in a short period of time the situation and circumstances concerning the recent removal of Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, who was made grand chancellor in 2014, according to a statement from the Vatican press office. According to the order’s website, the German nobleman was removed “due to severe problems which occurred during Boeselager's tenure as grand hospitaller of the Order of Malta and his subsequent concealment of these problems from the grand magistry”. Despite requests to resign from the order’s grand master, Matthew Festing, and Cardinal Raymond Burke, whom Pope Francis appointed as patron of the order in 2014, Mr von Boeselager refused, re-
Spanish martyrs, miracles recognised OPE Francis furthered the sainthood causes of seven men and women and recognised as martyres more than 100 martyrs who were killed during the Spanish civil war. At a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the pope signed the decrees, which included recognising a miracle needed for the canonisation of Bl Faustino Miguez. The Spanish priest, born in 1831, was a member of the Piarist Fathers. He started an advanced school for girls at a time when such education was limited almost exclusively to boys. While he taught a variety of subjects and wrote numerous textbooks, he also honed an interest in botany, which led him to find a
The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
1 Plein Street, Sidwell, Port Elizabeth Former grand chancellor of the Order of Malta, Albrecht von Boeselager. sulting in his removal. John Critien was elected grand chancellor in the interim, the order said. Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, said that the working group’s objective is to facilitate “dialogue” and “resolve things in a peaceful way”. The five members of the group are: Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, former Vatican representative to UN agencies in Geneva; Jesuit Gianfranco Ghirlanda, former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University; Jacques de Liedekerke, former chancellor of the Order of Malta; Marc Odendall, counsellor of the order; and Marwan Sehnaoui, president of the Order of Malta in Lebanon.— CNS
Contact: Brother Evenie Turner O.F.M. 082 599 7718, 012 345 3732, PO Box 914-1192, Wingate Park, 0153,
The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
LEADER PAGE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Editor: Günther Simmermacher
Syria: What’s the truth?
N the age of fake news on the Internet, the public should be able to trust traditional media to provide fair news coverage, especially those organs that claim to be unbiased. Of course, all news is subjective; story selection and placement, headlines, and even the order in which information is given is governed by human decisions. We can also take it for granted that some media have a bias, declared or not, and that some will get things wrong. But there is no good justification for how the Western media has collectively misled the public about the civil war in Syria, one of the big human catastrophes of our time. To be sure, there are no good guys in this war. The old idea of wars being waged between one side that merits support and another whose defeat is desirable does not apply in Syria. The Assad regime was a ruthless dictatorship even before the civil war, and has committed many atrocities against civilians in its attempts to crush the opposition. The fragmented opposition, meanwhile, is led by terror movements such as ISIS and al-Qaeda, and other Islamist movements. The idea that the rebels are aspiring to a pluralistic democracy does not correspond with the facts. The young liberals whose “Arab Spring” demonstrations preceded the civil war have long been supplanted by the proponents of radical Islam as a form of political leadership. Christian leaders in Syria warned of that right at the beginning of the civil war, as The Southern Cross reported at the time. In October 2011, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan warned that a civil war in Syria would not just be a struggle between political parties. “It will be confessional [religious] war—and war in the name of God is far worse than a political struggle. And this is what we fear.” His voice was ignored in the West, which wanted to topple Assad at any price—even if that price was the savagery of Islamic extremism. Little has changed. The recent bombing of rebel-held East Aleppo by Assad’s army provoked
profound anger, especially in the West, of the kind that was absent in 2014 when al-Qaeda rebels destroyed much of the city in its bombardment. The Western media did little to report the residents’ reaction to Assad’s recapture of East Aleppo. An Anglican priest who made an unannounced visit to a government-run relief centre at Jibrin for internally displaced persons from East Aleppo, which accommodates around 100 000 people, recorded widespread relief at the departure of rebel groups, which subjected the civilian population to extreme violence, including murder. And while the focus was on Aleppo, ISIS fighters who had been expelled from Mosul in Iraq were allowed to quietly move into Syria to retake Palmyra. The Anglican priest at the Jibrin camp, Rev Andrew Ashdown, observed: “The refusal of the Western media to report objectively, or to seek informed information from the thousands of civilians from East Aleppo who are keen to share their stories, while granting full credibility to terrorists without any on-theground verifiable information on their claims, is nothing short of obscene.” It is justified to revile the Assad regime for its many crimes against humanity, but this cannot come at the cost of indemnifying the rebels who have likewise committed atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons on civilians. The narrative of the Western media is anti-Assad, bolstered by the exclusion of balancing facts and even falsehoods. It reflects the agenda of Western powers and their allies, and deflects from their culpability in the conflict, from supplying rebels with weapons to actively aiding terrorists. The Syrian civil war is relentlessly confusing, especially in absence of good guys to root for, and the media—in the West as well as in Russia and many other regions—is deceiving its consumers by withholding or distorting the facts. Our instinct, therefore, must be to treat every news item on Syria—and, increasingly, other topics—with great caution. In the search for truth in the news today, take nothing for granted and interrogate everything. Even this editorial.
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.
Centering Prayer a key meditation
URTHER to recent discussions on your letters page regarding Centering Prayer, this form of meditation has been defined as “a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a disci-
Meaning of the Eucharist
O we Catholics realise how neccessary it is for us to explain to fundamentalists and other critics attacking or enquiring, the exact meaning of the Eucharist, since it is the very summit and source of our spirituality and our personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Words like the Mass and the Eucharist are rooted in Greek and Latin and many do not seem to understand them. Sometimes it seems that the Mass and other sacraments are talked about as though they are simply “things”, ceremonies or obligations rather than Christ-centred encounters with the living God in the power of the Holy Spirit. The word Eucharist simply means thanksgiving and is a response of obedience to Jesus in Luke 22:19-20. It is not simply an intellectual remembering or a nostalgic remembering, but a remembering that makes present for us the great onceand-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross. The Eucharist does not sacrifice Jesus again, as many anti-Catholics would have it, but makes present to us and allows us to participate in the once-and-for-all sacrifice that remains eternally fruitful and powerful, and that Jesus wants to be accessible to all generations. By reception of Communion is made available to us the body, blood, soul and divinity of the living, glorified Lord in the Mass. The central place given by Catholics to the Eucharist is a way in which is fulfilled the injunction, “To know nothing among you except Jesus and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Not that God cannot act in marvellous ways outside the liturgy. The Eucharist is spoken of as the summit and source of worship. While the spiritual life is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy, we are also called to pray with others, to enter into our bedroom to pray in secret (Matthew 6:6); furthermore, we must pray
pline to foster that relationship.” I was first taught Centering Prayer by the late Fr James Fitzsimon SJ. Not only have I continued to use this form of prayer, but I have taught it to many hundreds of people during the workshops I conducted on four continents during my 13 years at the Lumko Institute. The positive responses of so many who found this a fruitful form of
without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Sometimes, out of insecurity, the form of the Mass can be focused on or “clung to”, almost as a substitute for a wider and more continual personal relationship with God. What goes on outside the Eucharist in the lives of us individual Catholics is critical for the true flowering of the Eucharist. We must produce good works—the fruit of the Eucharist which gives evidence and proof of our authenticity as Catholic Christians. The last words of the Eucharist are a powerful call for us to evangelisation: “The Mass is ended; go in peace to love and serve the world.” It is useless being one of those “isolated, mystical” Catholics, not making contact with or unknown to our fellow parishioners. John Lee, Johannesburg
Some letters reach the lowest point
T is generally accepted in journalism that Letters to the Editor are a good barometer of the intellectual health and relevancy of the journal. The Letters page of November 16 reached an all-time nadir. No wonder the paper is struggling to sell with such nonsense published. There was a 200-word explanation by Cecil Cullen of how to get rid of a mulberry tree—so relevant to Southern Cross readers. Then Fr Finbarr Flanagan OFM trashes the spiritual writings of the Trappist Abbot Thomas Keating and his fellow monk Fr Basil Pennington, and also the Benedictines John Main and Laurence Freeman. Their Centering Prayer systems are presented as equivalent to 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 021 465-3850
prayer clearly manifests its efficacy. It was introduced by Cistercians who had been asked by the US bishops’ conference to offer a form of prayer which could be used by busy people who felt they had little time for daily prayer. Fr Thomas Keating is the author of many books on the subject. If anyone wishes to know more about this method of prayer, go to www.contemplativeoutreach.org, from which the above definition was taken. Fr Anselm Prior OFM, Pretoria Hindu TM. The friar then adds a solemn warning that Centering Prayer taught to children can result in mental illness. Surely intentionality is what counts in prayer? John Lee usually writes accurately and appositely on Catholic theology. So where he got the weird notion that the Macedonian conqueror and general Alexander the Great was responsible for the translation of the Hebrew Tanakh (Bible) into Greek I cannot imagine. Greek was the language of the Jews in the diaspora (the territory of the Roman Empire outside Palestine). The wealthy Jewish merchants of Alexandria commissioned 70 Hebrew scholars (hence septuagint) to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the language used in their synagogues. Why would a pagan military man have any interest in the religious practices of a small sect like the Jews in Egypt? Perhaps Mr Lee will enlighten us where he discovered this fact? M Bruce, Johannesburg
A Christian and a gentleman
ATHER Kevin Reynolds, in praising the work of Fr Dominic Scholten OP (December 14), makes reference to some work Fr Scholten commissioned from Fr Kevin’s father, Anthony. I had the pleasure of having Anthony as a colleague in the Department of Planning in Pretoria, which he joined in his retirement from Trig Survey. He had many talents in painting, book design and heraldry, and the fact that we were both Catholics was a strong bond. Anthony was also a lay Franciscan and a frequent writer to The Southern Cross. He was well-liked in the department and when he died he was given an uplifting Requiem Mass by Fr Kevin—the Sunnyside church was packed. He was a Christian and a gentleman. Peter A Onesta, Johannesburg
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Look back on 2016, look ahead to ‘17 Mphuthumi T Ntabeni O say 2016 was a tumultuous year— in national and international affairs, and for me personally—is an understatement. At home, our president careered from one scandal into another. Nevertheless, though bruised, he still stands. When I look at the protests in South Korea, where 1,7 million people demonstrated peacefully against President Park Geun-hye, I ascribe our failure to protest effectively against President Jacob Zuma to our weakness as a collective. Our economy has steadied a little but it is still unable to achieve meaningful growth that would lift many from their precarious economic positions. Things will remain volatile; the poor, especially in the townships, are restless and have lost hope in the quality of our leadership, both in government and the private sector. The private sector still acts as if it is the government’s responsibility to create jobs, and theirs is just to harvest profits. They lack real solutions that are pertinent to our economic conditions. Meantime, the government is still operating on the wishful thinking that the National Development Plan will accomplish projections of 5% economic growth. Our parliament, at last, seems to be recovering from its zoo status. It has finally decided to take its duties seriously, by making sure those tasked to run state institutions become accountable. It is unfortunate, though, that parliament waited until the sewer burst in the SABC before they drained the swamp. Still, better late than never, even if we all know that this is more about factional battles within the ruling party than a desire for clean governance. Social cohesion is still a pipedream, as more and more incidents of born-again racism emerge. But the majority still believes in the bona fides of the Rainbow Nation, which is good. Still, in Yeats’ language, the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. In the Church, our bishops have followed Pope Francis’ lead in admitting
their failure in responding to sexual abuses within the Church. I hope the faithful, especially those wounded by the abuse, find it in their hearts and prayers to trust their shepherds again. Pope Francis continued making news by opening up the heart of the Church to the world. He ended the year in meeting, among others, the renowned atheist Stephen Hawking. Once again Pope Francis taught us that the primacy of love overcomes everything. It’s something he started early in his papacy when he made it clear that he refuses to judge those who love within a same-sex relationship. Naturally the pope has made many enemies within the Church, and makes others uncomfortable. In his characteristic way, he shrugs his shoulders, reminding us of what Christ said: “Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves and have prevented others from going in who wanted to... Alas for you lawyers as well, because you load on people burdens that are unendurable, burdens that you yourselves do not touch with your fingertips” (Luke 11).
n a personal note, it has also been a difficult year—almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. But it ended on a good note and promise of new direction in my life, to replace the years eaten by the locusts.
The past year was tumultuous; here’s hoping that 2017 may be brighter than 2016.
The Public Square
During this difficult time I have received a lot of kindness and support from my family, friends and fellow parishioners. As such I am learning anew that the family and Church are the first microcosm of justice and love we seek from the world. I shall continue spying and eavesdropping on the Public Square—did you notice the change in the title of this column?— sending snippets to you as we try to make sense of what it means to live in this postsecular world where religious thought is on the rise while its institutions seem to wane. This is the public square where many intellectuals are bent on embarrassing religion out of existence while employing the Christian matrix—morals, ethics and values—to organise the modern secular institutions. It’s something that isn’t really surprising since the very secular notion of Enlightenment emerged from Christianity. This is the public square where the religious people spurn the traditional Christian institutions while organising themselves in local autonomous church communities, as seen by the mushrooming of the Pentecostal hall churches. What to do with the resurgence of the nation state, with its attendant violence, xenophobic and racist nationalism, exclusive greed and oppression of the poor and of “the other” who feel rootless in the contemporary world? We soldier on, with the hope that by the time we are done we may leave the world a better place for our kids to continue the battle. So, all the time, be patient and deal kindly with one another. And never forget that we are the first sinners, that the Church is not a hotel for saints but a hospital for sinners.
Fight the sinking feeling with faith Julia Beacroft M Y younger son is something of a maverick. He has always been mischievous, unpredictable and a daredevil. In fact, to a certain extent, he still is. From a really young age his sense of adventure led him into all sorts of scrapes and gave his long-suffering parents more than their fair share of trials and tribulations. As part of these, he developed a fascination with water from an incredibly tender age. When only a small toddler, he ran off in the grounds of a stately home and proceeded to totally immerse himself in the ornamental pond there. And of course, this was despite my repeated injunctions to go nowhere near the water! Happily, however, he was instantly fished out by yours truly, so his only hardship from that adventure was being soaked to the skin. But it seemed that he never learnt… A past holiday on the Greek island of Kos rapidly became a nightmare for myself and my husband, when our son—then aged eight and as yet unable to swim—repeatedly threw himself into the deep end of the hotel pool. He was completely undeterred by sinking like a stone and swallowing litres of chlorine-laced pool water. We had no choice but to jump in—often fully clothed—to rescue him from drowning. His
Point of Reflection
A priest baptises an infant. On January 9 the Church observes the feast of the Baptism of the lord. (Photo: CNS) reputation rapidly spread and other swimmers soon became adept at rescuing him for us. Despite the problems that water can occasionally bring, most of us know that it is a precious commodity: life-giving and lifesaving. In fact, without water we would simply cease to exist; it is at the very essence of our being. Indeed, we are largely made up of it and when we come into the world, it is in the birth waters. Therefore it is hardly surprising that we baptise with water. In fact, we are reminded of our baptism every time we use the holy water and make the sign of the Cross in our churches.
On January 9 we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, the one who chose to be baptised even though he had no need to do so, as he himself was the Christ. He was immersed in the waters of the Jordan by John the Baptist and as a result the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, and God the Father spoke the words of loving affirmation with which we are familiar. The wonderful celebration of the Baptism of our Lord is a perfect opportunity for us not only to remember our Lord Jesus Christ, who was baptised to fulfil all righteousness, but also to reflect that we ourselves have been baptised into the life of Christ and the Church. Our baptism is precious, and so are we in the sight of God. The only snag for me though, is that baptism by total immersion seems a little bit scary. Can’t think why... n Julia Beacroft’s book Sanctifying The Spirit is published by Sancio Books. It is available on Amazon.
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The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
When is the Real Presence gone? News of earthquakes prompted my class to ask this question: If a church is destroyed by a quake and the Blessed Sacrament then gets buried among tons of rubble, how can we say Christ is really present in the Eucharist if nobody knows what happened to the sacred hosts? Ines
UR faith teaches us that Christ is truly, really and substantially present in the sacred host in his body, blood, soul and divinity. This is a unique sacramental and mysterious presence like no other. The substance of bread has been replaced by the substance of Christ’s body, yet the outward appearances of bread (the host) remain unchanged. The real presence continues for as long as the appearances continue. This is the doctrine of Transubstantiation. There once was a theological opinion called Transignification which maintained that bread has a meaning for you and me because it is our nutritious food, and when it is consecrated to become the body of Christ, its meaning is changed to that of spiritual food for our souls. Following this view we could say that when the Eucharist is dumped under a pile of debris and lost to us, it has no further meaning because there is no human intelligence to give it meaning. Christ’s presence would be lost in such a case. This view is not in line with the Church’s authentic teaching. Instead of upholding the real, substantial and objective presence of Christ in the Eucharist, it makes his presence dependent on our recognition of the host as spiritual food for our souls. In other words, Christ’s presence would not be real, but subjective, dependent on its meaning to human minds and not on the real objective change in the substance of the bread. If sacred hosts become scattered and crushed under layers of earth, and are not perceived as hosts, it follows that the appearances of bread have been destroyed. If the appearances of bread are not evident then Christ is not present. If the hosts are eventually retrieved from the wreckage and found intact, enclosed tightly in a ciborium, then Christ is still really present, and the hosts must receive the necessary reverence. It could be argued that this is hard to understand because God never intended the sacred hosts to be lost in a heap of rubbish. The answer must be sought in the mystery of Christ’s infinite love which we already experience in his real presence in our tabernacles, where we can pray and talk to him as personally present as he was to his Apostles. If an earthquake strikes, people lose their lives, and the tabernacle is untraceable afterwards, we can be consoled knowing just how close the risen Christ is to us in the mystery of the Eucharist, even in the most horrible of tragedies.
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The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
COMMUNITY The men’s group of St Joseph the Worker parish in Pretoria West installed devil’s fork panels for security on the church’s boundary wall. (Photo: lB Moore)
leonor Ngozi, the principal of Ithembelihle Primary School, visited Assumption Convent in Germiston with three of her pupils. The convent’s Grade 7s outreach girls handed over 100 Christmas boxes filled with donations. Ithembelihle’s Grade R class received these gifts, each containing a soft toy, chocolate, a Christmas card made by Assumption pupils and a pair of socks.
youth from Most Holy Redeemer parish in Rustenburg hosted a Christmas party for the children of Holy Family parish in nearby Tlaseng. Parish priest Fr Andrew Onazi Ogbu CSsR helped organise the event.
Sharing the Christmas spirit Residents at little Eden’s Elvira Rota Village joined Archbishop Emeritus George Daniel of Pretoria as he blessed tombstones in remembrance of the late founders of the organisation, Danny and Domitilla Hyams, and of deceased little Eden residents who are buried at the home.
Members of the Catholic Women’s league at Our lady of Fatima parish in Durban North gave Angela Dube orphans a Christmas party and gifts. The home is in the village of Amaoti in Inanda, north of Durban, and most of the children are HIV orphans.
Staff members of the hospice team in Edenvale, Johannesburg, received the fruits of an Advent drive by St Therese parish in Edenvale, comprising non-perishable food and toiletries.
Holy Trinity parish in Midrand held a confirmation Mass, at which Archbishop William Slattery of Pretoria confirmed the candidates. Seakga Tladi, seen with the archbishop, gave a speech as the representative of the candidates at the closing ceremony.
St John Bosco parish in Robertsham, Johannesburg, held a formal Rite of Acceptance ceremony for adults planning to become Catholics. (Photo: Roy Newton-Barker)
Confirmation candidates from Bellville parish in Cape Town are pictured with Fr Babychan Arackathara MSFS, the visiting priest while parish priest Fr Bogdan Buksa was on holiday. (Photo: Abie Cader)
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Sisters laureen (left) and Rose Bonongwe from St Anne’s parish in Belgravia, Johannesburg, were among those attending an Alpha course at Holy Angels parish in Kensington. They are shown with their new bibles. First Communion candidates of Our lady of loreto parish in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, are pictured with Fr Peter Rebello OCD and catechists Mr and Mrs Marrow.
The feast of Christ the King was celebrated at Mahobe Sacred Heart mission in umzimkulu diocese. The Holy Childhood members and Soldiers of Christ led the liturgy and entertained parishioners after Mass.
Seventeen children from the parishes of Our lady of Perpetual Help and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Vereeniging received their First Communion. They are pictured here with Fr Emmanuel Dim SMA, altar servers and their catechists.
The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
Why we must build a new culture of life The Christian Church has opposed abortion since the beginning. Professor MICHAEl OGuNu outlines the history of the Christian rejection of abortion and euthanasia, and why the fight against these is important.
UMAN life is sacred because from its beginning it involves “the creative action of God”. The life of every individual, from its very beginning, is part of God’s plan. The Second Vatican Council, in a passage which retains all its relevance today, forcefully condemned a number of attacks against human life: “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. “They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator” (Gaudium et Spes, 27). This disturbing state of affairs, far from decreasing, is expanding. With new prospects opened up by scientific and technological progress there arise new forms of attacks on the dignity of the human being. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime”. God’s commandment is that no human being may deliberately take away innocent human life. What life could be more innocent than that of the unborn child? Deliberate abortion is therefore always gravely sinful. The embryo or foetus possesses its fundamental right to life from the moment of conception. From that moment the foetus is already provided with all the genetic elements which will shape its future development as an adult human person. To use the language of genetics, the embryo, from the instant of the meeting of the mother and father cells, is already equipped with the entire “programme” of its future physical characteristics, right down to the minutest detail (including its unique and identifying fingerprints), as well as of its basic mental capacity and personality traits. Everything that education and environment will later have to work on is already present in the embryo. Each single embryo, even though so small as to be invisible to the naked eye, is unique and unrepeatable.
Earliest teachings From earliest times, Christians sharply distinguished themselves from surrounding pagan cultures by rejecting abortion and infanticide. The earliest widely used documents of Christian teaching and practice after the New Testament in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and Letter of Samadas, condemned both practices, as did
“All together, we must build a new culture of life,” Prof Michael Ogunu argues, explaining the history of the Church’s stand against abortion and euthanasia, and how they relate to the challenges of our times. (Photo: Gregory Shemitz/CNS) early regional and particular Church councils. To be sure, knowledge of human embryology was very limited until recent times. Many Christian thinkers accepted the biological theories of their time, based on the writings of Aristotle (4th century BC) and other philosophers. Aristotle assumed a process was needed over time to turn the matter from a woman’s womb into a being that could receive a specifically human form or soul. The active formative power for this process was thought to come entirely from the man—the existence of the human ovum (egg), like so much of basic biology, was unknown. These biological theories, which we now know to be mistaken, never changed the Church’s common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every stage. In the 5th century AD this rejection of abortion at every stage was affirmed by the great bishop-theologian St Augustine. He held that human knowledge of biology was very limited, and he wisely warned against misusing such theories to risk committing homicide. He added that God has the power to make up all human deficiencies or lack of development in the resurrection, so we cannot assume that the earliest aborted children will be excluded from enjoying eternal life with God. In the 13th century, St Thomas Aquinas made extensive use of Aristotle’s thought, including his theory that the rational human soul is not present in the first few weeks of pregnancy. But he also rejected abortion as gravely wrong at every stage, observing that it is a sin “against nature” to reject God’s gift of a new life. During these centuries, theories derived from Aristotle and others influenced the grading of penalties for abortion in Church law. Some canonical penalties were more severe for a direct abortion after the stage when the human soul was thought to be present. However, abortion at all stages continued to be seen as a grave moral evil. From the 13th to 19th centuries, some theologians speculated about rare and difficult cases where they thought an abortion before “formation” or “ensoulment” might be morally justified. But these theories were discussed and then always rejected, as the Church refined and reaffirmed its understanding of abortion as an intrinsically evil act that can never be morally right.
Insights from science In 1827, with the discovery of the human ovum, scientists increasingly understood that the union of sperm and egg at conception produces a new living being that is distinct from both mother and father. Modem genetics demonstrated that this individual is, at the outset, distinctively human, with the inherent and active potential to ma-
ture into a human foetus, infant, child and adult. From 1869 onward the obsolete distinction between the “ensouled” and “unensouled” foetus was permanently removed from canon law on abortion. Secular laws against abortion were being reformed at the same time and in the same way, based on secular medical experts’ realisation that “no other doctrine appears to be consonant with reason or physiology but that which admits the embryo to possess vitality from the very moment of conception” (American Medical Association, “Report on Criminal Abortion”, 1871). Thus modern science has not changed the Church’s constant teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the human species begins with the earliest embryo.
The trouble with euthanasia At the other end of life’s spectrum, men and women find themselves facing the mystery of death. When the prevailing tendency is to value life only to the extent that it brings pleasure and wellbeing, suffering seems like an unbearable setback, something from which one must be freed at all costs. Death is considered “senseless” if it suddenly
interrupts a life still open to a future of new and interesting experiences. By using highly sophisticated systems and equipment, science and medical practice today are able not only to attend to cases formerly considered unbeatable and to reduce or eliminate pain, but also to sustain and prolong life even in situations of extreme frailty. In this context the temptation grows to have recourse to euthanasia, that is, to take control of death and bring it about before its time, “gently” ending one’s own life or the life of others. In reality, what might seem logical and humane, when looked at more closely, is seen to be senseless and inhumane. Here we are faced with one of the more alarming symptoms of the “culture of death” which is advancing above all in prosperous societies, marked by an attitude of excessive preoccupation with efficiency and which sees the growing number of elderly and disabled people as intolerable and too burdensome. These people are very often isolated by their families and by society, which are organised almost exclusively on the basis of criteria of productive efficiency, according to which a hopelessly impaired life no longer has any value. Euthanasia must be distinguished from the decision to forgo so-called “aggressive medical treatment”, in other words, medical procedures which no longer correspond to the real situation of the patient, either because they are by now disproportionate to any expected results or because they impose an excessive burden on the patient and his family. In such situations, when death is clearly imminent and inevitable, one can in conscience “refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted”, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith put it in 1980. To forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means is not the equivalent of suicide or euthanasia; it expresses acceptance of the human condition in the face of death. Among the questions which arise is the use of various types of painkillers and sedatives for relieving the patient’s pain when this involves the risk of shortening life.
Pope Pius XII affirmed that it is licit to relieve pain by narcotics, even when the result is decreased consciousness and a shortening of life, “if no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties”. In such a case, death is not willed or sought, even though for reasonable motives one runs the risk of it. There is simply a desire to ease pain effectively by using the analgesics which medicine provides. All the same, “it is not right to deprive the dying person of consciousness without a serious reason”. Euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person.
Legitimisation of murder The value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes. The basis of these values cannot be provisional and changeable majority opinions, but only the acknowledgment of an objective moral law, the natural law written in the human heart. Even in participatory systems of government, the regulation of interests often occurs to the advantage of the most powerful, since they are the ones most capable of manoeuvring not only the levers of power but also the formation of consensus. Democracy easily becomes an empty word. Laws which legitimise the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual. What is urgently called for is a general mobilisation of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life: new, because it will be able to confront and solve today’s unprecedented problems affecting human life; new, because it will be adopted with deeper and more dynamic conviction by all Christians; new, because it will be capable of bringing about a serious and courageous cultural dialogue among all parties. n Prof Michael Ogunu is the supreme chancellor of the Order of the Knights of St Mulumba in Nigeria and coordinator of the Fatima Apostolate in English-speaking Africa.
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The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
Seven-year-old Catholic author makes big waves A little Catholic girl is attracting international attention as the author of a book. MANDlA ZIBI spoke to Michelle Nkamankeng and her parents.
cis of Assisi church in Yeoville, with her big smile, has gone from being an ordinary second grader to a real-life award-winning celebrity, having the world’s media hanging on her every word. From SABC television to the BBC and CNN and almost every media house in between, Michelle has enchanted them all, even the troll-infested social media. The next issue of the Guinness Book of World Records should list her as being the youngest African author and as part of the top ten youngest authors in the world. Indeed, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa was so impressed that he could not wait for mere official confirmation. “Congratulations to 7-year-old Michelle Nkamankeng for being the youngest African to make the global list of the top 10 youngest writers,” he tweeted. At a glittering ceremony in Johannesburg in December, Michelle won a prestigious Mbokodo Award in the “Girl Child of Promise” category, the first of its kind in the
HE actor William Shatner once said, “I’m surfing the giant life wave.” The same words could express the way life has become one exhilarating ride for little Michelle Nkamankeng since the publication of her first book. And despite the title of the book, Waiting for the Waves, the pupil at Sacred Heart College in Johannesburg did not have to wait long for the tide of fame and adulation brought about by her literary achievement—she is only seven years old. In the short three-month period since the news broke about her, the pretty, lively girl from St Fran-
The Nkamankeng family at the launch of Michelle’s book: Father Paul and mother laurentine with children Sheena, Shawn, Michelle and Marion.
six-year history of the Awards. The gongs are presented annually in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture “to recognise women in the Arts, and to honour their immense contribution”. In the foreword to Waiting for the Waves, Sacred Heart principial Colin Northmore notes: “For a child to believe in their own ability to create something that can bring pleasure to others and make a mark in the world, something that is the fruit of their own efforts, the product of agency and creativity, is remarkable.” He wrote that the book should be judged on its own terms: “I do not believe that age should dictate what people are capable of; I encourage readers to judge Michelle’s work on the content and enjoyment they get from it.”
Idea for a first book The 91-page Waiting for the Waves is about a little girl called Titi and her family who lived far away from the beach. One day they went to the beach but Titi was afraid of the waves. The book is about how her family helped her to conquer her fear. According to Michelle’s father, Paul Nkamankeng, the story was inspired by an episode in her life. A similar incident occurred when the Nkamameng family one visited the sea. “She asked me why everyone was standing and looking at the ocean. I told her that we’re all waiting for the next wave to come. Then she looked at me and said: ‘Daddy, you’ve just given an idea for my first book’,” Mr Nkamankeng told The Southern Cross. To date, Michelle has written four books, with Waiting for the Waves being the first published in an envisaged four-part series in the next few years. Born to an extended family of Catholics in Fourways, Johannesburg, Michelle is the third of four siblings—Sheena, Shawn, and Marion. Her father is an engineer
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Seven-year-old author Michelle Nkamankeng in her uniform of Sacred Heart College in Johannesburg, and the cover of her debut book, Waiting for the Waves. and project manager. Her mother, Laurentine (known to her family and friends as Lolo), is Cameroonian and an entrepreneur. The family lives in Kensington. Besides attending Catholic school, Michelle is also active in her local parish as a member of the Missionary Children Association, which is involved in charitable and spiritual activities aimed at supporting children who are less privileged. “The Church has played a great role in shaping her down to earth, outgoing and caring personality,” Mrs Nkamankeng said. In Michelle’s own words, the people “with the greatest influence in my life are my parents, especially my father”. In her acknowledgements in Waiting for the Waves, she thanks “Almighty God for giving me the strength and knowledge to write this book” as well as her parents and sister, and “everyone who made it possible for this book to be published”.
What inspires Michelle? On the surface, she is no different from your typical TV-watching, socially active seven-year old. “I love playing with my friends and siblings, doing ballet, gymnastics, playing musical instruments and swimming. I also enjoy watching theatre, kid’s shows on TV and movies,” she said. However it is obvious that her literary interests have developed at a more rapid pace than her age mates. “I started to love reading books from an early age. At the age of 5 years I started thinking about writing my own book. However, it was only at the age of 6 years that I wrote my first two books, Waiting for the Waves and The Little Girl Who Believes in Herself,” Michelle told The Southern Cross. “I like writing during my free time or when I feel bored. Especially after experiencing something exciting and memorable. Writing down my thoughts and experiences makes me feel happy and excited.” Things might seem perfect at the moment for Michelle, but
there is something that worries her and her parents. According to her mother, all the attention and encouragement in the world, welcome as they are, cannot ensure that Michelle’s books reach the hands of those they are written for the thousands of children Michelle wants to inspire and give courage to face their fears. “During a radio interview on Alex FM [which broadcasts in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township] many calls came from children who wanted to have her book but couldn’t afford it,” Mrs Nkamankeng said. “This touched her a great deal and she asked us to look for sponsors who can buy her book to support free distribution of her books to the libraries of underprivileged schools and communities, especially in Gauteng. So now we have started an initiative secure all the financial support and other kinds of support we can get,” she said. “We appeal to all good Samaritans out there who might want to work with us and help us make this dream a reality, especially our own Catholic laity, organisations and businesses. Michelle is a gift not only for us as the family, but she is gift to the Church as whole, as a family of God,” she said. Michelle had special words of inspiration for Southern Cross readers: “Do not be afraid to go for your dream. Do not give up on your talent even if you make many mistakes or face obstacles. You can make a difference in your community and family no matter how small you may be. No matter what you do, always pray to God for support and strength.” Michelle’s book, with illustrations by Megan Venter, is available online anywhere in the world. Hard copy or eBook versions of the book can be ordered/downloaded on Createspace’s website (www.createspace.com/6743192). Hard copies will be available in South African bookstores in February 2017. Personal author-signed hard copies can be ordered directly from the publisher via Michelle’s Facebook page (facebook.com/ michellenkamankeng).
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n this issue please find our first illustrated wall calendar with the year’s feast days of saints and litur‐ gical seasons, to guide you through the year with faith. We are hoping that Catholic schools and catechism classes will make use of the calendar (which is why we use the Monday to Sunday system), using the illustrations of the saints and feast days of the Church as a way of discussing the life of faith. Some famous saints are missing, such as St Teresa of Avila, St Thérèse of Lisieux and St John Paul II. This is, of course, because their feast days falls on Sunday, when our focus is directed on the Lord alone. Please give us your feedback: it will determine how or whether we will produce another saints calendar next year. t
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A statue on the roof of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris is seen during a supermoon this month. (Photo: Christian Hartmann, Reuters/CNS)
OR FO RD
How not to fall for fake news
This was Pope Francis’ Year 2016
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What we can expect in 2017 BY MANDLA ZIBI
N 2 0 1 7 , t h e C h u rc h i n S o u t h e r n A f r i c a will be faced with the implications of interpreting and implementing Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ much-discussed document on the family,, according to a Catholic commentator. Fr Russell Pollitt SJJ, director of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa, previewed what he thinks will be major issues for the Church in the coming year. “In the local Church, we need to find better ways of thinking through and creatively i m p l e m e n t i n g A m o r i s L a e t i t i a . T h e C h u rc h has to do better at ministr y to families—in all dimensions,” Fr Pollitt told The Souther n C ro s s . “In 2017 we need to continue to implem e n t t h e v i s i o n o f t h e C h u rc h t h a t P o p e
“The appointment of new local bishops— Bishop Duncan Tsoke as auxiliary in Johannesburg and Bishop Mandla Jwara in Ingwavuma—is an important step in the local Church becoming self-sufficient and taking responsibility for its own faith vitality,” He also acknowledged the role the Church has played in public life. He referred to the Dominicans who in March asked the Public Protector to investigate state capture. “The release of the resulting report played a significant role in the National Prosecuting Authority dropping exaggerated charges against finance minister Pravin Gordhan,” Fr Pollitt noted. Another important instance of the Church’s role as a social actor was in “the tensions at Wits University in the midst of #FeesMustFall”, he recalled. “H l T i it Ch h [i B f t i
Fr Pollitt also mentioned as a highlight the appointment of the new “excellent” apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Peter Weells, who assumed duties in May. According to the priest, Archbishop Wells “has already begun to make a significant contribution to the local Church”. Politically and economically, the coming year will continue to be one of “struggle” in South Africa as “things will be difficult as we continue to face a leadership deficit in the countr y and on the international front. The Church needs to make sure that she uses her voice discerningly in responding to the needs of God’s people, especially the poor,” Fr Pollitt said. “Our response to the tertiar y education challenges will be important in 2017.”
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Zuma as president of the ANC therefore as presumptive pre countr y in 2019?” Mr Pothier e r n C ro s s . “Another question is wh Gordhan will be allowed to d nance minister,” he added. The political fate of Mr Gor tant in the light of a possible of South Africa’s sovereign de tional rating agencies in Jun minister’s efforts were seen a in South Africa’s success in st status so far, Mr Pothier noted He warned that South Afri to watch the proposed nucle gramme. “The cost ramifications a possibly up to a trillion rand. ford it There is of course also
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OLY Cross Sister Yolanda Mandes died on December 3 after a long illness, aged
81. She was born on April 25, 1935, and was professed as a Holy Cross Sister in 1963. Besides her many years of teaching at a number of schools on the Cape Flats, Sr Yolanda also served various parishes, sharing her expertise in pastoral work among the youth and aged. She had a love and passion for teaching and carried out her duties in love and simplicity. After she retired from teaching, Sr Yolanda continued to spend her time serving the parish
community in Vredenburg on the West Coast. She had a great love and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Eucharist. The Holy Cross Sisters, together with religious from other congregations, the Mandes family, her ex-pupils and colleagues gathered for her Requiem Mass on December 8. This was concelebrated by Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town with Bishop Edward Adams and 18 priests. Fr Christian Frans in his homily spoke fondly of his erstwhile teacher, who remained a noteworthy mentor throughout his priesthood.
RADEMEYER—Freddy. In loving memory of a darling husband, father and grandfather who passed away on January 6, 2012. Gone, but not forgotten. Gone, but good memories live on. Gone, but still always loved. Enjoy your new life above. We miss you sorely. lovingly remembered by Neavera, Celeste, Erik, Bradley, Tessa, Aidan, Noël, Irma, Heine, laura and six grandchildren.
An Epiphany Prayer Lord Jesus, may your light shine our way, as once it guided the steps of the magi: that we too may be led into your presence and worship you, the Child of Mary, the Word of the Father, the King of nations,
THANKS to St Jude for many prayers answered for my husband and daughter. Pamela.
to whom be glory for ever. (Frank Colquhoun)
have a warm and generous heart. lord, I am not able to remain here in this church very much longer: I have to go. So, please accept this candle in my place. let it be like a part of me that I give to you. Here, before the image of Blessed Mary, Mother of God, and imploring her powerful intercession, I ask you, as I offer you this humble candle, to allow my prayer to penetrate every activity and every facet of my life, so that everything will be shaped and formed by the burning flame of your love. I ask this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
on love and peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our lord. Amen.
O MOST beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendour of Heaven, blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein that you are my Mother, O Holy Mary Mother of God, Queen of heaven and earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to secure me in my necessity. There are none who can withstand your power, O show me that you are my mother. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Thank you for your mercy towards me and mine. Amen.
ABORTION WARNING: The truth will convict a silent Church. See www.valuelifeabortion isevil.co.za ABORTION ON DEMAND: This is legalised daily murder in our nation, silence on this is not golden, it’s yellow! Avoid pro-abortion politicians!
the Saviour of mankind;
LORD GOD, this candle that I light here today reminds me of the light that you enkindled in me at my Baptism. Renew the flame of your love in me. let it burn away all my egotism, my jealousy, my pride and my failure to love. let me
FATHER, you have given all peoples one common origin. It is your will that they be gathered together as one family in yourself. Fill the hearts of mankind with the fire of your love and with the desire to ensure justice for all. By sharing the good things you give us, may we secure an equality for all our brothers and sisters throughout the world. May there be an end to division, strife and war. May there be a dawning of a truly human society built
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This week we congratulate: January 11: Bishop Peter Holiday of Kroonstad on his 65th birthday
GAUTENG Little Eden Mass of Thanksgiving on January 29 at the Holy Family chapel in Elvira Rota Village, Bapsfontein, for the opening of the home’s 50th celebrations. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org CAPE TOWN: Perpetual Adoration Chapel at Good Shepherd parish, Bothasig, welcomes all visitors. Open 24 hours a day. The parish is at 1 Goede Hoop St, Bothasig. Phone 021 558 1412. Helpers of God’s Pre-
cious Infants. Mass on last Saturday of every month at 9:30 at Sacred Heart church in Somerset Road, Cape Town. Followed by vigil at Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Bree Street. Contact Colette Thomas on 083 412 4836 or 021 593 9875 or Br Daniel SCP on 078 739 2988. DURBAN: Holy Mass and Novena to St Anthony at St Anthony’s parish every Tuesday at 9:00. Holy Mass and Divine Mercy Devotion at 17:30 on first Friday of every month.
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We can use your old clothing, bric-a-brac, furniture and books for our second-hand shop in Woodstock, Cape Town. Help us to create an avenue to generate much needed funds for our work with the elderly. Contact Ian Veary on 021 447 6334 www.noah.org.za
Southern CrossWord solutions SOLUTIONS TO 740. ACROSS: 1 Code, 3 Portrait, 9 Laggard, 10 Rites, 11 Frankincense, 13 Chains, 15 Digest, 17 Without equal, 20 Climb, 21 Tremble, 22 Not exact, 23 Iris. DOWN: 1 Cold fact, 2 Dogma, 4 Odd one, 5 Three wise men, 6 Artiste, 7 Toss, 8 Jack-in-the-box, 12 Stalkers, 14 Animist, 16 Rustic, 18 Umber, 19 Scan.
Word of the Week
Apocrypha: The Apocrypha consists of a set of books written between about 400BC and the time of Christ. Many of the books are accepted by the Church, such as Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel 36 Central Avenue, Pinelands, Cape Town
Year A – Weekdays Cycle Year 1 Sunday January 8, Epiphany of the Lord Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalms 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13, Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6, Matthew 2:1-12 Monday January 9, Baptism of the Lord Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 or Acts 10:34-38, Psalms 29:14, 9-10, Matthew 3:13-17 Tuesday January 10 Hebrews 2:5-12, Psalms 8:2, 5-9, Mark 1:21-28 Wednesday January 11 Hebrews 2:14-18, Psalms 105:1-4, 6-9, Mark 1:29-39 Thursday January 12 Hebrews 3:7-14, Psalms 95:6-11, Mark 1:40-45 Friday January 13, St Hilary Hebrews 4:1-5, 11, Psalms 78:3, 4, 6-8, Mark 2:112 Saturday January 14, Saturday Mass of Our Lady Hebrews 4:12-16, Psalms 19:8-10, 15, Mark 2:1317 Sunday January 15, 2nd Sunday of the Year Isaiah 49:3, 5-6, Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-10, 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, John 1:29-34
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The Southern Cross, January 4 to January 10, 2017
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2nd Sunday: January 15 Readings: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6, Psalm 40:2, 4, 710, 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, John 1:29-34
EXT Sunday, after all the excitement of Christmas, we start a new year of watching Jesus’ Gospel-journey. This week, unlike most of the rest of the coming year, it will not be Matthew’s gospel, but that of John, on which we are invited to meditate, and build our mission. The first reading is an invitation to God to “my servant Israel” (and the early Christians readily applied the words to Jesus) “in whom I shall show my glory”; and he has a mission from God “to bring back Jacob to him…I am made glorious in the Lord’s sight”. Better than that, he (we) hears the Lord saying: “I am going to make you a light to the nations, for my salvation to go to the ends of the earth.” That is Jesus’ task, and ours also. The psalm is the song of someone who was prepared to listen out for the invitation: “I waited attentively for the Lord, and he bent down to me and heard my cry.” Not only that, but: “He put a new song on my lips” (and he is willing to do that for us), “a hymn to our God.” Then, very radically, the poet stresses what
S outher n C ross
Keep your eyes on Jesus God actively does not want: “sacrifice and peace-offering” (which is a bit like the pope telling Catholics not to go to Mass, of course). What God really does want is an open heart: “Here I am!...To do your good pleasure, my God, is my delight; your Law is in my heart.” And the singer continues: “I sang of your justice in the great assembly…you know it, Lord.” That is our task as we watch Jesus, this year, going about his mission from God. The second reading also tells us something about the mission. It is the opening of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians; and the real problem was that they were squabbling with each other, as each had such a high opinion of themselves. Paul’s aim is to direct their gaze (and ours) away from themselves and towards God and Jesus. So he starts by reminding them of his role in their church: “Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus, through God’s will.” In other words, his job is not something that he has chosen, but something to which he has been called. Not only that, but it only makes sense if he is centred on the person of his
beloved Jesus (and at times it seems that Paul can hardly write a sentence without mentioning the Lord), and on the will of God. Then he mentions his addressees, “the church of God which is at Corinth” (so they are not the only church in the world); and he wants them to notice that something has happened to them, as to him: Paul has been “called”, while they have been “made holy”. But they are not the only pebbles on the beach, for Paul reminds them of “all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in every place”. Then, as a final reminder of their relative unimportance, Paul tells them what he wishes for them: “grace” (which is God’s free gift, nothing to do with their merits, you see) and “peace” (which their squabbling had made impossible), and a reminder of the source of these gifts, not their own distinguished spiritual qualities but “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Do you see how he wrenches his hearers’ gaze from their own selfish concerns in the
Let silence be your friend T
restlessness doesn’t easily turn into solitude, and the temptation to turn to the outside world for consolation doesn’t easily give way to the idea of quiet. But there’s a peace and a meaning that can only be found inside the desert of our own chaotic and raging insides. The deep wells of consolation lie at the end of an inner journey through heat, thirst, and dead-ends that must be pushed through with dogged fidelity. And, as for any epic journey, the task is not for the faint of heart.
ere’s how Vandekerckhove describes one aspect of the journey: “Inner noise can be quite exhausting. That’s probably why so many flee to the seduction of exterior background noises. They prefer to have the noise just wash over them. “But if you want to grow spiritually, you have to stay inside the room of your spiritual raging and persevere. You have to continue to sit silently and honestly in God’s presence until the raging quiets down and your heart gradually becomes cleansed and quieted. “Silence forces us to take stock of our actual manner of being human. And then we hit a wall, a dead point. No matter what we do, no matter what we try, something in us continues to feel lost and estranged, despite the myriad ways of society to meet our human needs. “Silence confronts us with an unbear-
HE late Belgian spiritual writer Bieke Vandekerckhove comes by her wisdom honestly. She didn’t learn what she shared from a book or even primarily from the good example of others. She learned what she shared through the crucible of a unique suffering, being hit at the tender age of 19 with a terminal disease that promised not just an early death but also a complete breakdown and humiliation of her body en route to that death. Her attempt to cope with that situation drove her in many directions, initially to anger and hopelessness but eventually to monasteries, to the wisdom of monasticism, and, under its direction, into the deep well of silence, that desert that lurks so threateningly inside each of us. Away from all the noises of the world, in the silence of her own soul, inside the chaos of her raging, restless insides, she found the wisdom and strength not just to cope with her illness but to also find a deeper meaning and joy in her life. There are, as John Updike poetically puts it, secrets that are hidden from health, though, as Vandekerckhove made evident, they can be uncovered in silence. However, uncovering the secrets that silence has to teach us is not easy. Silence, until properly befriended, is scary and the process of befriending it is the soul’s equivalent of crossing a hot desert. Our insides don’t easily become calm,
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direction of God and of Jesus? That is what we are to do this year. Something of the same goes on in the Gospel for next Sunday, which has John the Baptist pointing away from himself and towards Jesus, telling his own disciples who he knows Jesus to be: “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” Then it goes deeper, and John retreats from view: “A man who comes after me who came to be before me, because he was my Number One.” And he claims no merit for himself: “I did not know him…I saw the Spirit coming down like a dove from heaven; and it remained on him.” That was the clue from “the One who sent me to baptise in water”. So John triumphantly concludes his witness: “And I have seen and have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.” Our task this week (this year, come to that) is to keep our eyes firmly on that one.
Southern Crossword #740
Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI
able bottomlessness, and there appears no way out. We have no choice but to align ourselves with the religious depth in us.” There’s a profound truth: Silence confronts us with an unbearable bottomlessness and we have no choice but to align ourselves with the religious depth inside us. Sadly, for most of us, we will learn this only by bitter conscription when we have to actually face our own death. In the abandonment of dying, stripped of all options and outlets we will, despite struggle and bitterness, have to, in the words of Fr Karl Rahner, “allow ourselves to sink into the incomprehensibility of God”. Moreover, before this surrender is made, our lives will always remain somewhat unstable and confusing and there will always be dark, inner corners of the soul that scare us. But a journey into silence can take us beyond our dark fears and shine healing light into our darkest corners. However, as Vandekerckhove and other spiritual writers point out, that peace is usually found only after we have reached an impasse, a “dead point” where the only thing we can do is “to pierce the negative”. In her book The Taste of Silence, Vandekerckhove recounts how an idealistic friend of hers shared his dream of going off by himself into some desert to explore spirituality. Her prompt reaction was not much to his liking: “A person is ready to go to any kind of desert. He’s willing to sit anywhere, as long as it’s not his own desert.” How true. We forever hanker after idealised deserts and avoid our own. The spiritual journey, the pilgrimage, the camino we most need to make doesn’t require an airline ticket, though an experienced guide is recommended. The most spiritually rewarding trip we can make is an inner pilgrimage, into the desert of our own silence. As human beings we are constitutively social. This means, as the Bible so bluntly puts it, that it is not good for the human person to be alone. We are meant to be in community with others. Heaven will be a communal experience; but on the road there, there’s a certain deep inner work that can only be done alone—in silence, away from the noise of the world.
1. Morse’s signal method (4) 3. Picture of the pope that pair trot out (8) 9. Lord has a horse yet is last in (7) 10. Are these the last of the liturgy? (5) 11. Fences in rank around the resin (12) 13. Peter was bound with two of them (Ac 12) (6) 15. Absorb food from the compendium (6) 17. Incomparable (7,5) 20. A hundred and fifty-one make the bachelor go up (5) 21. The Quaker may do it (7) 22. Imprecise (3,5) 23. Is she the apple of your eye? (4) Solutions on page 11
1. Stark reality of ice (4,4) 2. Teaching that may make you go mad (5) 4. Person who is not even among us (3,3) 5. Star-gazers of the season (5,4,3) 6. Taster I find to be a virtuoso (7) 7. Pitch to the steam ship (4) 8. He may pop up among the toys (4-2-3-3) 12. They approach their prey stealthily (8) 14. I’m saint who sees souls in all creatures (7) 16. Charm of the countryside (6) 18. Brownish colour found by plumbers (5) 19. A quick look among the scandals (4)
he poor church was in need of a coat of paint. So the priest decided he’d do the job himself. But he had only one bucket of paint, so he thinned the paint enough to cover the entire church. After he painted all day, that night it rained and washed off all the paint. Dejected, he asked God: “Why, heavenly Father, did you let it rain and wash off all my hard work?” God thundered his reply: “Repaint! Repaint! And thin no more!”
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