Month: December 2005

Christmas – Hickory, NC 2005

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers. I flew to Knoxville, TN where I met my brother Jon, and together we made the rounds — first to my hometown of Hickory, NC for Christmas, where we met my brother Nathan (fresh back from his Naval tour of the Middle East) and my new baby sister, Hannah Cabrini; followed by some time hiking/camping in the Wilson’s Creek Wilderness Area and the latter part in Asheville, taking in the sites with my mom and relishing some real Southern BBQ. More photos here courtesy of The Pertinacious Papist.

Photo: Christmas Eve 2005; Nathan, Christopher and Jon enjoying some quality male-bonding before dinner; absent and certainly missed is our brother Jamie, the “inveterate Augustinian,” visiting his in-laws.


And God Became Flesh

The Word became flesh. Alongside this Johannine truth there has to be put also the Marian truth as rendered by Luke. God has become flesh. This is not only an immensely great and remote happening, it is something very close and human. God became a child who needed a mother. He became a child, someone born with tears on his cheeks, whose first utterance was a cry for help, whose first gesture consists in outstretched hands searching for protection. God became a child.

Nowadays we also hear it being said, in contrast, that this, after all, would be nothing but a sentimentality better put aside. Yet the New Testament thinks differently. For the Faith of the Bible and the Church, it is important that God desired to be such a creature who has to depend on a mother, on the sheltering love of humans. He wished to be dependent in order to awaken in us love that purifies and redeems.

God became a child, and every child is dependent. To be a child thus contains alrady the theme of the search for shelter, the elementary motif of Christmas. And how many variations has this motif seen in our history! In our days we experience this anew and in disturbing ways: the child knocks on the doors of our world. The child is knocking. This search for shelter is profound. There is indeed an atmosphere of hostility toward children, but is this not preceded by an attitude that altogether bars any child from entering this world because there would be no more room for him?

The child knocks. If we would receive him we are to rethink thoroughly our own attitude toward human life. Here we are dealing with fundamentals, with our very concept of what it means to be human: to live in grandiose selfishness or in confident freedom that knows its vocation to be united in love, to be free to accept one another.

From: Münchener Katholische Kirchenzeitung January 14, 1979.
[Reprinted in Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year (Ignatius Press, 1990).

Pope Benedict XVI Roundup!

  • “Ratzinger–Why Bonaventure and Why A Theology of History?”, by Justin Nickelsen. (Ressourcement – Restoration in Catholic Theology” Nov. 27, 2005):

    As many know, in Germany (at least at the time Ratzinger was getting his education) one was required to write two dissertations if he wished to teach. Ratzinger’s first dissertation dealt with ecclesiology in Augustine—specifically, the Church as “People and House of God” in Augustine’s work. It was there, and ever after, that Ratzinger joined Henri de Lubac in becoming the first to have a complete “Eucharistic ecclesiology.”

    His second dissertation (called a “habilitation”) dealt with The Theology of History in Saint Bonaventure.

    It has been asked, “How/why did Ratzinger jump from ecclesiology to theological history”?

    Drawing from Aidan Nichol’s study The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI as well as George Weigel’s God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, Nickelsen provides the background history to Cardinal Ratzinger’s second doctoral dissertation.

  • On a related note, Jonathan Prejean (aka. Crimson Catholic) posts a review of The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure.
  • Benedict XVI and the ‘True Time’ of Vatican II, by Randy Boyagoda. Crisis Nov. 8, 2005. Boyagoda examines the aftermath of the Council (“ideological axe-grinding [and] endless, misinformed debates” over the pastoral meaning and implementation of the council “with few parties actually consulting the council’s documents” themselves) and inquires “how might the papacy of Benedict XVI improve the council’s impaired situation? And what responsibilities and challenges do 21st-century Catholics face in living out the Church’s life in the wake of Vatican II?”
  • And on a similar note: Pope Benedict is to Re-Interpret the Second Vatican Council: This Is the Preface – by Sandro Magister. Chiesa Dec. 5, 2005.
  • Basic Books has acquired the world English rights to Without Roots: Europe, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, written by Pope Benedict XVI. . . . The book, acquired from Italian publisher Mondadori, is scheduled for release on Feb. 1, 2006, according to Elizabeth Maguire, vice president and publisher at Basic Books. [Source: The Book Standard Oct. 24, 2005].

    An excerpt from Without Roots appears in the January 2006 edition of First Things (No. 159), under the title “Europe and Its Discontents”. Not yet online but available in print at your quality newstand.

  • Review: In the Vineyard of the Lord: The Life, Faith and Teachings of Joseph Ratzinger, by Edmund. W. Majewski, S.J. Homiletic & Pastoral Review
  • The Italian daily La Stampa muses on the impending release of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical (via Catholic News Agency Dec. 2, 2005):

    The Italian daily “La Stampa,” announced today that the Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, that other source already mentioned would be versed in the theme of Charity, could be released in the beginning of January, probably on January 6, day of the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

    Again according to La Stampa, the Encyclical will bear the date of December 8, 2005, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, an emblematic date not only for its Marian character, but also because it coincides with the 40th anniversary of the closing of the Vatican II Council.

    A source in the Vatican, commented to CNA that the date of release announced by La Stampa is only an approximation because the Holy See usually doesn’t release important document on holidays, as the Epiphany is at the Vatican or in many European countries. “It is more probable that the Encyclical will be released later in January, although the exact date is given only a few days before,” said the source.

    The title of the Encyclical, again according to La Stampa, centered on the theme of Christian Charity and the Love of God will be “Deus Caritas est,” (God is Love), taken from the fourth chapter of the First Letter of Saint John.

  • Bill Wineke says that Pope Benedict lacks the U.S. “Spirit of Christmas” (Wisconsin State Journal Dec. 19, 2005 — via Michael S. Rose):

    No, he’s not saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Even the pope wouldn’t take on Bill O’Reilly or the American Family Association.

    What the pope, who celebrates his first Christmas as head of the Catholic Church this year, is doing is far more insidious: He’s urging people to give joy rather than merchandise.

    “You should bring joy, not expensive gifts that cost time and money,” the pope said Sunday during a homily at Santa Maria Consolatrice Church in Rome. “With a smile, an act of kindness, a little help, forgiveness, you can bring joy and that joy will come back to you.” . . .

  • From United Press International, a report on Pope Benedict XVI and the prospect of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the Communist government of China (Outside View: The Pope and China, by Hubertus Hoffman. Dec. 5, 2005):

    There are two cities on the globe in which L’Osservatore Romano — the official newspaper of the Vatican — is carefully studied word-for-word and whose reports and commentaries are paid special attention to: the Holy City in Rome and Beijing in the State Administration of Religious Affairs.

    The latter is a kind of “Office of the Inquisition” of the Communist Party that ensures that for the People’s Republic there is only one God in China: the Communist Party itself. The counterpart in Rome, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was for years the Catholic “Inquisitor,” guardian of the pure teachings of the Pope. Currently, at the very top of Benedict XVI’s wish list is the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Beijing. Who will win: the Pope or Beijing?

  • On Dec. 8, 2005 the Vatican published Pope Benedict’s message for the World Day of Peace (celebrated January 1). “In Truth, Peace” is a stirring reflection on the authentic meaning of peace in the light of the Christian faith:

    . . . what do those words, “the truth of peace,” really mean? To respond adequately to this question, we must realize that peace cannot be reduced to the simple absence of armed conflict, but needs to be understood as “the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine founder,” an order ”which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice.” As the result of an order planned and willed by the love of God, peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth of its own, and corresponds “to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us.”

    Seen in this way, peace appears as a heavenly gift and a divine grace which demands at every level the exercise of the highest responsibility: that of conforming human history – in truth, justice, freedom and love – to the divine order. Whenever there is a loss of fidelity to the transcendent order, and a loss of respect for that “grammar” of dialogue which is the universal moral law written on human hearts, whenever the integral development of the person and the protection of his fundamental rights are hindered or denied, whenever countless people are forced to endure intolerable injustices and inequalities, how can we hope that the good of peace will be realized? The essential elements which make up the truth of that good are missing. Saint Augustine described peace as “tranquillitas ordinis,” the tranquility of order. By this, he meant a situation which ultimately enables the truth about man to be fully respected and realized. . . .

    The Holy Father expressed his gratitude “to the international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the application of international humanitarian law, [and] in the delicate work of resolving conflicts and restoring the necessary conditions for peace,” recalling a passage from Gaudium et Spes: “All those who enter the military in service to their country should look upon themselves as guardians of the security and freedom of their fellow-countrymen, and, in carrying out this duty properly, they too contribute to the establishment of peace.”

    Pope Benedict reiterated his warning against the dangers of nihilism and religious fanaticism (today often labeled fundamentalism), which cultivate hatred and a contempt for truth and human life, oft revealed in the scourge of terrorism. Likewise he denounced “continuing growth in military expenditure and the flourishing arms trade” and urged all nations “whether those which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms” to embark on a process of genuine disarmament.

Sorry for such a brief roundup, but I wanted to get this out before I took off for the holidays. Perhaps next time we’ll have the Holy Father’s new encyclical to look forward to. Merry Christmas to all of my readers!

Previous Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI Roundups in 2005: 4/11/05; 4/15/05; 4/18/05; 4/23/05; 5/01/05; 5/21/05; 6/6/05; 6/25/05; 7/10/05;7/14/05; 7/25/05; 8/15/05; 9/12/05; 9/27/05; 10/26/05 and 11/29/05.

Exploring the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly

Last week my friend Justin Nickelsen (of the excellent blog Ressourcement – Restoration in Catholic Theology) introduced me to the quarterly newsletter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. I spent some time investigating the archives, which go all the way back to the first issue (December 1977!).

It was a fascinating exploration, watching this periodical grow from its initial 7 pages to the average 50+ of today. (An annual subscription to Communio in 1977 was advertised at only $8.00 — times certainly have changed!).

Following are some of the “gems” that were unearthed during the course of my reading, which I thought might be of interest to our readers:

On Hans Urs von Balthasar

  • Hans Urs Von Balthasar on the occasion of receiving an honorary degree from CUA – September 5, 1980 (FCSQ Vol. 4, No. 1. Dec. 1980):

    “Jesus’ word can be understood by all, but only in the light of his testimony of being the Son of God does it become truly clear. Moreover, only in relation to his death and resurrection does it attain the fullness of its meaning: Jesus’ entire being is one single word. This perfect being becomes manifest only from the testimonials of faith; those of Paul which are as important as the ones in the Acts of the Apostles; John is as authoritative as that of the Synoptics. They altogether form a magnificent poliphony – not a pluralism in the contemporary sense. They can be compared to views of a free-standing statue that has to be observed from all directions to understand its self-expression. The more facets we can view, the better we can grasp the unity of the inspiration. The professor of this inspiration is the Church, the early charisma of which was to compose the New Testament and establish its canon. Only her eyes of faith, guided by the Holy Spirit, could see the whole phenomenon of Jesus Christ.”

    “Hence the fundamental principle that exegesis – which is indeed a legitimate theological science – can be practiced meaningfully only with the comprehensive view of the Church. If one stands outside, one will – unavoidably – begin to break up the indivisible unity of the figure (of Christ) by changing words to more fashionable ones which most likely do not mean the same, or to words that can be found also in other religions so that while one hears familiar expressions, these are merely generically religious and not uniquely individual (to Christianity). Such manipulations are just as destructive as if, for example, someone would omit every fifth or tenth beat from a phrase of a Mozart symphony or every second verse from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’.”

  • von Balthasar on Theology and Holiness, by Kenneth Baker, SJ. FCSQ Vol. 13, No. 2. March 1990. Recollections from a friend of the Swiss theologian:

    The center of his theology is Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity. Jesus is the Revelation of the Father, the Word, the Voice of God. He is the true or sole “Theologian” because He speaks the final word about God (theo-Iogos). Faith in Jesus Christ, total response to Him and existential experience of Him go before all reflection or “theologizing” on the part of the would-be scholar. That is why the saints play such a large role in the theology of von Balthasar. They are theologians par excellence because they grasped God and were grasped by Him. They did not separate their faith into one compartment and their theologizing into another.

Henri DeLubac

  • Fr. Henri De Lubac: Example of a Catholic Scholar, by Fr. JulioR. DeEscobar. FCSQ Vol. 4, No. 1, Dec. 1980:

    Frequently, today, the name of Fr. Henri DeLubac, S.J. is cited as an example of a Catholic scholar “persecuted” by official Church authority, only to be vindicated later. This at best is only a partial interpretation of facts. The impositions on him by officials of the Church are only one facet of his scholarly life.

    Little is known about his reactions to those impositions. A detailed account about the entire
    story (from both sides) is still to be written. For now, two things can be said. First, Fr. DeLubac has never written a single line manifesting reservations about or coldness toward Church authority. His hunger for truth, his critical mind, his evangelical freedom, his Catholic balance, his rejection of Modernism and Integrism (both) are all part of his priestly life.

    Secondly, his writings, hardly the work of a servile mind, speak for themselves. . . .

    DeEscobar goes on to provide quotations from De Lubac’s work relevant to the current situation in Catholic theology (following the censure of Hans Kung and the question of a Catholic scholar’s obedience to the Magisterium).

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

  • Cardinal RatzingerCardinal Ratzinger on “Handing on the Faith Today” [1983]. Excerpts from an address to a Paris symposium on January 16, 1983. The full text was originally published in La Documentation Catholique March 6, 1983. Ratzinger criticizes the encroachment of “radical anthropocentrism” and the historical-critical method and a consequent “crisis in catechetics”:

    “. . . A German mother one day told me that her son, who attended an elementary school, was in the process of being introduced to Christology by way of the so-called Source regarding the “logia (sayings) of the Savior.” As for the seven sacraments, the articles of the Creed, not a word has been breathed about them. The anecdote means the following: with the criteria of the earliest literary stratum as the most certain historical witness, the real Bible disappears for the sake and benefit of a reconstructed Bible, and for the benefit of a Bible such as it would have to be in their view. It is the same with Jesus. The “Jesus” of the Gospels is considered as a Christ considerably recast by dogma, behind which it would be important to return to the Jesus of the logia or of yet another alleged source in order to rediscover the authentic Jesus. This authentic Jesus says and does nothing more than what pleases us. He spares us, for example, the cross as expiatory sacrifice – the cross is reduced to the level of a scandalous accident, before which it is not becoming to pause too long.

    “The Resurrection also becomes an experience of the disciples according to which Jesus, or at least, His “reality” continues. One no longer needs to dwell on the events, but rather on the consciousness which the disciples and the community had about them. The certitude of faith is replaced by confidence in the historical-critical hypothesis. Now this procedure seems to me to be especially irritating. Caution regarding the historical-critical hypothesis, in a number of catechetical writings, assuredly is a step in the right direction towards the certitude of faith. . .

    Ratzinger’s prescription: “resist theories which whittle away the Faith in the name of the authority of pure reason”; recall that faith is not merely an isolated individual encounter but — as De Lubac demonstrates — a commmunal encounter with the Church down through the ages (“When I say: “I believe,” this means that I am going beyond the limits of my subjectivity, in order to identify myself with the “I” of the Church):

    “There is a widespread tendency today to avoid difficulty when the message of the Faith places us in the presence of material things by sticking to a symbolic interpretation of them: this begins with creation, continues with the virgin birth of Jesus and His Resurrection, and ends with the Real Presence of Christ in the consecrated bread .and wine, with our own resurrection and with the Lord’s Second Coming. It is not a matter of theological discussion of slight importance when individual resurrection is situated at death and thereby denies not only the soul, but even the reality of salvation for the body. This is why a defmitive and decisive renewal of faith in creation constitutes both a necessary and preliminary condition for the credibility and deeper understanding of Christology as well as eschatology. . . .

    “. . . (The Church establishes the context within which Scripture is to be interpreted and is the only locus, place, site for acknowledging the writings of the Bible as holy Scripture and their declarations as meaningful and true. Translator’s note.) There will, however, always be a certain tension between new issues raised by history and the continuity of the faith. But, at the same time, it is clearly apparent to us that traditional Faith is not the real enemy, but rather the guarantor of a fidelity to the Bible, which, however, may be consistent with historical methodologies.”

    [Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly Vol. 6, No. 3. June 1983. pp. 11-12].

  • Cardinal Ratzinger and Post-Conciliar Biblical Criticism Remarks by Cardinal Ratzinger prefacing his 1983 lecture on liberation theology. Translated by A.M. Paltrinieri. FCS Quarterly Newsletter Vol. 7, No. 3, June 1984. p. 13.
  • Interview with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, interview was given August 15-18, 1984 in Bressanone, Italy, with Vittorio Messori. [Basis for The Ratzinger Report]. Jesus, November 1984 issue, Milan, pp. 67-81. Excerpts republished in the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. Vol. 8, No. 2, March 1985. pp. 1-8.

Deadline Nears for Christian Hostages in Iraq

Last minute appeals are being made to the captors of four Christian peacemakers in Iraq, as the deadline set by their captors approaches [NOTE – tomorrow, Dec. 8 – CYB].

The four have been accused by their kidnappers of spying for foreign forces occupying Iraq, despite the fact that they have consistently opposed the occupation and invasion of Iraq.

The men’s captors — called Swords of the Righteous Brigade — have threatened to kill the four tomorrow, unless Iraqi detainees have by then been freed from prisons administered by Iraqi authorities or the United States.

Appeals, highlighting the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams have come from all over the world – most notably from Muslims.

Source: Last minute appeals made for Christian peacemakers Dec. 7, 2005.

A profile of the members of the Christian Peacemakers and their work in Iraq can be found here. (See also this report from SperoNews).

Update “Lobbying goes on as Iraq hostage deadline passes”, Dec. 12, 2005.

Pray for them.

KATH.NET-Website des Jahres 2005:!

KATH.NET-Website des Jahres 2005:

Auf den Plätzen 2-5,, und – Die Website des Monats “Dezember 2005” ist

Vatikan ( Habemus “KATH.NET-Page 2005”. Die KATH.NET-Forums-Mitglieder haben gewählt und die offizielle Vatikan-Website zur KATH.NET-Website des Jahres 2005 gewählt. Die Site siegte bei der Forumsmitglieder-Abstimmung vor,, und

Zur Website des Monats Dezember 2005 hat KATH.NET die Internetsite ausgewählt. Eine wunderschöne Internetseite über das berühmteste Weihnachtslied der Welt. Am 24. Dezember kann man dort live im Internet die Feier vor der Stille Nacht Kapelle verfolgen.

I can’t read a lick of German, but one of our members explained that the RatzingerFanClub was a runner up in their “website of the year” survey,
the winner being the Vatican’s own website, which I must say has gone a long way in terms of establishing an online presence (including podcasting from[!]).

Post-conclave there have been websites springing up in honor of our Holy Father all over the world. One that I didn’t see as a contestant but think certainly deserves mentioning is, which appeared on the scene as early as 2001 and is run by the Totus Tuus network.


Saint Austin Review Nov/Dec 2005: BenedictXVI on "Universality and Catholicity"

The November/December 2005 issue of St. Austin Review is dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI, featuring an exclusive article by the Holy Father on “Universality and Catholicity”; “Benedict and Bioethics” by Cristopher Kaczor; Redeeming Culture: Pope Benedict on the Liturgy, by John Haass, and an interview with one of Benedict’s most famous students, Fr. Joseph Fessio: Pope Benedict XVI: The Mind of the Man (with Sandy Lender):

[Fr. Fessio]:“I think anybody who reads his works will have a sense of the depth of the intellect which nourishes his spiritual life. He sees the divine in the concrete. Just as Jesus would tell parables, the Holy Father sees the significance of individual objects and events. In his installation homily, he spoke of the pallium and how it is made out of a type of wool. It is the burden of the flock, which he’s carrying. While it is a privilege, it is also his burden.

“During his installation homily, he also talked about the fisherman’s ring which he was given, and explained how it symbolizes his succession to the fisherman Peter. He’s very sensitive to the symbolic meaning of reality, which is, of course, a very patristic characteristic that is also expressed in icons.

“Icons aren’t just pictures. They’re seen as a window to the heavens, an access to the eternal world beyond. That’s the way he sees things and he embodies that. When you’re with him at Mass, you feel like you’re in Heaven in the liturgy. . . .

The Saint Austin Review (StAR) is published in America by Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, in partnership with the International Institute for Culture, and in the UK by the Saint Austin Press. Each issue gathers the work of Catholic scholars, writers and poets (Aidan Nichols OP, James Schall SJ, Joseph Pearce, Thomas Howard, Stratford Caldecott — need I go on?). You can review the work of past contributors here.