Month: September 2007

Hans Urs von Balthasar and Mother Teresa’s "Dark Night of the Soul"

The Swiss theologian may not have had Mother Teresa in mind when he wrote this, but I couldn’t help but think of the recent media flap spurred by Time magazine (Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith Time August 23, 2007) and disgruntled atheist Christopher Hitchens (Teresa, Bright and Dark Newsweek August 19, 2007):

Active faith means following Jesus; but Jesus’ mission leads him on a course from heaven deeper and deeper into the world of sinners, until finally on the Cross he assumes, in their stead, their experience of distance from God, even of abandonment by God,a nd thus of the very loss of that lucid security promised to the “proven” faithful. This paradox must be borne; and from the Christian point of view the juxtaposition of temporal moments — of hours, days, years — exists not least for the purpose of rendering possible the sequence of these seemingly incompatible Christian life experiences.

Paul experienced and formulated this paradox. He knows two things: that even amid all his sorrows (which can reach to the point of “despairing of life”) God “comforts” him, and that his, Paul’s, “sufferings in Christ” redound to the consolation and inner strengthening of the Church (2 Corinthians 1: 4-7). One can sense the many varied nuances possible here. A person can experience extreme affliction outwardly and at the same time be inwardly “comforted,” that is, know that he is living fully within God’s will: many martyrs knew this. It can also happen that a person experiences darkness in the depths of his being — is submerged in God’s “testing” — and in his darkness radiates light to others, though he himself does not feel or realize it at all. . . .

It is God who arranges the “theological states” of the believer, plunging him at one time into the deep waters of the Cross where he is not allowed to experience any consolation, and then into the grace given by resurrection of a hope which brings with it the certainty that it does not deceive. No one is able or permitted to fit these “theological states” into a system that can be manipulated and surveyed to any extent by man. Their every easpect, even when they seemingly contradict one another, is christological and therefore left to God’s disposition. [pp. 37-38]

* * *

The law of renunciation can become very difficult for the individual in times when genuine ecclesial life finds feeble expression and numerous sects offer the enticement of immediate “experiences.” But no one who experiences this difficulty should think that the mystic, whith his apparently immediate experiences of divine things, has an easier life. For every true mysticism, however rich it may be in visions and other experiences of God, is subject at least as strictly to the law of the Cross — that is, of non-experience — as is the existence of someone apparently forgotten in the desert of secular daily life. Perhaps the mystic has to pass through dry periods that are even more severe. Where this is not the case, where we are offered acquirable techniques to attain a mysticism without bitterness and the humiliations of the Cross, we can be certain that it is not authentically Christian and has no Christian signficance.

[Excerpts from Hans Urs von Balthasar, New Elucidations (Ignatius Press)]

  • Author of new Mother Teresa book responds to Time Magazine article Catholic News Agency:

    In an interview with the Spanish daily La Razon, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, author of the book Come Be My Light and postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause of canonization, said the revered nun “lived a trial of faith, not a crisis of faith,” and that she overcame it showing that the love “is in the will and not in feelings.”

    Come Be My Light is a collection of letters Mother Teresa written about various aspects of her life, some revealing that she suffered spiritual darkness for decades. Father Kolodiejchuk expressed regret that Time Magazine twisted the meaning of the book, whose title comes from “the words Jesus spoke to Mother Teresa in 1947. Time Magazine, even with the cover photo (of a Mother Teresa who appears depressed), has greatly manipulated world opinion. The book is about a trial of faith that Mother endured for 50 years, which is very different from a crisis of faith. This is not something new in the saints. This phenomenon of the dark night is well know in spiritual theology,” he said. . . . [MORE]

  • The “Atheism” of Mother Teresa, by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap. National Catholic Register Sept. 9-15, 2007 Issue:

    Some have completely misunderstood the nature of these writings, thinking that they oblige us to reconsider the personality of Mother Teresa and her faith and holiness. Far from undermining the stature of Mother Teresa’s holiness, these new documents will immensely magnify it, placing her at the side of the greatest mystics of Christianity. . . .

    How wrong author and atheist Christopher Hitchens is when he writes “God is not great. Religion poisons everything,” and presents Mother Teresa as a product of the media-era.

    But there is an even more profound reason that explains why these nights are prolonged for a whole lifetime: the imitation of Christ.

    This mystical experience is a participation in the dark night of the spirit that Jesus had in Gethsemane and in which he died on Calvary, crying: “My God, my God, why hast thou abandoned me?”

    Mother Teresa was able to see her trial ever more clearly as an answer to her desire to share the sitio (thirst) of Jesus on the cross: “If my pain and suffering, my darkness and separation give you a drop of consolation, my own Jesus, do with me as you wish. … Imprint on my soul and life the suffering of your heart. … I want to satiate your thirst with every single drop of blood that you can find in me. … Please do not take the trouble to return soon. I am ready to wait for you for all eternity.”

  • Pope John Paul II on the “dark night of the soul”, by Carl Olson. Ignatius Insight Sept. 9, 2007.
  • The Dark Night of Mother Teresa, by Carol Zaleski. First Things May 2003:

    Mother Teresa is not the only modern saint to have undergone such a trial of faith; one thinks also of precursors like St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775), founder of the Passionists, and St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1572-1641), foundress of the Visitandines, but above all of Mother Teresa’s namesake, St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), the French Carmelite famous for her “Little Way” . . .

April 9, 2005 was the Feast Day of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta:

  • Across India, rich and poor remember Mother Teresa Sept. 5, 2007:

    At Shishu Bhavan, Kolkatta the house where the MC welcomes abandoned children, orphans and babies saved from abortion, dawn mass was celebrated.

    Mother Teresa consistently battled against abortion, asking mothers to “gift” her their unwanted children.

    “I think – she said in ’94 – that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion….if we can accept that even a mother can kill her child, how can we tell people not to kill one another?”.

    Fr. Bosco, the priest who celebrated mass in Shishu Bhavan, tells that after the celebration the flock of children dressed in festive costumes sang for Mother Teresa “the happiness of these little ones is infective – he adds – they bring such joy to us”.

  • Marking the feast of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a beautiful post (and photographs) by Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap.

Higher Calling: Blogger Credentialed as Newsweek Reporter

  • Higher Calling: A woman is ordained to the Catholic priesthood. Not surprisingly, the hierarchy does not approve, by Karen Springen:

    Sept. 13, 2007 – Last week 25-year-old Jessica Rowley became one of about a dozen women nationwide to make a highly unusual career move: she was ordained a Catholic priest. Rowley’s ordination—which took place at Eden Theological Seminary, a progressive institution in Webster Groves, Mo.—is approved by the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, a group of churches that decline to recognize the authority of the pope but see themselves nevertheless as Catholic.

  • Jeff Miller announces his own Higher Calling:

    I have quite an announcement to make. I am now a reporter for Newsweek magazine! I always felt a call to be a reporter for Newsweek magazine so this is something very important for me. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am at this news and the impact this has on my life and hopefully the lives of others.

    The hierarchy of Newsweek magazine though doesn’t recognize my call to be a reporter for them. So I had to have reporter credentials given me by an Ecumenical magazine group that also see themselves nevertheless as Newsweek employees and don’t recognize the authority of Newsweek‘s editors to make hiring decisions.

(Via Amy Welborn | Shaking Off Sleep). My heartfelt congratulations to Jeff Miller on his new vocation.

Fr. Peter C. Phan

From John Allen Jr., news this week that Both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are investigating a book by a prominent American Catholic theologian, Vietnam-born Fr. Peter Phan of Georgetown University:

The book raises issues about the uniqueness of Christ and the church, issues that were also behind recent censures of other high-profile theologians, as well as a recent Vatican declaration that the fullness of the Christian church resides in Catholicism alone.

The case confirms that no subject is of greater doctrinal concern for church authorities, including Pope Benedict XVI, than what they see as “religious relativism,” meaning the impression that Christ is analogous to other religious figures such as the Buddha, or that Christianity is one valid spiritual path among others.

Critics of writers such as Phan, who offer a positive theological evaluation of non-Christian religions, assert that their work courts confusion on these points, while others believe church authorities are drawing the borders of theological discussion too narrowly.

Phan, a priest of the Dallas diocese, is a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. The book in question is Phan’s 2004 Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, published by Orbis.

According to anonymous sources, Phan was contacted by letter in July 2005 by Archbishop Angelo Amato of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Amato charged that Phan’s book “is notably confused on a number of points of Catholic doctrine and also contains serious ambiguities” which are in tension with the 2000 document Dominus Iesus.

Phan was encouraged to write an article correcting the problems identified in the letter and to instruct Orbis, his publisher, not to reprint the book. Phan respond in April 2006 — Q: nine months later? — “offering to comply under certain conditions, and, according to sources, to date has not had a response.”

Phan is also under a local investigation by the USCCB, initiated last May 2006 by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chair of the Committee on Doctrine for the U.S. bishops:

[Bishop Lori] wrote Phan to indicate that the Vatican had asked his committee to examine the book, and that it wanted Phan to respond to an enclosed three-page set of observations. Lori indicated that the committee “feels obliged to publish its own statement.”

In a subsequent letter dated June 20, Lori indicated that his committee’s examination is separate from that of the Vatican.

The issues at the root of Phan’s investigation, according to sources privy to the correspondence, are similar to those of past investigations:

  • Christ as the unique and universal savior of the world;
  • The role and function of the Catholic church in salvation;
  • The saving value of non-Christian religions.

John Allen Jr. goes into further detail in a subsequent article, Why is Fr. Peter Phan under investigation?:

Over a decade ago, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger laid out with crystal clarity what he saw as the greatest doctrinal threat of the day: a confluence of what he described as “the a-religious and practical relativism of Europe and America” with “Asia’s negative theology,” producing a profound mutation in core Christian teachings — with Christ seen as simply another spiritual sage comparable to Buddha or Muhammad, and Christianity as one valid religious path among many others.

Since that cry of alarm, expressed in a 1996 address in Guadalajara — [Relativism: The Central Problem for Faith Today Doctrinal Commissions of the Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America] — the question of what theological reading Catholicism should give to non-Christian faiths has been brought squarely into the Vatican’s scope. Over the last decade, a string of writers and theologians treating the subject in various ways have found themselves facing a Vatican inquest — including Tissa Balasuriya, Anthony de Mello (posthumously), Jacques Dupuis, Roger Haight and Jon Sobrino. . . .

Peter Phan – Background

  • Peter C Phan: Georgetown U. Faculty Profile
  • Fr. Peter Phan tells tale of a people ‘betwixt and between’ at seminary Alumni Reunion – Conception Abbey Seminary, Missouri – an amusing anecdote:

    “In America there are ‘mobile homes,’” he said incredulously. “That is an oxymoron. In Vietnam, home is roots, it is relationships, it is family. Home is the place where you are born, where you live and where you die. In America home goes 75 miles per hour down the interstate.”

    He drew laughter recalling his first experience with McDonalds. “I saw a guy drive into a McDonalds and order his meal through a window,” he said. “He didn’t know who was cooking his food. And then the people put it in a brown paper bag like it was something to be ashamed of. Then he sat in the parking lot and ate it. This doesn’t ring true to a Vietnamese. A meal is a time for sitting down and sharing family stories.”

Peter Phan – Writings on the Web

  • Proclamation of the Reign of God as Mission in the Church delivered at the 2001 Conference and Annual Meeting of the United States Catholic Mission Association in Memphis, Tennessee, October 26-28, 2001.
  • Christianity and Other Religions: From Confrontation to Encounter [Rich Text Format].
    “In the last four decades, many if not most missiologists have rejected the long-held view that the purpose of mission is “soul-saving” and “church- planting”. “Soul-saving” tends to individualize salvation, belittling the other aspects of the Church’s mission such as inculturation, interreligious dialogue, and liberation. “Church-planting” tends to ecclesiasticize salvation, identifying the Church with the Kingdom of God and fomenting rivalries among Christian denominations.

    Instead of this church-centred approach to mission, a kingdom-of-God-centred view has been proposed in which the Church is made subservient to, though not separate from, the reign of God.5 It is the reign of God that determines the Church and its mission, and not the other way round. In terms of priority and intrinsic importance, the reign of God stands at the top, followed by mission, proclamation, and church. This is the order in which these four realities of the Christian faith should be understood and related to each other.6 In this perspective, conversion in the sense of renouncing one religious tradition and joining the Christian Church still is a desirable outcome of mission, but it is not its main goal, let alone its sole purpose.


    Conversion then can mean, in its Latin etymology, “turning with” rather than simply toward something else. Christians and non-Christians can turn together, with one another, toward not a particular religious organization or church but toward the Kingdom of God, and they can and must help each other in doing so. Just as in ecumenism, the model of “returning” of the so-called “separated brethren” to the Catholic Church is no longer adopted as the goal of Church unity, so in mission in the future, especially in Asia where religious pluralism is the fact of life, conversion is not sought as the joining of the Christian Church by, e.g., ex-Buddhists or ex-Hindus or ex-Muslims (though that may happen from time to time, just as the other way round is also possible) but as the “turning” of all humans, together and with reciprocal assistance and encouragement, toward Christ, that is, to the way of life and the values that he embodied in his own person, and the “taking up of his mission” in the service of the Kingdom of God.

    Phan speaks of the “Kingdom of God” in such a manner that oftentimes it is completely estranged from the ideal of bringing the nonbeliever into communion with the Catholic Church. Inasmuch as Dominus Iesus cautions that “it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God,” and that “With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity,” I can see how the Congregation would look upon this with concern.

  • Praying to the Buddha: Living Amid Religious Pluralism Commonweal January 26, 2007 / Volume CXXXIV, Number 2:
    . . . A theological exchange deeply rooted in the dialogues of life, action, and religious experience is one in which all doctrinal and religious differences must be honored and all attempts at homogenization resisted. It is only by means of a patient and painstaking investigation of particular texts, doctrines, liturgical practices, and moral precepts that both differences and similarities between Christianity and other religions may emerge. Only in this way can there be a mutual understanding, full of challenge, correction, and enrichment, for both Christians and non-Christians. For even if Christ embodies the fullness of God’s self-revelation, the church’s understanding of this revelation remains imperfect, and its practice of it remains partial, at times even sinful. Pope John Paul’s repeated begging for forgiveness was no empty charade. Might it not be precisely through interreligious dialogue that the church comes to an awareness of its errors and sins-and, with the assistance of people of other faiths, sets out on the path of renewal?
  • This Too, Shall Pass: Commonweal December 21, 2001. Fr. Phan responds to the Mandatum in connection with John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesia, which requires Catholic theologian to “teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the church’s magisterium.”:
    How can the bishop, whose serious moral obligation is to grant or refuse the mandate, determine with certainty the “fullness” of the professor’s communion with the church? How much communion is deemed “full” communion? If the requirement of the mandate is a matter of theological, moral, and canonical importance, should the bishop simply “presume” such a full communion on the part of any theologian, as the guidelines recommend that he should? Does “teaching” rule out critical evaluation that includes pointing out, in an informed and reasoned way, the weaknesses and even wrongness of certain “authentic Catholic doctrine”? What is covered under “anything contrary to the church’s magisterium”? Has not the magisterium taught doctrinal and moral errors in the past? Is not the possibility of error implied in the technical term “authentic teaching”?

    If so, how can these errors be corrected if theologians are barred from showing that a certain teaching of the magisterium is not “Catholic teaching” as it is claimed to be? More practically, is an average American bishop intellectually competent to assess the orthodoxy of a theologian’s writings?

  • If Jews are Saved by Their Eternal Covenant, How are Christians to Understand Jesus as Universal Savior? ­ A Roman Catholic Perspective, by Peter C. Phan. I can see, for instance, how the following passages might raise the collective eyebrow of the CDF and merit the demand for clarification:
    In light of what has been said above, one may question the usefulness of words such as ‘unique,’ ‘absolute,’ and even ‘universal’ to describe the role of Jesus as savior. Words are unavoidably embedded in socio-political and cultural contexts, and the contexts in which these words were used were steeped in colonialist conquest, economic exploitation, political domination, and religious marginalization. No matter how they are theologically qualified, words such as uniqueness, absoluteness, and universality are not the most effective means to convey Christ’s message of humble service and compassionate love, especially to victims of political, economic, and religious persecution. In particular, in the post-Holocaust era, they should be jettisoned and replaced by other equivalents. . . .

    . . . Furthermore, despite the fact that Christian faith proclaims that Jesus Christ is the fullness of revelation and the unique and universal savior, there is also a reciprocal relationship between him and other “savior figures” and non-Christian religions, since Jesus’ uniqueness is not absolute but relational. In this sense, Jesus’ revelation and salvation are also “complemented” by God’s self-revelation and redemption manifested in other savior figures and non-Christian religions. . . . There is nothing to prevent one from thinking that the Holy Spirit will lead the church to the complete truth through the dialogue with other religions in which he is actively present.

  • Christianity’s eldest son: an interview with father Peter Cho Phan US Catholic June 1, 2004:
    In my work I have developed a Christology based on the idea of veneration of ancestors. Some Indian theologians talk about Jesus as a guru, Jesus as a manifestation of God, and so forth. And some even propose the idea that Jesus is also considered as the Buddha, the Enlightened One.

    In the ritual of ancestor veneration, the role of the elder son is central. It falls upon him to initiate and perform these rituals. Because I come from a Confucian background, I ask whether Jesus can be described as the first son. In the scriptures you find references to Jesus as the eldest, the first-born, but it’s not always in the context of veneration of ancestors.

    Many people imagine Jesus as the high priest, performing the liturgy for the church. In the same way, I imagine him as the eldest son performing these rites of the ancestors, those who have gone before him–his father, his mother.

    The second idea I developed is that Jesus himself is an ancestor. And again, scripture, particularly Paul’s Letter to the Romans, has very explicit statements about Jesus as the new Adam, the new progenitor of the human race.

    So he is indeed the new ancestor to all of us. When we Christians today worship Jesus, we do so in his name, but we also worship him directly, we confess him as our Savior and Lord. And so I tied in that worship with the veneration of Jesus as an ancestor. It makes sense to the people who come out of that tradition.

Reactions to the investigation of Peter Phan


  • USCCB Doctrine Committee Faults Book by Father Peter Phan:

    The U.S. Bishops’ Doctrine Committee issued clarifications concerning several aspects of Father Peter C. Phan’s book, Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue.

    Father Phan’s book uses “certain terms in an equivocal manner” that “opens the text up to significant ambiguity,” the Committee said. It added that “a fair reading of the book could leave readers in considerable confusion as to the proper understanding of the uniqueness of Christ.”

    The Committee, which represents the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on doctrinal matters, outlined its concerns in a statement, “Clarifications Required by the Book Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue.” [.pdf format] The Committee made the statement public December 10.

Pope Benedict in Austria

On September 7th, the Holy Father left Rome on his seventh apostolic journey outside of Italy — this time to Austria, to to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the Marian shrine at Mariazell. As the Pope himself put it, in his remarks on board the plane en route to Austria:

My trip above all is a pilgrimage. I want to take my place in the long line of pilgrims over the course of 850 years [to Mariazell], a pilgrim among the pilgrims, one who prays among all the others who pray. This sign of unity created by the faith seems important to me. It’s unity among peoples, because this is a pilgrimage site for many peoples. It’s also unity across time. Therefore, it’s a symbol of the unifying power that comes with faith, the power of reconciliation. In this sense, it’s also a symbol of the universality of the community of the faith, of the church, a symbol also of humility, and above all a symbol that we have confidence in God, in the priority of God – that God exists, that we need God’s help. Naturally, of course, it’s also an expression of love for the Madonna. Thus, I simply want to confirm these essential elements of the faith in this moment of its history.


Background to the Marian Shrine at Mariazell:

Mariazell dates back to 1157 when a monk named Magnus from the Benedictine Abbey of St. Lambrecht sought the solitude of the forests and the mountains. He carried with him a carved wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child, twenty-two inches high. When he could go no further, he placed the figure on a branch of a linden tree and built a cell for himself and the holy statue there. This was in the Valley of Cell or the Zellertal.

Magnus soon attracted people, shepherds and hunters, to whom he ministered as their priest. A small village grew around his simple chapel. The carved wooden figure of the Virgin Mary became to be known as a miraculous object of great veneration, with a growing reputation for the signs and wonders which were worked through it.

Around 1200 a Romanesque church replaced the monk’s humble chapel and cell, and the fame of “Our Beloved Lady of Cell” (Mariazell) began to spread far and wide. Pilgrims from lands all around began to come to seek the aid and blessings of the Holy Virgin and Child. Venerated by Emperors and Kings, Mariazell attracted not only the nobility of Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, Bavaria and Slovenia, but simple pilgrims from all classes of society. The church became “Magna Mater Austriae” (the Great Mother of Austria), with similar titles in neighbouring lands.

About 1340 King Louis the Great of Hungary replaced the Romanesque church with a larger edifice in gratitude for the Virgin’s help in defeating the Turkish and Bulgarian invaders. The present Baroque church was built in the late 17th century; the interior and high altar being the work of the great Baroque architect, Fischer von Erlach. Von Erlach was born in Austria and spent his first 16 years of training in the workshop of Bernini in Rome. When he returned to Austria, his was a sought after architect that had great influence on the major building works of the day. So great and so appreciated that the Emperor, Joseph I raised him to nobility.

A magnificent silver gate frames the sanctuary in front of the holy statue of the Virgin Mary in the middle of the church and was donated by the Emperor Leopold I (1658-1705). The statue itself, which shows no signs of decay despite its great age, is normally clothed in rich robes reflecting the liturgical colours of the Catholic Church. It continues to attract pilgrims from the lands of Central Europe in their thousands all year round.

Resources / Roundups

Papal Addresses

News, Coverage & Commentary

Media [Video / Audio]


  • Big business Benedict: pope visit prompts tourist boom EUX.TV Mariazell, Austria:

    Rosaries, pictures, candles, figurines, keyrings and mugs bearing the image of Pope Benedict XVI: The selection at stalls selling souvenirs and devotional objects in front of Mariazell’s baroque basilica seems endless.

    Dealers in devotional objects at Austria’s most important pilgrimage site and main destination of the Holy Father’s September 7-9 visit are expecting “significant sales increases”.

    Jealously guarding their territory, Mariazell’s old-established traders banned all hawkers, infamous for their unholy kitsch, from the village.

    A papal visit is always connected with big business, be it investments ahead of his arrival, sales during the visit or long term effects generated by his presence, however short, at any given location. . . .

    Not content to leave the field to tourism managers and hawkers, Austria’s church threw itself into the pope business, cutting sponsoring deals with mobile phone providers and setting up an online shop selling t-shirts, bags, local delicacies or replicas of the Marizaell Madonna for the charitable sum of 1,050 euros.

    At Heiligenkreuz abbey, where the pope will spend less than an hour of his busy schedule, the business-minded brethren hope that he will find the time to take a sip of their local wine.

    Labelled “as drunk by Pope Benedict XVI”, the blessed grape juice should help boost sales of the highly unprofitable abbey vineyards.

    “The pope’s visit is mainly a spiritual and not a business event. We do not want to make business with the Holy Father or reach economic goals,” Heiligenkreuz abbot Gregor Henkel Donnersmarck stressed.

  • Mariazell lacks dazzle, but its simplicity helps its fame in Austria, by John Thavis. Catholic News Agency. August 30, 2007:

    “Mariazell is not a ‘spectacular’ sanctuary. There are no apparitions or miracles that fill the pages of newspapers,” said Benedictine Father Karl Schauer, superior of the sanctuary.

    “There is no particular form of religiosity here, and no particular group has taken over this place for itself,” he told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

    Then-Cardinal Ratzinger visited Mariazell in 2004, a few months before his election as Pope Benedict XVI. From Rcesq of the Benedict Forum, a translation of the homily preached by then-Cardinal Ratzinger during his October 2004 visit to Mariazell.

  • Cardinal Schonborn on the Pope in Austria: Part I | Part II – Interview on Benedict XVI’s Upcoming Trip. Zenit News. Sept. 6, 2007:

    Q: The Holy Father’s visit to Austria is a pilgrimage to Mariazell. What importance does Mary have in the Christian life?

    Cardinal Schönborn: The motto “Turn your gaze toward Christ” is deeply inspired by Mariazell. If you look at the “full of grace” statue in Mariazell, the 850-year-old small statue of Linden wood, without festal vestments, without the opulent robes it is usually clothed in, you can see a simple figure of this smiling and mysterious Mother of God, and on her lap a child with an apple in his hand, symbol of the reign of divine power. And Mary is clearly pointing to the baby. That means that she is saying to us what she said at Cana — “Do whatever he tells you” — and she teaches us to look to Christ.

    She is looking at us but she is pointing to Christ. In a certain sense she is calling to us: “Look there, look at my son.” And I think that this is the motto that Pope John Paul II chose for his entire life and especially for his pontificate. “Totus tuus” means to Christ through Mary. She shows us the way. Therefore let us begin Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage, and with the Holy Father, to Mariazell, and to the Am Hof Plaza before the Mariensaeule.

  • Criticism and little enthusiasm ahead of Pope visit Sept. 5, 2007:

    what should be a home game for the German-born pope is being met with increasing indifference by Austria’s Catholics, according to several polls published in the run-up to Benedict XVI arrival. According to one survey, 82 per cent said the pope’s visit was of “little importance” to them. . . .

    Progressive forces in the church are disappointed that a discussion of topics like celibacy or the role of women in the church is unlikely.

    In the traditionally strongly catholic country, the church, is losing members fast. A string of scandals over the past ten years drastically reduced the number of church members, 500,000 left the church between 1991 and 2006.

    A cardinal being accused of abusing children, a sex scandal involving child porn at a seminary and the appointment of several controversial churchmen to high positions eroded faith and sped up the exodus from the church.

September 7, 2007

  • Benedict expresses sadness, repentance for Holocaust, by John Allen Jr.:

    The Holocaust memorial is located near Vienna’s Judenplatz, the location of the city’s main synagogue. In a driving rain, Benedict stood alongside Chief Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg, as well as the head of the local Jewish community, for several moments of silent prayer. The monument contains the names of 65,000 Austrian Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis between 1938 and 1945.

    It’s an act with deep local resonance, since Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna supported Austria’s union with Nazi Germany in 1938, symbolizing for critics the Catholic Church’s insufficient resistance to Nazi ideology. . . .

    Benedict said aboard the papal plane that he wanted to visit the memorial to the Shoah “in order to demonstrate our sadness, our repentance, and also our friendship with our Jewish brothers, in order to move forward with this great union that God has created among his people.”

    As Benedict pulled away in his popemobile, a member of the Jewish community flashed the pope a peace sign. Benedict responded with a broad smile and a wave.

    During the visit, Two prominent Austrian Jewish leaders urged Pope Benedict XVI to use his moral authority to stop Iran from developing the ability to produce nuclear weapons and prevent a “catastrophe for all of humanity”, according to the Associated Press. “The letter . . . was written in consultation with other Jewish communities in Europe, said Ariel Muzicant, the head of Vienna’s Jewish Community. He co-signed the letter with Vienna’s chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg.”

  • An untold chapter of Benedict’s history with the Austrian Church, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter Sept. 7, 2007:

    Prior to becoming pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger apparently played a key role in arguably preventing a bad situation [the sex abuse scandals in Austria] from becoming worse.

    When the widely popular Cardinal Franz König stepped down as the Archbishop of Vienna in 1985, it was rumored that Pope John Paul II’s personal secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz, told the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops that the pope had then-Fr. Kurt Krenn in mind as König’s successor. Krenn, at the time a priest of the Linz diocese, was a personal friend of Dziwisz.

    A strong theological and philosophical conservative, Krenn had served on the faculty of the University of Regensburg in Germany. He was seen in Austria as a combative, divisive figure. For example, Krenn once compared dissident Catholics to Nazi sympathizers who had welcomed Hitler in 1938. Many local figures felt that his appointment could split the church following the nearly thirty-year tenure of the moderate, pastoral König.

    Though it was not revealed at the time, it has since become conventional wisdom that the decisive voice against Krenn’s appointment came from Ratzinger.

  • Benedict’s correction of Paul VI – John Allen Jr. interprets Benedict’s statement that Austria is “certainly not an enchanted island” as a corrective to Paul VI, who first referred to Austria as an “island of the blessed” in 1967, providing the background behind the phrase.
  • Pope Vigorously Defends Catholicism in Austria and Raises Concerns on Europe’s Future, by Ian Fisher. New York Times September 7, 2007:

    VIENNA, Sept. 7 — Pope Benedict XVI confronted Friday the shadows of Europe’s past, praying at a Holocaust memorial here, as he spoke with worry about its future. Europe, he said, may extinguish itself, in numbers and spirit, if it embraces abortion and rejects Christianity, which he said “profoundly shaped the continent.”

    “It should be everyone’s concern to ensure that the day will never come when only its stones speak of Christianity,” the pope said, at the start of a three-day visit here. “An Austria without a vibrant Christian faith would no longer be Austria.”

    But the 80-year-old pope’s vigorous defense of Catholicism — delivered in a slightly hoarse voice because of what the Vatican said was a sore throat — may not be, at the moment, a popular stand in Austria.

  • Looking for signs of a ‘great awakening’ in Austria, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter Sept. 7, 2007:

    Pope Benedict XVI grew up in Bavaria, just across the Salzach River from Austria. In his 1997 memoirs Milestones, Joseph Ratzinger wistfully describes joining his family for Sunday walks across a local bridge into Salzburg, falling under the spell of Austrian culture and music. Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope’s brother, recently confessed that “both of us are Austria-lovers.”

    Given that history, Benedict XVI’s Sept. 7-9 trip to Austria, his first as pope, ought to be a warm homecoming for a pontiff who is virtually a native son. Yet in some ways, enthusiasm here does not exactly seem infectious. In a recent poll asking Austrians to name their most trusted international figure, Benedict XVI actually trailed both the Dali Lama and the Austrian-born governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Another survey found that only 3 percent of Austrians had any interest in seeing the pope live, and 40 percent planned to “completely ignore” his presence.

    The ignominy of finishing behind the Terminator in terms of public trust offers one window onto the challenges awaiting Benedict. The church in Austria today may no longer be seething with anger, as it was for much of the last decade, but neither is it the homogenous Catholic culture of the pope’s childhood memory.

Papal Mass in Mariazell. Sept. 8, 2007. Photo courtesy of Gerald Augustinus Closed Cafeteria

Sept. 8, 2007:

  • Thousands join Pope Benedict XVI on Austrian pilgrimage :

    VIENNA (AFP) — Tens of thousands of devout Catholics Saturday braved pelting rain and chilly temperatures to join Pope Benedict XVI in a pilgrimage at Austria’s historic Mariazell basilica.

    Pilgrims waving Polish, Czech or Bavarian flags and others of all ages and races attended the morning mass by the pope in front of the pink and white baroque church. . . .

    Many had traveled by bus. Others came by train, but a few walked with rucksacks on their backs, up the mountain to Mariazell, observing their pilgrimage in the traditional way.

    American Mary Jo Szekeres, 22, said she had traveled nine hours Friday from Piestany in Slovakia where she works as an English teacher, to attend the mass.

    The trip was well worth it, she said. “I feel a more personal connection to the pope now. I’ve seen him, I’ve heard him speak.” . . .

    American theology student Erika Olson, 20, marveled that the pope was visiting Austria just as she was here for a semester.

    “When I go back and read his writings, I’ll hear his voice from now on,” she said.

    “I can’t feel my feet,” she added however with a laugh after standing for hours in the cold.

  • Europe future bleak without God, more children – Pope Reuters. Sept. 8, 2007:

    Benedict, who appeared to be struggling with a hoarse voice, wove his sermon around the theme of revitalising Christian identity in a modern Europe marked by diminishing Church participation, low birthrates and rampant consumerism.

    “Europe has become child-poor,” he said. “We want everything for ourselves and place little trust in the future.”

    It was the second time in as many days that the Pope decried Europe’s declining birth rates. On Friday he condemned abortion, rejecting the concept that it could be considered a human right, and urged politicians enact legislation to help new families.

    The average birth rate in the European Union is down to about 1.5 children per woman, raising fears that an ageing population will not be able to finance pensions systems.

    From Benedict’s homily:

    The child Jesus naturally reminds us also of all the children in the world, in whom he wishes to come to us. Children who live in poverty; who are exploited as soldiers; who have never been able to experience the love of parents; sick and suffering children, but also those who are joyful and healthy. Europe has become child-poor: we want everything for ourselves, and place little trust in the future. Yet the earth will be deprived of a future only when the forces of the human heart and of reason illuminated by the heart are extinguished – when the face of God no longer shines upon the earth. Where God is, there is the future.

  • Pope defends celibacy and obedience, offers gesture to China, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter Sept. 8, 2007:

    . . . Earlier in the day, Benedict XVI signaled that his universal interests haven’t faded despite being on a virtual homecoming. He laid hands on a replica of the statue of the Madonna of Mariazell that will be presented to the Bishop of Shanghai in China by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna. According to Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi, the pope expressed satisfaction that the Catholic Church in China was remembered as part of his Austrian pilgrimage.

    The estimated 13 million Catholics in China face a series of restrictions on their religious freedom, and the Chinese government has recently announced plans to ordain new bishops without Vatican approval.

    During the vespers service, the pope styled his remarks as reflections upon the three “evangelical counsels” of poverty, chastity and obedience. . . . [Read More]

Papal Mass at St. Stephens. Sept. 9, 2007. Photo courtesy of Gerald Augustinus Closed Cafeteria

Sept. 9, 2007:

  • Bad weather, muted turnout beset pope as 3-day Austria pilgrimage ends International Herald Tribune Sept. 9, 2007:

    Despite a chilly rainfall, about 15,000 people packed the square outside Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral for Sunday’s papal Mass, according to official estimates. Another 12,000 cheering pilgrims flocked to an abbey on the outskirts of the capital to see the pope.

    But the turnout was low, considering 200,000 Viennese identify themselves as Catholics.

    It underscored Benedict’s challenge not just in Austria but across an increasingly multicultural Europe, where many believers have become disillusioned and drifted away from the church. . . .

    But the atmosphere was festive at Benedict’s brief stop at the medieval Heiligenkreuz Abbey just south of Vienna, where pilgrims waved giant foam hands and young former drug addicts sang and danced on an outdoor stage.

    “At first I didn’t feel like coming, but it was definitely worth it — he has an incredibly positive charisma,” said Helga Bertoni, among the faithful who packed the abbey’s courtyard. . . .

    A few weak rays of sunshine poked through as Benedict delivered his weekly Angelus prayer on the plaza, but a gust of wind blew his white skullcap off his head, sending aides scrambling to retrieve it.

    “The wind has spoken for itself,” the pope joked as more gusts tugged at the crimson mantel around his shoulders and repeatedly flipped it up over his face.

    There is of course some dispute as to the ‘low turnout’ and the media’s apparent need to emphasize such. See also Gerald Augustinus’ photography, Tales of the Cape, on Benedict’s Battle with the Wind. =)

  • Pope calls Catholics to charity work; Concluding his Austrian visit, he also tells a Vienna crowd that Sundays should be reserved for God, by Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times Sept. 10, 2007:

    Pope Benedict XVI ended a three-day pilgrimage to Austria on Sunday, telling Catholics to keep Sundays holy and to dedicate themselves to volunteer work to spread “the Christian image of God.”

    With those themes, Benedict homed in on two aspects of Christian life that Austrians are particularly adept at. Despite disaffection with the once-powerful church here, Austria remains one of Europe’s last countries to ban most commercial activity on Sundays, and it is a leading force in social charity work.

    After two rain-drenched days, the sun came out Sunday as the pope finished holy Mass at Vienna’s landmark St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a Gothic and Baroque church that survived heavy damage in World War II bombing. Its distinctive roof in blue, green and gold geometric-patterned tiles dominates the skyline of Old Vienna.

    The Mass was filled with the music of Haydn performed by orchestra and chorus and echoing out of doors in the plaza and cobblestone streets, where thousands of faithful gathered and chanted the pope’s name.

    “Without the Lord and without the day that belongs to him, life does not flourish,” the pope said in his homily, seated under the cathedral’s gilded 17th century high altar.

    Western societies, he complained, have turned Sundays into part of a weekend of leisure. Leisure is necessary, he said, “especially amid the mad rush of the modern world.”

    But without an “encounter” with God, he said, Sunday “becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up.”

  • Pope Tells Children They Are His “Co-Workers” Zenit News Service. Sept. 9, 2007:

    Benedict XVI took up pen and paper to assure the children of Austria’s Pontifical Mission Societies that he sees them as true co-workers.

    After reciting the Angelus today in Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Square, the Pope paused to greet a group of children from “Missio,” who gave him letters and drawings to welcome him to Austria.

    Benedict XVI wrote a letter of gratitude to the children, delivered to the institute’s national director, Father Leo Maasburg.

    The Pope said: “I see in you little co-workers in the service that the Pope gives to the Church and he world: You support me with your prayer and with your commitment to spread the Gospel.

    “There are in fact many children who still do not know Jesus. And unfortunately there are as many others who do not have the necessities to live: food, medical care, education; many do not have peace and serenity.

    “The Church gives them particular attention, especially through missionaries; and you too feel called to offer your contribution, whether personally or as a group.”

    The Pontiff added: “Friendship with Jesus is such a beautiful gift that you cannot keep it to yourselves! Those who receive this gift feel the need to give it to others; and in this way the shared gift does not diminish but multiplies! Keep to this path!”

  • On Sept. 9th, Benedict visited the Cistertian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz. According to the Abbey’s website, Cardinal Ratzinger has visited the abbey “often,” both privately and in official capacity. Following is a translation (credit: Rcesq / Benodette of the Benedict Forum) of one of Ratzinger’s visits:

    For one of [Cardinal Ratzinger’s] visits our students prepared a musical welcome to the university for him. The photograph is from May 4, 1989.

    Then the Dean Professor Fr. Dr. Augustinus Fenz greeted the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith with a two-page Latin address. Cardinal Ratzinger answered off-the-cuff – likewise in Latin. He said, among other things: “… vitam present magna consolatio est hic invenisse insulam culturae latinae… audivisse scholares et non solum frequenter cursus venire, set etiam into hac valle nemorosa non solum pulchritudine naturali sed etiam pulchritudine vitae spiritualis ornata studiis incumbere. Omnia fausta tibi et huic illustri facultati ex corde exoptamus.” Translation: “Your way of life here is for me a great comfort, and I am happy to find here an island of the culture of the Latin language. I am happy to hear that the students also attend lectures daily, and that in these Vienna woods not only the beauty of nature is to be admired, but also the beauty of your spiritual life. From my heart I wish you and your illustrious university a thriving prosperity.”

    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in 1985 in Eisenstadt at a lecture for priests. On the right one sees Fr. Gregor Henckel Donnersmarck, now Lord Abbott; on the left is Fr. Karl Wallner, now the Rector of the Papal University Benedict XVI, Heiligenkreuz.

    One of the reasons why the Holy Father wanted to come to Heiligenkreuz, is probably also the elevation to “papal university,” which took place on January 28, 2007, of the university that was established in 1802. The university has already existed for 205 years, but it has never flourished before as it does now: at present 160 are studying here; more than 100 are on the way to the priesthood. The elevation means the independence of the university. In the future the degree of Master of theology can be achieved in Heiligenkreuz directly and not, like before, by the detour of the University of Vienna. . . .

    It was the personal wish of Abbot Gregor, who always admired the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, that for the future the papal university would bear the name: “Papal Philosophical-Theological University Benedict XVI, Heiligenkreuz.” The Holy Father is indeed truly – irrespective of his office – one of the greatest intellectuals of the present day. . . .

    We Cistercians of the Heiligenkreuz Abbey are a little astonished at the “horn of plenty” that was poured out over us in 2007: a boom of young, good vocations, then the elevation from university to papal university, and then the Oscar [Academy Award] for Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who wrote the script [The Lives of Others] here – and now as high point the Holy Father’s visit in 2007.

  • Finally, photos of “One Happy Swiss Guard”, bidding the Holy Father goodbye as he departs from Heiligenkreuz. A special congratulations and note of appreciation to Gerald Augustinus, whose photographs from this event rival anything produced by the “mainstream media.”

Hans Kung needs to write less, and read more, by Carl Olson Ignatius Insight September 11, 2007:

The interviewer asked: “A personal question: On Sept. 12 you will introduce your autobiography ‘Controversial Truth.'” What? Another biography? Is this different from My Struggle for Freedom: Memoirs (Eerdmans, 2003) and Disputed Truth: Memoirs, Volume 2 (Continuum, 2008), which together add up to about 820 pages!? Please, if only for the sake of the poor trees, stop writing and start reading.

On a related note: The Effluence of Kung, The Brevity of Ratzinger Against The Grain January 5, 2005. Q: Will Kung be as nasty towards Ratzinger in volume II as he was towards John Paul II in volume one?

Jeff Miller (from the commments):

Whereas the best theologians have done their theology on their knees, you get the idea that Hans Kung does his in front of a mirror.

Yvonne Bonomo – a 2,996 Tribute

Last year’s tribute (in connection with the 2,996 project) was to Jenniann Maffeo, a senior programmmer at UBS PaineWebber in New Jersey. Please visit the post to remember her, and if you knew her feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

This year we remember Yvonne Bonomo — a corporate travel booker for American Express. She worked in the World Trade Center, Tower 1, 94th floor. She was 30 years old.

Following is what information — snatches of memories — I was able to locate. As before, if you have more please add to the comments.

  • From CNN’s tribute page to Yvonne:

    We were 14 when we met and you were always so sweet, funny and such a beautiful person. I will never forget you. When we met at the Trade Center we both screamed, kissed and hugged. Just like we did in high school.

  • From PrayersforPeace, another memorial site:

    . . . I will always remember Yvonne Bonomo, who helped me in her job as an American Express Travel counselor. I talked with Yvonne several times a week. Many were the times she went out of her way to help me with a travel request, taking extra time to make sure my boss got the hotel reservation he needed, or some other special situation. She was always pleasant, always friendly and cheerful. It was a pleasure to know her. . . .

  • From MMC’s “Remembering Our Colleagues”:

    We chatted on the bus sometimes, but your smile was always there, your jokes, and giggles and stories. I always admired your enthusiasum for work, friends, life, and the future you were planning…

  • From the New York Times‘ Memorial:

    Yvonne Bonomo could not have taken more seriously the word “world” in World Trade Center. Not only was she a corporate travel booker for American Express, arranging last-minute global gallivants for executives at Marsh & McLennan on the 94th floor of 1 World Trade Center, but she also loved jetting around the world on the special corporate discounts offered to those in her job.

    Only days before the disaster, she returned from Las Vegas, where she had attended a close friend’s bridal shower. Although Yvonne was living at home in Jackson Heights, Queens, with her mother, Sonia, and father, John, “she was really very independent,” said her cousin, Richie Fabrizi.

    But Yvonne, 30, had contemplated sacrificing her cherished independence over the last year; she became engaged to her boyfriend, Anthony Vaccaro. “All we could tell him is that Yvonne’s cellphone records show that she made a call to her mom at 8:51, after the plane hit,” her cousin said. “That call never went through.”

  • From Newsday“An Affectionate and Chatty Soul” March 22, 2002:

    “All her girlfriends nicknamed her Mother Goose,” said her father, John Bonomo of Jackson Heights. “She stuck up for the group and cared for the group, and they valued her opinion.”

    He had ample time to observe the group in action. Bonomo, 30, and her friends always gathered at the family’s house for a glass of wine and a last-minute primping session before a night out clubbing in Manhattan.

    Saving money was one of the reasons Bonomo still lived at home. She and her fiance, Anthony Vaccaro, wanted to save for a down payment on a house before they got married.

    The other reason was simple — she loved her family. She and her mother, Sonia, were especially close. “She was constantly calling her mother, from the bus, from work, on the bus coming home,” her father said. “Every time she traveled, it cost me a fortune.” Not in air fare – the trips to Aruba and Cancun were a perk of her job as a corporate travel booker for American Express — but “because she called home collect,” he said with a laugh.

    Personable and chatty, Bonomo “was positive, and funny as hell,” said one friend, Melissa Allocco of Northport. She befriended her co-workers, her clients and even her fellow commuters on the express bus she rode each day to the World Trade Center . . .

  • “Eleven Tears” – Description of American Express’ own tribute to the 11 AMEX employees killed in the terrorist attack (including Yvonne):

    . . . The massive crystal is set into a stainless steel ring and suspended from the ceiling by 11 thin cables. Beneath the point of the upside-down tear is an 11 sided black granite pool; each side is inscribed with the name of an employee and a few words, selected by those who knew them best, to summarize the people they were.

    At random intervals, 11 drops of water fall from the ceiling into the pool, creating intersecting ripples, “symbolizing the connections among the close-knit group of colleagues and friends.” The fountain is surrounded by benches of matching black granite.

  • Guestbook for Yvonne Bonomo.

* * *

This post is part of the 2,996 Tribute Project

On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers will join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

Each person will pay tribute to a single victim.

Read other Tributes