Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Women in the church: a sensible proposal to the Pope

Much talk have been happening in Barcelona about the role of women in the Church. The debate rose again after the low profile given to this half of the humanity during the Pope´s mass at the Basilica of the Sagrada Família, where the main contribution of women was (or appeared to be) the nuns cleaning the newly consecrated altar, an image that went over the world.  

In this post, I would like to suggest an idea to the pope Benedict XVI. Something that he could very easily do and that would contribute significantly to the visualisation of women in the Church. 
I think that this sensible proposal, which is not the ordination of women, would be a revulsive that would help to change the actual unbalanced situation of women on places of power and responsibility in the Church: my suggestion is to nominate cardinal a woman.  

Please, notice that the cardinalate is a title, an office, and it is *not* necessarily linked with being bishop or priest. The main responsibilities of a cardinal is to contribute electing the new Pope and to assist the actual Pope on important matters for the Church and in its governance.
Even if the actual Code of Cannon Law (#351.1) says that the Pope will chose the cardinals between the men that are ordained priests, and that those that are not priests should be ordained bishops, this is not a divine law, but simply a human norm, that can be changed at any moment. We only need the pope to be willing to do so. 

In fact, a little bit of history helps here. Pope John Paul II accepted as a good idea the request of Cardenal Avery Dulles, jesuit, not to be ordained bishop. He just disregarded the very same Cannon Law that he approved and promulgated, showing how easily is to change human norms after good ideas. If we go even earlier, we find Cardinal Newman, who was given the red hat by Pope Leo XIII, and who was also not ordained bishop. Cannon Law at that time did not require this. And, if we even go further back in time, we have a bunch of cardinals who were not even priests, the last of which was Teodolfo Mertel, who died in 1899[1]. And I have even read that Paul VI was considering to nominate cardinal the catholic philosopher Jaques Maritain.  

All in all, there is no impediment at all for a women to be given a red hat, a cardinal woman. 
Moreover, within all the faithful catholic women in the world -religious and lay- there will surely be one or many with great faith and skills for the office and dignity of cardinal. Would it not be a good idea for the Pope to create this women cardinals?

Are you convinced by these arguments? Please take a moment to answer the survey at the side bar, and as always, you are very welcomed to post a comment below.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Conspiracy

Friday, November 26, 2010

letter to a friend: the dream of God

My dear Kode,

Jesus had an older cousin named John, who was a prophet of God, and an austere and religious observant man.

John challenged the people of Israel to prepare for the coming of the promised Messiah by turning away from sins and getting baptized as symbol of their conversion.

He asked tax collectors not to take advantage of people, soldiers not to give false witness, and wealthy people to give part of their clothes and food to the poor.

Many followed John as he preached a kingdom of justice. Even Jesus, who was perfect in love, went to the line to be baptized, thus supporting John in his passionate way of preparing the hearts of the people for the great good news he was about to deliver.

After the popular John was arrested, Jesus started his public life. He start saying:
" Be attentive! The time has come and the Reign of the loving God is already between us!
Change the way you think, and trust this great good news! "

The dream that God has for us and His creation, His Kingdom, is already coming into being!

Open your eyes! And be happy for such a good news! This is awesome! This is great!

The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a farmer plants in the field. Although it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows larger than any garden plant, and becomes a tree where birds come and nest on its branches.

The Kingdom of God is like the little yeast that a woman puts into three big batches of flour, finally all the dough rise.

The Kingdom of God is like a party where all are welcome to join and cheer. Behold and start preparing your heart for this party, and you will be blessed with a tasting of it now here!

The Kingdom of God is more than a kingdom of justice. It is the outpouring of the unconditional love of God, that like a wave from the sea, will soak us and eventually fill us, showing the needlessness of our violence, selfishness and self-centered ways. It is the wonderfulness of being love so much that empowers creativity, kindness, forgiveness, and the utter freedom of the people of his Kingdom.

Open your eyes! And be happy for such a good news! This is awesome! This is great!
The dream that God has for us and His creation, His Kingdom, is already coming into being!

Blessed are those who pray for their enemies, who are able to show generosity even to the ones that rob them, for them are bringing the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, who put their trust on God and not on material things,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs!
What great news, Kode, when you do so!

Blessed are those who weep, for they will discover the comforting God.
Blessed are the humble, for the humble will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.
Blessed are you, Kode, when you are one of them!

Blessed are the merciful and kind, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are you, Kode, when you are one of them!

And, if the time comes when you are persecuted because you seek justice, or you are insulted and mistreated and your life is in danger because you follow Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God. Be happy, you have discovered a treasure that no-one will ever be able to take from you!

Many people followed Jesus when he started explaining the good news of the Kingdom. You can look at the gospel of Matthew chapter 5 to read more about what he was saying during the sermon of the mount. This is, however, the beginning of the story, and if you wish, I will talk more about him in my next letter.



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

letter to a friend: it was good that he came

My dear Kode,

Being a christian is being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, a man that lived doing good,
who was executed as a criminal by the religious and political authorities, hung on a cross
at the outskirts of Jerusalem two thousand years ago, but whom God have vindicated,
by rising him from the dead to His live. 

This living Jesus is Love from Love, the Savior of the World, through him every person
and everything is being created anew until we all will be reunited with God.  

Oh my friend Kode, let me tell more about the story of Jesus and his friends, and about myself.

Jesus was a jew, born in a humble family from a teenager woman named Mary, whom Joseph
lovingly engaged even knowing that she was already pregnant. 

He was born in a barn, for they had found no other place to stay in Bethlehem, the town of the 
great King David, where they came to register for the imperial census, as Joseph was from the 
lineage of David, descendent of Abraham, descendent of Adam, who was from God. 

This Jesus, very much unnoticed by the world, was the promised Messiah that would restore an even greater Kingdom than that of David. This Jesus was and is the dwelling of the loving God in our midst, the Son of God.  

At that point in time, however, when Jesus was an infant, the blessing that we have of God coming to us in Jesus was just beginning to be understood only by few people. Between them specially Mary, who was meditating in her heart everything concerning Jesus.

Oh my friend Kode, let me tell more about the story of Jesus and his friends, and about myself.

From the Bible, a fragment that is called the Magnificat: 

      "And Mary said:  
       My soul magnifies the Lord
         and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
         for he has looked on the humble state of his servant.
       From now on all generations will call me blessed,
          for the Mighty One has done great things for me. 
       Holy is his name, 
          and his mercy for those who believe in him 
          extends from generation to generation.
       The deeds of his hand are mighty:
          he has scattered the proud in their hearts,
          he has brought down the rulers from their thrones
          and lifted up the humble;
          he has filled up the hungry with good things,
          and has sent the rich away empty.
       He has helped his servant Israel
          as he had promised to our fathers;
          remembering his mercy to Abraham
          and his offspring forever."     

Oh my friend Kode, when Jesus was 30 years old he started his public life. He brought good news to his people, and about this news, if you wish, I will be writing to you in my next letter.

May the loving God bless us with the humbleness we need for gasping his glory behind the first sight of things. Yours,


Thursday, November 11, 2010

letter to a friend: a treasure I have and want to share

My dear Kode,

I have discovered a treasure and I want to share it.

If you feel this to be a good idea, I would like to write a few letters to you about on being christian.This would be a way to share who I am and the treasure that I have in Jesus. Hope you say yes, but please say no if you expect to feel uncomfortable or don't feel this to be in an appropriate time.

my best wishes,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

following Christ: short version

In a previous post I commented about my reflections on Lumen Gentium 31, and explicitly wrote a commitment that focused on the fact that baptized people share the priestly, prophetical and kingly functions of Christ. Here I present a shorter version, which I like very much for its concreteness and for the fact that expresses nicely how I believe I can share the office of King. Hoping that this version may be useful to someone, I am writing it here: 

my short version:

I, Marc,

as priest in Christ I will offer God prayers for the world

as prophet in Christ I will speak God's news to his people.

as king in Christ I will spend my talents, time and treasure
     by loving my fellow humans as He had loved us.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Experiencing the homeless shelter: no better place to stay.

- "We christians do not only have a ticket to heaven [God willing], but we are also already participating in the party we will find there." - With this words I was trying to explain to a friend of mine that spiritual experience of discovering -already in our midst - that One who is always live-giving; namely the heavenly Father, the resurrected Son, the ever-working Spirit. It is the experience of the kingdom of the loving God being at hand; an experience of the already-here-but-not-quite-fully-yet that infuses all christian life. We are constantly invited to share and grow into the life of God. My friend didn't quite buy my argument, and before departing he came with the teasing suggestion that my volunteering that very same night at a homeless shelter should be like participating of heaven, or was it not what I was saying? Of course it was.

Volunteering overnight at the homeless-shelter run by St Francis Xavier Parish was one of the experiences I myself wanted to live for a long time. For many months I didn't find the time to do this so when the joyful season of lent came I put volunteering at the shelter into my lent project, so as to cut any how-busy-I-am excuses. I'm glad I did it and the experience went very well.

I was first greeted by Jim, who has been in charge of the shelter for almost 20 years, who told me the few rules I had to follow.

Soon afterwards, about 9pm, the men came and we pull out some food and drinks for a light supper. After that some of the men start watching TV on the sofa area. This is when I produced a chess-table out of a closet and soon enough I was playing against one of them. Two games we played and I enjoyed them so much that I cannot recall the last time I had such fun playing.

At about 11pm the lights went off and everyone went to bed. Needless to say that I barely sleep that night. Being a light sleeper I noticed many of the sounds around as well as any casual trip to the restroom. And about 2am someone had to be told to turn off the music that he happened to start listening at, so we can have silence again. Night went on smoothly and I took the opportunity to pray to our loving God in thanksgiving. I was thankful because I could not imagine any better place to stay that night than where I was. Thankful for the gift I was given of an spot close to heaven. In this sense it reminded me so much of my active scouting days where it was so easy to discover the presence of God.

We turn the lights on at 5.30am. Isn't that a crazy early hour? Men where supposed to leave at about 6.30 when a bus picks them up and bring them to a day facility. As breakfast we had some cereals and milk and soon they were all gone. A new day started, and I left the place with many ideas to reflect on and comments to be done, yet these would amount for another post.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why confirmation should be before the age of ten. Part 2

In the previous post I argued that restoring the sacrament of Confirmation before the Eucharist, say at 3rd grade, is good because it erases the misunderstanding that confirmation is about maturity and commitment to the Church. This is, we do not earn or merit our Confirmation, because sacraments are free gifts from God.

Today I will comment on the two remaining points: 1) restoring the order of sacraments makes the relation between them clearer, and 2) makes more coherent the practices of the church across history and time.

1) Relation between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist

When looking at the relation between sacraments it may be opportune to quote Pope Paul VI, who stated the following:
The sharing in the divine nature given to men through the grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and received in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity (CCC 1212).

Confirmation is a completion of Baptism by which we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And, as the Vatican II tells us the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith. (Lummen Gentium 11, CCC 1233) So at the end the question we have to ask is the same as Pope Benedict sets in his apostolic exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis (2007). The Pope Says “Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation.” What do you think is the answer?
As always your comments are very welcomed.

extra notes: some documents including local european councils that (with bad arguments) defended late confirmation age, an schema of the First Vatican Council forcing restoring traditional sacramental order, and comments form Pope Leo XII, can be found here.

extra notes: in the most important documents, like Vatican II constitutions, when mentioned together, Baptism Confirmation and Eucharist appear always in these order.

2) Coherence across time, returning to the origins

Some copy-pasted history will show how we get to the current situation in the western church.

In the early Church the sacraments of initiation were three: Baptism, Confirmation & Eucharist. They were celebrated together in a single rite, with a bishop as presider. This was the practice of the Roman Rite up until the 5th or 6th century when bishops could no longer be present at all baptisms, leading to a time of separation between baptism & confirmation. At first, the time of separation was short, but as time went on, the delay for the bishop to arrive grew. Still the Church celebrated the sacraments in the order of Baptism, Confirmation & Eucharist until this century.

In 1910, Pope Pius X recognized that children were not being allowed First Communion until the age of twelve to fourteen. He felt that such a denial was contrary to the vision of Jesus who always drew children to himself. Pius X ordered that children be allowed to come to the table of the Eucharist as soon as they could distinguish the Eucharist from ordinary bread. The age was then lowered to around seven. Confirmation was not discussed and therefore the order of sacraments was upset. The reforms of Vatican Council II called the Church to restore the original order of sacraments. This is not without challenges and difficulties. Such a change presumes a deep commitment on the part of the family to nurture the life of the young. Such a commitment means that parents have a need to understand the reasons for change & the ways

By placing the Eucharist before Confirmation Pius X was stressing the importance of the Eucharist in the christian life. Now to stress the Eucharist again shouldn't we lower as well the confirmation age?

extra notes: from the text it seems that CVII would recommend the restored order, when in fact it says only that it needs to be revised: The rite of confirmation is to be revised and the intimate connection which this sacrament has with the whole of Christian initiation is to be more clearly set forth; for this reason it is fitting for candidates to renew their baptismal promises just before they are confirmed. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 71)

2) Coherence across space

a) across western and eastern Catholic Church

In the East, the bishops of the Catholic Church were not so concern about administering confirmation themselves, so the traditional order remained untouched. The Confirmation follow immediately the Baptism and is administered by the priest. (see CCC 290 and 291 for more information)

The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, (...) and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ's Church.

b) across cristian initiation for adults and children

It should also be noted that the Baptism Confirmation Eucharist sequence is the one followed by RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) which requires that children and adults in the catechumenate receive all three sacraments together, even if the children are younger than the age at which the Catholic children of the parish are routinely confirmed and by the Eastern Catholic Churches for infants and adults alike (CCC 1232).

c) but, what about ecumenical relations?

Ecumenical relations with Eastern Orthodox Churches would probably be easy with this change but it remains to be seen how this would affect the Catholic-Anglican ecumenical movement. Maybe in the provinces with both Anglican and Catholic churches one can introduce a (voluntary) solemn proclamation of faith at the age of 16 years old or so, but would it not start the vicious circle again? I think I would rather not do this, but you may have other ideas or comments, which are as always very welcomed.
Hope you enjoyed the post.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Following Christ

For my last class as catechist with the 15-18 years old boys in the parish, last academic year, I started to reflect on what is to be a christian in the light of Lumen Gentium 31, which states that the baptized people are made sharers in the priestly, prophetical and kingly functions of Christ. I ended up writing the following commitment:  

Following our Lord Jesus the Christ, and willing to be moved by the Spirit that God had sent us through Him, I, Marc, offer and pledge my heart to be His heart, as priest, always blessing, always praising, always sharing and presenting the sorrows and joys of the people to the Father;  my voice to be His voice, so I may speak to the world as prophet, challenging the nations and telling them the good news and the beautiful plan of our God; and my hands to be His hands, so love may be concrete and real, receiving and making present, as king, the kingdom of the always loving and caring God. 
Heaven and Earth are full of His Glory!  Alleluia, alleluia! 

I just wanted to share it with you. Please, feel very free to comment. I would very much appreciate it. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why confirmation should be before the age of ten. Part 1

Hello everybody,

Since May 2005, the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has restored the traditional order of the Sacraments of Initiation: first Baptism, second Confirmation, third Eucharist, which will be received at third grade. This very wise movement of bishop Olmsted is well sounded in theology, ecclesiology and pastoral care.

Restoring the sacramental order is a good idea because:
  1. it makes the relation between sacraments clear: Confirmation as a completion, or perfection of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism; and the Eucharist as a source and summit of our faith.
  2. it erases the common misunderstanding that Confirmation is about maturity and adult commitment to the Church, which in turn is an opportunity for a renewal of the youth ministries.
  3. it makes more coherent the practices between eastern and western traditions of church and across history.

Today I will copy-paste some questions and answers regarding point b), which I get from the Diocese of Phenix web page. I very much liked to write about a) first, but since I already have this information at hand I'll go ahead. Next post I will comment on the other points. As always your opinions are very welcomed.

Q: When our children are confirmed prior to First Eucharist, how are they to make an adult commitment to the Church?

A: All sacraments are a gift from our Heavenly Father, who desires to give us His very life, which we call grace. Sacraments are not earned or merited. For this reason, Confirmation should not be perceived as the sacrament of adult commitment to the Church. In fact, the Church even requires priests to confirm infants and children younger than the age of reason when they are in danger of death so that they may receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. An authentic mature commitment to Christ and the Church is expressed in full participation in the Eucharist and apostolic life of the Church. It is not achieved at a single moment but throughout the life-long deepening of our relationship with Christ. This begins in childhood and continues until death.

I'd like to stress: adult commitment to Christ is expressed in fully participation in the Eucaristh and apostolic live of the Church.

Q: Isn't Confirmation a sacrament of maturity that should come after First Eucharist?

A: Not really. Confirmation is actually the completion of Baptism (by the full gift of the Holy Spirit). The perfection of baptismal grace found in the Sacrament of Confirmation is not dependent upon age or knowledge of the confirmand. The grace that is conferred is a free gift and ‘does not need ratification to become effective (Cf. CCC 1308). The common practice of high school reception of Confirmation has given the impression that somehow the sacrament is merited by virtue of age or training. In truth, the Sacrament of Confirmation is an effective vehicle of grace at any age as long as it is validly conferred. Thus, those that receive the sacrament are able to reap its benefits from the moment of reception. The graces of this sacrament conferred at a young age could be of great assistance to young people as they grow toward adolescence and young adulthood. Regardless of age, Confirmation is always a Sacrament of Initiation. The important thing to remember is that sacraments are not about age alone, they are about growing in faith, about sharing in God's grace. In the Diocese of Phoenix as of May 15th, 2005 established the reception of Confirmation and First Eucharist in the Third grade.

I'd like to stress: confirmation is a free gift not dependent on knowledge, the graces conferred could be of great assistance to young people as they grow towards adolescence and adulthood.

Q: How will this change impact ministry to teens and our youth ministry programs?

A: In the long run, we believe this is a great step for youth ministry. “Receiving” the sacrament can be used as a carrot or bottom-line motivation for attendance. Instead of drawing teens by our own creative efforts and quality ministry, we can easily be tempted to rely on having a “captive” audience who is required to be present. The problem with captives is that they may really feel and act like prisoners, as they are forced to be present at meetings they really do not want to attend. Also, because the sacrament tends to be the focus and destination, few teens stay involved once confirmation is celebrated. Instead of understanding the sacrament of confirmation as a beginning or the strengthening for a more committed Christian lifestyle, many teens walk away with a sense of relief that it is all over. As a result, it is viewed more as a rite of graduation from religious education. The irony is that confirmation celebrates an initiation into a church from which many immediately drop out. Parish based Youth Ministry programs are called to have the mission of the church as its purpose. They are called to incorporate the proclamation of the Gospel, through evangelization, growth in holiness and fullness of faith; and by loving and serving all those in need. Our youth ministry teams must evangelize, build teens up through formation, and send them out to minister, thereby help these young disciples, through the power of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism and Confirmation, become mature apostles to their peers.

I'd like to stress: releasing adolescents of being captive until confirmation-graduation could indeed help youth ministry.

Hope you find it interesting: more on the following post.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Contructing this blog

This post is just to make some tests and collect comments of yours about the blog's design

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A joyful life: creation as do it again.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

G K Chesterton

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Do not kill theologians

You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you know about Christian beliefs. I admit, you can practise Christianity without knowing much theology, just as you can drive a car without knowing much about internal combustion. But when something breaks down in the car, you go humbly to the man who understands the works; whereas if something goes wrong with religion, you merely throw the works away and tell the theologian he is a liar.

Dorothy L Sayers

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Lost Coin

The Lost Coin wants to be a blog for discussion on faith and spirituality, on theology and religion.