In Brief…

The Holy Father’s Intentions

March

That, with the committed help of all believers, the scourge of poverty may come to an end, eliminating the intolerance social and economic inequality in the world.

That the heroism of the martyrs and of the “witnesses to the faith” who have been remembered during the Great Jubilee may spur all people to increase ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

April

That consecrated people, answering the call of their particular vocation, may radiate the spirit of the Gospel beatitudes in the present-day world.

That in Rwanda the recently celebrated centennial of the Church may reinforce Christian brotherhood and speed national reconciliation.

Embark on a Sacred Journey

Kevin Wright will be leading Pilgrimage International’s 2001 European Young Adult Pilgrimage to Lourdes, Paris, Lisieux, Mont Sant’Michel, Assisi, Nettuno, Rome and the Vatican. It includes Mass celebrated by the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and a day with the world-famous monks of the Benedictine Monastery of Solesmes. The dates are June 17-30, 2001, and the cost is $2000 all inclusive from New York.

Kevin Wright is America’s best-selling author on the subject of Catholic pilgrimage destinations. He is the author of the Catholic Press Association award-winning guidebooks, Catholic Shrines of Western Europe and Catholic Shrines of Central and Eastern Europe. Kevin’s latest book is Europe’s Monastery and Convent Guesthouses: A Pilgrim’s Travel Guide.

With Kevin, a priest chaplain, an EWTN video crew, a bus, and lots of interesting stops and people along the way, these two weeks are certain to be a wonderful experience.

For more information, write: Pilgrimage International Catholic Pilgrimage Tours, 5711 Constitution Ave. Colorado Springs CO 80915; or call (800) 455-5514; or email wepilgrims@aol.com; or visit www.CatholicPilgrimageTour.com.

Vocations a Top Priority

Most Rev. Theodore E. McCarrick, the new Archbishop of Washington, DC, said his top priority will be finding new priests to serve in his 140 parishes, according to the Associated Press.

The 70-year-old Archbishop replaced retiring Cardinal James A. Hickey and will serve the 510,000 Catholics who live in the nation’s capital and southeastern Maryland.

It was reported that while 1,400 priests live in the Archdiocese, most have institutional or academic commitments or belong to religious orders. Many of the priests and deacons working at the parish level are approaching retirement age.

Currently, there are 39 seminarians in training, and the Archdiocese is hoping to raise the number to 70. Archbishop McCarrick leaves behind 107 seminarians in his former Archdiocese of Newark, an impressive number that shows his dedication to fostering priestly vocations.

A Rebirth of Benedictine Life

The Jubilee year brought Benedictine monks back to the birthplace of St. Benedict after a two-century absence.

The Benedictine priory of Maria Sedes Sapientiae, founded in Rome on September 3, 1998, was canonically erected by the Holy See on June 12, 1999. Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., is the prior. The community moved to Norcia, Italy, the birthplace of the twin saints, Benedict and Scholastica, at the invitation of Archbishop Riccardo Fontana. The solemn inauguration was on December 2, 2000.

The monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia, home of Benedictine monks for centuries, was suppressed by the Napoleonic laws around 1800. For almost 200 years, there have been no monks at the sanctuary of San Benedetto itself, located in the central piazza, the heart of the life and activity of the town. The townspeople are enormously enthusiastic about the return of monks to Norcia after such a long absence.

The new monastery prays the full monastic office, and celebrates the Mass in Latin (Novus Ordo) with Gregorian chant. Its other characteristics include reception of pilgrims, guest house, academic and cultural activity, and manual labor.

The return of monks to Norcia is seen as a special fruit of the Jubilee year. It is hoped that the birthplace of St. Benedict can inspire a rebirth of Benedictine life in Norcia.

For further information write: Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., Prior, Monastero San Benedetto, Norcia, Italy; or email osbnorcia@libero.it.

Conversions and Vocations

South Korea has one of the highest rates of conversions, as well as vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

There are some 150,000 Baptisms a year in South Korea, and the majority of those are adults. Seminaries are full, and this year Korea became the second Asian country, after the Philippines, to open a seminary in Rome.

Following a great persecution in 1801 that decimated a very fervent Korean community, which numbered 10,000 faithful, and despite—or because of—suffering new persecutions on and off between 1811 and 1871, the development of the Korean Church has increasingly intensified.

The Tonghak sect initiated the persecutions that unleashed hatred against what it called “Western religion.” In 1864, the Korean Christian community had 23,000 faithful, but between 1866 and 1871 some 8,000 Christians were killed. Over a hundred of these martyrs were canonized on May 6, 1984 in Seoul by Pope John Paul II.

According to the statistical yearbook of the Church in 1998, South Korea had 2,500 priests (1,500 in 1990), 8,000 nuns (5,336 in 1990), and 12, 243 catechists (7,817 in 1988). Among the country’s 46 million people are 3.76 million Catholics, up from 2.73 million in 1990. And, for the first time, South Korea has a Catholic president, Kim Dae-Jung, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts at reconciliation with the North.

Christ the King Radio

Christ the King Communications, Inc., a new non-profit Catholic organization dedicated to bringing Catholic radio to northeastern Wisconsin, has begun broadcasting on WJOK (Jesus Our King) 1050 AM radio Kaukauna. Programming will be almost 100 percent EWTN satellite fed, and is 24 hours a day with a potential audience of about 600,000 listeners. The station will be funded by charitable contributions. There will be no paid advertisements.

The mission of Christ the King Communications is to communicate Christian truth through Sacred Scripture and Tradition in accordance with the Magisterium of the Church; to foster charity and joy; and to confirm among all people the peace that Christ the Lord brings.

Speaking to the Catholic Media Association, Pope John Paul II said: “Radio offers perhaps the closest equivalent today of what Jesus was able to do with large groups through His preaching. Radio is an intimate medium which can reach people on the street, in their cars, or in their homes.

“Radio may well be the most effective means of reaching large numbers of people who may not want to read or may lack the exposure to Catholic publications, but be willing to eavesdrop on Catholic radio stations or programming.”

Please pray for this great missionary activity, and consider making a donation, large or small.

Donations may be sent to Christ the King Communications Inc., P.O. Box 36, Kaukauna, WI 54130.

A Guide and Model

St. John of God was a guide and model for those who would devote themselves to the assistance of the poor and the infirm.

He was neither a priest nor a religious, but a layman, who from his own personal experience knew the state of abandonment of the mentally ill. And without any human means, he opened a hospice in Granada, where he and his companions assisted the mentally disturbed, poor, sick, dying, and homeless. He visited the sick in their homes, assisted orphaned and abandoned children, sought to rehabilitate fallen women, and visited the imprisoned.

Over the centuries many, both laymen and religious, have followed the example of this apostle of mercy. This association sees its origin and its inspiration in the first lay community of St. John of God in Granada.

The spirit of St. John of God is reflected in the words of the Gospel: “Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 14:13). Like St. John of God, this association seeks out the sick, the poor, the distressed, the homeless, the abandoned and, above all, the mentally ill.

Mindful of the thought of Pope Pius XII that some souls are to be reached only through the corporal works of mercy, they consecrate themselves to the poor and sick personally, visiting and assisting them as silent missionaries in the public hospitals and other institutions.

The spirit of St. John of God also embraces the care of orphans and needy youth in orphanages (foster homes), and “oratories” (social centers), the assistance of prostitutes and girls in moral danger, as well as the care of prisoners and their families.

For more information write San Juan de Dios, Igulot, Bocaue, 3018 Bulacan, Philippines.

Come, Follow Me

by Leon J. Suprenant, Jr.

I was completing my fourth year of seminary, and was now only a year away from the diaconate, with ordination to the priesthood to follow shortly thereafter.

On the outside, everything seemed fine. I was a “model” seminarian, and by all accounts I was right on track for ordination. On the inside, however, I was in turmoil. Something seemed very wrong. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and the “busyness” of my life as a seminarian didn’t allow me to see the big picture.

Feeling Deserted

Deep down, I didn’t believe the Lord was calling me to the priesthood, so I really couldn’t stay in the seminary. On the other hand, how would I face the many people who had been praying for my vocation, and who had grown accustomed to the idea that I would become a parish priest? Was I letting them down? Even more important, was I letting God down? Maybe I was called to the priesthood after all, but was rebelling.

I explained this dilemma to my spiritual advisor, who arranged for me to go to a quiet monastery for as long as I needed. At the monastery was a holy priest I had met the previous year who would be available to provide me spiritual counsel. The seminary provided me a car and I was off.

I arrived at the monastery about two or three hours later and was given a room. Now what? I had a change of clothes, a few toiletries, a Bible, and my breviary. And a notepad. How long was I going to stay here? How was I to go about resolving this inner conflict? I made a simple prayer for help. Here’s how it was answered.

Honest to God

First, I knew that I had to be absolutely honest—to God and to myself. Not just generally honest, but rather every motive, each desire, all intentions had to be laid bare before the Lord. I wasn’t interested in making a decision and then rationalizing it later. I wanted to know the truth.

Second, recall how the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus on the subject of divorce (cf. Mt. 19:1-12). As phrased, the question seemed to put Jesus in a no-win situation—kind of like how I felt. Jesus’ response? He cut through the question by returning to the beginning, to the Book of Genesis. By recalling God’s plan for marriage “from the beginning,” He had the right framework for addressing the Pharisees’ question.

Similarly, I sensed the imperative to go back to the beginning, to understand my present situation in light of how God’s plan for me had been unfolding through the successes and failures of my life. I trusted that if I could just tap into that plan, then I’d know what to do.

Book of Life

The notebook! I had wondered why I even bothered to bring it with me. Now I knew. Even though I had never been inclined to keep a journal, I was compelled to write my spiritual autobiography—truthfully and from the beginning. Indeed, aside from Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, meals, and sleep, I did little else the ensuing week. At the end of each day I met with the priest and discussed the day’s entries with him. He challenged and probed my statements, and helped me to see how the Lord had truly been drawing me to Himself from my youth (cf. Catechism, no. 27).

As my autobiography moved through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, the answers became increasingly clear. As our Holy Father affirms, every human life is a vocation. Even more specifically, I discovered in a newer, deeper way my personal vocation to be a disciple of Christ in this life. But the way I was going about it was all wrong.

Vocation Awareness

I never fell into the clericalist trap, that is, the mindset that those with “vocations” embrace the priesthood or religious life, while everyone else gets married. Gratefully, I was well enough formed in Church teaching—especially the documents of Vatican II—to know that all members of the Church are called to holiness and mission, and that lay people in particular have a special vocation to be leaven in the world (cf. Catechism, nos. 861, 898-90).

The idea that only priests and religious have valuable roles to play in the Church has had damaging consequences in recent years.

One regrettable effect is that some people think that only priests and religious are called to holiness—to become saints—and therefore the laity itself doesn’t need to be concerned about personal sanctity.

A second damaging effect has been the “clericalization of the laity,” which means that lay people desire roles normally reserved to priests in order to feel as though they’re an important part of the Church. An extreme manifestation is the persistent demand for women’s ordination.

While I didn’t intellectually buy into clericalism, I did recognize the objective value of the consecrated life and Holy Orders. My thought was that as a young, single man on fire for the faith, I should consider, at the first instance, whether the Lord was calling me to what we often call a “vocation” in the strictest sense—to consecrated life and/or priesthood.

Getting the Picture

This approach was appropriate as far as it went, and I believe the Lord has blessed my good intentions. However, after awhile I stopped listening for the Lord’s call to me, and instead became intent on forcing myself into a particular box. I saw my choices from which to choose as a number of boxes presented to me, and I simply needed to find one and make it “fit.” Come hell or high water, I was going to become a priest. I had developed tunnel vision. Once again, I needed the Lord to show me the big picture—my life’s portfolio—in order to enjoy His peace.

I saw that I was called to know, love, and serve God. Even more, I saw that the Lord had never been absent from my life, despite some awful choices I had made. He wanted my happiness and was calling me to communion with Him. I didn’t need to earn His love by becoming a priest or performing any other particular feat of heroism or piety. He already loved me infinitely and dealt with me as a unique person, with my own gifts, limitations, and sins. I didn’t need to force myself into a pre-cast mold—to become something or someone I wasn’t. Rather, I only had to cooperate with the grace He gave me to
serve Him each day. That way, He could shape me into whatever He wanted me to become.

This renewed understanding may appear as merely a subtle change in perspective, but it made all the difference in my life. Once all this became clear to me, I was liberated as never before. I had the courage to go back to the seminary and inform my superiors that I was going to leave the seminary. There was no guilt or indecision. I was doing the right thing, even though I didn’t know what I’d do with my life once I left. I had no fear. Perhaps in a couple years I would return to the seminary, but it would be on the Lord’s terms, not mine.

As it turned out, the Lord marvelously and unmistakably revealed His will to me, both in terms of bringing me to my wife Maureen (we just celebrated our 10th anniversary last month) as well as using my gifts in service to His Church, first as a lawyer and now through the wonderful CUF apostolate. But that’s another column . . .

May this season of Lent be time for all of us to hear and respond to the Lord’s call to be His faithful disciples.

Lead Us Not into Temptation

by Sean Innerst

In this month’s installment of our liturgical Bible study, we come to the readings for the Lenten season. The 40 days of Lent are meant to replicate in the life of the Church the 40-day fast of Jesus recounted in the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent. That reminds us of the operating principle of our Bible study: Jesus Christ is the central, inner meaning of the whole of salvation history. In the liturgical seasons of the Church, we recognize that He is not only the summation of all the events of the Old Testament and the impetus behind the New, but also He is present in His Mystical Body, the Church, in
every age.

In the Gospel of Luke, the episode of Christ’s 40-day fast and temptation provides us with a model for our own victory over one of the greatest problems of mankind—temptation. As the center and key to human history, Jesus begins His mission of repairing the damage done by sin since the Fall of Adam and Eve by going into the wilderness to face a similar temptation, and to succeed where they had failed.

Luke’s presentation of Jesus as the “new Adam” is even introduced in the words just before the temptation episode. At the end of chapter three, the genealogy describing Jesus’ human origins concludes with the words: “Adam, the son of God” (3:38). Adam had no human father—he was the “son of God.” That phrase could almost stand as a title for the drama of temptation that follows. Even Satan echoes the new Adam theme when tempting Jesus by using the words, “If you are the Son of God” (4:3), repeating the title just used for Adam at the end of chapter three.

Satan entices Jesus three times to abandon His righteous course, using food, power, and death as his tools. Jesus answers by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy, which sums up the lessons God had tried to teach the Israelites during their 40 years of wandering in the desert at the time of the exodus from Egypt. Luke (and Matthew, in his version of the same event) obviously wants to draw a parallel between the trials of Israel during the exodus and the 40 days that Jesus is in the desert. Jesus, again, expresses in Himself the beginning, the middle, and the end of God’s plan, in layer upon layer of symbolism drawn from Old Testament history. But let’s focus our attention on the way in which Jesus’ encounter with evil incarnate resembles the account of the Fall in Genesis.

The ancient serpent (see also Revelation 12) tempted Adam and Eve with the same three items: food, power, and death. The evil one suggested to Eve that she should eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve answers that they had been told that if they ate of that tree they would die. Satan replies that they wouldn’t die, but rather, they would gain the power of gods. Of course, Adam and Eve succumb to the temptation.

Jesus does the very opposite. He says, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” “You shall not tempt the Lord your God,” and “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” The three temptations, or tests, that Adam and Eve, and then Jesus encountered symbolize the three sources of temptation that tradition describes: the flesh, the world, and the devil. Satan tempts Jesus with food, symbolizing the desires of the flesh; with power over earthly kingdoms, symbolizing the lure of the world; and with a direct appeal from himself (Satan) to tempt death, which is a symbol both for the
devil himself and the deadliest of all sins into which he seeks to draw us, pride.

The whole point of Luke’s account is that Jesus has gone before us into the battle against temptation and won. If we follow His example in resisting temptation and beg for His grace to enable us to overcome all the temptations we face, we can become saints, even great saints. Scripture says of Our Lord, “because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). When temptation strikes, whether it comes from the flesh, the world, or the devil, it is vital that we not try to go it alone. The sooner we cry out to Jesus and employ the wisdom of the saints in resisting evil, the sooner we will come to resemble Him, and them, in virtue. That is our task in this holy season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Now let’s take a closer look at the readings for the First Sunday of Lent.

Deuteronomy 26:4-10

This Lenten season begins with recounting the “first fruits” offering that was commanded of Israel before entry into the Promised Land. That is, we are reminded that to enter into the promises of Easter, we must offer the best of ourselves in the coming Lent.

The first fruits offering was not simply a kind of bribe given to God in return for fertility, as was often the case in other cultures. The offering was divided among the priests, the poor, and the aliens (those in a strange land). It was an act of almsgiving. A ceremonial recitation was commanded along with the offering, and it was intended to impress upon the one making the offering that he was once poor and an alien in a strange land. “My father was a wandering Aramean,” he would say.

The Jews thought of themselves corporately—as a nation—and so when one recalled that Abraham had been a sojourner in Egypt, or that God had drawn Israel out of Egypt again under Moses, it was a profession of one’s own experience in the collective identity of Israel. So for Israel, the first fruits offering was a collective act of humility and charity. In this ritual act that fed the poor and the alien, Israel said, in effect, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

We have the same need as Israel to recognize that what we have is a gift. We have been given the “Promised Land”—the Church—through no merit of our own. We were once wandering Gentiles, we might say. Even if we are lifelong Catholics and the children of lifelong Catholics, in some measure we still owe the gift of our faith to a long-forgotten Abraham in our own family tree, someone who responded fruitfully to God’s invitation. In this Lenten season, one of the ways we can express our gratitude to God for His gifts is by being generous to the poor and the alien.

Romans 10:8-13

St. Paul uses many terms in this reading that are charged with meaning. They are so weighty because they allude to events from the Old Testament. St. Paul employs at least five allusions to Old Testament passages in just five verses in our second reading (cf. Lev. 18:5; Deut. 30:12, 14; Is. 28:16; Joel 3:5).

One example of St. Paul’s usage of a weighted word, one with significant, multiple meanings, occurs when he contrasts the righteousness that comes from the Law and the righteousness that comes by faith. In Hebrew, the term “righteousness” is zedek. In the ancient world, it could mean that you were a legitimate heir or descendent. Kings were spoken of as “righteous,” not because of their morals, but their lineage. To be “righteous” meant you were the rightful heir, that is, you had a right to inherit the throne.

But “righteousness” can also mean acting justly or doing the right thing. One would be said to be just or righteous if he obeyed God’s laws and lived in accord with the Covenant.

St. Paul’s point, then, is that righteousness—understood as an inheritance—is not possible to earn by works (righteous acts), any more than one can earn the right to sit on the throne. The throne is received by inheritance. That is, it is a gift, and so is our inheritance of heaven.

An inheritance cannot be earned, but it can be squandered or lost, as the parable of the prodigal son shows. We can get ourselves removed from the will, you might say. We can’t earn the inheritance God offers in Christ, but we must live like the royalty we are by declaring our faith in Christ and becoming His disciples..

A proper understanding of the term “righteousness” combines the two ideas contained in the one, weighted word. We receive the gift of being righteous (or rightful) heirs by faith in Christ, and we keep our place in the inheritance by righteous acts of faith working in love under the influence of God’s grace.

Luke 4:1-13

British biblical scholar N.T. Wright makes the case that Luke’s Gospel intends to stand astride two worlds: Hellenistic and Jewish. For the ancients, Wright explains, stories shaped a society’s worldview, and stories that sought to reshape a worldview were inherently subversive. The way to change someone’s mind was to alter his understanding of the story of the world. The Gospel story is just such a “subversive” story, one that seeks to change peoples’ minds about themselves and their world. Luke was interested in changing the way the Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) people understood themselves and the
world, and he did this by showing that Jesus is the definitive key not only to the Jewish story, but also to the whole human story.

Luke does this by framing the story of the Gospel as a bios (the root of biography). The story of Jesus is told in the way that the ancient Greeks and Romans would tell stories of the great figures of history. Luke shows that the Jewish worldview or story is the central one for all mankind, and that Jesus is the fulfillment and proof of the universality of the Jewish story. As Wright puts it, Luke’s Gospel is a “Jewish message for the Gentile world.” [i]

Above we discussed Luke’s interest in showing that Jesus is a new Adam and an embodiment of the new Israel, who does well in what His forerunners did badly. But Luke is also particularly interested in showing that Jesus is the new David, a new king of which the world ought to take note. (The ancients were very interested in royalty because they were seen as carrying a divine mandate. Kings and queens had their hands on the controls of history, you might say.) Jesus, in Luke’s view, is the figure who is to extend the blessings promised to Israel under King David to the whole world. One of the parallels
between David and Jesus can be seen in our Gospel reading this week.

In 1 Samuel 16:13, the Holy Spirit rushed upon David after the prophet Samuel anointed him. Then, in 1 Samuel 17, David fought and defeated the Philistine giant Goliath. In Luke’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the Jordan after the prophet John baptizes Him. Then, Jesus fights and defeats Satan in the desert. Interestingly, at the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, a voice is heard from heaven: “Thou art my beloved son.” In Hebrew the name “David” means “beloved.” The name is applied to David only after the Spirit rushes upon him in 1 Samuel 16. Likewise, Jesus who is Ben David, or the
Son of David, is dubbed the “beloved son” at the coming of the Spirit in Luke 3.

Many more parallels could be shown between the stories of David and Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Of course, as has already been mentioned, the parallels between Jesus’ story and that of David are not the only ones between Jesus and Old Testament figures. But we can learn a great deal about Jesus by analyzing any one set of these Old Testament parallels.

It is important for us to remember that, in Jesus, we also are connected to the people of Israel who struggled to remain faithful to their God. (“Israel” means “struggle.”) In the 40 days of our Lenten season, we relive their 4,000 years of struggle, just as Jesus relived that struggle in His 40 days of testing in the desert. In Him, the Jewish story becomes our story. In Him, we hope for the Easter victory that heralds the salvation story for the whole
world.

Reflection Questions:

1. Jesus tells us that those who prove themselves trustworthy in small things will be given responsibility for greater things. How does this apply to the life of virtue in general and the struggle against temptations in particular?

2. Before you can make the basketball team you have to learn the basic skills of shooting and dribbling. How would that example fit in with our practice of Lenten sacrifices (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving)?

3. What are the three traditional sources of temptation?

4. Each of us has different weaknesses and strengths. Try to determine which temptations you are weakest against and which bother you the least. (Don’t make the mistake, however, of thinking that any temptation is trivial.)

Application:

Make a resolution to apply your Lenten sacrifices to fighting the temptation that troubles you the most.

N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress P
ress, 1992), 381.