Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pope For A New World, Pope Francis, by Howard Chus-Eoan and Time Contributors

This ninety-six page special edition of Time Magazine is devoted to the Roman Catholic Church, and particularly to its leadership during the 2,000 (+) years since its foundation-- from St. Peter to its latest successor, Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, the "New Shepherd," who "brings a spontaneous approach to a church full of old problems." He was born in 1936 in Buenos Aires, of an immigrant family from Turin, Italy. As he began college he chose the priesthood over a career in chemistry. He was eventually ordained a priest, shortly before the difficult and dangerous 1970's and early '80's, when Argentina was ruled by a military regime. Instead of becoming involved, as some priests were, he stayed close to the church. He became a Jesuit, and after a number of years was elected Provincial of the Order. He was appointed Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and three years later was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II.

Despite his positions of honor, Pope Francis is noted for his humility. As a cardinal he rode on the bus and the subway. He lived in a simple apartment and made his own meals. For years he visited regularly a large slum in the district of Barracas where 45,000 people lived, the poor, unemployed, laborers, servants--humble people who were considered of no account. Each year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, he would celebrate Mass in the tiny church of the Virgin of Caaupe, dressed as n ordinary priest . And later he walked among the people and blessed every image of The Virgin that was held out to him. It is said that 60% of the homes there have a photo of him, and he was universally venerated by the people.

Even after his election, Pope Francis continued in a humble way--choosing to stand while greeting the Cardinals instead of sitting on the papal throne, walking down to greet a Cardinal in a wheelchair, and appearing for the first time as Pope wearing a white Cossack and with an iron cross, not the customary red cape and the ornate golden cross. The next day he took the bus with the rest of the Cardinals instead of riding in the papal limousine, and he stopped by personally to pay his bill at the hotel where he stayed before the conclave. He considered his main task as leader of the Church was the one given to Peter: "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep, " --to be a lowly servant of his people. Undoubtedly his service as Pope Francis, as well as choosing the name of Francis of Assisi, the "Little poor man," will reflect his humble stance, and his ideal of humble service.

More details are given regarding Pope Francis' election and his first days in office, his life as a Jesuit, the papacy in general, and his immediate predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II and the legacy they left, including some unfinished business. Pages are devoted to the 265 popes who have gone before -- the famous and the infamous, those who "changed history" , and the present state of the Church. Pope Francis has many challenges: to meet the needs of the rapidly growing flock in Africa and Latin America, to spur on and re-energize the Catholics in Europe and North America who appear to be growing tepid, to reform the Curia, to continue to heal sex-abuse victims, to give an active role to women in Church service and leadership, to improve the relationship between the Church and non-Christian religions, and to re-fashion the Church into a body of humble service in the way of St. Francis He asks for our prayers.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review - A Promise of Presence (Second Form) by Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina M. Oliver

Book Review - A Promise of Presence (Second Form)
Weekly Reflections and Daily Prayer Activities, by Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina M. Oliver.

This small book is a gem! Each of the fifty-two chapters, for the fifty-two weeks of the year, is divided into seven segments, for the days of the week. The chapters begin with a Scripture quote and a reflection, followed by prayers and activities related to the Scripture theme, for each day of the week. Some of the prayer activities are brief, interior love responses, and others are longer, including many suggestions for concrete actions on behalf of the person or the intention being prayed for, and also suggestions for journaling. Each chapter includes additional Scriptures and ends with a prayer from the heart directed to our loving God. Love and genuine concern permeate the book -- a tender, shared love between God and the person praying, and a benevolent love of God for each person and for all of creation.

Bridget Meehan and Regina Oliver are members of the Sisters for Christian Community. They wrote this book collaboratively, but each is the major author of their particular section and has left her initials to indicate that. They intend the book to be only a guide to prayer, letting God take the lead. The titles of the chapters include "Opening to Our Gifts", "Discovering Your Vision", "Seeing as God Sees", "Infinite, Boundless Love", "The Oneness We Share", "Becoming Christ's Presence", "Life Eternal--Now", "The Reality of Peace", and "Something to Die For." Each of the twenty-eight chapters is an entity in itself with its own theme and not related to the others. The Power of Presence is beautifully written, and besides being a wonderful prayer guide it can also be an inspiration to the reader and a help to deeper her love of God and love for others.

Since it is meant to be used daily, it would be best for each reader to have an individual copy, or at least one readily available. It is a small book, and inexpensive. I think it would be difficult to find a prayer guide better than this!

Sr. Ruth Nistler, OSF

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review - FALLING UPWARD, A Spiritually for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr.

Fr. Richard Rohr, director of the Center of Action and Contemplation in Albuquerqe, which he founded, is the author if over twenty books and an internationally known speaker and retreat director. In this book he uses the term "Two Halves of Life" introduced by Carl Jung, and he elaborates on each of these halves with countless descriptions of each. He claims that no one can reach the "Further Journey" without undergoing the first journey, with its falling, stumbling, learning, growing, conversion and discovery of the True Self.

In the first half of life we build a "container" or self-identity ; in the second we fill it with what it was meant to hold. Much of this is encountered rather than planned, as the future is an unknown mystery and adventure to the "first-half traveler." Our life is meant for returning to God the "blueprint" we were given, with our own personal stamp. Without doing this, our life has little meaning. Fr. Rohr says that finding our True Self in the first half of life depends on the time allotted to us, and how we use our freedom. And some of us may never find our True Self. He uses Homer' The Oddesy, with the trials, falls and errors he endures as he returns home from the Trojan War, symbolic of our life's journey. No one can escape the falls, trials and suffering that are an inevitable part of the first life. In fact, these become the building blocks for a satisfying second life.

The author uses the trampoline as a symbol of the falling down and falling upward that is a part of all human life, and he points out that often the farther we fall down, the farther we can fall upward. He also speaks of Christianity and Scripture and our relationship with God throughout the book and gives endless descriptions of persons still in the first half of life and those who have "made it" into the second half, where life's problems, dilemmas and difficulties are now resolved by falling upward into a larger "brightness." You will find the book insightful and thought-provoking.