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February 14, 2015

Vatican issues homiletic directory -
Confronting globalized indifference this Lent -
What "spirituality" means -
Interfaith marriage perspectives

In this edition:
1. Archbishop Romero, martyr.
2. Assassination at the altar.
3. Lent: Confronting globalized indifference.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Empathy inside out.
b) Faith and interfaith marriages.
c) Perspectives on globalization.
5. Vatican releases Homiletic Directory.
6. What does "spirituality" mean?
7. Goals for faith-based higher education.

1. Martyrdom of Archbishop Romero

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified in his homeland "certainly within the year and not later, but possibly within a few months," Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said in Rome Feb. 4. He spoke the day after Pope Francis recognized formally that the slain Salvadoran archbishop was killed "in hatred of the faith" and, thus, not simply for social or political reasons.

Earlier, during his Jan. 7 general audience, Pope Francis quoted these words Archbishop Romero himself once spoke during the funeral for a priest assassinated by Salvadoran death squads:

"We must all be willing to die for our faith even if the Lord does not grant us this honor. . . . Giving one's life does not only mean being killed; giving one's life, having the spirit of a martyr, it is giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in honest fulfillment of his duty; in that silence of daily life; giving one's life little by little."

Archbishop Paglia, postulator of Archbishop Romero's sainthood cause and president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, spoke during a Vatican press conference where he frankly pointed out the strong currents within the church that argued against advancing the Salvadoran archbishop's cause.

"Kilos of letters against [Romero] arrived in Rome" during the years from 1977 to 1980 when he served as San Salvador's archbishop, Archbishop Paglia reported. The accusations held plainly that the archbishop was "a follower of liberation theology."

To such accusations Archbishop Romero responded in the affirmative, while stressing that there were two theologies of liberation. One theology viewed only a material liberation, while the other was that of Pope Paul VI. Archbishop Paglia recalled that Archbishop Romero said, "I'm with Paul VI," meaning he sought "the material and spiritual liberation of all people, including from the sins of injustice and oppression."

Archbishop Paglia said it took two decades to recognize Archbishop Romero's martyrdom due to "misunderstandings and preconceptions." He commented:

"The world has changed greatly since 1980, but that pastor from a small Central American country speaks powerfully. It is not without significance that his beatification will take place precisely when there is for the first time in history a Latin American pope who wants a 'poor church, for the poor.' It is a providential coincidence."

2. Assassination at the Altar

Archbishop Romero was shot and killed March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel. Archbishop Paglia told the Feb. 4 Vatican press conference on Archbishop Romero's upcoming beatification that the murder was not due to "motives that were simply political." He said:

"[Archbishop Romero] was killed at the altar. Killing him was intended to strike at the church that flowed from Vatican Council II. His death -- as the detailed documentary examination clearly showed -- was not only politically motivated but due also to hatred for a faith that, combined with charity, would not stay silent when faced with the injustices that implacably and cruelly afflicted the poor and their defenders.

"His assassination at the altar -- without doubt a more uncertain death as it meant shooting from a distance of 30 meters rather than an attempt from a shorter range -- had a symbolic nature that resounded as a terrible warning for whoever wished to follow the same route."

In El Salvador at that time, "the climate of persecution was palpable," said Archbishop Paglia. He recalled that "after two years as archbishop of San Salvador, Romero counted 30 lost priests -- killed, expelled or forced to flee from death."

Moreover, he continued, "death squads killed scores of catechists from the base communities, and many faithful disappeared from these communities." And "the church was the main target of accusation and therefore the hardest hit." In the face of this, "Romero resisted and accepted giving his life to defend his people."

Another speaker during the Vatican press conference was historian Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, a biographer of Archbishop Romero. The historian described the climate in El Salvador during the time before the archbishop's murder. In fact, the Rome professor said: "Romero was terrified by the death that he felt was imminent. In the last weeks before his assassination he was frightened by any noise." He did not know whether it would be "the extreme right or the extreme left" that would kill him.

The historian said Archbishop Romero "knew that he would be killed" and thus "experienced a long internal travail." He received countless death threats but made clear that "he would not abandon his flock."

3. Lent: Confronting Globalized Indifference

Concerned that indifference toward life's harsh reality for many is becoming a globalized phenomenon, Pope Francis calls in his 2015 Lenten message for "all those places where the church is present, especially our parishes and our communities," to become "islands of mercy." He writes:

"Every Christian community is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away. The church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people."

The pope's message asks: Do parishes and other communities of the church "enable us to experience being part of one body? A body that receives and shares what God wishes to give? A body that acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest and most insignificant members? Or do we take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors?"

Indifference toward others who suffer represents a "fatal withdrawal into ourselves," according to the pope. Christians, he adds, allow God to "clothe them with goodness and mercy" in order "to become, like Christ, servants of God and others."

Typically, whenever "we are healthy and comfortable we forget about others," becoming "unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure," Pope Francis observes. In contemporary times, he affirms, "this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference."

That, says the pope, "is a problem that we as Christians need to confront." The notion that merciful people are not as strong as others is rejected in Pope Francis' Lenten message. "A merciful heart," he insists, "does not mean a weak heart."

On the contrary, "anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A heart that lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters."

4. Current Quotes to Ponder

Empathy Inside Out: "A person suffering, a mother who cannot provide food, an older person who has no access to medicine -- in the end we are all human in the same ways, we cry over the same things, we suffer over the same things, and people really rise when they can identify with the suffering of other people. What is most important for me now is for students to think big, for students to have dreams which are worthy of them, worthy of their education, worthy of their gifts." (From comments by Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, during an interview with Milwaukee Public Radio, conducted during Jesuit-run Marquette University's Feb. 1-6 Mission Week. The week was devoted to the university's mission and how it can further the good of the human community.)

Interfaith Marriages and the Faith of Families: "Between observant Jews and observant Christians there are many common themes in the understanding of marriage, especially here in the United States. In certain settings and especially in majority Muslim countries, there can be great differences between devout Muslim understandings of marriage and devout Christian understandings of marriage. American Muslims, however -- either Americans who have converted to Islam or Muslims of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian descent whose families have lived in the United States for a long time -- may have developed expectations of marriage, for better or for worse, very similar to those of their Jewish and Christian fellow citizens. But even in these American marriages, the interfaith challenge can prove difficult. . . . If interfaith marriage leads to a Brand X generation of nonpracticing Jews, nonpracticing Christians or nonpracticing Muslims, I think it is a disaster. If one or other party in such marriage converts to the faith of the other, such marriages may work better. In some interfaith marriages I have known in Africa and in the United States, the religiously different parents have raised the children primarily in one parent's tradition but with a healthy respect for the faith tradition of the other parent. I think that is better than raising the children in no tradition at all and leaving it up to them when they grow up to decide what they are going to do religiously. I would hazard a guess that most will do nothing at all." (From the Nov. 11, 2014, McGinley Lecture at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York by Jesuit Father Patrick Ryan, the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham. The speech on interfaith marriages appears in the Feb. 12 edition of Origins, CNS Documentary Service.)

Perspectives on Globalization: "Being against globalization is like being against electricity. . . . [Globalization can mean] a new internationalism, linking worldwide financial networks -- the McDonaldization of world culture, some would say the WalMartization of culture. . . . [It can also mean] the possibility for human solidarity. . . . For less than one day's military spending we could eliminate malaria in Africa. . . . For one week's military spending we could provide education for all the people in Africa who have never attended school. . . . [Justice can be defined as] a right relationship. . . . That's what Christ came for -- to bring us into right relationships again." (Quotations excerpted from a Feb. 10 Catholic News Service report on a Feb. 7 keynote speech by Holy Cross Father Daniel Groody to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, held in Washington. Father Groody is director of Immigration Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame Institute for Latino Studies.)

5. Vatican Releases Homiletic Directory

"Often, for many faithful, it is precisely the homily, considered as good or bad, interesting or boring, that is the yardstick by which the entire [liturgical ] celebration is judged," Cardinal Robert Sarah said during a Feb. 10 Vatican press conference at which the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments released its new Homiletic Directory. He is the congregation's prefect.

British Archbishop Arthur Roche, the congregation's secretary, also spoke during the press conference. It is important that "a homily isn't boring," he said. Pointing to the homilies of Pope Francis, Archbishop Roche commented that "there is nothing boring" about them. "There is always something that challenges people. This is the point."

The new directory clearly is influenced by "The Joy of the Gospel," Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation responding to the work of the 2012 world Synod of Bishops on evangelization and the word of God. At the time of this writing, translations of the Homiletic Directory still are under way at the Vatican.

Cardinal Sarah stressed, as "the first fact to bear in mind," that a homily "is directly linked to the sacred Scriptures, especially the Gospel, and is enlightened by them." He mentioned the kind of presentation it is, moreover, stating that a homily "is not a mere discourse like any other, but rather a speech inspired by the word of God that resounds in an assembly of believers, in the context of liturgical action, with a view to learning to put into practice the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The Homiletic Directory includes suggestions for tying specific Sunday readings to church teaching in a variety of areas, but it holds, at the same time, that the homily is not an occasion to "address some issue completely unrelated to the liturgical celebration and its readings" or to "do violence to the texts provided by the church by twisting them to fit some preconceived idea."

According to the directory, "the homily is not catechetical instruction, even if catechesis is an important dimension of the homily." True, the homilist's personal experience is of value in a homily, but it says "the homily should express the faith of the church and not simply the priest's own story."

"In the broadest sense," the directory states, "the homily is a discourse about the mysteries of faith and the standards of Christian life."

Accenting the importance of time spent preparing a homily, Cardinal Sarah commented that preparation requires study and prayer, experience of God and knowledge of the community that is being addressed.

Montfort Missionary Father Corrado Maggioni, the liturgy congregation's undersecretary, said during the press conference that when it comes to preparing homilies, the laity can be of help. He said, "We priests may need someone to tell us, 'It's too long,' 'It's too repetitive' or maybe, 'Little notes might help you not go off on a thousand tangents.'"

The Homiletic Directory suggests that the homily during Eucharistic celebrations "in some sense parallels the distribution of the Lord's body and blood to the faithful during the Communion rite." For, "in the homily God's holy word is 'distributed' for the nourishment of his people."

A homilist should show people how God's word is being fulfilled in their midst, how it calls them to growth and conversion and how it prepares them to celebrate the Eucharist, the directory says.

6. What Does "Spirituality" Mean?

"How will we know when we have made a choice in line with the will of God?" That is just one of many basic concerns about Christian life addressed in a new document on spirituality issued shortly before Lent this year by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales. The spirituality document can be located online at: www.catholicnews.org.uk/Home/News/Catholic-Spirituality.

"We can say that there are some things that stand out as the characteristics of good choices. We shall know we have probably made a right choice if these criteria are evident," the document says, explaining that:

"Good choices never isolate us from other people.

"Good choices lead to human flourishing.

"Good choices are about generosity of spirit.

"Good choices give us a sense of 'rightness.'

"Good choices help us to see things in a new and life-giving way.

"Good choices help us deal with our inner demons.

"Good choices help us live in a more integrated way."

Naturally, "we can never be 100 percent sure when we make a decision that, in the end, it will turn out as we thought," the document comments. But, it says, "even if, with hindsight, we can see that the choice was not right, if we made it in good faith we should not blame ourselves. God will still be working in us. Like Peter, we can humbly acknowledge what has happened to us and move on."

The chairman of the British bishops' Spirituality Committee discussed the reasons for issuing the new document on spirituality. "The word 'spirituality' now is bandied around in all sorts of different contexts and can really mean anything from body piercing to prayer, meditation and contemplation," Bishop Brian Noble said Jan. 30. "We wanted to introduce some clarity" on the meaning of spirituality, he said. The spirituality document, he explained, takes a "read-and-reflect" approach to learning more about Catholic spirituality, but it is more "a pastoral-devotional" than "an academic study of spirituality," he said. "The aim is that people can enter prayerfully into what we mean by spirituality as Catholics."

Each of the document's six chapters begins "by relating prayer and spirituality to our everyday experiences," the bishop noted. "Perhaps what's been lacking is a concentration on developing that personal relationship of each individual with Christ," he added.

7. Goals for Faith-Based Higher Education

Faith-based colleges and universities help students to recognize not just what their own values are, but to realize "there are values that people share," said John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America in Washington. His observations during a symposium at the National Press Club in Washington sponsored by Baptist-run Baylor University in Waco, Texas, were discussed in a Feb. 5 Catholic News Service report.

A faith-based higher education "is not just about imparting education and passing exams. We want to raise up free and autonomous individuals with more than just knowledge and skills," he told the participants, adding that "we are forming students in wisdom and virtue."

"We help students look at life's big questions and say, 'Perhaps these [values taught at religious institutions] are some of the answers you can look at,'" Garvey explained. He said, "We help our students advance in wisdom and virtue, and we give them the ethical foundations to make their judgments."

Do faith-based institutions of higher education inhibit academic freedom? Addressing that concern, a notion that he characterized as "hard to grasp," Garvey said that the theory of an expanding universe, often called "the Big Bang Theory," was developed by Msgr. Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian priest, astronomer and physics professor. Moreover, he said, the science of modern genetics was established by Gregor Mendel, a German Augustinian friar.

Another symposium speaker, Richard Joel, said his university insists that "education is meant to ennoble and enable." Joel is president of Jewish-run Yeshiva University in New York City. He commented that while higher education has the task of preparing students to compete in a global economy, there must be an emphasis on "the rules of engagement." He added that students "must be prepared to make a good living and also be prepared to live a good life."

Joel said that his university takes the perspective that students should "invest in ideas, grow and explore thoughts." At the same time, he said, there is the conviction that "we have an ethos, values, and we have confidence that our ideals can confront ideas and hopefully shape them."

"We give our students a mandate to matter in the world and to reach out to others," said Joel.