Father Cantalamessa on Pentecost and the love of God

Back in January of 2008, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, preacher to the papal household, gave two talks in Los Angeles at a gathering of the SCRC about Pentecost and loving the Church.

I’ve posted the first of the two talks as an audio podcast. Here’s an excerpt:

Last year, in England, there was a consultation of all the charismatic renewal in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, to make a balance of the first forty years of the charismatic renewal, and in preparation for this consultation, a survey was distributed with many questions. One of the questions was: “What do you think has been the greatest blessing the charismatic renewal has brought to your life?” Well, the answer, almost unanimous, was the love of God. “For the first time, I discovered what it means to be son of God / daughter of God.” And any time I myself have an occasion to meet people who have received the baptism in the Spirit, I ask them, “What remains to you after years of this experience?” Usually the most common answer is the love of God. The love of God.

This is the miracle of miracles. Usually we are looking for miracles, but this is the greatest miracle: God loving us. When we know, at least a little, who God is and who we are, this is the greatest miracle. And it’s difficult to believe. Apparently, this is the most easy thing to believe. But on the contrary, very few people reach this position of really believing that God loves them… personally, eternally, in such a way that we have no idea. So Pentecost, my dear brothers and sisters, should be this: a rediscovery of the love of God for us. We are more preoccupied with how we love God, but this comes later.

One of the most important contributions of the charismatic renewal to the whole theology of the Church is precisely to restoring this order. Before the commandments, before the duties, comes grace — the gift. This shows the essential difference between Christianity and any other religion or religious philosophy. Any religion starts telling people what they must do to reach the final goal (nirvana, and so on.) Christianity doesn’t begin by telling people what they must do. It begins by telling what God has done for them. Grace!

Somebody could say, “Yes, but isn’t the first and most important commandment this: ‘You must love your God with all your soul and all your strength?'” Yes, this is the highest commandment. But the order of commandments is not the first order, it’s the second one. Before the order of commandments, there is the level or the order of gift: grace. And we have contributed to this rediscovery which is the secret of making evangelization effective nowadays. The power of Christianity is grace.

The whole talk is worth a listen. You can download the talk directly to your browser here, or subscribe to my feed using iTunes, or simply look up the episode on Podcast Alley.

via crucis

I remember seeing Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ for the first time at the Arclight Hollywood on Ash Wednesday of 2004. Father Willy Raymond, CSC, had offered to take the staff of Family Theater Productions after the celebration of Mass. So we all processed into the theater with ashes on our foreheads, to the bewildered stares of some. (You could see them working it out in their minds: oh, those must be the Passion groupies. People dress up like Frodo Baggins before a Lord of the Rings premiere, so this must be what the Christians do before seeing their movie…)

(c) 2003 Icon Distribution

At any rate, the film made such an impression on me that I decided to use it as my Lenten meditation: I went and saw the film every Friday of Lent that year, just as I would ordinarily pray the stations of the cross.

I had already planned to host a stations of the cross hike for young adults in the Verdugo Mountains on Palm Sunday. The day before the hike, I realized that I had no text to share with others as we prayed along the way. However, the images from Gibson’s film were etched clearly in my mind and suggested many points of meditation, so I decided to compose my own via crucis based upon the film.

I supplemented my meditations with some of my favorite quotes from various spiritual writers: Dietrich von Hildebrand, St. Josemaria Escriva, St. Ambrose of Milan, (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, St. Leo the Great, Karol Wojytla, St. John of the Cross, Pope John Paul II, an ancient homily on Holy Saturday, and a closing prayer from (then venerable, now blessed) John Henry Cardinal Newman.

I’ve made the resulting text available on my website in multiple formats:

PS – Another multimedia stations of the cross — much more brief (around 4 minutes long, in Flash format) — is still available on my site here. I used some music from Schindler’s List for this one, which somehow seemed appropriate. I am reminded of a quote from Hildegard Brem which the Pope includes in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Part II: “The Jews themselves are a living homily to which the Church must draw attention, since they call to mind the Lord’s suffering.”

virtual Triduum retreat

Cross_iconEaster Triduum, Holy Triduum, or Paschal Triduum is the period of three days from Holy Thursday (seen as beginning with the service of the preceding evening) to Easter Sunday. It begins with the Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper and ends with evening prayer on Sunday. (source)

If you want to take a virtual retreat over the next few days, I’ve posted all of the audio recordings from the RCIA Hollywood program’s 2008 Triduum retreat:

The Triduum – Dr. Eric Hansen

The Stations of the Cross in Art – Dr. Eric Hansen

Good Friday at 3 PM: Miserere Mei Deus – Fr. Don Woznicki

Suffering – Barbara Nicolosi

Mary, the Bread of Life, and the Mystery of Holy Saturday – Clayton Emmer

The Last Things – Clayton Emmer

Some of the audio is not very high-quality. My apologies. It wasn’t my intention to make listening a penitential experience. I was still learning how to use my new recording equipment, and wasn’t aware of all the strategies for getting a good quality recording from a small file.

Archbishop Dolan and Father Groeschel on the HHS mandate

During the most recent episode of Fr. Groeschel’s Sunday Night Prime television show on EWTN, Archbishop (Cardinal Designate) Timothy Dolan spoke about the January 20 HHS mandate for universal coverage of contraceptive service in health insurance plans, with a very narrow religious exemption.

NOTE: The show was recorded before the February 10 announcement finalizing the mandate with modifications to place the burden of coverage on the insurance companies rather than directly on the employers.

Here are a few excerpts:

Twice [President Obama] has invited me to the Oval Office, not because of who I am as Timothy Dolan, but the first time because I was the new archbishop of New York and, just at the beginning of November, because I am now president of the [US] bishop’s conference. And he started off both of those meetings by saying, “You need to hear me say I have the highest regard for the work of the faith-based communities, particularly the Catholic Church in the United States.” In November, he said to me, “I have high regard for your work in education, healthcare, and charity. Number two, I don’t want my administration to impede that work in any way whatsoever. And number three, I consider the protection of conscience and religious liberty as one of my highest duties.”

Now when he called me on January 20th to tell me that he was not going to mitigate these strangling restrictions from HHS (Health and Human Services), I said, “Sir, can I remind you of  our — of what you told me in the Oval Office — didn’t you?” And he said, “Yes, I did.” And I said, “Can you tell me how what you’ve just told me gels with those three assurances you gave me? This is not… something’s gotta give here.”

* * *

I was asked this morning on a news program: “The White House seems to be hinting at a compromise. Are you open to a compromise?” I said, “I’m not open to a compromise. This is a huge mistake. You don’t compromise with a mistake. There’s no 50-yard line here, and you don’t compromise on principles.

I’m certainly open to an invitation towards a conciliatory approach where we would start afresh and where the President would say, “I want to make this work; how can we do it?” And I said, Father Benedict, “Darn it. He’s already got a graceful exit here.”

In the mandates themselves — which we find terribly choking and restrictive and I think are basically unconstitutional — in those mandates, guess what? The mandates themselves allow for a religious exemption. So they’ve already said, “We will grant a religious exemption.” Our problem is the exemption is so restrictive that nobody can meet up to it. You know what they’ve said? “We’ll exempt you from what we consider these immoral policies if you only hire Catholics, you only serve Catholics, and one of your major purposes is to convert people to the Catholic faith… not just Catholic, but any religion.”

We’re saying, “Wait a minute. We don’t serve people, teach people, feed people , heal people because they’re Catholic; we do it because we are. Alright? We don’t ask for baptismal certificates at the soup line down at St. Francis. Your friars don’t ask, do they?”

* * *

…They’ve already admitted that a religious exemption is called for. It’s just so strict that who can obey it? Sister Carol Keehan herself — as you know, she’s terribly disappointed because she had been cooperative with the President earlier on the healthcare stuff — she said, “Maybe a Catholic  housekeeper would fit into this.” This might apply to housekeepers in a Catholic parish. Other than that nobody’s going to comply. And Father Larry Snyder, the president of Catholic Charities USA said, “Even Jesus wouldn’t meet those requirements.” He didn’t ask for religious identification when he fed the 5,000.

But my point, Father, is that if he’s looking for a… graceful exit, he’s already admitted that an exemption is called for. Just give it latitude. And the federal government shouldn’t try to define the exemption. The federal government should simply say, “We would respect the right of religions to absent themselves from these requirements because they find them unconscionable.” Doesn’t that make sense to you?

* * *

When the President — on January 20th, when he was kind enough to call me with the disturbing news that he’s going to leave these mandates in — he says, “But Archbishop, don’t worry. We’re going to give you a year to decide how you can obey these.” And I said, “Sir, wait a minute. Be precise now. What’s the nature of this year before these mandates take effect? Does that mean we as a church can approach you for exemptions?” Now, I’d have trouble with that, because it’s not like… I mean, what have we come to: some grand government now that we have to go to them for permission to practice our faith? We’ve been through that, alright, in history, and that doesn’t work. That’s why this country was founded, to avoid that kind of stuff. I thought, “Does he mean that?” I said, “But sir, you’re saying that we’ve got a year now where there might be some opening to a wider exemption?” He said, “Oh, no no no. The mandates are going to go into effect; you’ve just got a year to figure out how you can abide by them. ” I said, “Sir, you’re telling me you’re giving me a year to figure out how to violate my conscience. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t need a year; I need 10 seconds. We can’t do it.”

Now if this happens, and we disobey, there are fines. Father Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities USA has said that as far as he can figure out, if Catholics Charities said “We can’t obey this. We can’t supply this type of insurance to our employees and our people, that we feel would violate our conscience,” the fines for Catholic Charities alone would be $140 million dollars a year. Money that could go you know where.

Arcbishop Dolan’s account of how the President described the purpose of the one year delay doesn’t really square with how President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius described it on February 10.

President Obama:

“And that’s why, from the very beginning of this process, I spoke directly to various Catholic officials, and I promised that before finalizing the rule as it applied to them, we would spend the next year working with institutions like Catholic hospitals and Catholic universities to find an equitable solution that protects religious liberty and ensures that every woman has access to the care that she needs.”

Kathleen Sebelius:

I think what people missed is that the announcement that I made two weeks ago suggested that we were moving ahead with the exemption that had been originally drafted, but, also, we would spend time reaching out to stakeholders, to religious employers who objected to offering this coverage, and we would spend a year finding arrangements that both respected their religious liberty, but made sure at the end of the day that women employees of these institutions, whether she was a university professor or a nurse or a janitor, could make their own determination about very important preventive health care.

The full interview between Archbishop Dolan and Father Groeschel is worth a listen.

Full podcast available here.

Communications Day 2011

I was able to attend a day-long conference last Thursday on leveraging media technologies in the service of the Church’s mission. This event, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, was very well planned, well attended, and well executed.

Matthew Warner of flockNote.com, who was one of the presenters and panelists, blogged about his experience here.

When I have more time, I’ll post some highlights.

I recorded all of the talks using my iPhone. While the quality of some of the audio is not great — especially (and unfortunately) the lunchtime presentation by John Allen, Jr. — I’ve made all of it available as an audio podcast feed here:


The Catholic Spirit has many of the resources from the day available at the following link:


Definitely worth your time if you’re interested in ways to serve your parish or church organization with some of the new media of communication. Lots to think about.