Monday, January 29, 2007

Photo Caption Contest

With the prospect of this coming Sunday's Super Bowl XLI matchup between the Colts and the Bears, Indianapolis is working itself, even in the midst of a blast of bitterly cold air from the north, into a near dionysian frenzy about their hometown NFL team, as this photo from today's rally in downtown Indianapolis attests.

(Ok, the reference to "dionysian frenzy" was about the closest I could get to a religious connection with this photo. Maybe readers could do better than my efforts in the comment box with their own captions.)

Go Colts!!!

In case you haven't already, do go check out reporter Sean Gallagher's excellent story about the Colt's chaplain: Father Peter Gallagher, one of our archdiocesan priests.


The Indianapolis Colts had just completed a 38-34 heart-pounding victory on Jan. 21 that would send them to the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 in Miami.

With blue and white confetti streaming through the air, team owner Jim Irsay and head coach Tony Dungy stood on a stage on the field at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis to receive the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which is awarded each year to the winner of the American Football Conference Championship.

At that moment—arguably the greatest in the history of the Colts’ franchise since its move to Indianapolis in 1984—both men expressed thanks and praise to God.

Standing nearby, Father Peter Gallagher, the Colts’ chaplain, appreciated their words.

“I was grateful that [Irsay] said that and I thought, ‘Man, thank you,’ ” said Father Gallagher.

All of us here at The Criterion wish Father Peter the best as he travels to Miami this week -- and more importantly, we wish the best (and victory) for our Indianapolis Colts.

Go blue!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I'll have a slice of piety, please

You can get the CNS news brief of this story on the CNS Web site, or the for the next 30 days you can view the full version on our Criterion site:

English cardinal calls for revival of traditional practices of piety

An excerpt:

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said he lamented the decrease in acts of piety such as fasting, abstinence, Stations of the Cross, praying the rosary and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament because they are a "good means of deepening our faith."

The cardinal said the acts, as well as confession, which is also in decline, were "truly part of Catholic tradition and devotion and are a nourishment to our faith, and I would encourage them," he said in a letter read at Masses Jan. 7 in the Archdiocese of Westminster.

He said there are many other ways in which Catholics "can develop those practices which are truly rooted in Catholic tradition" and bring them closer to Jesus.

"How many people pray before meals or, indeed, after them, recognizing that all we have is a gift from God?" he asked. "How many parents pray, not only for your children, but with your children as they grow up?

It is indeed sad to see these things practiced so little -- either because of our busyness or skepticism of the good they do. Good job, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor!

Monday, January 08, 2007

An Earthquake in Poland

Tremors had been felt throughout the Polish Church for months as speculation increased about the number and identity of the its clergy who had collaborated with the secret police of the country's former communist regime.

But on Jan. 7, those tremors turned into an earthquake of major proportions when Archbishop-elect of Warsaw Stanislaw Wielgus announced his resignation from that office at the start of the Mass at which he was to be installed as Poland's leading prelate.

Ever since his appointment to the office by Pope Benedict XVI had been announced in December, there had been accusations made that he had collaborated with Poland's secret police for more than two decades and subsequent calls for his resignation.

John Thavis, Catholic News Service's Rome bureau chief, has written a fine analysis piece picking apart well the mult-faceted implications of this historic turn of events in the history of the Polish Church:

..."disaster" is how it's viewed inside the Vatican, for several reasons:

-- Archbishop Wielgus became the highest-ranking church leader to admit that he agreed to spy for an East European communist regime, raising suspicions about the rest of the hierarchy in the eyes of the simple faithful. To many, the archbishop's qualifier that he "never inflicted any harm on anyone" seemed disingenuous.

-- The debacle was played out in public, crowned by the painfully embarrassing "installation" Mass Jan. 7 that turned into a resignation Mass. It was the first time anyone could remember that an archbishop was sent home on the day of his scheduled installation, an "emeritus" after only two days in office.

-- Pope Benedict was drawn directly into the controversy. A Vatican statement Dec. 21 expressed the pope's "full trust" in Archbishop Wielgus and "full awareness" of his past. But sources now say it appears the archbishop had not told the pope everything -- that he had admitted contacts with the secret police, but not that he had agreed to collaborate in a spying effort.

And now that the initial earthquake is over, the aftershocks have started. According to this AP article posted on the Web site of the Houston Chronicle, the Father Janusz Bielanski, rector of Krakow's Wawel Cathedral, arguably Poland's most historic church, has resigned from his office today after allegations had been made about his possible collaboration with secret police agents.

What will happen next? It's likely that the earth under the feet of the Polish Church will be shaking for quite some time.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Who is a Church father?

Basing itself on passages from the New Testament, this online article from the 1917 edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia described a Church father as "a teacher of spiritual things, by whose means the soul of man is born again into the likeness of Christ."

It goes on to note that in the Western Church, the last of the Church fathers was St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) and in the East St. John Damascene (d. ca. 754) was the last. It goes on to note that, for some in the West, the line of the fathers extends as far as St. Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153).

However, it quickly dismisses such a notion saying that the limits of the period of the fathers into the high Middle Ages is "evidently too wide."

I would tend to agree. As with defining just about any category, the broader the definition becomes, the less meaning that it really has.

That having been said, if my own preferences in reading the works of those who are teacherrs of spiritual things would be a guide in determining who is a Church father, I would certainly include John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1891).

Now for general usage, that is certainly stretching the limits of the period of the fathers too far. But in my own experience, his works have certainly been a means by which my soul is born again into the likeness of Christ.

Granting that different people respond to different writers in different ways, I still would not hestitate to recommend the writings of Cardinal Newman, who may be now on the verge of being beatified, to anyone who wishes to grow both in the knowledge of the faith but also in how that knowledge is to be applied to the way the faith is lived out from day to day.

To that end, I heartily refer those interested in reading the works of Newman (both before he became Catholic in 1845 as well as those subsequent to his reception into the full communion of the Church) to the Web site, The Newman Reader, maintained by the National Institute for Newman Studies.

Cardinal Newman was a prolific writer and I believe that all of his published writings as well as biographic material about him in the public domain are all housed at this terrificly useful site. Visit it and enjoy the spiritual insights to be gained from this father (?) of the Church.