Potpourri of Popery, January 11 Edition

His Epiphany homily is a perfect example of why I'm in love with Benedict XVI. He ties the feast to Vatican II (the purpose of which was to impel a new epiphany) and asks who are the Magi today? His answer: rulers, "men of thought and science," and leaders of non-Christian religions. His message to these groups he takes from documents of Vatican II. For example, to rulers he says:
Your task is to be in the world the promoters of order and peace among men. But never forget this: It is God, the living and true God, who is the Father of men. And it is Christ, his eternal Son, who came to make this known to us and to teach us that we are all brothers. He it is who is the great artisan of order and peace on earth, for he it is who guides human history and who alone can incline hearts to renounce those evil passions which beget war and misfortune"

To intellectuals and scientists:
"Continue your search without tiring and without ever despairing of the truth", and this, in fact, is the great danger: losing interest in the truth and seeking only action, efficiency and pragmatism! "Recall the words of one of your great friends, St Augustine: "Let us seek with the desire to find, and find with the desire to seek still more'. Happy are those who, while possessing the truth, search more earnestly for it in order to renew it, deepen it and transmit it to others. Happy also are those who, not having found it, are working toward it with a sincere heart.
His favorite theme --that we all must be disciples of truth-- comes out fully when he reflects on the difference between the Magi & Herod:
How was this possible? What convinced the Magi that the Child was "the King of
the Jews" and the King of the peoples? There is no doubt that they were persuaded by the sign of the star that they had seen "in its rising" and which had come to rest precisely over the place where the Child was found (cf. Mt 2: 9). But even the star would not have sufficed had the Magi not been people inwardly open to the truth.
In comparison with King Herod, beset with his interests of power and riches, the Magi were directed toward the goal of their quest and when they found it, although they were cultured men, they behaved like the shepherds of Bethlehem: they recognized the sign and adored the Child
Take home message:
Christ is light, and light cannot darken but can only illuminate, brighten, reveal. No one, therefore, should be afraid of Christ and his message! And if, down through history, Christians as limited people and sinners have sometimes betrayed him by their behaviour, this makes it even clearer that the light is Christ and that the Church reflects it only by remaining united to him.
  • Next up is the homily for the Lord's Baptism --the Pope baptized 13 people during the mass. He takes the opportunity to offer those present a solid catechesis on the meaning of baptism and all its elements. It's wonderful, but not easily excerpted. Do read!
  • Here are the corresponding Angelus messages for the feasts of Epiphany & Baptism of the Lord.
The audience on New Year's Day analyzed the angels' songs. Interesting:
"Good will" (eudokia), in common language, makes one think of the "good will" of men, but here rather is indicated God's "good will" toward men, which knows no limits. Here, therefore, is the message of Christmas: With Jesus' birth, God has manifested his good will toward everyone.

And yesterday's, returning to Catechesis on the early church, was on the martyrdom of St. Stephen. B16 packs a lot into a few paragraphs: the diaconate, the evidence for apostolic succession from the Bible, the fulfillment of the law, Paul's taking up of Stephen's mantle. One tidbit:
Stephen's story tells us much. For example, it teaches us that we must never disassociate the social commitment of charity from the courageous proclamation of the faith. He was one of the seven entrusted above all with charity. But it was not possible to disassociate charity from proclamation. Thus, with charity, he proclaims Christ crucified, to the point of also accepting martyrdom. This is the first lesson that we can learn from the figure of St. Stephen: Charity and proclamation always go together.
  • Here's B16s state of the world address to the Vatican diplomatic corps. (Things not so good, but there's reason for hope. And Iran: shape up, buddy).
His Christmas letter to Christians in the Middle East is beautiful --and tough, in a way. He takes the role of the mother of the Maccabees --encouraging them in their martyrdom and asking them not to flee. If you want to understand what the Pope thinks about Christianity's role in the Middle East, read this.
Hoo boy. There's a lot going on in the Catholic world:
  • First ever visit of a Vietnamese prime minister to the Vatican
  • Pakistan is purging its textbooks of hatred; Christians grateful
  • In Poland, the strange case of Bishop Wielgus, who resigned as Archbishop of Warsaw at his own installation ceremony. Seems his "collaboration" with Commies was more formal than actual, but everyone's asking what this indicates about Vatican vetting of episcopal appointments. George Weigel summarizes the situation here.
  • A priest missionary in the Philippines has gone missing.
  • And here at home, some news on prominent Catholics. Rick Santorum landed here. Sen. Casey expected to vote against embryonic stem cell research. And Nancy Pelosi on her faith.