Monthly Archives: May 2008

Take, Lord, and Receive

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.
All I have and call my own.
Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.
I restore it all to you and surrender it wholly
to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and grace
and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.

-St Ignatius of Loyola

In the musical style of Paul Melley (click Take, Lord, Receive)

Hoffnung means hope…


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Our Lady of Guadalupe

The 30th of May is the feast of Juan Diego, one of the most important saints for Latin America, albeit one that has been sparking discussion over centuries.

Born Cuauhtlatoatzin, Juan Diego, a native Nahua, received baptism in 1524 together with his wife by a Franciscan missionary. His story could have ended there. In 1531, however, he witnessed a 4-day apparition of the Virgin Mary on the hill of Tonantzin. The Blessed Mother sent him to tell the bishop to build a church for her on that very hill. Bishop Zumarraga, sceptical in the beginning, had trouble believing the story of the simple Indian widower, and sent him away. During the second apparition he witnessed, roses grew out of the ground where the Blessed Mother had stood, and Juan Diego collected them as proof of the supernatural. When he opened his coat, in which he had carried the roses to the Bishop, an image of the Virgin’s face appeared on the cloth. The Bishop believed and had the church built immediately.

Our Lady of Guadalupe has helped the Church in Latin America beyond all measures. People came to believe ever strongly, and the understandable original resistance against the foreign missionaries faded away after talk of the miracle spread all over the continent. The fact that the apparitions took place on the hill of Tonantzin, the Actez goddess called “our venerable Mother”, was a catalyzing factor as well. The Spanish had only just destroyed the old Actez temple on the same ground – the now following apparitions to a native Indian justified the claim of the Christian Missionaries in the eyes of the natives, and they came to believe that the only venerable Mother was the ever-Virgin, Mother of God.

But obviously, where there are miracles, there are sceptics. The history of Our Lady of Guadalupe has not stopped to be the source for conspiracy theories, and claims that Bishop Zumarraga made up the entire story by himself are still being heard.

The strand of criticism has never stopped the faithful from believing. Long before the Vatican officially recognized the apparitions in 1745, Our Lady of Guadalupe had become a destination for Latin American pilgrims. Today, as I just read, it is the largest Roman Catholic shrine in the world, with some 20 million pilgrims per annum. For resons of comparison, the shrine in Lourdes receives 6 million pilgrims a year, Fatima 2 million, Altötting 1.5 million, and Santiago de Compostela 12 million. The Santiago figures obviously have to be scrutinized carefully, as the recent popularity of walking to Santiago for reasons of lifestyle and trend is definitely distorting the figure of actual pilgrims.

From all I read, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s growth doews not come from detailed marketing strategies or heavy advertisement. It is rather an increase in the thirst for God and for devotion – and of course increased mobility of the faithful – that accounts for the huge amount of pilgrims coming to Mexico each year on a journey of faith. If time and money ever permit, I feel definitely called to do the same.

Hoffnung means hope…

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Deus Caritas Est

Deus Caritas Est

Many of my fellow Catholics have read Benedict’s first Encyclica the minute it came out and the days and weeks after. It was much talked about, discussed, praised, welcomed. However, when browsing the internet, I sometimes get the impression like some of its content went unnoticed. Let’s take a look:

The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being. (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 25a)

What Benedict states here is by no means new. The entire encyclica is not a work with originality claim. On the contrary, it deals with the oldest identity questions of the Catholic Church. Charity is a part of Christian identity, not by choice but by definition. As the bride of Christ, the Church is called to love and to help. In fact, that very part of the Church’s identity stems directly from Jesus’ final commandment (Jn 15:12).

Keeping the state of our planet in mind, it seems obvious and self-explanatory where the focus of Christian efforts should lie these days.

The Pope obviously stated the other two fundamental tasks of the Church’s identity, the kerygma and the leitourgia. While those two are undoubtedly extremely important as well, they seem to have a huge edge over the third one in terms of what is being dealt with on Catholic blogs these days – especially the latter.

This is by no means to say that spreading the word of God and discussing the liturgical challenges the Church faces in an age of post-counciliar confusion is a bad thing. On the contrary, it is much needed and appreciated.

But, in all honesty, sometimes I wish that when browsing the Catholic blogosphere, I would find a tad bit more (positive) articles about the work of Caritas International and the Order of Malta in Myanmar than (negative and mocking articles) about the latest potato-head puppet liturgy by Call to Action. Those that frequently browse through the blogosphere themselves will easily understand what I am talking about.

Hoffnung means hope…

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Today’s not like any other day. Shengri kuaile, hermelin!

Hoffnung means hope…

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Childlike abandonment

Today’s Gospel Reading from Mt 6;24-34 is probably one of the most known:

“Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?”

It is a short part full of incredible advice. Why worry? Too many times we get frustrated in our lives, thinking that all depends on us and that we’re jsut not up to it. And honestly, it’s all just a waste of time.

>>Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’. …Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”<< (Catechism § 305)

Hoffnung means hope…

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The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords

In the spirit of Corpus Christi, which, sadly enough, is not a public holiday in the Netherlands, I’d like to share with you one of the greatest videos about the celebration of our faith that I have seen in the last few years: Grassroot’s “God in the streets of New York”. Lets not be afraid to take our faith to the streets.

“They stopped, and they looked for one second, and they met Jesus by the eye – and their lives could have been changed forever”

Hoffmung means hope…

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