Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Holy Father's visit, so far

As I watch the Liturgy from St. Patrick's, one conclusion for sure: this Pope IS what he says, and seems to be a gentleman of transparency and humility. Highlights:
  • This visit is a working visit. All those gaps in the public, televised schedule mean, of course, that a great deal of Church and Church-State business is being transacted. Not that that doesn't go on as a matter of course with such visits, but it seems more so this time. And, there are surprises that confound the secular press: the visit with the abuse victims.
  • With liturgies at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and St. Patrick's Cathedral, we're also reminded that the visit is to the historic Catholic Church in the United States as well as today's faith family. We have some pretty worship spaces here, new and older.
  • In the UN address: It is not fitting that a believer should set aside religious conviction in order to participate in the full exercise of citizenship. A truthful, pointed and courageous note in a fascinating exposition of natural right and natural law. He didn't hide his learning here, but gave us a peek into the brilliance of his scholarly insight.
  • The homily at St. Patrick's: The concluding point was that the clergy and faithful should be models of humility, leaders in resolving and setting aside all ancient sources of conflict. There was something beautiful here. Perhaps those dioceses in the decaying Northeast will find hope and renewal. The Church as a society must rebuild from the ground up in many of these areas.
  • The Liturgy at Nationals' Stadium: There was an intimacy about it, highlighted by the closeness allowed the faithful as the Holy Father walked the last leg of the processional and recessional parades. He also appears to have a great serenity at these moments, something which requires trust, fearlessness and a love of the faithful.
  • A little bit of Latin and "romanism," but graceful and not over-bearing. I think the point is to give a model for the future, and an invitation. There are those who expected something more heavy-handed in this regard. Befitting the environment, there was some incredible classical hymnody and sacred music at St. Pat's.
  • Pope Benedict seems to be more at ease as the journey continues. He is a young 81 years old.
  • The multi-dimensional, multi-faceted complexity of the Catholic Church in this country is on display, reflecting and even providing a paradigm for the carrying forward of the American experiment. The Holy Father did say something about this in the St. Pat's homily. A harmony that is forged out of the creative tension of diverse elements and interests will be better and stronger in the long run.
  • Speaking of unity and disunity, his point about the post-Vatican II Church was interesting. I don't recall this tone from anyone else, even John Paul. Both Wojtyla and Ratzinger were very involved in the Council. (There is available on the internet a photo of Joseph Ratzinger and Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner taken at the time of the Council. They're both in secular business suits.) They seem to have different takes on it. Benedict is certainly correct at least in this: it remains a strong and urgent need to find the deeper unity at the heart of the Council's inspired documents, and build from there. As with the facing of the abuse crisis, his honest acknowledgment of the present situation clears the way for an integral, rather than formal, collegiality in the Church. There are seeds for the future here.
  • On the point of renewal: the older nuns present are the Vatican II sisters, in their secular "American" dress and intense address to the world; the younger nuns are the ones in traditional habits, serene, joyful and multicultural, yet very purposeful in the exercise of their communities' charisms.
  • "My answer to all you have given me in this visit is my blessing at the end of the Holy Mass."
  • Father Neuhaus: "a real pastoral intervention."
"We must move forward together in hope."

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