Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Pope Francis tells La Civilta Cattolica to be concerned with dialogue, discernment, and frontier

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It is usual with a new Roman Pontiff that a meeting happens with the Jesuits who publish the journal La Civiltà Cattolica; Pope Francis met on June 14, 2013 with the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Adolfo Nicolás and the editor, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, and their respective staff members. The bi-weekly journal is a highly regarded publication that has a unique relationship with the Holy See since 6 April 1850 in Naples.

La Civiltà Cattolica is Italy’s oldest journal; the articles communicate the Holy See’s point of view and is reviewed by the Vatican Secretary of State before they are published. The editorial policy works to confront significant problems of humanity, society and the Church, to publish articles on human, theological, philosophical, moral, social, cultural, political and literary formation, and they try to offer a chart important events related to Church life plus events concerning Italy and other nations.

Three controlling ideas that will direct La Civilta Cattolica: dialogue, discernment, and frontier.

The Pope’s address:

I am happy to meet with you, writers, your whole community, the Sisters and the staff of the administration of the House. Since 1850, the Jesuits of the Civiltà Cattolica have been engaged in a work that has a particular link with the Pope and the Apostolic See. My predecessors, meeting with you in audience, acknowledged many times how this link is an essential feature of your review. Today I would like to suggest three words to you that might help you in your endeavor.

The first is dialogue. You carry out an important cultural service. Initially the attitude and Civiltà Cattolica was combative and often, also, harshly combative, in tune with the general atmosphere of the time. Reviewing the 163 years of the review, one gathers a rich variety of positions, due be it to the changing of the historical circumstances, be it to the personality of the individual writers. Your fidelity to the Church still requires that you be hard against hypocrisies, fruit of a closed, sick heart, hard against this sickness. However, your main task is not to build walls but bridges; it is to establish a dialogue with all men, also with those who do not share the Christian faith, but “have the veneration of high human values,” and even “with those who oppose the Church and persecute her in various ways” (Gaudium et spes, 92).

There are so many human questions to discuss and share and it is always possible to approach the truth in dialogue, which is a  gift of God, and to enrich ourselves mutually. To dialogue means to be convinced that the other has something good to say, to make room for his point of view, for his opinion, for his proposals without falling, obviously, into relativism. And to dialogue it is necessary to lower one’s defenses and to open the doors. Continue your dialogue with the cultural, social and political institutions, also to offer your contribution to the formation of citizens who have at heart the good of all and work for the common good. The “Civilta cattolica” is the civilization of love, of mercy and of faith.

The second word is discernment. Your task is to gather and express the expectations, the desires, the joys and the dramas of our time, and to offer the elements for a reading of the reality in the light of the Gospel. The great spiritual questions are more alive today than ever, but there is need of someone to interpret them and to understand them. With humble and open intelligence, “seek and find God in all things,” as Saint Ignatius wrote. God is at work in the life of every man and in the culture: the Spirit blows where it will. Seek to discover what God has operated and how His work will proceed. A treasure of the Jesuits is in fact spiritual discernment, which seeks to recognize the presence of the Spirit of God in the human and cultural reality, the seed of His presence already planted in the events, in the sensibilities, in the desires, in the profound tensions of hearts and of the social, cultural and spiritual contexts. I recall something that Rahner said: the Jesuit is a specialist of discernment in the field of God and also in the field of the devil. One must not be afraid to continue in discernment to find the truth. When I read these observations of Rahner, they really struck me.

And to seek God in all things, in all fields of knowledge, of art, of science, of political, social and economic life, studies, sensibility and experience are necessary. Some of the subjects you address might not have an explicit relation with a Christian perspective, but they are important to appreciate the way that persons understand themselves and the world that surrounds them. Your informative observation must be broad, objective and timely. It is also necessary to give particular attention into the truth, goodness and beauty of God, which are always considered together, and are precious allies in the commitment to defend the dignity of man, in the building of peaceful coexistence and in protecting creation carefully. From this attention stems serene, sincere and strong judgment about events, illuminated by Christ. Great figures such as Matteo Ricci are a model of this. All this requires keeping the heart and mind open, avoiding the spiritual sickness of self-reference. Even the Church, when she becomes self-referencing, gets sick, grows old. May our sight, well fixed on Christ, be prophetic and dynamic towards the future: in this way, you will always be young and audacious in the reading of events!

The third word is frontier. The mission of a review of culture such as La Civilta Cattolica enters the contemporary cultural debate and proposes, in a serious and at the same time accessible way, the vision that comes from the Christian faith. The break between Gospel and culture is undoubtedly a tragedy (cf. Evangelii nuntiandi, 20). You are called to give your contribution to heal this break, which passes also through the heart of each one of you and of your readers. This ministry is typical of the mission of the Society of Jesus. With your reflections and your deeper, support the cultural and social processes, and all those going through difficult transitions, taking account also of the conflicts. Your proper place is the frontiers. This is the place of Jesuits. That which Paul VI, taken up by Benedict XVI, said of the Society of Jesus, is true for you also in a particular way today: “Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and acute fields, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, there was and is the confrontation between the burning exigencies of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, the Jesuits have been and are there.” Please, be men of the frontier, with that capacity that comes from God (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6). But do not fall into the temptation of taming the frontiers: you must go to the frontiers and not bring the frontiers home to varnish them a bit and tame them. In today’s world, subject to rapid changes and agitated by questions of great relevance for the life of the faith, a courageous commitment is urgent to educate to a faith of conviction and maturity, capable of giving meaning to life and of offering convincing answers to all those seeking God. It is a question of supporting the action of the Church in all fields of her mission. This year La Civilta Cattolica has been renewed: it has assumed a new graphic appearance, it can also be read in a digital version and it brings its readers together also in the social networks. These are also frontiers in which you are called to operate. Continue on this path!

Dear Fathers, I see young, less young and elderly among you. Yours is a unique review of its kind, which is born from a community of life and of studies; as in a harmonious choir, each one must have his voice and harmonize it with that of others. Strength, dear brothers! I am sure I can count on you. While I entrust you to the Madonna della Strada, I impart to you, writers, collaborators and Sisters, as well as to all readers of the review, my Blessing.

Music has the power of the heart

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It seems the only possible means to process the Boston tragedy which is being lived today gives voice to man’s desire to speaking with the Infinite,  speaking with the Triune. 

The heart is deeply moved by the power of music notes. Indeed, music has the power of the heart because it has the ability “to sense infallibly the true and the genuine.”

Some of my thinking on music recently has been informed by the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI who had a profound appreciation for music as reaching the inner depths of the souls. In his book, A New Song for the Lord, then Cardinal Ratzinger said, faith becoming music is part of the process of the Word becoming flesh (p.122 ). And in his book Salt of the Earth, he answers a statement about Mozart:

You are a great lover of Mozart.

Yes! Although we moved around a very great deal in my childhood, the family basically always remained in the area between the Inn and the Salzach. And the largest and most important and best parts of my youth I spent in Traunstein, which very much reflects the influence of Salzburg. You might say that there Mozart thoroughly penetrated our souls, and his music still touches me very deeply, because it is so luminous and yet at the same time so deep. His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence.

There aren’t too many experiences in life that you can claim to experience a “thoroughly penetrated our souls which also illumines the soul. Hence, what we experience in music is not mere entertainment.

In response to an email I sent about my friend Paul J. Murray’s this Sunday’s program, A Concert for Peace, a friend of mine, Jane, sent me this article because like many of us, she has been moved by the beauty of music. Like Jane, I, too, was moved by parts of this article this regard, and I recommend that you consider the author’s expertise.

Catholicism and evangelical Christianity are Religious Extremists, US Defense Department says

The US Department of Defense has now listed Catholics and Evangelical Christians as religious extremists, that is, religious terrorists. Catholics and Evangelicals are now lumped in the same list as are the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, the KKK and Hamas.

The slide presentation, in the context of talking about the rise of extremism, gives the impression that religious belief, whatever it is, and however it frames its claims for truth and how these truth claims are applied, are the same and to be rejected. Religious tenets can be widely different from another but that doesn’t mean they lead to violent actions. Ideas are not intolerant, people can be; faith is a way of knowing the world, a way of perceiving reality, faith relates to matters of salvation. It is true that we need “religious types” need to make sure that the faithful are properly taught what is held by the Church body. If you are interested, here is the offending presentation:  Extremism Presentation & Extremist Organizations.pdf
When I saw this news item the other day I had to say to myself that secularism has now gone to a new level of intolerance and ignorance.

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La Civiltà Cattolica will bridge Church and postmodern world

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La Civiltà Cattolica is one of the Church’s most important journals of informed opinion. It was founded on 6 April 1850 by a group of Jesuits from Naples and therefore Italy’s longest running journals. It now has a new look and approach through new efforts at renewal motivated by Pope Benedict when he spoke with the Journal staff in 2006 when he said, 
Here then, is where the mission of a cultural journal such as La Civiltà Cattolica fits in: active participation int he contemporary cultural debate, both to propose and at the same time to spread the Christian faith in a serious way. Its purpose is both to present it clearly and in fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church, and to defend without polemics the truth that is sometimes distorted by unfounded accusation directed at the Ecclesial Community. I would like to point out the Second Vatican Council as a beacon on the path that La Civiltà Cattolica is called to take.
The current pontificate of Francis will look to the Journal “to collect and express the expectations and needs of our time” and “to provide the elements for a reading of reality” that has “a particular attention to the truth, to goodness and to beauty.”
There are seven Jesuits full time work at La Civiltà Cattolica, plus another seven senior Jesuits who assist in the publication but it has an increasing international group of thinkers and writers. The journal has a print edition plus a digital presence.
English: Photo of fr. Antonio Spadaro taken in...
Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, 47, is the editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica and he serves as a consultor to several Church organizations. Father Spadaro also writes a well-received blog, CyberTeologia.
La Civiltà Cattolica can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

In defense of the Pope, La Civiltà Cattolica‘s is understood to be supportive of the Church by following the indications of the Second Vatican Council. As a journal of the Society of Jesuit and the Church its work to show a relationship faith and reason, faith and culture, faith and science, faith and the public order;to understand the world in which we live in light of the Incarnation. The Journal cuts across the various sectors of the intellectual, spiritual and cultural ambits showing a particular attentiveness with the Catholic Church through the Secretary of State;  La Civiltà Cattolica is considered to be not official but authoritative.

Vatican Radio’s piece on the new edition can be read here.
An interview with Father Antonio Spadaro and Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio is here.
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The God Particle to be discussed in NYC

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Crossroads Cultural Center AND the American Bible Society are hosting a presentation on the latest discoveries in particle physics at an event open to the public and free of charge.

Saturday, April 13


American Bible Society (at 61st & Broadway)

Dr. Giorgio Ambrosio, Applied Scientist, Fermilab, and Dr. Stephen Barr, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware.

The announcement reads,

The recent announcement of the discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, has generated enormous shockwaves in the press. Some people call it The God Particle.

Why such an awesome name? Can it really be the key for unlocking some of the mysteries of the universe? Can it help us understand the origin of mass, for instance? Can it tell us anything about ourselves and our place in the universe? 

In their talks, the two speakers will address these and other related questions. The talk is geared to the general public and will include a “virtual” tour of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland.

More information

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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