Tag Archives: mission

What will Benedict XVIs legacy be in the years ahead?

Português: Cerimônia de canonização do frade b...

The answer to this question will not be in its final form for a long time. The papacy only ended a few weeks ago. Historians will have to look at several things before they will be able to reflect back with greater precision that a video or a blog commentary can provide in 2013. There are several things that Pope Benedict’s 8 year reign that give good indicators as to what we engage with in the years ahead. Many more intelligent than I have thought this question through, but Father Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Chicago has made a good first attempt when he posits that Benedict will be remembered for:

1. being able to give a more authentic interpretative key to the Second Vatican Council; that is, naming the true mission of the Church;
2. being able to present the objective truth of the faith as taught by the Church these 2 thousand years with the clear awareness that the truth is about the Divine Love lived in joy; this is often called affirmative orthodoxy: the big ‘yes’ vs. the fat ‘no’;
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Newman: God has created me to do Him some definite service

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890)

I am visiting the Benedictine Abbey of St Anselm (Washington, DC) to get away from “stuff” where I normally live. Life there is particularly tense these days. A topic for another time. Time in quiet, time in prayer, time to think, to ponder bigger questions, time to read and to enjoy life in a different key for a short time. Life is fine. It won’t last long, don’t worry. I have friends here. Yesterday I was trying to understand happiness. Newman gave perspective. Today, I am trying to understand my place is a world of utter chaos, not exclusively my own chaos but more importantly the world’s.

At breakfast another guest at the abbey said he thought the US was heading to another civil war. I received an email and later texts that the two year old son of a friend is in the hospital with a serious ear infection, an acute illness that has made itself a longtime, and unwelcomed guest in this person’s life; there is also the fact that we are working toward the conclave but problems that need discussion, and the list goes on. This afternoon I sat for an hour with my friend Aidan, the abbot-emeritus of this abbey, who is just a delight to speak converse with, and who is living with the grace of Parkinson’s. (Blessed John Paul II, pray for Aidan!) Aidan can track a conversation for the most part; he loses words and can be side-tracked; but he’s capacity for friendship is great.

BUT what am I supposed to do? How do I approach the reality of life? Where is God leading me, why, and for what reason? Do I have a part to play in life? Newman has a helpful answer…

1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory–we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

2. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission–I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his–if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

3. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me–still He knows what He is about.

O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I–more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfill Thy high purposes in me whatever they be–work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see –I ask not to know–I ask simply to be used.

John Henry Newman
Meditations on Christian Doctrine with A Visit to the Blessed Sacrament Before Meditation, 299
7 March 1848

Benedictine Mission House: generous missionaries

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There are missionary Benedictines who take the gospel on the road as it were. When you think of Benedictines you think of the monks and nuns praying the Divine Office, living a hidden life, even running schools, parishes, printing houses and making beer. But what we see is that most often Benedictines evangelize through their enduring presence in a given area and therefore don’t move around the world as Dominicans, Franciscans or Jesuits do.

However, the Benedictine monks of the St Ottilien Congregation, based in Germany, have lived a missionary vocation since the founding in 1886 by Father Andreas Amrhein. Today this congregation of monks are on 5 continents in 20 countries.

The monks of Christ the King Priory lead a life of prayer and work. They have 9 monks who run the Saint Benedict Retreat Center, make an effort for fundraising for missionaries in the third world, and to help undocumented people integrate into the USA. The Priory’s own video presentation is located here.

Here in the USA there are two monasteries of St Ottilien monks: Saint Paul’s Abbey (in NJ) and The Benedictine Mission House located in Schuyler, NE. It was established in 1935 as a home for monks to work on missions around the world.

A good video introduction to the Benedictine Mission House is seen here.

Blessings on their good work! They recently had a man clothed as a novice.

The Syriac Catholic Church in North America

Referring to the Catholic Church as missionary may seem odd to some people. We don’t think of the Church in terms of being missionary, yet we are. To refer to a Catholic diocese in North America as a “mission diocese” may even rest uneasily on some ears. But both statements are true: the Catholic Church is missionary and there are some dioceses in North America that are mission dioceses. The Church always proposes the eternal truth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that the Church He founded is His extension of love and mercy in history.

The presence of the Syriac Catholic Church in North America is a mission diocese (eparchy in church-speak when referencing an Eastern Catholic jurisdiction). The headquarters here is the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark.

Eastern Catholic bishops USA 2012.jpg

NJ.com carried a story by Father Alexander Santora today, “Syriac Catholic bishop is a very busy man,” covers a lot of ground in acquainting us with this particular Church which is not a mere rite, but fully in communion with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI.
As a Catholic jurisdiction established by Pope John Paul II in 1995, with Bishop Joseph Younan as the first eparch –who has since 2009 been the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church– and now governed by Bishop Joseph Habash, 61, as the second bishop.
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Together in Christ

Pope Benedictus XVI

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The Pope’s “Together in Christ” two day visit of Croatia was significant for several reasons. For him, and I think for all of us who were either physically in Zagreb or tuned via the media, time spent with the Croatians was monumental because it clearly exhibited the “dynamism of communion.” (What visit of a pope is insignificant, the wag asks?) In his own words, the Benedict reviews the events he and the world lived with him in this way:

  • “the experience of finding ourselves together united in the name of Christ,
  • the experience of being Church, which is manifested … around the Successor of Peter. 
  • ‘Together in Christ’ referred in a particular way to the family (… the occasion of my visit was the First National Day of Croatian Catholic Families…

It was very important for me to confirm in the faith especially these families that the Second Vatican Council called “domestic churches” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11). 

In today’s Europe [and one can extend this to the globe], nations with a strong Christian tradition have a special responsibility to defend and promote the value of the family founded on marriage, which remains decisive both within the field of education as well as in the social sphere.”

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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]yahoo.com.
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