Tag Archives: Pope Benedict XVI

Reading Revelation and the Cosmos: a participation in Divine Truth

Yesterday, Pope Benedict addressed members attending the Plenary meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Clementine Room at the Apostolic Palace. The tells us that faith and reason are not in opposition to each other, that we don’t make and sustain ourselves and that our work is valuable in trying to understand human nature and our relationship with God.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to greet you, the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, on the occasion of your Plenary Assembly, and I thank Professor Nicola Cabibbo for the words he has kindly addressed to me on your behalf.

In choosing the topic Scientific Insight into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life, you seek to focus on an area of enquiry which elicits much interest. In fact, many of our contemporaries today wish to reflect upon the ultimate origin of beings, their cause and their end, and the meaning of human history and the universe.
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In this context, questions concerning the relationship between science’s reading of the world and the reading offered by Christian Revelation naturally arise. My predecessors Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II noted that there is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences. Philosophy in its early stages had proposed images to explain the origin of the cosmos on the basis of one or more elements of the material world. This genesis was not seen as a creation, but rather a mutation or transformation; it involved a somewhat horizontal interpretation of the origin of the world. A decisive advance in understanding the origin of the cosmos was the consideration of being qua being and the concern of metaphysics with the most basic question of the first or transcendent origin of participated being. In order to develop and evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created, in other words, by the first Being who is such by essence.

To state that the foundation of the cosmos and its developments is the provident wisdom of the Creator is not to say that creation has only to do with the beginning of the history of the world and of life. It implies, rather, that the Creator founds these developments and supports them, underpins them and sustains them continuously. Thomas Aquinas taught that the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history, and consequently all our purely naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world. Thomas observed that creation is neither a movement nor a mutation. It is instead the foundational and continuing relationship that links the creature to the Creator, for he is the cause of every being and all becoming (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q.45, a. 3).


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To “evolve” literally means “to unroll a scroll”, that is, to read a book. The imagery of nature as a book has its roots in Christianity and has been held dear by many scientists. Galileo saw nature as a book whose author is God in the same way that Scripture has God as its author. It is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose “writing” and meaning, we “read” according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein. This image also helps us to understand that the world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos.

Notwithstanding elements of the irrational, chaotic and the destructive in the long processes of change in the cosmos, matter as such is “legible”. It has an inbuilt “mathematics”. The human mind therefore can engage not only in a “cosmography” studying measurable phenomena but also in a “cosmology” discerning the visible inner logic of the cosmos. We may not at first be able to see the harmony both of the whole and of the relations of the individual parts, or their relationship to the whole. Yet, there always remains a broad range of intelligible events, and the process is rational in that it reveals an order of evident correspondences and undeniable finalities: in the inorganic world, between microstructure and macrostructure; in the organic and animal world, between structure and function; and in the spiritual world, between knowledge of the truth and the aspiration to freedom. Experimental and philosophical inquiry gradually discovers these orders; it perceives them working to maintain themselves in being, defending themselves against imbalances, and overcoming obstacles. And thanks to the natural sciences we have greatly increased our understanding of the uniqueness of humanity’s place in the cosmos.

The distinction between a simple living being and a spiritual being that is capax Dei, points to the existence of the intellective soul of a free transcendent subject. Thus the Magisterium of the Church has constantly affirmed that “every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 366). This points to the distinctiveness of anthropology, and invites exploration of it by modern thought.

Distinguished Academicians, I wish to conclude by recalling the words addressed to you by my predecessor Pope John Paul II in November 2003: “scientific truth, which is itself a participation in divine Truth, can help philosophy and theology to understand ever more fully the human person and God’s Revelation about man, a Revelation that is completed and perfected in Jesus Christ. For this important mutual enrichment in the search for the truth and the benefit of mankind, I am, with the whole Church, profoundly grateful”.

Upon you and your families, and all those associated with the work of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom and peace.

Pope: the Scriptures are a fact of the Church

The concluding homily of Pope Benedict for the Synod of Bishops on the Word of
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God on Sunday, 26 October 2008, Rome.

 

 

Brothers in the Episcopacy and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Word of the Lord, which echoed in the Gospel earlier, reminded us that all of Divine Law is summarized in love. Matthew the Evangelist tells that the Pharisees, after God answered the Sadduceans closing their mouths, met to put Him to test (cf. 22:34-35). One of them, a doctor of law, asked Him: “Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” (22:36). The question allows one to see the worry, present in ancient Hebrew tradition, of finding a unifying principle for the various formulations of the Will of God. This was not an easy question, considering that in the Law of Moses, 613 precepts and prohibitions are contemplated. How to find which is the most important one among these? But Jesus has no hesitation, and answers promptly: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment” (22:37-38). Jesus quotes the Shemà in His answer, the prayer the pious Israelite recites several times a day, especially in the morning and in the evening (cf. Dt 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Nb 15:37-41): the proclamation of whole and total love due to God, as the only Lord. Emphasis is put on the totality of this dedication to God, listing the three faculties that define man in his deep psychological structures: heart, soul and mind. The word mind, diánoia, contains the rational element. God is not only the object of love, commitment, will and feelings, but also the intellect, which should not be excluded from this. Our thinking must conform to God’s thinking. Then, however, Jesus adds something which, in truth, had not been asked by the doctor of law: “The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself” (22:39). The surprising aspect of Jesus’ answer consists in the fact that He establishes a similarity between the first and the second commandments, defined this time with a Biblical formula drawn from the Levitic code of holiness (cf. Lv 19:18) as well. And therefore, the two commandments are associated in the role of main axis upon which all of Biblical Revelation rests: “On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too” (22:40).

The Evangelical page we are focusing on sheds light on the meaning of being disciples of Christ which is practicing His teachings, that can be summarized in the first and greatest commandment of Divine Law, the commandment of love. Even the First Reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, insists on the duty of love; a love witnessed concretely in relationships between persons: they must be relationships of respect, collaboration, generous help. The next to be loved is the stranger, the orphan, the widow and the indigent, that is to say those citizens that are without a “defender”. The holy author goes into details, as in the case of the object pawned by one of these poor persons (cf. Ex 22:25-26). In this case, God Himself is the guarantor for the person’s situation.


St Paul apostle.jpgIn the Second Reading, we can find a concrete application of the supreme commandment of love in one of the first Christian communities. Saint Paul writes to the Thessalonians, leading them to understand that, while having known them for such a short time, he appreciated them and bore affection in his heart for them. Because of this, he points to them as “an example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Th 1:6-7). There is no lack of weaknesses or problems in this recently founded community, but love overcomes all, renews all, wins over all: the love of who, knowing their own limits, docilely follows the words of Christ, the Divine Teacher, transmitted through one of His faithful disciples. “You took us and the Lord as your model, welcoming the word with the joy of the Holy Spirit in spite of great hardship”, the Apostle wrote. He continued: “since it was from you that the word of the Lord rang out — and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for your faith in God has spread everywhere” (1 Th 1:6.8). The lesson that we can draw from the experience of the Thessalonians, and experience that is a common factor in every authentic Christian community, is that love for the neighbor is born from the docile listening to the Divine Word and accepts also hardships for the truth of the divine word and thus true love grows and truth shines. It is so important to listen to the Word and incarnate it in personal and community existence!

In this Eucharistic Celebration, which closes the work of the Synod, we feel, in a particular way, the bond that exists between the loving hearing of the word of God and disinterested service towards the brothers. How many times, in the past few days, have we heard about experiences and reflections that underline the need emerging today for a more intimate hearing of God, of a truer knowledge of His Word of Salvation; of a more sincere sharing of faith which is constantly nourished at the table of the Divine Word! Dear and Venerable Brothers, thank you for the contribution each of you offered in discussing the theme of the Synod: “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church”. I greet you all with great affection. A special greeting goes to the Cardinals, the Delegate Presidents of the Synod and the General Secretary, whom I thank for their constant dedication. I greet you, dear brothers and sisters, who came from every continent bringing your enriching experience. In returning home, give everyone an affectionate greeting from the Bishop of Rome. I greet the Fraternal Delegates, the Experts, the Auditors and the Invited Guests: the members of the General Secretariat of the Synod, all those who worked with the press. A special thought goes for the Bishops of Continental China, who could not be represented during this Synodal assembly. I would like to speak on behalf of them and thank God for their love for Christ, their communion with the universal Church and their faithfulness to the Successor of the Apostle Peter. They are present in our prayers, along with all the faithful who are entrusted to their pastoral care. We ask the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Pt 5:4) to give them apostolic joy, strength, and zeal to guide, with wisdom and far-sightedness, the Catholic community of China so dear to all of us.

All of us who have taken part in the work of the Synod will carry with us the renewed knowledge that the Church’s principal task, at the start of this new millennium, is above all to nourish ourselves on the Word of God, in order to make more effective new evangelization, the announcement of our times. What is needed now is that this ecclesial experience reach every community; we have to understand the necessity of translating the Word we have heard into gestures of love, because this is the only way to make the Gospel announcement credible, despite the human weaknesses that mark individuals. What this requires first of all is a more intimate knowledge of Christ and an ever-more docile acceptance of his Word.

In this Pauline year, making the words of the Apostle our own: “I should be in trouble if I failed to [preach the Gospel]” (1 Cor 9:16), I hope with all my heart that in every community this yearning of Paul’s will be felt with ever more conviction as a vocation in the service of the Gospel for the world. At the start of the Synod, I recalled the appeal of Jesus: “The harvest is rich” (Mt 9:37), an appeal we must never tire of responding to whatever difficulties we might encounter. So many people are searching for, sometimes unwittingly, the meeting with Christ and His Gospel; so many have to find in Him a meaning for their lives. Giving clear and shared testimony to a life according to the Word of God, witnessed by Jesus, therefore becomes an indispensable criterion to verify the mission of Christ.


Emmaus Duccio.jpgThe Readings the liturgy offers us today to meditate on remind us that the fullness of the law, as of all the Divine Scriptures, is love. Therefore anyone who believes they have understood the Scriptures, or at least a part of them, without undertaking to build, by means of their intelligence, the twofold love of God and neighbor, demonstrates that in reality they are still a long way from having grasped its deeper meaning. But how should we put into practice this commandment, how can we live the love of God and our brothers without a living and intense contact with the Holy Scriptures? Vatican Council II asserts it is necessary that “easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful” (Cost. Dei Verbum, 22), so that persons, on meeting the truth, may grow in authentic love. This is a requisite that today is indispensable for evangelization. And since often the encounter with Scriptures is in danger of not being “a fact” of the Church, but informed by subjectivity and arbitrariness, a robust and credible pastoral promotion of the knowledge of Holy Scripture, to announce, celebrate and live the Word in the Christian community, becomes indispensable, dialoguing with the cultures of our time, placing ourselves at the service of truth and not of current ideologies, and increasing the dialogue God wishes to have with all men (cf ibid 21). With this in mind, special care should be paid to the preparation of pastors, ready then to take whatever action is necessary to spread Biblical activity with appropriate means. Ongoing efforts to give life to the Biblical movement among lay people should be encouraged, along with the formation of group animators, with particular attention being paid to the young. We must also support the effort to allow faith to be known through the Word of God to those who are “far away” as well and especially those who are sincerely looking to give a meaning to their lives.

Many other reflections should be added, but I will limit myself to underlining that the privileged place where the Word of God rings out, that builds the Church, as has been said many times during the Synod, is undoubtedly the liturgy. In this is where it appears that the Bible is a book of a people and for a people; an inheritance, a testament handed over to readers so that they can put into practice in their own lives the history of salvation witnessed in the text. There is therefore a reciprocal relationship of vital belonging between the people and the Book: the Bible remains a living Book with the people which is its subject which reads it; the people cannot exist without the Book, because it is in it that they find their reason for living, their vocation and their identity. This mutual belonging between people and Holy Scripture is celebrated in every liturgical ceremony, which, thanks to the Holy Spirit, listens to Christ since it is He who speaks when the Scripture is read in the Church and welcomes the Covenant that God renews with his people. Scripture and liturgy converge, therefore, with the single aim of bringing the people to dialogue with the Lord and to the obedience of the Lord’s Will. The Word that leaves the mouth of God, witnessed in the Scriptures, returns to Him in the shape of prayerful response, of a living answer, of an answer of love (cf Is 55:10-11).


Virgin of the Annunciation Angelico.jpgDear brothers and sisters, let us pray that from this renewed listening to the Word of God, guided by the action of the Holy Spirit, an authentic renewal of the universal Church may spring forth, as well as of every Christian community. We entrust the fruits of this Synodal Assembly to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary. I also entrust to Her the II Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa, that will take place in Rome in October of next year. Next March I intend to go to Cameroon to deliver the Instrumentum laboris of that Synodal Assembly to the representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa. From there, God willing, I will go on to Angola to celebrate solemnly the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of that country. Most Holy Mary, who offered your life up as the “servant of the Lord”, so that everything would happen in accordance with the divine will (cf Lk 1:38) and who told us to do whatever Jesus tells us to do (cf Jn 2:5), teach us to recognize in our lives the primacy of the Word that alone can grant us salvation. Amen!

Pope Benedict’s address to the Synod of Bishops

During the Fourteenth General Congregation, Tuesday morning 14 October 2008, after
B16.jpgthe pause, the Holy Father Benedict XVI intervened with a reflection on the Synodal theme.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the work for my book on Jesus offers ample occasion to see all the good that can come from modern exegesis, but also to recognize the problems and risks in it. Dei Verbum 12 offers two methodological indications for suitable exegetic work. In the first place, it confirms the need to use the historical-critical method, briefly describing the essential elements. This need is the consequence of the Christian principle formulated in Jn 1:14 Verbum caro factum est. The historical fact is a constitutive dimension of Christian faith. The history of salvation is not a myth, but a true story and therefore to be studied with the same methods as serious historical research.

However, this history has another dimension, that of divine action. Because of this Dei Verbum mentions a second methodological level necessary for the correct interpretation of the words, which are at the same time human words and divine Word. The Council says, following a fundamental rule for any interpretation of a literary text, that Scripture must be interpreted in the same spirit in which it was written and thereby indicates three
Holy Spirit2.jpgfundamental methodological elements to bear in mind the divine dimension, the pneumatology of the Bible: one must, that is 1) interpret the text bearing in mind the unity of the entire Scripture; today this is called canonical exegesis; at the time of the Council this term had not been created, but the Council says the same thing: one must bear in mind the unity of all of Scripture; 2) one must then bear in mind the living tradition of the whole Church, and finally 3) observe the analogy of faith. Only where the two methodological levels, the historical-critical and the theological one, are observed, can one speak about theological exegesis – of an exegesis suitable for this Book. While the first level today’s academic exegesis works on a very high level and truly gives us help, the same cannot be said about the other level. Often this second level, the level constituted of the three theological elements indicated by Dei Verbum seems to be almost absent. And this has rather serious consequences.

The first consequence of the absence of this second methodological level is that the Bible becomes a book only about the past. Moral consequences can be drawn from it, one can learn about history, but the Book only speaks about the past and its exegesis is no longer truly theological, becoming historiography, the history of literature. This is the first consequence: the Bible remains in the past, speaks only of the past. There is also a second even more serious consequence: where the hermeneutics of faith, indicated by Dei Verbum, disappear, another type of hermeneutics appears of necessity, a secularized, positivistic hermeneutics, whose fundamental key is the certitude that the Divine does not appear in human history. According to this hermeneutic, when there seems to be a divine element, one must explain where it came from and bring it to the human element
Resurrection.jpgcompletely. Because of this, interpretations that deny the historicity of divine elements emerge. Today, the so-called mainstream of exegesis in Germany denies, for example, that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and says that Jesus’ corpse stayed in the tomb. The Resurrection would not be an historical event, but a theological vision. This occurs because the hermeneutic of faith is missing: therefore a profane philosophical hermeneutic is stated, which denies the possibility of entering and of the real presence of the Divine in history. The consequence of the absence of the second methodological level is that a deep chasm was created between scientific exegesis and lectio divina. This, at times, gives rise to a form of perplexity even in the preparation of homilies. Where exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology and, vice versa, when theology is not essentially the interpretation of the Scripture in the Church, this theology has no foundation anymore.

Therefore for the life and the mission of the Church, for the future of faith, this dualism between exegesis and theology must be overcome. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of the one reality, what we call Theology. Due to this, I would hope that in one of the propositions the need to bear in mind the two methodological levels indicated in Dei Verbum 12 be mentioned, where the need to develop an exegesis not only on the historical level, but also on the theological level is needed. Therefore, widening the formation of future exegetes in this sense is necessary, to truly open the treasures of the Scripture to today’s world and to all of us.

Benedict speaks to Abbots and Abbesses


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Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI

to the Participants

In the International Benedictine Abbots’ Conference

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo
Saturday, 20 September 2008

Dear Father Abbots,
Dear Sister Abbesses,

I receive you with great joy on the occasion of the International Congress for which all the Abbots of your Confederation and the Superiors of independent Priories meet in Rome every four years to reflect on and discuss ways to embody the Benedictine charism in the present social and cultural context and respond to its ever new challenges to Gospel witness. I first greet the Abbot Primate, Dom Notker Wolf and thank him for what he has said on behalf of all. I likewise greet the group of Abbesses who have come representing the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum, as well as the Orthodox Representatives.

In a secularized world and an epoch marked by a disturbing culture of emptiness and meaninglessness, you are called to proclaim the primacy of God without compromise and to advance proposals for possible new forms of evangelization. The commitment to personal and communitarian sanctification that you pursue and the liturgical prayer that you encourage equip you for a particularly effective witness. In your monasteries, you are the first to renew and to deepen daily the encounter with the Person of Christ, whom you always have with you as guest, companion and friend. For this reason your convents are places where in our time too men and women hasten to seek God and learn to recognize the signs of Christ’s presence, charity and mercy. With humble trust, you never tire of sharing with those who turn to your spiritual care the riches of the Gospel message, which are summed up in the proclamation of the love of the merciful Father who is ready to embrace every person in Christ. Thus you will continue to make your precious contribution to the vitality and sanctification of the People of God, in accordance with the special charism of Benedict of Norcia.

Dear Abbots and Abbesses, you are custodians of the patrimony of a spirituality anchored radically to the Gospel, “per ducatum evangelii pergamus itinera eius”, as St Benedict says in the Prologue to the Rule. It is precisely this that engages you to communicate and give to others the fruits of your inner experience. I know and deeply appreciate the generous and competent cultural and formative work carried out by so many of your monasteries, especially for the young generations, creating an atmosphere of brotherly acceptance that favours a unique experience of Church. In fact, it is of primary importance to prepare young people to face their future and measure up to the many demands of society, having as a constant reference the Gospel message, which is ever timely, inexhaustible and life-giving. Devote yourselves, therefore, with fresh apostolic zeal to youth who are the future of the Church and of humanity. Indeed to build a “new” Europe it is necessary to start with the new generations, offering them the possibility of coming into close contact with the spiritual treasure of the liturgy, of meditation and of lectio divina.

This pastoral and formative action is in fact more necessary than ever for the whole human family. In many parts of the world, especially Asia and Africa, there is a pressing need for vibrant places of encounter with the Lord, in which, through prayer and contemplation, the individual may recover peace with himself and peace with others. Therefore, do not fail to meet with an open heart the expectations of all those, outside of Europe too, who express a keen desire for your presence and your apostolate in order to draw from the riches of Benedictine spirituality. Let yourselves be guided by the deep desire to serve every person charitably, irrespective of their race or religion. With prophetic freedom and wise discernment, may your presence be meaningful wherever Providence calls you to settle, always distinguishing yourselves for the harmonious balance of prayer and work that is a feature of your way of life.

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And what should be said of the famous Benedictine hospitality? It is a special vocation of yours, an experience that is fully spiritual, human and cultural. May balance exist here too: may the heart of the community be wide open but in proportion to the times and forms of hospitality. You will thus give the men and women of our day a possibility of deepening the meaning of life within the infinite horizon of Christian hope, cultivating inner silence in communion with the Word of salvation. A community capable of authentic fraternal life, fervent in liturgical prayer, in study, in work, in cordial availability to your neighbour who is thirsting for God, is the best impetus for inspiring in hearts, especially those of young men, the vocation to monastic life and in general a fruitful journey of faith.

I would like to address a special word to the representatives of the Benedictine nuns and sisters. Dear sisters, like other religious families you too are suffering from the lack of new religious vocations. Do not let yourselves be disheartened but face these painful situations of crisis calmly, aware that it is not so much success that is asked of each one as faithful commitment.

What should be absolutely avoided is a weakening of spiritual attachment to the Lord and to one’s vocation and mission. On the contrary, by persevering in it faithfully we profess most effectively, also to the world, our firm trust in the Lord of history, in whose hands are all the times and destinies of individuals, institutions and peoples; and let us also entrust ourselves to him with regard to the actuation in history of his gifts. Make your own the spiritual attitude of the Virgin Mary, happy to be the “ancilla Domini“, totally available to do the will of the heavenly Father.

Dear monks, nuns and sisters, thank you for this pleasant visit! I accompany you with my prayers so that at your meetings during these days of your Congress you may discern the most appropriate ways to witness visibly and clearly in your life-style, work and prayer, to your commitment to a radical imitation of the Lord. May Mary Most Holy sustain your every project of good, help you above all to keep God before your eyes and accompany you maternally on your journey. As I invoke an abundance of heavenly gifts to support all of your generous resolutions, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to the entire Benedictine Family.

© Copyright 2008 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

 

 

Pope Benedict meets with Benedictines

On 20 September 2008, Pope Benedict XVI met with the Benedictine abbots and abbesses at Castel
Benedetto.jpgGandolfo, his summer residence.

 

The Pope’s address in Italian is found here while we wait for the English translation. The Zenit summary is here.

The Catholic News Agency makes this report.

Vatican Radio posted this story.

In part the Pope Benedict said: the witness of the Benedictine monks, nuns and sisters is particularly important  “in a de-sacralized world and an age marked by the worrying culture of the void and the absurd. This is the reason why your monasteries are places where men and women, also in our age, run to seek God and to learn to recognize the signs of the presence of Christ, of his charity and of his mercy.”


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The Pope asked the Benedictines to “allow themselves to be led by the profound desire to serve all men with charity, without distinctions of race or religion,” and to found new monasteries “where Providence calls you to establish them.”

 

The Pope focused the attention of the Benedictine superiors to the work of evangelization and to formative and cultural work that can be done particularly in Europe, “especially in favor of the new generations. Dedicate yourselves to young people with renewed apostolic ardor, as they are the future of the Church and of humanity. To build a ‘new’ Europe, it is necessary to begin with the new generations, offering them the possibility to profoundly approach the spiritual riches of the liturgy, of meditation and of lectio divina.” [While the pope has Europe on his mind he would also support this building up of Catholic culture in the new world, too.]

 

The abbots are in Rome at an international congress held every 4 years.

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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