lunedì, luglio 28, 2008

Book review

FAITH Magazine March - April 2008

John Henry Newman In his Time.
Edited by Philippe Lefebvre & Colin Mason. Foreword by Jean Cardinal Honoré. Family Publications, 271pp, £11.95

The fascination of John Henry Newman’s life and works does not wane with the passage of time. It may have its more intense years, followed by a less productive period, but invariably it continues like the waves on the sea shore. The present volume is another study of this renowned Oxford scholar who seems destined for further acclaim and attention, at least in Church circles.

This book is aimed at the general public but will also be of interest to scholars. It gives a portrait presentation of Newman, concentrating on five places associated with his life and on nine areas in which he excelled. An Introductionby Fr Keith Beaumont of the French Oratory offers a fine summary of all the chapters of the book.

The first place we associate with Newman is Oxford. It had a profound influence on him. Its University with its ancient traditions is essential to the understanding of his subsequent spiritual and intellectual evolution. Peter Nockles rightly asserts that the determining factor was its ‘catholic’ ethos which pervaded the education imparted there. Not only was intellectual information given but it traditionally combined sound belief and right conduct. All of Newman’s controversial stands in Oxford were linked to the defence of the moral and religious aspects of the University education as exemplified in the course of its history.

Littlemore then became his haven. Sr Mary-Brigid Dechant, FSO, who belongs to the Spiritual Family The Work (the present curators of the College at Littlemore) provides a brief but accurate account of Littlemore and its place in Newman’s journey.

Another member of The Work, Sr Brigitte Maria Hoegemann, has a very interesting chapter on Newman’s associations with Rome. She focuses on his first encounter with the city (in 1833) and on his subsequent stay there when preparing for the priesthood (1846-1847). On his first visit, his impressions and feelings were contradictory ones: admiration at “a fresh world of intellectual beauty, taste and imagination” yet repulsion at what he then saw as superstition and corruption(cf. pp. 62-63). In stark contrast is the feeling of serenity and peace of the years following on his reception into the Catholic Church.

Birmingham then became Newman’s home for a greater part of the second half of his life. Fr Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Cause of Beatification and Canonisation, gives a notable and well-informed account of Newman’s relations as an Oratorian with this city. Angelo Bottone, who lectures at the Dublin Business School, gives an account of Newman’s seven difficult years working for the establishment of the new Catholic University of Ireland.

The second section of this publication contains nine studies on various aspects and attributes of Newman’s life: his renowned talent as a gifted preacher (Paul Chavasse) and educator (Paul Shrimpton); his vocation as an Oratorian (Daniel Seward) and confessor (John Kirwan); his spirituality in relation to his conversion experiences (Robert Christie); his talent as a letter writer (Joyce Sugg), novelist (Michael Durand) and poet (Joseph Salvatore Pizza). A final unusual but welldocumented study examines what claim Newman would have to the title Doctor of the Church. Fr Drew Morgan of the Pittsburgh Oratory investigates the criteria used in the conferring of this title on St Thérèse of Lisieux. How Newman measures up to these Norms and Criteria is illustrated by words spoken or written about him by Pope John Paul II and by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later, Pope Benedict XVI). In an original study, Fr Morgan regards Newman’s contribution to the teaching of the Church in the realm of conscience and development as indicative of a charism of a Doctor Ecclesiaegiven by the Holy Spirit. Many would concur, but only the Church’s highest authority will decide on the existence of a particular charism of wisdom and its beneficial influence on the people of God.

The nature and limits of a short book review cannot do justice to the many fine studies and interesting insights throughout the pages of this volume. The publishers are to be congratulated on offering the public a compact and reasonably-priced volume which may well be very timely, if we consider the possible Beatification that could soon take place, provided the miraculous cure through his intercession, now being examined in Rome, proves to be genuine and acceptable.

+ Philip Boyce, OCD

sabato, luglio 26, 2008

Saintly, but very human

Saintly, but very human

By Roderick Strange

Beatification of John Henry Newman, England's most famous convert to Catholicism, is not far off, according to Cardinal Martins, the curial official in charge of canonisations. Such recognition should excite not only Catholics in Britain but Anglicans too, says the author of a new study of Newman

John Henry Newman is likely to be beatified before long. The precise timing may be uncertain, but not, it seems, the event. And while canonisation would declare that he is a model of holiness for the universal Church, this earlier stage, beatification, marks him out more locally.

In fact, one irony touching Newman's cause has been the way that from the beginning his international reputation and the devotion he has aroused have been intense, while more immediately in Britain and in Birmingham, his home for the 40 or so years up to his death, the cause has been slow to gather momentum. We British aren't excited so easily. But his beatification is meant to speak first of all to us. What might it be saying?

What it is not saying is that Newman was perfect. He made the point himself about one of his theological heroes, St Cyril of Alexandria, who could be a ruthless political operator. We are not obliged, Newman remarked, to defend aspects of his ecclesiastical career: "It does not answer to call whitey-brown, white." Pope Benedict echoed that view last January when he observed at a Wednesday audience that "the saints have not ‘fallen from heaven'. They are people like us, who also have complicated problems. Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned." These are comforting words, giving us hope for ourselves, but also reminding us in this instance that Newman's beatification does not oblige us to agree with everything he said or defend everything he did. Nevertheless he has much to teach us.

Newman has often been compared with his contemporary as cardinal, Henry Edward Manning. When they were younger, they were friendly without being close; later they clashed. Part of the mythology, peddled long ago, presented Manning as practical, a brilliant administrator, at ease with the affairs of the world, while Newman was pictured as intellectual and remote. This caricature does justice to neither of them. But what struck me when I first began to study Newman was his practical energy, his commitment to pastoral matters, and his skill as an administrator.

When he took up his first curacy at St Clement's in Oxford in 1824, he was an earnest evangelical Anglican who, while not believing in predestination, was convinced that more people were damned than saved. But his care for his parishioners changed that. He wondered how the majority of such good people could be destined for hell.

Then when he became a tutor at Oriel College, Oxford, he could not see that role as a matter merely of intellectual instruction; there needed to be a more personal, a moral dimension as well. Later, as vicar of the University Church and a leader of the Oxford Movement, he was full of pastoral energy. His preaching from that time has become legendary. "It is of the essence of the Movement," as Professor Owen Chadwick has noted, "that its best writing should be enshrined in parochial sermons."

After he had been received into the Catholic Church in 1845, the same energy drove him on. He established the Oratories in Birmingham and London, and founded the Catholic University in Dublin. He also set up the Oratory School. In all these projects his administrative gifts as well as his pastoral instinct were fully engaged. There is something very British about Newman's pastoral practicality, a healthy pragmatism. That pastoral instinct was also evident in his vast correspondence and found further expression in his other writings where his devotion to what was real, as he would say, rather than the merely notional, was always evident. He had no time for theories, however splendid, if they could make no impact. As he remarked later in his life: "I do not want to be converted by a smart syllogism; if I am asked to convert others by it, I say plainly I do not care to overcome their reason without touching their hearts."

Touching hearts was one of his fundamental preoccupations. It inspired his commitment to education. There is an entry in his journal in January 1863 in which he described education as his "line". He wanted to touch hearts and win minds.

He did not bludgeon in argument. He did not go toe-to-toe with adversaries, refusing to concede a jot. It was a method not always appreciated in Rome. In his "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk", answering Gladstone's attack on the Vatican Council and papal infallibility, for instance, he remarked, "Now, the Rock of St Peter on its summit enjoys a pure and serene atmosphere, but there is a great deal of Roman malaria at the foot of it."

Some were not amused. Could such irreverence be passed over in silence? But his bishop, William Ullathorne, wrote to explain the method. Newman argued, he said, "ex abundantia concessionis". He made allowances, as we might say, for the sake of argument, so that people who had difficulties and struggled did not feel that an intransigent door was being slammed in their faces. There is something very British about this style of argument too, calm and confident. Hearts are not touched nor minds won by hectoring.

One query about Newman's beatification, however, obvious in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, might be his contribution to ecumenism. How could someone who was for so long an influence in the Church of England, but who changed his allegiance, be regarded as influential still? It seems natural to assume that he could have little to offer. Yet that assumption would be mistaken.

Soon after Newman was received, his loyal friend, Edward Pusey, spoke of his conversion as "perhaps the greatest event which has happened since the Communion of the Churches has been interrupted". He gave his reason: "If anything could open their eyes to what is good in us, or soften in us any wrong prejudices against them, it would be the presence of such a one, nurtured and grown to ripeness in our Church, and now removed to theirs." Those who are hostile to Newman will, of course, disagree, but those like Pusey, who are more sympathetic, will regard him as a bridge.

If these are matters that can cause the Church in Britain to rejoice when Newman is beatified (he was proclaimed "Venerable" in 1991), there are also others. In particular there is the witness to holiness, his fidelity throughout a long, often difficult, life. As an Anglican, the hopes he had cherished for the Church of England collapsed and his reception into the Catholic Church brought about a terrible parting from many of his dearest friends.

Then during his Catholic years he had to endure persistent hardships: he was tried for libel and found guilty by a prejudiced jury; the university he founded in Dublin faltered because he was denied the support he needed to make the venture succeed; he was asked to become editor of the Catholic periodical The Rambler, but almost immediately, at the first hint of a problem, encouraged to resign; his plans for an Oratory in Oxford were mischievously frustrated; and there were clashes as well with Manning and other famous converts such as Fr Faber and W.G. Ward.

Newman was not blameless in all these difficulties, but he remained faithful in following what he saw as God's will for him. In his Anglican days, he expressed the matter most simply: "The planting of Christ's Cross in the heart is sharp and trying; but the stately tree rears itself aloft, and has fair branches and rich fruit, and is good to look upon."

When Newman is beatified, we will have much to celebrate.

giovedì, luglio 17, 2008

Cardinal Newman to be reinterred in preparation for sainthood

Cardinal Newman to be reinterred in preparation for sainthood

The Causes of Saints wants the remains of John Henry Newman

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
The Vatican has ordered that the body of Cardinal Newman, the Church of England's most renowned convert to Roman Catholicism, be exhumed and reinterred in a marble sarcophagus, where it can be more easily venerated by the faithful.

The Causes of Saints wants the remains of John Henry Newman, who died in 1890, to be moved from a secluded cemetery and placed in the Birmingham Oratory, part of the English Oratory movement that he founded.

The declaration, expected in December, could coincide with the announcement of a new deal for English traditionalists who want to "go over" to Rome with their congregations in protest at moves to consecrate women bishops in the Church of England.

The Cardinal, already a Venerable, is expected to take the next step up the ladder to sainthood this year when Pope Benedict XVI declares him "Blessed". He would be the ideal saint for converts to Rome. He was the founder of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement revival in the 19th century and advocated a "via media" for the Church of England.
But eventually he could no longer walk it himself and was received by Rome in 1845, and created a cardinal eventually.

Medics investigating the Newman cause have already validated one miracle. Another would be needed before he took the final step to sainthood, however, at least one other person claiming a miraculous cure after praying for the cardinal's intercession is known to be waiting to testify.

Cardinal Newman, founder of the English Oratory of St Philip Neri, died in Edgbaston, Birmingham, on August 11, 1890, aged 89. His funeral Mass was held a week later when more than 15,000 people lined the route as his cortège made its way to the Oratory House at Rednal, on the outskirts of Birmingham, where he was buried in a small, secluded cemetery used by other members of his community.

After the exhumation, which must first be authorised by the British authorities, the body of Cardinal Newman would be put in a specially made, simple, marble sarcophagus and placed in the Birmingham Oratory.

Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and postulator of the Newman cause, said: "One of the centuries-old procedures surrounding the creating of new saints by the Catholic Church concerns their earthly remains. These have to be identified, preserved and, if necessary, placed in a new setting which befits the individual's new status in the Church. This is what we have been asked to do by the Vatican with regard to Cardinal Newman's remains, which have laid at Rednal since his death in 1890. We hope that Cardinal Newman's new resting place in the Oratory Church in Birmingham will enable more people to come and pay their respects to him, and perhaps light a candle there."

Father Chavasse and the Archdiocese of Birmingham have begun negotiating with Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, to obtain the necessary permission to exhume the body.

Peter Jennings, from the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory for the Newman Cause, said: "At the request of the Congregation for Saints no announcement whatsoever will be made in advance of Newman's body being moved from the cemetery to his new resting place at the Birmingham Oratory."

The Times, July 15, 2008

domenica, luglio 13, 2008

Hopkins International Literary Festival

Il 23 e il 25 luglio parteciperò, come relatore invitato, al Hopkins International Literary Festival.
Qui il programma, molto ricco.

venerdì, luglio 11, 2008

Catilinaria e catilinterra: che fortuna il Papa!

Catilinaria e catilinterra: che fortuna il Papa!

Sant'Ambrogio? Gran santo! Santambrogio Luigi invece è un giornalista originale e mai ovvio. Un pregio, purché non esageri come ieri in prima di "Libero": "Incubo alla Grotta di Lourdes: appare la bandiera della pace" portata da un vescovo". Indignatissimo: ha visto in Tv che a Lourdes, nel pellegrinaggio Unitalsi dei "Bambini di pace", mentre scorrevano le immagini di un'intervista al vescovo Luigi Moretti, Vicegerente di Roma e assistente nazionale Unitalsi, alcuni pellegrini sventolavano la nota "bandiera della pace" con i colori dell'arcobaleno. Lì, nel recinto del Santuario!? Davanti alla statua della Madonna!? Aiuto! Per Santambrogio un colpo: è caduto dalla sedia, ha battuto la testa, e poi le dita sul computer con naturale confusione per tirare giù una sua "catilinaria" che mette in mezzo "Vaticano", "parroci pacifisti", "simboli diabolici", "salsa indiana ed esoterica", "guru new age", "scomparsa del Salvatore", "precetti massonici" e tante altre cose, tutte arrabbiatissimo. In ciò lui si sente autorizzato dall'agenzia Fides che qualche giorno prima aveva illustrato la storia ambigua del simbolo pacifista" Di qui botte al "vescovo" traditore, per di più "vice del cardinale Agostino Vallini a sua volta vicario del Papa". Che dire? Che ieri Sant'Ambrogio fustigava il truce Teodosio imperatore, oggi il Santambrogio fustiga indignato i vescovi moderni. A proposito: se avesse visto quante bandiere arcobaleno ci sono spesso la domenica a piazza San Pietro sarebbe già salito su un bulldozer per spianare il Vaticano: non catilin'aria, ma catilinterra. E perciò il Papa è fortunato. Almeno finora"

Lupus in Pagina (Rosso Malpelo) su Avvenire di oggi.

giovedì, luglio 10, 2008

Rom: l'impronta del dialogo.

[Dal sito riprendiamo il seguente intervento dal titolo
"Rom: l'impronta del dialogo. Osservazioni sul provvedimento del Ministro dell'Interno Roberto Maroni".
Don Mimmo Battaglia e' presidente della Federazione italiana delle comunita' terapeutiche]

Scrivo con profondo rammarico e con un senso di fastidio. Fastidio che nasce dal mio essere prete, dal mio essere cittadino, ma prima di tutto uomo.
Fastidio per la proposta del Ministro Maroni di schedare dei bambini pur nell'intento di risolvere un problema, e un fastidio altrettanto grande per le voci contrastanti che attorno a questa proposta si sono levate. Fastidio per la spaccatura interna al mondo cattolico e per il silenzio rassegnato o indifferente di tanta parte del mondo del sociale. Fastidio, rabbia ed incredulita': possibile che anche chi dice di voler difendere la dignita' di ogni essere umano si senta tuttavia disposto ad una procedura umiliante come quella di cui parliamo? Possibile che non si intraveda una strada differente?
Sono preoccupato, come molti, dei rischi di disagio, di devianza a cui molti minori, non solo rom, vanno incontro. Sono testimone diretto dei pericoli della criminalita' sul nostro territorio: le comunita' terapeutiche, giorno dopo giorno, fanno i conti con il lato oscuro delle nostre strade. Ogni forma di disagio sociale, anche il famigerato problema dei rom, se cosi' fa comodo etichettarlo, si presenta quotidianamente alla porta delle nostre strutture e l'attraversa. Per questo sento di poter rigettare le accuse di ignoranza rivolte dal Ministro a quanti sono in contrasto con la sua proposta.
Sono ben lontano da ignorare il problema e vivo l'urgenza di affrontarlo. Ma voglio che si faccia nel rispetto dei diritti e della dignita' d'ogni persona, con l'esigenza che dovrebbe caratterizzare ogni cristiano ed ogni laico attento all'Altro. Pertanto non possiamo rassegnarci all'idea che per difendere i bambini si trovi l'escamotage della schedatura. Non possiamo pensare ad altro? O forse non vogliamo pensare ad altro, perche' l'idea di un nemico da controllare e' comoda ed utile. Forse necessaria, perche' la paura resti alta e il termine "sicurezza" mantenga il suo valore dogmatico: ma le parole assumono un significato totalmente diverso se pronunciate in luoghi e contesti differenti: sicurezza, diritti, legalita', giustizia, radici cristiane significano cose diversissime se pronunciate nelle nostre aule istituzionali, nei nostri salotti, sui giornali o piuttosto nel silenzio, nel buio e nel gelo di una notte in una roulotte, se pronunciati da sazi o con lo stomaco vuoto, da liberi o da perseguitati.
Perche' le parole diventano l'arma di difesa di una democrazia in panne, diventano arma per tenere fuori le difficolta' e le differenze, diventano mura e "palle di cannone" per affondare i gommoni! Queste parole perdono la loro dignita' per divenire offese. Le stesse parole a cui oggi, in questi mesi, tanti di noi, stanno cercando di dare un senso diverso, piu' profondo, piu' reale. Piu' umano. E allora perche' non riscrivere una legge che difenda i piccoli rom, se e' realmente questo cio' che si vuole, partendo da un tavolo di lavoro con i rappresentanti di questo mondo variegato? Perche', se e' vero che siamo tutti uguali, non si da' loro voce? Solo cosi' potremmo pensare ad una forma di intervento realmente attenta e propositiva e non, al contrario, ad una sorta di controllo sul diverso.
La strada ci insegna che l'umanita' ha bisogno di Umanita'. Che la nostra democrazia imperfetta ha bisogno del nostro prenderci cura, per essere differente dai regimi che diciamo di combattere. Perche' non e' il Pil a segnare le differenze tra un paese libero e democratico ed un inferno, ma la disponibilita' a dare parola in una logica di reciprocita'. Perche' non e' con le schedature che si insegna la democrazia ma con l'accoglienza, con un'accoglienza reale che si fa integrazione in ogni aspetto della vita sociale e politica. Perche' non c'e' uguaglianza, non c'e' democrazia, se le leggi sui rom si scrivono senza i rom, se le politiche arrivano dall'alto, dalla supponenza e dalle false sicurezze piuttosto che da un ascolto reale e quotidiano.
E' quindi il momento di mettere da parte le nostre sicurezze demagogiche e la tentazione della prova di forza se vogliamo capire come agire, per fare in modo che ogni cittadino sul nostro territorio, ogni uomo, torni ad essere Uomo pienamente e, allo stesso tempo, dimostrare a noi stessi ed al mondo che vogliamo continuare ad essere chiamati uomini anche noi.
L'impronta indelebile del dialogo tra diversi e' l'unica impronta di cui abbiamo bisogno.

lunedì, luglio 07, 2008

Non criminalizzate i bambini rom

Siamo un gruppo di direttori di riviste per ragazzi e il presidente del Foi (Forum degli oratori italiani). Sulle pagine delle nostre riviste, dei nostri siti, sui campi degli oratori incontriamo migliaia di ragazzi.
Bambini e ragazzi che si aprono con fiducia al mondo, con la voglia di essere protagonisti, di conoscere cio' che li circonda. Ne ascoltiamo gioie e preoccupazioni, e la notizia della schedatura dei bambini rom preoccupa noi e loro.
Censimento o schedatura, non importa. In questo caso le parole non fanno differenza, contano i fatti. E i fatti sono i diritti negati di bambini e ragazzi. Il diritto alla salute, all'istruzione, al gioco, a preservare la propria identita', il proprio nome e le proprie relazioni familiari. Il diritto a non essere discriminato in base all'origine nazionale, etnica o sociale.
Ci preoccupa la schedatura dei bimbi rom. Schedare un bambino solo in base all'appartenenza etnica e ridurlo a numero con il sistema utilizzato per chi e' indagato di un reato, viola la sua dignita' umana. Schedare i bambini rom e solo i bambini rom, vanifica il principio di uguaglianza tra tutti i bambini.
Nessuna polemica strumentale da parte nostra. Riconosciamo la necessita' di intervenire sulla condizione dei bambini rom in modo calibrato e delicato, per favorire una loro effettiva integrazione; ma con i dati della schedatura cosa si potra' fare oltre alle statistiche o a qualche indagine sociologica?
E poi la schedatura rispetta il principio di far prevalere il superiore interesse del bambino su qualunque altra considerazione? I bambini rom, i bambini in genere, hanno bisogno d'accoglienza, di non vivere nella paura, di poter andare a scuola, di vedersi difesi di fronte alla violenza degli adulti. Dove sono i passi concreti in questa direzione?
Ci pensi, ministro Maroni.
Pensateci, politici.
Su questo, noi e i bambini, attendiamo fatti.
padre Stefano Gorla, direttore de "Il Giornalino"
padre Matteo Merletto, direttore de "Il Piccolo Missionario"
don Valerio Bocci, direttore di "Mondo Erre"
padre Fabio Motta, direttore di "Italia Missionaria"
don Massimiliano Sabbadini, presidente del Foi (Forum degli oratori

giovedì, luglio 03, 2008

Where the hell is Matt?

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Adescare (Dizionario dell'Omo Salvatico)


Due adescatori: la donna pubblica e l’uomo pubblico. L’una e l’altro ; la prima, con cenni discreti, dalla soglia del lupanare; il secondo, con roboanti concioni, da un panchetto, da una seggiola, da un tavolino, da un terrazzo.
L’adescatrice è punita od era (se colta in fragrante) per reato d’oltraggio al pudore. L’adescatore, più fortunato, è fatto ascendere dagli adescati in Parlamento, dove appunto voleva andare.
In tutti e due i casi però l’adescato (popolo o semplice passante) quasi sempre, poco dopo, si vede camminare a gambe larghe.