The Link:

From The Telegraph (4/21/2013) with the tagline “Senior Catholic cardinals appointed by Pope Francis to shake up the Vatican’s secretive bureaucracy have called for more key jobs at the Holy See to be handed to women and fewer jobs to be given to Europeans.”

What? Me? A shepherd?

Yesterday (4/21/2013–”Earth Sunday”) Katharine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, offered the homily at the National Cathedral. She called me, and you, followers of the Way (that began in Creation and continues—in Love—into our own day with the promise of more to come). Listen:

The 23rd psalm may seem like a romantic idyll, but it’s profoundly about what sheep need – food, water, rest, and the ability to fend off predators. The psalmist describes behavior that is just as essential to human thriving as it is for sheep or goats. In order for any human community to be effective or live in productive harmony, it needs leadership. When we start to talk about godly leadership, or shepherds like Jesus, we mean guidance toward what will nurture the life of the community as well as away from what will threaten or end the project. Good shepherding is life-giving and sustaining, and in the kind of language we use around here, it’s eternal. It is about what is ultimate, gracious, and abundantly life-giving. It seeks the welfare of the whole community, not simply the desires of an individual.

This kind of holy shepherding is meant for all of us, in all our variety.

This kind of holy shepherding is meant for all of us, in all our variety. We aren’t meant to march in lockstep, but to use the varied gifts of our creation and circumstances to gather others and move toward that kind of abundant life ….

Read the complete text of her homily Presiding Bishop uses Earth Day to call for ‘holy shepherding.’ The video of this homily is here.

May we have the grace in our own day to shepherd wisely and well, may we be ‘holy shepherds—a blessing to each other and to all the created order.

From Assisi to Rome, a journey of hope

Here is an essay taking us beyond the foot-washing of prisoners and the choice to live in the Guest House instead of the Papal Apartment. Written by Daniel P. Horan (a Franciscan), “What’s in a name?” highlights 3 important truths about St. Francis of Assisi that, it is hoped, will also mark the papacy of Francis.

Francis of Assisi was a renouncer of power

At the core of St. Francis’ obsessive focus on evangelical poverty was his renunciation of power. This radical dimension of St. Francis’ way of life is frequently overlooked. Instead there are caricatures of a nature-loving proto-hippie or a gentle, popular preacher. Yet St. Francis’ conviction was grounded in the belief that like Jesus Christ, all human beings are called to be in relationship with their sisters and brothers.

Francis of Assisi was a reformer who loved the church

St. Francis’ refusal to conform to the expectations of his day, both ecclesial and social, came not from the outside, but from a place deeply situated within the church. He was not afraid to follow the Gospel when it seemed that such an action might contradict the conventions of his time, but he was also not interested in breaking communion with the church.

Francis of Assisi was a peacemaker and lover of creation

St. Francis refers to the other-than-human elements of creation as his “brothers” and “sisters.” Though this may appear “cute” to modern ears, he was revealing a deep theological truth about our intrinsic kinship with the rest of God’s creation. Humanity is not above and over against the rest of the created order, but part of it and alongside animals, plant life and the rest. We have a special role to play in creation, but we should never forget our interdependence with the whole cosmos.

Hoping that Pope Francis was indeed aware of these elements in the life, work, and rule of St. Francis, (a hope that I share) Horan concludes:

All of these aspects of St. Francis’ legacy point to the centrality of relationship. Pope Francis already has begun to demonstrate his desire to be connected with all sorts of people (much to the chagrin of his security detail). It is my hope that Pope Francis will continue to rise to the challenge of his name. The church really could use the spirit of Assisi today.

Yes, indeed. What do you think?

Read the entire post: What’s in a name? on the America website

An encouraging word

For the first 30 years of my life I identified myself as “Roman Catholic.” I continue to claim my Roman Catholic roots. I have a great love and respect for the Roman Catholic Church. But I am happily being prodded along by the Holy Spirit in The Episcopal Church. With 1.2 billion members, the Roman Catholic presence in our world is significant. The Pope as leader of this church is a powerful voice on the world stage.

To hear today what he said about Vatican II, the Holy Spirit, stubbornness, and the courage to go forward is therefore, ‘an encouraging word’ to me. Some excerpts from his homily yesterday (4/16/2013):

“the Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward.” He said that we wish “to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong.” Pope Francis said “that’s because the Holy Spirit is the strength of God, it’s what gives us the strength to go forward” but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar.

Nowadays, he went on, “everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit but it’s not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it.” The Pope said one example of this resistance was the Second Vatican council which he called “a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit.” But 50 years later, “have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council,” he asked. The answer is “No,” said Pope Francis. “We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we don’t want it to upset us. We don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back.” This, he went on, “is called stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.”

View the post on Vatican Radio

He concluded “by urging those present not to resist the pull of the Holy Spirit. ‘Submit to the Holy Spirit,’ he said, ‘which comes from within us and makes go forward along the path of holiness.’”

Very encouraging words to me. What does it sound like to you?

About another Pope and another time

When people think of the Vatican and World War II, they think immediately of Pius XII, the controversial pontiff between 1939 and 1958. But before him, there was a little-remembered pope, Pope Pius XI, who was loudly outspoken against the Nazis and was determined to call the world’s attention to their atrocities. “The Pope’s Last Crusade” tells that story, along with that of the pope’s partnership with an American Jesuit, which breaks new ground about war-time conspiracies within the Vatican.

Book Cover: The Pope's Last CrusadeI’ll confess: Pope Pius XI was no more than a name of a 20th century pope memorized at some point for someone testing me no doubt. I am grateful to the post by Peter Eisner, the author of The Pope’s Last Crusade. On Huffington Post’s Religion Blog, Eisner’s post is enough of an introduction to make me want to find out more about the Pius XI and what he said.

As Pope Francis I opens eyes and excites the world with hope, and even though it is now more than 70 years since Pope Pius XI, this short post makes me understand anew that whether we like it or not the Pope (the Bishop of Rome) has an influence—for better or worse—on world affairs. Likewise, the Pope can only exercise his ministry with the support of those around him.

Read: Pope Pius XI’s Last Crusade

A sampling of prayers

In the aftermath of the explosions in Boston prayers began to be shared on Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms. Here is a sampling of prayers ascending from those who seek to follow the Way of Christ, the Way of Love:

Loving God, welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism. Comfort their families and all who grieve for them. Help us in our fear and uncertainty. And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love. Strengthen all those who work for peace, and may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts. Amen.
Offered by the People of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego

O merciful Father, who has taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: look with pity upon the sorrows of your people in Boston. Remember them, O Lord, in your mercy; nourish their souls with patience; comfort the wounded with a sense of your goodness; lift up your countenance upon the first responders; and give us all peace—through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Offered by the folks at the Washington National Cathedral

Loving God, you sent Jesus into the world as one of us, and he suffered as we do. Help us to realize that you are with us at all times and in all things and that your loving grace enfolds us for eternity. For all who are weary and anxious this day, surround them with your care, protect them by your loving might and permit them once more to know peace and safety. Turn the hearts of the violent from the way of evil. May the barriers that divide us crumble, suspicions disappear and hatreds cease. Help us in our confusion, and guide our actions. Heal the hurt, console the bereaved and afflicted, protect the innocent and helpless and deliver all who have been harmed. May we live in justice and peace. We ask all this in the name of Jesus, our brother. Amen.
Offered by the Women of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America)

May the souls of the departed rest in peace. May God console the families and friends of those who lost their lives. May God help all the injured heal, and give them and their families courage and hope for the days ahead. May God guide the hands of the doctors and nurses. And may God bless all the people of Boston.
Offered by Fr. James Martin, SJ

Let us be united in our prayers and in our love.

“Tend my sheep”

On Sunday, April 14, 2013, many of us will hear the text of John 21:1-19. Jesus and Peter dialogue after breakfast, verses 15-19:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” [NRSV]

Earlier this week we remembered Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Hear what he has to say about ‘shepherding.’ I believe Peter lived into this understanding.

Jesus, the good shepherd (John 10:11), has nothing to do with shepherd idylls and pastoral poetry. All such ideas spoil the text. “I am” makes it clear that the subject is not shepherds and their work in general but Jesus Christ alone. I am the good shepherd—not a good shepherd, which might mean that Jesus is comparing himself with other good shepherds and learning from them what a good shepherd is. What a good shepherd is can be learned only from the good shepherd, beside whom there is no other, from the standpoint of this “I”—from the standpoint of Jesus. No other pastoral office in the church of Jesus Christ sets beside the good shepherd a second and third shepherd; rather, it lets Jesus alone be the good shepherd of the church. He is the “chief shepherd” (1 Pet. 5:4). It is his pastoral office in which the “pastors” participate, or else they spoil the office and the flock. That this is a question of the good shepherd himself, and not of one shepherd among many, becomes immediately clear in the unusual activity that he ascribes to himself. He speaks not of pastoring, watering, and helping. Rather, “The (again, note the article!) good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). So Jesus calls himself the good shepherd because he dies for his sheep.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2007-09-04). I Want to Live These Days with You: A Year of Daily Devotions (p. 178). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.