The Paschal Triduum this year seemed like a return from exile: Holy Thursday’s Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, in church; Good Friday’s Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, in church; Saturday evening’s Easter Vigil,in church — what a blessing.
This year 2021, marks the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippine islands. The historical background of the celebration is the arrival of the fleet headed by Ferdinand Magellan. His principal mission was to find a westward route to the Moluccas Islands, where spices were thought to be found. Magellan, as we know, was a Portuguese explorer in the service of the Spanish crown.
Ten years ago last month, the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church took a striking decision: it elected its youngest member, 40-year-old Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, as leader of the largest of the eastern Catholic Churches, a choice confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI.
Let me adapt to recent circumstances a thought-experiment theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar proposed decades ago: Imagine that a friend contracts a severe case of COVID-19 and medicine can do no more for him. The doctors inform his widowed mother and us, so we gather with her for the final scene in the drama of this life. The ventilator is removed; the man grows weaker from lack of breath and whispers his final farewells. We hear the death-rattle. Then he expires and takes on the pallor of death.
There is no need to belabor the awfulness of the year of lockdowns, shutdowns, and other downers that began in mid-March 2020. Among the failures that will bear serious scrutiny going forward are those of inept local governments.
On February 25, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives could have addressed any number of pressing issues. The nation was in its 11th month of a pandemic that had already caused enormous economic and social dislocation. Schools remained closed as evidence mounted that online learning was disserving vulnerable poor children. Civil unrest continued in cities whose local governments refused to maintain public order.
As the names Ambrose, Augustine, Athanasius, and John Chrysostom suggest, the middle centuries of the first millennium, the era of the Church Fathers, were the golden age of the Catholic episcopate.
This year of St. Joseph offers all of us the opportunity to reflect on the simple yet extraordinary life of the carpenter from Nazareth who showed himself docile to the will of God, especially in trying times. By turning to St. Joseph this year in a particular way and by taking advantage of the gift of the special plenary indulgence, we may imitate the heroic virtue of St. Joseph who did not focus on his own desires but willfully dedicated himself to cooperate with God’s plan for our salvation.
To give or not to give communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians? That is the big question.
Some people wonder why, as Director of the Propagation of the Faith, I would also be interested in promoting Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Some have seen these two arms of the church as competing organizations. I see them as complementary! Both are important missionary organizations.