Reflections for Memorial Day

The Catholic Review in the Archdiocese of Baltimore this week published an exploration of the origins of Memorial Day that may be worth reading this holiday weekend.

Flowers and flags decorate the grave of U.S. Navy Lt. Michael Patrick Murphy at Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, N.Y., in 2006. Murphy was killed during a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan in 2005. (CNS file/Gregory A. Shemitz)Also marking the holiday, Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit issued the following Memorial Day prayer: “We remember all those who courageously gave their lives for the cause of freedom. In union with people of goodwill of every nation, may we all work for peace and justice, and thus, seek to end violence and conflict anywhere around the globe. We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.” And the archdiocese posted on its Web site, which it shares with The Michigan Catholic archdiocesan newspaper, the famous war poem “In Flanders Fields.”

Not exactly related to Memorial Day, but still on the subject of soldiers making sacrifices for their country, is a story earlier this month in The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., about a new ministry offered by a retired Air Force lieutenant colo­nel for military veterans and their families seeking to discover or rediscover God in their lives.

Vatican: Receiving Eucharist kneeling may not be permanent change

Some blogs are noting that, at yesterday’s Corpus Christi Mass in Rome, everyone who received Communion from the pope did so while kneeling and on the tongue rather than in the hand. Here’s, cross-posted from our homepage, is our story from this morning:

Vatican: Receiving Eucharist while kneeling not permanent change

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

Pope Benedict XVI kneels in prayer near the Blessed Sacrament during the Corpus Christi procession in Rome May 22. (CNS/Reuters)VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The four dozen people who received Communion from Pope Benedict XVI on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ received the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling.

Vatican officials said the gesture at the May 22 Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran does not mark a permanent change in papal liturgies, but highlighted the solemnity of the feast and a connection to Mass practices in the past.

As the pope prepared to distribute Communion, two ushers placed a kneeler in front of the altar on the basilica steps. The chosen communicants — laypeople, nuns, seminarians, priests and boys and girls who had received their first Communion in their parishes in May — all knelt and received on the tongue.

Generally at papal Masses, those receiving Communion from the pope stand. The majority choose to receive on the tongue, but some reverently extend cradled hands to receive the Eucharist.

Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, was unavailable for comment.

Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, told Catholic News Service May 23 “there is no discussion” in the Vatican about insisting that those who receive Communion from the pope do so kneeling or that they receive it on the tongue rather than in their hands.

In addition, he said, “there are no new norms coming” that would change the Vatican’s 1969 decision that local bishops could allow their faithful to receive the Eucharist in their hands while standing.

“But the gesture of the Holy Father” at the May 22 Mass “is to be appreciated. It brings out in a better way the fact that we adore the Lord whom we receive” in the Eucharist, Archbishop Ranjith said.

“It was a special occasion” because the feast focuses on Jesus truly present in the Eucharist, he said. “I hope this practice spreads.”

In a preface to a January book about the beauty of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling, Archbishop Ranjith had said he thought it was time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand.

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office, said he did not think the May 22 Mass marked a permanent change; “according to current norms the faithful may receive in the hand while standing,” he said.

However, he said, the practice chosen for the special feast day was another example of what Msgr. Marini has said would be the practice at papal Masses, “alternating the old and new to indicate continuity with the past.”

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Benedict spoke about the importance of “kneeling before the Lord, adoration that begins at the Mass itself and accompanies the entire (Corpus Christi) procession” through the streets of Rome.

“To adore the body of Christ means to believe that there, in that piece of bread, there really is Christ who gives meaning to our lives,” the pope said in his homily.


(UPDATE: After the above story ran, Msgr. Marini got back to Cindy. Here’s the updated version.)

All the pope’s U.S. texts in one place

If you don’t mind some CNS shameless self-promotion, we think we’ve got a winner here — and it’s in an old-fashioned print publication.

I’m talking of course about Origins, our documentary service, which has been selling like, well, hotcakes at a K of C pancake breakfast for the past month since we published an Origins special edition with all the texts of Pope Benedict’s U.S. trip.

Sure, you can get them all for free off the Internet, but then what? Print them yourself? Leave them on your hard drive? Copy them to a flash drive (even though you’ll still need a device to view them)?

Or, for a mere $5, you can purchase this one issue of Origins, then keep it in your briefcase, on your bookshelf or on your desk for ready reference or for small chunks of inspiration, much like you might take 10 minutes to read a particular chapter from the Bible and reflect on its meaning for your life.

Bulk rates are also available: $4.00 each for 2-9 copies; $3.50 each for 10-25 copies; $3.00 each for 26-49 copies; $2.50 each for 50-99 copies; and $2.00 each plus shipping for 100-plus copies (perfect for schools or parish study groups).

This special 36-page edition of Origins includes the full texts of everything on the pope’s itinerary: the welcome ceremony with President Bush; the speeches to the bishops and educators; the address to the U.N.; the homilies of the papal Masses; and much more. (Origins‘ online subscribers can click here for the full contents.)

Copies of this edition of Origins (Vol. 37, No. 46; May 1, 2008) can be purchased online at (look for the blurb on the right and click there or here), or by calling (202) 541-3290.

The Internet is great, and so are old-fashioned print products, but neither is perfect and this is an example where the latter is preferable to the former.

Full texts of Archbishop Chaput’s columns

Yesterday we reported on the objection by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver to the use of his words on the Web site of Roman Catholics for Obama ’08. Here is a link to the full column as well as a link to the previous column that the archbishop says was quoted accurately but incompletely.

Eco-friendly E.T.?

VATICAN CITY — Journalists got an interesting freebie at the end of yesterday’s unveiling of the Vatican’s pavilion at this summer’s world Expo on water and sustainable development being held in Zaragoza, Spain.

It’s a blue squeaky toy that looks a bit like E.T. disguised as a Smurf. He is the Expo Zaragoza 2008 mascot and his name is Fluvi — Latin for river or stream. Spokesmen for the Expo said they decided on this figurine after the public (especially children) chose him out of a lineup of numerous potential mascots.

Spanish communications officers were handing them out at the end of the Vatican press conference along with an explanation in lightning-quick Spanish.

Basically, when your kids or your pet are done playing and squeaking this 100% all-natural-latex creature,  you yank a little piece of string out of Fluvi’s bellybutton, pop him in a flower pot, cover him with dirt, water him regularly and – “arriba arriba!” — you will eventually have a full-grown tomato plant flourishing on your windowsill. Not sure if they will be cherry tomatoes or giant heirlooms, though…

But in any case, this takes the whole Chia Pet idea to a groundbreaking new level.


Choosing godparents

Here’s a topic you rarely hear discussed in public — is there a proper way to choose godparents? It’s discussed on the blog site of America magazine. Author Valerie Schultz explores the topic in a brief and engaging way, asking if godparenting is merely an honorary title or if it carries spiritual significance. And when you read it, make sure you also read the third comment under Schultz’s original post.

Journalist-turned-seminarian reports on papal visit

The impact of Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States is still reverberating around the country. The Intermountain Catholic in Salt Lake City has posted the personal account of a seminarian — and former staff member — who traveled to New York to represent Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Ore., at the giant rally April 19 for youths and seminarians. The author, Christopher Gray (click here for our earlier article on him), also came back with a photo (right) that proves he had an excellent spot at the rally.

‘Casey Democrats’ and the fall election

Today’s Washington Post Sunday opinion section has an interesting look at “Casey Democrats,” often blue-collar, often Catholic, Democrats named for the late Pennsylvania former Gov. Robert P. Casey Sr., who made national headlines when he was denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because he was pro-life. The article’s author is Mark Stricherz, probably better known in the blogosphere as one of the contributing writers for the GetReligion blog on media coverage of religion. (Stricherz often is right on the mark in his GetReligion analyses, such as his post yesterday on how most newspapers ignored religion in their reporting on last week’s legalization of gay marriage by the California Supreme Court, but I have one minor quibble with today’s Post piece: Stricherz at one point in the article refers to the “headquarters of the Westmoreland County archdiocese” when in fact he is writing about the Greensburg Diocese, which includes Westmoreland and three other southwestern Pennsylvania counties.)

A German shepherd for Italy

Pope Benedict XVI waves from his popemobile during a 2007 visit to the northern Italian city of Pavia. (CNS/Daniele Colarieti, Catholic Press Photo)GENOA, Italy — When Pope Benedict XVI was elected, many Italians figured the German pope might pay less attention to them than his predecessor.

Pope John Paul II, a Pole, made it a point to reach out pastorally to Italians in Rome and beyond, crisscrossing the country on more than 120 visits. But John Paul was younger, and as the first non-Italian pope in more than 450 years, he had an extra reason to remind Italians of his affection and interest.

Benedict, it turns out, has been no less attentive to his adopted country. Already he’s made pastoral visits to 11 Italian cities, and more are on his calendar.

These are not cameo appearances, either. In Genoa and Savona over the weekend, he presided over seven major events and delivered six talks, spending more than 12 hours with the faithful.

The venues in Genoa were packed, but of course not everyone shows up at the Masses and other encounters. Italians are divided over the role of the church and the voice of the pope in social affairs. I think one reason is that he’s a constant presence in the culture. It’s much different to host the pope for a five-day visit, as the United States did in April. Italians have him every day.

The Italians who crowded the streets in Genoa seemed to welcome the German pope as one of their own. For the people I spoke with, his being German was a total non-issue.

The pope knows Italy, having lived in the country for nearly 30 years. He also knows how to hit the right notes when he travels here, tapping into local history and tradition to make his larger points. His first stop in Liguria was at the popular 16th-century shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, where he placed the offering of a gilt rose. Standing near the historic port of Genoa this afternoon, he described the string of coastal churches and Marian sanctuaries positioned like a “crown between the mountains and the sea.”

The pope commemorated the many missionaries who left Genoa for the New World. But he also recalled the ordinary emigrants, materially poor but rich in faith and spiritual values, which they transplanted to the Americas. In a sense, he recognized that they were missionaries, too.

The ambassador’s American connection

Pope Benedict XVI poses for pictures with the new Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, Mordechay Lewy, at the Vatican May 12. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo/L\'Osservatore Romano)VATICAN CITY — When Mordechay Lewy presented his credentials as Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican the other day, he explained to Pope Benedict the reason for the unusual spelling of his last name.

Levi, of course, is a common Jewish name, as one of the Hebrew tribes. But when one of the ambassador’s ancestors decided to emigrate to the United States in the 19th century, it became Lewy.

“The fact that my grand-grandfather, from the town of Rogasen in the district of Posen (now Poznan in Poland), changed the spelling from Levi to Lewy was due to his illusory notion that Americans would pronounce Lewy better. He proved to be wrong,” the ambassador told the pope.

Lewy recounted how his great-grandfather participated in the American Civil War before returning to his homeland, which by then had become part of Imperial Germany, and starting a family in Berlin. From there, in the middle of the next century, the ambassador’s father saved himself from the Holocaust by illegally emigrating to Palestine.

That’s where the ambassador was born on May 15, 1948 — the day after the independence of Israel was declared.

Lewy met with a small group of reporters Thursday at the Israeli Embassy, and he handed us copies of his own speech to the pope. The ambassador knows Latin and, perhaps encouraged by the Vatican’s recent inauguration of a Latin-language Web page, his text was sprinkled with Latin phrases.

The opening line: “Benedictus qui largitur de majestate sua carni et sanguini” is the Latin version of a traditional Hebrew greeting that means, roughly, “Blessed is He who gives of his glory to flesh and blood.” Lewy told the pope this was a traditional blessing a Jew made out of respect when he encountered a monarch or a ruler.


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