More on today’s bishops’ meeting sessions

Bishop Michael P. Driscoll of Boise, Idaho, takes a call Nov. 10 before the start of the opening session of the U.S. bishops' meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Bishop Michael P. Driscoll of Boise, Idaho, takes a call Nov. 10 before the start of the opening session of the U.S. bishops' fall meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

SECOND UPDATE: We’ve also moved this story on the missal-translation issue:

Bishops again take up section of missal translation rejected in June

UPDATE: Cardinal Cordes (see previous post) also spoke yesterday on the papal encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.” Here’s our story on both events:

Pope’s encyclical said to give charities encouragement, guidance

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Here’s more on this morning’s discussion of a blessing for pre-born children:

Bishops to vote on blessing service for children in the womb

And on Cardinal George’s and Archbishop Sambi’s talks this morning:

Bishops’ conference opens with nod to historic presidential election

Liveblog: U.S. bishops’ Monday afternoon session

(If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)

Continuing our experiment with liveblogging the bishops’ general meeting, here’s this afternoon’s session. (Click here for Monday morning.)

2:40 p.m.: Again, that’s it for today’s liveblog. The bishops will be back in open session at mid-morning tomorrow.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, right, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, talks with conference vice president Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 10 before the opening session of the U.S. bishops' general fall meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, right, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, talks with conference vice president Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 10 before the opening session of the U.S. bishops' fall general meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

2:30 p.m.: So now they’ll go to small-group meetings on the priorities for about an hour, and then the bishops will hold their regular regional meetings. So, that’s it for today.

2:26 p.m.: They’ll vote tomorrow on the goals, and bishops will also be asked to indicate which objectives are most important and least important.

2:21 p.m.: Nine goals and 30 objectives to be discussed. Nine goals are listed in that news release I mentioned a few minutes ago.

2:18 p.m.: Three-year goals, and Bishop Kicanas says he hopes by 2011 the bishops can look back and see what’s been accomplished.

2:13 p.m.: Bishop Kicanas, vice president of the conference, opens the discussion explanation on the five priority initiatives for the USCCB. (Here’s a news release on the five initiatives, who heads the task forces, and what the goals are.)

Dorothy Day’s birthday

1952-dorothy-day11

Catholic Worker Movement co-founder Dorothy Day celebrates her birthday in 1952. (CNS/courtesy of Jim Forest)

Author Jim Forest sent along a reminder that Nov. 8 was the birthday of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day. She was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1897.

Forest, who has written extensively about Day’s life and his experiences of life working alongside the fervent advocate for New York’s poor and homeless people in the 1960s and 1970s, sent this excerpt from one of her essays:

“People say, What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time. We can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes.”

The Vatican’s sainthood effort, which Day once said she would hardly welcome lest it minimize the importance of her work, continues.

Liveblog: U.S. bishops’ Monday morning session

(UPDATE: For Monday afternoon session, click here.)

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago gives his president's address Nov. 10 at the opening session of the U.S. bishops' general fall meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago gives his presidential address Nov. 10 at the opening session of the U.S. bishops' general fall meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

(If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)

The CNS Blog today launches a grand experiment: liveblogging of the public sessions of the U.S. bishops’ fall general meeting in Baltimore. Check back here both for what’s going on on the floor of the meeting but also for links to relevant materials.

12:45 p.m.: Press briefing now being livestreamed on the U.S. bishops’ Web site. Many questions being raised about the Catholic vote in the presidential election. (UPDATE: Link now takes you to recording of this briefing.)

12:32 p.m.: Morning session ends with the praying of the Angelus.

12:25 p.m.: Cardinal Cordes notes the importance of charitable activity in the life of the church as expressed in Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est.”

Archbishop (now Cardinal) Paul Cordes, left, and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrive in Biloxi, Miss., with other church officials for a 2005 tour of Mississippi areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Archbishop (now Cardinal) Paul Cordes, left, and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrive in Biloxi, Miss., with other church officials for a 2005 tour of Mississippi areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. (CNS/Bob Roller)

12:16 p.m.: Oops, Archbishop Cordes is now a cardinal (as of a year ago). Here’s a CNS file photo (right) when he visited after Katrina.

12:07 p.m.: Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” is addressing the bishops now on the church’s charitable activities. He recalls visiting devastated areas in the U.S. following Hurricane Katrina.

12:03 p.m.: Concludes by recalling that he was worried about what he would say to the pope when they shared an elevator ride during the papal visit. But the pope set him at ease when he told Father O’Connell that CUA is “a truly great Catholic university.”

12:01 p.m.: Difficult times because of the current economic crisis, but Father O’Connell says fundraising has been strong.

11:51 a.m.: Father O’Connell says he’s proud that the pope chose CUA as “his pulpit” for addressing the U.S. bishops last April. And he says the impact of the papal visit on the students of the university is hard to describe.

11:47 a.m.: Next up, a report to the bishops by Vincentian Father David M. O’Connell, president of The Catholic University of America. He’s grateful for the bishops’ support, both personally and financially, for “the bishops’ university.”

11:43 a.m.: Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati draws a laugh from the bishops when he notes that the proposed document is erroneous when it refers to “a varia” since the singular form of the word is “varium.” The proposal then is approved.

11:38 a.m.: Now they’re on “varia” process. This too is fairly internal: How do bishops raise new topics for the conference to explore and how are these ideas assigned to a committee?

11:36 a.m.: Remember, this is just a preliminary discussion. Vote on priorities and plans is tomorrow.

11:30 a.m.: Some discussion of the bishops’ marriage initiative, but much of this discussion continues to be fairly routine.

11:14 a.m.: Priority and plans of the bishops’ conference now up for discussion. This is routine stuff that happens every year, though this is the first discussion following the USCCB restructuring which took effect this year.

11:09 a.m.: Discussions about the translations of the Mass have been going on for years. Here is some background: here, here, and here.

11:05 a.m.: Only two questions on the blessing in the womb item, so now they’ve moved on to the translation of the Roman Missal rejected at their previous meeting.

11:01 a.m.: Meanwhile, the full text of Cardinal George’s address to the bishops is now posted on the bishops’ Web site.

10:59 a.m.: Proposed liturgical item on blessing of a child in the womb now on the floor.

10:57 a.m.: Break over, on to “action items.” The bishops don’t vote now. Documents are presented and bishops can ask for clarification.

10:25 a.m.: Coffee break, and then there will be preliminary consideration of the meeting’s “action items,” such as a proposed service for the blessing of a child in the womb and the bishops’ conference priorities and plans.

10:20 a.m.: Auxiliary Bishop Cisneros of Brooklyn addressing bishops about last year’s Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean and presents a triptych representative of the meeting, which Cardinal George says will be given a place of prominence at the bishops’ headquarters.

10:17 a.m.: Archbishop Sambi is given a standing ovation at the end of his talk, customary for the pope’s representative in the United States. Cardinal George suggests he ask the pope for a raise.

10:16 a.m.: USCCB has Web page devoted solely to this meeting.

10:13 a.m.: Archbishop Sambi covering list of all the duties of bishops, including supporting their priests.

10:08 a.m.: Praises American Catholics’ emphasis on religious education.

Abp. Sambi

10:00 a.m.: Archbishop Sambi recalling words of Pope Benedict to the bishops in Washington last April.

9:55 a.m.: Now the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Sambi, addresses the meeting. Last year he announced the schedule for the papal trip to the United States

9:54 a.m.: Time of challenge for the church and the nation, but all times are, the cardinal says.

9:50 a.m.: Applause when Cardinal George comments that life of the unborn cannot be sacrificed.

9:47 a.m.: Opens with comments on the election of the first African-American president, but also talks about how Catholic politicians often have to put aside church teachings to be successful.

9:46 a.m.: Cardinal George, president of the USCCB, is delivering the meeting’s “presidential address,” which some would call a “state of the church” speech.

9:40 a.m.: For instance, report includes recommendations — and strong support — for the bishops’ movie reviews from the Office for Film and Broadcasting.

9:35 a.m.: National Advisory Council report being given now. Council is a body of laity, religious, priests and bishops that give advice to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on issues facing the bishops. Here’s some background on the council from earlier this year.

9:20 a.m.: Meeting opens with message to the Holy Father, as it always does, asking Pope Benedict to pray for the bishops as they deliberate.

CNS Bible Blog: What made Peter squirm?

Link to Bible Blog seriesBy Father Scott M. Lewis, SJ
Special to Catholic News Service

We have all seen the Holy Thursday scene so many times: a few embarrassed-looking parishioners in front of the congregation with their shoes off and an alb-clad priest trying to wash their feet without stumbling or falling. Everyone seems relieved when it is over.

But the footwashing that Jesus performed in chapter 13 of John was not intended to give us another liturgical ritual. It was supposed to be a paradigm for authentic Christian life.

Washing the feet of the guests was considered the lowest task in a household and no Jewish slave would ever be asked to do it. So when Jesus puts a towel around himself and begins to wash their feet we can imagine their shocked and stunned silence. There are echoes of Philippians 2:1-11 –- assuming the condition of a slave –- as Jesus begins his task.

Scott M. Lewis SJ

Scott M. Lewis, SJ

The synoptic Gospels portray the disciples squabbling among themselves at the Last Supper about who is the greatest. John considers this question so important that he is willing to omit the institution of the Eucharist in order to relate this scene. But the footwashing will illustrate love to the limit and can be seen as an interpretation of the meaning of Eucharist rather than a replacement.

Peter’s objections are often thought to reflect humility or feelings of unworthiness. That may be the case but there is another possibility. Peter might have seen all too clearly what Jesus was doing and was struggling to come to terms with it. The paradigm that Jesus mimes for them is one of renunciation of status, honor, and ego and runs counter to human values and human societies. This was an essential element of spirituality in the early Christian communities. No wonder Peter was squirming. But Jesus was adamant and uncompromising: unless I wash your feet you can have no share with me!

A church window depicts Jesus and his apostles at the Last Supper. (CNS photo from Crosiers)

A church window depicts Jesus and his apostles at the Last Supper. (CNS photo from Crosiers)

As Jesus dons his robe again, he recognizes that only later will they understand what he has just done. He is teacher and lord, and if he is willing to serve others in what is considered the lowliest way without feeling slighted or diminished then how much more should his disciples?

Humility has a bad reputation — understandably so — because of how it is often invoked to oppress and control others. The humility that Jesus models is not one of subordination or domination. New Testament scholar Sandra Schneiders describes this as a “radical new order of human relationships” between equals. Disciples are invited to draw their sense of worth and honor from their relationship with Jesus Christ and the love which they share with one another.

At the conclusion of the supper he gives them a “new” commandment: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Chapter 15 will clarify the manner of this love: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Love alone is to be the identifying sign of the Christian disciple, not what one eats, drinks, or wears, nor the manner of ritual and prayer.

In what sense is this commandment new? Christianity did not invent love. When Jesus refers to love of God and neighbor as the greatest commandment in the other three Gospels he quoted from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. But it is new in the sense that it is the first and essential commandment given by Jesus in the new age that he has inaugurated by his incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection.

The spirituality that Jesus invites us to follow in every aspect of our lives is a continual letting go of pride, fear, and desire for honor, power, and recognition. In its place we should be eager to lay down our “life” (ego, selfishness, and personal advantage) for the sake of others.

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