Is St. Hildegard on your playlist?

St. Hildegard of Bingen

St. Hildegard of Bingen

This may be a case of what’s old is new again. Not old as in “so last week” but old as in nine centuries ago.

By that I mean the works of St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century German Benedictine mystic. There is not much this woman didn’t do. She founded two monasteries, wrote sacred music, composed songs, plays and poems. She also wrote about plants and medicines, theology and philosophy.

There may be renewed attention to her accomplishments when her curriculum vitae expands this fall.

On Oct. 7 St. Hildegard will be named a doctor of the church joining a high-profile list of 33 other church doctors.

Pope Benedict XVI announced May 27 that she would receive the title just a couple of weeks after he announced that she would be added to the church’s list of saints, although she had never been canonized. In a 2010 series of audience talks, Pope Benedict described St. Hildegard as a good role model for Catholics today because of her love for the church amid problems of clergy’s abuse of power in her day.

With all this renewed attention to this 12th-century mystic a June 25 story in The Catholic World Report provides a beginner’s guide to her music, asking readers to consider “how many saints can you say that you have a playlist of audio files?”

The article notes that St. Hildegard often invented her own language for some of her lyrics.

It also points out that her music — primarily Gregorian chants — had “something of a ‘pop culture’ moment back in 1994, when Richard Souther’s album “Vision: The Music of  Hildegard von Bingen became a hit” and won the Billboard Classical/Crossover album of the year award.

(CNS photo)

(CNS photo)

Since her 69 works could be overwhelming,  the author suggests a sample playlist of 12 songs to download.

The music certainly won’t be what everyone is listening to, but it just might give those who hear it an appreciation for liturgical music or at the very least, a connection with a saint.

US Catholic journalist to be Vatican’s new communications adviser

UPDATEMedia adviser role is positive step for Vatican, says new US appointee

VATICAN CITY — What a surprise to hear the Vatican has made room for a “senior communications adviser” whose job will be to help the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in (what sounds like) building a “messaging” strategy and also to help develop and strengthen lines of communication between the Holy See’s numerous communications outlets, including the press office.


U.S. Catholic journalist Greg Burke preparing for a live linkup with the Fox News studio during Pope Benedict XVI’s April 2010 trip to Malta. The loud music at a youth gathering made hearing the anchor’s questions a real challenge. (CNS photo by Carol Glatz) (April 18, 2010).

Anyone who has covered the Vatican has at least one story to tell (and how many GigaBytes gobbled?) about some kind of PR glitch that probably could have been prevented by a knowledgeable adviser who had the ear of those on high.

While the Vatican has often faulted an overly secular or sensationalist media industry with making the church look bad, getting a media adviser may be a sign it has realized prevention is still the best medicine.

The real clue the Vatican is taking the new position seriously is that it has hired a journalist who has worked in the secular media for decades. St. Louis native Greg Burke, 52, worked for Fox News the past 10 years covering the Vatican, Europe and the Middle East, and before that he was Rome-correspondent for Time magazine for 10 years. He’s well-versed in the church since he is a life-long Catholic and member of Opus Dei.

Burke, who has been shipped off to Afghanistan and other turbulent MidEast areas to cover events, will be used to being in the line of fire and hopefully has built up thick enough skin for his new job.

Citizenship: We passed the test!

Editor’s Note: Maria Pia Negro, a graduate student at the University of Maryland who is working as an intern with Catholic News Service this summer, had a big day this week and shared her story.

By Maria Pia Negro
Catholic News Service

I observed World Refugee Day on Wednesday by becoming a citizen of the United States.

New U.S. citizen (CNS/Bob Roller)

Holding folders with our Peruvian passports, green cards and flashcards with 100 civic knowledge questions, my sister and I walked into the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Baltimore with excitement and anxiety.

It might have seemed like a formality but being ready to pledge allegiance to the country that was my home for the past seven years was a big deal to me.  Immigrating to America a year before finishing high school was not my decision, but this was.

The road that followed our arrival was full of surprises and blessings in disguise.

Rather than turning my back on the country that saw me grow, by becoming an American citizen I’m embracing the place that helped me become an adult and allowed my parents to offer us a hopeful future.

We passed the test!

At 2 p.m., I was sworn in with about 50 other immigrants and refugees; my sister changed her legal name so her naturalization ceremony will be later. “The Star Spangled Banner” took on a whole different meaning. And some of the people surrounding us were either smiling or crying out of emotion when facing the flag.

(Something that I love about going to these ceremonies, my mother’s a year ago and my own, is seeing how many people from all parts of the world come here and want to be part of this country. And this country wants them back.)

You could see the excitement in many of their faces. I was so excited that I filled out my voter registration card on the car ride back to the CNS office. My colleagues at CNS were so happy for me; they made me feel at home.

No one chooses to be a refugee

By Maria Pia Negro

Catholic News Service

“Every minute eight people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.”

That is just one of the statistics about refugees that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees agency offers. What decisions would you make if you were on that situation?

Researching for a piece commemorating World Refugee Day, I stumbled upon a role-playing phone app where users face the dilemmas that confront refugees around the world. Each story and the choices related to it are based on real-life experiences of families torn apart by war or persecution.

I was shaking after using the app. These are the decisions that over 42 million of people (refugees and internally displaced) are forced to make.

Fleeing means risk being mugged, raped, arrested, and tortured or never seeing your family again. But staying can cost you your life. What would you do? There is almost no right answer.

Like the UNHCR website said, “For many refugees the choice is between the horrific or something worse.”

The app was part of this year’s campaign to show the choices refugees have to face and aims to fight intolerance against refugees. The U.N. refugee agency campaign, titled “Dilemmas,” also includes survivors’ profiles and messages from celebrities.

According to Refugees International, there are 42.5 million refugees and internally displaced people in the world. In all, 15.2 million people ended last year as refugees. Approximately 12 million stateless people are living in limbo without citizenship rights.

Vatican’s little “green” car

VATICAN CITY — Years after the Vatican press office started looking for an electric moped so staff could buzz around the Vatican without polluting or using fossil fuels, an Italian company offered an electric car instead.

NWG, a company promoting alternative and renewable energy use, officially handed over the keys to the electric CityCar early this afternoon. Company officials said they have sold 400 of the two-passenger cars this year. NWG officials said the car can go more than 90 miles before needing a recharge. They sell the car — complete with the rechargable batteries — for just over $30,000.

Officially, the car is a gift to Pope Benedict XVI and a thank you for his efforts to promote the safeguarding of the environment and making the Vatican more environmentally friendly . Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the press office, said, “With this car the Holy See and the Vatican are taking another step forward toward being green.”

Students in action: working for Olympic moment of silence

Students in the Sociology of Sports class at The Catholic University of America have joined a project to try to commemorate the massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

In addition to posting this video on YouTube, in December the students wrote Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, and Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organizing Committee, urging a moment of silence during the opening ceremony July 27. CUA President John Garvey supported the students’ letter in his own letter to the officials, dated May 31.

Members of the sociology of sports class at The Catholic University of America advocate one moment of silence during the opening ceremony of the Olympics to commemorate the Munich Massacre. (CNS photo/courtesy of David Bauman, CUA)

In the letter, the students said although they were not born at the time of the massacre, “We are the Sept. 11 generation … we are confident that we have (an) understanding of the magnitude of the attacks that occurred on Sept. 5, 1972.

In their video, the students ask others to sign a petition for the moment of silence.

“This is not about politics, this is not even about religion,” said one student.”This is about 11 victims who lost their lives by an act of terror.”

In 1972, members of the Palestinian group Black September kidnapped the Israeli team members and demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners. The Israelis, a West German police officer and eight members of Black September were killed. Israel is widely believed to have retaliated against those suspected of involvement, beginning with military operations in 1973.

Other news about women religious

(CNS photo)

The number of women joining religious orders in England and Wales has almost tripled in the last three years, according to a June 13 article in England’s Catholic Herald newspaper that said 17 women joined religious orders in Britain last year, up from six in 2009.

“Something is definitely happening,” said Father Richard Nesbitt, Westminster diocesan vocations director, when asked if this could be the sign of a revival for women religious in Britain.

Sister Cathy Jones, who works for the National Office for Vocation in London, also said there has been a “significant increase in those thinking of entering religious life.”

Sister Cathy, who took her final vows more than a year ago as a member of the Religious of the Assumption, said there was a record number of women at the Westminster Diocese’s “Come and See” event in February, which gives women the chance to learn more about consecrated life.

She said more than 30 women attended the event , far exceeding the number that would have been drawn to a similar function 20 or 30 years ago.

SSPX Bishop Fellay arrives at Vatican

UPDATE: Bishop Fellay, doctrinal officials meet for discussions at Vatican

VATICAN CITY — Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, arrived at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at 5 p.m. this evening for a meeting with U.S. Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the doctrinal congregation.

News reports earlier said Cardinal Levada would relay to Bishop Fellay Pope Benedict XVI’s response to his latest suggestions regarding a “doctrinal preamble” the Vatican wants him to sign in order to reconcile the SSPX with the rest of the church.

At this point, the meeting is still going on and we have no idea what is being said.

Bishop Fellay arrives June 13 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (CNS/Carol Glatz)

Bishop Fellay pulled up to the “Holy Office,” as the building housing the congregation is known, in a red, four-door Peugeot 260 with French license plates. There were two other people in the car with him. A French colleague asked Bishop Fellay if, after the meeting, he would speak to the handful of journalists gathered outside. The bishop responded, “We’ll see.”

Interestingly, on his way into the building, Bishop Fellay crossed paths with Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

In May, Cardinal Koch had given a major address in Rome on “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with non-Christian religions. The Society of St. Pius X has voiced serious reservations about the teachings in that document, including Nostra Aetate’s recognition of the special place of the Jewish people in salvation history and it’s condemnation of anti-Semitism.

Video: Why Corpus Christi processions?

Is your town or parish having a Corpus Christi procession this weekend to mark the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ? This past Thursday, when much of Europe and other locations marked the traditional date of the feast of Corpus Christi, our Rome bureau prepared this one-minute primer on why the church holds such processions. You can also read our story on Pope Benedict XVI’s Corpus Christi homily and procession, plus you can see photos of Thursday’s Mass and procession in Rome.

CUA president pens columns about HHS mandate

CUA President John Garvey     (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, has been writing a fair amount on the contraceptive mandate in the new health care reform law.

He wrote an op-ed piece in the May 25 edition of The Washington Post and a commentary in the June 8 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Both columns outlined why Catholic University recently joined 42 Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other institutions in filing suit in federal court to stop three government agencies from implementing a mandate that would require them cover contraceptives and sterilization in their health plans.

Catholic organizations have objected to the contraceptive mandate since it was announced last Aug. 1 by Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Unless they meet the four criteria of a narrow religious exemption or have a grandfathered health plan, employers will be required to pay for sterilizations and contraceptives as part of their health coverage beginning as soon as Aug. 1, 2012. Religiously affiliated institutions will be given an additional year — by August 2013 — to comply with the mandate.

Garvey, writing for the Chronicle, noted that if the federal government had provided a “genuine accommodation” to Catholic organizations with the health care law, it could have attained its goals “while respecting fully the constitutionally protected rights of our universities to remain true to our founding missions: the development of intellect and the inculcation of virtue.”

“Barring that, we feel compelled to seek relief from the courts,” he wrote.

In the Post, Garvey said Catholic institutions that filed suit against the HHS mandate “object that the rules force them to support activities — sterilization and abortion, in addition to contraception — that they view as immoral. It’s like compelling Jehovah’s Witnesses to salute the flag, or Quakers to fight or Jews to eat pork.”

UPDATE: Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik has written a similar commentary in USA Today that appeared yesterday. He also co-wrote a June 8 column in the Pittsburgh Catholic, the diocesan newspaper, discussing the reason for the lawsuits.


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