Exploring the role of Catholic media

TORONTO — Many of us Catholic media types are here in Toronto tonight for tomorrow’s opening of the Catholic Media Convention, which brings together the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada, the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals and the Association of Roman Catholic Communicators of Canada. Though some would say that we simply represent old-style, dead-tree ways of doing things, we also consider ourselves vital outlets for reporting both the news and the “Good News.” One of the organizers here, Basilian Father Tom Rosica, recently gave an interview about how the church can deliver its message and the future of Catholic media. And no less an authority that Pope Benedict XVI last week gave some advice for the training of young journalists, which may be a surprise to some readers.

We’ll try blogging from here periodically this week to keep you apprised of what’s being discussed.

Historic black parish celebrates anniversary

Here in Washington, St. Augustine Parish celebrated it’s 150th anniversary earlier this month. At first glance this might look like a local story, but it’s really a story that parallels the history of African-American Catholicism in the United States. Details are in the Washington Archdiocese’s Catholic Standard.

Rome’s changing religious landscape

ROME — Church of the Seven DolorsI stopped in the other day at the Church of the Seven Dolors in Via Garibaldi, a hidden gem tucked into the side of Rome’s Janiculum Hill. Designed by the Baroque architect Francesco Borromini in the mid-1600s, it is flanked by a large convent of Augustinian sisters.

The sisters ran a nursery school there until a few years ago, and in the late 1980s our daughter attended. The teacher was Suor Lucia, an octogenarian with limitless energy who had a no-nonsense approach that seemed to work wonders with her rough Trastevere students.

I knew the complex had recently been restored, and when I stepped inside the courtyard I could see the place looked refurbished. But something didn’t seem right. The church door was closed, and the door of the convent had two potted plants and a red carpet outside.

I soon discovered that the convent had been transformed into a hotel — not just any hotel, but a very ritzy one. The Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel is named after the Duchess Camilla Virginia Savelli, the Roman woman who had the idea for the original convent in 1642 and paid for its construction. The hotel offers elegant accommodations, sitting rooms, a bar and a panoramic rooftop garden. A room for two costs about $450, while the Imperial Suite goes for $1,200 a night — I’m sure that’s more than Suor Lucia’s annual budget back in the day.

I asked about the nuns, and it turns out there are four left. They’ve moved into a smaller annex, and they open the church for an hour every morning.

Rome’s landscape is dotted with religious houses, convents and monasteries. For years the prevailing wisdom was that even in the face of declining membership, religious order should hold on to their property. You never knew when the next springtime of vocations might occur. Some orders have, in fact, kept their convents fairly full, mainly with sisters from Third World countries. But others have gradually emptied. Some of these complexes are big and cost a lot to heat and maintain. And in today’s European economy, hanging on to vacant real estate is not a good move.

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 http://www.originsonline.com/ (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.