From Sydney, a great new book on the Mass

The Catholic Weekly in Sydney, Australia, has published a beautiful new commentary on the Mass.

“This Is the Mass,” by the liturgy office of the Archdiocese of Sydney, is worth the $40 (US$39) price for the photographs alone. It was shot during a Mass celebrated by Sydney Cardinal George Pell in the archdiocesan St. Mary’s Cathedral.

The 160-page coffee-table book gives a commentary on nearly every detail of the Mass, from the entrance procession to the recessional, and gives biblical and historical context to liturgical rites as simple as kissing the altar. The captions are quotes from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and pullout quotes are from St. Augustine. As I read, it struck me that this would make a very nice gift, especially for someone new to the church.

At the end of the book, commentary by The Catholic Weekly managing editor Kerry Myers complements stunning shots of Sydney, host of World Youth Day.

The book is available for ordering at’THIS IS THE MASS’ BOOK.

‘Citizen journalism’ at World Youth Day

“Citizen journalism” is a new buzzword in the newspaper industry — and one many professional journalists are not too fond of — as the mainstream media struggle to find new methods to engage readers in the Internet age.

But it occured to me this morning that we have an interesting form of citizen journalism going on at World Youth Day. Within one hour earlier today over on the CNS World Youth Day blog, three of our bloggers had interesting up-close-and-personal reports on the arrival of Pope Benedict in Sydney Harbor — and all three had photos to share of the pope too.

First, Anna Weaver from the Hawaii Catholic Herald told her story about how she thought that her group would be too far away from the pope to get a good look at him, but then discovered that he would pass right by their spot. “This is far from an impartial journalist’s take on the papal arrival, but I am both a pilgrim and a reporter on this trip, and the pilgrim’s fever has a hold of me right now,” she wrote.

Only a minute or so later, Kris Dmytrenko of Salt + Light Television in Canada posted his own account of being on the papal boat in the harbor and speaking personally with the pope about, among other things, the International Eucharistic Congress last month in Quebec. He later stood next to Pope Benedict during the ride. “I’ll never forget his warmth and attention as he waved to pilgrims along the shores, his papal ring glimmered mere inches from my nose,” Kris wrote.

And then within the hour, Chris Valka, CSB, the Basilian seminarian who has been in Sydney for four months as a volunteer for the WYD organizing team, posted his own blog item (it’s a “must read”) on unexpectedly becoming master of ceremonies for the papal boat’s voyage through Sydney Harbor. “Did this just really happen???” is the way he fittingly headlined his post. “Even the Holy Father exclaimed “wow” as the boat rounded the coves filled to with thousands of people along the shoreline,” Chris recounted.

When we set out to find bloggers for our special WYD site, we specified that they had to be good writers, and all the ones we recruited have been top notch. Not bad for our first stab at citizen journalism.

Also blogging from WYD

Bill Howard, editor of the Colorado Catholic Herald in Colorado Springs, is in Sydney blogging away and writing news stories (like this) on World Youth Day. (We missed him in our previous posts here and here about Catholic press coverage and blogs on WYD.)

It’s quite the robust blog, with plenty of entries on activities of the Colorado Springs delegation to WYD. Bill notes that what makes the site a tad unique is that the group stopped in Seoul, South Korea, on its way to Sydney, so there are entries about that too (like this one on Korean Catholicism). Another unique thing I found on the blog is this item containing audio links on this morning’s WYD catechesis and Mass homily by Colorado Springs Bishop Michael J. Sheridan.

And if you want a close-up look at the official WYD backpack that’s been showing up all week in various photos from Sydney, check out this post.

Wednesday’s WYD summary

Here are today’s highlights over at the CNS World Youth Day blog and on the CNS homepage for WYD stories:

U.S. pilgrim Alex Lugar, 16, of Wexford, Pa., attends a World Youth Day catechesis session July 16 at Blessed John XXIII Parish in Stanhope Gardens, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. Religious instruction has been a traditional part of the international gathering for Catholic young people. (CNS/Paul Haring)

— Catechesis sessions throughout the host city are always a big part of the World Youth Day tradition. One of our bloggers, Anna Weaver of the Hawaii Catholic Herald, has a blog post detailing one she attended yesterday, plus we had a story today on a session led by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican and currently Vatican ambassador to Egypt and the Arab League.

— Helping guide youths as they attempt to discern their vocations is also a big part of World Youth Day, so our other major story today from Sydney was on the vocations fair held this week in the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. CNS Rome bureau reporter Cindy Wooden, who came to Sydney as part of the Vatican press corps on the papal plane, describes the event as both lively and serious.

— Speaking of vocations, one of our bloggers notes his own deep involvement in the vocations aspect of WYD. Chris Valka, CSB, wrote in a post yesterday that the Vocations Expo was a major responsibility of his while in Sydney. Make sure you go back and read his piece if you haven’t already because he talks about his own vocation arising from his attendance at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993 and how he is just weeks from his own final profession of vows with the Basilian Fathers and just months from his own ordination to the priesthood.

All this activity (check here and here for previous summaries) and the pope is just now beginning his official participation in Sydney, where it’s already Thursday morning. Until then …

Photos of ‘Sydney excitement’

(Cross-post from CNS World Youth Day blog)

To make yourself feel even closer to the events of World Youth Day, make sure you check out the slideshow on our World Youth Day 2008 page. Once you’re on the page at, look to the right and click the “CNS Photos — Sydney Excitement” to see some of the best images from WYD.

Come back often because we’ll be updating the slideshow up to and beyond the end of WYD activities.

A light in the darkness for vocations

For years now, the church in the U.S. has been dealing with a shortage of priests. Vocations to the priesthood seem to be at a low and many parishes are being forced to share priests or combine with other parishes as a result.

Reading articles like this one in The Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond, Va., and this one in the Catholic Advance, in the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., are a little scary. The future for American vocations can seem pretty dark at times.

Thankfully, there are beacons of hope. Some young American men are heeding the call to the priesthood and new priests are being ordained. The Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., just ordained two men for the priesthood, as seen in this article in The Tablet.

In the Diocese of Monterey, Calif., an article in The Observer tells of the eight new priests who just joined the diocese, even as three priests retired.

The Monitor of the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., has this article about a young man who has just been formally accepted as a seminarian. He will be studying in Rome at the Pontifical North American College.

So, while it’s no secret that there aren’t as many vocations as there could be, it is nice to see that Americans are still accepting the call.

A woman who knows her Bible

As the world’s bishops gear up for the synod on the Bible in October, stories about how people don’t understand Scripture are inevitable.

As CNS reported earlier this year, not everyone gets the Bible. Although most people in North America and Europe own one, more than half say they don’t understand it.

But not Susanna George, a Korean Catholic woman in Tampa, Fla. As the Florida Catholic reports in its July 4 issue, George’s appreciation for the Bible along with her desire to understand the readings in English, inspired her to spend every night during the last 10 years copying the Bible by hand twice — first in Korean, then in English.

Janet Shelton reports that George’s initial work essentially involved an awkward effort to copy the image of letters. Eventually, the process became easier and George began to recognize words and sounds as she made the translations. One day at an English Mass, the priest read one word that she recognized, which for her made all the work worthwhile.

George finished her project in March and bound the pages into notebooks numbering 2,700 pages. Now that she’s done, she plans to use the 100 minutes a night that she once devoted to Scripture translation to start the process all over again.