Prayers for seed and soil

Tonight in the Diocese of Evansville, Ind., Catholics will gather for a Rogation Day Mass to be celebrated by Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger at St. Bernard Church in Rockport. 

“If you are a farmer or a gardener, I invite you to bring a bag of soil and some planting seeds to be blessed during the service,”  said Father John Boeglin, director of the diocesan Rural Life Conference, in a story in The Message, the Evansville diocesan newspaper.

Rogation Days are traditionally agricultural celebrations, the priest said, but he noted that “these days underscore the dependence of all people,  urban and rural, on the fruitfulness of the earth, on those who work the farms, on those who provide the resources and the technologies for plentiful food supply.”

Most of all, he added, they “remind us we are completely dependent upon God or favorable weather and protection from terrible storms and pestilences which can literally destroy a crop.”

And “we can all pray for a safe and abundant food supply” and for the safety of farmers as they “drive their large implements to the fields,” he said.

Don’t respond to this on a Friday

R U 4 real? That is how some might react to the Italian bishops’ request that Catholics abstain from sending text messages and even Web surfing during Fridays of Lent.

The Rhode Island Catholic found a mixed reaction to this request in a recent story.

Some said the techno-free Fridays could give people the chance to get closer to God, but others were quick to point out that technology actually brings people closer together and is an important tool for evangelizing.

The Vatican is certainly on the same page with that notion — as it proved when it launched its news channel on YouTube earlier this year.

Father Jay Finelli, pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Tiverton, R.I., is all about new media. He has his own Web site, a Facebook account with more than 1,000 friends and he also does weekly podcasts which he says brings people back to the church and even draws in new people.

Father Michael Najim, director of vocations for the Diocese of Providence, is similarly tech-savvy using his iPhone, laptop and Facebook page.

But he praised the Italian bishops’ advice saying it would give Catholics an opportunity to “take a step back.”

Like the bishops, he is not about to suggest that people completely pull back from modern communication.

“I think there’s a lot of good things happening with technology,” he sad. “But at the same time, we have to know when to shut those things off.”

More on AIDS and condoms in Africa

In the ongoing discussion about Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on condoms and AIDS, I have found that many people are reacting from a very logical, Western perspective. However, the reality in Africa is different.

America magazine has one of the best perspectives on this I have seen: a March 18 blog post by Jesuit Father Jim McDermott explains the situation in Africa in a frank, powerful way. He refers to a very good 2007 interview with Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, coordinator of the African Jesuit AIDS Network. Good reading for those looking for context!

There they go again…

YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Looks like the Vatican is still having trouble resisting the temptation to change Pope Benedict’s words to reporters on his papal plane.

Pope Benedict XVI waves from the entrance of an airplane departing for Africa from Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome March 17. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI waves before departing for Africa from Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

When the pope spoke to us aboard the flight to Cameroon on Tuesday, he was asked about the use of condoms in AIDS prevention. His answer — including the statement that condom distribution increases the problem of AIDS instead of solving it — has been making headlines for days.

What the pope said (and what we ran in a translation from the original Italian in our story Tuesday) included this line:

“One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.”

What the Vatican published on its Web site and in its newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was something different:

“One cannot resolve the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, there is a risk of increasing the problem.”

Even allowing for translation differences, the pope didn’t speak of a “risk.” He said what he said.

The Vatican made some other changes, too. For example, the pope said you couldn’t resolve the problem of AIDS only with money, explaining that assistance programs require a “soul” and spiritual help as well.

But in the official Vatican version, “money” was, strangely, replaced by the phrase “advertising slogans.”

Asked about the discrepancies, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the tape is normally transcribed and then the text passes through the Secretariat of State for slight editing — to put it into good Italian if there are discontinuous expressions. But modifying the meaning of what the pope said is not supposed to be done, he said.

Father Lombardi said he would have to verify what happened in this case and correct it if necessary.

A similar problem arose in 2007 on the plane taking the pope to Brazil, when the pope’s words to reporters about excommunicating Mexican politicians who had voted to legalize abortion were toned down in the official Vatican transcript.