How the Christians saved Hanukkah for the Jews

As we all know Christmas and Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, generally fall fairly close to each other in December. This year, Hanukkah begins this evening at sundown.

While most Christians know that the Jews are celebrating Hanukkah this season, not all that many know the the story of the festival and the heroic deeds of the Maccabees, the Jewish martyrs who resisted Greek attempts to make them turn away from their ancient faith. Scripture holds that a mother and seven sons chose torture and death rather than renounce their faith. The Maccabees were regarded by the early church as proto-martyrs of the early Christians who died for their faith across the Roman Empire.

In fact, both the Catholic and Orthodox churches even today remember the Maccabean martyrs in their calendars of saints.

In Friday’s The Wall Street Journal, Jon D. Levensen, a Harvard Divinity School professor of Jewish studies and author, writes in his essay — “The Meaning of Hanukkah: A celebration of religious freedom, the holiday fits well with the American political tradition,” that the origins of Hanukkah would have been forgotten in Jewish scholarship and history had it not been for the inclusion of the Book of Maccabees in the Christian Bible.

“And so we encounter another oddity of Hanukkah: Jews know the fuller history of the holiday because Christians preserved the books that the Jews themselves lost,” Levensen writes.

Read Levensen’s interesting essay and even go back and rediscover the Books of Maccabees. It’s good to know that Christians helped save a Jewish feast that makes holy this season for both faiths.

Text of homily at Cardinal Foley’s funeral Mass

The red hat of Cardinal John P. Foley rests at the foot of his casket during the visitation before his funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia Dec. 16. (CNS/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

PHILADELPHIA — Here is the prepared text of the homily delivered by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York at the funeral liturgy Dec. 16 in Philadelphia for Cardinal John P. Foley, former president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us!”

        It is the celebration of that mystery of the Incarnation that we await this Advent season, as we long to hear those inspired poetic lines from the Prologue of the Gospel of John the Evangelist on Christmas morning.

It is the mystery of the ongoing Incarnation, especially manifest in the life and ministry of John Patrick Foley, that unites us in grateful, reverent, supplicant prayer this Advent afternoon.

Early last Sunday morning, I had just begun the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when I took a call from Cardinal Justin Rigali, who, with characteristic thoughtfulness, telephoned to tell me of the passing of Cardinal John Patrick Foley.

When I then returned to my breviary, it was this line fromSt. Augustine, the second lesson for that day’s office, that greeted me:

“John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts but for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives forever.”

What do you say we pay our friend Cardinal Foley one final tribute and concentrate right now, as he would plead for us to do, not upon him, but upon the Eternal Word, the Word made flesh, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word.

Because, love for Jesus and His Church was indeed the passion of John Patrick Foley’s life, the only dictionary required to translate the meaning of the life and ministry of this remarkably lovable, simple, humble, wise, holy man.

It was into the dying and rising of Jesus that John Foley was baptized, asSt. Paulteaches us in today’s Liturgy of the Word;

It was with the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist that John Foley was daily nourished;

It was on the lap of the bride of Christ, Holy Mother Church, so alive in the vibrant and coherent Catholic culture of this great archdiocese he so cherished, that John Foley was raised, formed, and educated;

It was into the priesthood of Jesus Christ that John Foley was ordained, assuming, not only in soul but in his very person, reconfigurment to Jesus Christ the Head and Shepherd of the Church;

It was as a successor to the apostles, the intimate friends of this Jesus, that he was consecrated as a bishop;

It was to the service of the Church universal, the Mystical Body of Christ, under the pastorate of the successor of St. Peter, that John Patrick Foley served most famously the last twenty-seven years;

And it is now to the tender and unfailing mercy of this Jesus that, with immense love and gratitude, we commend this loyal son of the Church.

Yes, love for Jesus and His Church was indeed the passion of his life.

The Eternal Word was incarnate in Jesus Christ;

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

That mystery of the Incarnation continues in and through the Church.

But John Foley, ever the philosopher and debater, would remind us of the last part of this syllogism: each of us is also called to continue the mystery of the Incarnation through His Church in our own lives.

As God asked the Virgin of Nazareth, to whom Cardinal Foley had such filial devotion, at the Annunciation, so does God still ask each of us: “Will you give my Son flesh? Will you supply the Eternal Word with a human nature? Will you allow the Incarnation to go on?”

We genuflect at the reply of Mary: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Be it done unto me according to Thy Word!”

And this afternoon we praise God’s grace and mercy for the humble, obedient reply of John Foley: a yes for seventy-six years; a yes to what he described as “God’s whisper” to him to become a priest; a yes to God’s plan in recent years that entailed the splinters of the cross as he gradually bowed to leukemia.

Cardinal Foley, effective pedagogue that he was, would remind us of the scholastic maxim that grace builds on nature.

And what an appealing nature John Foley provided to God so the Incarnation might continue!

A courtesy that was so impeccable and the thoughtfulness that was so unfailing that we might not be surprised to find his photograph in the “pictionary” for the entry on “gentleman.”

A natural sense of humor that was so spontaneous that I once told him, “John, if I did not know for a fact that you were a teetotaler, I’d swear you had a couple shots under your filattata before breakfast every morning!”

A holiness in “His Foleyness” that was evident without being overbearing;

A depth to his intellect which could express itself with warmth and childlikeness;

A sparkle in his eye, smile on his lips, lilt to his laugh… and one too many puns!

All a nature upon which God’s grace built, and which God’s Word assumed, to keep the mystery of the Incarnation going.

Priests and people of this noble Archdiocese of Philadelphia, this only child of John and Regina Foley considered you his family; never did he stop bragging about this Archdiocese of Philadelphia, (as much as we begged him to!); to you go our condolences for this “death in the family;” hold your heads high! A local Church that can give us the likes of such a noble, gentle man, whose “message went out to all the world,” is a Church which can endure and come out even stronger in the face of woe and tears.

The “Vatican’s Voice of Christmas” may now be silent; but the Incarnation that made radiant the darkness of that night called silent will never go still, because the example of friends such as John Patrick Foley inspires us to emulate him and his Regina, Mary, in providing God a human nature.

“John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts but for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives forever.”

Saturdays with Cardinal John P. Foley

By Joseph Ryan
Editor, The Dialog, diocesan newspaper of Wilmington, Del.

(CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal John P. Foley had the ability to make faith a reasonable and happy choice in these skeptical times.

Well-named after his patron saint, John the Evangelist, Cardinal Foley, who died Dec. 11 at 76, drew people to God and the church through his cheerful personality and his clear, succinct explanations of the Catholic faith.

He was familiar to millions of Catholics as the “voice of Christmas” during his 25 years as the commentator on NBC’s broadcast of the pope’s Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

He was a hero to hundreds of Catholic press professionals in the United States and Canada for his friendship and advice as a working member of the Catholic Press Association and for his championing of church and media during his 24 years in Rome as president of the Vatican’s social communications agency and three years leading the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, an international lay institute supporting the work of the church in the Holy Land.

He was also my “father” in the Catholic press. I had the good luck to be hired by him in 1977 when he was editor of The Catholic Standard and Times in Philadelphia.

He was the model of what a Catholic journalist should be: accurate, fair and true to the mission of the church.

He often said the “Good News” included bad news, too, noting the Gospel writers reported on Christ’s crucifixion as a criminal, his betrayal by Judas, his denial by Peter and his abandonment at the cross by all the Apostles, save John, his mother and other women disciples. But the Good News of Easter is at the heart of all Gospel and church stories.

The future cardinal’s vision of Catholic journalism, along with my admiration for his writing and speaking skills, sparked my interest is staying in the Catholic press for the rest of my working life.

Knowing the joy he took in his work as a priest and bishop and learning the church’s views through his perspective also made me proud to be a Catholic.

He retired from his post in Rome last February. For much of his three years leading the Holy Sepulcher order, the cardinal was coping with leukemia and other ailments.

Because he knew he was dying, he asked me to help him record his life’s story.

On most Saturdays since July, I had the honor to meet with him and listen to him discuss his Philadelphia archdiocese roots, his vocation — “I’ve never had an unhappy day as a priest” — his varied experiences — “and that’s how I met Ginger Rogers” — and his work with two popes — “Pope John Paul II was a saint; he was a mystic.”

Every week we met, although he was growing weaker as time passed, he was still the same priest I met in 1977 — brilliant, insightful, focused, funny and full of energy that could only have been spiritually based as his conditioned worsened.

Cardinal Foley was dying during the months we talked, but I was being inspired, lifted up by him.

The sudden turn for the worse he took last Friday wasn’t unexpected. He was at peace about his death and ready. “We are made for heaven,” he said.

He proclaimed the Good News every day of his ministry. He proclaimed it the day after he died, too, when I received his Christmas card. He proclaims it now.

(Original post)

More tributes to Cardinal Foley (part 2)

(CNS/Paul Haring)

It was no surprise that, as soon as I posted links yesterday to some of the tributes being written for the late Cardinal John P. Foley, several new ones would come in:

  • Bob Zyskowski, associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., writes movingly of the cardinal as a mentor (he hired the 22-year-old Zyskowski in 1974 to be news and sports editor at The Catholic Standard & Times in Philadelphia) and a friend (he baptized two of the four Zyskowski children). He recalls that the future cardinal taught “the truism that Catholic media have nothing to fear from reporting bad news” and showed him “how to love the church, warts and all.”
  • Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher at Our Sunday Visitor, was another close Catholic press friend of the cardinal. (My wife still chuckles when she remembers seeing the two of them laughing and trading stories over breakfast at a hotel coffee shop six years ago.) Msgr. Campion remembers his last visit with the cardinal three weeks earlier and says no one ever could miss seeing his profound faith.

He knew the importance of words

(CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — I first met Cardinal John Foley on the tarmac of Andrews Air Force Base in March 1984. Of course, he wasn’t a cardinal then. He was editor of The Catholic Standard and Times, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and he had just returned from serving on a U.S. government-sponsored mission to monitor elections in El Salvador. I was in Washington for a few weeks, and he was my assignment that day.

Msgr. Foley said the elections had been essentially fair and that the people showed a real enthusiasm for the electoral process. He backed that up with comments from some of the 100 or so voters he had spoken with at polling places. He said El Salvador needed more U.S. aid, but when I asked about President Reagan’s request for additional military aid, his answer surprised me: he said he would “hate to say yes” to such a request.

“As a priest, I’m not enthusiastic about recommending more arms,” Msgr. Foley said. “I felt great empathy with Archbishop Rivera Damas when he said, `All the arms come from outside the country, but all the victims come from inside the country.’”

Msgr. Foley impressed me that day as someone who gave real answers. He measured his words carefully, but didn’t hide behind them.

A few weeks later, we met up in Rome. I was a correspondent for CNS and now-Archbishop Foley had just been named president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Our paths would cross many times over the next 27 years, often at press conferences but more often at lunches at Taverna Giulia, one of his favorite restaurants in Rome.

Cardinal Foley took journalism seriously. He was an attentive and daily reader of Catholic News Service, and if he thought we wrote something good, he’d phone and tell us so. Occasionally, he’d weigh in with a criticism, which we took all the more seriously because of his absolute sense of fairness.

As a Roman Curia official, Cardinal Foley made an unusually good impression with the local Vaticanisti. He was a breath of fresh air at Vatican press conferences — straightforward, concise and witty. Many times I heard Italian reporters describe him with the single word simpatico, “friendly.”

And in fact, inside or outside the Vatican, he was someone who made friends quickly, because he was genuinely interested in people. He was a man of deep and cheerful faith, and I always considered him one of the Vatican’s most effective evangelizers.

More tributes to Cardinal John P. Foley

(CNS/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Here are some other links to remembrances and tributes to Cardinal John P. Foley, who died yesterday at age 76.

Other remembrances of Cardinal Foley can be found on this tribute page on the website of The Catholic Standard & Times, where the cardinal worked as a reporter, assistant editor and editor before being called to Rome.

And read our story posted earlier today on what the pope and other current and former Vatican officials had to say about the passing of Cardinal Foley.

Cardinal Foley remembered: ‘He had time for everyone’

By Michael Kelly
Deputy Editor, The Irish Catholic

(CNS/Bob Roller)

DUBLIN — I first met Cardinal Foley while I was a naïve young reporter in my early 20s fresh to the Vatican beat in 2002. We met at the Church of Santa Susanna, Rome’s “American parish” where he stayed long after the Mass warmly greeting those who had turned out. He had time for everyone.

When I spoke to him and he realised I was Irish his eyes lit up as he spoke fondly of the Irish priests of his childhood parish. “There’s a reason why my middle name is Patrick,” he joked.

Over my next few years in Rome he was always helpful and kindly, even when he wasn’t always free to answer some of my questions. He had an immediate rapport and openness to the media which was refreshing in an institution that sometimes treats journalists with suspicion and sometimes hostility.

He was always ready to point one in the direction of a good story and offer his insights gleaned over long years in the Roman Curia.