New book on Pope Francis

Crossroad Publishing has recently published an attractive coffee table picture book on Pope Francis with excellent essays on his background and perspective, as well as that of his predecessor. The pictures are very well done, and the writing quite accessible. The book is entitled: A Call to Serve: Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. If you slip and refer to him as St. Francis, don’t worry, you have plenty of company. With a name, personality, and background like that, it comes with the territory.

I found the writing particularly engaging. It speaks to both novice and the well read. It is broken down into manageable and user-friendly subtopics surrounded by colorful photos.

For a limited time, Crossroad is offering this at an outstanding price of $7 per copy, and $6 per copy for orders of 40 or more. This offer expires on June 14.  Here is ordering information provided by the publisher.

To order online – www.popefrancisbook.com

For bulk orders, email sales@crossroadpublishing.com

YouTube Video Clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13OoeYvaCfM

If you mention this blog as a source for your interest, you unfortunately will not receive an additional discount, but you will likely get some sympathy.  Check it out and enjoy.

Pope Paul VI Anecdote

Excerpt from “Keys to the Kingdom”

By Lenora Grimaud

June 13, 2010

Father, this past week, I had the opportunity to view videos on the lives of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.  I wept with joy and thanksgiving for these two great servants of God.  God has been so gracious in giving the Church the last four popes, including Pope Benedict XVI.  Their lives reveal the struggle that the Church has been going through—her weaknesses and her strengths. 

I have to admit that I know very little or nothing about the popes between St. Peter and John XXIII.  I also must admit that before Pope Paul VI arrived on the scene, I did not even know what a pope was, or what his purpose was; where the papacy came from or why.  My Catholic formation was gravely lacking.  Years ago, when my Protestant friends challenged my beliefs regarding the pope, I defended the Church out of loyalty, not out of knowledge.

During my pilgrimage to Rome (sometime between 1970 and 1972), I had an opportunity to have an audience with Pope Paul VI.  This was the same pilgrimage in which I saw the Eucharist multiplied.  I had no desire to meet the pope, so I was greatly surprised when my Chaplain chose me to accompany him for an audience with the pope.  I was even a little indignant, as I thought of the thousands of people who came to Rome to see the pope, and who would give anything for an audience with him; people much more deserving than me.

As we were preparing to go for the audience, the people in my group said to me, “You must be so nervous and excited.”  I thought to myself, “Why should I be nervous, he is only a man.”  Then, I heard the Lord say to me, “This man is my servant.”  I began to weep, openly, and did not stop weeping until after the audience.

My knees were shaking as I bent to kiss the ring of Pope Paul VI, and I fell to the floor.  He helped me up.  Not knowing what to say, I addressed him as “Your Majesty.”  As he raised his hands to bless me I had, what I think was, an intellectual vision, and I saw Mary and the pope united in the same person.  It was as though I was seeing right into his soul.  He was one with the Blessed Mother, as Mother of the Church, and I saw them both as one person.  It was as though his heart was pierced; he was kneeling in prayer, weeping, and crying out to God, with his hands raised up.  He said, “Oh, Lord, why did you choose me?  Your people are so vast, and everyone is in a different stage of growth.  Whatever I say or do that will help one will hurt another.  Come Holy Spirit, give me wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to know how to guide and teach your children.”  He appeared to me, like a mother, weeping and interceding for her children.  While he was blessing me, I felt this great love and light emanating from him.  It was awesome and there are no words to describe it.

When I returned home and shared this experience with my protestant friends—simply witnessing, not preaching—my friends responded by saying, “I think the Lord wants us to pray for the pope.”

In 1972, not long after this pilgrimage, maybe a year, more or less, I returned to the States.  I was invited to give a “witness” at a charismatic Episcopalian Church.  I prayed and prayed, not knowing what I would say, and somewhat fearful of speaking before such a group.  My husband said to me, “Trust in the Lord, he will give you the words to say.”  This was strange for him to say, and out of character, because he would never do what he told me to do.

The Lord did give me the words.  I shared about my pilgrimage to Rome—about the Eucharist and Pope Paul VI.  The response was wonderful.  Even the Priest, not Catholic, was edified.  There were many former Catholics in the group, who believed they were excommunicated because they were divorced.  They came to me, crying, saying, “I want to come home, is there any hope for me?”

Later, as I reflected on this, I thought to myself, it is a shame that Pope Paul VI does not know the impact that he has had on these people.  Then, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to write him and tell him.  I struggled against this, thinking, “How can I write a letter to a pope?”  I wrote the letter, however.  One minute, I was a docile child speaking to her Father, and the next minute, I was a mother, speaking to her son—telling him not to retire but to remain where he was until the Lord came for him.  I prayed for discernment, again doubting that this was from the Lord.  Then, I thought, “It would be a miracle if he even received it, because he must receive thousands of letters every day, and I don’t even know where to send it.”  So, I felt that I had nothing to lose.  If God wants him to have this letter, he will receive it, and if it is not God’s will, he will not receive it.

While I was in Europe, I met a priest who was the secretary for a prominent Cardinal in Rome, and he gave me his card and told me that if I ever came to Rome, to let him know.  So, I sent the letter I wrote to Pope Paul VI, to this priest and asked him to deliver it.  To my surprise, within a couple weeks I heard from the priest, that the letter was on the pope’s desk.  Shortly after, on November 29, 1972, I received a letter from the pope’s secretary, thanking me on behalf of Pope Paul, with an Apostolic Blessing, and a gold medal—a dove with an olive branch in its beak.

Father, I was so proud of that medal that I even thought of having it made into a necklace that I could wear.  But, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride and attachment.  There was a woman who came to daily Mass, who was tormented by evil spirits.  These spirits would constantly taunt her and blaspheme Jesus and the Church. She could not get anyone to help her or deliver her.  I had befriended her.  When she saw the medal I received, she was filled with awe and tears.  Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I was moved to give her the medal from Pope Paul VI.  The woman was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, and was delivered from the evil spirits that tormented her.  As far as I know, she never heard those voices again.  Praise God!

Good Reading on Vatican II

The Church is currently undergoing an ongoing reflection on Vatican Council II.  Pope Benedict emphasizes its continuity with Tradition against those who would portray it as something radically new and different.

One press that has traditionally paid considerable attention to the Vatican II documents and their implementation has been Liturgical Press. Their website is litpress.org.

i recently had the opportunity to review three new titles on the subject by Liturgical Press.

Here are my reactions.

My favorite was “Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II” by Richard R. Gaillardetz and Catherine E. Clifford. I preferred this because it was crisp, accessible, well-founded, and non-ideological. A wide audience could benefit from this book, from beginner to scholar. It was well written too, which is not always the case with theological works. I didn’t sense a conservative or progressive bent. Simply, a concise and practical analysis of the documents, with appropriate background. It was interesting reading as well.

Much more hard-going in terms of reading was ecclesiologist Yves Congar’s True and False Reform in the Church. Initially published in 1950, it is interesting to read today. A theological timepiece you might call it. Not for the feint of heart, though. However, it makes many good points and is rewarding for those who stick with it. A good book by a renowned author.

Finally, Liturgical Press published Yves Congar’s “My Journal of the Council.” In a word, fascinating. Though many mundane details are offered, as to be expected in a journal, it affords us an outstanding perspective from a peritii (expert consultant) who offers commentary on everything from papal activities to his adventures in Rome.  This is between the aforementioned titles in terms of reading difficulty.

Since most who attended the council are now deceased, the last attending bishop dying not long ago,  this is an invaluable perspective from an objective and learned source. It is also available as an ebook. I found it very enjoyable, and due to its size, I simply skipped over parts I was not interested in. Congar was a great theologian who also received flak for his views prior to Vatican II, so he was actively in the theological mix of the time. Once you pick it up, I think you’ll follow my tendency of skipping around to entries of interest. Liturgical Press did us a great service in publishing this literary relic.

If you have any questions or comments, please send them along. You can order the books  directly from Liturgical Press at litpress.org. Their phone number is 1-800-858-5450.

Thank you for your interest.

Vatican Splendors exhibit in Pittsburgh

Wow.

I just toured the Vatican Splendors exhibit in Pittsburgh. It leaves this Sunday. It is interesting — and crowded.

I am amazed at how many people were there. What a great opportunity for evangelization!

It is not too big or small, but you’ll need at least 2 hours to do it justice. If you haven’t been, go. But be prepared for lines. I’ll be curious to learn how crowded it is on the closing weekend.

The book associated with the exhibit is only 25 clams, and is quite good. It gives you a chance to reflect on what you have just seen, or missed, if you can’t make it. If you’re in another city, consider mail ordering it.

Very inspiring. The Church has an amazing legacy of art. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II have done much to re-invigorate the Church’s appreciation of art and relationship with artists. John Paul’s letter to artists is outstanding. Check it out on Vatican.va.

Go read it. I’m done for now. I’ve been called a real work of art, or was that piece of work, so I know of what I speak.

Happy New Year.

How to Imitate the Holy Family

Jesus into Our Homes
How to Imitate the Holy Family
by Mike Aquilina
(mikeaquilina.com)
Article three in a four part series
When God comes into history, all the details of the story are important. In the details, He’s trying to tell
us something.
When God entered history, He entered by way of a family — the Holy Family of Nazareth. He could have chosen other ways to save the world, but He didn’t. He’s God, and He chose the best way.
But what was it like, in God’s own family home? It’s hard to say, at first glance. Though the Gospels provide rich details about the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, they offer only one anecdote about His childhood. So Tradition has come to call those years the “hidden life” of Jesus.
Some early Christians were frustrated by this silence, and so tried to fill in the blanks with spectacular stories. In the so-called “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” the fictional Jesus breathes life into toys in order to outdo his friends; he stretches beams in his father’s carpentry shop when the wood comes up short; and he strikes dead a teacher who dares to punish him. In another book, called the “Arabic Infancy Gospel,” Jesus turns his cruel playmates into goats.
According to the pseudo-Thomas, the boy’s neighbors lived in constant fear, moving St. Joseph to cry out: “Don’t let [Jesus] go outside the door, because anyone who angers him dies!”
There are good reasons why we don’t find such stories in the Bible. The Church rejected them as untrue, and indeed they don’t seem to reach the standard of miracles set in the real Gospels. Superboy of Nazareth worked wonders to achieve revenge, gain professional advantage and ward off those who would attack or insult him. None of this jibes with the Jesus we know, who worked miracles in order to serve others, and who patiently endured insults and even violence at the hands of His neighbors.
No, we can be fairly certain that Jesus spent His childhood doing nothing spectacular. St. John tells us that Jesus performed His first miracle when He changed water into wine at Cana, and we can take his word for that.
Yet since God entered history by way of the family, surely we must model our own family life on His family life. How can we ever learn from what we cannot begin to see?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church draws a simple conclusion from the scriptural evidence: “During the greater part of His life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God, a life in the community”(CCC, n. 531).
And other spiritual writers say that we can draw out a little more.
We know that the family of Jesus was steeped in Scripture. Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, is rich in Old Testament quotations.
We know that Jesus’ family had a deep life of piety that included pilgrimages and prayer to the angels. Both Mary and Joseph were accustomed to receiving the guidance of heaven’s messengers.
From Jesus’ adulthood we can also glimpse the prayer life He learned from His parents. He prayed the morning offering of pious Jews (Mk 12:29-30). He prayed spontaneously. He took time to pray alone. Yet He also prayed with His friends. Jesus fasted and marked holy days. All these habits He probably acquired from His home life in Nazareth.
We know that work was important to Jesus’ family. In adulthood, He was called not just “Joseph’s son,” but “the carpenter’s son.” Joseph was skilled in a trade that was highly regarded in his day, and he trained Jesus in the same craft.
We can conclude from Jesus’ preaching that Mary was industrious and frugal in keeping a house. It was likely from her example that Jesus drew many of His favorite stories: a woman finding just the right cloth to patch a piece of clothing, a woman setting aside leaven for tomorrow’s baking, a widow searching her house for a lost coin
Hard work, struggling to make the bills, taking long road trips, praying simple devotions — all of this we learn from the real Gospels. It’s a far cry from the divine Dennis the Menace who drives his father crazy by turning the neighbors into goats.
It’s so … ordinary. And that’s probably what makes it scary. We can understand why those long-ago yarn-spinners preferred to think of the Holy Family as a sort of benign Addams Family. If we emphasize how different they are, it lets us off the hook. We couldn’t imitate them because we don’t come home to find our kids breathing life into Pikachu or Barbie.
If the Holy Family is so different from us, then we’re free of our obligation to imitate them.
But if the Catechism is right, then we have a duty to make our homes holy as theirs was holy. Catholic tradition suggests a few practical ways for us to start our families’ holy “hidden life” right now.
1. Hang an image of the Holy Family on the wall. The photos we keep in frames are reminders of who we are, where we’ve come from and the standard we have to live up to. In 1890, Pope Leo XIII urged everyone to keep a picture of the Holy Family in the home. At least it can serve as an antidote to the dysfunctional family images we get on TV.
2. Cultivate silence. This is the quality Pope Paul VI found most inspiring in the Holy Family. They lived a hidden life, a quiet life, a life with lots of room for thinking.
With TV, radio and the Internet clogging our minds and senses, we leave our families little room for thought or prayer. Our interior dialogue with God gets crowded out by ads and John and Yoko singing “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” on the oldies channel.
Do what it takes to bring silence home. Move your TV so that it’s not the centerpiece of your household. Turn it off when no one’s watching. This is guaranteed to reduce your stress levels.
4. Make your home a haven of charity. One of the most striking descriptions of the Church comes a third-century Christian: “It’s our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents, who say, ‘See those Christians, how they love one another.’”
Such charity has to begin at home. The home is the “domestic Church.” Yet how many Catholics who decry the lack of reverence in their parish church then go home to desecrate their domestic churches — by harsh words toward their kids or their spouse, or by gossip about the neighbors, co-workers or even priests?
Remember: They’ll know we are Christians — not just by the nativity scene in our front yard — but by the love in our hearts, expressed in our homes.
5. Make your home a place of prayer. Your day shouldn’t be dominated by devotions, but you should have some regular, routine family prayers, just as the Holy Family did. They prayed and studied the Scriptures, but still managed to get their work done.
There are many ways to pray as a family, and you should seek the ways that work best for your tribe. You can pray together at the beginning of the day, or at the end. You should, at least, be saying grace at every meal. You can pray the Rosary together, begin a weekly family Bible study, go to a weekday Mass. Begin with something small and manageable, and then give yourself time to grow into it.

Vatican Splendors Exhibit at the Heinz History Center

I had the opportunity yesterday to get a preview of the new Vatican Splendors exhibit at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. I was very impressed.

It is well laid out, thematically consistent and continuous, of a manageable size, and diverse. I attended another Vatican exhibit in Cleveland two years ago, which was also well done.

Response to this exhibit has been overwhelming. Admission is at preset times in order to maintain an orderly flow.

The artwork is extraordinary, and the pictures of modern pontiffs are exquisite.  The ambiance is carefully cultivated, and the experience is quite enjoyable.

The diocese of Pittsburgh has been very instrumental in bringing the exhibit here.

Admission to the exhibit and the History Center is $20. Public viewings begin on Saturday October 2 and extend through the beginning of January.

If you are new to the History Center, allocate at least four hours to your visit. At least two to the Vatican exhibit, to absorb it all, and two for the rest of the museum. You could easily spend a whole day here. I find the HC to be one of the most visitor-friendly museums I have encountered. It is a pleasure to go there.

Mr. Andrew Masich, the CEO, is a dynamic and approachable individual who has done a wonderful job in bringing in top notch exhibits. He’s also quite a history buff, and not just an administrator.

for further information, check out the website, heinzhistorycenter.org. Enjoy

Review of Schultz’ New Book on Lectio Divina and Sexuality

St. Joseph Guide to Lectio Divina:  Sharing the Word with the Holy Family

By Karl A Schultz

www.catholicbookpublishing.com copyright 2010, $8.95

Review by Joni Woelfel

While it will take the reader about six hours to read through Karl Schultz’s compelling new book, St. Joseph Guide to Lectio Divina, it will take a lifetime to live it.  As Schultz himself explains, “The Bible is not designed for speed reading, and neither is this book.”  Indeed, as the author suggests, keeping in mind the “pilgrimage imagery of the Bible” is the best approach to experiencing the incredible depth of this provocative book.

What exactly is Lectio Divina?  As Schultz teaches, it is “a traditional Latin term for a holistic process of prayerfully reading and responding to God’s word.  Its five stages:  reading/listening, meditation, prayer, contemplation and action…”  He also states that there is a learning curve to finding a personal rhythm with lectio and that the perspective of the “little way” spirituality of St. Therese Lisieux  is especially useful.  He writes that the Spirit directs the process and that “Lectio is meant to be a periodic Sabbath moment bridged to our activities and daily life through application of the ‘word’ we have received.  View lectio as a retreat…a time to be refreshed and renewed by God’s word.”

That sounds intriguing we think, wondering if there is a set of rules to follow.  Schultz says that lectio should be viewed as a lifestyle, roadmap and a spiritual path rather than simply as a devotional activity, and that there is no one way to practice it, best experienced by “…each person, in accordance with their capabilities, needs, circumstances and the movement of the holy spirit.   It is a dynamic, evolving experience of living God’s word amid human resistance and limitations.”  Definitely drawn in, we want to know more and have many questions.

Early on, Schultz suggests that lectio will help us to discern God’s will, make good decisions and tap into God’s healing and transforming power and that “The fundamental theme of this book is the innate link between the Holy Family and our personal and communal relationship with God’s word.”  He says that while lectio has a private devotional dimension, this must be anchored in relationships, life and dialogue in order to be balanced and practical.

Hmmm.  So, how much time would we need to devote to this if we are beginners?  Following the recommendation of Fr. Basil Pennington who pioneered the practice of Centering Prayer, Schultz suggests just three minutes twice a day.  He also states that spiritual directors recommend ten to thirty minutes, adding that he normally does not go into particulars due to time allocations and variables we all have.  “Becoming sensitive to divine and human signs is fundamental to biblical and Catholic spirituality,” Schultz instructs, including in a personal passage that when he journals at the end of the day, he closes his entry with his response to the question, “How was God in my life today?”

As readers, that makes sense to us, although we may be feeling a bit confused at this point.  It is, after all, an extremely comprehensive book by one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject.  The many  text subjects are all high-lighted in bold for easy reference and helpful reflection questions are scattered throughout—as well as terms and words we may never have heard of before.  Like the Bible, this book definitely stretches the mind.

Especially notable is Chapter Five, The Gender Dimension of Lectio Divina. Schultz suggests that to not include gender-related considerations would deprive the reader of important insights, stating that Mary and Joseph and lectio divina are the finest models for pursuing gender healing and harmony  “that will help us detect our blind spots, wounds and hidden agendas through the mirror of the Scriptures…”  That appeals to us, but just how do we accomplish that?

Schultz answers those queries in Chapter Six:  Receiving the Word with Mary and Chapter Seven:  Responding to the Word with Joseph.  These texts are written with the skill of a journalist, avoiding saccharine hyperbole.  Schultz writes that we do not want to remain at the level of platitudes, we want to take the word in and live it, thereby enabling God to transform us through it.  He goes on to state, “lectio divina can be a form of divine therapy, affecting the conscious and subconscious mind as well as our emotions, spirit, identity and relationships,” personally confiding that “Something runs so deep in me as to be almost uncommunicable.”  Poignantly expressed, he writes, “We are like sponges in which the water seeps through only gradually.  In lectio, we soak up God’s word and become repositories of it.  Every time we come to the Bible we are capable of learning something new, or of being transformed and renewed.”

Schultz concludes with a lovely passage about the cover image painting entitled the Dream of Joseph (1773) by Anton Raphael Mengs and a reminder that “lectio divina is an invitation to intimacy and is something to treasure and cultivate—and like anything worthwhile, is not easy.”   This is followed by a helpful Appendix:  The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina by Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B (that serves as an easy-to-understand guide and companion with Group Exercises) as well as a visionary essay, The School of the Word by Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini.

Dialogue: The Meeting Point of Spirituality and Action (Part 2 of 2)

Dialogue: The Meeting Point of Spirituality and Action

Karl A. Schultz

Part 2 of 2

Adlai Stevenson observed that the toughest thing about winning an election is campaigning in a way that that does not tarnish the victory. Once again, dialogue is the value that can enable us to win or lose with honor. Dialogue enables us to reach out without manipulating, pressuring, or intimidating others. Our objective is to help people participate and vote in an informed, reasonable, and conscientious manner. Paul VI describes dialogue as “a way of making spiritual contact” that has the following characteristics:

“1) Clarity before all else; the dialogue demands that what is said should be intelligible. We can think of it as a kind of thought transfusion. It is an invitation to the exercise and development of the highest spiritual and mental powers a man possesses. This fact alone would suffice to make such dialogue rank among the greatest manifestations of human activity and culture. In order to satisfy this first requirement, all of us who feel the spur of the apostolate should examine closely the kind of speech we use. Is it easy to understand? Can it be grasped by ordinary people? Is it current idiom?

2) Our dialogue must be accompanied by that meekness which Christ bade us learn from Himself: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” It would indeed be a disgrace if our dialogue were marked by arrogance, the use of bared words or offensive bitterness. What gives it its authority is the fact that it affirms the truth, shares with others the gifts of charity, is itself an example of virtue, avoids peremptory language, makes no demands. It is peaceful, has no use for extreme methods, is patient under contradiction and inclines towards generosity.

3) Confidence is also necessary; confidence not only in the power of one’s own words, but also in the good will of both parties to the dialogue. Hence dialogue promotes intimacy and friendship on both sides. It unites them in a mutual adherence to the Good, and thus excludes all self-seeking.

4) Finally, the prudence of a teacher who is most careful to make allowances for the psychological and moral circumstances of his hearer, particularly if he is a child, unprepared, suspicious or hostile. The person who speaks is always at pains to learn the sensitivities of his audience, and if reason demands it, he adapts himself and the manner of his presentation to the susceptibilities and the degree of intelligence of his hearers.

In a dialogue conducted with this kind of foresight, truth is wedded to charity and understanding to love.”

Paradoxically, Paul’s counsel frees us from the dissonance of the party line and makes our contact relational. To again quote Ecclesiam Suam, “This type of relationship indicates a proposal of courteous esteem, of understanding and of goodness on the part of the one who inaugurates the dialogue; it excludes the a priori condemnation, the offensive and time-worn polemic and emptiness of useless conversation.”  It proceeds in a manner mindful of the dignity of the person, thereby stripping our opponents of the moral high ground they have questionably assumed.

In response to reasonable objections, we can again consult Pope Paul: “A man must first be understood, and where merited, agreed with.”

The dialogue of salvation, of which our political activities are a component, is a vocation characterized chiefly by service rather than power. We even serve our opponents, treating them with dignity even when their actions do not merit such. As St. Paul counseled the Corinthians who brought law suits against each other: “Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers” (1 Cor 6:7).

We are not going to win over the undecided or our opponents with logic, goodwill, and charm (present company excluded, of course). This election is less a matter of the head than the heart. Actions speak louder than words. It is our disposition and personification of dialogue — receptivity and responsiveness rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ and the power of the Spirit — that can win over those hearts drawn by the Father.

By caring for widows and orphans in their distress, and keeping ourselves largely unstained by life and the political process, we practice true religion (cf. Jas 1:27). By promoting the good of even “one of the least of these” in a spirit of “awareness, dialogue, and reform” — Paul VI’s summarization of the message of Ecclesiam Suam — we can be loyal to both our faith and the party. And in the words of Mother Theresa, we can experience peace within ourselves as we strive to foster peace and unity in our world, knowing that God calls us not to be successful, but faithful.

Dialogue: The Meeting Point of Spirituality and Action (Part 1 of 2)

Dialogue: The Meeting Point of Spirituality and Action

Karl A. Schultz

Part 1 of 2

After numerous discussions with persons of a variety of perspectives, it has become clear to me that the path to maintaining integrity and unity is that of dialogue rather than debate. Discussing the issues with persons so disposed is fine, but most people have already made up their minds on the issues, often based on misinformation or predispositions, and thus there is little constructive purpose in trying to engage or change them. It is too easy for pride / egotism and the issues’ complexities to get in the way. Further, so-called spin doctors in our culture, both amateur and professional, are masters at constructing and disseminating half-truths, which are difficult to dispel. It takes a convincing personal witness to overcome exaggerations and deceptions; dialogue can do just that.

There is a tradition within the Church that the pope does not respond directly to personal attacks. He leaves that to his earthly and heavenly advocates. Likewise it is fruitless to get bogged down in abstractions, semantics, and accusations. Unseemly tactics and actions used in the name of God are scandalous. The alternative and remedy is witnessing to the truth in a spirit of clarity and charity, through the evangelical disposition and lifestyle known as dialogue. The way we go about sharing and living the message is the greatest witness to its efficacy.

By dialogue I mean the spiritual communication principles, the receptive and responsive attitude articulated by Pope Paul VI in his 1964 encyclical Ecclesiam Suam (“Paths of the Church”) and exemplified in his and his successor’s lives. It set the tone for the papacy of Paul and that of the pontiffs who followed him. Ecclesiam Suam was the charter for Paul’s continuation and implementation of Vatican II, which Pope Benedict recently characterized as “almost superhuman.” Ecclesiam Suam is considered one of the most important encyclicals in modern times. In an August 8, 2008 column in the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen referred to it as “among the most neglected treasures of recent papal teaching.”

A spirit of dialogue can epitomize our response to God, ourselves, others, and creation. We engage in an ongoing and dynamic conversation that bears fruit in action and conversion of heart. We respond to God’s initiative, our vocation, and the needs of others.  We recognize the presence of God’s Word in the Bible and the Sacraments, but more fundamentally in Jesus, ourselves, and our neighbor, particularly those in need or distress (cf. Mt 25:31-46). The dialogue expresses itself in an evangelical spirit, a witnessing to the good news.

Paul VI’s final pastoral letter, Evangelium Nuntiandi (“On Evangelization in the Modern World”) returned to the subject of communication, and brought the disposition of dialogue to the missionary dimension of our vocation. He began his pontificate by focusing on the church’s internal attitudes and interactions as a foundation for external relations. He concluded his papacy by giving both individual Catholics and the Church as a whole guidelines on “the dialogue of salvation” which we are entrusted to share. To use political terminology, he began with domestic issues and concluded with foreign relations. He came full circle, and in a certain way, so have we.

Paul VI encouraged constructive critique of the Church in a charitable manner. He preached “No more war, war never again” in 1965 to the United Nations. It is no surprise that Paul came under fire for his dialogical attitude, and particularly his willingness to talk to foes. He was portrayed as vacillating and week. He bore the criticism, but helped end the (Viet Nam) war.

The Mystic Link: About Pope Paul VI

Wikipedia has some great entries. Among those is this classic on Paul VI. It actually offers a more nuanced and balanced portrayal of his persona and papacy than many Christian commentaries, particularly those that are ideologically driven on either end of the spectrum:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Paul_VI

Check it out and let us know what you think.