Tag Archives: Pope John Paul II

Where are the Women?

April 13, 2013

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Mary anoints Jesus’ feet.

 

During the conclave I happened across a group of protesters outside of the Archdiocesan Chancery office.  As I was leaving the Cathedral parking lot, I noticed a woman parking her car.  She paused to pull a sign out of her trunk.  I watched in amazement as this woman took advantage of the free parking in the Cathedral parking lot (Intended for visitors to the Cathedral) while she took the opportunity to stand in some sort of protest against the Catholic Church.   Talk about taking advantage of Christian hospitality.  I would have towed her car!

As I left the lot and took a look at the signs they were carrying. They said, “Hey Cardinals, where are the women?”  I almost pulled over my car, jumped out and said, “I am right here!”

 

There are so many things wrong with this scenario – I felt compelled to set it right.

  1. First off – there is no Cardinal inside of the building they were protesting.  Just our Archbishop.
  2. If they took the time to check – they would find out that Archbishop Nienstedt has more women in his Cabinet (roughly equivalent to a board of directors) than most Fortune 500 companies.  These are strong woman in decision making positions.
  3. The fact that women are not ordained  in no way diminishes the role of women in the church.  Priests have a certain role in God’ s plan for the Church just as married couples, single people, religious orders and yes – women!

If you haven’t ever read Pope John Paul’s letter to women, you can find it here.  When I first read it I was able to realize that being a Catholic Feminist (In the context of the new feminism – much like the new evangelization) is not an oxymoron.

Pope Francis even dedicated his first Wednesday audience talk on women in the church.   http://www.news.va/en/news/audience-the-fundamental-role-of-women-in-the-chur

As the Pope notes, the first witness of the resurrection were women.  In fact Jesus and the founding Fathers of the Church elevated women in a way that was unprecedented in their time,  Christ spoke to the Samarian woman, had women disciples, and the early church was supported by women. Besides the more familiar names of Mary, Martha and Mary Magdalene, check out Pricilla and Lydia, the maker of purple cloth. Women have shaped the church from it’s origin.

Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. – Luke 8:3

Let’s not talk of ancient history only.  Throughout the history of the church we have many women who have served the church.  The list of saints are full of them.  Four  women are considered Doctors of the Church (This is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints. This title indicates that the writings and preachings of such a person are useful to Christians “in any age of the Church.” Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings.) Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, and Hildegard of Bingen.  All of these saints are models of women in the Church. These aren’t wimpy women.  They all faced hardships of their times and helped to shape the Catholic Church we know today.

Let’s move on to present day.  Women have been aiding the mission of the Church locally and in a very tangible way through the work of the Council of Catholic Women.  This year they celebrate 81 years of service to the Catholic church.  Check out the topics at their convention in May – Be the Voice of Catholic Women.

I couldn’t talk about women in the church today without mentioning one of my heroins: Helen Alvare.  Here is her Bio:  Professor of Law at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, where she teaches and writes in the areas of family law and law and religion. She is a consultor to Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontifical Council for the Laity, a consultant for ABCNews, and the Chair of the Conscience Protection Task Force at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. She co-authored and edited the book, Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak For Themselves. Professor Alvaré received her law degree from Cornell University and her master’s in systematic theology from the Catholic University of America.

In addition to the credits above she started the movement “Women Speak for Themselves.

I was blessed to hear her talk recently for the Siena Symposium.  Instead of me trying to share her wisdom and spirit – see it for yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYM-FbOU5Hw&feature=share

She reminds me that women can have it all.  If we know what “all” means.

Like I said – She is my hero!

I hear there is a “Women’s Argument of the Month Club coming soon.  The idea is women getting together to learn and discuss what it means to be a Catholic woman.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Catholic Faith Formation more information can be found here.

So in answer to the question posed on the protest signs; “Where are the women?”  My answer is: “We are right here!!”

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2 video tributes to our 2 last popes

March 11, 2013

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Here is a lovely song by Italian, Alida Ferrarese. it is called Una Fumata Blanca  (“The White Smoke”). My mother wrote to me about it, saying: 

“Last Wednesday night, lying on my bed on the fourth floor of a hotel in Bellagio, with a big window overlooking Lake Como, this video came on TV. I had to share it with you. My favorite part is when Blessed John Paul is wearing a red cape and playing with some little boys. It’s just a few seconds. Don’t miss it. So CUTE !!!”

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During his eight years as St. Peter’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI wrote three encyclicals, canonized over 40 saints, named two doctors of the church, and created 90 cardinals. He traveled across six continents and published over 30 books. He consistantly spoke about his desire for unity in the Church, and renewing the Church and its faithful. Thank you, “Papa.”

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Take a peek inside the Vatican

March 8, 2013

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Vatican Diaries coverJohn Thavis, who covered the Vatican as a journalist for 30 years, betrayed his Minnesota roots when he wrote, “Attending these Rome academic conferences was like fishing on a slow day — you waited a lot and hoped something would bite.”

Thavis, a native of Mankato, Minn., and a graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, hooked an author’s dream: His book on the inner workings of the Vatican was ready to be released when Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly announced his decision to retire.

Viking moved up the release date, making “The Vatican Diaries” as timely a read as a writer might hope for.

Thavis, whose byline ran in The Catholic Spirit for many years, retired just last year as Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.

That post and the many friends and sources he made in and around St. Peter’s often put him in unique position to observe and hear of any number of interesting goings on, some foolhardy, some machiavellian, some scandalous.

Anecdotes, even atrocities

There is, for example, the blatant disregard for an ancient cemetery by one Vatican City functionary, who is intent on bulldozing the monuments and the remains to add more parking to the cramped tiny space.

A lengthy chapter on the finally denounced, cult-like Legion of Christ gives a vivid picture of how power works in the Vatican, and it’s not a very nice portrait.

Thavis details how the once-revered founder of the Legion of Christ was protected by people in high places who refused to believe accusations made against him over the course of decades, and it was only when Father Marcial Maciel Degollado’s double life was revealed — that he had fathered children by two women, sexually abused his own son and hidden secret assets of nearly $30 million — that the Vatican finally intervened.

The incident has left an obvious black mark on the late Pope John Paul II’s record, but Thavis presents insight here that echoes in other Catholic locales around the globe.

He writes, “To a good number of Vatican officials, the calls for transparency and full accountability [in the Maciel case] were typical of moralistic (and legalistic) Americans, but not necessarily helpful for the universal church. . . As one Vatican offical put it, ‘We have a two-thousand-year history of not airing dirty laundry. You don’t really expect that to change, do you?’ ”

Thavis dives into the ongoing squabble over the ultra-conservative, breakaway Society of St. Pius X, sharing probably more than the typical Catholic would want to know about the battle over the validity of Vatican II by this hard-core group of naysayers.

Superb reporting, writing

There’s a terrific chapter that’s really a personality profile of the American priest who was one of the Vatican’s top Latin language experts — the fun, enlightening and eccentric Father Reginald Foster.

Foster — Thavis eschews his title throughout — is a reporter’s dream, someone on the inside who knows a lot, isn’t afraid to share and shares in colorful language. The chapter on “The Latinist” is of the quality of a piece you’d expect to read in the New York Times Magazine or The New Yorker.

Thavis went along to some 60 countries with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and “The Vatican Diaries” includes hilarious anecdotes about life as a reporter on papal trips. There’s plenty about life covering the Vatican to enjoy reading, too, including the story about the pope’s preacher admitting he used Google as a source.

Readers will find that the halo they may have imagined above the heads of some high-ranking residents of Vatican City ends up, shall we say, “less glowing,” to describe it the way a Vatican official might, avoiding the use of the more accurate “tarnished.”

And that may be what Thavis does best here.

Important contribution

He offers sound reporting and analysis, to be sure. But he’s at the top of his game explaining how “The Vatican” sees things.

He translates Vatican-ese, putting in plain language what official statements really say, and in many cases what those statements say by not saying something directly.

Even when he gets into such minutia of a story that you wonder if all these details are necessary, Thavis seems to perfectly sum it up by interpreting the event’s significance. It’s as if, without using these words, he’s says, now here’s why this is important.

“The Vatican Diaries” is not only informative and entertaining. Published as the Catholic Church prepares to welcome a new leader, it gives us valuable insight into the organizational challenges the new pontiff faces.

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Pope Benedict XVI thanked us…

February 25, 2013

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Photo licensed by Creative Commons by Sergey Gabdurakhmanov

Photo licensed by Creative Commons by Sergey Gabdurakhmanov

Of course we are not active in the pro-life movement in order to get a pat on the back. But, perhaps you remember that Pope Benedict XVI thanked those who promote a culture of life. He did this not only by assisting with the writing of The Gospel of Life (in which there is a section that gives gratitude), but also during his worldwide prayer vigil in November of 2010.

May God bless our dear shepherd’s final days of the papacy, and may the Holy Spirit guide the decision of the upcoming conclave.

And thank you, Holy Father, for all you do to embrace life.

Here are my favorite paragraphs from the words of thanks delivered by Pope Benedict XVI:

“Dear brothers and sisters, our coming together this evening to begin the Advent journey is enriched by another important reason: with the entire Church, we want to solemnly celebrate a prayer vigil for unborn life. I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages.”

“[T]here is no reason not to consider [the human embryo] a person from conception. It’s not a question of a collection of biological material, but of a new living being, dynamic and marvelously ordered, a new individual of the human species. This is how Jesus was in Mary’s womb; this is how we each were in our mother’s womb.”

“I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.”

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Young Swiss Guard shares lessons he learned from John Paul II that helped him succeed in business

October 14, 2011

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Ever since Tom Peters’ “In Search of Excellence” turned business improvement into a hot booksellers category, the printing presses have been revolving in earnest, pumping out titles to capture that audience of eager leaders and managers.

There have been a handful of valuable books as a result, works like “Good to Great,” “The Tipping Point,” “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” and “Made to Stick,” to name just a few.

A former Swiss Guard who has gone on to success in international business might not be the first person you’d think of to jump into this authorship arena, especially when he’s saying he learned how to succeed in business by observing Pope John Paul II.

“The Pope & The CEO” (Emmaus Road Publishing) isn’t the first business book to bring ethics into the conversation, nor is it the first to pull lessons from religion. But this one is done very, very well. It’s tasteful, it’s respectful, and most of all the lessons that Andreas Widmer shares are valuable.

This isn’t a Pollyanna piece. Widmer, a Swiss native who studied in both Europe and the United States and who has worked on five continents, has seen both success and disappointment in his business activity since leaving the ranks of the pope’s protectors. In his 20-plus years of leading technology firms with a global reach, though, he found that John Paul II was quite the role model for business leaders.

Those attributes that Widmer gleaned while standing guard in colorful garb at the Vatican he turns into lessons that will help every leader in every organization. And what makes this book such good reading is that the advice is peppered with anecdotes from the author’s time in the presence of the Holy Father that were those “teachable moments” that made a lasting impression on an impressionable young Andreas Widmer.

He writes about being true to one’s calling, knowing and doing what’s right, having a vision, about teamwork, humility, the power of prayer and more, and each chapter ends with a handful of questions for readers to ponder. Here are just a few examples:

  • What have been your greatest professional successes? What did you gain? What did it cost you? How did it change you?
  • Who was the best manager you ever had? Describe what made this leader great? Did this person lead as a coach or a critic? How did he or she bring out the best in you as an employee?
And Widmer’s Catholic faith — thanks to the example displayed by John Paul II — is an influence on literally every word.
“John Paul’s influence made me understand that business and faith go together — they are not opposed to each other,” he writes. “Business can be wonderful school of virtue and faith. What’s more, faith and virtue make a business and the economy truly prosperous.”
Readers will find practical advice throughout the 150 or so pages of this paperback.
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12 Slices of Advice for Good Catholic Leaders — and Those Who Want to Be

October 14, 2011

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Andreas Widmer observed Pope John Paul II closely during the two years he served as a Swiss Guard. He writes in “The Pope & The CEO” that the lessons he learned watching the late Holy Father offer great suggestions for business. (Read a review.)

Here are a dozen slices of that advice pried from that Emmaus Road paperback:

1. Encourage employees by making them feel they matter and are valued.

2. Realize that it is the person, every specific human person, who counts in business. Business exists for the person, not the person for the business.

3. Know that your vocation is what God made you to do, it’s what you do for God, and it gives meaning to your life.

4. Be aware that work can be a holy thing. All work, not only that of priests and religious, can be holy when done as an act of love, service and sacrifice.

5. Understand that God made each person to do something unique, something that nobody else before or after us was made to do and that nobody else can do quite as well.

6. Pray because it is at the heart of everything you do. It shapes you, guides you and gives you the strength to lead and to inspire others.

7. Learn from God as you pray, hear God’s voice leading you, and be prepared to change and become the person God made you to be.

8. See prayer as a tool for justice and mercy that helps you to treat others with both.

9. Acknowledge your dependence on God and in doing so appreciate humility as a virtue.

10. Value business as life-giving when a group of individuals participate in God’s creative power, when people work together to pursue a common good by giving life to an idea, a product or a service.

11. Be fully present to anyone to whom you are with, keenly aware of what is going on in the heart and mind of that person, and far more interested in what that person has to say to you than what you have to say to them.

12. Help people understand that you want the truth, even when the truth is hard. Foster an atmosphere or culture where honesty is rewarded. Train yourself to discern fact from fiction.

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7 Tips for a Deeper Prayer Life from a Former Swiss Guard

October 14, 2011

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Andreas Widmer, now involved in global international business, learned as he observed Pope John Paul II during the two years he served as a Swiss Guard at the Vatican. In “The Pope & The CEO,” he offers practical tips for prayer. Here is an abbreviated version:

1. Be aware. Before you pray, focus on the fact that God is present and listening.

2. Slow down. When reading the Scriptures or other religious writing, don’t race from passage to passage. Treat the reading like a love letter from God. Savor the text, and ask God to help you understand the connection between the words on the page and the circumstances in your life and heart.

3. Praise always. Don’t take God’s goodness or love for granted. Thank him by acknowledging all that he is and all he’s done for you.

4. Tell him you’re sorry. You don’t have to wait for confession to examine your conscience. Make a habit of doing this nightly. Then express contrition to God and ask for the grace to do better the next day.

5. Be attentive. Listen for God’s voice in your soul.

6. Plan for prayer. Don’t let a day go by without making time for God. Schedule a daily appointment with God and never miss it. Cultivate a rhythm of prayer throughout the day. Before beginning difficult tasks, pray “Lord, come to my assistance.”

7. Pray in all things. Make your life a prayer by making a gift of yourself. Every time you make a sacrifice great or small, say silently, “Lord, I give this to you.”

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Come look inside John Paul II’s Vatican

November 24, 2008

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“Pope John Paul II: An Intimate Life,”

by Caroline Pigozzi

One thing you have to say for Caroline Pigozzi: She’s got guts.

The French journalist talked her way into getting behind the scenes at the Vatican to observe the late Pope John Paul II in his day-to-day rituals inside St. Peter’s, inside the offices of the Holy See, and inside the papal apartment.

Once she gets her toe in the Vatican door, she meets and befriends the right people who open yet more doors, and her persistence at documenting what she see and what she hears makes — surprisingly for me — interesting reading.

As I was, you may be poped-out on John Paul by now, but this very different, detailed look at the life of a pope isn’t so much about what the pope said or did as it is about how the pope lived: what he enjoyed, whose company he relished, how he operated as the leader of a world-wide church. With the “ski” at the end of my name, it was interesting for me to read about the special treatment Polish clergy and seminarians received and about the “parallel curia” of Poles that some accused the former Karol Wojtyla of building at the Vatican. Fair warning: Pigozzi as an author is pretty much a hero-worshiper, so you’re not going to read about the dark side of John Paul (if there is one) in this book published under the Faith Words imprint (http://www.faithwords.com/).

You don’t have to read this book to feel that you know what John Paul II stood for, but if you want to know more about the man and how he lived, Pigozzi has detail after detail — some as innocuous as who polished the pope’s shoes — that give insight into the whole man. -bz
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