Tag Archives: pope

Murder of John Paul I — from the inside?

April 25, 2014

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UnknownThe pages are yellowing in the this English-translation of “The Last Pope” that I couldn’t resist in an antique store, and the copy looked as though it had never been touched.

That should have been one tip that “The Last Pope” was no “The Shoes of the Fisherman,” but the glossy cover of the hardback claimed it was an international bestseller, so I sprang for the $7.

“The Last Pope” was probably worth the $7, but not a cent more. Its premise is that rather than dying in his sleep, as is the official word on the passing of the former Cardinal Albino Luciani, the man who was pope for only 33 days in 1978 was killed because he had made plans to remove high-ranking Vatican officials. Several cardinals from that era are implicated in ordering the pope’s death.

In the story, copies of John Paul I’s supposed plans have made their way out of the Vatican archives, and the bad guys are killing folks to get them back. A beautiful female reporter and a mysterious “Rafael” get involved, and, well, no spoilers here.

What the novel by Luis Miguel Rocha is, of course, is a vehicle to paint the Vatican Curia as corrupt and the church itself as behind-the-times on all kinds of contemporary issues. John Paul I was going to change all that, so the story goes, and the usual Catholic punching bags — birth control, homosexual relations, priestly celibacy, female priests — take their lumps.

That’s too bad, because “The Last Pope” isn’t a bad novel. But it does explain why the eight-year-old copy was sitting untouched in an antique store.

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The Poor (and the Cold) Will Always Be With Us

December 11, 2013

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Snowman in St. Paul

Snowman in St. Paul

On my way to work – I saw this (picture attached) where I usually see the homeless man asking for money.
It is sort of cute – being a little snow man on the corner of a busy St. Paul intersection, but it brought me to think of whom I usually see there and why I need to care if he has found some shelter.

For the last 5 years I have been driving by this spot and I often see someone asking for money. Different people. Some young, some old. Some have signs that they carry, others don’t. For a while I wouldn’t give them any change because I had bought into that idea that it might be someone who would use my money for drugs or alcohol, but lately I have changed my thoughts on that. It has caused me to reflect on what Jesus said.

“The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.” Matthew 26:11

A friend recently told me that after volunteering at various food shelves and homeless shelters that she had come to a revelation. She said “We want the poor to be like us” meaning that when we give, we want the people that we help to become like us. We put conditions on our giving. While we would like to make sure that every opportunity is given to those in need to break out of the chains of poverty; that is not why we help the poor. We give and help, because we can. We give because every person is made in God’s image. We give because we wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance to serve Jesus.

In the Temptations Faced by Pastoral Workers from Evangelii Gaudium, Holy Father says in paragraph 85:
“One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents.”

It is easy to think and say “I have given enough” or “Others will take care of them” or “They might just use my money for drugs” or   “I will only give to an organization” but maybe that is the defeatism that Pope Francis is referring to.

So for now I keep a dollar or two handy to give when I can and try to remember this prayer of Blessed Mother Teresa while I pray that the man I ususally see on this corner isn’t as cold as the snowman that he left behind.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.

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An Advent Reflection on Joy to go with Your Morning Coffee

November 30, 2013

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From kellywahlquist.com

Coffee

My friend Kelly Wahlquist is starting a daily Advent reflection using Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel. Her idea is to break it up into small chunks (she calls them sips like in sips of coffee) and read it through Advent. To follow along, go to her website http://www.kellywahlquist.com
What a beautiful way to prepare for the incarnation of JOY!
I plan on following… Join me!
Here’s the schedule for Advent. She will post the paragraphs and perhaps a little reflection each day to go with your coffee:

Dec. 1 2-8 (Joy)

Dec. 2 9-13 (Joy of Evangelizing)

Dec. 3 14-18 (Scope of exhortation)

Dec. 4 19-24 (Church’s missionary transformation)

Dec. 5 25-33 (Pastoral Activity & Conversion)

Dec. 6 34-39 (Heart of the Gospel)

Dec. 7 40-45 (Human Limits)

Dec. 8 46-49 (Mary)

Dec. 9 50-58 (Amid Crisis: idolatry of money)

Dec. 10 59-75 (Cultural Challenges)

Dec. 11 76-92 (Temptations of pastoral workers & Relationship in Christ)

Dec. 12 93-109 (No to spiritual worldliness)

Dec. 13 110-126 (People of God proclaim the Gospel)

Dec. 14 127-134 (Person to Person, Charisms, Culture)

Dec. 15 135-144 (The Homily)

Dec. 16 145-159 (Preparing to Preach)

Dec. 17 160-175 (Kerygma)

Dec. 18 176-185 (Social dimensions of evangelization)

Dec. 19 186-216 (Inclusion of the poor in society)

Dec. 20 217-237 (Common Good and Peace in Society)

Dec. 21 238-258 (Social dialogue as contribution to peace)

Dec. 22 259-274 (Spirit-filled evangelizers)

Dec. 23 275-283 (Personal encounter with Christ)

Dec. 24 284-288 (Mary)

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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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Catholic leaders’ new ‘To-Do’ list

October 14, 2011

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Former Swiss Guard Andreas Widmer, writing in “The Pope & the CEO,” includes a “new to-do-list” in the book. (See the review.) Here is an excerpted version from the Emmaus Road book.

1. Determine who the five to ten most important people in your life are. . . . Ask yourself what small thing you can do to bring them joy every day or week. Then, in the next 30 days, do it.

2. Start keeping a personal log of God’s small wonders, small messages that he gives you every day. Think of it as a gratitude log. Review it daily and rejoice as you give thanks.

3. Think of the activities you enjoy most. Pick four, then make room in your calendar to do each one sometime during the next 30 days.

4. Diligently use up your vacation time every year. No excuses.

5. Make Sundays truly a day of rest. That means no “for profit” work. Instead go to church, and then spend the rest of the day with family or friends. Try the concept of finding ways to purposefully “waste time” with them.

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St. Gregory the Great (540-604), Pope and Doctor

August 30, 2011

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St. Gregory the Great

St. Gregory the Great in stained glass window at St. Clement in Minneapolis.

September 3 is the anniversary of Pope St. Gregory the Great’s ordination as Bishop of Rome in 590 AD. His feast is not celebrated on the anniversary of death because March 12 falls in Lent.

Gregory was born in Rome in 540 into a prominent family. His father was a senator, and he followed him as a public servant, first in a number of lesser offices, then as Prefect. Gregory desired to enter religious life, resigned his post, and left government work altogether.

Gregory converted his family home to a monastery and began to liquidate much of his personal wealth, using some to fund seven different monasteries in Rome and Sicily, and a large amount was distributed to the poor. For the next few years he was a monk in seclusion, and he spent his time in prayer and meditation, living simply, rigorously observing the Rule of St. Benedict.

Gregory was ordained a deacon by Pope Pelagius II in 578 and then sent by the pope as his personal legate to Constantinople (579-585). He returned to Rome in 586 and became abbot of St. Andrew’s Monastery. After a brief missionary venture to England and a stint as papal secretary, Pope Pelagius died in 590, and Gregory was elected unanimously as his replacement. He vehemently protested, finally relented, and he was consecrated on September 3, 590.

Pope Gregory was a tremendous leader and organizer. There was a plague in Rome; he spearheaded the relief effort. There were many poor and starving; he coordinated a food distribution network. The Lombards attempted to invade; he negotiated a treaty, appointed the highest military officers, and insured that the soldiers would be paid properly.

He worked diligently to reorganize the Church. He helped to establish the Papal States, developed a code of conduct for bishops, enforced clerical celibacy, replaced irresponsible clergy, facilitated better cooperation between the churches of Spain and France, and sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and a number of other monks as missionaries to England.

Gregory had a deep love for the liturgy, particularly liturgical music. He promoted “plainsong,” a form of chant which became known as Gregorian Chant. He placed the Lord’s Prayer within the Mass, developed other texts for the Eucharistic Prayer, and wrote a number of Prefaces, especially for Easter, Christmas, and the Ascension.

He wrote extensively on moral and theological subjects. His best known works are Moralia, a mystical and allegorical exposition of the Book of Job; Dialogues, the miracles and deeds of the saints of Italy; Pastoral Care (Rule), his treatise on how the bishop should serve as a shepherd; Forty Homilies on the Gospels; and Homilies on Ezekiel, a discourse for clerics and monks.

He died on March 12, 604. He is one of the four great doctors of the church, along with Sts. Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome. He called himself the “servus servorum Dei,” the servant of the servants of God. He is best known as the patron saint of music. He is also the patron saint of singers, popes, scholars, teachers, schoolchildren, and the victims of plague.

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50 reasons a questioning-yet-hopeful Catholic stays Catholic

April 13, 2011

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Mary, the Mass, Dorothy Day, Bishop Ray Lucker, Sister Thea Bowman, Catholic Charities — those are just six of the 50 answers that Michael Leach proposes as his response to the question “Why Stay Catholic?”

The question is the title of the Loyola University paperback out within the past month. Leach, who for more than 30 years has been involved in Catholic book publishing for organizations such as Crossroads and Orbis, offers very personal reasons his faith remains a key part of who he is and how he lives.

The list of a half-a-hundred are divided into three areas – ideas, places and people — and a few of the inclusions might lend you to see them as a give-away that the author resides on the decided progressive side of our church’s ideological divide. That may very well be true, but other inclusions in the 50 are even more evidence of what this reviewer sees as more prevalent than the assumed liberal-conservative camp arrangement.

That reality is that even presumed liberals cherish Catholic traditions, value Catholic institutions, and love the church in spite of its weaknesses.

Leach has a marvelous chapter — reasons #24 — titled “The Papacy, or It’s a Tough Job, but Somebody’s Got to Do It.” With a dash of papal history, a smidgen on infallibility and a poignant piece on what he’d do if he were pope, Leach explains the good that our earthly spiritual leaders can do and have done, and does so gracefully.

Minnesotans will want to read why he includes St. Paul native and late bishop of New Ulm Ray Lucker in his “people” section. And locally owned St. Patrick’s Guild gets a mention as one of the good Catholic bookstores that are Leach’s reason #48.

Along with loving his church, Leach challenges it in this 224-page work. Readers will find that he was a priest for just a few short years, and I find that’s often a turn-off for some. Stay with him, though.

I too began to sour on Leach when he acknowledged that, like at least 60 percent of those who call themselves Catholic, he isn’t a regular Massgoer. Again, stay with him. There’s comfort to be found in doing so.

Finally, make sure you get to reason #50, Leach’s vision for Vatican III.

Would that everyone who calls themselves Catholic had the same vision. — bz

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So you think you know Pope Benedict

October 17, 2010

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I tend to shy away from books that look like “Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy,” a new release edited by Mary Ann Walsh, because it looks like one of two things I don’t usually value: a coffee table book or a hagiography, the kind of puff writing that glorifies the subject.

Can’t judge a book by its cover.

If you want to know what the pope thinks about the critical issues of the day, if you want to give yourself a quick course in church teaching on those issues, read the essays Sister Mary Ann has gathered.

And, if you want to know a lot more about Joseph Ratzinger, the man, read the personal reflections that make the Holy Father not just human but someone you’d like to meet and know better.

Know, though, that you won’t find anything negative in the book about B16 (thanks, Adam Robinson, for the shortcut nickname!). I can live with that because this Sheed & Ward imprint does well what it aims to do.

Photos aren’t superb

If there’s a weakness it’s that, in a book with a lot of photos on its 224 pages, there aren’t a lot outstanding images. There are a couple that are gorgeous, some that capture history, but many are pretty pedestrian. There are just a few too many boring shots of B16 greeting dignitaries. However: A wise editor once said, all photos look better the larger they are printed, and the design of “Benedict XVI” gives even those average pictures the kind of play that is attractive if not stunning.

The excellent photos, for my taste, are a couple shots I’d never seen before: a shot from the air of what B16 sees out his window when leaving Vatican City, and a beautiful image of the pontiff resting on a garden bench, looking like your grandfather resting after a tiring day, alone with his thoughts and at peace.

The essay I appreciated the most was Stephen Colecchi’s insight into B16′s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth) — summarized in almost bullet points. And I loved one by Don Clemmer headlined “Shepherding Cats.” Who knew the pope was a cat person?

Getting to know the pope

Just about every one of the personal reflections told me something I didn’t know about our German pope. Several American cardinals and archbishops — including Minneapolis-St. Paul’s own Archbishop John Nienstedt and native son Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis — shared anecdotes about times they’ve come in contact with the Holy Father, and like all good anecdotes they give us an insider’s perspective and tell us something about the pope we might never otherwise know.

He plays the piano? He skis?

Sister Mary Ann, who is director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, adds one of the best anecdotes — telling about the time the pope made a mistake and how he acknowledge it with self-depricating humor. And Nancy Wiechec, a great photographer and the visual media manager for Catholic News Service, gives readers an insight about the Holy Father that only comes from numerous opportunities to view the pope through her camera lens.

Even the 16-page resource section is fact filled. Did you know Joseph Ratzinger entered the seminary at age 12? That was in 1939 — the same year the Nazis invaded Poland to start World War II.

It’s a book worth its $29.95 price tag. –bz

Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy

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So you think you know Pope Benedict

October 16, 2010

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I tend to shy away from books that look like “Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy,” a new release edited by Mary Ann Walsh, because it looks like one of two things I don’t usually value: a coffee table book or a hagiography, the kind of puff writing that glorifies the subject.

Can’t judge a book by its cover.

If you want to know what the pope thinks about the critical issues of the day, if you want to give yourself a quick course in church teaching on those issues, read the essays Sister Mary Ann has gathered.

And, if you want to know a lot more about Joseph Ratzinger, the man, read the personal reflections that make the Holy Father not just human but someone you’d like to meet and know better.

Know, though, that you won’t find anything negative in the book about B16 (thanks, Adam Robinson, for the shortcut nickname!). I can live with that because this Sheed & Ward imprint does well what it aims to do.

Photos aren’t superb

If there’s a weakness it’s that, in a book with a lot of photos on its 224 pages, there aren’t a lot outstanding images. There are a couple that are gorgeous, some that capture history, but many are pretty pedestrian. There are just a few too many boring shots of B16 greeting dignitaries. However: A wise editor once said, all photos look better the larger they are printed, and the design of “Benedict XVI” gives even those average pictures the kind of play that is attractive if not stunning.

The excellent photos, for my taste, are a couple shots I’d never seen before: a shot from the air of what B16 sees out his window when leaving Vatican City, and a beautiful image of the pontiff resting on a garden bench, looking like your grandfather resting after a tiring day, alone with his thoughts and at peace.

The essay I appreciated the most was Stephen Colecchi’s insight into B16′s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth) — summarized in almost bullet points. And I loved one by Don Clemmer headlined “Shepherding Cats.” Who knew the pope was a cat person?

 Getting to know the pope

Just about every one of the personal reflections told me something I didn’t know about our German pope. Several American cardinals and archbishops — including Minneapolis-St. Paul’s own Archbishop John Nienstedt and native son Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis — shared anecdotes about times they’ve come in contact with the Holy Father, and like all good anecdotes they give us an insider’s perspective and tell us something about the pope we might never otherwise know.

He plays the piano? He skis?

Sister Mary Ann, who is director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, adds one of the best anecdotes — telling about the time the pope made a mistake and how he acknowledge it with self-depricating humor. And Nancy Wiechec, a great photographer and the visual media manager for Catholic News Service, gives readers an insight about the Holy Father that only comes from numerous opportunities to view the pope through her camera lens.

Even the 16-page resource section is fact filled. Did you know Joseph Ratzinger entered the seminary at age 12? That was in 1939 — the same year the Nazis invaded Poland to start World War II.

It’s a book worth its $29.95 price tag. –bz

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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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