Thursday, June 25, 2009

Letter from Rome

[This is from Inside the Vatican--it makes some good points and I found it full of hope. Well worth the long read...]

"When God Chooses One, It Is Always to Bless All"

A conversation with a Vatican monsignor

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome

I rang the bell by the massive double doors. A secretary answered, and buzzed me in.
My friend, a Vatican monsignor, was still working at his computer, his desk piled high with letters and books and news clipping from around the world.
A few minutes later, we were walking down the Borgo Pio to Roberto's restaurant, which many of you reading this will know well, and we took our seats at a table in the corner near the door.
We chatted about many things, and worked through our primo piatto of tomato and mozzarella with basil and olive oil ("un caprese").

Then the monsignor began to talk about Mary.
"You know," he said, "the Lutherans had five main tenets of their new undersatnding of the faith: 1) Solus Deus; 2) Solus Christus; 3) Sola Gratia; 4) Sola Fides; and 5) Sola Scriptura. God alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone. And they were actually very close...
"But they were wrong. This is not Catholic doctrine. These are errors..."
"Why, precisely," I asked. "Where is the error?"
"The error is in simplification, oversimplification. In the end, the error is in misundersatnding the role of Mary.

"There's God, and the world, and God chose the world to have the world collaborate with him in the salvation of mankind." He hesitated, then added. "Especially the world of angels and of men. And he chose that his work of salvation would come about through the collaboration, finally, of a woman.
"And that moment, the moment of the woman's choice to collaborate in that work, was one of the supreme moments of all human history, the greatest, I would say. The angel waited on her response... And Mary accepted.
"God chose her, and she accepted his will. And so she became a blessing for all mankind, as she herself later said: 'All generations shall call me blessed.' And that is why we, too, in our time, call her blessed -- the Blessed Virgin Mary..."
I asked my friend if Pope Benedict XVI has a Marian devotion as profound as that of Pope John Paul II. The monsignor's eyes lit up with excitement.
"I have to tell you, and few people are aware of this, but Benedict XVI is surprising me. He is saying things that as Cardinal Ratzinger he never said and never would have said about Our Lady.
"I am reading everything he says and writes, and I am finding remarkable references in his homilies and addresses regarding Mary's special role in our redemption, not a role which diminishes the central and unique role of Christ, but a profoundly important role nevertheless. He is a Marian Pope, and he is becoming ever more so..."
"And the debate over the proposed dogma of Mary as Co-Redemptrix?" I asked. "It is said John Paul II was considering declaring this teaching formally as a dogma. What does Benedict think on the matter?"
"That is a question I cannot answer," the monsignor said. "But I can tell you this: the Pope is becoming more Marian each year, each month. I am quite amazed, frankly. As Pope, he is changing..."
"There have been many visions and apparitions of Mary in the past," I said. "But are there still such phenomena?"
The monsignor just about jumped out of his chair.
"Of course!" he almost shouted. "Mary is the Mother of the Church. Paul VI made that clear at the end of the third session of the Second Vatican Council. And the Church Fathers state very clearly that until the last of her children enters into the kingdom, Mary will still actively be working, interceding, encouraging, guiding, supporting, praying for their salvation... She is a mother, and she will work until her maternal work is finished."
I was reminded again of the Pieta, Michelangelo's great sculpture, which I saw a week ago with my son, the sorrow and the serenity of Mary...
The monsignor was very excited.
"Look," he said. "It is a matter of love. No one else ever fell in love with Christ more than she did. After after her, Joseph and John. Mary is totally relative to him. And we are able to understand our own role in dignity through looking at her. We too are invited by the Lord to participate with her, and Him, in the building up of the kingdom, the building up of the body of Christ. If I didn't believe this, I guess..." He paused. "If I didn't believe this, I guess i would just give up."
I was silent for a moment.
"But it does sometimes seem like the situation of the Vatican, and the Church, is precarious, and even dismal, for many reasons," I said.
"Yes, I agree with you," he said. "Pope Benedict is a holy man, but he is a terrible judge of character. And he doesn't know how to govern. He is self-isolated. He has surrounded himself with a very small group of people, all of whom he already knew before he became Pope. I'd love to see a Pope who governs. The last who did, I think, was Achille Ratti..."
"Pis XI?" I said.
"Yes," the monsignor replied. "He was a tough old bird. Mussolini called him the stubborn old man. Do you know the story of what he did when Hitler came to Rome in the 1930s? Hitler wanted to tour the streets of Rome, and visit the Vatican Museum, and Pius decided to leave the city entirely, and go out to Castel Gandolfo, and he ordered that a sign be posted on the door to the Vatican Museums: 'Closed temporarily for repairs.' He governed, and he knew how to govern, and he didn't mind doing it. He made mistakes, but he didn't back down."
The monsignor told me many other things, but they cannot be mentioned here.
Then I asked him about the Church around the world, and in America.
"The Church is always young," he said. "I know of many Catholics in many parishes and dioceses around the world who are on their knees in their homes and in their parishes. There is a growth in eucharistic adoration which is remarkable. If these people have any kind of spiritual direction, they will grow in knowledge and love of the Catholic faith."
"What is the essence of that?" I asked. "What can people do when they feel isolated, and lonely, and depressed, about themselves, and about the state of the Church, and the world?"
"You've got to fall in love with Jesus," the monsignor said. "And adoration is a wonderful way to fall in love with Jesus. The origin is hidden, like a seed that sprouts beneath the surface of the soil. But then it grows, and flourishes, into joy, and sacrifice, and humility, and virtue, and courage. And this type of individual devotion turns outward, into love for one's neighboar, and the Church is reborn, and the kingdom of God is built up in this fallen world. People's lives change. When you love Jesus, you don't want to offend him. And so people begin to live lives of heroic virtue, precisely because they're totally in love with the Lord."
I was silent. "And the state of the Vatican, and the Church leadership?" I said.
"Look," he said, "it's a mystery. There is no human institution in the world that could survive what we have done to the Church. We are fallible men. The very fact that the Church continues despite all of us who are so flawed is to me the single greatest sign of her divine nature. To me, it's an evident miracle!"

1 comment:

  1. This was great . . . the perfect thing for me to read today. Thanks for sharing it!


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