Tag Archives: Vatican II

Father Theodore Foley, CP

theo 3

Fr. Theodore Foley, whom I knew and lived with in community, may take his place among the saints someday. He died October 9, 1974. Here’s a summary of his life.

He was born in 1913 in Springfield, Massachusetts into a devout Catholic family.  He went to Catholic schools and experienced a vibrant Catholic life in Sacred Heart parish in the north end of Springfield.

As a young boy of 14 he was attracted to the missionary spirit and spirituality of the Passionist community. Entering the Passionists, he was ordained a priest in 1940 and became one of its best spiritual guides and teachers of theology.

In 1958 Father Theodore went to Rome to be a general consultor for the worldwide Passionist community. In 1964 he became its superior general. He led his community through the turbulent decades of the 1960s and 70s when social unrest, political confrontations, assassinations, anti-establishment and anti-war demonstrations began shaking the western world and the Catholic Church.

As traditional values came into question and church membership (including membership in his own community) began to decline, he was a rock of hope to those shaken by the times.

A participant in the Second Vatican Council, Father Theodore took up its challenge and worked tirelessly to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world. Seeking new opportunities to do God’s will, he traveled to Asia and Africa to extend the missionary outreach of his community. He also promoted the study of the Passion of Jesus as a remedy for a world in danger of forgetting God.

For him a perilous time like ours was not a reason to do nothing. It’s a time for “God’s purification in our lives and we have to accept it and do our best for the future of the congregation and our church.”

While furthering new ventures in Africa, he contracted a deadly virus which on his return to Rome caused his death on October 9, 1974.

A gentle man, faithful to prayer and unfailingly kind to others, Father Theodore believed that God is always at work in our world, even in bad times. The mystery of the passion of Jesus, which he kept constantly before his eyes, nourished in him a steady hope that God leads us on, no matter how dark life seems to be.
https://vimeo.com/19438932

A hope like his is a hope to pray for today. Father Theodore is a candidate for canonization, and here’s a prayer that his cause succeeds:

Prayer for the Beatification of Fr. Theodore Foley, CP

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

You called Theodore Foley to follow you to Calvary’s heights as a Passionist priest and through your Immaculate and Sorrowful Mother taught him to fulfill your Father’s will by loving God and neighbor.

Let his life inspire us to a life of deeper virtue.

We humbly ask you to glorify your servant Father Theodore according to the designs of your holy will and through his intercession, grant the request I now present to you. (here mention  your request). Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

Ecumenism

I attended a beautiful Methodist funeral this week at a funeral home in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. I prayed and sang with the members of the family and their friends. Some years ago, before the Second Vatican Council, I would have been told “In no way is it permitted for the faithful to take part in any way in non-Catholic services.” (Canon 1258)

We have come a long way in our relations with other Christian churches and other religions. In the days of St. Francis de Sales in the 16th century, Christian churches were fighting each other over religion. Francis de Sales as the bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, chose to approach religious differences through dialogue and not arms. His approach anticipated the Vatican Council decrees on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratia) and Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) which told Catholics to respect the religious beliefs of others and dialogue with them.

Dialogue means listening to the other and offering what you know in return. It’s an on-going process that ultimately, I think, has its roots in the created world we live in, which we know little by little. The word “respect”is a beautiful word, meaning “looking again,” Francis de Sales based his spirituality on respect for the variety of creation. We’re “living plants” in the garden of the world. We need to keep “looking again.”

And while we respect others, we need to “look again” at our own tradition to appreciate it and see it “ever ancient, ever new.”

We’re ending the Church Unity Octave on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Apostle, January 25th. St Francis de Sales, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Paul of the Cross, pray for us.

Heads of States at the United Nations

On the Van Wyck Expressway from Kennedy Airport warnings are flashing that leaders from all over the world are coming to the United Nations. The Letter to Timothy we’re reading this week tells us to pray for them:

“First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.”

The reading from the Book of Esra (Esra 1,1-6) reminds us how important authorities are in fulfilling God’s plan. Cyrus, the King of Persia (Modern Iran), moved by God, issues a decree letting the Jews return to Jerusalem after about 70 years so they can rebuild their city and its temple. It’s not about a human homecoming; their return furthered on the plan of God.

Our reading makes the point that God moves the heart of King Cyrus. God is not only the creator of the world but its real ruler. He’s king, the one with power to change directions as he wills, and he can even change powerful kings like Cyrus.

Reading the Old Testament helps us remember that God acts in the real world of human affairs and creation itself. God’s action is mysterious, beyond our thoughts and ways. God’s kingdom will come, but not according to the calculations of pundits or prognosticators, or “the wise and clever.” We may believe mistakingly that it’s all politics and human motives and natural causes, but “God is king,” the Old Testament proclaims.

To know God’s activity we have to look into “the signs of the times.” Cyrus told the Jews they could return to their homeland and rebuild, but they had to take him up on his offer. Some did, who saw it as a sign from God – “everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so.” Some didn’t, for a number of reason: they liked where they were, they feared being deceived, they lost faith. But faithful Jews took the journey back.

The Vatican II document on the Church in the Modern World offers a powerful invitation to respond hopefully and generously today to “the signs of the times.” Our times are not without them. A new Eucharistic prayer prays for the grace to accept that invitation:

“Grant that all the faithful of the church, looking into the signs of the times by the light of the faith, may constantly devote themselves to the service of the gospel.”

“Keep us attentive to the needs of all that, sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope, we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation and go forward with them along the way of your kingdom.”

Let’s pray for  peace in Syria,  Certainly “signs of the times” are out there. May we be inspired by God to look for them.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

We celebrate a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity every year from the 18th to the 25th of January. Pope Benedict recently said that one of the gravest sins “that disfigure the Church’s face” is the sin “against her visible unity”, and, in particular, “the historical divisions which separated Christians and which have not yet been surmounted”.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “an event much appreciated by believers and communities which reawakens in all the desire for and spiritual commitment to full communion,” the pope added.

The pope mentioned in this regard a prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square on December 19th in which thousands of young people from all over the world gathered with the ecumenical community of Taize to pray. He called it “a moment of grace in which we experienced the beauty of unity  in Christ.”

“The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council.” (Decree on Ecumenism n.1). Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity said recently that ecumenical efforts affect the mission of the church, because the division of Christians prevents the preaching of the gospel and “deprives many people of access to the faith” (Ad Gentes, n. 6). Divisions among Christian cause a confusion that hinders people from accepting the gospel today. He added that we are in a “profoundly changed ecumenical situation.”

Passionist Father Ignatius Spencer, an early pioneer in ecumenical activity, strongly urged more prayer together. Might be a good idea to consider . How can we do it?

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

 

I’m rereading a book by one of the leading theologians at Vatican II, Yves Congar, OP called “The Mystery of the Temple, Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland 1962.” As I noted in a previous blog, Congar wrote out of his experience of increasing secularization in France in the 1950s. People were abandoning God and the church.

I’m only realizing it now (I’m a slow learner) that his treatment in this book of the Presence of God in sacred history, beginning with the patriarchs and extending to the time of David and the prophets, was a way he was figuring out the Presence of God in this period of time. Where is God now?

These sentences struck me: “We are always tempted to confine ourselves to what we see and touch, to be satisfied with this and to think that a preliminary achievement fulfills God’s promise.”

Abraham thought God’s promise was fulfilled in Ismael, Joshua thought it was the conquest of Canaan. Solomon thought it was in his immediate descendants…”but these promises were capable of more complete fulfillment which would only materialize after long periods of waiting and urgently needed purification. Only the prophets–and this, in fact, is their task–draw attention to the process of development from seminal promises and to the progress of the latter towards their accomplishment through successive stages of fulfillment continuously transcending one another.”  (p 31-32)

We may look at the church or our world at this time and think it’s the end, but it isn’t.  It’s only a “preliminary achievement” in God’s plan. We need prophets to “draw attention to the process of development from seminal promises” by successive stages of fulfillment.

God is the Pillar of Cloud leading us on, Emmanuel, God with us. “It ain’t over till its over.”