Saturday, May 29, 2010

Repression in Ukraine, illustrating problem with "automatic" CIC policies?

John Allen recently published an interview with Fr. Borys Gudziak, Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine, about what the Rector believes is a new repression of freedom, especially for Catholics there, on the part of the government. The interview may be read here.

The situation sounds alarming, and we should be praying and helping the Ukrainians out of a sense of solidarity with them.

As well, however, after the interview, Mr. Allen makes a point that has needed making since the 2010 onslaught of the bigotry on the "paedophilia" and Catholic priest controversy.

Catholic bloggers are by now "arm-in-arm" in the Western world, in total agreement that the Church should always and everywhere cooperate with the state in handing over (and perhaps deposing automatically) priests accused of child-abuse. There can be no dissent from this corrected procedure, and Cardinal Ratzinger led the charge in instituting these better policies.

I don't disagree with the sentiment inspiring such agreement, but I do think it is incomplete. In countries where the justice system is not corrupt it probably works, and is therefore good, but what about a system where the government is using the justice system to repress the Church, Her teachings, or even unjustly targeting political enemies?

While far from perfect, on the whole the US criminal justice system does not appear to me to be systematically corrupt; I cannot say as much for our civil law, where tort reform is sorely needed, and is only kept intact by lawyers who profit from it greatly, and support politicians who protect it.

A policy of automatic cooperation with the justice system in a country relies very heavily on that civil justice system being "just" and not corrupt. Turning over accused clerics to the civil authorities, if it is an automatic policy of the Church in any place, can be used by a corrupted justice system as a tool in its policies of intimidation. Canon Law has known this for a very long time, and it is that concern which was in the back of the minds of men like Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos and Pope John Paul II.

This is another instance where the virtue of prudence -- especially "prudence of government" -- rarely receives the consideration it deserves. Instead, we favor adopting "general policies", which have two effects: 1) they give the appearance of being "good citizens", but 2) they give decision-makers "cover" even when they do not exercise prudence. This is not dissimilar to how government regulations have the "unintended" consequence (by whom, may I ask?) of allowing business corporations to use the "I followed all the rules" defense when something bad happens. This latter effect, I believe has a name: "positioning". Is that a synonym for "posturing"?

In this world, one must truly be careful of what he wishes for, as he may get it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Morality and the Immigration Question

Catholic News Agency recently published a very interesting interview with Archbishop Jose Gomez, who will be Archbishop of Los Angeles sometime in the next year. The interview is actually much broader than the immigration question, in that ++Gomez is asked to talk about "the future" of Hispanic Catholics.

(Note on symbols. "++Name" is a British online way of saying "Archbishop", "+Name" means "Bishop" and "Name+" means "Priest". I like it, it is short and sweet, and I'll use it.)

The most interesting general response (and relevant for non-Hispanics as well): "Hispanic ministry should mean only one thing—bringing Hispanic people to the encounter with Jesus Christ in his Church."

++Gomez also makes the following key point, which again should be of interest to all American Catholics:
I believe that in God’s plan, the new Hispanic presence is to advance our country’s spiritual renewal. To restore the promise of America’s youth. In this renewed encounter with Hispanic faith and culture, I believe God wants America to rediscover values it has lost sight of—the importance of religion, family, friendship, community, and the culture of life.
He repeats those five qualities a bit later, affirming that they are values shared by Americans new and old, Hispanic or not, thus depicting such values as unifying themes between Hispanics and other Americans.

On the immigration question, he states very clearly,
I’m not a politician. I’m a pastor of souls. And as a pastor I believe the situation that’s developed today is bad for the souls of Americans. There is too much anger. Too much resentment. Too much fear. Too much hate. It’s eating people up.
Notice, not just bad for the souls of Hispanics, but of all Americans. That's a refreshing point of view!

I am not personally convinced that "racism" is as important as he and others think it is, but that's just my opinion -- I realize that impressions are important, and if we -- American citizens -- give the impression of being racist, others will interpret such impressions to believe we are racist. It's just that personally I don't feel like race is of any importance, and I'm pretty sure "Hispanidad" is not a racial characteristic anyway, but rather a cultural one. But, those are not major points.

The interview should be read in its entirety. ++Gomez does speak like a spiritual Shepherd, and although he is not unconscious of current politics on the immigration question -- what American could be? -- his analysis is Christian and religious, and clear. And could be used for mental prayer, and examination of conscience.

One specific suggestion relates to how illegal immigrants ought to be punished, instead of deportation: "intensive, long-term community service would be a far more constructive solution than deportation. This would build communities rather than tear them apart. And it would serve to better integrate the immigrants into the social and moral fabric of America".

Perhaps it should not be so very long-term (unless eventually compensated), but that would be a remedial solution, i.e., one which provides a "remedy" rather than a "penalty", and if properly implemented, contains the promise of integrating the immigrants, much like military service has done for immigrants of all kinds, including the Irish some of whom were conscripted right off the boats during the Civil War (by both sides).

Something to think about.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Quintissential Apostolate of the Laity

Pope Benedict XVI spoke on May 21 to members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, highlighting that "lay Catholics are responsible for political activity that promotes a Christian moral order" ( The complete text does not appear to be available at the Vatican website, but the Vatican Information Service ("VIS") has extended excerpts.

One point made by the Pope could bear repeating: the "technical formation of politicians" is not part of the Church's mission"; rather the Church reserves the right to "pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls require it".

To say that the mission of the Church does not include "forming politicians technically", is the same as to say that the Church is "incompetent" in the technical formation of politicians. When dealing with technical matters, the concept of "competence" or "competency" is rather important. In everyday language, the two terms may be used synonomously most of the time, but when a distinction between them must be made we note the following.

We speak of a man or woman being competent when, in light of his professional field, the person possesses the requisite knowledge and experience as determined by the profession itself. On the other hand, in a legal context, the word "competency" may be used almost to mean "jurisdiction": such-and-such a committee of Congress has competency [or, is competent] over that field, while another one does not, so hearings about the matter are conducted by the first committee.

Since the Church's mission does not have competence over "technical formation" of politicians (or other professions), the Church is incompetent in both senses: the Church does not have the requisite knowedge and experience qua Church to engage in the "profession" of politics, nor does She have the authorization from her Founder, in the legal sense, to be competent on the technical level. What the Church does have from her Founder, is the ability to judge regarding the moral suitability of "technical proposals", not qua technical, but qua conformant to Christ's vision for man and society.

The second important point here is to ask ourselves "who is this Church" the Pope is speaking about? When ecclesiastics use the word "the Church" it is often important to pick up from the context which subject they really have in mind, because the word is used in many, and sometimes contradictory ways. In my view, the Pope has two meanings in mind here for his use of "the Church". Primarily, he has in mind the Hierarchy in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church, since he uses the verb "judge", which in the context of "the Church", would normally be thought of as the judgement of the Hierarchy ("the college of bishops in union with its head, the Roman Pontiff") in their exercise of the church's teaching authority ("magisterium"). But the "teaching authority" implies use of authority in order to teach, and Catholic laypeople and others are the objects of that teaching. Hence, it seems reasonable to me to think that the Pope also has in mind those lay men and women, competent in the various arts and professions, who being Catholics, hold themselves responsible for learning the teaching of the Church, and estimating its requirements in the exercise of their professions, and putting their understandings into the practice of their professions.

Thus, it should be possible, indeed quotidian, to find Catholic laity, along with non-Catholics, holding out what they deem to be both professionally viable as well as morally responsible, technical solutions to all kinds of problems; while the Hierarchy makes judgements regarding the moral adequacy of them in particular circumstances. Thus the whole Church is involved, each doing its proper part, there is cooperation, but not at the activist level (at least in normal times).

The Pope again:  "The spread of a confused cultural relativism, and of a utilitarian and hedonistic individualism weakens democracy and favors the dominance of strong powers. We must recover and reinvigorate authentic political wisdom; be demanding in what concerns our own sphere of competency; make discriminating use of scientific research; face reality in all its aspects, going beyond any kind of ideological reductionism or utopian dream; show we are open to true dialogue and collaboration, bearing in mind that politics is also a complex art of equilibrium between ideals and interests, but never forgetting that the contribution of Christians can be decisive only if knowledge of faith becomes knowledge of reality, the key to judgement and transformation. What is needed is a true 'revolution of love'".

"It is up to the lay faithful to show - in their personal and family life, in social cultural and political life - that the faith enables them to read reality in a new and profound way, and to transform it", he said. "It is also the duty of the laity to participate actively in political life, in a manner coherent with the teaching of the Church, bringing their well- founded reasoning and great ideals into the democratic debate, and into the search for a broad consensus among everyone who cares about the defence of life and freedom, the protection of truth and the good of the family, solidarity with the needy, and the vital search for the common good").

The Catholic Culture website labels all this "lay activism", but surely lay activism is some small subset of what the Pope is teaching. Ordinary Catholic living is the far greater matrix from which this apostolate must stem.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some recent interesting comments on the "New Translations"

As a follow-up post to yesterday's, is today's.

There was a recent article by Fr. Robert Johansen here, "The New Missal: Disaster or Opportunity?", which argues that resistance to the corrected translations is more "ideological", i.e., more power-oriented, than theological, and notably less from "ordinary Catholics" [Fr. Johansen did 3 ad hoc polls with actual parishioners] than from "official" Catholics, i.e., priests and religious, who responded to the changes with purple prose and extreme emotionalism at another site. In passing, I will say that I believe that such latter sorts of individuals are the constituent members of what Joseph Ratzinger has called the "liturgical guild" elsewhere. Fr. Johanson's article is well worth a careful reading by anyone genuinely interested in reactions from ordinary Catholics who don't wage campaigns, or sign many liturgical petitions.

In the combox there were some comments from knowledgeable readers:

"Didn't know a thing about this new translation and welcome it heartily. I have really missed the Latin translation (sic) of the Mass and will be so glad if this new translation has some lofty language. The one we read and follow at Mass is so mundane and plain that you could forget you are are addressing and worshiping God and not a common person. I majored in English Literature and taught it and frankly miss the King James language and if this takes us back to more beautiful language as we worship together than more power to it. Good article!" -- by Irene French, May 14th, 2010 | 6:12am

Prof. Tony Esolen from Providence College [May 14th, 2010 | 9:46am]: "I am amazed that it has taken the bishops this long to implement the new translation -- or, I should say, a genuine translation, because what we have been given since about 1970 is in many instances not a translation at all, but a paraphrase." He goes on to mention that the current texts and practices with which we are familiar were not something asked for by any lay people; they were imposed from "on high", which is absolutely true. Finally, "Giving the ballgame away: no one who objects to the new translation dares to claim that the old translation was more accurate, or indeed (in some cases) that it was a translation at all."

Finally, Fr. Johansen sums it up by saying: "91 percent of respondents identified that they would find it 'easy' to adapt to this text if it were used regularly."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Real-time Social Networking SNAFU

A curious example of a sort of real-time propagation error was recorded yesterday, May 15, 2010. Here's what seems to have happened.

a) Fr. Ray Blake of Brighton, England, posts a topic on his blog dealing with actually using the (corrected) translations of the Mass in order to carry out the catechesis which is alleged to be needed before usage. I know that sounds circular, but that's life in the Catholic Church these days. This was known back in the merry old days of liturgical innovations of the sixties as using the texts "ad experimentum". That means "to gain experience" rather than "as an experiment". Fr. Blake's post was dated May 15, 2010, at approximately 7:30 am Central Time.

b) This post from England was picked up on the Midwestern USA blog of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, on May 15, 2010, at 9:03AM Central Time, and reproduced apparently whole there, under the title, "Using the new translation 'ad experimentum'".

c) Then, after both of these events had taken place, Fr. Blake "took down" (i.e., edited) his post temporarily, and then re-posted it later in [his] afternoon. The reason cited is not exactly crystal-clear. A friend of his who works at ICEL contacted him and said that use of the new texts was not yet approved for England.

Of course, the above narrative is mine, an "outsider" entirely of these presbyteral exchanges, and as usual, that's how things will stand. What does seem clear to me is that there was a "faux pas" committed, a false step, which was then backtracked, but the evidence of this "worm-hole" remains. Of course, eventually, the "delete key" can heal all wounds in the virtual world, and we may see that yet.

Following are both versions, first the "original" as copied at WDTPRS:
Our bishop recently said that some parishes in the diocese were already using the new ICEL translations of the Missal, he said that he had no problem with them being used ad experimentum, as they were now an official text which had received the recognitio of the Holy See.

ICEL wants these texts to be used after appropriate catechesis next year. However, this morning I used new translation of the Roman Canon, as there are the four Eucharistic Prayers in the Missal, plus the two prayers for Reconciliation, the three (is it?) for children, and then those ghastly Swiss ones we can use, I thought that no-one would object, and from the reactions I heard people thought it was a vast improvement.

We had already intended to start introducing the Communion Rite in its sung form, just to get people used to the idea that their responses are going to change too.
Other people have suggested the translations are a bit lumpy, I found them immensely beautiful, so much so that I am going to use them tomorrow at the sung Mass.
The problem I have with then is that it seems so natural to use the rubrics, the signs of the cross, for example at phrases like, "... bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, ..."
I think it is going to be difficult to get people to change their responses, that is going to be the big problem, not what the priest says.
[Version from WDTPRS, i.e., the "original"]

Now, from Fr. Blake's blog:
In a conversation with our bishop recently, I thought he said that some parishes in the diocese were already using the new ICEL translations of the Missal, and that he had no problem with them being used ad experimentum, as they were now an official text which had received the recognitio of the Holy See, I had obviously grabbed the wrong end of the stick because a friend on ICEL, who had read the previous version of this post, told me Rome had not yet given permission for their use in England.

ICEL wants these texts to be used after appropriate catechesis next year. However, this morning because of my misunderstanding, I used the new translation of the Roman Canon. As there are the four Eucharistic Prayers in the Missal, plus the two prayers for Reconciliation, the three (is it?) for children, and then those ghastly Swiss ones, I thought that no-one in the congregation would object, and from the reactions I heard people thought it was a vast improvement.

Some people have suggested the translations are a bit lumpy, I found the Roman Canon immensely beautiful, so much so that I feel deprived not being able to use it tomorrow.
The problem I have is that it seems so natural to use the rubrics of the Usus Antiquior, the signs of the cross, for example at phrases like, "... bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, ..."
I think it is going to be difficult to get people to change their responses, that is going to be the big catechetical problem, not what the priest says.

What amazes me is that "nobody" has had the idea of using the newly corrected translations as of yet. As I write, the entire Missal has been corrected and the changes approved by the Pope. In fact, the Catholic Herald of the UK has written several articles that touch on the following facts. When Pope Benedict visits the UK in September, and beatifies Cardinal Newman, he will celebrate Mass using the corrected texts. The Bishops have commissioned Mr. MacMillan, a Scotch Catholic and renowned composer, to write a setting for these Masses specifically using the corrected texts. So, unless there will be no concelebrations, and no congregations, then in some sense, the corrected texts have been authorized for use in England. And if England, why not the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.?

There are several reasons for my amazement.

a) The "new translations" are actually long overdue corrections of the rendering of the Latin texts into English, rather than the introduction of any new rites. When do we correct ourselves? When we have made a mistake. When are we expected to correct ourselves? As soon as we notice that we have made a mistake. Unless, of course, that merely relates to the creature's relationship with God, in which case we may postpone the correction until some far future date, because it doesn't really matter!

b) ICEL ("International Committee for English in the Liturgy") apparently holds the copyright on the texts, which is what allows them to countermand any desire on the part of priests or parishes to bring their worship up to what it should be, until a grand catechesis has taken place. What can that possibly mean when the only change anybody is talking about is a change of the texts? If the text changes, don't I correct the problem by reading the corrected text? Do I need grandiose catechesis about this? Is not experiencing the difference at Mass catechesis enough?

c) I can well understand why it may take years for the various publishers, and musicians, et al., to revise their books, music, etc., to "support" the new texts. But does that mean that everyone else must mark time while they are getting their paid, professional, services up to snuff?

d) Lastly, though not least. It is a sound principle in bringing people down a "learning curve" to let them have experience of something before explaining to them what they have experienced. This is especially true in growing in our faith. As backup, I have no lesser light than the 4th century Bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, in "catechizing" the newly-baptized at his cathedral in the week following their baptism at the Easter Vigil:
[All throughout Lent] we have been having a daily talk on subjects connected with morals, while the deeds of the Patriarchs or the precepts of the Proverbs were being read, in order that being formed and grounded by them you might get used to enter the ways of the ancients and to undertake their journey, and to obey the divine oracles. In that way, once made new by baptism, you might hold to the way of life that befits those who have been cleansed. Now the time is right to speak of the Mysteries, and to bring to light the significance of the sacraments. Were we to have been tempted to hint at it to the uninitiated before baptism, we should be guilty of having betrayed rather than having portrayed the Mysteries [i.e., "Sacraments" in modern Latin usage]. Also because the very light of the mysteries itself fills the unexpectant better than if some commentary had preceded their reception. [St. Ambrose, de Mysteriis, 1]
And I think that would break the circularity I spoke about at first.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Local "tradition" Recovered?

In a post on his blog, "Liturgical Notes", of Sept 3, 2009, Fr. John Hunwicke asked Was Gregory Organic?

The question raised was whether Gregory was engaging in a bit of "spin" in his replies to certain objections to recent liturgical "innovations" or "reforms", raised by someone who had visited him. The objections seem to have been motivated by "zeal" for the customs of the Roman See, or else by "jealousy" regarding those of the see of Constantinople -- it was probably all the same at that time.

This led to various interesting comments from others -- I also had some comments to make -- but one of the things I learned that day has stuck in the back of my mind. It is the rationale given by St. Gregory for moving the recital of the Lord's Prayer from some unknown location within the Mass to where it has always remained afterwards in the Latin Rite, immediately following the Canon, preceded by its introduction and followed by the embolism. Let me reproduce those prayers here in Latin for those who are not familiar with them.
Praeceptis salutaribus moniti, et divina institutione formati, audemus dicere:

Pater noster, qui es in caelis: Sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cealo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie: Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
Resp. Sed libera nos a malo.

Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, praeteritis, praesentibus, et futuris: et intercedente beata et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei Genetrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea, et omnibus Sanctis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris: ut ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni purturbatione securi. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum.
Resp: Amen.

This is the version of the Our Father from Lk 11, 2-4.

Prof. William Tighe, in a comment, included a longish commentary on Gregory's thoughts from an Anglican liturgical authority, G. G. Willis. Among other things Willis says, "There is no doubt about the text of St. Gregory’s letter, but there has never been agreement about its precise meaning, nor is it agreed what St. Gregory found in the Mass at this point, and what exactly was the change that he made." I recommend reading the entire exchange at Fr. Hunwicke's site.

The quote from St. Gregory about which there is disagreement as to its precise meaning is the following:
Orationem vero dominicam idcirco mox post precem dicimus, quia mos apostolorum fuit ut ad ipsam solummodo orationem oblationis hostiam consecrarent, et valde mihi inconveniens visum est ut precem quam scholasticus composuerat super oblationem diceremus, et ipsam traditionem quam Redemptor noster composuit super eius corpus et sanguinem non diceremus.
the translation of which (depending on how you read certain phrases) is:

But we say the Lord's prayer immediately following the Canon (precem) for the very reason that (idcirco... quia) it was the custom of the apostles (or, an apostolic custom) to consecrate the Host of oblation by that very prayer alone, and it seemed to me grossly inappropriate that we should recite a prayer over the Offering (precem... super oblationem) composed by a learned man, yet not recite over His Body and Blood the very prayer (traditionem) which our Redeemer composed.
I must warn the reader that this is not the consensus meaning at this time, according to Drs. Willis and Tighe (q.v.), but it is how I understood the sentence the first time I studied it. Apparently, again according to the same scholars, this would accord with the reading of Amalarius of Metz/Treves (AD cc. 775-850), an influential liturgical scholar and student of Alcuin at Charlemagne's court. As the Catholic Encyclopedia says of him, however, his liturgical theology was a bit too "mystical" for modern minds. You can read the modern view expressed rather well in the comments at the original post.

I, though acknowledging my lack of expertise in this area, did mention at the time that perhaps there was a Scriptural basis for Gregory's statement, i.e., St. Jerome's rendition of the Mt 6, 9-13 version of the Our Father, where he renders v. 11 thus: Panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie. Notice this differs from the version (from Luke) we pray during Mass, and which was inserted at this point of the Mass by St. Gregory. Although the Greek word, ἐπιούσιον, is used in both places, and is thought by scholars to have been coined by the Evangelists, Jerome decided to render the same clause differently in the Latin. I have heard that this was to acknowledge the range of meanings the word may take on. Be that as it may....

Recently, though, I have been reading J.N.D. Kelly's Oxford Dictionary of the Popes, and became curious about the "Book of the Popes", the Liber Pontificalis, which he dates from the middle of the sixth century, and in which he finds one apocryphal "fact" after another. So I decided to see if I could find some version of it online, and I did, here. On page 6 of the online edition, under the entry for "Linus", footnote 2 provides us with the following information:
One manuscript adds the following. "He [Linus] first ordained the celebration of the mass to commemorate the Lord's passion, with bread and wine mixed with water and the Lord's prayer repeated alone and the sanctifying of the holy cross, a rite which the other holy apostles imitated for this celebration."
Other editions of the Liber Pontificalis omit it, and at least one locates this sentence at the end of the entry for St. Peter himself. If this were part of the original text of the LP, made in the middle of the sixth century, i.e., before the letter written by Gregory to bishop John of Syracuse, then perhaps there was actually some sort of local tradition in the Roman Church of which Gregory was mindful, that the Apostles originally consecrated the Eucharist using Our Lord's words in the Our Father?.

For Reference: Gregory I, Letters, Book 9, Letter 12.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Benedict XVI on St. Peter Damian

Benedict XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE, Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Saint Peter Damian

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the Catecheses of these Wednesdays I am commenting on several important people in the life of the Church from her origins. Today I would like to reflect on one of the most significant figures of the 11th century, St Peter Damian, a monk, a lover of solitude and at the same time a fearless man of the Church, committed personally to the task of reform, initiated by the Popes of the time. He was born in Ravenna in 1007, into a noble family but in straitened circumstances. He was left an orphan and his childhood was not exempt from hardships and suffering, although his sister Roselinda tried to be a mother to him and his elder brother, Damian, adopted him as his son. For this very reason he was to be called Piero di Damiano, Pier Damiani [Peter of Damian, Peter Damian]. He was educated first at Faenza and then at Parma where, already at the age of 25, we find him involved in teaching. As well as a good grounding in the field of law, he acquired a refined expertise in the art of writing the ars scribendi and, thanks to his knowledge of the great Latin classics, became "one of the most accomplished Latinists of his time, one of the greatest writers of medieval Latin" (J. Leclercq, Pierre Damien, ermite et homme d'Église, Rome, 1960, p. 172).

He distinguished himself in the widest range of literary forms: from letters to sermons, from hagiographies to prayers, from poems to epigrams. His sensitivity to beauty led him to poetic contemplation of the world. Peter Damian conceived of the universe as a never-ending "parable" and a sequence of symbols on which to base the interpretation of inner life and divine and supra-natural reality. In this perspective, in about the year 1034, contemplation of the absolute of God impelled him gradually to detach himself from the world and from its transient realities and to withdraw to the Monastery of Fonte Avellana. It had been founded only a few decades earlier but was already celebrated for its austerity. For the monks' edification he wrote the Life of the Founder, St Romuald of Ravenna, and at the same time strove to deepen their spirituality, expounding on his ideal of eremitic monasticism.

One detail should be immediately emphasized: the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana was dedicated to the Holy Cross and the Cross was the Christian mystery that was to fascinate Peter Damian more than all the others. "Those who do not love the Cross of Christ do not love Christ", he said (Sermo XVIII, 11, p. 117); and he described himself as "Petrus crucis Christi servorum famulus Peter, servant of the servants of the Cross of Christ" (Ep, 9, 1). Peter Damian addressed the most beautiful prayers to the Cross in which he reveals a vision of this mystery which has cosmic dimensions for it embraces the entire history of salvation: "O Blessed Cross", he exclaimed, "You are venerated, preached and honoured by the faith of the Patriarchs, the predictions of the Prophets, the senate that judges the Apostles, the victorious army of Martyrs and the throngs of all the Saints" (Sermo XLVII, 14, p. 304). Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the example of St Peter Damian spur us too always to look to the Cross as to the supreme act of God's love for humankind, which has given us salvation.

This great monk compiled a Rule for eremitical life in which he heavily stressed the "rigour of the hermit": in the silence of the cloister the monk is called to spend a life of prayer, by day and by night, with prolonged and strict fasting; he must put into practice generous brotherly charity in ever prompt and willing obedience to the prior. In study and in the daily meditation of Sacred Scripture, Peter Damian discovered the mystical meaning of the word of God, finding in it nourishment for his spiritual life. In this regard he described the hermit's cell as the "parlour in which God converses with men". For him, living as a hermit was the peak of Christian existence, "the loftiest of the states of life" because the monk, now free from the bonds of worldly life and of his own self, receives "a dowry from the Holy Spirit and his happy soul is united with its heavenly Spouse" (Ep 18, 17; cf. Ep 28, 43 ff.). This is important for us today too, even though we are not monks: to know how to make silence within us to listen to God's voice, to seek, as it were, a "parlour" in which God speaks with us. Learning the word of God in prayer and in meditation is the path to life.

St Peter Damian, who was essentially a man of prayer, meditation and contemplation, was also a fine theologian: his reflection on various doctrinal themes led him to important conclusions for life. Thus, for example, he expresses with clarity and liveliness the Trinitarian doctrine, already using, under the guidance of biblical and patristic texts, the three fundamental terms which were subsequently to become crucial also for the philosophy of the West: processio, relatio and persona (cf. Opusc. XXXVIII: PL CXLV, 633-642; and Opusc. II and III: ibid., 41 ff. and 58 ff). However, because theological analysis of the mystery led him to contemplate the intimate life of God and the dialogue of ineffable love between the three divine Persons, he drew ascetic conclusions from them for community life and even for relations between Latin and Greek Christians, divided on this topic. His meditation on the figure of Christ is significantly reflected in practical life, since the whole of Scripture is centred on him. The "Jews", St Peter Damian notes, "through the pages of Sacred Scripture, bore Christ on their shoulders as it were" (Sermo XLVI, 15). Therefore Christ, he adds, must be the centre of the monk's life: "May Christ be heard in our language, may Christ be seen in our life, may he be perceived in our hearts" (Sermo VIII, 5). Intimate union with Christ engages not only monks but all the baptized. Here we find a strong appeal for us too not to let ourselves be totally absorbed by the activities, problems and preoccupations of every day, forgetting that Jesus must truly be the centre of our life.

Communion with Christ creates among Christians a unity of love. In Letter 28, which is a brilliant ecclesiological treatise, Peter Damian develops a profound theology of the Church as communion. "Christ's Church", he writes, is united by the bond of charity to the point that just as she has many members so is she, mystically, entirely contained in a single member; in such a way that the whole universal Church is rightly called the one Bride of Christ in the singular, and each chosen soul, through the sacramental mystery, is considered fully the Church". This is important: not only that the whole universal Church should be united, but that the Church should be present in her totality in each one of us. Thus the service of the individual becomes "an expression of universality" (Ep 28, 9-23). However, the ideal image of "Holy Church" illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time. For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, because, above all, of the practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices; various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired. For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church's renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.

Because of his love for monastic life, 10 years later, in 1067, he obtained permission to return to Fonte Avellana and resigned from the Diocese of Ostia. However, the tranquillity he had longed for did not last long: two years later, he was sent to Frankfurt in an endeavour to prevent the divorce of Henry IV from his wife Bertha. And again, two years later, in 1071, he went to Monte Cassino for the consecration of the abbey church and at the beginning of 1072, to Ravenna, to re-establish peace with the local Archbishop who had supported the antipope bringing interdiction upon the city.

On the journey home to his hermitage, an unexpected illness obliged him to stop at the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria Vecchia Fuori Porta in Faenza, where he died in the night between 22 and 23 February 1072.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is a great grace that the Lord should have raised up in the life of the Church a figure as exuberant, rich and complex as St Peter Damian. Moreover, it is rare to find theological works and spirituality as keen and vibrant as those of the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana. St Peter Damian was a monk through and through, with forms of austerity which to us today might even seem excessive. Yet, in that way he made monastic life an eloquent testimony of God's primacy and an appeal to all to walk towards holiness, free from any compromise with evil. He spent himself, with lucid consistency and great severity, for the reform of the Church of his time. He gave all his spiritual and physical energies to Christ and to the Church, but always remained, as he liked to describe himself, Petrus ultimus monachorum servus, Peter, the lowliest servant of the monks.