Sunday, February 19, 2017

Holy Sepulchre

EXCLUSIVE: A Closer Look Inside Christ's Unsealed Tomb 

By Kristin Romey

JERUSALEMFor the first time in centuries, scientists have exposed the original surface of what is traditionally considered the tomb of Jesus Christ. Located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, the tomb has been covered by marble cladding since at least 1555 A.D., and most likely centuries earlier.

"The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,” said Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, a partner in the restoration project. “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid."

According to Christian tradition, the body of Jesus Christ was laid on a shelf or “burial bed” hewn from the side of a limestone cave following his crucifixion by the Romans in A.D. 30 or possibly 33. Christian belief says Christ was resurrected after death, and women who came to anoint his body three days after the burial reported that no remains were present.

The shrine that houses the traditional burial place of Jesus Christ is undergoing restoration inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

This burial shelf is now enclosed by a small structure known as the Edicule (from the Latin aedicule, or "little house"), which was last reconstructed in 1808-1810 after being destroyed in a fire. The Edicule and the interior tomb are currently undergoing restoration by a team of scientists from the National Technical University of Athens, under the direction of Chief Scientific Supervisor Professor Antonia Moropoulou.

The exposure of the burial bed is giving researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study the original surface of what is considered the most sacred site in Christianity. An analysis of the original rock may enable them to better understand not only the original form of the tomb chamber, but also how it evolved as the focal point of veneration since it was first identified by Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine, in A.D. 326.

"We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule," Moropoulou said. "The techniques we're using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ."


The doors to the church were shut early—hours before normal closing time, leaving a bewildered crowd of pilgrims and tourists standing in front of the towering wooden doors. Inside, a scrum of conservators in yellow hard hats, Franciscans in simple brown robes, Greek orthodox priests in tall black hats, and Copts in embroidered hoods surrounded the entrance to the Edicule, peering into its reaches. Rising above all of them was the façade of the early 19th-century shrine, its elaborate carvings obscured by iron beams and orange safety tape.

Inside the tomb, which usually glows with a faint constellation of wax candles, bright construction lighting filled the small cell, revealing tiny details that are usually overlooked. The marble slab that covers the holy bench—roughly 3 by 5 feet and carved from creamy marble—had been pulled away from the wall. Beneath it was a grey-beige stone surface. What is it? a conservator was asked. "We don’t know yet," she replied. "It's time to bring in the scientific monitoring tools."

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (also known as the Church of the Resurrection) is currently under the custody of six Christian sects. Three major groups—the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Armenian Orthodox Church—maintain primary control over the site, and the Coptic, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syriac communities also have a presence there. Parts of the church that are considered common areas of worship for all of the sects, including the tomb, are regulated by a Status Quo agreement that requires the consent of all of the custodial churches.

Outside the Edicule, Thephilos III, the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, stood watching the events with a serene smile. "I'm glad that the atmosphere is special, there is a hidden joy," said the patriarch. "Here we have Franciscans, Armenians, Greeks, Muslim guards, and Jewish police officers. We hope and we pray that this will be a real message that the impossible can become the possible. We all need peace and mutual respect."


The structural integrity of the early 19th-century Edicule has been a concern for decades. It suffered damage during a 1927 earthquake, and British authorities were forced to shore up the building in 1947 with unsightly exterior girders that remain to this day. Difficulties among the Status Quo representatives and a lack of financial resources have hindered its repair.

In 2015, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with the agreement of the other two major communities, invited the National Technical University of Athens (which had previously led restoration projects on the Athenian Acropolis and the Hagia Sophia) to study the Edicule. The communities of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre agreed to restore the structure in March 2016, with work to be completed by the spring of 2017. Major donors to the $4-million-plus project include a royal benefaction from Jordan's King Abdullah II, and $1.3-million gift from Mica Ertegun to the World Monuments Fund in support of the project.

The National Geographic Society, with the blessing of the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem and the other religious communities, formed a strategic alliance with the National Technical University of Athens for cultural heritage preservation. For an exclusive look at the restoration project, watch Explorer on National Geographic Channel, coming in November.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

God's abundance

Image result for walter brueggemann
Walter Brueggemann writes extensively about abundance:

"We who are now the richest nation are today's main coveters. We never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us. Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God's abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity -- a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly. We spend our lives trying to sort out that ambiguity."

--Walter Brueggemann, "The liturgy of abundance, the myth of scarcity"

Friday, February 17, 2017

What you see is what you get."

Image result for In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard penny
In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard has just finished telling her readers about a childhood game of hers in which she would hide pennies for other people to find -- emblematic of her later work as a writer -- when she moves on to reflect on the significance of seeing (or failing to see) discarded pennies on the ground:

"It is still the first week in January and I've got great plans. I've been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But -- and this is the point -- who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded with the site of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get."

--Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper Collins, 2007), 17.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chaminade - Socrates of Bordeuax

William Joseph Chaminade
“Chaminade understood that the Church of the nineteenth century would not move forward on the same foundations as before the Revolution,” comments Bernard Payrous, a priest of Bordeaux. “Very innovative in the area of the apostolate of the laity, Chaminade wanted to create ‘a man who does not die.’ In an era fraught with crisis of thought, this man of immense courage leads me to think of a Socrates of Bordeaux, a man of enormous influence. He helped large numbers of young people become men, and he was a great educator.” Less known than a contemporary like [Félicité Robert] Lamennais, Chaminade will perhaps leave an imprint that will be more profound.”

His devotion to Mary, which takes up anew the ongoing theme of the “donation to Mary” stemming from the great [Pierre de] Berulle, is wedded to the convictions of the author of the “Treatise on True Devotion,” [Louis Marie] Grignon de Montfort, canonized in 1996 by John Paul II. “It is in alliance with the Virgin and under her protective standard that the Brothers of Mary will be able to collaborate with her work of salvation, especially in the field of education,” comments Bernard Peyrous. “A spiritual guide, never a detached mystic, fundamentally confident of the action of God among men, Chaminade was convinced that the education to this effect is possible.”

In an era when the demise of the Church is yet again proclaimed by so many people, the confidence in the future is perhaps the most precious legacy bequeathed by Father Chaminade to the Marianists of the twenty-first century.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Christ fulfills the commandments' substance

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus address, June 15, 2015. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2017 / 09:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christ's Sermon on the Mount shows that he wanted to fulfil the law of Moses, not abolish it, Pope Francis said Sunday during his Angelus address.

He “wants to help his listeners to achieve a reinterpretation of the Mosaic law. What was said in the Old Covenant was true, but it was not all: Jesus came to fulfill and to enact definitively the law of God, down to the last iota,” the Pope said Feb. 12 in St. Peter's Square.

“He manifests the Law’s original purposes and He fulfils its authentic aspects – and He does all this by His preaching and even more by offering Himself on the Cross.”

Christ “teaches how to do the will of God fully – and He uses this expression: with a 'justice superior' to that of the scribes and Pharisees – a justice animated by love, charity, mercy, and therefore capable of realizing the substance of the commandments, avoiding the risk of formalism,” he said, calling us to “more”.

The Gospel passage the Pope considered included Christ's words on homicide, adultery, and oath swearing.

Christ explained that the commandment against murder “is violated not only by actual homicide, but also by those behaviors which offend the dignity of the human person, including insulting words. Certainly, these injurious words do not have the same gravity and sinfulness of killing, but they are placed on the same line, because they are the premises of the more serious acts and they reveal the same malevolence.”

We are invited “not to establish a gradation of offenses, but to consider them all harmful, insofar as they are all moved by the intention to do harm to one’s neighbor,” he said, urging: “Please, do not insult! We earn nothing by doing so.”

“Another fulfilment is made to marriage law,” Pope Francis said. “Adultery had been considered a violation of a man’s property right to his wife. Jesus, however, goes to the root of the evil. Just as one comes to murder through injuries, offenses, and insults, so one comes to adultery through intentions of possession with respect to a woman other than one’s wife.”

“Adultery, like theft, corruption and all other sins, are first conceived in our hearts and, once the wrong choice is made in the heart, they are actuated in concrete behavior. And Jesus says: He who looks with a possessing spirit at a woman who is not his own is an adulterer in his heart, he has begun to go down the road to adultery. Let us think a little on this: on the bad thoughts that are in this line.”

The Pope then turned to Christ's words on swearing oaths, noting that Christ advised against it because “the oath is a sign of insecurity and duplicity with which human relations are conducted. Oath-swearing exploits the authority of God to give assurance to our human affairs. Rather we are called to establish among ourselves, in our families and in our communities, a climate of clarity and mutual trust, so that we can be considered honest without resorting to higher interventions in order to be believed. Mistrust and mutual suspicion always threaten serenity!”

Pope Francis concluded by turning to Mary, “a woman of docile listening and joyous obedience, might help us to approach the Gospel, to be Christians not in name, but in substance! And this is possible with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who permits us to do everything with love, and so to fulfil the will of God.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Welcome Bishop Barres

The St. Martin de Porres Marianist School family is happy to congratulate Bishop John Barres on his installation as Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre! May God bless him in the work he will do throughout our Diocese

Monday, February 13, 2017

Church needs religious orders’ courage, witness, pope tells superiors

World News
Church needs religious orders’ courage, witness, pope tells superiors

Marianist Brother Stephen Balletta, left, prays during a Mass marking World Day for Consecrated Life Feb. 5 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, N.Y. Catholic religious orders must have the courage to start new forms of outreach, knowing that the only people who "never make mistakes are those who never do anything," Pope Francis said during a Feb. 9 meeting with 140 superiors general of men's religious orders. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

By Cindy Wooden • Catholic News Service • Posted February 9, 2017

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholic religious orders must have the courage to start new forms of outreach, knowing that the only people who “never make mistakes are those who never do anything,” Pope Francis said.

“We will get things wrong sometimes, yes, but there is always the mercy of God on our side,” Pope Francis told 140 superiors general of men’s religious orders.

A transcript of questions and answers from the pope’s three-hour meeting with members of the Union of Superiors General last November was published Feb. 9 by the Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica.

Running through Pope Francis’ responses to the questions on youth ministry, religious life, his personal approach to the papacy and evangelization was an emphasis on prayer, courage and, especially, discernment.

A lack of expertise in discernment, he said, “is one of the greatest problems that we have in priestly formation,” which focuses too much on “black and white” answers rather than on “the gray areas of life.”

“You look for the will of God following the true doctrine of the Gospel and not in the fixations of an abstract doctrine,” the pope told the superiors.

By choosing “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” as the theme for the Synod of Bishops in 2018, the pope said he hopes to draw universal attention to the importance of helping young people discover God’s call.

The decreasing number of priests and religious in the West, he said, is worrying, but some of the newer religious communities that are attracting many youths are also a concern.

Some small, new religious orders “are really good and do things seriously,” usually with close support and guidance from a bishop, he said. “But there are others that are born not from a charism of the Holy Spirt, but human charisma, from charismatic people who attract others by their alluring human skills.

“Some are, I could say, ‘restorationists’: they seem to provide safety and instead they offer only rigidity,” the pope continued. “When I am told that there is a congregation that attracts many vocations, I confess, I am worried. The Spirit does not work with the logic of human success.”

In the end, the life of the community members will prove whether or not it is the Lord at work, he said. Unfortunately, some already have ended with scandal, he said, although he did not name particular orders.

One of the tasks of religious orders in the church, he said, is to provide the charismatic and prophetic impulse that can keep the church, a diocese or parish from being totally absorbed with worldly concerns and keep its ministers from thinking they are “little princes.”

“You don’t need to become a cardinal to think of yourself as a prince,” Pope Francis said.

Clericalism is a danger to the church, as is the gulf sometimes existing between religious orders in a diocese and the local bishop and clergy, he said. “From a position of isolation, you cannot help one another.”

The task of the church is not to shore up its institutions, but to set out to help those who are materially or spiritually poor, the pope said.

One of the superiors present asked Pope Francis why he chose a series of Marian themes for the local celebrations of World Youth Day in 2017 and 2018, as well as for the international gathering in Panama in 2019.

“I did not choose them,” he said; the bishops of Latin America did, “and it seemed a very good thing.”

The focus, the pope said, will be on the Mary of Catholic faith, “not the postmistress who sends out a letter every day saying, ‘My child, do this and then the next day do that.'”

The true Mary “is the one who generates Jesus in our hearts,” he said. “The trend of the Madonna superstar, who puts herself at the center as a protagonist, is not Catholic.”

When he opened the session to questions, Pope Francis told the superiors they even could offer criticisms because “misunderstandings and tensions are part of life. And when they are criticisms that make us grow, I accept them, I respond.”

Asked later about how he maintains his serenity, the pope assured the superiors, “I do not take tranquilizers.” He said the Italians may be on the right track when they suggest that to be at peace, “you need a healthy dose” of “couldn’t care less.”

But, Pope Francis said, he was “more anxious,” tense and worried as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. From the moment he was elected pope in March 2013, he said, he has had an experience of peace “and it has not left me.”

When a problem arises, he said, he writes it on a piece of paper and slips it under a statue of a sleeping St. Joseph and lets the saint sleep on it. At this point, he said, the saint is sleeping on “a mattress of notes!”

Six hours of sleep every night and prayer are the daily routine, the pope said. “The breviary is very dear to me and I never leave it. Mass every day. The rosary. When I pray, I always take the Bible. And peace grows. I do not know if this is the secret. My peace is a gift from the Lord. Let it not be taken away!”