Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI

Two weeks ago, Pope Benedict XVI's resignation sent shockwaves around the world.

I have only known two popes (Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI) even though there were four since I was born (Pope John Paul I and Pope Paul VI). I was too young to get to know these two earlier popes who both passed away in 1978. I’m a product of a Catholic education. My pre-school, elementary, high school and university formal education were all from Catholic institutions – Benedictine and Dominican, specifically. All throughout my formative years, I’ve gotten to know the very popular JPII and I even got to see him on the two occasions he came to the Philippines. I’ve read his encyclicals, letters and book: Crossing the Threshold of Hope.

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, I was two months shy of my thesis submission and I remember in the few readings I did on the new Holy Father that he affirms traditional Catholic doctrine much like JPII, was an academic, a supporter of science and is fond of cats. But beyond these few readings, I regret that I never made the effort to get to know the new pope. Hence, two weeks ago, when the news of his resignation came on as breaking news on the late night TV news, my initial reaction was it was not befitting for the Holy Father to resign due to health issues. I even compared Benedict XVI to JPII. I guess much of my initial reaction stemmed from the fact that I did not know the Holy Father. However, on reading his full resignation address the following day, I must say I saw his decision from the perspective of courage, humility and dignity. I should have gotten to know this man and accorded him the same effort I did with his predecessor by reading his encyclicals and works. I would have then understood his humble decision.

Pope Benedict XVI as Cardinal Ratzinger
via Flickr|Christus Vincit

The following are two articles from The Tablet, 16 February 2013 which provide strong, balanced and positive statements about the Holy Father’s decision and insights on the humble leader of the Catholic Church:

Extracts from the Editorial, The Tablet, 16 February 2016, p2

The papacy has become invested with a mysticism of its own, as if to become pope was to be elevated to a higher level of ordained ministry than that of bishop, like a unique fourth rank above the threefold sacramental ministry. By that logic, he had to die in office, precisely as his predecessor John Paul II had done so agonisingly in 2005. But if one can resign from it, it is not a sacramental status. Sacraments are indelible and irreversible.

Popular mythology
But [Benedict XVI], at a stroke, reduced the burden of the popular mythology surrounding the office that he has held with such grace and distinction, and no doubt at times with great distress and sorrow, since 19 April 2005.

Pope Benedict’s legacy is largely spiritual and intellectual rather than public and spectacular, like that of his predecessor.

Possibly his greatest achievement as a teacher of the faith was his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, a profound and devastating critique of the economic theories and business practices that led to the 2008 global financial crisis. Behind all his thinking lay a deep conviction that the Catholic faith, centred on Jesus Christ, was essential to the success of the whole human enterprise. Hence all attempts to design a civilisation without faith – and the Catholic faith in particular – were ultimately doomed. So faith was never something merely to be added on, to make civilisation a little more civilised.

Cliques and factions
That must lie at the door of his predecessor, who allowed the growth of cliques and factions and relied too much on charisma, not enough on management skills. Pope Benedict’s abdication indicates that he knew the task of reform had become too immense and forbidding for one of his declining energy.

… with John Paul II, [the Church] saw a Pope who seemed to imagine himself as parish priest of the whole world, and a Polish parish priest at that. There was not much room for partnership in such a vision, which had its own strengths and suited the interests of the evolving global media. But this was palpably not quite what the bishops had had in mind in the Second Vatican Council. It was scarcely collegiality, more super-ultramontanism.

With Pope Benedict this was less so, and he was more the world’s spiritual director than its parish priest. He has asked the Church to rediscover the message of the council by returning to the texts…

Extracts from A radical last act, Eamon Duffy, The Tablet, 16 February 2013, p7

…Monday’s startling abdication demonstrated that Benedict’s understanding of papacy is radically different not only from that of [Pope John Paul II], but of most of this twentieth-century predecessors. Joseph Ratzinger has of course a more different temperament than the extrovert Wojtyla, though he stepped with surprising effectiveness into the celebrity mould which the Polish Pope pioneered. Benedict’s visit to Britain in 2010 was the sort of personal triumph no one would have predicted for this shy and austerely cerebral professor.

But Benedict’s resignation speech carefully and all but explicitly distances him from a crucial aspect of John Paul II’s vision. Catholics have always believed the popes to be, by divine institution, first among bishops, the visible centre of Catholic unity, and the court of final appeal in disputes about doctrine and morals. But since the mid-nineteenth century the popes themselves have become the focus of heightened religious emotion and sometimes dubious doctrinal speculation. Papal infallibility has been (mistakenly) understood as a personal quality, giving the pope unique access to the mind of God. The office of pope has been imagined as different in kid from that of all other bishops. Pope Paul VI wrote in his journal soon after his election, “the post is unique. It brings great solitude. I was solitary before, but now my solitude becomes complete and awesome. Jesus was alone on the Cross .. my duty is to plan, decide, assume every responsibility for guiding others … and to suffer alone.”

In his agonising final years of physical and mental decline, Karol Wojtyla acted out that quasi-mystical understanding of the papacy in the full glare of the world’s media. As illness and age robbed his of his titanic energy and focus, he no longer inhabited the papacy in any meaningful sense as the chief executive of the Catholic Church (whose functions were in fact discharged by the Curia), but instead as a living icon of Christ-like suffering. The heroic endurance and religious grandeur of Wojtyla’s last days made any suggestion that a gravely ill and not always lucid pope ought perhaps to have resigned long since seem mean-spirited and small-minded.

But if decency silenced it, the question did not go away. Monday’s announcement makes clear that, much as he revered John Paul, Joseph Ratzinger for one recognised its force. His resignation statement made an unmistakable allusion to Wojtyla’s last years. He was aware, he said, that due to its “spiritual nature”, the papacy, “must be carried out not only with world and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering”. But he went on to insist that for the adequate discharge of the Petrine ministry both “strength of mind and body are necessary.”

That simple, rational and at one level unchallengeable statement is a momentous game-changer. In articulating it, Benedict has parted, tacitly but decisively, with two centuries of ultramontane spiritualisation of the papal office and its responsibilities. From this apparently most conservative of popes comes a radical insistence that the pope is a functionary, and when he ceases to be able to discharge his function, then he must consider his position. Pope Benedict prefaced his resignation with a declaration that he acted “having repeatedly examined my conscience before God”. His retirement is no mere matter of personal convenience, an old man’s surrender of an unbearable burden: it had become for him a demand of conscience.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Hearts Day!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Colour Purple is Hot

The daytime temperature today in Melbourne hovered at a nice and cool low 20s - max at 21.0°C (69.8°F). It's unbelievable that the temperatures late week, particularly on Friday topped almost 41.0°C (105.8°F).
The sweltering heat with record breaking maximum temperatures was felt across Australia - it was 44°C (111.2°F) in Adelaide on the same day!

In the last few days, Australian temperature maximums have ranged from 40°C to 48°C setting a new national average maximum of 40.33°C (104.59°F) on 7 January 2013. This prompted the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to extend the temperature range of its weather forecasting charts to 54°C (previously capped at 50°C) and adding new colours - deep purple (for 50-52°C) and magenta (for 52-54°C). Burnt orange and black depict temperatures ranging from 40-48°C.
Forecast Chart for 6-7 January 2013, Source: Australia Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)

The combination of hot temperatures, very dry conditions (got to 4%RH in Adelaide!) and gusty winds was just the recipe for horrendous bushfires, some of which are still raging in the four south eastern states - Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The bureau reported that the first six days of 2013 were all among the hottest 20 days on record in terms of average maximums:

1 January 7, 2013: 40.33 degrees
2 December 21, 1972: 40.17
3 December 20, 1972: 40.01
4 December 22, 1972: 39.82
5 January 1, 1973: 39.79
6 January 6, 2013: 39.71
7 December 17, 2002: 39.7
8 January 2, 1973: 39.65
9 January 3, 2013: 39.55
10 December 16, 2002: 39.54
11 December 30, 1972: 39.48
12 December 31, 1972: 39.43
13 January 27, 1936: 39.4
14 January 1, 1990: 39.39
15 January 4, 2013: 39.32
16 January 5, 2013: 39.26
17 January 2, 1990: 39.22
18 January 2, 2013: 39.21
19 December 18, 2002: 39.2
20 January 13, 1985: 38.98

Australia's climate in 2012 was extreme to say the least - cooler and wetter the first half of the year and warmer and drier than average on the second half. BOM reported that the maximum temperatures in 2012 were 0.51°C above average, and minimum temperatures of 0.28°C below average, making the year a warmer-than-average year, 0.11°C above average.

It's ominous that the bureau's forecasting models are showing temperatures in excess
of 50°C (122°F) for 2013.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year!

I thought this sign can be my aphorism for 2013 and is appropriate for my aspirations for the new year: “without which it could not be” - and the possibilities are endless. Wishing everyone the best of what 2013 has to offer! 'Essential'

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wishing you all a festive holiday season and an exciting 2013! 

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

R U Ok?

Tomorrow, being the second Thursday of September, is "R U Ok?" Day. Remember to connect (and re-connect) with your work colleagues, friends and family. These simple words might just be what those around you need to hear at that very moment. :-) 

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Angels can come in all shapes and sizes

The following anecdote was the feature in today's Sunday missalette:

It was a freezing day during the Depression. The judge was hearing a case against a woman who'd stolen some bread to feed her starving grandchildren. The show owner wouldn't drop the charges. He thought it was time someone made an example of such people! Reluctantly, the judge had to enforce the law, sentencing the woman to a ten dollar fine. He pointed out that failure to pay would result in a prison term.  However, even as he passed sentence, he took out his wallet to pay the fine himself. He removed his wig, put the ten dollars in it, and asked the bailiff to collect fifty cents from everyone else in the courtroom.

He told the people they deserved to pay this fine for living in a place where someone had to steal bread to care for her grandchildren.  The collection amounted to forty eight dollars and fifty cents, including fifty cents from the man who'd brought the charges. The accused was given the money, and as she left the court, the just received a standing ovation (Based on a story recounted by James N. McCutcheon).

Reading this piece this morning, I couldn't help but remember that haunting 1993 photograph which won the Pulitzer Prize. The photo was taken by Kevin Carter in Sudan, was widely published and became the 'metaphor for Africa's despair'. Though the photographer was also criticised for failing to 'act socially towards the child' and was likened to the bird of prey himself for using the photo for financial gain, the image was just so powerful that it made the world more aware of the atrocities happening in South Africa.

Photograph: Kevin Carter, 1993
(1994 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography)

Put together the messages of the judge's kind act and the woeful plight of the hungry South African child, these are still issues we face today. Though much has changed from the times of the Depression and from the South African political unrest, food scarcity is still a prevalent global problem. Using the inverse of the missalette's message of reflecting on how alert we are to an angel's touch when we experience it in our lives, perhaps we could likewise ponder more on how we can correspond to those everyday 'calls' to act socially responsible.

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