Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam Franciscum

So we have a new pope now! We watched the livestream at the Diocesan Catholic Center today, and after Pope Francis gave his first blessing, truth be told, there was not a dry eye in the room.
There are a lot of firsts with his election: he is the first Jesuit, the first pope from the Latin America and the Western Hemisphere, and the first pope to take the name of Francis. I was originally going to title this blog post “Habemus Papam Americae Latinae,” but I felt the real story is about the man, not where he’s from.

A lot of people may think how great it is that we have a Latin American pope. As a Hispanic, I too feel a certain level of affinity for our new Holy Father. BUT that’s not why we love him. I’m kind of reminded of an incident eight years ago when Pope Benedict was elected – a friend of mine who was a member of the College Republicans told me how excited he was because Benedict was a “conservative” pope. I responded that I was excited because he was the pope. He was a little taken aback by that.

The thing that many people forget to realize is that as Catholics, we believe the pope is elected under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – that whomever is in that office is who God wants to lead the Church, to keep His promise that we will continue. So we should give thanks to the Holy Spirit for giving us a pope, who happens to be from Latin America. But that same thanks should be offered had he been from Africa, Europe, Asia, Canada, or TEXAS (maybe next time, Cardinal DiNardo), because it means Christ has kept his promise.

The first Jesuit pope picked the name Francis. Rocco Palmo from Whispers in the Loggia commented that this is a sign of him bridging two distinct heritages within the Church. We do know that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he gave up his mansion and chauffer for a stove-heated apartment and public transportation, and like St. Francis of Assisi, he connected with the poor. As a Jesuit, the name may also represent his love for St. Francis Xavier. Or (high hopes here), he could have a devotion to the patron saint of journalists, St. Francis de Sales, and his commitment to re-evangelizing the people.

Either way, Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, has a heavy task ahead of him as pope, and he deserves our prayers. In the meantime, expect ongoing coverage from the NTC, including several local pieces coming your way soon.

— Tony Gutiérrez
Associate Editor

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We still don’t Habemus a Papam

So we’ve been following the Conclave since it began. You can check out the live stream at Salt &Light TV here:

This really isn’t unusual. No pope in recent history has been elected on the first ballot. It is very likely, however, that we could have a pope as soon as Thursday, if not tomorrow. Both Benedict XVI and John Paul II were elected on the second day of balloting.

Black smoke billows from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, the sign that cardinals
did not elect a pope in their first round of balloting March 12 at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Just so I don’t miss anything while I’m asleep, I’ve signed up for PopeAlarm, which will send me a text message and an e-mail whenever white smoke appears. Check it out.

I know several parishes are holding Eucharistic adoration for the cardinal-electors and the new pope, whoever he may be. My own parish, Bl. John Paul II, is holding it despite the majority of its parishioners (college students) being away on spring break. How is your parish praying and preparing for a new pope?

— Tony Gutiérrez
Associate Editor

Monday, March 11, 2013

Praying and Bird-Watching

A month ago, Pope Benedict dropped a bombshell on the Catholic Church. Since then, Ive been bird-watching,” looking at who the leaders of the Church are throughout the world, and like everybody else, wondering who our next pope will be.

Tomorrow, the cardinal electors will begin the Papal Conclave and vote once. If nobody is chosen, they have four ballots for the Wednesday and Thursday. If nobody has been picked by the ninth ballot, then after a day of reflection, voting resumes on Saturday.

But there are several things we have to understand about the Conclave that we as Catholics must acknowledge:

1.            This is not like a presidential election: Sure, we all have fun with the betting, and fun memes like this one.

Keep in mind, though, that nobody expected the Pole in 1978, an unknown Polish archbishop (who was not a part of the Roman Curia) by the name of Karol Wojtyla. Notice how the correspondents are having trouble pronouncing his name (not something they would have trouble with if he was considered a candidate by the media).

2.            This is not like a presidential election! Let me explain, since I just said made this point, but theres another point to this. A lot of reporters are suggesting that the cardinal electors maybe pick somebody who will be change some core teachings of the faith (such as the ordination of women, or contraceptives and abortion). Let’s be clear here: as Catholics we believe that the Holy Spirit is present that Christ will keep his promise that He will not let the Church fall. Even if a pope of questionable moral character is elected (like we may have seen during the Middle Ages), the deposit of faith will be kept and we will not be led astray.

When the cardinals vote, they state before the altar: “I call on the Lord Jesus, who will be my judge, to witness that I am voting for the one I believe to be worthy,” something described by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa as frightening and intense, acknowledging that if he votes for unworthy reasons, “I am actually asking Jesus to judge me / condemn me, so it’s a very solemn moment.” The quote is at 2:40.

3.            They are sworn to secrecy: Dont be expecting these guys to be live-blogging and tweeting during this conclave (even though several already keep blogs). To really be open to the Holy Spirit, the cardinal-electors rid themselves of outside influences (including the internet), similar to a jury for an ongoing trial. We cant know what’s going on in there, and they can’t know what’s going on out here.

“The Vatican prohibits the use of Twitter during the Conclave.”
“Let me in! I’m not Twitter, I’m the Holy Spirit!”
4.            They need our prayers:  These men are going into the Conclave with a full sense of prayer, participating in communal Lauds, Vespers, and the Eucharist. We too, if we care about our Church, should be praying for them, that they are open to the Holy Spirit. Who we may want to be pope (Texans 4 DiNardo) may not be who is elected, and we need to trust in the Holy Spirit and pray that HIS will, not ours be done. Earlier today, I participated in the online “Adopt a Cardinal” program and was assigned Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and I invite y’all to participate.

5.            A pope cannot change dogma:  Certain things, like liturgical practices and disciplines, are subject to change, and after much prayer, the pope can implement such changes. For example, Blessed Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, which allowed for the Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular, and Blessed Pope John Paul II established the Pastoral Provision allowing married pastors of Anglican communities (and in some rare cases, other Protestant traditions), to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood. Other things, such as the ordination of women (which the Church simply does not have the authority to do), or abortion (which by definition, is always intrinsically evil, regardless of the reason). So let’s again pray that God’s will is done in this election, and rather than be disappointed if someone we don’t agree with is elected, let us thank Him for giving us a shepherd, and delve deeper into the Church’s teachings to understand what it is that we don’t.
So with all that, let’s pray this week for the Cardinal-electors, for the Conclave, for the Church, for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his retirement, and for ourselves, that we may also take this opportunity to grow in love of Christ and his Church.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hello Blogosphere and Happy St. Francis de Sales Day!

Today is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, and I couldn't think of a better day to launch the North Texas Catholic blog. For those of you who don't know, St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of journalists. We have an icon of St. Francis in our office, and celebrated with cookie cake.

St. Francis was a prolific writer and when he was named bishop of a Calvinist-dominated Geneva, he would write tracts defending the faith and deliver them to former Catholics. His writings challenged lay people to also be saints. I was touched by his writings today as I prayed the Office of Readings in our chapel:

"Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable," wrote St. Francis in his now famous Introduction to the Devout Life. "It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from artisans' shops, from the courts of princes, from family households."

In the same spirit, we lay people of the Catholic Press are called to devotion and to spread our faith in all that we do. In this Age of the Internet, it's time we embrace the various platforms of New Media and partake in the New Evangelization.

Expect regular posts from myself (Tony), our editor, Jeff Hensley, some guest posts from other staff members, and links to other bloggers we find fascinating.

So thank you for welcoming us into the Blogosphere, and Happy St. Francis de Sales Day!

- Tony Gutiérrez
Associate Editor