Friday, May 3, 2013
What follows is the tale of a deflated unicorn and the lasting mark of the choices we make on a whim. For those with friends or kids contemplating marking themselves with a tattoo or in more profound ways, read this and be warned:
Friday, April 12, 2013
April 20th will mark the 90th birthday of dear Mother Angelica. To commemorate the occasion, my publisher, Image and I are giving away 90 copies of my biography of Mother throughout the month. To qualify, go to the top of my homepage (above) and click on the "Happy 90th Birthday Mother Angelica" banner. There you can sign up to enter yourself in our giveaway. Additionally, I am giving away some copies of the audio version of the Mother Angelica biography. To get one of those, send me an e-mail at email@example.com. Tell me how Mother has changed your life or the life of someone you know. Put Mother Angelica in the subject line. Keep your story pithy and I may read a few of the letters on air next week and share the best ones with Mother and the nuns.
Remember the entire Mother Angelica canon of books (the biography, Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons, Mother Angelica's Private and Pithy Lessons from the Scriptures, and the Prayers and Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica) are available online and at bookstores everywhere. Click "Books" to the left to get your own copies. Thanks for visiting and Happy Birthday Mother!
Saturday, March 16, 2013
“During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don't forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor! Afterwards, people were joking with me. “But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…” And someone else said to me: “No, no: your name should be Clement”. “But why?” “Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!” These were jokes.”
Some Jesuits listening might have missed the humor. The reference to Cardinal Hummes was an interesting one. There are rumors that the Pope may name the 78-year-old retired Hummes Secretary of State. Given his age, I find that story difficult to swallow. But who foresaw a Jesuit, older Pope from Latin America? We’ll see how this plays out. Here’s what we do know: on Saturday the Pope reappointed the entire curia to their former positions. Now the all important replacement process begins.
There was one moment at the end of the audience which caused a number of journalists confusion. The Pope said he was going to give the assembled his blessing. Then he announced this in Spanish: “I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing. Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!”
With that he waved and left the audience hall. On our way out a non-Catholic, American TV anchor asked me, “Did he give the blessing? Was that it?” The Pope did not raise his hand to make the sign of the cross, which caused much confusion. Few of us had ever witnessed a silent papal blessing, but I guess we did today. At a media event it seemed a missed opportunity. Gesture is important not only in the Church but in the media. And while the Pope’s sensitivity was well taken, by not making a gesture of blessing he denied the press a great image to accompany their stories—mainly that the Pope had blessed the media.
The coming days will be important ones for Pope Francis. Monday he will sit down with the President of Argentina with whom he has crossed swords for years. As Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires he opposed President Christina Fernandez’s efforts to legalize gay marriage and distribute free contraceptives. Now in his first diplomatic meeting, he will sit across the table from Fernandez as Pope. For Madame Presidente it will likely be an uncomfortable encounter. It’s one thing to defy an archbishop. Openly defying a pope, in person, requires a political fortitude that is hard to come by.
Tomorrow the Pope will celebrate Mass at the Vatican’s parish church of Santa Anna. It is an interesting choice. My suspicion is that the Pope is again underscoring--as he did with the visit to the image of Mary, Salvation of the Roman People the other day, and while standing on the loggia of St. Peter’s—that he is the bishop of Rome. It is a facet of the papacy that Francis seems to take seriously and one that is perhaps easier for him to embrace during these early days. In some ways it is like an Archbishop changing dioceses. But in time, he will no doubt confront the full scope of his awesome responsibility as Supreme Pastor-- nothing less than the care and direction of the global Catholic Church.
The major networks have all but pulled out of Rome. Following Pope Francis’ election the story was over for them. They will give cursory coverage to the inaugural Mass on Tuesday and that will be that. The most important work in these early days will take place out of public sight—in his meetings with curial officials and trusted advisors.
I am actually looking forward to seeing images of the face to face between Benedict XVI and Pope Francis next Saturday at Castelgondolfo. Ah to be a papal fly on the wall… What must Benedict think of all this? Of the new Pope? Of the new arrangement? This will be one for the history books… stay tuned.
I’ll be going to Mass with Cardinal Timothy Dolan in the morning and I will be praying particularly for my first born who will be 13 on St. Patrick’s day. Happy Birthday Alexander. I’ll be home soon.
Remember that you can sign up for my e-blast (it’s near the bottom of my homepage at Raymondarroyo.com). Once you sign up, I’ll send you the latest installment of my Rome Diary each day.
To walk into a church and to be confronted with the artistry of Caravaggio still amazes me. Such beauty and power. This is the Vocation of St. Matthew, one of the painter's masterpieces.
I discovered the tomb of painter, Fra Angelico in the Santa Maria sopra Minerva this afternoon. Very moving to be there.
Friday, March 15, 2013
The media is captivated by Pope Francis. And why shouldn’t they be? The humble Pope with a heart for the poor is a powerful image. One minute he paying his own bill at the priest’s house where he resided before the conclave, the next he is dashing down the stairs with his bags in hand.
Security officials tell me they have been chuckling to themselves as Pope Francis gently vetoes their procedures for moving a pope from one location to another. Others in the Vatican are not chuckling at all. These tiny gestures-- the subverting of business as usual here; the resistance to Vatican protocol--are sending a striking message to those who work in the curia. This is a pope with his own ideas and change is coming- big change. There is another perspective on this, however. A very wise priest pointed out to me the other night that the Petrine office is more than the man occupying it and there are good and established reasons for the traditions and protocols surrounding a Holy Father. Whether it is the review of texts, security, or various liturgical customs, all these things exist to protect the Pope and to advance his mission. We’ll see how the new Pope reconciles his old ways with this new environment. But in the meantime, Pope Francis’s independent spirit is fun to watch and could become increasingly important in the days ahead.
One question that I have been pondering all day is this: If the justification for Benedict XVI’s retirement was to make way for a younger more vibrant man, why did the cardinals elect a 76-year-old, slow moving man with one lung? (The Pope lost his other lung following an infection as a teenager ). During his address to the cardinals today the Pope seemed to answer this question indirectly.
In a speech that was partially written, partially improvised Pope Francis said: "Dear Brother, take strength!... Half of us are in old age: old age is - I like to say so - the seat of wisdom. Old people have walked into the wisdom of life, such as the aged Simeon, the aged Anna at the Temple. And that wisdom made them recognize Jesus. We give this wisdom to the young people: good wine, which over the years becomes good, we give young people the knowledge of life. I am reminded of what a German poet of old said: 'Es ist ruhig, das Alter, und fromm'' it is the time of peace and prayer. And also to give young people this wisdom. You will now return to your sees to continue your ministry enriched by the experience of these days, so full of faith and of ecclesial communion. Such a unique and incomparable experience, has allowed us to deeply understand the beauty of the Church and that it is a reflection of the splendor of the Risen Christ: one day we'll look at that beautiful face of the Risen Christ. "
The speech today had shades of the impromptu homily offered during his first papal Mass in the Sistine Chapel yesterday. The Gospel reading contained one of my favorite lines in Scripture: “The stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone…” For Pope Francis there is great biographical resonance in those lines. When he attempted to reform the Jesuits as provincial in Argentina in the 1970’s he encountered severe resistance from within and was exiled to northern Argentina for his efforts. Later he would become a bishop and eventually Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Bergoglio has suffered for advancing reform and still he pressed forward. We are likely to see him move to reform of the curia in similar fashion, heedless of the consequences. Some members of the Jesuit order are reportedly trembling over his ascension for obvious reasons. There were a few powerful lines at the end of the homily that I think capture Francis’ agenda: “I would like that everyone, after these days of grace, should have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.”
We had a fantastic World Over last night: Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was perceptive and fascinating as always. During the show he alluded to the fact that Bergoglio’s name bubbled up during the voting in the Sistine Chapel and was not on many lists before the conclave. Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, said Pope Francis’ candidacy just “came about out of the blue” and his vote count kept rising. Many cardinals I have spoken with have referenced Bergoglio’s brief address during the General Congregations as a decisive moment for them. Whatever he said, it left an impression. Here is a link to this week’s World Over in case you missed it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ikB_8o9psE
Mary Matalin, Msgr. Christopher Nalty, Kathryn Lopez, a few other pals and myself had a quick snack last night. Mary made the very sage point that Francis by reviving the faith of Latin America could, like John Paul, reverse the horrible political situation in so many of those countries. Marxism has persisted for decades in various iterations there. Perhaps a spiritual renaissance is the answer to the problems that have long dogged the south. It is a fascinating thought in any event.
It is late here, nearly one AM. I have to get up early to attend the Pope’s audience with journalists, so I should get some sleep. I will carry all of you in my heart as I enter the Paul VI Hall tomorrow and send my impressions along in the next diary entry.
Remember that you can sign up for my e-blast (it’s near the bottom of my homepage at Raymondarroyo.com). Once you sign up, I’ll send you the latest installment of my Rome Diary each day.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The word going in was that an early vote would mean Pope Scola. So much for the prognostications and even the preconceptions of some Cardinals entering the conclave. As I have often said: the pressure cooker of the conclave dispatches and raises up candidates very quickly--and in real time. According to a 2005 diary leaked to the news media, Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio was the runner up in the last conclave. Tonight he was no runner up. He was elected Pope.
In truth, from the ground level, I have never heard a crowd so quiet at a papal event. The Pope’s tender “Buona Sera” threw the people and he was not who they were expecting. +Dolan, +Scola, +Ouellet were still mentioned before the big reveal. Most in the crowd near me, didn’t know who Cardinal Bergoglio was, even after the election.
By now you know many of the details. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first to take the name Francis. And by all indications he intends to follow the Divine request entrusted to Francis of Assisi: “Rebuild my Church.” (Cardinal Dolan said tonight that the Pope emphatically told the cardinals that he would take the name Francis after Francis of Assisi, not Francis Xavier the Jesuit evangelist).
Having spoken to a number of people who know Pope Bergoglio here is what I have discerned: He is a man of the people. A humble Archbishop who lives in an apartment and takes a bus to work. The new Pope is known to have a heart for the poor. He has repeatedly spoken about the inequities between rich and poor and stressed social justice. Doctrinally he is right in line with Benedict XVI on marriage, abortion, etc.
You’ll remember when the cardinals went into the conclave they insisted that they were seeking a reformer to clean up the curia--the Vatican bureaucracy. Well I am told by an individual who worked with Cardinal Bergoglio in the past that he is the man for the job. “He is an ___-kicker who can fix this place from top to bottom,” the man told me tonight. “He’ll get the right people in place.” As a Jesuit leader in Argentina, he battled his order to restrain the rise of liberation theology and tried to reform the Jesuits from within. So the notion of reform and standing up to status quo is nothing new for Bergoglio.
When I watched the Pope appear on the Loggia tonight, I was most excited for Latins throughout the Americas. You’ll remember I wrote a couple of days ago: “…The Latin American (cardinals) only have 14 votes in the conclave even though they represent 46% of Catholics worldwide. They want the Holy See to give Latin America it's due and seek a Pope who really cares. The Latin swing vote could be decisive.” I think it probably was. Expect the red hats to proliferate in South and Central America. Imagine the reception Pope Francis will receive this summer in Brazil. Better make your hotel reservations now—there may be none available a few weeks from now.
Welcome to the era of Francis. Tomorrow the Pope will visit with Benedict XVI, pray at St. Mary Major, and celebrate a 5PM Mass at the Sistine Chapel with his cardinals. The inauguration Mass is on Tuesday, St. Joseph’s day.
The new Pope has a tender way about him. From the Loggia of St. Peter’s he asked the crowd to bless him, led them in prayers for the former Pope, and after taking the mic from the attendant, reached out to the people with very gentle words. Cardinal Dolan said instead of riding in the limo to the post-election dinner, Pope Francis jumped in a mini-bus with his brother cardinals. Humility is an arresting thing to see in the powerful. And to see a Pope purposely diminishing his profile at the very moment of his ascension is an example for all of us. Like John Paul and Benedict before him, the office and the power of the Holy Spirit will transform Pope Francis into something he is not, even now.
Standing in the rain watching the people stream out of the square tonight, even as the Pope was speaking, it felt like something major was ending and perhaps something even better was beginning. Only time will tell. But that hushed crowd seemed to be withholding its excitement. tempering its applause, waiting to see just what Pope Francis will do and say in the days to come. Many Catholics probably feel the same way.
The Conclave Team and I will be back on air Thursday for the World Over in our normal time slot: 8PM eastern on EWTN. I’ll will have analysis of the new Pope, exclusive interviews and we will answer all your questions. Remember to send your reactions or questions to Raymond@raymondarroyo.com. You can also sign up for my e-blast (it’s near the bottom of my homepage at Raymondarroyo.com). If you sign up for the e-blast, I’ll send you the latest installment of my Rome Diary each day. You wouldn't want to miss that, would you? Buona Sera.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
So it begins. The Cardinals celebrated Mass for the election of a new Pope in the great Basilica as thunder broke overhead. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of Cardinals delivered a homily that stressed unity. It was not the stunning, earth shaker of a sermon delivered by Cardinal Ratzinger eight years ago and had none of the quotable “dictatorship of relativism” lines. But there was also no papal funeral…and Sodano is too old to vote in the conclave.
Cardinal Dolan is hoping a Pope will be selected by Thursday according to a letter to his priests. I hope he is right. If there is white smoke on Wednesday, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan could well be the Pope. If the election rolls on until Thursday and Friday, it is anyone’s guess. Another American Cardinal told me he believes we could see a Pope by Friday. The longer a conclave, the harder it will be to even remotely forecast the result. Some believe this conclave could stretch into next week.
After a hailstorm, it was ferociously cold out on the terrace for the live coverage of the Procession of the Cardinals into the Sistine Chapel this afternoon. What a splendid event the start of the Conclave was. Our conclave team did a magnificent job not only identifying the cardinals, but giving impromptu personal insights. If you didn’t see it, watch the Youtube edition. I’ll post it on my Twitter and Facebook pages. It really was objectively among the finest and most insightful coverage of any network.
The cardinals looked grave and occupied with weighty thoughts as they placed their hands on the open Bible, swearing oaths at the start of the conclave. The time for fun is over. Soon the renaissance pressure cooker that is the conclave will bear down on these men; alliances will shift, sure candidates will fail, and the unexpected could well happen before this is over. Until then, we will all be watching the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel twice a day and doing little else. The fact that millions of eyes, Catholic or not, are fascinated by the drama of this election is testament to the enduring power of the papacy and its continuing importance in today’s world. What other faith commands this kind of attention when selecting a leader?
As expected the smoke that emerged from the Sistine Chapel chimney was deep, dark black. I am told they have fans in the flue which creates not a stream of smoke, but a cloud. The crowd in St. Peter's groaned when they saw the plume. It was exactly what I expected. The first vote is the chance for the cardinals to get a true sense of where the election is and to gauge the strength of candidates. Since the results of each round of voting is announced, the electors can see twice in the morning and twice at night how the body is shifting and which candidates are viable. It is a remarkable process and an election like no other.
Ran into my New Orleans pals Mary Matalin and Msgr. Chris Nalty this afternoon on the street while I was doing a radio interview. The two of them were so elegantly attired, they could have easily stepped out of one of those Nick and Nora movies from the 1940’s. All they needed was Asta the dog. I love everybody, but New Orleanians are a people set apart in my heart. You can take the boy out of New Orleans…
Spotted Kathryn Lopez of National Review in one of the borgos near the hotel. She has been encountering all sorts of difficulties. This morning K-Lo went to the Holy See Press Office to secure a temporary credential. Without so much as a hello, a staffer looked at her and like the Papal Master of Ceremonies at the Conclave yelled, “Get out!” Oh well. Hopefully they whispered it in the polite, delicate way that Monsignor Guido Marini announced “extra omnes!” (everyone out) in the Sistine Chapel today.
The Conclave Team and I will be back on air Thursday for The World Over in our normal time slot: 8PM eastern on EWTN. I’ll have analysis and possibly inside knowledge on the new Pope (if we have one). Remember to send your reactions or questions to Raymond@raymondarroyo.com. You can also sign up for my e-blast (it’s near the bottom of my homepage at Raymondarroyo.com). If you sign up for the e-blast, I’ll send you the latest installment of my Rome Diary each day. You wouldn't want to miss that, would you? Buona Sera.
Monday, March 11, 2013
After their opening Mass and a dramatic procession into the Sistina tomorrow afternoon, the cardinals will one by one swear an oath and take their folded ballots to the altar beneath Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. The result of this vote will furnish them with a snapshot of who the major contenders for the Petrine office are, who has real momentum—and who does not. Afterward, they will retire to St. Martha’s House, the Vatican hotel inside the closed city state, for some serious talk and perhaps a bit of arm twisting. Over meals and private chats some will attempt to persuade their brethren to throw his support to this or that candidate in the hopes of effecting the final ballots the next day. A cardinal told me on Sunday that this process is usually a “gentle sell” that can get harder as time goes on.
The unique dynamics of the conclave are something to bear in mind. These Cardinals will be sequestered from the rest of the world, cut off from staff and technology, forced to confront each other and themselves—all of them fixated on one purpose: the election of a pope. The closed nature of the process, the prayer and the solemn ritual involved to cast each vote will no doubt have an effect on the electors. Emotions will rise, fears and hopes will bubble to the surface, personality differences will intensify. The choreographed coming and going, the prolonged silences, the weight of their decision will create a psychological atmosphere hard for outsiders to comprehend. Father Roger Landry reminded me the other day that John Paul II wrote a book during a conclave (and took the manuscript out of the Sistine Chapel with him). The interesting thing is Blessed John Paul’s revised law on conclaves orders that any notes a cardinal writes in the Sistina must be destroyed. Though a veteran elector tells me he still has his notes from the last conclave in 2005. So I guess manuscript writing is not strictly prohibited. Given the uncertain nature of this particular election, which could stretch on for days, we might see a lot of cardinalatial manuscripts post-conclave.
There are three names that keep turning up like afternoon monsoons here in the Eternal City: +Scola, +Oullet, +O’Malley. The word is that Cardinal Angelo Scola will be the compromise candidate-- a man who could galvanize the Italians, draw a chunk of American votes and perhaps rally his fellow Europeans. They say he might be able to reorient the curia. But Cardinals from everywhere but Italy have their doubts.
Around town, every other Italian, from taxi drivers to baristas utter but one name for Pope: +Dolan. They love his ebullient charm and unbridled joy. There is said to be a conservative Roman block of 9 votes committed to Dolan. If elected he could easily take the name, John the XXIV without missing a beat. Still Cardinal Dolan’s election strikes me as remote after talking with several electors from various countries. And when you’re the Pope of "the Center of the Universe," why bother with the inconveniences of Italy?
The great hope of the Vatican bureaucrats is said to be Cardinal Odilio Scherer of Brazil. Of German heritage, Scherer grew up in Brazil but he is a Roman at heart. He spent seven years at the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. So it is no surprise that the curial types would back his candidacy.
If it is a reformer the Cardinals want--and it seems it is a reformer that they want-- the allure of the North American work ethic and can-do efficiency might prove hard to resist. The Latin contingent are said to be cold to the Dolan boomlet but could easily embrace Cardinal Sean O’Malley or Ouellet, with whom they have great relations and mutual affection. Cardinal Sean spent years in the Hispanic outreach in Washington DC, founded the Latino paper there and speaks fluent Spanish. Ditto for Cardinal Ouellet who has taught in Columbia for nearly a decade before becoming Archbishop of Quebec and later head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. He is someone who would be able to diagnose the problem in the curia, and given his track record at the Congregation, get things done. Remarkably the Latin Americans only have 14 votes in the conclave even though they represent 46% of Catholics worldwide. They want the Holy See to give Latin America it's due and a Pope who really cares. The Latin swing vote could be decisive.
The wild card tomorrow is the rain. Horrible thunderstorms are predicted to assail Rome for days. That’ll make the twice daily smoke stack gazing a real blast. Thank goodness John Paul added the ringing of St. Peter’s bells to confirm a new Pope or we’d gazing at that soggy chimney stack for hours without a clear answer. You folks at home may end up having the best seats to this Conclave after all. Then again you have no access to the pasta and vino. What’s a little rain with eats like this…
Be sure to tune in each afternoon for “Live from Vatican with Raymond Arroyo.” Our special coverage of the Procession of the Cardinals into the Conclave begins at 11AM eastern time and reairs at 10PM eastern on EWTN. We’ll also cover the first smoke signals in the afternoon. Remember to send your reactions or questions to Raymond@raymondarroyo.com. You can also sign up for my e-blast (it’s near the bottom of my homepage at Raymondarroyo.com). If you sign up for the e-blast, I’ll send you the latest installment of my Rome Diary each day. Ciao