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Posted by on Jan 29, 2016

Entering into the Mystery

Entering into the Mystery

people-walking-on-streetAs the Church’s New Year began in Advent, in communities around the world, men and women took a huge step into  a special journey: a journey that will take them deeply into the mystery of God’s relationship with humans. These people stepped forward with their sponsors and were introduced to the people of the communities they will join. Welcomed with blessings and prayer, they entered a time of study and reflection through which they will become increasingly aware of God’s call to journey on The Way.

The Way?

Christian life in earliest times was known as The Way: the way to the Kingdom of God, begun here and now with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and unfolding through time to its ultimate fulfillment when Jesus returns and all are reunited in the mystery of God’s life. This way of living differs from the ways of others who have not chosen to follow it. It requires loving and forgiving enemies, caring for the most vulnerable in the world, acting with justice and mercy, being stewards/caretakers of the environment, and trusting that God will bring good out of all that happens, even if what happens is not what God would have wanted to see.

That doesn’t sound easy. It might even be dangerous!

Following the Way has never been a safe or easy option. Jesus, who called Himself the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6), was tortured to death, hanging naked on a cross, reviled and mocked by passers-by and abandoned by most of his friends and followers. Many of those who have followed Him have witnessed with their lives to His resurrection over the past 2000 years. The martyrs (witnesses) we remember from those early centuries are still being joined by Christians around the world today who choose death rather than renounce their Lord.

Whether called to witness with our blood or not, each of us will face times when we must speak out, saying unpopular things to people we know and whose respect we treasure. Our choice of lifestyle, leisure activities, business/work behavior, sexual ethics, and treatment of the poor and ill will all be shaped by our faith. Not all of those choices will be understood or endorsed by our peers.

Then why do it?

Despite the counter-cultural nature of a life of faith, the call to enter into the mystery is profound. The joy, peace, mercy, love, and comfort of a hug from God surpass anything of human origin. Some doors open while others shut. Funds materialize just in time to keep a project going, or they don’t come at all and something else must be done to move forward in service. Prejudices get overturned as we meet and get to know folks from other social or ethnic groups in communities of worship and service. We are continually challenged and helped to grow in wisdom and grace as we grow in age.

A life of faith is not for the faint of heart. It’s a great adventure into realms not often noticed through everyday eyes. As poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “All of Earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush aflame with God; but only those who see take off their shoes.”  The glory of God shines forth in all of creaton. Those called to enter into this mystery are truly blessed. We journey forward together — those just beginning and those who’ve travelled long. Difficulties, doubts, second thoughts, and times of desolation will arise, but the promise and faithfulness of God, the overwhelming power of love and mercy, will accompany us and welcome us to an even richer life when we reach our journey’s end.

Away we go together — on The Way!

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Posted by on Nov 28, 2015

Synod on the Family: A Brief Summary

Synod on the Family: A Brief Summary

KampalaFamily-255x275 Wiki_PublicDomain_The Synod on the Family in October 2015 had as its focus “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.” Meeting in Rome for a second time in as many years, and following consultation with members of the Church around the world, Bishops came together to consider the challenges facing families and make recommendations for ways to help couples and families live out their vocations.

The final report to the Pope of the Synod on the Family calls for all Catholics to reach out to couples and families and to attempt to understand and help with their needs and struggles. The church’s teaching on the importance and lifelong nature of marriage between a man and a woman has not changed. However, when people are divorced and remarried or living together without being married, the Catholic community should not reject or abandon them or their children. Catholics who are divorced and remarried outside the Church are not supposed to receive communion. However, the Synod has said that people in this situation should work closely with their pastors to examine their conscience and their relationship with God. In other words, priests and all Catholics should look on these situations from a pastoral standpoint. How do we walk with them? How do we encourage them?

The Synod recommended that divorced and remarried Catholics should be included in the life of the Church as much as possible, even as lectors, catechists, and godparents. Homosexuals should also be welcomed and treated with equal respect and dignity. Pope Francis encouraged the synod to take this approach which focused more on the person’s own conscience as opposed to focusing exclusively on Church law. What is often hard for us to understand is how it is that someone can be doing something that is objectively wrong,like living together without being married, and yet there may be internal reasons of conscience that keep them in this situation. For example, the couple involved may have come from homes in which there was violence or great unhappiness and the thought of marriage for them means repeating what they suffered as children. Sometimes they see marriage as “only a piece of paper.” Yet these couples often show a great deal of commitment and unconditional love for each other and create a happy home.

Some critics are upset that the synod did not condemn people who are not following the rules, arguing that if you are not harsh with them you are approving the wrong things that they are doing. The pastoral approach recommended by the Pope and long tradition of the Church upholds the ideal of how we should live while helping people to see what God is doing in their lives and where He is leading them.

Two reports provide some highlights:

 

 

 

English translation of the final report: Synod 15 – Final Report of the Synod of Bishops to the Holy Father Francis – 24.10.2015

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Posted by on Jun 16, 2015

CNEWA: Bringing Christ’s Love to the Poor

CNEWA: Bringing Christ’s Love to the Poor

CNEWA logo_HQ

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) was founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926 to provide support for the Eastern Catholic Churches. The geographic area of service has expanded from its original focus on Greece and Eastern Europe to include the Middle East, North East Africa, and India as well.

CNEWA works with and through the Eastern Churches to share the love of Christ as needs for assistance are identified and solutions implemented by members of those churches themselves.


Money raised by CNEWA goes directly to the Holy Father for use in supporting educational programs, refugee assistance, and emergency relief services. Additionally, funds are used to support longer term programs for alleviation of poverty, affirmation of human dignity, construction of churches, schools, and clinics, and building bridges of communication among the many peoples and faiths in the areas served.

A papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support, CNEWA is an arm of the Holy See in coordination with the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. In recognition of the original organizations  in New York state that were merged to create the association, CNEWA’s Board of Trustees is located in New York and the archbishop of New York is charged with overseeing its administration. The organization’s board includes bishops, archbishops, and cardinals from the United States and the hierarchies of other countries that have national branches of CNEWA. The trustees meet annually.

The CNEWA website includes information about current events and needs in the areas served, including an overview of the many ancient Christian churches still present: Assyrian, Oriental Orthodox, Orthodox, and Catholic Eastern Churches.

The association offers an educational magazine, One, that is available in digital format or via tax deductible annual subscription for a print version.

To help CNEWA meet the needs of our sisters and brothers in faith, especially during these times of upheaval and persecution in the Middle East, please visit their website.

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Posted by on May 21, 2015

Connie Fortunato’s Magnificat – Music Camp International

Connie Fortunato’s Magnificat – Music Camp International

 

Connie-With-Kids - Kiev - Music Camp InternationalWhen the Iron Curtain fell, it revealed the plight of Romanian children warehoused in orphanages. The Ceausescu regime had insisted that women have as many as children as possible, to provide soldiers for a huge army. Many of these children were abandoned and given no real love and very little food. As a music educator and the former music director of Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, California, Connie knew that music could restore these children to wholeness. At first the Romanian government wanted her to teach music only to the children of the leadership. Connie insisted on teaching the orphans and she prevailed.

He has put the mighty down from their thrones and exalted the lowly. (Luke 1:52)

Fourteen years later, Connie’s ministry, Music Camp International, has grown, yet it still flies by a wing and many prayers. Children in Ukraine and Romania are given musical instruments and a week’s instruction in playing and singing. The results are miraculous as the sound of sacred music returns to cathedrals and the hearts of children. The lowly are exalted and the future of all is brighter.

As Music Camp International’s website explains,

The healing gift of music has given hope and dignity to many who have previously been overlooked in a society that provides its resources for the “privileged” and the “promising.” Many children have held and played instrument for the first time. Many have discovered their singing voice. All have experienced the joy of music in a positive and nurturing environment. All have participated in making beautiful music with the finest professionals in their community. And ALL have discovered that in blending their talent with other children—from diverse backgrounds and social status—they can achieve a life-changing experience that is not possible alone.

Music Camp International: Developing Children, Training Teachers, and Strengthening The Global Community Through the Power of Music

Tax deductible donations can be made at www.musiccampinternational.org/

 

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Posted by on May 18, 2015

Pope Francis – Three Words for Family Harmony

Pope Francis – Three Words for Family Harmony

Dome of St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome – Public Domain CCO

On Wednesday May 13 at his General Audience in St Peter’s square Pope Francis gave a short address on the three words that are key to family happiness and well being. The three words in Spanish that are essential for health relationships are permiso, gracias, y perdón. In English they are phrases: “May I”,”Thank you!”, and “Forgive Me.”

The Pope said that sometimes in our culture these expressions are seen as a sign of weakness as opposed to a true statement of our respect and affection in our intimate relationships. He stressed the need for this respect for the dignity of our spouses, children and other family members as central to living our faith. Without this underlying bedrock respect and affection, these key relationships can rupture and damage everyone in the process.

Asking for permission is key to affirming others and makes our relationship more intimate and strong. Expressing our thanks is more than a social formality. It is a recognition and validation of our loved ones and an expression of our appreciation for their love. Most importantly, we are showing that we are aware of how important our loved ones are to us. The most difficult, according to the Pope, is “Forgive me.” Conflicts and disagreements — even arguments — are part of any honest relationship. Pope Francis even alludes to serious incidents in which “plates fly.” What is key is to ask forgiveness. Pope Francis advises us to be reconciled with each other before the end of the day. This might not always be possible since we might need more time to cool down. However, Pope Francis is making the point that being reconciled has to be done sooner rather than later to demonstrate that the strength of our love is greater than any disagreement or frustration we may have with each other.

A note on cultural differences may be helpful here. Latin cultures tend to deal with stress by externalizing it. Italian opera is a good example of this. Generally, upset and irritation are not internalized. Voices rise, arms start waving, and everything seems over the top by North Atlantic English-speaking standards. For non-Latin cultures, the expression of stress is usually more muted.  The feelings are not necessarily less intense. Sometimes they are more intense since they are being internalized. This type of culturally conditioned response to conflict requires a different, more low key response. The three expressions still apply but we need to be attentive to the way our families perceive and deal with conflict. Anger, dissension, and disillusionment provide opportunities to uncover and resolve deeper conflicts. Professional help from a skilled counselor can be very useful to avoid undermining and destroying our bonds of love and affection. Politeness, courtesy, and respect are important in our speech, but they also have to be accompanied by changed behavior. As St. Ignatius Loyola says in the Spiritual Exercises “Love is shown more in deeds than in words.” These three expressions are important deeds. They are much more than words and can open the door to improved behavior and the mutual acceptance and loving response to challenges that are central to being happy and making a happy home.

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Posted by on Apr 20, 2015

Martyrs Continue To Witness

Martyrs Continue To Witness

21 Martyrs of Libya - Tony Rezk - B-d6yZ9IMAAlR-zFrom the earliest days of Christianity, before Jesus’ followers were even known as Christians, men and women have been called upon to testify to what they have seen and experienced of God’s great love for all of us as it shines forth in the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord. We call those who witness with the total gift of their lives martyrs.

Today is no different. The martyrs of Libya and those who are dying in other countries around the world because they are Christians are a reminder that love and faith are risky. We pray for those who face this risk, that they may testify with courage and know the Father’s love in their hour of trial. And we pray that they will remember us when they meet our Lord.

Help for those left behind

As members of the wider community of faith, we may also feel called to make some offering of deeper support to the families of these martyrs. A program called Coptic Orphans works with poor families in Egypt.

Artist Tony Rezk, whose art is featured above, offers prints of his digital icons. A portion of the sale of the icon of the 21 Martyrs will go to support needy Christian families in Egypt.

Another group that is helping needy Christian families is Gather the Remnants.

The Vatican’s agency for humanitarian and pastoral support, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is also active in supporting Christian communities in this time of need.

Help will certainly be needed as this campaign against Christians in countries around the world continues.

 

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Posted by on Mar 24, 2015

Coming Soon — An Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy

Coming Soon — An Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy

Pope Francis - Canonization_2014-_The_Canonization_of_Saint_John_XXIII_and_Saint_John_Paul_II_(14036966125) - Jeffrey Bruno - Creative CommonsOn March 13, the second anniversary of his papacy, Pope Francis announced a special year of prayer and other special activities to celebrate God’s unlimited mercy. The announcement was made as part of the Pope’s homily while he was presiding over a Lenten penance service. Divine mercy is one of the Pope’s major themes in his preaching and pastoral activity. The year will officially begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2015) and end on the Feast of Christ the King (November 20, 2016). The Holy Year of Mercy also marks the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. It will be marked by special ceremonies and liturgies. Since this Holy Year is outside the traditional 25 or 50 year interval for regular Holy Years it is called an Extraordinary Holy Year.

The Pope declared:

Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (cf. Lk 6:36)”

Jubilee years began in 1300 with Pope Boniface VIII and are traditionally held every 25 years. The concept of the Holy Year is modeled on the Old Testament Jubilee Year in which the fields rested, slaves were freed, and debts were forgiven. The Jubilee Year specified in Leviticas was to be held every 50 years.

Traditionally, the Jubilee door of St. Peter’s Basilica is opened at the beginning of Holy Years to symbolize the return of penitents to the faith. Additionally, special plans are being made for the celebration in 2016 of Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter.

See a video of the announcement here.

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Posted by on Mar 24, 2015

The Alpha Course — Presenting and Encountering Christ

The Alpha Course — Presenting and Encountering Christ

Alpha Course logoA fundamental theme of Pope Francis’ papacy has been the Church’s call to missionary activity. This activity is not simply the call of a few who will travel to distant lands. It is the call of every Christian: the call to participate in evangelization. Yet in our communities,workplaces, and homes, we often feel uncomfortable in this role, whether because the Christian message and lifestyle are counter-cultural or because we don’t really know or understand what we believe, why we believe it, or why we do what we do.

The Alpha Course is a relatively new program that is focused on reaching out to those who have never really heard the Gospel or experienced life as Christians. One of the side-effects of the program, however, is to re-vitalize parish life as new people are touched by the love of the Risen Christ and enter the community of faith. Long-time members of Christian communities, including Roman Catholics, also experience a revitalization of their faith as they see it anew through the eyes of the newcomers.

Fr. Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, Michigan and a regular contributor on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), talks about the fact that we as Catholics tend to focus on sacramentalizing: introducing our parishioners to the sacraments and helping them grow in their sacramental life.  According to Fr. Riccardo, if we teach the people about the faith and the sacraments without introducing them to the person of Christ, it is like throwing seeds on concrete. Nothing will grow. Fr. Riccardo gives a comprehensive presentation of the Alpha Course, a program for evangelization, in a series of YouTube podcasts.

The Alpha Course has a simple method. People gather for a meal and a discussion, not just in a church setting but wherever people gather. The attendees are primarily people who are currently outside the Church. Over a ten week period the participants come to an experience of the Risen Christ as their loving friend and savior.

The Alpha Course began in a Church of England parish in London and is now widely used by many denominations. It is opening doors to ecumenical cooperation and discussion about the centrality of Christ in our faith. Over 1 million Catholics in Canada have been through the course. Fr. Rainero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, Cardinal Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, and other Catholic leaders have praised the Alpha Course.

Rev. Mr. Steve Mitchell, a deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is the national director for Alpha USA. According to Deacon Mitchell’s statement on the AlphaUSA.org website “Alpha provides a safe, non-threatening environment where no question is too dumb and no perception is criticized. Barriers are broken down as we share a meal together and build relationships without regard to what someone believes.”

Alpha’s video includes examples from Catholic parishes around the world.

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Posted by on Feb 26, 2015

Pope Francis’ Lenten Message – 2015

Pope Francis’ Lenten Message – 2015

Cropped -Pope Francis - Canonization_2014-_The_Canonization_of_Saint_John_XXIII_and_Saint_John_Paul_II_(14036966125) - Jeffrey Bruno - Creative CommonsPope Francis, in his 2015 Lenten message, reminds us that Lent is a time of renewal, a “time of grace.” He reminds us that God loved us first and is never indifferent to what happens to us. However, we too easily become indifferent to what is happening in the world when we are not directly affected.

Speaking of the “globalization of indifference,” the Holy Father calls us to an interior renewal that keeps us from becoming indifferent or withdrawn into ourselves. He asks us to reflect on three biblical texts:

1. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1Cor 12:26) — The Church

2. “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9) — Parishes and  Communities

3. “Make your hearts firm!” (James 5:8) — Individual Christians

 Read the entire message …

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Posted by on Feb 26, 2015

Mensaje del Santo Padre para la Cuaresma 2015

Mensaje del Santo Padre para la Cuaresma 2015

El Santo Padre FranFrancisco_(20-03-2013) - small -CC 3.0 attribution license - Brazilcisco, en su mensaje para la Cuaresma en 2015 dice que la Cuaresma es un tiempo de renovación, un «tiempo de gracia». Nos recuerda que Dios nos amó primero y nunca se pone indiferente frente a lo que nos está pasando. Sin embargo, nuestro corazón se cae en la indiferencia fácilmente, especialmente cuando lo que pasa en el mundo no nos afecta directamente.

Describiendo el problema de la globalización de la indiferencia, el Santo Padre nos llama a una renovación interior para que no nos cayéremos en la indiferencia ni nos cerráremos adentro de nosostros mismos. Nos invita a meditar acerca de tres pasajes bíblicas:

1. «Si un miembro sufre, todos sufren con él» (1 Co 12,26) – La Iglesia

2. «¿Dónde está tu hermano?» (Gn 4,9) – Las parroquias y las comunidades

3. «Fortalezcan sus corazones» (St 5,8) – La persona creyente

Para leer el texto completo.

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Posted by on Feb 24, 2015

Catholics and Cultures: A new online resource

Catholics and Cultures: A new online resource

Plaza-centro Catholics & Cultures is a new program developed by the  Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture of the College of the Holy Cross. Its goal is to encourage comparative study of Catholic life as it is being lived around the world today. In addition to comparative studies of Catholic culture, this site aims to provide resources for teaching about the richness and uniqueness of Catholic life in our world. How do ordinary Catholics live their faith through their daily lives? How is a Catholic life different in Ireland, or Indonesia, or Brazil, or China, or India? What local customs, foods, and activities are enjoyed by Catholics in cultures around the world?

We often think that Catholicism as we experience it in our own community is the way it is everywhere and from all times. Any Catholic who has married another Catholic from a different cultural community, however, will have noticed that sometimes it seems as if the two of them are divided rather than united by the bonds of a common religion. Part of the adventure of such marriages is learning to enjoy the differences and enter into the experience of the divine from another direction or perspective.

As part of Catholics & Culture, a new journal will be produced, the Journal of Global Catholicism. The primary focus of the journal will be “lived Catholicism,” whether examined as comparative studies or specific case studies.

The site already offers wonderful resources. I’m looking forward to checking it out often and hope you will too. We’re a great big community with much to celebrate and share together!

Image by Wesisnay of a Catholic festival sand painting in Tenerife
– GNU Free Documentation License

 

 

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Posted by on Feb 24, 2015

The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World

The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World

800px-Petersdom_von_Engelsburg_gesehen - public domainThe Synod of Bishops and Pope Francis have asked members of the Catholic community, from both the Western and Eastern churches, to read the draft document prepared at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last October in Rome and to respond with comments and insights drawn from their own experience of the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.

Generally, members of the hierarchy do not consult ordinary members of the community regarding establishment of policies for dealing with pastoral issues such as how to help people prepare for marriage, how to support married couples in their life commitment, how to care for families that are wounded or broken apart, how to help members who are not heterosexual in their orientation, how and when to welcome children into the lives of a family, and how to pass on our faith within our families.

Nevertheless, all of us have some experience in this regard, since all have lived as members of a family. The bishops are asking us to share our experiences and the wisdom we have gained through the  practical challenges of living in families as people of faith.

The document prepared in October 2014 has been published. Each diocese has been asked to distribute the draft document and a questionnaire regarding the information included in the document. The dioceses are to collect responses, and prepare a summary of the thoughts of those who live with its geographic region.

The time frame is short. Responses are needed by the end of the first week of March so there will be enough time to summarize them and return them to Rome before the bishops assemble again in October 2015.

Please read the document carefully and respond to the questionnaire honestly and prayerfully, based on your own experience. Pope Francis and the bishops really want to know what the thinking of the People of God (the Church) is on these matters, because the Holy Spirit speaks through the everyday experiences of ordinary people.

Links to the document in several European languages are included in the sidebar to the right. For readers in other countries, check with your local diocese for the document in other languages.

Surveys for the Diocese of Monterey, California are available at the diocesan website.

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Posted by on Feb 23, 2015

Sant’Egidio Communities Bring Friendship and Hope to the Poor

Sant’Egidio Communities Bring Friendship and Hope to the Poor

Sant'Egidio in RomeThe Community of Sant’Egidio is an international movement counting over 60,000 individuals on five continents who gather for common prayer, offering friendship and support for and with the poor in the cities where they live. The movement began in Rome in 1968 at the Church of Sant’Egidio and has expanded from there. No one is considered too poor or too marginalized to be a member of the community. All join together in work and prayer to bring the light of hope into the world.

Daily prayer is at the heart of life in a Community of Sant’Egidio. Gathering together in the evening the Word is proclaimed and together members of the community place the cares and concerns of the people of their local, regional, national, and international communities before the Lord. Each day’s prayer also includes a theme, beginning with the celebration of the Resurrection on Sunday and continuing through days dedicated to prayer for the poor, Eastern and Western churches, Sant’Egidio communities around the world, the memory of the cross, meditation on the courageous role of Mary in salvation history, and waiting for the resurrection along with Lazarus who was raised from the tomb.

Icons are present in all communities, reminding all of the unity of Eastern and Western churches and leading members more deeply into the mysteries of God’s presence and action in the world.

A statement from the community’s website clearly expresses the place of prayer: “Nothing is possible without prayer, all is possible with prayer and faith. … Prayer overcomes the helplessness of men. It goes beyond what is believed impossible and allows God to intervene in this world with his infinite power.”

Members of Communities of Sant’Egidio are committed to inter-religious dialog and working for peace. At a general audience with bishops gathered for an  international conference of the Community of Sant’Egidio on February 7, Pope Francis expressed his support, saying, “I am delighted to welcome you. I wish that you revive faith in the Lord and witness, with renewed enthusiasm, the Gospel tension towards the peripheries and towards the last.”

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Posted by on Jan 22, 2015

James MacMillan — Music and Faith

James MacMillan — Music and Faith

James MacMillan - Wisconsin Public Radio

James MacMillan

James MacMillan is a Catholic Scottish composer from a working class town in the west of Scotland. He composed the Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman which was performed in Westminster Cathedral in London on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s beatification of the 19th century Cardinal who converted to Catholicism. This was the first visit of a pope to the United Kingdom.

This is an interesting interview about his compositions for parishes and the simplicity underlying MacMillan’s Mass and other religious compositions.

Here is the grand “Tu Es Petrus” (You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.) which is the traditional fanfare for a pope rendered in a very modern tone.

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