Friday, June 16, 2017

Unleashing the Feminine Genius: Mother Vincenzina Cusmano

First appeared in The National Catholic Register on June 16, 2017.


Our society owes much to the genius of women as St. John Paul II said in his Letter to Women in 1985. In fact, the Church cannot do without the genius of women, without the feminine, who have repeatedly saved Catholicism. What would have become of St. Benedict without St. Scholastica? St. Francis without St. Clare? Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa without St. Macrina? Blessed Giacomo Cusmano without his elder sister Venerable Mother Vincenzina Cusmano?

...continue reading in The National Catholic Register

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Of Millennials and Monastic Hospitality

First appeared in The Catholic Thing on March 26, 2017.

It’s a challenge to teach about monasticism and the rules of Sts. Basil and Benedict. Many people say, before they’ve made the effort: How are they relevant and why do I need these antiquated rules or the monastic ideal in an age when there is little interest in the religious life – or religion in general?

But after more than two decades of teaching monasticism, I would argue that Sts. Basil’s and Benedict’s rules never fail to attract students with their simplicity, profundity, and authenticity. And there are practical messages as well, such as the monastic virtue of hospitality.

... continue reading in The Catholic Thing

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Why Does Facing Ad Orientem Matter Ecumenically?

First appeared in New Liturgical Movement on January 26, 2017.

The theme for this year’s Week for Christian Unity (January 18-25) is “Reconciliation - The Love of Christ Compels Us.” During the General Audience recalling the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis encouraged Christians to look with hope to what “unites us” rather than that which “divides us.” Indeed, this is how bridges are built and foundations for dialogue reaffirmed. I made my students listen to a lecture by Abbot Sergius of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery (an Eastern Orthodox Monastery in Waymart, PA) on the Divine Liturgy, just to understand another view on liturgical theology. The abbot speaks of liturgy as an intimate “encounter” with God through the Incarnate Christ, who unites Himself to us through the sacraments, thus working the great mystery of salvation.

Moreover, the Divine Liturgy has a double unitive function: vertically with God, and horizontally with each other. Further, the Divine Liturgy is also a public service involving the whole community in an act of prayer, worship, teaching, and communion of the one Body of Christ. In the East, celebrating the Divine Liturgy was saving. In fact, what enabled the Eastern Churches to survive the Communist persecution was the worship and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the local Church. In the East, a Eucharistic community “One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) proved to be a surviving community. The understanding of Divine Liturgy in the East and the West are very similar, as my students observed after the abbot’s lecture, with some differences, the most visible and important being the normative use of ad orientem in worship in the East.

... continue reading in New Liturgical Movement 

Anti-Catholic Critics Oppose Orthodox Council on Unity

Interviewed by Tyler Arnold in Crisis Magazine on January 23, 2017

Interference is not entirely unprecedented, Dr. Ines Murzaku, professor of Ecclesiastical History and Founding Chair of the Department of Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University, told Crisis Magazine in an email interview.

However, severing communion with churches not under the patriarch’s jurisdiction as a final measure, she explained, is unprecedented. Bartholomew has excommunicated individuals before, but the individuals have been under his jurisdiction.

“Interference and pressure to excommunicate might sound more as rules/jurisdiction that apply in the West,” Murzaku elaborated. “The patriarch might be viewed by many as ‘the Pope of the East’ or ‘Orthodox Pope’” with this level of interference.

Generally, an autocephalous church will resolve internal problems independently, she said. But she also said Bartholomew does have a “primacy of honor” over all of the other bishops.

“He has no real jurisdiction,” Murzaku pointed out, “but on issues that he considers important, he can provide advice which benefits the unity of the Church.”

... continue reading in Crisis Magazine

Can the Orthodox Way End the Divorce and Remarriage Debate?

First appeared in Crisis Magazine on January 13, 2017

On his flight back to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil (2013), Pope Francis speaking about the season of mercy and the Church as a mother dispensing mercy, praised the pastoral practice of the Orthodox Churches on marriage and divorce, the pastoral care for the divorced and remarried Orthodox faithful and the possibility of giving Communion to couples who have contracted second marriages after divorce. The Holy Father specified: “with reference to the issue of giving Communion to persons in a second union (because those who are divorced can receive Communion, there is no problem, but when they are in a second union, they can’t…), I believe that we need to look at this within the larger context of the entire pastoral care of marriage.” He added: “… the Orthodox have a different practice. They follow the theology of what they call oikonomia, and they give a second chance, they allow it. But I believe that this problem—and here I close the parenthesis—must be studied within the context of the pastoral care of marriage.”

The theology or the principle of oikonomia followed by the Orthodox Churches allows these Churches to dissolve first marriages and bless a second or a third marriage on a case-by-case basis and under specific conditions. Cardinal Walter Kasper is one of the proponents in support of the Orthodox principle of oikonomia. What is the Orthodox understanding of the indissolubility of marriage? What are the differences in the pastoral care of marriage in East and West? A familiarity with the development of Orthodox theology and pastoral practice on marriage, divorce, and Communion for divorced and remarried couples should discourage any Catholic attempt to adopt Eastern practices.

... continue reading in Crisis Magazine

Light from the East for Millennials – and Everyone

First appeared in The Catholic Thing on January 13, 2016

Last March, I brought a group of my Seton Hall University students to visit the Monastery of Mother of God of Grottaferrata. The monastery was founded by St. Νεῖλος/Neilos/Nilus, or as the Italians call him, St. Nilo the Younger of Rossano (Calabria). St. Neilos died in 1004, the year the monastery was founded, and exactly fifty years before the schism between East and West.

Grottaferrata is a monastic community, originally of Greek monks from Magna Graecia (Great Greece) of the West – Calabria and Sicily. Plus Italo-Albanian monks – ethnic Albanians who left Albania and Greece in the fifteenth century under Ottoman persecution, Ukrainians, and Roman Catholic Italians. Grottaferrata, located on the outskirts of Rome, was the perfect location for fleeing Byzantine monks, conveniently near the Eternal City. When St. Neilos arrived in Rome, his native Calabria, similar to other parts of Calabria and Sicily, was under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The liturgical tradition he and his monks brought to Rome was Greek-Byzantine.

This was probably the first time my students set foot in a church significantly different from what they knew: the reverence paid to icons; the mystical iconostasis, which hides the sanctuary from the faithful; the priest who celebrated facing the Lord – ad orientem; Italian and Greek for the liturgical languages; the abundant incense; the reverence in receiving Communion and singing.

... continue reading in The Catholic Thing 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Albania celebrates martyr, pioneer in Christian/Muslim ties

First appeared in Crux on December 13, 2016

By conventional standards, the fact that around 20,000 people gathered inside and outside the cathedral of St. Stephen in the city of Shkodër, in northwestern Albania, on November 6 for a Mass to beatify 38 Soviet-era martyrs under the government of Enver Hoxha probably doesn’t rate as a banner headline.

Albania, after all, is a nation of fewer than 3 million people, in Europe but not of Europe, and a country with a Muslim majority where the Catholics are a minority - they make up just 10 percent of the population.

Since the beginning of his papacy, however, Pope Francis has been passionate about the peripheries, driven by the belief that big things often come in small packages. That’s certainly true in the case of Father Giovanni Fausti, like Francis a member of the Jesuit order, and one of the martyrs beatified last month.

...continue reading in Crux