For Catholics of a certain generation, these words represent the best of childhood memories: May crowning, rosary processions, girls in white dresses, and petals strewn as far as the eye could see. For others, it represents the worst of sugary-sweet hymnody: a devotional life divorced from the liturgy of the Church and traditional forms of Marian devotion void of ecumenical sensibility.
For me, it represents neither. My memories are drawn not to elementary school, but to a local nursing home—Bishop Drumm Retirement Center. I remember going there as a kid to take my grandma to Mass and always seeing Sr. Edith, as old as any of the residents, still pounding away at the organ as best as she could. Her repertoire was limited by age and arthritis, so you could almost bet that at least once each week you’d get a rousing rendition of “On This Day.” It didn’t matter whether it was Tuesday of the fourth week of the year or the second Saturday of Easter. I wasn’t even aware that it was a May-crowning hymn until I entered the novitiate for the Dominicans; then again, before that time I’m not sure I understood exactly what May crowning was.
When Pope Benedict XVI surprised the world with his resignation in February, a flood of questions followed, starting with “Can a pope resign?” to “What happens now?” His startling move has sent pastors, parishioners, and reporters back to Church history. There we find a handful of papal resignations, to be sure, but also some helpful lessons on just what papal authority is and what it means for the Church as an institution and a community of faith.
Can a Pope Resign?
The short answer is yes, he just did—and he’s not the first. Because some of the earliest centuries of Church history aren’t well documented, we can’t be sure just how many have resigned, but no more than a good handful is a safe bet.
It’s been just a short time since the election of Pope Francis, yet “urban legends” about him are blooming like spring flowers in St. Peter’s Square. To know the real Pope Francis, ignore the myths and focus instead on the attributes and values he has exhibited before and after his election, according to John L. Allen, Jr., senior Vatican analyst for CNN and senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. Allen has authored an intimate introduction to Pope Francis: 10 Things Pope Francis Wants You to Know. It’s one of the first publications about the new Pope that includes details from the early days of his papacy.
Words are important. They’re the building blocks of human relationships. Human beings use words to communicate their very selves. Words open us to the mystery of other people, breaking through human isolation and enabling community. Words are like stones or bricks. At their most positive, words construct the foundations for human community and friendship. Words build up, affirm the good, challenge to conversion, and call us to be authentic, loving, life-giving people.
But just like stones and bricks, words can also be used as weapons that wound, tear down, and destroy. They can provoke hatred and discrimination, spread gossip, and declare war.
Words matter. A speech by Hitler provoked people to participate in acts of unspeakable horror. A sermon by Pope John XXIII encouraged people to act with incredible generosity. Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote that God became human to converse with us like a friend.
In honor of our first centennial, we want to honor our readers—our Liguorian family. You’re the reason we publish this magazine, and you’re uppermost in our minds as we plan each issue and develop each article. We want to say thank you for 100 years of inspiration and support!
The first issue of Liguorian was published in March 1913—a century ago. A group of Redemptorists who taught in a major seminary in Wisconsin, began a magazine to spread a little zeal. Liguorian conveys a consistent joyful message of God’s plentiful redemption. In its tone and selection of material, it communicates a timely pastoral message, employs the principal elements of Catholic spirituality and helps readers navigate their day-to-day lives assisted by their faith.
In recognition of our centennial, we received quite a few congratulatory letters from organizations who support our mission. Following are a couple pieces of this special correspondence. Please join us as we celebrate this milestone and look towards the future.
It was a miracle waiting to happen. In 1966, a medical examination revealed that Angela Boudreaux’s abdomen was swollen to proportions of a six-month pregnancy from a liver nine times normal size. A preliminary biopsy found no liver tissue at all, and exploratory surgery determined that 90 percent of the liver was simply “replaced” by a malignant tumor. A number of pathologists confirmed the findings. Angela, a wife and mother of four young children, was told she had two weeks to live.
Saint Gerard has become one of the most beloved saints in the world. Visitors at his shrine in Materdomini, Italy, discover a room dedicated to the miracles attributed to Saint Gerard. Thousands upon thousands of letters, photographs, and gifts of thanksgiving from all over the world recognize Saint Gerard’s powerful intercession.
Although his name is not listed on the official Church calendar for March 15 (also the feast of Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus), Clement Mary Hofbauer is my choice for saint of the month.
One reason for this choice is that Saint Clement, born on December 26, 1751, in central Europe, became a Redemptorist priest, just as I did, so we are “family.” Second, I am presently living in Saint Clement Health Care Center, and I will soon need a benevolent promoter “on the other side.”
So even though we cannot celebrate him liturgically, we can recall some facts of his life that have caused him to be recognized as the “second founder” of the Redemptorists and the patron saint of Vienna.