Here I am Lord
I have brought the world and my day with me
What a motley crew arrayed before You
But not in vain.
We come with a clatter
My noise, our noise,
To the Silence.
The deafening roar
To the hallowed stillness.
Whisper in the chamber of our meeting
Where we tent with You,
Hope for the dying,
Faith to the listening,
Love to the willing.
From the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council
Man’s deeper questionings
The world of today reveals itself as at once powerful and weak, capable of achieving the best or the worst. There lies open before it the way to freedom or slavery, progress or regression, brotherhood or hatred. In addition, man is becoming aware that it is for himself to give the right direction to forces that he himself has awakened, forces that can be his master or his servant. He therefore puts questions to himself.
The tensions disturbing the world of today are in fact related to a more fundamental tension rooted in the human heart. In man himself many elements are in conflict with each other. On one side, he has experience of his many limitations as a creature. On the other, he knows that there is no limit to his aspirations, and that he is called to a higher kind of life.
Many things compete for his attention, but he is always compelled to make a choice among them. and to renounce some. What is more, in his weakness and sinfulness he often does what he does not want to do, and fails to do what he would like to do. In consequence, he suffers from a conflict within himself, and this in turn gives rise to so many great tensions in society.
Very many people, infected as they are with a materialistic way of life, cannot see this dramatic state of affairs in all its clarity, or at least are prevented from giving thought to it because of the unhappiness that they themselves experience.
Many think that they can find peace in the different philosophies that are proposed.
Some look for complete and genuine liberation for man from man’s efforts alone. They are convinced that the coming kingdom of man on earth will satisfy all the desires of his heart.
There are those who despair of finding any meaning in life: they commend the boldness of those who deny all significance to human existence in itself, and seek to impose a total meaning on it only from within themselves.
But in the face of the way the world is developing today, there is an ever increasing number of people who are asking the most fundamental questions or are seeing them with a keener awareness: What is man? What is the meaning of pain, of evil, of death, which still persist in spite of such great progress? What is the use of those successes, achieved at such a cost? What can man contribute to society, what can he expect from society? What will come after this life on earth?
The Church believes that Christ died and rose for all, and can give man light and strength through his Spirit to fulfill his highest calling; his is the only name under heaven in which men can be saved.
So too the Church believes that the center and goal of all human history is found in her Lord and Master.
The Church also affirms that underlying all changes there are many things that do not change; they have their ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever.
Father Fessio’s Pope Benedict XVI
A Way With Words
Father Fessio soon learned that the same luminous clarity enlivened Father Ratzinger’s published works.
“Back in 1968, when he published the Introduction to Christianity, the prose was already there,” said Father Fessio, referring to a work that remains a key textbook for graduate theological studies.
When the Catechism of the Catholic Church was completed in 1992, during the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II, Father Fessio reviewed the text and immediately noticed that it bore signs of Joseph Ratzinger’s distinctive ability to synthesize challenging material. At the time, then-Cardinal Ratzinger was the president of the catechism’s Preparatory Commission, which worked for six years to complete the project.
“When I first received the Catechism, I spent a whole retreat meditating on the Table of Contents — it was so beautiful. The Catechism wasn’t just a summary or a book of lists, it presented the faith as an organic whole,” said Father Fessio.
After his mentor was elected pope, Catholics across the globe had their first taste of Benedict’s literary gifts.
“Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world — this is the invitation I would like to extend with the present encyclical,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est, his first encyclical.
“He is like a painter using his palette to produce a portrait,” said Father Fessio, noting that the Pope also managed to work his magic in collaborative synodal documents as well as his encyclicals.
“He uses simple images — light and dark. You notice the same thing when you open up The Lord of the Rings and begin reading a paragraph: The majority of words are one syllable, and they convey profound thoughts and emotions.”
Thus, when Pope Benedict was enthroned in 2005, “he talked about the pallium, and, when he spoke to the cardinals, he noted that red is for martyrdom.”
Same Man, Different Settings
Over the course of more than 40 years, Father Fessio has stayed in touch with his former professor, meeting with other students from Regensburg for annual gatherings and collaborating on a variety of projects. During that time, the priest said, he has witnessed very little change in the man who will resign from the Petrine office on Feb. 28.
“He was always a theologian of the Church,” he said. “I saw the same man doing the same thing in different settings. He is a faithful servant, and Blessed John Paul II relied on him a good deal.
“But look how the liturgy changed as soon as Benedict was made pope. Chant was introduced. It means that he was not in favor of the kind of liturgies that Pope John Paul II celebrated, but he accepted it. And when he was pope, he acted differently.”
Indeed, while media commentators still dredge up Cardinal Ratzinger’s nickname of “God’s Rottweiler” from his days as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father Fessio has “never heard him raise his voice. He was always a listener, even at the CDF.”
“I wouldn’t call him shy; I would call him reserved. He is not someone who would enjoy a cocktail party,” said Father Fessio.
“Yes, he is firm. He has tremendous confidence because he has confidence in Christ. Friendship in Christ: It is the bass note in all his work.”
The resulting spiritual serenity sustained him amid the tumultuous decades following the Second Vatican Council, when the German cardinal sparked animosity by insisting that the Council did not constitute a break with the continuity of Catholic Tradition.
Father Fessio recalled a remark the Pope made during a meeting some time after his election.
Another Catholic publisher asked the Holy Father why only Ignatius Press was publishing his works. Father Fessio recalled that the Pope calmly responded, “Because when no one else cared, they published my works.’”
When Father Fessio learned that the Pope would resign during Lent, he quickly grasped the significance of his timing.
“He was born during Holy Week,” he said. “And I am confident he chose the time for his resignation because he wanted the next pope as an ‘Easter’ pope, with time for reflection.”
Added Father Fessio, “His life begins and ends with the Paschal mystery.”
Joan Frawley Desmond is the Register’s senior editor.
Read more: Pope Benedict | Daily News | NCRegister.com.
BY Matthew Archbold
Composer Gavin Bryars was living in London working on a documentary about
people living in poverty. During the recording, a number of people being
interviewed broke into drunken maudlin ballads and even loud opera. But one
old man, who, according to Bryars, was not drinking, sang a small verse of a
religious song called "Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet."
He sang it without irony. He sang it seemingly in childlike faith despite
his dire circumstances.
The recording of the old man was never used in the film and it was returned
to Bryars. When Bryars listened to it at home he found something beautiful
in the old man’s singing. He improvised a simple accompaniment to the verse
that built around the man’s singing. Shortly after that he took the tape to
the recording studio where he worked. He copied the loop of song onto a
continuous reel. Knowing this would take time he left the studio with the
song playing to grab a cup of coffee.
Out into the studio floated the old man’s words, haunting
Jesus blood never failed me yet-
never failed me yet
Jesus blood never failed me yet –
there’s one thing I know
because he loves me so
Jesus blood never failed me yet –
When Bryars returned he noticed something odd. "When I came back I found
the normally lively room unnaturally subdued," said Bryars. "People were
moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone,
He didn’t understand why until he realized the tape had been playing the
entire time he’d been gone and was causing a strong reaction in people.
"This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the
possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving,
orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp’s nobility and simple
faith," he said.
Bryars added a swelling orchestral accompaniment around the man’s voice and
recorded it on Brian Eno’s label in 1975. Since then, the song has moved
millions. Including me.
I can tell you that the first time I heard it I was picking up my brother
Kevin from the train station. Going through chemo at the time and suffering
seizures at odd times he wasn’t able to drive so the family would drive him
in to work or the train on a daily basis. As I lived in Philadelphia and
only came up during the summers, I was glad to help when I could.
So there I was waiting for him and flipping through radio stations when I
heard this old man’s warbling voice. In the beginning I couldn’t even
understand what he was saying but it soon had me transfixed. My brother came
off the train and climbed in the car. Normally, he launched right in with
jokes but he heard the song. We both sat in the car for twenty minutes
listening. We didn’t talk. We didn’t drive. We just listened. We shared that
So now I share it with you.
A sad note, the tramp (as he came to be known) died before he could hear
what Bryars had done with his singing. I find it beautiful as millions of
others have. I’ll let you decide.
The first three minutes are completely without music and then the
orchestration slowly builds around it.