Good Wishes and Prayers
Regarding the election of Pope Francis ("Habemus Papam!" March 24 issue):
Congratulations to Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, who is now Pope Francis. He deserves our best wishes, but even more than that, our prayers. He will have a difficult task in a world that clamors for change, while God’s truth and the Gospel never change.
I am very happy at the name Cardinal Bergoglio chose: that of St. Francis. This name signifies a desire for service and compassion that even President Obama recognized when he congratulated the new Pope as a "champion of the poor."
Yet, as important as Cardinal Bergoglio’s heart for the downtrodden may be, much more important is his new task of keeping the Church close to Christ.
In fact, the story of the original St. Francis, who lived in 12th-century Italy, begins with a vision: As Francis was praying in the dilapidated chapel of San Damiano, he heard a voice saying, "Francis, repair my Church, which has fallen into disrepair!"
At first, he took this commandment literally, thinking he was to rebuild broken walls and stonework. But he soon came to understand that God was calling him to something much more: to call his fellow believers back to the radical simplicity of the Gospel.
Much as St. Francis is venerated today, in his time he was scorned as foolish and impractical. In the same way, those who now hold to traditional Catholic values — that is, the Gospel values of faithfulness in marriage and reverence for life — are often scorned as old-fashioned and intolerant. Pope Francis’ predecessor wrote to me in a personal letter that "such convictions will inevitably arouse hatred, even persecution. The Lord has predicted it. But with him we must continue in trying to overcome evil through good."
These prophetic words may not be comforting, but they should encourage those of us who call ourselves Christian — even if non-Catholic, as I am — to pray for the new Pope. He will certainly be in my prayers.
Johann Christoph Arnold
We Have a Pope!
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a man rich in spiritual passion, humility, self-denial and love for the cause of God and of man. As Pope Francis, he brings to the papacy a brilliant philosophical and, in particular, theological mind that has embraced a vision of broad spiritual and ecclesiastical horizons: personal holiness, missionary outreach combined with constant concern for unity, and the necessary integration of spirituality and institutional ministry.
His episcopal motto, "Miserando atque Eligendo," has strengthened and guided him in his tireless and uncompromising efforts aimed at defending and promoting the Catholic faith and its morals against modern errors in an age in which the Catholic Church has suffered unprecedented persecution and martyrdom.
The new Pope has also worked to encourage studies aimed at increasing knowledge of the faith so that the new problems arising from the progress of science and civilization can be answered in the light of the word of God.
The aim for which he has always strived has been to serve the truth, seek to know it ever more thoroughly and make it ever more widely known.
May the Lord lavish his choicest heavenly reward upon our new Vicar of Christ Francis.
First, I would like to congratulate you on your print issues since the beginning of this most eventful year. Your coverage, especially of the March for Life and the stepping down of Pope Benedict XVI, has been excellent.
Next, I would like to comment on the letter from Michael Rachiele (Jan. 13 issue) on the subject of the liturgy.
While I appreciated the response by Stephen Matusheski (Feb. 24 issue), I thought a few more observations were in order: Mr. Rachiele seems to be laboring under the delusion that before Vatican II all Masses had beautiful Gregorian chant, reverently paced Latin prayers and great homilies.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t so in most parishes.
When I was a child in the 1950s, my suburban parish had a mediocre choir that sang sloppy, sentimental hymns or garbled Latin chants that were not at all Gregorian, accompanied by an organist who played everything at funeral-dirge pace.
So it was a great relief to a lot of us when these choirs recognized their limitations and began to sing simple melodies that we could all participate in. My parents’ rural parish has a folk choir that’s very pleasant to listen to and sing along with — and I will never forget that the first performance of Silent Night was accompanied by a guitar when the parish organ broke down.
I also remember trying to follow the liturgy in my missal, but usually lagging two or three pages behind the priest, as he raced through the Latin prayers at top speed. There were times when I gave up trying and emulated all those old ladies saying the Rosary. So it really was an improvement when the priest had to turn around and slow down so that we could all understand and participate.
Mr. Rachiele’s repeated use of "veils" implies that he thinks laywomen came to church dressed like nuns. In fact, the required head covering was usually a hat, a scarf, a mantilla (a little lace doily known as a "chapel veil" that we wore with our school uniforms) or, if nothing else was available, a piece of Kleenex — the absurdity probably led to the rule being abolished.
However, I agree that everyone — both men and women — should dress modestly for Mass. When I see the congregation of a Baptist church wearing their Sunday best, I feel embarrassed for us Catholics.
If everyone reading this would dress themselves and their children well for every Mass, it would set a good example without scolding anyone.
There are many good parishes out there. (In mine, many people don’t dress very well — we’re working on it — but people are very reverent, the song leaders and organist are great, and the Eucharistic ministers are very much needed, since we only have one priest.) I’m sure Mr. Rachiele can find one that will suit him.
Anne G. Burns
Cos Cob, Connecticut
The story "Bearing Christ, Engaging the World" in the March 10 edition of the Register reported that Gregory Vall, now an assistant professor of theology at Ave Maria University, had attended the 1988 Erasmus Lecture delivered by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Vall actually read a published version of the lecture and a transcript of a roundtable discussion following the address. We apologize for the error.