Today is the feast of Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, and you’re reading The Tuesday Pillar Post. I’ll talk more about Blessed Anne at the end of this newsletter.
I’m writing to you from the road this week. I was in Philadelphia on Sunday and Monday, so that I could be a panelist at the annual Cardinal Foley Symposium at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
I was invited to speak at the seminary about The Pillar’s work, and our approach to the mission of Catholic journalism. I tried to talk about my aim that our work be done as an expression of the prophetic identity of Jesus Christ, into which we are plunged, and to which we are configured, at our baptism.
I said that, from my view, the only way we can talk, write, and report about the life of the Church meaningfully is if we love the Church as our mother, and if our lives are shaped and animated by the Gospel, with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the absolute center — the source and summit, if you will.
I believe that — not only about our own work, by the way, but about yours too. Whatever apostolic work the Lord has called each of us to is meaningfully performed or exercised if it is done in the context of a Christian life of prayer and worship.
If we don’t have that, well, I’ve found that a good place to begin learning how to pray more deeply is just to ask the Lord to show us.
“Lord, I want to pray,” is probably prayer enough to start.
Anyway, it was very cool to be at St. Charles Seminary, because the Foley Symposium was neat, and because I had opportunity to look around the buildings of a campus that opened some 150 years ago.
And that opportunity came just in time, too. In 2025, St. Charles expects to move to a new facility on the campus of a local university; the seminary buildings and property were sold to a local hospital system in 2019. The move is an extraordinary undertaking, one I hope I can cover journalistically soon.
In the meantime, I came across this tin in a seminary chapel sacristy; seminarians have odd senses of humor, and I’m told this once held a bluish hued incense:
Anyway, after Philadelphia I went down to DC on Monday afternoon for a dinner with some good friends of The Pillar, and this morning, on Tuesday, I’m headed for a few days of a reporting trip I look forward to writing about soon.
After all of that, I’ll be home for a few days, but next week, Ed and I will be at the USCCB’s spring meeting in Orlando.
Anyway, with this newsletter coming from the road, I hope you’ll forgive its brevity.
First, The Pillar reported yesterday a memo to Kansas City priests from Archbishop Joseph Naumann, which warned against using for the Mass wines to which sugars, fruit juices and extracts, and other foreign ingredients had been added.
The Church instructs that wine used for Mass must be “natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt,” and adds that “it is forbidden to use wine of doubtful authenticity or provenance.”
Naumann warned that parishes in his diocese had been using for Mass wine into which other ingredients had been added, including excess alcohol, fruit extract, or sugars, all of which could render the wine invalid matter for the Eucharist.
Now, this is a bit of a complicated situation, and canon lawyers disagree among themselves a bit about when exactly additives in a bottle of wine would definitively render the celebration of a Mass invalid — even while Naumann’s letter expressed certainty that Masses in some Kansas City parishes had been offered invalidly.
But it is certainly true that adding other fruit juices or additional alcohol would violate the Church’s norms regarding the use of “pure and incorrupt” wine for Mass. And to avoid even the possibility of invalidity, the archbishop directed that only wines produced specifically for sacramental purposes can be used in the celebration of the Mass in his archdiocese.
One of the most storied icons in Christian history was venerated in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior Sunday, after disagreement between Russian Orthodox leaders and the Russian gallery where it has been housed for more than a century.
The icon was moved to the cathedral after intervention from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and — set against Russia’s ongoing invasive war in Ukraine — had political implications across Russia and the Christian world.
But our Ukrainian correspondent spoke with Ukrainians across the country about whether they believe the papal effort will make much of a difference — and Ukrainians are not holding their breath. In fact, since the war began, Pope Francis has gone from one of the most trusted global leaders among Ukrainians to one of the least trusted.
And we’ve got the views of Catholics from across Ukraine on whether the Vatican can actually make peace in their country. Check it out here.
So why is Pope Francis choosing non-lawyers to be appellate judges? The Pillar’s Ed Condon assesses the pope’s unusual selections — and what the choice could mean.
Astute readers of The Pillar know that last week the Holy See announced the elevation of the Diocese of Las Vegas to the status of an archdiocese, owing to the extraordinary growth of Catholicism in the American West.
Not wanting to miss the opportunity, The Pillar’s managing editor and resident card shark Michelle La Rosa went to Vegas this past weekend, to see what Sunday looks like on the Las Vegas strip.
Guys, this story is all aces.
Michelle brings you on the most interesting slices of American Catholic life I have ever read, from some of the most interesting churches I can think of. Really, I think this might be the most rollicking read The Pillar has ever produced.
Looking around, I see an air freshener hanging on each passenger door. There’s two more sitting in a notch in the center compartment. All of them are marked “Black Ice.”
It’s a scent I can’t quite describe. It smells like air freshener. I don’t know what black ice smells like, so maybe it smells like that, too.
Hanging from the rearview mirror, I see three more air fresheners – and a rosary.
“I like your rosary. Are you Catholic?” I ask the driver, whose name is Luis.
He is Catholic. He tells me he always likes to drive with a rosary on his rearview mirror. He says he would like to drive with more than one, but the police limit him to one. They say any more than that could block his vision and present a driving hazard.
I glance around at the eight visible air fresheners dangling down from various parts of the Toyota Camry. I wonder how many rosaries he would like to have.
I mentioned at the top of this newsletter that today is the feast of Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, a 16th century Carmelite nun, who was formed as a religious and as a Christian by St. Teresa of Avila. Anne had the good fortune to be St. Teresa’s companion, caregiver, and aid from 1577 until Teresa died in 1582.
In fact, history records that St. Teresa of Avila died in Anne’s arms.
After St. Teresa died, Anne helped to spread her Carmelite order into France, and became a prioress to several French monasteries. She died in 1626, and was beatified in 1917.
I’m struck in Blessed Anne’s story by a reminder that holiness often begets holiness — that while Christian doctrine is recorded in catechisms, and liturgical books prescribe the rubrics of sacred rites, the Christian life is passed down person to person, cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaking to heart.
I had occasion very recently to have dinner with a friend who has been most influential in my own Christian life — is actually one of the most influential and important people in shaping the trajectory of my life, and my path of Christian discipleship.
I don’t see him much these days, and I was edified just to be reminded of the kind of Christian wisdom, and sensibility, and holiness which was so instrumental in the formation of my worldview, and which remains a powerful witness for me of Christian hope.
The Christian life is not lived in isolation. And Christian faith is formed by the witness of men and women of faith.
“The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us,” Newman rightly wrote.
I’m grateful for the persons who have influenced me, for the deeds which have inflamed me.
And I think all of us could stand to pray for those who have influenced us in the Christian life, and that we might in turn be influential for Christ — with generosity of time and presence and attention — in the lives of other people.
I’ve no doubt Anne of St. Bartholomew was very grateful for the witness of her holy friend and mentor. I’m grateful I have holy friends who have also witnessed Christ to me.
Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, pray for us!
I’m headed to the airport, everybody. Please pray for my family while I’m away. Please be assured of our prayers, of course, and please pray for us. We need it!
Yours in Christ,