Benedict XVI's liturgy concerns
The Italian publication of a book on the liturgy, with a preface by Benedict XVI, is calling fresh attention to the Pope's interest in liturgical reform.
The Italian publisher Cantagalli held a public presentation on 27 April to introduce Rivolti al Signore, a book written in 2003 by Father Uwe Michael Lang, with a preface by then- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
In the book, Father Lang argues in favour of celebrating Mass ad orientem - that is, with the priest and the congregation facing in the same direction. Rivolti al Signore appeared in English as Turning Towards the Lord, published by Ignatius Press in 2004.
The introduction of the Italian- language edition drew special notice because the preface highlights the Pope's desire for a "reform of the reform" in the liturgy.
Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, made one of the presentations at the conference introducing Rivolti al Signore. His participation added further evidence of the importance of the book.
In his preface, written in 2003 when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger notes that Vatican II did not require the celebration of Mass with the priest facing the people, nor did the Council abolish the use of Latin in the liturgy.
The future Pope writes that Father Lang's book provides a valuable opportunity to discuss the liturgical changes of Vatican II - a discussion which he said is long overdue. The effect of such a discussion, the preface argues, could be to correct erroneous interpretations of Council documents and provide for a more dignified and reverent liturgy.
Catholic World News
US Catholic college group promotes vocations
A national campus ministry group is inspiring a growing number of young men to enter the seminary. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) is a national outreach program whose goal it is to form Catholic communities on college campuses where students can follow Jesus and live out their faith.
The model includes Bible study, leadership training and one-on-one discipleship. In seeking to bring the fullness of Christianity to students, it has helped inspire at least 67 men to enter seminaries and 25 women to enter religious life.
Deacon Peter Mussett credits FOCUS with helping him perceive and discern his call to become a priest. He was due to be ordained a priest in May 2006.
According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, 27 percent of American parishes do not have a resident priest. The total number of priests, between 1950 and 2000, increased by only six percent while the Catholic population increased by 107 per cent.
Young men like Benjamin Barron, however, are striving to change that. "FOCUS gave me an outlet to learn more about my Catholic Faith and to be around others who cared about their faith", the second year student at St Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Minneapolis said.
"My FOCUS Bible study was a good fraternity of men, and we held each other accountable to lead a good life. I made some good friends and discovered I didn't have to be a 'dork' to be a good Catholic."
FOCUS was founded in Atchison, Kansas, by Curtis Martin, a Catholic speaker and author. It now has 100 staff working on 27 campuses in 15 states.
Catholic News Agency
Pope reminds Jesuits of duty of obedience
Benedict XVI reminded Jesuits of their vow of loyalty to the Roman Pontiff, and urged them to meet "the Church's most urgent current needs" in the intellectual world, during an address to leaders of the Society of Jesus on 22 April.
The Pope spoke after a Mass celebrated in St Peter's Basilica marking the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Francis Xavier. About 4,000 Jesuits were in attendance, led by Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, who has led the Society of Jesus since 1983.
The greatest needs of the Church, said Benedict, include responses to a culture that is "deeply marked by scientism, positivism, and materialism." The Jesuits, he said, should lead in the restoration of "a culture inspired by Gospel principles."
Recalling the life of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, the Pope emphasised that he was "a man of deep prayer, the centre and summit of whose life was the daily celebration of the Eucharist." That "precious spiritual heritage" should not be neglected by today's Jesuits, he said.
In their early years the Jesuits were active primarily in missionary work, but later the order turned to teaching as well, and for generations the Jesuits were regarded as the intellectual elite of the Catholic clergy.
Today there are 19,850 Jesuits in the world, but the ranks of the order are thinning because of troubles with recruitment of young candidates. In addition to the three vows ordinarily taken by all religious (poverty, chastity, and obedience), all members of the Society of Jesus take a fourth vow of obedience to the Pope.
Catholic News Agency
Seminaries full in southern India
Vocations in India are flourishing as increasing numbers of young men step forward to prepare for the priesthood.
In a recent interview with the international charity, Aid to the Church in Need, Father Ignatius Prasad, Rector of the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Chennai (formerly Madras), gave an optimistic assessment of the Church.
Father Prasad explained that his seminary now has 286 students and that - due to a lack of space - he had to turn away 23 candidates, who have been forced to continue their training elsewhere.
The seminary is one of four in southern India with a combined total of almost 800 students from 28 dioceses. More than 60 of them were due to be ordained to the priesthood in May.
In Chennai, there are now more than 30 students in each year-group in the seminary's theology section, double the number in the late 1980s, Father Prasad said.
"Vocations are going up; this has been the case for the last five years or so," he said. "We find it difficult to admit all the applicants and set a tight deadline for them to get their papers in on time."
He pointed to youth programs which were drawing people to the faith and encouraging men to discern a possible vocation to the priesthood. Retreats, sodalities and altar serving had all helped to boost the number of seminarians, he said.
Zenit News Service
Denver's most ordinations in 40 years
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver ordained 11 new priests for his archdiocese on 13 May, on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Con-ception.
The ceremony brought Denver's total number of ordinations for the 2005-06 academic year to 14, three men being ordained last December. This is the largest number of ordinations in Denver since the 1960s. There were five ordinations in 2002-03 and seven in 2004-05.
The Archdiocese of Denver ranks third nationwide in ordination class size for 2006 despite its relatively small Catholic population.
In Denver, the new priests' average age is 34 and many have had full-time careers in various fields. For example, Fr Frank Garcia, 48, taught for over 20 years in Colorado's Jefferson County Public Schools before entering the seminary. Fr Michael Freihofer, 42, was an officer in the US Air Force for 10 years, where he taught calculus and coached the Academy's women's volleyball team.
When asked about their calling to the priesthood, many of the ordinands describe an attraction to the priesthood since childhood, while others experienced their calling in later years, usually during college or foreign missionary work.
Catholic News Agency
Pope triggers a spiritual revival in Germany
The German newspaper Handelsblatt reports that Benedict XVI has triggered a spiritual revival in his native country, which he will visit for the second time in September.
In a special edition for the first anniversary of Benedict's pontificate, the newspaper noted that in visiting his native country twice in such a short period of time, the Pontiff had set off a spiritual awakening among many Germans.
The newspaper said that while there was a general euphoria among Germans about having their own Pope, there was "another perspective that many previously thought impossible and that must be pointed out: this 79 year-old wise man could spark in this moment a revival in the Church in Germany."
It pointed to the impact Benedict XVI's visit for World Youth Day had had on young people, "in speaking to them about frustration, dissatisfaction and love in a way perhaps unlike any other pastor of the Catholic Church in Germany before".
Catholic News Agency
Thousands of US converts to Catholicism
Thousands of Americans joined the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
The numbers varied around the country. The Archdiocese of Denver, for example, reported that 700 people would be baptised and 1,400 would come into full communion there.
According to early figures from the 2006 Official Catholic Directory, last year 80,521 adults were baptised in the Catholic Church and 73,296 came into full communion.
The backgrounds of the people seeking to be baptised or to enter into full communion by receiving First Communion and/or confirmation varied.
Martin White, chief executive officer of MDU Resources, a Fortune 500 company, entered the Church through the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota.
White and his wife, Sheila, prepared for entering the Church with the Benedictine Sisters at the University of Mary, Bismarck, where he will soon become dean of the college's newly established school of business.
The response to John Paul II's death touched many, including Diannah Hedgebeth, who made a profession of faith, was confirmed and received First Communion at St Michael's Church in Newark, New Jersey.
She had been on a religious quest for a couple of years, she said, and recognised her call to the Catholic Church as she watched events surrounding the last days of John Paul II.
"The moment his death was announced," she said, "God spoke to me and told me that's where I belonged."
Zenit News Service