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Year of Faith: Let’s get this party started

We’re just days away from the start of the Year of Faith, a time of renewal, prayer, and study for Catholics around the world.

Pope Benedict XVI has specifically asked that Catholics spend time studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, as you may recall, I covered page-by-page in my book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism.

Here’s what the pope had to say on the matter in his apostolic letter announcing the Year of Faith:

“From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith.

“In its very structure, the Catechism of the Catholic Church follows the development of the faith right up to the great themes of daily life. On page after page, we find that what is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church.”

So I’m pretty psyched to get back on the catechism bandwagon and maybe bring some new folks along with me. Here’s what I’ll be doing to get the Year of Faith party started:

On Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, at 8:10 a.m. EST, I’ll be talking about the catechism and the Year of Faith with Brian Patrick on the Son Rise Morning Show. You can catch that on Sacred Heart Radio 740 AM and 89.5 FM in Cincinnati, Ohio, or you can go to this link and listen online. 

Then on Thursday, Oct. 11, the official start of the Year of Faith as well as the 20th anniversary of the publication of the catechism and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, I’ll be kicking off a weekly series here on Not Strictly Spiritual.

Throughout the year, I plan to post some of my favorite catechism-related excerpts. Do you find it hard to believe I could actually have “favorites” from the catechism? It’s true. Despite how it looks in its intimidating, almost 1,000-page form, it’s actually a super cool read. Of course, if you don’t have time for 1,000 pages of catechism, there are always shorter, easier-to-read versions, like, oh, I don’t know, the Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism, which has an imprimatur, meaning it is all kosher according to the Church.

Finally, I’m happy to tell you that I’ll also be sharing posts occasionally throughout the Year of Faith over at Catholic Moms Talk. Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle was nice enough to invite me to join a cast of impressive Catholic moms who will be offering their take on the catechism as it relates to family life. Be sure to visit there regularly to see what we’re saying. (I’m sure I’ll find a way to let you know when I’m appearing over there.)

There will be more tantalizing catechism goings on in the months ahead, some I’m not at liberty to talk about just yet (doesn’t that sound intriguing?), so stay tuned. And make sure you have your catechism or your Complete Idiot’s Guide — or, better yet, both — on hand for the Year of Faith.

Sundials and solstice disks at St. Peter’s

When I went to Rome in September, my watch stopped working on my first day in the Eternal City. My initial reaction was to run out and, through pointing and gestures and lots of “grazies,” try to buy a new one. Then I decided to take the Roman approach and not worry so much about time.

Turns out I never had to worry at all. St. Peter’s Square is equipped with its own sundial, as well as markers to indicate the solstices and even the days when the sun enters various signs of the zodiac.

From a CNS story by Carol Glatz:

Hidden among the paving stones of St. Peter’s Square there is a simple clock and calendar. All you need is a sunny day.

The 83-foot stone obelisk in the middle of the square acts as a sundial that can accurately indicate midday and the two solstices thanks to a granite meridian and marble markers embedded in the square.

Pope Benedict XVI proudly pointed out the hidden timepiece during an Angelus address he gave on the winter solstice a few years ago.

“The great obelisk casts its shadow in a line that runs along the paving stones toward the fountain beneath this window and in these days, the shadow is at its longest of the year,” he told pilgrims from the window of his library.

In fact, at noon on Dec. 21, the obelisk’s shadow falls on the marble disk furthest from the obelisk’s base, while at noon on June 21 — the summer solstice — the tip of the shadow will fall just a few yards from the obelisk. In between are five other disks marking when the sun enters into which sign of the zodiac.

A long, thin granite strip running from the obelisk toward the pope’s window and through one of the fountains acts as the meridian: a line that indicates when the sun has reached true or solar noon and is at its highest point in the sky.

The pope, in his solstice soliloquy, reminded people that the church has always been keenly interested in astronomy to help guide and establish fundamental liturgical days and the times of prayer such as the Angelus, which is recited in the morning, at noon and in the evening. While sunrise and sunset are easy to figure out, sundials could accurately tell midday, he said.

The CNS story also points out that at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs, Pope Clement XI even had an astronomer build meridians to mark not only the noon hour but to “to make highly accurate celestial observations and solve complex astronomical problems.”

More from the CNS story:

John Heilbron, emeritus professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, told Catholic News Service that St. Mary of the Angels “could do things you couldn’t do with telescopes at the time” like find out precise information about the inclination of the Earth’s axis.

Heilbron, who wrote “The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories,” said the basilica’s meridian was also used “to establish a very good value for the length of the year.”

It’s fascinating stuff. And the facts once again give lie to the argument that the Church is opposed to science. Read the full story HERE.

Is the pope reading my blog?

OK, yesterday I rambled on and on about balancing the spiritual and secular, and then today, voilà, a blog reader emailed me about a Catholic New Service story where Pope Benedict XVI talks about the same thing — sort of. Turns out the pope and I are on the same wave length, which should be very scary news for B16. A shout out to Father Mike for the heads up on this. Here’s a snippet of the CNS story by Carol Glatz:

Christians must strike a fruitful balance in their lives by including both prayer and action, Pope Benedict XVI said.

People of faith can “run the risk of reducing themselves to being one-dimensional” either by retreating from the world to dedicate themselves to God and prayer or by totally immersing themselves in the world to help others, the pope said during his June 18 general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Instead, believers must look for “a middle ground” by imitating Christ, whose life was dedicated to contemplation and action, he said.

If you want to read the official text of today’s papal audience, click HEREto go to the Vatican Web site.

The view from where I’m standing

I was so close when the pope came by on his way out of St. Joseph’s Seminary today, the closest I’ve been to any pope. It was the most exciting part of the very long day.

There will be more stories and photos from me at OSV’s Papal Visit 2008 blog HERE.

Come along for the ride

Keep up with Pope Benedict — and with me — all week by clicking HERE to go to Our Sunday Visitor’s blog, Papal Visit 2008 News and Views. I am part of a three-person blog team that will be bringing you all sorts of interesting and fun information about the papal visit. We’re hard at work already, so head over there now and see what’s going on.

I will be in Manhattan Friday thru Sunday, covering the youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers on Saturday and blogging from the papal visit media center at the Sheraton the rest of the time. I’ve got contacts at just about every event and will be interviewing them and posting their reactions and responses to what’s going on. In addition, you’ll find papal texts, news stories, polls and more. Read more

Pope Benedict on YouTube

 Pope Benedict XVI released a video in anticipation of his upcoming visit to the United States. Here’s an abbreviated version of the video via YouTube. The pope arrives in Washington, D.C., one week from today.

Yours truly will be working the New York leg of the papal visit. In addition to being part of a three-person blog team for Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic news weekly, I will be covering the youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, on April 19. About 25,000 young people and seminarians are expected at that event, which will be my first papal experience since I was a youth myself and saw Pope John Paul II at Madison Square Garden in 1979.

I will be updating my blog throughout the visit next week, but I hope you’ll check out OSV’s blog, which you can visit by clicking HERE.

If you want to read the full text of the pope’s message, click HERE.