Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cardinal Martini's death

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, retired Archbishop of Milan, died on Friday of complications from Parkinson’s disease, at the age of 85. A Scripture scholar of note, Catholic philosopher, much loved pastoral Archbishop of Milan, an effective evangelist, especially with young people, a participant in the Charismatic Renewal, and a committed ecumenist, Cardinal Martini was for years considered a possible successor to Pope John Paul II until 1996 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. 

Admittedly quite liberal on some controversial issues, he was nonetheless personally very close to both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. 

Born in Turin, Carlo Maria Martini, a Jesuit, was ordained to the priesthood in 1952. After holding numerous significant academic posts, in 1979 he became Archbishop of Milan, the largest diocese in Europe, where he remained until his retirement in 2002. He was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1983. After his retirement he moved to Jerusalem, where he worked at the Pontifical Biblical Institute until when he returned to Italy in 2008 for medical treatment.

Give him eternal rest, O Lord. 

If you want to be moved by Cardinal Martini’s love of the Gospel and of the Scriptures, go HERE to a translation of his address to the Italian Bishops' Conference in May 1997, 'He Explained the Scripture to Us'

The following is from pages 18 to 19 of his book The Gospel Way of Mary – A Journey of Trust and Surrender originally published in 2008, the English translation in 2011: 


Apart from Christ's sacrifice, Mary's yes is clearly the illustration - the beginning, the continuation, and the culmination - of human and Christian perfection. Mary's yes includes the orientation of her whole life to God and ratifies in advance all of Christ's choices from Bethlehem to the cross. That is why I said at the beginning of this meditation that the scene at the cross is already contained in the Annunciation.

A righteous heart orientation, in its essence, has another name: the fundamental option. However, this "option," or choice, needs to be understood in a dynamic sense - it is not enough to choose the good, for example, one single time. Rather, it indicates a lively reaching out in love toward the pleasure of God the Father, toward what pleases him, and it is a disposition that pervades one's whole life. 

This option, which is renewed through prayer but chiefly at Mass, is like a living flame that strengthens and shapes all of one's moral choices, thereby making them Christian choices. 

It is important to experience morality as a dynamic orientation toward the good - or toward the better - as a total dedication to the divine plan in which people find their fulfillment or actualization as sons or daughters. The lack of, or forgetfulness about, a dynamic concept of morality inevitably leads to a minimized approach or to scruples. It leads to all those forms of a moral approach that are reduced to asking if something is more or less allowed, and how far one can go. Although this has a certain kind of logic, it turns out to be depressing and hardly authentic for human life, which should consist of gift, spontaneity, and generosity. It can lead to a gray state of affairs: sadness, laziness, and quarreling. In communities or in groups, it leads to arguments over entitlements, to a sense of exhaustion, to pure and simple legalism. 

Without the dynamic of the fundamental option, the overarching vision, the true significance of human existence - living water continually poured out from on high, as opposed to stagnant water - is lost. 

I believe that the distance that many keep from the confessional, for example, whether it be the faithful or the pastors, can be explained by the flat-lining of moral dynamism. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, in fact, makes sense and has value to the extent that it makes a person move forward from bad to good and from good to better. 

These are all reflections suggested by Mary's yes. Whoever aims at this yes always seeks what pleases God in all things. In other words, that person is exercising discernment. 

In the Letter to the Romans, discernment follows immediately after sacrifice: "Present your bodies . . . that you may prove [discern] what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:1). 

Discernment is quite other than the scrupulosity of those who live in legalism or with a claim of perfection. It is an impulse of love that can make the distinction between good and better, between something that is generally useful in itself and something that is useful right now, between what is good in general and what should be actively encouraged right now. Discernment is fundamental to apostolic action because it is necessary to choose the better and not be content with merely doing good, or saying a good word, or being a good person. Failure to discern "the better" often makes pastoral life monotonous and repetitive: Religious activities are multiplied; traditional gestures are repeated, without a real understanding of their meaning, and are done in obedience to custom and out of a desire to present oneself before God without fault or blame. 

Today's young people in particular desire a dynamic approach and must be trained to desire the better and not just the good.


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