Joseph A. Komonchak

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

By this author

Just War and Just Peace

    A conference for which the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was one of the co-sponsors met in the Vatican on 11-13 April. Participants affirmed a statement calling for the Catholic Church to “re-commit to the centrality of Gospel Non-violence” and asking for Pope Francis “to share with the world an encyclical on nonviolence and Just Peace.” Some of the more important paragraphs:

        The time has come for our Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices. ...
        Clearly, the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice or war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed this central message of the Gospel many times, participating in wars, persecution, oppression, exploitation, and discrimination.
        We believe that there is no “just war”. Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict. ...
        We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence. A Just Peace approach offers a vision and an ethic to build peace as well as to prevent, defuse, and to heal the damage of violent conflict. This ethic includes a commitment to human dignity and thriving relationships, with specific criteria, virtues, and practices to guide our actions. We recognize that peace requires justice and justice requires peacemaking.

    The statement put me in mind of a dialogue on just war and pacifism that was held in Washington, D. C., in January 1973.

"For Now Lies Dead My Dear Son, Dear"

Here is another medieval poetic meditation on Mary’s grief at the foot of the cross, this her appeal to mothers playing with their children to look at her Son across her knees in the beloved image, long before Michelangelo’s, of the Pietá. Here are the first two stanzas

A Dialogue at the Cross

Seven or eight years ago, I started a thread about a wonderful medieval text in which Christ and his mother engage in a dialogue as he hangs upon the cross. But I thought I might bring it up to date with more recent links.

I imagine we are all familiar with the Stabat Mater (if not, here's a link to both Latin and English), which focuses on the sorrow and pain of Mary at the foot of the Cross. This dialogue between Christ and Mary, dating from the thirteenth century, is very rich theologically and spiritually, and dramatically poignant. Decades ago, I was struck  when I heard it sung on an LP which some miscreant borrowed and never returned.  I have given below the first two verses in middle English after the modern translation. 

You can find the full text and a modern translation, with some clarifying notes, here. A couple sing the first few verses of the dialogue here. A woman sings the whole of it beautifully here. Another woman recites the whole here. And The Anonmyous 4 have recorded it in their CD The Lily and the Lamb

Mother, stand firm beneath the Rood!
Look on your Son in cheerful mood;
Joyful, Mother, should you be.
    Son, how should I joyful stand?
    I see your foot, I see your hand
    Nailed upon the cruel tree.

Mother, leave your tears behind!
I suffer death for all mankind;
No mortal sin I suffer for.
    Son, your hour of death I see;
    The sword is at the heart of me,
    As Simeon prophesied before.

Mother, mercy! Let me die,
That Adam and his kind who lie
Forlorn I may redeem from hell.
    Son, my grief is death to know,
    So grant I die before you go.
    What words from me could sound so well.

Eugenics at Harvard

I just came across an article in the Harvard Magazine on Harvard University's involvement in, even leadership of, the eugenics movement at the end of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century. A teaser:

Augustine in Lent Again

As I've done before, I'll be sending during Lent translated excerpts from St. Augustine, most of them from his sermons. Last year I sent a note explaining how I came to do this and providing a very short introduction to Augustine the Preacher, which you can find here.

Family Meals

In yesterday’s audience Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family by talking about family meals where, he said, people share not only food but affection, stories, events. He regards this element of life-together as a reliable thermometer by which to measure the health of relationships: if something’s going wrong, if there’s some hidden wound, this is quickly recognized at the table. “A family that hardly ever eats together, or in which people don’t talk but watch television or a smartphone, is not much of a family.” We are in danger of losing an important Christian symbol. 

"Christianity has a special vocation to life-together, everybody knows that. The Lord Jesus liked to teach at table, and he sometimes represented the Kingdom of God as a festive banquet. He also chose the table to leave the disciples his spiritual testament–he did this at supper–concentrated in the memorial of his Sacrifice, the gift of his Body and his Blood as the food and drink of salvation, which nourish true and lasting love.

"In this perspective we can say that the family is “at home” at Mass, precisely because it brings its own experience of life-together and opens it up to the grace of a universal life-together, of God’s love for the world. Sharing in the Eucharist, the family is purified of the temptation to close in upon itself; strengthened in love and fidelity, it broadens the boundaries of its own fellowship according to the heart of Christ."

It is hard today to recover the value of family meals. “People talk at table; people listen at table.” There’s no egoistic silence–everybody doing his own thing, watching TV or on the computer, and people aren’t talking.

I grew up in a large family, and it was rare when there were fewer than ten people around our dining room table. And, God knows, we talked!

A blind man on a galloping horse

My father left school at the age of 16. His father was not pleased and told him that if he wasn’t going to school, he was going to work and brought him down to the brickyards with him. It didn’t take long before my father decided that perhaps he should look for something else to do. He went to secretarial school in New York City, learned shorthand and typing, and found his first real job as a travelling secretary on The Twentieth-Century Limited, the crack train that ran between New York and Chicago. He was available to take dictation and prepare documents for passengers.

The divine GPS

The semi-official Vatican journal "La Civiltà Cattolica" has published an interview with Fr. Jean-Miguel Garrigues, professor of patristics and dogmatics at the Institut Supérieur Thomas d’Aquin, at the Dominican House of Studies in Toulouse, and at the Seminaire International St Cure'd Ars. He worked with Cristoph Schönborn in preparing the Catechism of the Catholic Church. With regard to issues likely to be the subject of passionate debate at the Synod of Bishops in October, Garrigues proposed a pastoral approach that takes into account the personal journeys of individuals.

What do we love in Christ?

"And we have seen him, and he had no beauty nor comeliness" (Is 53:2). Was our bridegroom ugly, then? Of course not! ... It was to those persecuting him that he appeared ugly. If they had not thought him ugly, they would not have attacked him, they would not have beaten him with whips, they would not have crowned him with thorns, they would not have dishonored him with spit. They did all these things because he appeared ugly to them. They did not have eyes to see why he is beautiful.