Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Saturday, 28 August 2010
Monday, 16 August 2010
Terrible computer problems which I hope will be fixed next Monday afternoon. No further posts here until after that.
Sunday, 15 August 2010
Have a happy and blessed Solemnity everyone.
Next post, a video in support of priestly celibacy, to follow almost immediately.
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Saturday, 7 August 2010
Members of the new contingent take the solemn oath that should it be necessary they will lay down their lives in defence of the Pope.
Next video tomorrow monning: The newly sworn-in members of the Guard meet Benedict XVI with their parents and other close family members.
Does living in the Vatican strengthen or weaken a vocation?
Father answered with a smile:
" Of course, seeing so many priests lessens your interest in becoming a priest, but it may also inspire a young man to seek out his vocational path...A person who is already asking himself if he has a vocation is not frightened. On the contrary, sometimes it happens that a young man arrives here without deep faith, wishing just to make an experience of life, and he discovers something he did not expect....."
Even though the Guards accept the religious dimension, the retreats and the Sunday Mass, and of course the very serious oath they take, they do not all arrive in Rome with a strong faith.
Fr. de Raemy describes the mix:
"Each one is surprised by the other one. The convinced one is surprised to meet someone who is less convinced, and the less convinced is afraid of the one he finds too convinced."
And then on the subject of the annual Lenten Retreat:
"Some of the Guards would like to do it in a much deeper way. One of the recruits, a quite convinced young man who lived for two years in a community in Switzerland but now asks himself if he is not more fit for marriage, came here to have the time to decide, and told me that for him it was difficult to combine his desire to give space for prayer with group solidarity. Many in the group just wanted to meet and chat."
What does Fr de Raemy do of he notices that one of the Guards is thinking of the priesthood?
"It depends on the individual case. Some perhaps say nothing and consider it a secret to keep, and do not want to be influenced. Others may talk openly about it, but they do not always ask me for specific help. But most of all, they have many questions about the faith. I can tell you about one in particular. When I arrived he contacted me immediately and wanted to talk. He had a project for his professional formation after the service, and talked to me at least once a week. I realised that he truly was a true searcher for God, a monk, that he wanted to know why he was in the world, the meaning of the world, he wanted to find the purity of the relationship to God. A transparent person, I never met any other young man like him. I told him you are made for the monastery. He went for two months to a monastery in Switzerkand, and now he is a novice and he is happy."
Here is a link to an interview with a Swiss Guard which I found on the Net quite independently of the ITA article, acknowledged at the beginning of this series of posts. At the time of the article's going to press there were in the Guard: one candidate for the priesthood, plus one in process of discernment, and two others who are open to discussing a religious vocation. "It is a good percentage," says Fr de Raemy. "Compared to the difficult situation in Switzerland, this is the group which produces the most vocations."
Aside from telling me more about the Swiss Guard themselves, I valued this article because it shows, without that particular intention, how important and complex is the calling of Chaplain to these young men.
God bless the Swiss Guard and their chaplain. Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for them.
(I hope that Videos of the Guard will follow in the next two posts.)
Friday, 6 August 2010
Before his arrival in the Vatican in September 2006, Fr de Raemy had studied in Rome at the Angelicum and Gregorian Universites and had done pastoral work as a Parish Priest. He had of course also done his Swiss military service. In the Guard he holds the rank of colonel but his strong commitment to young people makes him, as chaplain to the Guards, sensituve to the problemsof the young men in his spiritual care. In some cases they have left Switzerland for the first time.
Fr de Raemy is very honest on this subject and one senses the great care with which he chose his words: 'In Switzerland there are problems in the formation of priests, especially in German-speaking Switzerland..........for this reason, many study in other countries, and it is a pity because there is the risk that our dioceses lose their vocations................In Switzerland there is a stong tension between the traditionalists and those who are closer to the Protestant world and see the priest simply as an expert on theology. The parish priests are NOT chosen by the bishops but by a council of laymen, who do NOY have to be practising Catholics. (my caps.) Sone are faithful and loyal to Rome, others less. For this reason, when these young men come to Rome, they can learn the correct balance.'
(And one of our English Bishops has said that he feels emasculated by Summorum Pontificum!!!!)
Fr de Rsemy says that the best occasion to impart a little catechesis, and to understand the spirituality of the Guards, is during their first weeks in Rome. 'I propose to them to visit the tomb of St. Peter to understand why we are right here, and not 20 miles away.'
Spiritual and Pastoral activity of members of the Guard:
There is a retreat each Lent and an annual pilgrimage to Lourdes in May and the Guards have the opportunity to express religious commitment through various missionary and devotional activities. 'Each year they collect funds through sales and auctions for a specific project, and some of them go personally to bring the funds to the chosen missions. Others organise pilgrimagestogether with the chaplain to Italian sanctuaries........others attend nearby parishes or the youth centre of San Lorenzo a few yards from St. Peter's, of join Roman youth in Eucharistic Adoration in the church of Sant'Agnes in Piazza Novona on Thursday evenings.'
Tomorrow I'll devote a Part 3 to Fr de Raemy's answers to questions about individual attitudes to faith and vocation amongst the Guard.
Thursday, 5 August 2010
The Pontifical Swiss Guard corps was 504 years old this year. New recruits are sworn in each year at a ceremony which takes place on May 6, commemorating the date in 1527, when twenty-one years after the foundation of the Guard, 147 Swiss soldiers died defending the Pope during an attack on Rome. Today the Corps numbers 100 young Swiss men , who are all Catholics, have done their military service and have no troubles with the law'.
'THERE ARE NOT MANY, JUST ONE OR TWO EACH YEAR, BUT THANKS TO THEM, THE PONTIFICAL SWISS GUARD HAS THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF VOCATIONS OF ANY GROUP IN ALL OF SWITZERLAND.' (my caps.)
In 2008 one of them was studying Theology at the Austrian Monastery of Heiligenkreutz, and when the Holy father visited the monastery in 2007, the young guard was allowed to wear his uniform outside the Vatican. When on duty in Rome he 'serves as a deacon in important celebrations in the Pontifical Parish of Sant'Anna in the Vatican'.
'The Pope himself, during the celebration of the Guard's fifth centenary, said that service in the Swiss Guard may be a chance for greater commitment to the Church for these young men.
The ITV article is based around an interview with the chaplain of the Guard, Alain de Raemy (more of whose background and ministry in Part II). But beyond the few guards who aspire to the priesthood or consecrated life, Fr. de Raemy speaks powerfully of the value of service in the Swiss Guard, particularly since often young Swiss people see only a negative image of the life of the Church: 'Here, we have a unique opportuniy to see the vitality of the Universal Church. Some say they are surprised to see so many people, and especially young people, at the Pope's audiences..............One of them who recently went back to Switzerland after three years, told me that he now has new inner strength to answer when people criticize the pope or the Vatican. He says he is now able to answer with courage and conviction.'
Fr. de Raemy sees the three year stint of Swiss Guard service as a vocation in itself and preached as follows during the 2007 ceremony for the oath of new recruits: 'To sacrifice your life does not only mean to die, but also to offer your time and energy day after day for the Vicar of Christ, for the Church: this is a true vocation!'
In Part II more about Fr de Raemy as promised, about religious vocations amongst the Guard and some interesting facts about Swiss Catholicism.