Gunty is associate publisher/editor of the Catholic Review.


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Family of 7 would like to go from Our Lady of the Mountains in Cumberland, MD.


I would love to go. Planning on taking my granddaughter. She is 11.



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Behind the Headlines

Hand-delivered magazine comes with a request for prayers from Pope Francis

We don’t often hand-deliver copies of the Catholic Review, but for some people, that seems to be the best option.

I had the privilege of accompanying Archbishop William E. Lori and a group of interfaith leaders from Baltimore to Rome for a two-day pilgrimage to pray for peace and healing in the city.

As part of that pilgrimage, the archbishop arranged to introduce the members of the group to Pope Francis at the end of the pope’s general audience March 2 in St. Peter’s Square. We had ideal seats for the audience, in the front two rows, between famed tenor Placido Domingo and his wife, and two other small groups.

I know from past experience that such introductions – called “baciamano,” the Italian word for “kiss” – are brief. I had the occasion to meet St. John Paul twice, in Rome in 1984 and when he visited Phoenix in 1987.

For the opportunity to meet Pope Francis last week, some of the members of our group brought gifts for the Holy Father.

The Rev. Wolfgang Herz-Lane, bishop of the Delaware Maryland Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, gave a stained-glass “Luther rose” to the pope. “The Luther rose is kind of a symbol of Lutheranism, it’s the emblem of Martin Luther and we have a writing by Luther from 1530 in which he explains what the Luther rose stands for and the symbolism of it,” Rev. Herz-Lane said after the papal audience. “It has a black cross in the middle of it, and the outline of a rose. Luther has explanations for the colors and for the shapes, all really focused on Jesus and how Jesus is the center of our lives.”

Rabbi Steven M. Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom brought Baltimore-themed food: Old Bay seasoning, Utz crab-flavored chips, Berger Cookies and chocolate chip cookies baked by his own mother. The mom-baked cookies were very good – the rabbi shared a few with us before we headed to the papal audience, but still had enough to give the pope.

The Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, pastor of Union Baptist Church, handed the pope CDs of his church’s youth choir and senior choir.

William J. McCarthy Jr., executive director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore, presented to Pope Francis an apron commemorating the 35th anniversary of Our Daily Bread, a ministry whose meal program has provided hope to the poor for 12,700 consecutive days, with more than 7.2 million meals served. McCarthy said that when he met the pope, “talking about our work in West Baltimore, talking about the work of Catholic Charities, particularly Our Daily Bread and our 35 years, I could see a smile on his face, a firmer handshake and ‘continue,’ the word ‘continue.’”

For my part, I wanted the pope to know about our new magazine and ask him to pray for the important work we are doing in the Catholic press here in Maryland. Fortunately, our March issue featured a cover photo of Pope Francis praying before St. Juan Diego’s tilma at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. I presented the magazine to him, and he looked at it and said, “Oh, ‘The Shrine of God,’” referring to the headline that quoted from his homily at the Marian shrine, in which he said, “The shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day.”

I was awestruck to meet the pope and to be able to ask for his prayers. Up close, you can sense his humility. He focuses on you and – even for just a minute – he engages with you. Popes are not God – but they do represent our Lord as the Vicar of Christ on Earth. It’s a blessing to be in his presence.

The moment is over in an instant, but it stays with you forever.

Read coverage of the pilgrimage Day 1 here, and Day 2 here.

Listen to a radio report on the pilgrimage. Click on the March 13 edition of
"Catholic Baltimore."

March 11, 2016 03:15
By Christopher Gunty

Prayers come alive for pilgrim travelers

By Christopher Gunty The Catholic Review

We say some prayers so quickly, sometimes we get to the end of the prayer and think, “What did I just say?” Prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary, if the domestic church is alive and strong, we learned from our parents – or even from our siblings – and we have prayed them so often, the words roll off our tongue, but often not really through our brain. The pilgrim priests from the Archdiocese of Baltimore* had a unique opportunity today to think about the prayers we pray on our first full day hoofing it around some holy sites in Jerusalem. First stop was at the Pater Noster chapel, a church over a cave where tradition says** Jesus first taught what we know as the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father to his disciples. Another place also holds that claim, depending on how you read the Scriptures. From Matthew:

“‘This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one’” (Mt 6:9-13).

Luke’s version

Bishop Denis Madden leads morning prayer near the Dominus Flevit Church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

refers to “a certain place,” and perhaps that’s where we were today:

“He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test’” (Lk 11:1-4).

And so, appropriately, Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and spiritual leader for the pilgrimage, led us all in the prayer we all know:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Later, near the Church of Dominus Flevit (the Lord wept

Olives still grow on the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. Some of these trees are more than 2,000 years old, and could have been witness to Christ\

), where Jesus wept as he looked out over the city of Jerusalem, we gathered for morning prayer under the shade of a tree. The bishop and priests concelebrated Mass at the Church of the Agony at Gethsemane (where, again, tradition says, these are the olive trees at which Jesus prayed and asked his disciples to stay awake with him). How could it be that Jesus could keep coming back to find his disciples asleep, Bishop Madden asked. Why would he keep coming back to such followers? “This is the same admonition Christ gives to us, to keep trying to live the Gospel. We try as best we can to stay awake.” After a visit to Yad Vashem, the museum of the Shoah (you’ll read about that in another blog post or in The Catholic Review print edition), the group visited two sites related to St. John the Baptist, the site where tradition holds he was born, and the Church of the Visitation, located on the site of where Zechariah and Elizabeth were believed to have lived. At that site, a grotto marks the spot where Mary first visited her cousin after the Annunciation. Luke picks up the story:

“Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled’” (Lk 1:38-46).

There, again so appropriately, we prayed:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Amen.

I prayed especially there for all the mothers in my life, especially my deceased mother Therese, and my grandmothers, and for so many other women who need Mary’s protection and guidance, love and grace. One does not have to travel to these places to make the words of the Our Father and Hail Mary come alive. Being here makes it easier. But so does reading the Scriptures. And sometimes, just slowing down as you pray, and thinking about the words. Keep us in your prayers as tomorrow we head to Bethlehem. – Jerusalem, October 13, 2010 Catholic Review Photos by Christopher Gunty

* [Yes, I know we have one priest each from the Archdiocese of Washington and one from the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., but that’s going to get cumbersome to write all week. We appreciate have them with us. Hey, Father Dan Gallaugher (Washington) and Franciscan Father Joe Monaghan (Wilmington), thanks for joining the group. But for simplicity, I won’t mention your arch/dioceses in all the blogs, and I hope you won’t feel slighted.] ** [“tradition says” is Holy Land code for “nobody knows for sure if this is where an event took place, but we’re going to make our best guess that this the site”]

October 13, 2010 06:50
By Christopher Gunty

"We will visit the sites where these words were spoken"

JERUSALEM – No matter where you are in Israel, from any compass point, if you go to Jerusalem, you “go up” to Jerusalem because it is in the Judean hills, the guide told a group of pilgrim priests from the Archdiocese of Baltimore upon their bus headed toward the city that is sacred to the three monotheistic faiths. And so began Oct. 12 the pilgrimage led by Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary of Baltimore, after an 11-hour direct flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv. The bishop is accompanied by 21 priests from the archdiocese, plus one each from the neighboring Archdiocese of Washington and Diocese of Wilmington, Del. The only event on the itinerary for the first day was Mass at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, a retreat center and residence just across from the walls of the old city, owned by the Vatican and run under the auspices of the Legionairies of Christ. Bishop Madden was the principle celebrant for the regular daily Mass in English in the center’s Our Lady of Peace Chapel, and the priests in the group concelebrated. In addition to the Baltimore group, about 40 people, including a small group from Malawi, prayed and sang in the liturgy, their voices echoing clearly in the church that was built in the late 19th century. The bishop said the Mass’ commemoration on the local calendar of the Feast of St. Dismas – the good thief, who tradition says hung on Jesus’ right (though he was never named in the Gospels) – bodes well for the pilgrimage since the next day the pilgrims would be walking the footsteps of Jesus on the Way of the Cross and Calvary. “We will visit the sites … tomorrow where these words were spoken to this saint,” Bishop Madden said, referring to the line from Luke 23: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The bishop, who lived in the region for nine years when he worked with the pontifical mission for the Near East, said he felt like every day was a pilgrimage while he was here. He quoted from Paul Elie’s book, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage” to define a pilgrimage:

“A pilgrimage is a journey undertaken in light of a story. A great event has happened; the pilgrim hears the reports and goes in search of the evidence, aspiring to be an eyewitness. The pilgrim seeks not only to confirm the experience of others firsthand but to be changed by the experience. “Pilgrims often make the journey in company, but each must be changed individually; they must see for themselves, each with his or her own eyes. And as they return to ordinary life the pilgrims must tell others what they saw, recasting the story in their own terms.”

[Coincidentally, that’s how we journalists often look at our craft – minus the spiritual aspect, and without necessarily being changed by the experience. But as a Catholic journalist, I can tell you that my reporting has often taken me places where I have been an eyewitness to religious events, confirming the spiritual experience of others, returning to ordinary life and telling the story of what I saw. I hope that what I have seen and heard has helped people grow in spirituality along the way. I’m often on a pilgrimage, too, I guess.] Bishop Madden reminded the congregation at Notre Dame that we often get so caught up in our own lives that we forget the newness of the Gospel. As pilgrims, these priests have come across the ocean to express publicly their belief in God and in Jesus. “We’ve come here to be inspired and to set our lives straight,” the bishop said. “God will surely speak to us.” Some of the priests in the group have visited the Holy Land before, a few of them multiple times. For some, including your intrepid blogger, this is their first visit. We’re all looking for the inspiration that comes with walking where Christ and the first disciples walked, with seeing the places that we hear proclaimed about in the readings at Mass. We don’t need to put our hands in Christ’s side to believe, as Thomas did. But to understand the context of the place will help to break open the Scriptures. We sang Sr. Suzanne Toolan’s “I Am the Bread of Life” as our Communion song for the first Mass of the pilgrimage, and as some 70 voices harmonized and echoed off the acoustically vibrant stone walls of the chapel the refrain “And I will raise you up, and I will raise you up on the last day,” I was moved to think that tomorrow, we will see Calvary, where Jesus died, and the tomb, where its emptiness showed how his Resurrection conquered sin for all time. Yes, truly, he will raise us up, on the last day. The journey begins.

October 12, 2010 04:19
By Christopher Gunty

Pilgrimage coverage coming next week

Coming soon to this blog: Coverage of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Bishop Denis J. Madden and 23 priests will travel from Baltimore to Israel and Jordan Oct. 11-22. Stay tuned.

October 06, 2010 05:25
By Christopher Gunty