It’s the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady — so that means it’s our birthday. The 15th Station celebrates nine years of podcasting with a show that opens with the shocking story of an elderly French priest’s murder at the hands of cowardly terrorists. As hard as it is to proceed from such horror, the Holy Father’s comments at World Youth Day and some forthright words from a seminary formation director help to refocus on the positivity of the Catholic faith. To show the joy of that faith, the Church needs great witnesses. And Pope Francis wants parish secretaries to be part of that number. Enjoy our birthday show!
Somewhat recurrent themes on The 15th Station — clerical abuse and the state of the US presidential race — show their face again in this month’s episode. Pope Francis has taken steps to make the removal of negligent bishops more straightforward, despite some counter-productive efforts in the US on statutes of limitations. Former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark says the country offers a model for religious tolerance at about the same time Donald Trump is accused of lacking in that virtue. The holiness of a French priest who served in New Zealand and the humour of Jim and Jeanne Gaffigan might save us.
The Pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia leads off this month’s episode and — spoiler alert — there are some strong feelings on the document. Pope Francis’s Holy Thursday initiative to wash the feet of refugees of different faiths and the possible Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in New Zealand also feature, and Don, James and Gavin have a mix of sadness and support for the closure of three parishes in Dunedin. Maybe if they’d been receiving tithes via a new app, the parishes could’ve stayed open. Just joking. Mostly. Enjoy the show.
There are many reasons for doom and gloom when considering this month’s lineup of topics — none more so than reflecting on the murder of four Missionaries of Charity in Yemen. They are “today’s martyrs”, Pope Francis said, and it’s hard to disagree. In New Zealand, Bishop Patrick Dunn has spoken out against Madonna, who he said engages in highly offensive conduct in her current concert. In the US, causing offense seems to be something of a pastime for presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Pope Francis and leading Catholic academics have been highly critical of the billionaire’s rhetoric and policies. Is the criticism fair? Lucy, Don, James and Gavin consider those questions, and also do their best to think about Iron Maiden’s greatest hits.
It’s a mix of joy and sadness in Episode 101 of The 15th Station. The sadness comes from the passing of Christchurch Bishop Barry Jones, who died last week after suffering a number of strokes and a heart attack. James, Don and Gavin reflect on Bishop Barry’s role as pastor and shepherd, especially in the wake of Christchurch’s devastating earthquakes. You can hear more about Bishop Barry in this video tribute from friend of the show Brendan Malone. The joy comes from the meeting of Pope Francis with Patriarch Kirill – the first meeting of the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches in almost 1000 years. The filioque clause mentioned in the show is one reason for the schism that happened all those centuries ago. Missionaries of Mercy and the standardising of a date for Easter are among other topics on this month’s show. And beware the Ash Rash.
It’s fair to say Pope Francis is dominating headlines around the world, so he’s doing the same on The 15th Station. Whether it’s the opening of the Jubilee Door – and Year of Mercy – or his calling for swift action in response to the Paris climate talks, Francis continues to be a media rock star. And apparently he’s also something of a musical rock star, with a new CD launched featuring the Pontiff. There’s other discussion of music on this month’s show, with James, Don and Gavin wondering if there’s such a thing as “objectively good” Church music. Merry Christmas from The 15th Station family and we’ll speak with you all in January for Episode 100!
Pope Francis isn’t going to let the Vatican leaks and the associated scandals slow down his papacy — and he’s told some of Italy’s Church leaders as much in a major speech. It’s maybe that attitude or just Francis’s demeanour, but his recent trip to the United States has seen his popularity — and people’s comfort with their own faith — improve. That’s happened while bishops and cardinals have been battling over what the Synod on the Family really said about Communion for the divorced and remarried. Perhaps we all just need to download a new app to help us find (or stay on) the path to holiness.