ON ELECTIONS AND PATRON SAINTS – PAPAL NOVEMBER PRAYER INTENTION: IN THE SERVICE OF PEACE – 2019 WORLD DAY OF PEACE MESSAGE: POLITICS MUST SERVE PEACE

ON ELECTIONS AND PATRON SAINTS

Today is, of course, Election Day in the United States. I voted by absentee ballot several weeks ago and friends from San Diego who were visiting Rome took my ballot and mailed it in San Diego! It is such an honor and privilege to vote and I’d not miss this for anything. I have been praying for weeks, and more than ever today, that certain moral issues dominate voters’ thinking processes and, as a result, their choice, in particular prolife and freedom of religion.

The material I got from California for the election – all the choices I could make for candidates for various offices and all the referendum on the ballot – required quite some time to study. I always want to vote intelligently and that does require time – a lot of it – before Election Day. Hopefully voting is a cerebral, not a visceral, process!

My hope and prayer is that when individuals walk into the voting booth, they have calmly studied the people and issues and then cast a thoughtful and intelligent vote for their future and that of the nation.

There is no patron saint of elections, although the story has circulated that St. Chad – yes, there is a real St. Chad of Lichfield, England – was the patron of the disputed 2000 U.S. elections (remember the “hanging chad” on ballots!). He died March 2, 672.

Chad:

There is, however a beloved patron saint for civil servants and politicians – St. Thomas More. The movie about his life, “A Man for All Seasons,” should be shown every election cycle.

I also read a sermon by an Anglican pastor who proposed that the patron saints for electors should be Barsabbas and Matthias. When Judas, one of the Twelve Apostles, betrayed Our Lord and killed himself, the Apostles gathered to choose a new 12th Apostle: Acts 1:23, 26: They proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, and Matthias. Then they prayed, and they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was added to the eleven apostles.”

Matthias:

PAPAL NOVEMBER PRAYER INTENTION: IN THE SERVICE OF PEACE

Pope Francis on Tuesday released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for November 2018, “In the Service of Peace.”

In that intention, Pope Francis says: We all want peace. It is desired above all by those who suffer its absence. We can speak with splendid words, but if there is no peace in our heart, there will be no peace in the world. With zero violence and 100 percent tenderness, let us build the evangelical peace that excludes no one. Let us pray together that the language of love and dialogue may always prevail over the language of conflict.

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.

It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-11/pope-prayer-intention-november-2018.html#play

2019 WORLD DAY OF PEACE MESSAGE: POLITICS MUST SERVE PEACE

The theme of Pope Francis’ Message for the 52nd World Day of Peace, to be celebrated on January 1, 2019, was published today by the Holy See Press Office, “Politics must be at the service of peace.”

The press office statement said, “Political responsibility belongs to every citizen, and in particular to those who have been given the mandate to protect and govern.”

The note also pointed out that, “this mission consists in safeguarding the law and encouraging dialogue between all actors of society, between generations, and between cultures.” The first condition for trust is respect for the given word. It noted that, “political commitment – which is one of the highest expressions of charity – implies concern for the future of life and of the planet, of the youngest and of the smallest, in their thirst for fulfilment.”

 

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POPE TO CHINESE CATHOLICS: BE FAITHFUL, SEEK RECONCILIATION, CULTIVATE DIALOGUE

POPE TO CHINESE CATHOLICS: BE FAITHFUL, SEEK RECONCILIATION, CULTIVATE DIALOGUE

Throughout his Message to Catholics in China and to the Universal Church, the Pope has specific words for “brother bishops,” priests and consecrated persons, for lay faithful an especially for young people.

The Holy Father writes that he sees “China as a land of great opportunities and the Chinese people as the creators and guardians of an inestimable patrimony of culture and wisdom, refined by resisting adversity and embracing diversity, and which, not by chance, entered into contact from early times with the Christian message.”

He tells Catholics: “I want to confirm you in this faith (cf. Lk 22:32) – in the faith of Abraham, in the faith of the Virgin Mary, in the faith you have received –and to ask you to place your trust ever more firmly in the Lord of history and in the Church’s discernment of his will. May all of us implore the gift of the Spirit to illumine our minds, warm our hearts and help us to understand where he would lead us, in order to overcome inevitable moments of bewilderment, and to find the strength to set out resolutely on the road ahead.”

A church in China: AsiaNews photo

The Pope notes that conflicting reports “may have caused a certain confusion and prompted different reactions in the hearts of many. Some feel doubt and perplexity, while others sense themselves somehow abandoned by the Holy See and anxiously question the value of their sufferings endured out of fidelity to the Successor of Peter. In many others, there prevail positive expectations and reflections inspired by the hope of a more serene future for a fruitful witness to the faith in China.”

Francis also acknowledges that he had “determined to grant reconciliation to the remaining seven “official” bishops ordained without papal mandate and, having lifted every relevant canonical sanction, to readmit them to full ecclesial communion. At the same time, I ask them to express with concrete and visible gestures their restored unity with the Apostolic See and with the Churches spread throughout the world, and to remain faithful despite any difficulties.”

By “official bishops,” the Pope is referring to those bishops of the government-approved Patriotic Church who were ordained to the episcopacy without a papal mandate.

He says, “The Provisional Agreement signed with the Chinese authorities, while limited to certain aspects of the Church’s life and necessarily capable of improvement, can contribute – for its part – to writing this new chapter of the Catholic Church in China. For the first time, the Agreement sets out stable elements of cooperation between the state authorities and the Apostolic See, in the hope of providing the Catholic community with good shepherds.”

In Para 10, Francis addresses China’s leaders: “I now turn with respect to the leaders of the People’s Republic of China and renew my invitation to continue, with trust, courage and farsightedness, the dialogue begun some time ago. I wish to assure them that the Holy See will continue to work sincerely for the growth of genuine friendship with the Chinese people. The present contacts between the Holy See and the Chinese government are proving useful for overcoming past differences, even those of the more recent past, and for opening a new chapter of more serene and practical cooperation, in the shared conviction that “incomprehension [serves] the interests of neither the Chinese people nor the Catholic Church in China” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 4).”

He concludes with a prayer invoking the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary.

Following is that entire Message:

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Catholics of China and to the Universal Church

“Eternal is his merciful love; He is faithful from age to age” (Psalm 100:5)

Dear brother bishops, priests, consecrated men and women and all the faithful of the Catholic Church in China, let us thank the Lord, for “eternal is his merciful love! He made us, we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep of his flock” (Ps 100:3). At this moment, my heart echoes the words of exhortation addressed to you by my venerable predecessor in his Letter of 27 May 2007: “Catholic Church in China, you are a small flock present and active within the vastness of an immense people journeying through history. How stirring and encouraging these words of Jesus are for you: ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom’ (Lk 12:32)! … Therefore, ‘let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 5:16)” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 5).

1. Of late, many conflicting reports have circulated about the present and, in particular, the future of the Catholic communities in China. I am aware that this flurry of thoughts and opinions may have caused a certain confusion and prompted different reactions in the hearts of many. Some feel doubt and perplexity, while others sense themselves somehow abandoned by the Holy See and anxiously question the value of their sufferings endured out of fidelity to the Successor of Peter. In many others, there prevail positive expectations and reflections inspired by the hope of a more serene future for a fruitful witness to the faith in China. This situation has become more acute, particularly with regard to the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which, as you know, was signed in recent days in Beijing. At so significant a moment for the life of the Church, I want to assure you through this brief Message that you are daily present in my prayers, and to share with you my heartfelt feelings. They are sentiments of thanksgiving to the Lord and of sincere admiration – which is the admiration of the entire Catholic Church – for the gift of your fidelity, your constancy amid trials, and your firm trust in God’s providence, even when certain situations proved particularly adverse and difficult. These painful experiences are part of the spiritual treasury of the Church in China and of all God’s pilgrim people on earth. I assure you that the Lord, through the crucible of our trials, never fails to pour out his consolations upon us and to prepare us for an even greater joy. In the words of the Psalmist, we are more than certain that “those who are sowing in tears, will sing when they reap” (Ps 126[125]:5). Let us continue to look, then, to the example of all those faithful laity and pastors who readily offered their “good witness” (cf. 1 Tim 6:13) to the Gospel, even to the sacrifice of their own lives. They showed themselves true friends of God!

2. For my part, I have always looked upon China as a land of great opportunities and the Chinese people as the creators and guardians of an inestimable patrimony of culture and wisdom, refined by resisting adversity and embracing diversity, and which, not by chance, entered into contact from early times with the Christian message. As Father Matteo Ricci, S.J., perceptively noted in challenging us to the virtue of trust, “before entering into friendship, one must observe; after becoming friends, one must trust” (De Amicitia, 7). I too am convinced that encounter can be authentic and fruitful only if it occurs through the practice of dialogue, which involves coming to know one another, to respect one another and to “walk together” for the sake of building a common future of sublime harmony. This is the context in which to view the Provisional Agreement, which is the result of a lengthy and complex institutional dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese authorities initiated by Saint John Paul II and continued by Pope Benedict XVI. Through this process, the Holy See has desired – and continues to desire – only to attain the Church’s specific spiritual and pastoral aims, namely, to support and advance the preaching of the Gospel, and to reestablish and preserve the full and visible unity of the Catholic community in China. With regard to the importance of this Agreement and its aims, I would like to share with you a few reflections and provide you with some input of a spiritual pastoral nature for the journey we are called to undertake in this new phase. It is a journey that, as in its earlier stages, “requires time and presupposes the good will of both parties” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 4). But for the Church, within and outside of China, this involves more than simply respecting human values. It is also a spiritual calling: to go out from herself to embrace “the joys and the hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted” (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 1) and the challenges of the present that God entrusts to us. It is thus an ecclesial summons to become pilgrims along the paths of history, trusting before all else in God and in his promises, as did Abraham and our fathers in the faith.

Called by God, Abraham obeyed by setting out for an unknown land that he was to receive as an inheritance, without knowing the path that lay ahead. Had Abraham demanded ideal social and political conditions before leaving his land, perhaps he would never have set out. Instead, he trusted in God and in response to God’s word he left his home and its safety. It was not historical changes that made him put his trust in God; rather, it was his pure faith that brought about a change in history. For faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received [God’s] approval” (Heb 11:1-2).

3. As the Successor of Peter, I want to confirm you in this faith (cf. Lk 22:32) – in the faith of Abraham, in the faith of the Virgin Mary, in the faith you have received –and to ask you to place your trust ever more firmly in the Lord of history and in the Church’s discernment of his will. May all of us implore the gift of the Spirit to illumine our minds, warm our hearts and help us to understand where he would lead us, in order to overcome inevitable moments of bewilderment, and to find the strength to set out resolutely on the road ahead. Precisely for the sake of supporting and promoting the preaching of the Gospel in China and reestablishing full and visible unity in the Church, it was essential, before all else, to deal with the issue of the appointment of bishops. Regrettably, as we know, the recent history of the Catholic Church in China has been marked by deep and painful tensions, hurts and divisions, centred especially on the figure of the bishop as the guardian of the authenticity of the faith and as guarantor of ecclesial communion. When, in the past, it was presumed to determine the internal life of the Catholic communities, imposing direct control above and beyond the legitimate competence of the state, the phenomenon of clandestinity arose in the Church in China. This experience – it must be emphasized – is not a normal part of the life of the Church and “history shows that pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 8). I would have you know that, from the time I was entrusted with the Petrine ministry, I have experienced great consolation in knowing the heartfelt desire of Chinese Catholics to live their faith in full communion with the universal Church and with the Successor of Peter, who is “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful” (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 23). In these years, I have received numerous concrete signs and testimonies of that desire, including from bishops who have damaged communion in the Church as a result of weakness and errors, but also, and not infrequently, due to powerful and undue pressure from without. Consequently, after carefully examining every individual personal situation, and listening to different points of view, I have devoted much time to reflection and prayer, seeking the true good of the Church in China. In the end, before the Lord and with serenity of judgment, in continuity with the direction set by my immediate predecessors, I have determined to grant reconciliation to the remaining seven “official” bishops ordained without papal mandate and, having lifted every relevant canonical sanction, to readmit them to full ecclesial communion. At the same time, I ask them to express with concrete and visible gestures their restored unity with the Apostolic See and with the Churches spread throughout the world, and to remain faithful despite any difficulties.

4. In the sixth year of my Pontificate, which I have placed from the beginning under the banner of God’s merciful love, I now invite all Chinese Catholics to work towards reconciliation. May all be mindful, with renewed apostolic zeal, of the words of Saint Paul: “God… has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18). Indeed, as I wrote at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, “no law or precept can prevent God from once more embracing the son who returns to him admitting that he has done wrong but intending to start his life anew. Remaining only at the level of the law is equivalent to thwarting faith and divine mercy… Even in the most complex cases, where there is a temptation to apply a justice derived from rules alone, we must believe in the power flowing from divine grace” (Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, 20 November 2016, 11). In this spirit, and in line with the decisions that have been made, we can initiate an unprecedented process that we hope will help to heal the wounds of the past, restore full communion among all Chinese Catholics, and lead to a phase of greater fraternal cooperation, in order to renew our commitment to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. For the Church exists for the sake of bearing witness to Jesus Christ and to the forgiving and saving love of the Father.

5. The Provisional Agreement signed with the Chinese authorities, while limited to certain aspects of the Church’s life and necessarily capable of improvement, can contribute – for its part – to writing this new chapter of the Catholic Church in China. For the first time, the Agreement sets out stable elements of cooperation between the state authorities and the Apostolic See, in the hope of providing the Catholic community with good shepherds. In this context, the Holy See intends fully to play its own part. Yet an important part also falls to you, the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful: to join in seeking good candidates capable of taking up in the Church the demanding and important ministry of bishop. It is not a question of appointing functionaries to deal with religious issues, but of finding authentic shepherds according to the heart of Jesus, men committed to working generously in the service of God’s people, especially the poor and the most vulnerable. Men who take seriously the Lord’s words: “Whoever would become great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all” (Mk 10:43-44). In this regard, it seems clear that an Agreement is merely an instrument, and not of itself capable of resolving all existing problems. Indeed, it will prove ineffective and unproductive, unless it is accompanied by a deep commitment to renewing personal attitudes and ecclesial forms of conduct.

6. On the pastoral level, the Catholic community in China is called to be united, so as to overcome the divisions of the past that have caused, and continue to cause great suffering in the hearts of many pastors and faithful. All Christians, none excluded, must now offer gestures of reconciliation and communion. In this regard, let us keep in mind the admonition of Saint John of the Cross: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love” (Dichos, 64). On the civil and political level, Chinese Catholics must be good citizens, loving their homeland and serving their country with diligence and honesty, to the best of their ability. On the ethical level, they should be aware that many of their fellow citizens expect from them a greater commitment to the service of the common good and the harmonious growth of society as a whole. In particular, Catholics ought to make a prophetic and constructive contribution born of their faith in the kingdom of God. At times, this may also require of them the effort to offer a word of criticism, not out of sterile opposition, but for the sake of building a society that is more just, humane and respectful of the dignity of each person.

7. I now turn to you, my brother bishops, priests and consecrated persons who “serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps 100:2). Let us recognize one another as followers of Christ in the service of God’s people. Let us make pastoral charity the compass for our ministry. Let us leave behind past conflicts and attempts to pursue our own interests, and care for the faithful, making our own their joys and their sufferings. Let us work humbly for reconciliation and unity. With energy and enthusiasm, let us take up the path of evangelization indicated by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. To everyone, I say once more with great affection: “Let us be inspired to act by the example of all those priests, religious, and laity who devote themselves to proclamation and to serving others with great fidelity, often at the risk of their lives and certainly at the cost of their comfort. Their testimony reminds us that, more than bureaucrats and functionaries, the Church needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life. The saints surprise us; they confound us, because by their lives they urge us to abandon a dull and dreary mediocrity” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, 19 March 2018, 138). I ask you wholeheartedly to beg for the grace not to hesitate when the Spirit calls us to take a step forward: “Let us ask for the apostolic courage to share the Gospel with others and to stop trying to make our Christian life a museum of memories. In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but constantly welcome the Lord’s surprises” (ibid., 139).

8. In this year, when the entire Church celebrates the Synod on Young People, I would like to say a special word to you, young Chinese Catholics, who enter the gates of the house of the Lord “giving thanks [and] with songs of praise” (Ps 100:4). I ask you to cooperate in building the future of your country with the talents and gifts that you have received, and with the youthfulness of your faith. I encourage you to bring, by your enthusiasm, the joy of the Gospel to everyone you meet. Be ready to accept the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit, who shows today’s world the path to reconciliation and peace. Let yourselves be surprised by the renewing power of grace, even when it may seem that the Lord is asking more of you than you think you can give. Do not be afraid to listen to his voice as he calls you to fraternity, encounter, capacity for dialogue and forgiveness, and a spirit of service, regardless of the painful experiences of the recent past and wounds not yet healed. Open your hearts and minds to discern the merciful plan of God, who asks us to rise above personal prejudices and conflicts between groups and communities, in order to undertake a courageous fraternal journey in the light of an authentic culture of encounter. Nowadays there is no lack of temptations: the pride born of worldly success, narrowmindedness and absorption in material things, as if God did not exist. Go against the flow and stand firm in the Lord: “for he is good; eternal is his merciful love; he is faithful from age to age” (Ps 100:5).

9. Dear brothers and sisters of the universal Church, all of us are called to recognize as one of the signs of our times everything that is happening today in the life of the Church in China. We have an important duty: to accompany our brothers and sisters in China with fervent prayer and fraternal friendship. Indeed, they need to feel that in the journey that now lies ahead, they are not alone. They need to be accepted and supported as a vital part of the Church. “How good and pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together in unity!” (Ps 133:1). Each local Catholic community in every part of the world should make an effort to appreciate and integrate the spiritual and cultural treasures proper to Chinese Catholics. The time has come to taste together the genuine fruits of the Gospel sown in the ancient “Middle Kingdom” and to raise to the Lord Jesus Christ a hymn of faith and thanksgiving, enriched by authentically Chinese notes.

10. I now turn with respect to the leaders of the People’s Republic of China and renew my invitation to continue, with trust, courage and farsightedness, the dialogue begun some time ago. I wish to assure them that the Holy See will continue to work sincerely for the growth of genuine friendship with the Chinese people. The present contacts between the Holy See and the Chinese government are proving useful for overcoming past differences, even those of the more recent past, and for opening a new chapter of more serene and practical cooperation, in the shared conviction that “incomprehension [serves] the interests of neither the Chinese people nor the Catholic Church in China” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 4).

In this way, China and the Apostolic See, called by history to an arduous yet exciting task, will be able to act more positively for the orderly and harmonious growth of the Catholic community in China. They will make efforts to promote the integral development of society by ensuring greater respect for the human person, also in the religious sphere, and will work concretely to protect the environment in which we live and to build a future of peace and fraternity between peoples.

In China, it is essential that, also on the local level, relations between the leaders of ecclesial communities and the civil authorities become more productive through frank dialogue and impartial listening, so as to overcome antagonism on both sides. A new style of straightforward daily cooperation needs to develop between local authorities and ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, priests and community elders – in order to ensure that pastoral activities take place in an orderly manner, in harmony with the legitimate expectations of the faithful and the decisions of competent authorities. This will help make it clear that the Church in China is not oblivious to Chinese history, nor does she seek any privilege. Her aim in the dialogue with civil authorities is that of “building a relationship based on mutual respect and deeper understanding” (ibid.).

11. In the name of the whole Church, I beg the Lord for the gift of peace, and I invite all to join me in invoking the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary:

Mother of Heaven, hear the plea of your children as we humbly call upon your name!

Virgin of Hope, we entrust to you the journey of the faithful in the noble land of China. We ask you to present to the Lord of history the trials and tribulations, the petitions and the hopes of all those who pray to you, O Queen of Heaven!

Mother of the Church, we consecrate to you the present and the future of our families and our communities. Protect and sustain them in fraternal reconciliation and in service to the poor who bless your name, O Queen of Heaven!

Consolation of the Afflicted, we turn to you, for you are the refuge of all who weep amid their trials. Watch over your sons and daughters who praise your name; make them one in bringing the proclamation of the Gospel. Accompany their efforts to build a more fraternal world. Grant that they may bring the joy of forgiveness to all whom they meet, O Queen of Heaven!

Mary, Help of Christians, for China we implore days of blessing and of peace. Amen!

From the Vatican, 26 September 2018

POPE’S MESSAGE FOR WYD: DO NOT BE AFRAID! – SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: LEARNING TO DRINK FROM OUR OWN THIRST – SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: THE PRODIGAL SON

Pope Francis’ Message for WYD 2018 was published today in several languages and summaries are offered at vaticannews.va

For the full text, however, of this very beautiful Message to young people – “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30) – you must go to Press Office and click on Daily Bulletin and this brings you to http://www.vatican.va where you can scroll down to your preferred language:
http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/02/22/0142/00290.html#ing

POPE’S MESSAGE FOR WYD: DO NOT BE AFRAID!

Pope Francis’ message for the 33rd World Youth Day, which will be celebrated at diocesan level on Palm Sunday, March 25th, focuses on helping young people to overcome their fears and discern their true vocation (photos vaticannews) – By Philippa Hitchen

In the message, published by the Vatican on Thursday, the Pope notes that the forthcoming celebration marks another step in preparation for the international World Youth Day due to take place in Panama in January 2019. It also precedes the Synod of Bishops on the theme of youth scheduled for October this year, highlighting the importance of young people in the life of the whole Church.

Name your fears

Reflecting on the words of the Angel Gabriel, “Do not be afraid!”, spoken to Mary in St Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis asks young people to name their own fears. Today, he says, there are many youngsters who continuously photo-shop their images or hide behind false identities, in an attempt to adapt to artificial and unattainable standards. The uncertainty of the jobs market, a sense of inadequacy and a lack of emotional security are other fears that afflict young people, he says.

Discernment

In moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, the Pope continues, discernment is vital so that we don’t waste energy being gripped by empty and faceless ghosts. The Bible doesn’t ignore the human experience of fear, he says, noting how Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Peter, the apostles and even Jesus himself experienced fear and anguish. The phrase “Do not be afraid” is repeated 365 times in the Bible, the Pope says, “as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year”.

Don’t hide behind screens

Pope Francis says discernment should not just be an individual effort at introspection, but also means opening ourselves up to God and to others who can guide us through their own experience. Authentic Christians, he insists, are not afraid to open themselves to others and he urges young people not to close themselves up in a dark room “in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smart phone”.

Do you accept the challenge?

Just as the Angel calls Mary by name, the Pope continues, so each one of us is called personally by God. Through God’s grace, we can take courage, despite all the doubts, difficulties and temptations that crop up along our way. If we allow ourselves to be touched by Mary’s example, he says, we too can learn to love God and to dedicate ourselves to the weakest and poorest among us. “Dear young people,” the Pope concludes, “as WYD in Panama draws closer, I invite you to prepare yourselves with joy and enthusiasm. WYD is for the courageous! Do you accept the challenge?”

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: LEARNING TO DRINK FROM OUR OWN THIRST

Jesus’ own struggle with human weakness and temptation was Fr. José Tolentino Mendonça’s focus in the Wednesday afternoon meditation of spiritual exercises to the Pope and the Roman Curia, in Ariccia.

By Debora Donnini

In the seventh meditation of the Curial spiritual exercises in Ariccia, Father José Tolentino Mendonça proposes that our poverty is the place where Jesus intervenes. The greatest obstacle to the spiritual life is not our fragility, but our rigidity and self-sufficiency. Thus we need to learn from our own thirst. And so, Fr. Tolentino turned his reflections on thirst toward the Passion of Jesus.

Thirst is a path

Fr. Tolentino tells us that spirituality needs to be lived as a communitarian adventure. Gustavo Guitiérrez highlights in his book: “Drinking from a well is the spiritual journey of a people.” The well from which one drinks is a concrete spiritual life. That humanity which we struggle to embrace, our own, and the humanity of others, is the very humanity that Jesus embraces. For he lovingly bows down toward our reality, not toward an ideal that we construct. The mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God means adopting a non-ideological vision of life.

Letting go of the obsession for a perfect life

In a certain sense, thirst humanizes us and is the way that we become spiritually mature” Fr. Tolentino reminds us that it takes a long time to let go of the obsession for perfection in order to conquer the vice of projecting false images onto reality. Thomas Merton wrote that Christ wanted to identify himself with what we do not love about ourselves. This is why he took on himself our misery and our suffering. St Paul also testifies to the theory that faith is paradoxical: “when I am weak, it is then that I am strong.

The three temptations in the desert

The first temptation is for bread. Jesus knows our material needs, but reminds us that it is not by bread alone that we live. His response does not deny reality, but helps us consider that we are a “desert” which needs to be inhabited by the Spirit. To understand the second temptation, Fr. Tolentino used the example of the Israelites in the desert who require Moses to give them something to drink. We like them think that believing means having our thirst satisfied. But Jesus “teaches us to hand over our thirst in silence and abandonment as a prayer.” Jesus responds to the last temptation regarding idols: “The Lord your God you shall adore.” The saying of the Risen Lord in the Gospel of Matthew is helpful: “All power has been given in heaven and on earth.”

Jesus manifests his power in the extreme offering of Himself

The devil wants to be adored, but his power is only apparent, while Christ’s is associated with the mystery of the Christ—the extreme offering of himself. It is an enormous risk when the temptation of power distances us from the mystery of the cross, and thus we distance ourselves from service to our brothers and sisters notes Fr. Tolentino. Jesus teaches us how not to allow ourselves to become slaves to anyone nor to make anyone else a slave, but to worship God alone and to serve others as pastors.

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: THE PRODIGAL SON

The story of the prodigal son is not a parable but a mirror. This was the theme of Fr. José Tolentino Mendoça’s meditation for the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia on Thursday morning.
By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

We have all heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son many times. We know the story well – a man has two sons and the younger asks his father for his part of the inheritance. The parable of the prodigal son is our story.

This parable is about each one of us, Fr. Tolentino says. “Within us are feelings that are suffocated, things that need to be clarified, pathologies, countless threads that need to be connected.” In other words, there are many aspects of our lives that need reconciliation. The gift that Jesus wants to give us is his word. In that word, conflicts and fear are transformed. “Only mercy, that excessive love that God teaches us, is able to redeem us.”

Mercy is not deserved

The behavior of the older son helps us understand God’s mercy even more. Mercy has nothing to do with giving to someone what they deserve. Rather, Fr. Tolentino explains, “Mercy is offering to another precisely what they do not deserve.” It is difficult to define mercy precisely because “mercy does not encase itself in one definition.” Mercy can be understood only if we allow it to “incarnate itself”” within us “so that we might touch it.”

Mercy is excessive love

Concluding his reflections, Fr. Tolentino expresses the fact that mercy is always excessive. The moderate person, the person who wants to play it safe, will never understand the Gospel of Mercy. This is because, “The Gospel of Mercy requires that our love be excessive” like the Father’s in the parable who understands everything without saying much. The Father shows us that mercy is gratuitous, it is the art of healing and rebuilding, the experience of forgiveness, the completely unexpected expression of tenderness. In the end, it is an excessive gift.

GROWING IN LOVE THROUGH PRAYER, FASTING AND ALMSGIVING – FAITHFUL OF OTHER RELIGIONS INVITED TO JOIN DAY OF FAST AND PRAYER FOR PEACE

Just got back from a brief but wonderful visit and interview for Vatican Insider with Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq. He and the other Chaldean bishops are in Rome for their ad limina visit. We first met in 2010 on a visit I paid to Kurdistan for 8 days, met again in July of that year when he was consecrated archbishop of Erbil, We’ve met many other times in Rome, and have shared a meal at my home with Abp. Amel Nona, formerly of Mosul and now in Australia, and the late Cardinal Francis George.

Abp. Warda came to the EWTN offices to do a segment for News Nightly and we then taped an interview for my weekend radio program. More about that later.

I met another prelate last night, Archbishop Gintaras Gausas of Vilnius, Lithuania. He was dining with a mutual friend of ours at a restaurant we frequent. We spoke ever so briefly – his English is wonderful because he was born in Washington D.C.!  I went online to make sure how to spell his name and read this amazing fact about his family: His parents were separated by World War II and, after 16 years of being caught behind the Iron Curtain, his mother and 17-year-old sister were among just 200 families allowed to leave the Soviet Union to be reunited with family in the United States.

GROWING IN LOVE THROUGH PRAYER, FASTING AND ALMSGIVING

The Vatican today released Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2018 whose title, as the Pope explains, comes from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).
Francis starts the message by explaining that, “These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.”

In the section titled “False prophets,” Pope Francis says “let us try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.”

He then explains how to discover false prophets:

“They can appear as ‘snake charmers’, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!

“False prophets can also be ‘charlatans’, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly ‘virtual’ existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.”

“What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?” asks the Pope.

He answers: “More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, ‘the root of all evil’ (1 Tim 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; …. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own ‘certainties’: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.”
The Pope points out that, “creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. … The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing His praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.”

Lastly, notes the Holy Father, “Love can also grow cold in our own communities.”

So, asks the Pope, “What are we to do?”

“The Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

“By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.

“Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church!”

“Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”
Pope Francis extended his invitation to “all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!”

The Holy Father urged “the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.

“One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.

Francis ends his Lenten 2018 Message; “With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.”

FAITHFUL OF OTHER RELIGIONS INVITED TO JOIN DAY OF FAST AND PRAYER FOR PEACE

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a communiqué today, underscoring Pope Francis’ invitation, made Sunday at the Angelus, to the faithful to join him on February 23 in a Special Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace, in particular for the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

The communiqué noted that the Pope, in his Sunday announcement at the Angelus, also invited members of other religions to join in this initiative in whatever form they consider to be opportune. The Council for Interreligious Dialogue therefore stated today that, “aware that religions con contribute in a great way to obtaining and consolidating peace, we will be grateful to our brothers and sisters of other religions who wish to welcome this appeal and live moments of prayer, fasting and reflection according to their own tradition and in their places of worship.”

POPE TO DAVOS FORUM: HUMAN PERSONS, THEIR RIGHTS AND DIGNITY MUST BE AT CENTER OF ECONOMICS

Today is the feast day of Hawaii’s own St. Marianne Cope, also know as Saint Marianne of Moloka’i, for her decades spent in Hawaii – 30 years alone on Kalaupapa, Moloka’i with the victims of Hansen’s disease or leprosy. Marianne was born on January 23, 1838 and died August 9, 1918. She arrived in Hawaii in 1883 and began her mission on Moloka’i in 1888.

Her first grave on Kalaupapa –

A mosaic on a gatepost on Kalaupapa –

A statue in a Honolulu park-

An image in Our Lady of Peace cathedral –

Thus, 2018 marks 3 significant dates for St. Marianne: the 100th anniversary of her death, the 130th anniversary of her arrival on Kalaupapa and the 180th of her birth. The diocese of Honolulu will be celebrating these dates, as well as the 175th anniversary of Honolulu’s cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. Marianne’s remains were transferred here in July 2014, a ceremony I attended, videoed and wrote about.

St, Marianne was both the first beatification and the last canonization under Pope Benedict XVI.

Marianne’s mortal remains in a chapel of the Franciscan Sisters the day before her remains were placed in the cathedral –

In the cathedral –

Bishop Larry Silva and seminarians –

Bishop Silva and some of the Franciscan Sisters (and yours truly) –

In a spirit of ecumenism, St. Marianne is honored jointly with St. Damien of Moloka’i on April 15 on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

POPE TO DAVOS FORUM: HUMAN PERSONS, THEIR RIGHTS AND DIGNITY MUST BE AT CENTER OF ECONOMICS

Following is the Message sent by the Holy Father Francis to Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, taking place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, from 23 to 26 January, on the theme “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”:

To Professor Klaus Schwab
Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum

 

am grateful for your invitation to participate in the World Economic Forum 2018 and for your desire to include the perspective of the Catholic Church and the Holy See at the meeting in Davos. I thank you also for your efforts to bring this perspective to the attention of those gathered for this annual Forum, including the distinguished political and governmental authorities present and all those engaged in the fields of business, the economy, work and culture, as they discuss the challenges, concerns, hopes and prospects of the world today and of the future.

The theme chosen for this year’s Forum – Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World – is very timely. I trust that it will assist in guiding your deliberations as you seek better foundations for building inclusive, just and supportive societies, capable of restoring dignity to those who live with great uncertainty and who are unable to dream of a better world.

At the level of global governance, we are increasingly aware that there is a growing fragmentation between States and Institutions. New actors are emerging, as well as new economic competition and regional trade agreements. Even the most recent technologies are transforming economic models and the globalized world itself, which, conditioned by private interests and an ambition for profit at all costs, seem to favour further fragmentation and individualism, rather than to facilitate approaches that are more inclusive.

The recurring financial instabilities have brought new problems and serious challenges that governments must confront, such as the growth of unemployment, the increase in various forms of poverty, the widening of the socio-economic gap and new forms of slavery, often rooted in situations of conflict, migration and various social problems. “Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor. To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings. Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that –as is so tragically apparent–whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms” (Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014).

In this context, it is vital to safeguard the dignity of the human person, in particular by offering to all people real opportunities for integral human development and by implementing economic policies that favour the family. “Economic freedom must not prevail over the practical freedom of man and over his rights, and the market must not be absolute, but honour the exigencies of justice” (Address to the General Confederation of Italian Industry, 27 February 2016). Economic models, therefore, are also required to observe an ethic of sustainable and integral development, based on values that place the human person and his or her rights at the centre.

“Before the many barriers of injustice, of loneliness, of distrust and of suspicion which are still being elaborated in our day, the world of labour is called upon to take courageous steps in order that ‘being and working together’ is not merely a slogan but a programme for the present and the future”(Ibid.).

Only through a firm resolve shared by all economic actors may we hope to give anew direction to the destiny of our world. So too artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary, as some assessments unfortunately foresee.
We cannot remain silent in the face of the suffering of millions of people whose dignity is wounded, nor can we continue to move forward as if the spread of poverty and injustice had no cause. It is a moral imperative, a responsibility that involves everyone, to create the right conditions to allow each person to live in a dignified manner. By rejecting a “throwaway” culture and a mentality of indifference, the entrepreneurial world has enormous potential to effect substantial change by increasing the quality of productivity, creating new jobs, respecting labour laws, fighting against public and private corruption and promoting social justice, together with the fair and equitable sharing of profits.

There is a grave responsibility to exercise wise discernment, for the decisions made will be decisive for shaping the world of tomorrow and that of future generations. Thus, if we want a more secure future, one that encourages the prosperity of all, then it is necessary to keep the compass continually oriented towards “true North”, represented by authentic values. Now is the time to take courageous and bold steps for our beloved planet. This is the right moment to put into action our responsibility to contribute to the development of humanity.

I hope, therefore, that this 2018 meeting of the World Economic Forum will allow an open, free, and respectful exchange, and be inspired above all else by the desire to advance the common good.
In renewing my best wishes for the success of the meeting, I willingly invoke upon you and all participating in the Forum the divine blessings of wisdom and strength.

From the Vatican, 12 January 2018

POPE “DEEPLY MOVED BY LOSS OF LIFE, IMMENSE DEVASTATION” OF HURRICANE HARVEY

I leave for vacation this coming Saturday and, in order to depart with peace of mind, I’ve spent most of the past week preparing a number of special segments for “At Home with Jim and Joy” for those Mondays and Thursdays of each week I will be away.  I also prepared four Specials for my weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider.”  It has all been a lot of work but will be worth it as I relax in Chicago, Honolulu and San Diego with friends and family for what everyone says when they leave on vacation, “some well-deserved time off!

I am so in the mood for Waikiki and Pearl Harbor and other amazing places in Oahu, not to mention the best part, my friends, that I’ve set my dining room table with items from Honolulu. My table is set year round for four people (just in case someone drops in) and this is my Hawaii table!

POPE “DEEPLY MOVED BY LOSS OF LIFE, IMMENSE DEVASTATION” OF HURRICANE HARVEY

Pope Francis has sent a Message to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressing his condolences to the loved-ones of the victims of hurricane Harvey, promising continued spiritual solicitude for all those affected, and asking for the prayerful solidarity that has already been shown, to continue in the days and weeks to come.

The message was sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in the Pope’s name:

“His Holiness Pope Francis asks you kindly to convey the assurance of his spiritual closeness and pastoral concern to all those affected by the violent hurricane that swept through the states of Texas and Louisiana in these days.  Deeply moved by the tragic loss of life and the immense material devastation that this natural catastrophe has left in its wake, he prays for the victims and their families, and for all those engaged in the vital work of relief, recovery and rebuilding.  He likewise trusts that the immense and immediate needs of so many individuals and communities will continue to inspire a vast outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid in the best traditions of the nation.  With these sentiments, and with the renewed promise of his prayers, the Holy Father sends his blessing as a pledge of consolation, strength and peace in the Lord.”

 

POPE FRANCIS PRAYING FOR VICTIMS, WOUNDED OF BARCELONA ATTACK

POPE FRANCIS PRAYING FOR VICTIMS, WOUNDED OF BARCELONA ATTACK

The following is a declaration from Holy See Press Office director, Greg Burke: “The Holy Father has learned with great concern what has happened in Barcelona. The Pope is praying for the victims of this attempt and wishes to express his closeness to the entire Spanish people, in particular to the wounded and to the families of the victims.”