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.”

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FRANCIS INVITES KIDS FOR A RIDE IN PAPAL JEEP, GREETS 50TH ANNIVERSARY COUPLES – A PAPAL AUDIENCE UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL – JUNE 8: THE WORLD PRAYS FOR PEACE

Blog is updated with photo of Pope Francis blessing little boy with Downs Syndrome.

FRANCIS INVITES KIDS FOR A RIDE IN PAPAL JEEP, GREETS 50TH ANNIVERSARY COUPLES

Some great video from today’s general audience when Pope Francis invited some youngsters to board the Popemobile for a ride around the square. Pope Francis also had special greetings for a number of couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary: “Before I begin the catechesis I would like to greet a group of couples celebrating the fiftieth wedding anniversary. How’s that for good wine! Thank you for your testimony! It’s a beautiful example for newly married couples.”

I have some friends who today are marking their 20th anniversary – I hope they understood Francis’ words (read the next article). Also mentioned in this video is the fact that, due to the hot weather and sun the Vatican handed out umbrellas marked with the Vatican flag, so the sick in the front rows were not uncomfortable. http://www.romereports.com/2016/06/08/the-pope-thanked-several-couples-celebrating-50-years-of-marriage

A new cycle of catecheses on Jesus’ miracles was introduced by the Holy Father this morning at the weekly general audience. He focused on the first miracle quoted in the Gospels, that is, the wedding feast at Cana when he turned water into wine.

Earlier this year the Pope offered reflections on parables of mercy during this Jubilee Year, the Pope said Christ’s miracles were not performed so that people would “marvel” at them, but rather, through them, Christ revealed the Father’s love for us. They are also, he said, an invitation for the renewal of our faith.

Francis said at the start of today’s audience, “In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now consider the first of Jesus’ miracles, the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana.  Saint John fittingly calls these miracles “signs”, for by them the Lord reveals the Father’s merciful love.  Jesus’ choice of a wedding feast points to the deeper meaning of this miracle.  It is a sign of the new covenant that he came to inaugurate, the messianic banquet promised for the end times, where he is the Bridegroom and the Church his bride. 

“By changing the water kept for ritual purification into new wine,” continued the Holy Father, “Jesus signals that he is the fulfilment of the Law and the prophets.”

And the Pope then noted the last recorded words of Mary in the Gospels: “Mary’s command to the servants – ‘Do whatever he tells you’ – can serve as a program of life for the Church.  We are called constantly to renew our love for the Lord, and to draw new wine, new life, from his saving wounds.  The miracle at Cana reminds us that we are invited, as members of the Lord’s family, the Church, to draw near to him in faith, and thus to share in the joy of the wedding feast of the new and eternal covenant.”

A PAPAL AUDIENCE UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

I just received an email from friends of mine who are in Italy on vacation. Teresa and Rich attended today’s general audience and this is what she shared with me (and allowed me to share here):

“The Pope was in jovial form today, and made the Wedding at Cana seem as though it were truly a CELEBRATION!  …The Gospel message today came as a pleasant surprise.  The wedding at Cana. . .our 20th wedding anniversary. . . Thank the good Lord!  This was truly a gift to us!

“I think one of the biggest blessings today, came in the form of a young 4-year old boy from the Philippines, who’s family traveled some 14 hours by air to be present for the Pope’s Wednesday audience.  We met this family while standing in line to get into the piazza, early this morning.  This family came in hope of having a glance at the Pope, and for this lovely child of theirs to receive a blessing.  Sure enough, as Divine Providence would have it, this little boy was given to one of the Pope’s attendants to receive a blessing.  I snapped a few photos to give to his family.  They were delighted.  (No small miracle to find them after the service, but again, the Holy Spirit was at work!)”

Teresa sent the following photos, including the one where Pope Francis is blessing the little boy with Downs Syndrome.

Pope Blesses Child

Boy with Pope's attendant

JUNE 8: THE WORLD PRAYS FOR PEACE

On June 8, 2014, following his three-day trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis prayed for peace in the Vatican gardens, joined by  President Shimon Peres of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine.

At that time, he said, “I am profoundly grateful to you for accepting my invitation to come here and to join in imploring from God the gift of peace. It is my hope that this meeting will be a path to seeking the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide.

“Dear Presidents,” stated Francis, “our world is a legacy bequeathed to us from past generations, but it is also on loan to us from our children: our children who are weary, worn out by conflicts and yearning for the dawn of peace, our children who plead with us to tear down the walls of enmity and to set out on the path of dialogue and peace, so that love and friendship will prevail.

“Many, all too many, of those children have been innocent victims of war and violence, saplings cut down at the height of their promise. It is our duty to ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain. The memory of these children instils in us the courage of peace, the strength to persevere undaunted in dialogue, the patience to weave, day by day, an ever more robust fabric of respectful and peaceful coexistence, for the glory of God and the good of all.”

Today, two years later, is the second anniversary of that prayer for peace meeting.

Vatican Radio gave the following report on this anniversary:

The International Forum of Catholic Action, WUCWO, Italian Catholic Action, Argentinian Catholic Action and the National Justice and Peace Council of the Argentinian Episcopal Conference once again launched the initiative “A minute for peace.”

In response to the constant appeal by Pope Francis never to tire of praying and working for peace, the promoters of this initiative are asking their members and all men and women of good will to stop for a minute at 1 p.m. on June 8 – at the workplace, in the street, at home – to pray for peace.

The Tonga Islands were the first to pray for peace. In the capital Nuku’alofa, at 1 p.m. on 8 June, the women of WUCWO (World Union of Catholic Action Women Organizations) stopped in recollection, while in Italy, at that time, the new day was just dawning.

In Argentina at 1 p.m. on June 8, the bells of many churches in the different dioceses rang to invite the faithful to unite in prayer. Many institutions and organizations have joined in this initiative, including the Council for Religious Freedom, the Department for the Laity, the Islamic Centre of the Republic of Argentina, the Scouts, the Sant’Egidio Community, the Focolare Movement, the Christian Family Movement, the Federation of Catholic Workers’ Circles and the Catholic University of Argentina.

In Rome, at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, there was a group of young people who symbolically represented all the promoters of this initiative. At 1 p.m., in the nearby church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, there was a prayer presided over by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation and coordinator of the Jubilee of Mercy.

In Bethlehem, the local Catholic Action organized a prayer session in the Nativity Grotto. In Medellin, Colombia, young people and adults, as well as the very young, have prepared colored banners. In Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, the scene of continual violence during these last months, leaders and assistants of Catholic Action Movements  joined together in prayer and involved the whole population via radio.

The appeal for peace is available in more than 30 languages. In addition to Italian, English, French and Spanish, it may also be found in Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Birmanian, in the language of the Guarani Indos of Latin America, in the Hausa language spoken in Mali, the Togo Ewe and the Kikuyu of north Kenya thanks to the collaboration of leaders from the different countries.

This year, the organizerrs ask people to remember in a special way refugees and asylum seekers who desperately flee from wars, to tell them that they are not alone and to confirm our commitment to welcome them and to show them solidarity.

70 YEARS OF PEACE: JAPAN AND THE UNITED STATES

Yesterday was too important a day not to write about – so here’s an extra vacation column for  Joan’s Rome – or is it Joan’s Hawaii!

!70 YEARS OF PEACE: JAPAN AND THE UNITED STATES

I participated, as a spectator, in a little bit of history last night, August 15, when a huge fireworks display was set off on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to mark the 70th anniversary, a day earlier, of Japan’s surrender to the Allies, an act marking the end of World War II. Known as V-J Day (Victory in Japan), August 14, 1945 was the end of the war in the Pacific, following the end, several months earlier, of the war in the European theater.

Yesterday’s celebrations were called “70 Years of Peace.“

The display – you can also see my videos – began with fireworks shaped like three chrysanthemums, symbolizing the victims of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, those who died in the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9 1945), and all who died in World War II.

U.S. and Japanese civil and military officials participated in daylong ceremonies on Pearl Harbor, including the laying of wreaths. Amid great security, the public was welcomed to Ford Island in mid-afternoon where they could purchased food for dinner as they watched the program of speeches and music that began at 7 pm, an hour before the fireworks.

The pyrotechnic display was offered by the city of Nagaoka, a sister city to Honolulu, and the Japanese city that Admiral Yamamoto – who planned and executed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor – called home.

I watched the fireworks from the Aiea home of my friends, Trip and Jan McKinney. We had eaten dinner on the lanai (terrace) of their hillside home that overlooks Pearl Harbor, and then watched the display, along with another good friend of theirs. It was very exciting to be on Honolulu on this occasion and to participate in such an historic moment.

Here are a few of the photos I took. I will soon post the videos on my Youtube page (youtube.com/joansrome) and on Facebook (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420)

 

 

HOW TO BE A SAINT (IN ONE EASY LESSON) – “BUILDING PEACE IS DIFFICULT, LIVING WITHOUT PEACE IS A TORMENT!” – PILGRIMS PRAY FOR PEACE AND WALK WAY OF THE CROSS IN JERUSALEM

Here’s an interesting piece on surveys about religion that will make you think. For example, the next time you are asked online or in person at a shopping mall or over the phone to answer a survey, ask yourself: How is the question phrased?: http://www.cruxnow.com/life/2014/11/18/religion-survey-babble-confuses-103-of-readers-heres-why/?s_campaign=crux:email:daily

On another matter – totally:

The thrills of living overseas; I read the instruction booklet for my new washer (see yesterday’s blog) and guess what. The shortest program for a cold water, small load of not very dirty items, is 55 minutes! The average programs run from 2 to 3 hours!! And these are the energy savers! This is typical for Europe – and it is worse for dryers, which explains why so few homes have them and why you see clothes hanging from lines in Italy! So, if you live in the US and Canada, the next time you wash and dry a load of towels, thank your lucky stars for real energy savers!

You will love today’s general audience! And you will be comforted by Pope Francis’ words on how to be a saint and who is eligibile – we all are!!

 HOW TO BE A SAINT (IN ONE EASY LESSON)

Pope Francis, in his catechesis today at the general audience, focused on the universal call to holiness of all baptized, and stressed that, “every state of life leads to holiness, always” but we must be open to God’s gift of grace.”

Basically, said Pope Francis, becoming a saint, is up to us – IF we accept the Lord’s call to the vocation of holiness and IF we accept his grace to get there!

Photo from news.va

Nov 19 General Audience

A look at some of the world’s most well-known saints – Francis, Dominic, Padre Pio, John Paul II, John XXIII, Clare, Therese, Teresa, Catherine – tells us that most were men and women Religious and/or founders of religious orders, Popes, etc. This could easily discourage even the most faithful of Christians – most of whom are not consecrated Religious but, said Pope Francis, we must not be discouraged: “The call to holiness is not just for bishops, priests or religious … No. We are all called to become saints! So often, we are tempted to think that holiness is granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer. But it is not so!

“Some people,” he went on, “think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face… No! That is not holiness! Holiness is something greater, more profound that God gifts us. Indeed, it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints. And everyone in the particular condition and state of life in which they find themselves.”

The Holy Father urged the faithful to examine their consciences, asking how they could respond to the Lord’s call to sanctity, and suggesting ways to respons as he mentioned various states of life. He explained that when the Lord calls us to be holy, he does not ask us to do something weighty or difficult or im possible or even sad, but rather offers us an invitation to share in his joy.

The Pope then asked questions about various states of life: Are you consecrated? Be holy living your gift and your ministry with joy. Are you married? Be holy and loving and take care of your husband or your wife, as Christ did with the Church. Are you a baptized person who is not married? Be holy by performing your work with honesty and competence and giving time to the service of others. “But, father, I work in a factory … I work as an accountant, always with the numbers, I cannot be a saint there…” “Yes, you can! There, where you work you can become a saint. God gives you the grace to become a saint. God communicates with you.” Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness.

“Are you a parent or grandparent?” asked the Pope. “Be holy by passionately teaching your children or grandchildren to know and follow Jesus. And this takes a lot of patience, to be a good parent, a good grandfather, a good mother, a good grandmother, it takes a lot of patience and this patience is the holiness exercising patience. Are you a catechist, educator or volunteer? Be holy by becoming a visible sign of God’s love and His presence beside us.

“This is it: every state of life leads to holiness, always! At home, on the streets, at work, at church, in the moment and with the state of life that you have, a door is opened on the road to sainthood. Do not be discouraged to travel this road. God gives you the grace to do so. And this is all that the Lord asks, that we be in communion with Him and serve others. Life lived in communion with the Lord and in the service of others.”

Francis noted that, “we do not walk the path of sanctity alone, each for himself, but rather together, in that single body that is the Church, loved and sanctified by the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“BUILDING PEACE IS DIFFICULT, LIVING WITHOUT PEACE IS A TORMENT!”

At the end of the general audience today, Pope Francis made a heartfelt plea for peace in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land, in the wake of yesterday’s killing in a Jewish synagogue of four rabbis, including three Americans and one British. A fifth person, a policeman, was killed and many others wounded in the attempt

“I am following with concern,” said the Pope, “the alarming increase in tension in Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land, with unacceptable episodes of violence that do not spare even the places of worship.  I assure a special prayer for all the victims of this dramatic situation and for those who suffer most as a result. From the bottom of my heart, I make an appeal to the parties involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence and to make courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a torment!”

PILGRIMS PRAY FOR PEACE AND WALK WAY OF THE CROSS IN JERUSALEM

A pilgrimage group in the Holy Land for the November 20th annual International Walk for Peace, given the attack Monday in Jerusalem that killed five people, has modified its original schedule and now calls itself the pilgrimage of “A Heartfelt Prayer for Peace,” This annual event was organized by ORP, Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi.

Building on Pope Francis’ strong appeal for peace in Jerusalem and the Holy Land at the Wednesday general audience, tomorrow morning the pilgrims will meet at 7:45 at St. Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem where they will be given olive tree branches and pause for prayer with the Palestinian community. Afterwards, they will board busses for the 5-mile ride to Jerusalem. Instead of the walk from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, pilgrims will walk the Way of the Cross – the Via Dolorosa – from the convent of the scourging or flagellation to the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

Msgr. Liberio Andreatta, vice president of ORP who is in the Holy Land with the group, said in an ORP communique, “we wanted the walk to be transformed into the Way of the Cross, which is the heart of the Christian faith, the cross carried with love to overcome evil.” He is in Jerusalem to mark a diocesan and national pilgrimage that is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of ORP, an office that is part of the vicariate of Rome.

Msgr. Andreatta said, “As we walk through Christ’s passion, we will experience the atrocious human suffering that these populations have gone through in these last hours, we will pray with them and for them so that hatred will not – cannot – have the final word. As Christians we are called to witness to Christ crucified, Who died and rose from the dead. This is the spirit that will animate our steps.”

After the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, pilgrims will gather at the Notre Dame Center to participate in the prayer for peace initiative, together with the Israeli community.