"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
Christ Offers Hope to Africa
In Defense of Life: Unleashing Love
Sharing Earth's Resources Vital to Feeding Hungry
A New Creation: Born to Shine, Our Mission Trip to Benton Harbor, Michigan
Just a Few Thoughts
Peacemakers Must Exercise "Power of the Heart"
Pray the News
The 13th World Day of the Sick will take place on February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The primary celebration in the worldwide Church will be at the shrine of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The theme for this celebration is "Christ, hope for Africa." The Pope's message for the Day, which was dated September 8, follows:
Christ, hope for Africa
"After 10 years, in 2005, Africa will once again be hosting the principal celebrations for World Day of the Sick that will take place at the Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
"The choice of this venue will offer an opportunity to express real solidarity to the peoples of that Continent, tried by serious inadequacies in the health-care sector. A further step will thus be taken in implementing the commitment which the Christians of Africa made at the third World Day of the Sick 10 years ago, that is, to be 'Good Samaritans' to their brothers and sisters in difficulties.
"Actually, in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, complying with the observations of many Synod Fathers, I wrote that 'contemporary Africa can be compared to the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; he fell among robbers who stripped him, beat him and departed, leaving him half dead (cf. Lk 10:30-37).' And I added that 'Africa is a continent where countless human beings – men and women, children and young people – are lying, as it were, on the edge of the road, sick, injured, disabled, marginalized, and abandoned. They are in dire need of Good Samaritans who will come to their aid' (n. 41).
"World Day of the Sick aims to stimulate reflection on the subject of health, whose fullest meaning also alludes to the harmony of human beings with themselves and with the surrounding world. It is exactly this vision that Africa richly expresses in its cultural tradition, testified to by many art forms, both civil and religious, that are bursting with joy, rhythm, and musicality.
"I urge those who can to continue to do their utmost to put an end to these tragedies (cf. ibid., n. 117). I then remind people responsible for the sale of arms of what I said in that document: 'Those who foment wars in Africa by the arms trade are accomplices in abominable crimes against humanity' (ibid., n. 118).
"As for the drama of AIDS, I have had the opportunity in other circumstances to stress that it is also symptomatic of a 'pathology of the spirit.' To fight it responsibly, it is necessary to increase its prevention by teaching respect for the sacred value of life and the correct approach to sexuality.
"Indeed, if there are many contagious infections passed on through the blood especially during pregnancy – infections that must be combated with every possible means – those contracted through sexual intercourse are by far the most numerous and can only be avoided by responsible conduct and the observance of the virtue of chastity.
"The Bishops participating in the above-mentioned Synod for Africa in 1994, referring to the effect of irresponsible sexual behavior on the spread of the disease, made a recommendation that I would like to propose anew here: 'The companionship, joy, happiness, and peace which Christian marriage and fidelity provide, and the safeguard which chastity gives, must be continuously presented to the faithful, particularly the young' (ibid., n. 116).
"Everyone must feel involved in the battle against AIDS. In this area too, it is the task of government leaders and civil authorities to make available to citizens clear and correct information, and to earmark sufficient resources to provide education in health care for young people. I encourage international organizations to promote initiatives in this field that are inspired by wisdom and solidarity, and always to strive to defend human dignity and to protect the inviolable right to life.
"Earnest applause goes to the pharmaceutical industries engaged in keeping low the costs of medicines helpful in the treatment of AIDS. Of course, financial resources are necessary for scientific research in the health-care sector and further resources are required to put the newly discovered drugs on the market, but in the face of emergencies such as AIDS, the preservation of human life must come before any other criterion.
"I ask pastoral workers 'to bring to their brothers and sisters affected by AIDS all possible material, moral and spiritual comfort. I urgently ask the world's scientists and political leaders, motivated by the love and respect due to every human person, to use every means available in order to put an end to this scourge' (ibid., n. 116).
"I would like in particular to recall here with admiration the many health-care workers, chaplains, and volunteers who, like Good Samaritans, assist persons with AIDS and care for their relatives. In this regard, the service of the thousands of Catholic health-care institutions that go to the help of people in Africa afflicted by every kind of illness, and especially by AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, is invaluable.
"In recent years, I have noted that my appeals for persons with AIDS have not been in vain. I have seen with pleasure that various countries and institutions, with a coordinated effort, have supported practical campaigns for its prevention and for the care of the sick.
"I am now addressing you in a special way, dear brother bishops of the Bishops' Conferences of other continents, to ask you generously to join forces with the pastors of Africa, to deal effectively with this and other emergencies. The Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care will continue, as in the past, to make its own contribution to coordinating and promoting this cooperation, asking every Bishops' Conference for its effective contribution.
"The Church's attention to Africa's problems is not only motivated by philanthropic compassion for men and women in need but is also fostered by attachment to Christ the Redeemer, Whose face she recognizes in the features of every suffering person. It is faith, therefore, that impels her to do her utmost in caring for the sick, as she has always done in the course of history. Hope enables her, despite the obstacles of every kind that she encounters, to persevere in this mission. Finally, charity suggests to her the right approach to the different situations, enabling her to perceive the particular features of each person and to respond to them.
"With this attitude of deep sharing, the Church reaches out to life's injured in order to offer them Christ's love through the many forms of help that 'creativity in charity' (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 50) suggests to her. She repeats to each one: courage, God has not forgotten you. Christ suffers with you. And by offering up your sufferings, you can collaborate with Him in the redemption of the world.
"The annual celebration of the World Day of the Sick offers everyone a possibility of understanding better the importance of pastoral health care. In our time, marked by a culture imbued with secularism, some have at times been tempted not to recognize the full value of this pastoral context.
"They think that human destiny is played out in other fields. Instead, it is precisely in times of sickness that the need to find adequate responses to the ultimate questions about human life is the most pressing: questions on the meaning of pain, suffering, and death itself, considered not only as an enigma that is hard to face, but a mystery in which Christ incorporates our lives in Himself, opening them to a new and definitive birth for the life that will never end.
"In Christ lies the hope of true, full health; the salvation that He brings is the true response to the ultimate questions about man. There is no contradiction between earthly health and eternal salvation, since the Lord died for the integral salvation of the human person and of all humanity (cf. 1 Pt 1:2-5; Liturgy of Holy Friday, Adoration of the Cross). Salvation consists of the final content of the New Covenant.
"At the next World Day of the Sick, let us therefore proclaim the hope of total health for Africa and for all humanity, as we strive to work with greater determination at the service of this important cause.
"In the Gospel passage of the Beatitudes, the Lord proclaims: 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted' (Mt 5: 4). The contradiction that seems to exist between suffering and joy is overcome through the consoling action of the Holy Spirit. In conforming us to the mystery of the crucified and Risen Christ, the Holy Spirit opens us from this moment to the joy that will culminate in our beatific encounter with the Redeemer. In fact, the human being does not only aspire to physical or spiritual well-being, but to a 'health' that is expressed in total harmony with God, with self, and with humanity. This goal can only be reached through the mystery of the passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ.
"Mary Most Holy offers us an eloquent anticipation of this eschatological reality, especially through the mysteries of her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption into Heaven. In her, conceived without any shadow of sin, is found full acceptance of the divine will and service to human beings, and consequently, she is full of that deep harmony from which joy flows.
"We therefore rightly turn to her, invoking her as 'Cause of our joy.' What the Virgin gives to us is a joy that endures even in trials. However, as I think of Africa, endowed with immense human, cultural, and religious resources but afflicted also by unspeakable suffering, a heartfelt prayer rises to my lips:
"O Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Woman of suffering and hope, be kind to every suffering person, obtain fullness of life for each one.
"Turn your maternal gaze especially upon those in Africa whose need is extreme, struck down by AIDS or other mortal illness.
"Look upon the mothers who are mourning their children; look upon the grandparents who lack the resources to support their orphaned grandchildren.
"Embrace them all, keep them close to your Mother's heart.
"Queen of Africa and of the whole world, Virgin Most Holy, pray for us!
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
Suffering's deepest meaning is the unleashing of love.
All of us try to avoid suffering, whether it is emotional, physical, psychological, mental, etc. However, in the depths of our hearts, we acknowledge that suffering can be beneficial to us.
An unusually insightful article titled Unleashing Love. . . Why We Care for Those Who Suffer, authored by Dr. Peter Colosi, and published in the Franciscan Way, delves into the mystery of suffering.
This philosophy professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, at its Gaming, Austria, campus, differentiates the two kinds of love.
The love witnessed by Mother Teresa, a "love of the individual," centers around the needs of a particular person.
On the other hand, "love of mankind" sets aside the needs of any individual, in order to pursue what is perceived as best for society as a whole. This type of love is the "love" espoused by most of today's secular humanists.
The concept of the "love of mankind" implies that meeting the needs of a particular individual can wastefully expend and drain the resources of society, thus diminishing society's ability to deal with overall suffering.
Christianity, as exemplified by Mother Teresa, also desires that the overall suffering be diminished, but Christianity never suggests reducing the suffering of mankind by ignoring the needs of a particular individual or by killing someone.
On the other hand, secular humanists, frequently under the disguise of compassion for all, place little value on the individual, and thus find it easy to justify the killing of the unborn, the handicapped, the infirmed, or the aged, in order to reduce suffering.
As Dr. Colosi observed, it is our love of an individual that "opens our eyes to the true source of the worth of persons; their inner preciousness, unrepeatability, and uniqueness. . . That love then has the remarkable power of allowing one to see more clearly and deeply the unique preciousness, as well as the humanity, of the person you love."
A basic message of Christianity has always been that each individual, no matter what his physical, mental, psychological, economic, etc. condition is, still has a life worthy to be lived. Human dignity is not based on a person's condition.
In spite of what goal our cost-conscious culture may desire to achieve, "loving each person is an infinitely higher value than cost management and perfect physical health."
"While the love you have for someone is one reason why you would never kill him, it is not the deepest reason. The deepest reason is the inner worth of the person. Your love for him is inside of you, but his humanity, uniqueness, and preciousness are inside of him," states Dr. Colosi.
As medical institutions, including many so-called Catholic ones, welcome legalization of euthanasia by state courts all across the country, the ancient Judeo-Christian principle that one should never kill, but always care, is being abandoned.
The withdrawing of food and hydration from a patient in order to starve him to death is now being applauded as a good, beneficial act, one which will relieve the suffering of the patient and of the family, while reducing the economic burden on society's medical resources.
"The request to be killed is actually a plea for two basic things, " explained Professor Colosi, "to be loved and to find pain relief. As soon as these people feel loved and/or have their pain managed, they no longer ask to be killed. . .Pain is the trump card used by pro-euthanasia activists to promote their cause, but in our high-tech world we have the ability to eliminate this reason for the request to be killed."
The article then quotes a March 20, 2004, address of Pope John Paul II:
"I feel the duty to reaffirm strongly that the intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being do not change, no matter what the concrete circumstances of his or her life. A man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest functions, is and always will be a man, and he will never become a 'vegetable' or an 'animal.' Even our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the clinical condition of a 'vegetative state' retain their human dignity in all its fullness" (Zenit.org, April 5, 2004).
As we all realized, suffering is unavoidable and it is part of life. As the Holy Father exposes, one of the deepest meanings of suffering is its ability to "unleash love." When the individual, whether oneself or someone he loves, experiences suffering, it "unleashes love."
When the suffering of the one in need combines with the suffering of the one who deeply cares, love abounds from the hearts of both, revealing a deep joy, even in the midst of pain. The Holy Father iterates that the ability of suffering to "unleash love," "which if realized in individual cases, will eventually result in the entire civilization of love," observes Dr. Colosi.
The author concludes: "If utilitarians are sincere in their desire to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of people, let them strive to achieve a civilization of love on the only basis possible: the inviolable preciousness of every person."
May the Christ Child this Christmas bless you and your loved ones.
World Food Day is held annually on October 16. To mark the occasion, Pope John Paul II sent a letter to Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Rome. The Pope expressed appreciation for Diouf's work. The Pope stated:
"The Day's theme: 'Biodiversity for Food Security,' highlights a practical means of fighting the hunger and malnutrition of so many of our brothers and sisters. Indeed, to reach the goal of adequate food security, a proper management of biological diversity is essential in order to guarantee the survival of the different animal and plant species. This effort demands ethical and not merely technical and scientific considerations, although the latter are indispensable to assure the preservation of these resources and their use in accordance with the practical needs of the world population.
"Unfortunately, many obstacles today stand in the way of international action to conserve biodiversity. Despite the existence of increasingly effective regulations, other interests seem to upset the just balance between the sovereignty of States over the resources in their territory and the ability of individuals and communities to retain or manage these resources in terms of real need. International cooperation must therefore also be based on the principle which claims that sovereignty over the genetic resources present in the different ecosystems cannot be exclusive nor become a cause of conflict; it must be exercised in accordance with the natural rules of humanity that govern coexistence among the different peoples that make up the human family.
"In this context, it is particularly necessary to remember the indigenous communities and peoples. Their vast patrimony of culture and knowledge associated with biodiversity risks disappearing because of the lack of proper protection. In fact, there is a real and visible danger of an abusive exploitation of their land and the destruction of their traditional habitat, as well as a failure to protect their intellectual patrimony, whose importance for the conservation of biodiversity is recognized.
"It is urgently necessary in many areas to revise the strategy which has thus far been followed in order to protect the immense and irreplaceable resources of the planet and to achieve not only sustainable development but above all, development with solidarity. Solidarity, properly understood as a model of unity that can inspire the action of individuals, government authorities, international organizations and institutions, and all members of civil society, strives for the proper growth of peoples and nations, and its objective is the good of each and every one (cf. Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 40). Solidarity, therefore, by overcoming selfish attitudes regarding the order of creation and its produce, safeguards the various ecosystems and their resources, the people who live there, and their fundamental rights as individuals and community members. If solidarity is firmly founded on this reference to the human person, with his or her nature and needs, it can draw together plans, norms, strategies, and actions that are perfectly sustainable.
"Development that goes hand in hand with solidarity can also offer responses to targets of sustainability, mindful not only of the simple protection of the environment or an abstract reference to the needs of future generations, but also of the requirements of justice, a fair distribution of resources, and the obligation to cooperate. These are essentially human needs to which the Catholic Church has always been attentive, in order to support them and to encourage their correct and complete application.
"The mandate that the Creator gave to human beings to have dominion over the earth and to use its fruits (cf. Gn 1:28), considered in the light of the virtue of solidarity, entails respect for the plan of creation through human action that does not imply challenging nature and its laws, even in order to reach ever new horizons, but on the contrary, preserves resources, guaranteeing their continuity and availability to the generations to come.
"These are a few reflections that I wanted to offer to all who are celebrating World Food Day, wherever in the world they may be, and to all who, with their various offices and responsibilities, do what they can to help rid humanity of the scourge of hunger and malnutrition. It is hoped that today's celebration will help to encourage progress across the globe and locally through renewed 'sharing' of the earth's resources. . ."
by Susan Seta
"Whatsoever you did for the least of my brethren, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). This is a scripture that seventeen-year-old Josh Bort took to heart and acted upon. It was on a mission trip that he took with his youth group this summer where he lived that verse in a powerful way. His own words, which were published in his parish newspaper, sum it up so well.
Born to Shine, Our Mission Trip to Benton Harbor, Michigan
by Josh Bort
"My experience on the Mission Trip to Benton Harbor was different that I expected. Benton Harbor is a small (very poor) town right on the shores of Lake Michigan. Two other groups were also there – a Lutheran group from Kansas and a Baptist group from Illinois. While up there I got to know people both from SMOY (Saint Margaret of York) and the other two groups.
I expected that we would just paint houses for four or five days straight. Instead of doing that, we were split unto groups. Two groups worked (played) with kids while another two groups painted houses. The last group helped out at a Good Will store. Then on Wednesday, we switched jobs.
Working with the kids was great. They just loved playing with the chalk we brought. Two of the kids outlined everyone they could on the sidewalk. At the end of my second day of working with kids, an eight-year-old boy came up to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. That made me feel so happy.
It was also fun to paint. Two of the colors we used were "vanilla" and "perky green." After painting one of the houses, I had a great feeling in me knowing that we had accomplished something. Over those two days people were passing us and saying how great a job we were doing.
I was really happy to get to meet so many teens my age who also went on the mission trip."
Josh had to admit that he wasn't looking forward to going on the trip, but came away with nothing but good feelings. "It was great being with people from different backgrounds," Josh states. "I have a much better understanding of poverty." Spiritually, the event culminated in a foot-washing service that took place on Thursday evening. All were deeply touched. There were many tears as God's love flowed. "As I have done, so you must do," states Jesus in John 13:15 after washing the feet of His apostles at the Last Supper. What a gift to see this remarkable young man and so many other young people doing just as Jesus did!
While attending a funeral last weekend, I heard a song that made me stop and think. It wasn't a new song, but listening to the words so closely got me reflecting. You've all heard The Prayer of St. Francis either in song or in prayer form.
Make me a channel of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love. Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord. And where there's doubt, true faith in You. Make me a channel of Your peace. Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, only light. And where there's sadness, ever joy. Oh Master, grant that I may never seek, so much to be consoled as to console. To be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love with all my soul. Make me a channel of Your peace. For it is in pardoning that we are pardoned. In giving of ourselves that we receive and in dying that we're born to eternal life.
So how are you doing? How many times each day are we given the opportunity to share some love in a hateful situation. Or maybe not even a hateful one but a situation that could lead to hard feelings. Do we put ourselves aside and proceed with our heart, or do we stand firm, knowing it may lead to heartache?
Have you ever seen someone who was hurt either physically or emotionally and then stood by watching their pain? Or did you sense their suffering and offer comfort and forgiveness? Think of your spouse with whom you've been arguing. Certainly, you could put away your desires just this once and help heal their anguish. Forgive someone, it can be so satisfying.
If you've ever been down on your luck, you know how it feels to be without money or food or shelter. Despair can sink deeply into your soul and it seems that you'll never see the light of day. Should you see someone like that, pick them up. Add some brightness to their day by bringing them the gift of laughter. Offer compassion for their circumstances. Remember how nice it felt when you received this type of treatment. Where there is sadness, bring joy.
But don't do these things because you want payment. Oh, no, there's no joy in that. Of course we all want to be understood and consoled in our times of trouble but looking for re-payment of a kindness will lead to disappointment. Love with all your heart but expect nothing in return. As a matter of fact, I know some people who choose to help only those who can't possibly pay them back. Now that's faith in action.
If we forgive, we will be forgiven. If we give from the heart, we will receive more than we can imagine. It is true that giving is more blessed than receiving. Read the words of St. Francis a little slower next time and see if you can work them into your life. You will be a better person, guaranteed. Just a few thoughts.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, focused on the role of United Nations workers as peacemakers in a homily at a September 17 Mass in Vienna, Austria. The Mass was celebrated on the occasion of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. L'Osservatore Romano English edition, carried Cardinal Tauran's homily, which follows:
"While the newspapers bring us daily reports of unheard of and barbarian violence, and while recent statistics speak of more than 30 large and small conflicts throughout the world, this evening we dare to proclaim, 'Blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the peacemakers.'
"If we have the courage to be a bit provocative, it is because of Jesus Christ, Who revealed to us the love and mercy of God. God loves man and wants him to be happy; Jesus Christ Who always gives us the possibility to change course, to become better; Jesus Christ Who left His Church the mission of handing on to men and women of all times and places 'good news'; Jesus Christ Who revealed to us the great plan of God: namely, that God, the Father of all, wants to gather together humanity into one single family.
"This message of reconciliation and grace is entrusted to all Christians: to announce that Christ is risen, that He is always alive and that He opens the door of hope to men and women of every age.
'Proclaim that peace is possible'
"I wish to tell you, the representatives and members of the specialized agencies of the United Nations Organization in Vienna, that you have a special vocation – namely, to proclaim that peace is possible!
"As Christians and by vocation, we witness to peace by condemning all types of violence; by disavowing the ideologies that sustain it and the political systems that promote it; by eliminating violence from all walks of life.
"Violence is the imposition of one's own judgment, not tempering one's own right with charity. Violence is the exclusion of the weakest and the least gifted, as well as the promotion of a vindictive spirit.
"In transforming 'swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks,' that is, the swords and spears of egoism, disinterest, injustice, lack of love and hate, Christians together with all men and women of good will have an extraordinary power to give birth to a world animated by the designs that Jesus proposes in the Gospel of the Beatitudes.
Exercise 'the power of the heart'
"I have read that one day, entering casually into a church, a famous international communist leader was struck by what he heard. His comment was: 'If they knew what power the words they pronounce have.'
"In the merciless world we have constructed, Christians are called to exercise what I dare to call 'the power of the heart.' This power of the heart, which does not exclude determination, means that:
"In this enormous task, Christians can count on the help of believers of other religions. More than ever, especially in today's international context, it is extremely urgent to give witness, through concrete gestures, that the great religions are factors of and for peace, and not war.
"All who recognize God as their Creator, who believe that they are creatures and children of God, endowed with the same dignity and equally loved, are called to be peacemakers; these children of God must turn away from all religious extremism that divides, that does not promote respect for all and that does not favor attitudes of peace.
'Wellsprings of spiritual power'
"For us Christians this evening, I pray that we might know how to touch in this Eucharist the wellsprings of spiritual power so that we may be, wherever we live and work, peacemakers. We cannot receive Christ under the sacramental signs of bread broken and wine outpoured without giving ourselves to others.
"May the Lord make us Christians who have the courage to go against the current, to live as fully as possible the message and values of the Beatitudes, to sow these small seeds of truth, freedom, justice, and love that will blossom and bear fruit, thanks also to our efforts and daily activities.
"Then, we will have made our own small contribution to the elimination of that weapon of mass destruction which kills the most: namely, hatred. Then, it will be said of us: Blessed are the peacemakers.
"And so be it! Amen!"
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com