"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
World Day Of Peace Focuses On Truth, Peace
Blessed Virgin Mary Offers Encouragement, Comfort, And Hope
In Defense of Life: FORBIDDEN GRIEF
Migration Challenges Christians, Society
Church Responds To AIDS Crisis With Truth And Love
Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News
Pray the News
January 1 is traditionally observed as the World Day of Prayer for Peace. This year, Pope Benedict XVI focuses on the interrelationships of truth and peace. His message for the day, dated December 8, 2005, follows:
"In this traditional Message for the World Day of Peace at the beginning of the New Year, I offer cordial greetings and good wishes to men and women everywhere, especially those who are suffering as a result of violence and armed conflicts. My greeting is one filled with hope for a more serene world, a world in which more and more individuals and communities are committed to the paths of justice and peace.
"Before all else, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to my Predecessors, the great Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, who were astute promoters of peace. Guided by the spirit of the Beatitudes, they discerned in the many historical events which marked their respective Pontificates the providential intervention of God, Who never ceases to be concerned for the future of the human race. As tireless heralds of the Gospel, they constantly invited everyone to make God the starting-point of their efforts on behalf of concord and peace throughout the world. This, my first Message for the World Day of Peace, is meant to follow in the path of their noble teaching; with it, I wish to reiterate the steadfast resolve of the Holy See to continue serving the cause of peace. The very name Benedict, which I chose on the day of my election to the Chair of Peter, is a sign of my personal commitment to peace. In taking this name, I wanted to evoke both the Patron Saint of Europe, who inspired a civilization of peace on the whole continent, and Pope Benedict XV, who condemned the First World War as a 'useless slaughter' and worked for a universal acknowledgment of the lofty demands of peace.
"The theme chosen for this year's reflection In truth, peace expresses the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, promulgated forty years ago at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, stated that mankind will not succeed in 'building a truly more human world for everyone, everywhere on earth, unless all people are renewed in spirit and converted to the truth of peace.' But what do those words, 'the truth of peace,' really mean? To respond adequately to this question, we must realize that peace cannot be reduced to the simple absence of armed conflict, but needs to be understood as 'the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder,' an order 'which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice.' As the result of an order planned and willed by the love of God, peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth of its own, and corresponds 'to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us.'
"Seen in this way, peace appears as a heavenly gift and a divine grace which demands at every level the exercise of the highest responsibility: that of conforming human history in truth, justice, freedom, and love to the divine order. Whenever there is a loss of fidelity to the transcendent order, and a loss of respect for that 'grammar' of dialogue which is the universal moral law written on human hearts, whenever the integral development of the person and the protection of his fundamental rights are hindered or denied, whenever countless people are forced to endure intolerable injustices and inequalities, how can we hope that the good of peace will be realized? The essential elements which make up the truth of that good are missing. Saint Augustine described peace as tranquillitas ordinis, the tranquillity of order. By this, he meant a situation which ultimately enables the truth about man to be fully respected and realized.
"Who and what, then, can prevent the coming of peace? Sacred Scripture, in its very first book, Genesis, points to the lie told at the very beginning of history by the animal with a forked tongue, whom the Evangelist John calls 'the father of lies' (Jn 8:44). Lying is also one of the sins spoken of in the final chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, which bars liars from the heavenly Jerusalem: 'outside are. . . all who love falsehood' (22:15). Lying is linked to the tragedy of sin and its perverse consequences, which have had, and continue to have, devastating effects on the lives of individuals and nations. We need but think of the events of the past century, when aberrant ideological and political systems willfully twisted the truth and brought about the exploitation and murder of an appalling number of men and women, wiping out entire families and communities. After experiences like these, how can we fail to be seriously concerned about lies in our own time, lies which are the framework for menacing scenarios of death in many parts of the world. Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet.
"Peace is an irrepressible yearning present in the heart of each person, regardless of his or her particular cultural identity. Consequently, everyone should feel committed to service of this great good, and should strive to prevent any form of untruth from poisoning relationships. All people are members of one and the same family. An extreme exaltation of differences clashes with this fundamental truth. We need to regain an awareness that we share a common destiny which is ultimately transcendent, so as to maximize our historical and cultural differences, not in opposition to, but in cooperation with, people belonging to other cultures. These simple truths are what make peace possible; they are easily understood whenever we listen to our own hearts with pure intentions. Peace thus comes to be seen in a new light: not as the mere absence of war, but as a harmonious coexistence of individual citizens within a society governed by justice, one in which the good is also achieved, to the extent possible, for each of them. The truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships; it encourages them to seek out and to follow the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation, to be transparent in their dealings with others, and to be faithful to their word. In a particular way, the followers of Christ, recognizing the insidious presence of evil and the need for that liberation brought by the divine Master, look to Him with confidence, in the knowledge that 'He committed no sin; no guile was found on His lips' (1 Pt 2:22; cf. Is 53:9). Jesus defined Himself as the Truth in person, and, in addressing the seer of the Book of Revelation, He states His complete aversion to 'every one who loves and practices falsehood' (Rev 22:15). He has disclosed the full truth about humanity and about human history. The power of His grace makes it possible to live 'in' and 'by' truth, since He alone is completely true and faithful. Jesus is the truth which gives us peace.
"The truth of peace must also let its beneficial light shine even amid the tragedy of war. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, pointed out that 'not everything automatically becomes permissible between hostile parties once war has regrettably commenced.' As a means of limiting the devastating consequences of war as much as possible, especially for civilians, the international community has created an international humanitarian law. In a variety of situations and in different settings, the Holy See has expressed its support for this humanitarian law, and has called for it to be respected and promptly implemented, out of the conviction that the truth of peace exists even in the midst of war. International humanitarian law ought to be considered as one of the finest and most effective expressions of the intrinsic demands of the truth of peace. Precisely for this reason, respect for that law must be considered binding on all peoples. Its value must be appreciated and its correct application ensured; it must also be brought up to date by precise norms applicable to the changing scenarios of today's armed conflicts and the use of ever newer and more sophisticated weapons.
"Here I wish to express gratitude to the international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the application of international humanitarian law. Nor can I fail to mention the many soldiers engaged in the delicate work of resolving conflicts and restoring the necessary conditions for peace. I wish to remind them of the words of the Second Vatican Council: 'All those who enter the military in service to their country should look upon themselves as guardians of the security and freedom of their fellow-countrymen, and, in carrying out this duty properly, they too contribute to the establishment of peace.' On this demanding front the Catholic Church's military ordinariates carry out their pastoral activity: I encourage both the military Ordinaries and military chaplains to be, in every situation and context, faithful heralds of the truth of peace.
"Nowadays, the truth of peace continues to be dramatically compromised and rejected by terrorism, whose criminal threats and attacks leave the world in a state of fear and insecurity. My predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II frequently pointed out the awful responsibility borne by terrorists, while at the same time condemning their senseless and deadly strategies. These are often the fruit of a tragic and disturbing nihilism which Pope John Paul II described in these words: 'Those who kill by acts of terrorism actually despair of humanity, of life, of the future. In their view, everything is to be hated and destroyed.' Not only nihilism, but also religious fanaticism, today often labeled fundamentalism, can inspire and encourage terrorist thinking and activity. From the beginning, John Paul II was aware of the explosive danger represented by fanatical fundamentalism, and he condemned it unsparingly, while warning against attempts to impose, rather than to propose for others freely to accept, one's own convictions about the truth. As he wrote: 'To try to impose on others by violent means what we consider to be the truth is an offense against the dignity of the human being, and ultimately an offense against God in Whose image he is made.'
"Looked at closely, nihilism and the fundamentalism of which we are speaking share an erroneous relationship to truth: the nihilist denies the very existence of truth, while the fundamentalist claims to be able to impose it by force. Despite their different origins and cultural backgrounds, both show a dangerous contempt for human beings and human life, and ultimately for God Himself. Indeed, this shared tragic outcome results from a distortion of the full truth about God: nihilism denies God's existence and His provident presence in history, while fanatical fundamentalism disfigures His loving and merciful countenance, replacing Him with idols made in its own image. In analyzing the causes of the contemporary phenomenon of terrorism, consideration should be given, not only to its political and social causes, but also to its deeper cultural, religious, and ideological motivations.
"In view of the risks which humanity is facing in our time, all Catholics in every part of the world have a duty to proclaim and embody ever more fully the 'Gospel of Peace,' and to show that acknowledgment of the full truth of God is the first, indispensable condition for consolidating the truth of peace. God is Love which saves, a loving Father Who wants to see His children look upon one another as brothers and sisters, working responsibly to place their various talents at the service of the common good of the human family. God is the unfailing source of the hope which gives meaning to personal and community life. God, and God alone, brings to fulfillment every work of good and of peace. History has amply demonstrated that declaring war on God in order to eradicate Him from human hearts only leads a fearful and impoverished humanity toward decisions which are ultimately futile. This realization must impel believers in Christ to become convincing witnesses of the God Who is inseparably truth and love, placing themselves at the service of peace in broad cooperation with other Christians, the followers of other religions, and with all men and women of good will.
"Looking at the present world situation, we can note with satisfaction certain signs of hope in the work of building peace. I think, for example, of the decrease in the number of armed conflicts. Here we are speaking of a few, very tentative steps forward along the path of peace, yet ones which even now are able to hold out a future of greater serenity, particularly for the suffering people of Palestine, the land of Jesus, and for those living in some areas of Africa and Asia, who have waited for years for the positive conclusion of the ongoing processes of pacification and reconciliation. These are reassuring signs which need to be confirmed and consolidated by tireless cooperation and activity, above all on the part of the international community and its agencies charged with preventing conflicts and providing a peaceful solution to those in course.
"All this must not, however, lead to a naive optimism. It must not be forgotten that, tragically, violent fratricidal conflicts and devastating wars still continue to sow tears and death in vast parts of the world. Situations exist where conflict, hidden like flame beneath ashes, can flare up anew and cause immense destruction. Those authorities who, rather than making every effort to promote peace, incite their citizens to hostility towards other nations, bear a heavy burden of responsibility: in regions particularly at risk, they jeopardize the delicate balance achieved at the cost of patient negotiations and thus help make the future of humanity more uncertain and ominous. What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries? Along with countless persons of good will, one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor.
"In this regard, one can only note with dismay the evidence of a continuing growth in military expenditure and the flourishing arms trade, while the political and juridic process established by the international community for promoting disarmament is bogged down in general indifference. How can there ever be a future of peace when investments are still made in the production of arms and in research aimed at developing new ones? It can only be hoped that the international community will find the wisdom and courage to take up once more, jointly and with renewed conviction, the process of disarmament, and thus concretely ensure the right to peace enjoyed by every individual and every people. By their commitment to safeguarding the good of peace, the various agencies of the international community will regain the authority needed to make their initiatives credible and effective.
"The first to benefit from a decisive choice for disarmament will be the poor countries, which rightly demand, after having heard so many promises, the concrete implementation of their right to development. That right was solemnly reaffirmed in the recent General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, which this year celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of its foundation. The Catholic Church, while confirming her confidence in this international body, calls for the institutional and operative renewal which would enable it to respond to the changed needs of the present time, characterized by the vast phenomenon of globalization. The United Nations Organization must become a more efficient instrument for promoting the values of justice, solidarity, and peace in the world. For her part, the Church, in fidelity to the mission she has received from her Founder, is committed to proclaiming everywhere 'the Gospel of peace.' In the firm conviction that she offers an indispensable service to all those who strive to promote peace, she reminds everyone that, if peace is to be authentic and lasting, it must be built on the bedrock of the truth about God and the truth about man. This truth alone can create a sensitivity to justice and openness to love and solidarity, while encouraging everyone to work for a truly free and harmonious human family. The foundations of authentic peace rest on the truth about God and man.
"At the conclusion of this Message, I would like to address a particular word to all believers in Christ, inviting them once again to be attentive and generous disciples of the Lord. When we hear the Gospel, dear brothers and sisters, we learn to build peace on the truth of a daily life inspired by the commandment of love. Every community should undertake an extensive process of education and witness aimed at making everyone more aware of the need for a fuller appreciation of the truth of peace. At the same time I ask for an increase of prayers, since peace is above all a gift of God, a gift to be implored incessantly. By God's help, our proclamation and witness to the truth of peace will be all the more convincing and illuminating. With confidence and filial abandonment let us lift up our eyes to Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace. At the beginning of this New Year, let us ask her to help all God's People, wherever they may be, to work for peace and to be guided by the light of the truth that sets man free (cf. Jn 8:32). Through Mary's intercession, may all mankind grow in esteem for this fundamental good and strive to make it ever more present in our world, and, in this way, to offer a safer and more serene future to generations yet to come."
December 8, 2005, marked the 40th anniversary of the closing of Vatican II (12/8/65) as well as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a great Marian feast. In a homily on this anniversary, Pope Benedict XVI honored the work of Vatican II and pointed out the Council's Marian orientation. His homily follows:
"Pope Paul VI solemnly concluded the Second Vatican Council in the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica 40 years ago, on December 8, 1965. It had been inaugurated, in accordance with John XXIII's wishes, on October 11, 1962, which was then the Feast of Mary's Motherhood, and ended on the day of the Immaculate Conception.
"The Council took place in a Marian setting. It was actually far more than a setting: it was the orientation of its entire process.
"It refers us, as it referred the Council Fathers at that time, to the image of the Virgin who listens and lives in the Word of God, who cherishes in her heart the words that God addresses to her and, piecing them together like a mosaic, learns to understand them (cf. Lk 2:19, 51).
"It refers us to the great Believer who, full of faith, put herself in God's hands, abandoning herself to His will; it refers us to the humble Mother who, when the Son's mission so required, became part of it, and at the same time, to the courageous woman who stood beneath the Cross while the disciples fled.
"In his Discourse on the occasion of the promulgation of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Paul VI described Mary as 'tutrix huius Concilii' 'Patroness of this Council' (cf. Oecumenicum Concilium Vaticanum II, Constitutiones Decreta Declarationes, Vatican City, 1966, p. 983) and, with an unmistakable allusion to the account of Pentecost transmitted by Luke (cf. Acts 1:12-14), said that the Fathers were gathered in the Council Hall 'cum Maria, Matre Iesu' and would also have left it in her name (p. 985).
"Indelibly printed in my memory is the moment when, hearing his words: 'Mariam Sanctissimam declaramus Matrem Ecclesiae' 'We declare Mary the Most Holy Mother of the Church,' the Fathers spontaneously rose at once and paid homage to the Mother of God, to our Mother, to the Mother of the Church, with a standing ovation.
"Indeed, with this title the Pope summed up the Marian teaching of the Council and provided the key to understanding it. Not only does Mary have a unique relationship with Christ, the Son of God Who, as man, chose to become her Son. Since she was totally united to Christ, she also totally belongs to us. Yes, we can say that Mary is close to us as no other human being is, because Christ becomes man for all men and women and His entire being is 'being here for us.'
"Christ, the Fathers said, as the Head, is inseparable from His Body which is the Church, forming with her, so to speak, a single living subject. The Mother of the Head is also the Mother of all the Church; she is, so to speak, totally emptied of herself; she has given herself entirely to Christ and with Him is given as a gift to us all. Indeed, the more the human person gives himself, the more he finds himself.
"The Council intended to tell us this: Mary is so interwoven in the great mystery of the Church that she and the Church are inseparable, just as she and Christ are inseparable. Mary mirrors the Church, anticipates the Church in her person, and in all the turbulence that affects the suffering, struggling Church she always remains the Star of salvation. In her lies the true center in which we trust, even if its peripheries very often weigh on our soul.
"In the context of the promulgation of the Constitution on the Church, Paul VI shed light on all this through a new title deeply rooted in Tradition, precisely with the intention of illuminating the inner structure of the Church's teaching, which was developed at the Council. The Second Vatican Council had to pronounce on the institutional components of the Church: on the Bishops and on the Pontiff, on the priests, lay people and Religious, in their communion and in their relations; it had to describe the Church journeying on, 'clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification. . .' (Lumen Gentium, n. 8).
"This 'Petrine' aspect of the Church, however, is included in that 'Marian'' aspect. In Mary, the Immaculate, we find the essence of the Church without distortion. We ourselves must learn from her to become 'ecclesial souls,' as the Fathers said, so that we too may be able, in accordance with St. Paul's words, to present ourselves 'blameless' in the sight of the Lord, as He wanted us from the very beginning (cf. Col 1:21; Eph 1:4).
"But now we must ask ourselves: What does 'Mary, the Immaculate' mean? Does this title have something to tell us? Today, the liturgy illuminates the content of these words for us in two great images.
"First of all comes the marvellous narrative of the annunciation of the Messiah's coming to Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth. The Angel's greeting is interwoven with threads from the Old Testament, especially from the Prophet Zephaniah. He shows that Mary, the humble provincial woman who comes from a priestly race and bears within her the great priestly patrimony of Israel, is 'the holy remnant' of Israel to which the prophets referred in all the periods of trial and darkness.
"In her is present the true Zion, the pure, living dwelling-place of God. In her the Lord dwells, in her He finds the place of His repose. She is the living house of God, Who does not dwell in buildings of stone but in the heart of living man. She is the shoot which sprouts from the stump of David in the dark winter night of history. In her, the words of the Psalm are fulfilled: 'The earth has yielded its fruits' (Ps 67:7).
"She is the offshoot from which grew the tree of redemption and of the redeemed. God has not failed, as it might have seemed formerly at the beginning of history with Adam and Eve or during the period of the Babylonian Exile, and as it seemed anew in Mary's time when Israel had become a people with no importance in an occupied region and with very few recognizable signs of its holiness.
"God did not fail. In the humility of the house in Nazareth lived holy Israel, the pure remnant. God saved and saves His people. From the felled tree trunk Israel's history shone out anew, becoming a living force that guides and pervades the world.
"Mary is holy Israel: she says 'yes' to the Lord, she puts herself totally at His disposal and thus becomes the living temple of God.
"The second image is much more difficult and obscure. This metaphor from the Book of Genesis speaks to us from a great historical distance and can only be explained with difficulty; only in the course of history has it been possible to develop a deeper understanding of what it refers to.
"It was foretold that the struggle between humanity and the serpent, that is, between man and the forces of evil and death, would continue throughout history.
"It was also foretold, however, that the 'offspring' of a woman would one day triumph and would crush the head of the serpent to death; it was foretold that the offspring of the woman - and in this offspring the woman and the mother herself - would be victorious and that thus, through man, God would triumph.
"If we set ourselves with the believing and praying Church to listen to this text, then we can begin to understand what original sin, inherited sin, is and also what the protection against this inherited sin is, what redemption is.
"What picture does this passage show us? The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbors the suspicion that in the end, God takes something away from his life, that God is a rival Who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast Him aside; in brief, that only in this way can we fully achieve our freedom.
"The human being lives in the suspicion that God's love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself of this dependency if he is to be fully himself. Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of his life from God.
"He himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God's level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him. Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.
"Love is not dependence but a gift that makes us live. The freedom of a human being is the freedom of a limited being, and therefore is itself limited. We can possess it only as a shared freedom, in the communion of freedom: only if we live in the right way, with one another and for one another, can freedom develop.
"We live in the right way if we live in accordance with the truth of our being, and that is, in accordance with God's will. For God's will is not a law for the human being imposed from the outside and that constrains him, but the intrinsic measure of his nature, a measure that is engraved within him and makes him the image of God, hence, a free creature.
"If we live in opposition to love and against the truth in opposition to God then we destroy one another and destroy the world. Then we do not find life but act in the interests of death. All this is recounted with immortal images in the history of the original fall of man and the expulsion of man from the earthly Paradise.
"Dear brothers and sisters, if we sincerely reflect about ourselves and our history, we have to say that with this narrative is described not only the history of the beginning but the history of all times, and that we all carry within us a drop of the poison of that way of thinking, illustrated by the images in the Book of Genesis.
"We call this drop of poison 'original sin.' Precisely on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we have a lurking suspicion that a person who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something is missing from his life: the dramatic dimension of being autonomous; that the freedom to say no, to descend into the shadows of sin, and to want to do things on one's own is part of being truly human; that only then can we make the most of all the vastness and depth of our being men and women, of being truly ourselves; that we should put this freedom to the test, even in opposition to God, in order to become, in reality, fully ourselves.
"In a word, we think that evil is basically good, we think that we need it, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being. We think that Mephistopheles the tempter is right when he says he is the power 'that always wants evil and always does good' (J.W. von Goethe, Faust I, 3). We think that a little bargaining with evil, keeping for oneself a little freedom against God, is basically a good thing, perhaps even necessary.
"If we look, however, at the world that surrounds us, we can see that this is not so; in other words, that evil is always poisonous, does not uplift human beings, but degrades and humiliates them. It does not make them any the greater, purer, or wealthier, but harms and belittles them.
"This is something we should indeed learn on the day of the Immaculate Conception: the person who abandons himself totally in God's hands does not become God's puppet, a boring 'yes man'; he does not lose his freedom. Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good.
"The person who turns to God does not become smaller but greater, for through God and with God he becomes great, he becomes divine, he becomes truly himself. The person who puts himself in God's hands does not distance himself from others, withdrawing into his private salvation; on the contrary, it is only then that his heart truly awakens and he becomes a sensitive, hence, benevolent and open person.
"The closer a person is to God, the closer he is to people. We see this in Mary. The fact that she is totally with God is the reason why she is so close to human beings.
"For this reason she can be the Mother of every consolation and every help, a Mother whom anyone can dare to address in any kind of need in weakness and in sin, for she has understanding for everything and is for everyone the open power of creative goodness.
"In her, God has impressed His own image, the image of the One Who follows the lost sheep even up into the mountains and among the briars and thornbushes of the sins of this world, letting Himself be spiked by the crown of thorns of these sins in order to take the sheep on His shoulders and bring it home.
"As a merciful Mother, Mary is the anticipated figure and everlasting portrait of the Son. Thus, we see that the image of the Sorrowful Virgin, of the Mother who shares her suffering and her love, is also a true image of the Immaculate Conception. Her heart was enlarged by being and feeling together with God. In her, God's goodness came very close to us.
"Mary thus stands before us as a sign of comfort, encouragement, and hope. She turns to us, saying: 'Have the courage to dare with God! Try it! Do not be afraid of Him! Have the courage to risk with faith! Have the courage to risk with goodness! Have the courage to risk with a pure heart! Commit yourselves to God, then you will see that it is precisely by doing so that your life will become broad and light, not boring but filled with infinite surprises, for God's infinite goodness is never depleted!'
"On this Feast Day, let us thank the Lord for the great sign of His goodness which He has given us in Mary, His Mother and the Mother of the Church. Let us pray to Him to put Mary on our path like a light that also helps us to become a light and to carry this light into the nights of history. Amen."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
"I am trying to learn to live with this and how to put on a show for the world. Sometimes, I feel like I won't be able to keep this show going for much longer. On the outside it seems like life has gone on like normal, but on the inside I feel like I am falling apart. It is even harder to pretend that I am enjoying myself when all I want to do is be alone and cry until I can cry no more, but even then the tears never seem to stop."
These words were taken from a diary entry of a woman who had an abortion, who was now seeking the assistance of Theresa Burke, Ph.D., a psychotherapist. Dr. Burke has devoted her practice to treating women who have been traumatized by having an abortion and who still grieve over the child that has died.
The first victim of abortion is a child, a special and unique individual, one who has never lived before and will never live again. Although his earthly life was terminated before the time his Creator had planned, his life, like all our lives, will go on in eternity.
However, there is a second victim of abortion, one whose sufferings are either minimized, forgotten, or silenced. It is the mother who carries the regrets, the grief, the heartaches, the loss, and the memories of a child that is now no more.
Dr. Burke, in her book Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, exposes the grief that women experience, sooner or later, about the abortion they had. Based on her experience with counseling hundreds of clients, she explains how these repressed feelings surface through destructive behavior, failed relationships, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and other emotional and behavioral problems.
As Dr. Burke explains, the whole topic of abortion is very threatening since "grief following an abortion can be extremely complicated and can be experienced on all levels of the personality." It is difficult for women who have had abortions to talk about it, describe their feelings, or find someone who will listen and allow them to grieve.
As Dr. Burke explains, women react differently to this experience. Some fear that they will upset others and make them uncomfortable to be with them if they disclose their feelings and anxieties.
Others are unable to even discuss their secret pain, not even wanting to think or talk about it. However, despite all of the efforts to suppress the thoughts of the abortion, many women find that these emotions and thoughts distort other aspects of their life.
Still, other women, filled with anger and rage, are unable to sympathize with those who are also hurting.
A fourth reaction is experienced by women who fill their lives with distractions in order to avoid even thinking about the grief and anxiety that they are feeling deep inside.
Still there are others who seek to punish themselves, fearing that they will never be understood or forgiven by others. They cannot forgive themselves or even seek the forgiveness of God.
In response to these cries for help and compassion, many in our society, convinced that abortions really help women, are unable to even accept that some women may experience a bitter regret for the decision they made. It is easier to dismiss the trauma that a woman is experiencing as being silly or superficial. Those who think abortion is "a good" are unable to even listen, much less empathize, with someone seeking their help.
However, there are also us pro-lifers, who have tirelessly worked on this issue (the greatest moral issue of our times), praying, speaking out, writing, and publicly demonstrating, that sometimes fail to appreciate what happens to a woman who aborts her child.
If someone came to you, revealing that they had an abortion, would you be prepared not only to listen but to encourage a woman to not only grieve, but to find healing?
In her book, Dr. Burke shares with you how to reach out to the ones you love (who may include yourself) to better understand what a particular woman may be experiencing and what she is seeking from you, and what ways that you may help her on her path to finding healing.
As one young lady, 12 years after her abortion, wrote to her mother:
"Oh how I wish you had been able to talk about it to cry with me, to help me get through that horrible time. You knew it all but we never talked. I was so desperately alone."
"Grief after abortion is neither expected nor permitted in our society," emphasizes Dr. Burke. She continues, "The expectation that abortion has no significant emotional consequences is strongly reinforced at most abortion clinics."
Counselors at the abortion mill, along with their supporters in the news media and entertainment world, are so blind to reality, that they cannot even concede that some women may experience serious emotional, mental, and physical trauma. Other people, to a lesser degree, influenced by those in the media, have also refused to allow themselves to acknowledge that a woman who has had an abortion will experience grief. To do so would put a burden on them to offer assistance.
This may be why many take the attitude that it was the woman's decision. She knew what she was doing, and therefore she really has no right to burden others with her regrets.
Dr. Burke finds the popular view is that we should "bear our pain alone." Comments like "just forget about it," "it wasn't really a baby yet," "you can always have another baby," or "just stop thinking about it" will prohibit someone who needs to grieve from doing so. The pain is simply buried deeper, instead of exposing it and working through it.
"If friends and loved ones deny this grief, the grief process will actually be prolonged," teaches Dr. Burke. Telling someone that they should remind themselves how horrible life would be for them and for their baby if they had not had an abortion, would be like telling someone at a funeral how awful their life would be if the loved one was still alive.
Doesn't just talking about the whole issue of abortion, or the grief and trauma that some women experience, make others feel more guilty, causing them to have regrets and anxieties that they would not otherwise experience? To this, Dr. Burke responds, "If a woman is grieving over the death of her baby, the best thing I can do is acknowledge the reality of that experience with her."
As Dr. Burke explains, "Because the consequences of abortion can be so threatening, we don't want to exasperate the problem by doubting or negating the many women who have undergone excruciating pain because of their choice."
In her book, Dr. Burke reminds us that forgiveness is the cornerstone of all Judeo-Christian religions. No matter how many times we have sinned, God's unending love is always filled with forgiveness for those who seek it.
The book relates a story of a young mother dying of cancer, now too weak and vulnerable to repress the memories and grief over a child she had aborted. With the encouragement from the author, she disclosed this to her family. Her mother and father, with her five siblings, "wept together." Her "isolation was shattered. She was not alone anymore."
Rejecting her prior thoughts that God was punishing her with cancer for what she had done, this young mother reconciled herself with her Creator, named her baby "Joey," and imagined him as a little angel with whom she will soon be.
Let us all pray that our Father, Who always loves us more than we love ourselves, will send us the strength to seek His forgiveness and experience His love, especially those who grieve over the loss of a child.
This book may be ordered by calling Authentically Catholic Books (tel. (859) 431-7196).
The 92th World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be observed January 15. Migration has undergone significant changes in recent history. As the Second Vatican Council taught, the Church is challenged to play a central role in discerning such "signs of the time."
The Pope's message for the day is entitled Migrations: a sign of the times. The Pope's message follows:
"Forty years ago the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was closed, whose rich teaching covers many areas of ecclesial life. In particular the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes made a careful analysis of the complexities of the world today, seeking the ways best suited to bring the Gospel message to the men and women of today.
"To this end the Council Fathers in response to the appeal of Bl. John XXIII undertook to examine the signs of the times and to interpret them in the light of the Gospel so as to offer the new generations the possibility of responding adequately to the eternal questions about this life and the life 'to come and about just social relations' (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 4).
"One of the recognizable signs of the times today is undoubtedly migration, a phenomenon which during the century just ended can be said to have taken on structural characteristics, becoming an important factor of the labor market worldwide, a consequence among other things of the enormous drive of globalization.
"Naturally in this 'sign of the times' various factors play a part. They include both national and international migration, forced and voluntary migration, legal and illegal migration, subject also to the scourge of trafficking in human beings.
"Nor can the category of foreign students, whose numbers increase every year in the world, be forgotten.
"With regard to those who emigrate for economic reasons, a recent fact deserving mention is the growing number of women involved ('feminization'). In the past it was mainly men who emigrated, although there were always women too, but these emigrated in particular to accompany their husbands or fathers or to join them wherever they were.
"Today, although numerous situations of this nature still exist, female emigration tends to become more and more autonomous. Women cross the border of their homeland alone in search of work in another country. Indeed, it often happens that the migrant woman becomes the principal source of income for her family. It is a fact that the presence of women is especially prevalent in sectors that offer low salaries. If, then, migrant workers are particularly vulnerable, this is even more so in the case of women.
"The most common employment opportunities for women, other than domestic work, consist in helping the elderly, caring for the sick and work in the hotel sector. These, too, are areas where Christians are called to dedicate themselves to assuring just treatment for migrant women out of respect for their femininity in recognition of their equal rights.
"In this context it is necessary to mention trafficking in human beings especially women which flourishes where opportunities to improve their standard of living or even to survive are limited. It becomes easy for the trafficker to offer his own 'services' to the victims, who often do not even vaguely suspect what awaits them. In some cases there are women and girls who are destined to be exploited almost like slaves in their work, and not infrequently in the sex industry, too.
"Though I cannot here closely examine the analysis of the consequences of this aspect of migration, I make my own the condemnation voiced by John Paul II against 'the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality' (Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women, June 29 , 1995, n. 5). This outlines a whole program of redemption and liberation from which Christians cannot withdraw.
"Speaking of the other category of migrants asylum seekers and refugees I wish to underline how the tendency is to stop at the question of their arrival while disregarding the reasons for which they left their native land.
"The Church sees this entire world of suffering and violence through the eyes of Jesus, Who was moved with pity at the sight of the crowds wandering as sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mt 9:36). Hope, courage, love, and '"creativity" in charity' (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 50) must inspire the necessary human and Christian efforts made to help these brothers and sisters in their suffering. Their native Churches will demonstrate their concern by sending pastoral agents of the same language and culture, in a dialogue of charity with the particular Churches that welcome them.
"In light of today's 'signs of the times,' particular attention should be paid to the phenomenon of foreign students. Thanks among other factors to foreign exchange programs between universities, especially in Europe, their number is growing, with consequent pastoral problems the Church cannot ignore. This is especially true in the case of students coming from developing countries, whose university experience can become an extraordinary occasion for spiritual enrichment.
"As I invoke divine assistance on those who, moved by the desire to contribute to the promotion of a future of justice and peace in the world, spend their energies in the field of pastoral care at the service of human mobility, I impart to all as a sign of affection a special Apostolic Blessing."
The Catholic Church responds to the AIDS crisis with truth and love. As a part of World AIDS Day, observed December 1, Cardinal Javier Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, issued the following message:
"The World Day against AIDS of this year, organized by UNAIDS with the slogan 'Stop AIDS: Keep the promise,' seeks to call everyone, and in particular those who occupy positions of responsibility in the field of HIV/AIDS, to a renewed and conscious commitment to the lasting prevention of the spread of this pandemic and to care for those afflicted by it, especially in poor countries, in order to stem and invert the trend towards the growing spread of infection by HIV/AIDS.
"The Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care joins with other national and international organizations, and in particular UNAIDS, which every year organizes a world campaign of combating AIDS, so that this planetary evil, which has brought about a global crisis, can be met with an action that is equally global and united.
"The adherence in 2001 of Heads of State and representatives of Governments to the Declaration of commitment to the struggle against HIV/AIDS was an important moment of affirming awareness and political commitment at a world level in favor of a strong, global, and decisive reaction and response by the international community.
"The epidemiological situation of HIV/AIDS continues to rouse great concern. It is estimated that in 2005 the number of people living with AIDS was 40.3 million, of whom 2.3 million were minors under the age of 15. Year by year the number of people infected by this disease continues to grow.
"In 2005, 4.9 million people contracted the HIV virus, of whom 700,000 were minors under the age of 15, and in 2005 3.1 million people died of AIDS, of whom 570,000 were young people under the age of 15. HIV/AIDS continues to sow death in all the countries of the world.
"The best cure is prevention to avoid infection by HIV/AIDS, which we should remember is transmitted through the triple route of blood, transmission from mother to child, and sexual contact.
"As regards transfusions and other forms of contact with the blood of an infected person, today such infection has been notably reduced. Despite this fact, the very greatest attention should be paid to avoid this pathway of infection, especially in centers that deal with transfusions and during surgical operations.
"We may thank the Lord that contagion from mother to child is strongly controlled by suitable drugs. Prevention in this field must be intensified through the provision of suitable medication to sero-positive mothers, especially by public bodies in the various countries of the world.
"The third pathway of infection sexual transmission still remains the most important. This is greatly fostered by a kind of pansexual culture that devalues sexuality, reducing it to mere pleasure without any further meaning.
"Radical prevention in this field must come from a correct conception and practice of sexuality, where sexual activity is understood in its deep meaning as a total and absolute expression of the fecund giving of love. This totality leads us to the exclusiveness of its exercise in marriage, which is unique and indissoluble. Secure prevention in this field thus lies in the intensification of the solidity of the family.
"This is the profound meaning of the Sixth Commandment of the law of God, which constitutes the fulcrum of the authentic prevention of AIDS in the field of sexual activity.
"Faced with the difficult social, cultural, and economic situation in which many countries find themselves, there can be no doubt that a defense and promotion of health is required that is a sign of the unconditional love of everyone, in particular for the poorest and the weakest, and which meets the human needs of every individual and the community.
"As a result, those laws that do not take into sufficient consideration the equal distribution of conditions of health for everyone must be reformed.
"Health is a good in itself and we can say that 'there weighs upon it a social mortgage.' Thus, health must be assured to all the inhabitants of the earth, and studies must be engaged in so that resources are used to achieve health for everyone by ensuring the basic care and treatment that are still denied to the majority of the population of the world.
"The right to the defense of health must, however, be matched by the duty to implement forms of behavior and to follow lifestyles that are directed to defending health and to reject those that compromise health.
"The Catholic Church continues to make her contribution both as regards prevention and in caring for people afflicted by HIV/AIDS and their families at the level of medical care and assistance and at the social, spiritual, and pastoral levels.
"A total of 26.7 percent of centers for the provision of care in relation to HIV/AIDS in the world are Catholic based. Local Churches, religious institutions, and lay associations have promoted very many projects and programs dealing with training and education, prevention and assistance, care and the pastoral accompanying of sick people, with love, a sense of responsibility, and a spirit of charity.
"At a practical level, on the basis of the information that comes from the various local Churches and Catholic institutions in the world, the actions that are engaged in the field of AIDS may be categorized in the following way: the promotion of campaigns of sensitization, programs of prevention and health-care education, support for orphans, the distribution of medicaments and food, home care, the creation of hospitals, centers and therapeutic communities that concentrate their work around the provision of care and assistance for people afflicted by HIV/AIDS, working with governments, care in prisons, courses of catechesis, the creation of systems of help through Internet, and the establishment of support groups for sick people.
"Flanking this inestimable and praiseworthy endeavor, on September 12, 2004, Pope John Paul II created the 'Good Samaritan' Foundation, which was entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care and subsequently confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI, in order to bring economic help, thanks to the donations that are received, to the sick people who are most in need in the world, and in particular to the victims of HIV/AIDS.
"During this first year of activity of the Foundation significant financial help to purchase pharmaceuticals has been sent to the local Churches in America, Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Concrete guidelines for action
"I would like to offer certain suggestions at the level of guidelines for action to those who are involved at various levels in the fight against HIV/AIDS:
"To Christian communities: that they may continue to promote the stability of the family and the education of children in a correct understanding of sexual activity as a gift of God for self-giving that is lovingly full and fertile.
"To governments: that they may promote the overall health of their populations and foster care for AIDS patients, basing themselves on the principles of responsibility, solidarity, justice, and fairness.
"To the pharmaceutical industries: that they may facilitate economic access to anti-viral pharmaceuticals for the treatment of HIV/AIDS and those pharmaceuticals that are needed to treat opportunistic infections.
"To scientists and health-care workers: that they may renew their solidarity and do everything they can to advance biomedical research into HIV/AIDS in order to find new and effective pharmaceuticals that are able to stem the phenomenon.
"To the mass media: that they may provide transparent, correct, and truthful information to populations on this phenomenon and on methods for its prevention, without forms of exploitation.
"I would like to conclude with the words which Pope Benedict XVI addressed to the Bishops of South Africa during their ad limina visit on June 10, 2005: 'Brother Bishops, I share your deep concern over the devastation caused by AIDS and related diseases. I especially pray for the widows, the orphans, the young mothers, and those whose lives have been shattered by this cruel epidemic.
"I urge you to continue your efforts to fight this virus, which not only kills but seriously threatens the economic and social stability of the Continent.'"
Pope Expresses Solidarity with Sudan
Vatican City Pope Benedict XVI met with Cardinal Gabriel Wako, archbishop of Khartoum, Sudan, on November 28. He assured the cardinal of his support, stating:
"It gives me great satisfaction to welcome you to the Vatican and through you to send heartfelt greetings to the people of your country. I very much appreciate the sentiments which have prompted your visit, and I wish to reassure you of my prayers and deep concern for the peaceful development of civil and ecclesial life in your nation.
"The cessation of the civil war and the enactment of a new Constitution have brought hope to the long suffering people of Sudan. While there have been setbacks along the path of reconciliation, not least the tragic death of John Garang, there now exists an unprecedented opportunity and indeed duty for the Church to contribute significantly to the process of forgiveness and national reconstruction. Though a minority, Catholics have much to offer through interreligious dialogue as well as the provision of greatly needed social services. I encourage you, therefore, to take the necessary initiatives to realize Christ's healing presence in these ways.
"The horror of events unfolding in Darfur, to which my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II referred on many occasions, points to the need for a stronger international resolve to ensure security and basic human rights. Today, I add my voice to the cry of the suffering and assure you that the Holy See, together with the Apostolic Nuncio in Khartoum, will continue to do everything possible to end the cycle of violence and misery.
"Dear friends, upon you and your people I invoke God's blessings of wisdom, fortitude, and peace!"
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