"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
We thank God for Rev. Mr. George L. Schmidl, shown above in a file photo, who was ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati on April 28. He has been a director and leader in Presentation Ministries for many years.
Love Is Key To Justice
Iraqi Refugee Crisis Challenges World
Investment In People Is Critical To Development
In Defense of Life: Saving Those Damned Catholics
Vocations Serve The Church As Communion
Pray The News
In a letter to Professor Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the importance of charity and justice in human relations.
The Academy was considering this topic in a plenary session. In the letter, dated April 28, the Holy Father stated, "The Church cannot fail to be interested in this subject, inasmuch as the pursuit of justice and the promotion of the civilization of love are essential elements of her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The Pope continued: ". . . Certainly the building of a just society is the primary responsibility of the political order, both in individual States and in the international community. As such, it demands, at every level, a disciplined exercise of practical reason and a training of the will in order to discern and achieve the specific requirements of justice in full respect for the common good and the inalienable dignity of each individual. In my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I wished to reaffirm, at the beginning of my Pontificate, the Church's desire to contribute to this necessary purification of reason, to help form consciences and to stimulate a greater response to the genuine requirements of justice. At the same time, I wished to emphasize that, even in the most just society, there will always be a place for charity: 'there is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love' (No. 28).
"The Church's conviction of the inseparability of justice and charity is ultimately born of her experience of the revelation of God's infinite justice and mercy in Jesus Christ, and it finds expression in her insistence that man himself and his irreducible dignity must be at the center of political and social life. Her teaching, which is addressed not only to believers but to all people of good will, thus appeals to right reason and a sound understanding of human nature in proposing principles capable of guiding individuals and communities in the pursuit of a social order marked by justice, freedom, fraternal solidarity, and peace. At the heart of that teaching, as you well know, is the principle of the universal destination of all the goods of creation. According to this fundamental principle, everything that the earth produces and all that man transforms and manufactures, all his knowledge and technology, is meant to serve the material and spiritual development and fulfillment of the human family and all its members.
"From this integrally human perspective we can understand more fully the essential role which charity plays in the pursuit of justice. My predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was convinced that justice alone is insufficient to establish truly humane and fraternal relations within society. 'In every sphere of interpersonal relationships,' he maintained, 'justice must, so to speak, be "corrected" to a considerable extent by that love which, as Saint Paul proclaims, "is patient and kind" or, in other words, possesses the characteristics of that merciful love which is so much of the essence of the Gospel and Christianity' (Dives in Misericordia, 14). Charity, in a word, not only enables justice to become more inventive and to meet new challenges; it also inspires and purifies humanity's efforts to achieve authentic justice and thus the building of a society worthy of man.
"At a time when 'concern for our neighbor transcends the confines of national communities and has increasingly broadened its horizon to the whole world' (Deus Caritas Est, 30), the intrinsic relationship between charity and justice needs to be more clearly understood and emphasized. In expressing my confidence that your discussions in these days will prove fruitful in this regard, I would like briefly to direct your attention to three specific challenges facing our world, challenges which I believe can only be met through a firm commitment to that greater justice which is inspired by charity.
"The first concerns the environment and sustainable development. The international community recognizes that the world's resources are limited and that it is the duty of all peoples to implement policies to protect the environment in order to prevent the destruction of that natural capital whose fruits are necessary for the well-being of humanity. To meet this challenge, what is required is an interdisciplinary approach such as you have employed. Also needed is a capacity to assess and forecast, to monitor the dynamics of environmental change and sustainable growth, and to draw up and apply solutions at an international level. Particular attention must be paid to the fact that the poorest countries are likely to pay the heaviest price for ecological deterioration. In my Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, I pointed out that 'the destruction of the environment, its improper or selfish use, and the violent hoarding of the earth's resources. . .are the consequences of an inhumane concept of development. Indeed, if development were limited to the technical-economic aspect, obscuring the moral-religious dimension, it would not be an integral human development, but a one-sided distortion which would end up by unleashing man's destructive capacities' (No. 9). In meeting the challenges of environmental protection and sustainable development, we are called to promote and 'safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic "human ecology"' (Centesimus Annus, 38). This in turn calls for a responsible relationship not only with creation but also with our neighbors, near and far, in space and time, and with the Creator.
"This brings us to a second challenge which involves our conception of the human person and consequently our relationships with one other. If human beings are not seen as persons, male and female, created in God's image (cf. Gen 1:26) and endowed with an inviolable dignity, it will be very difficult to achieve full justice in the world. Despite the recognition of the rights of the person in international declarations and legal instruments, much progress needs to be made in bringing this recognition to bear upon such global problems as the growing gap between rich and poor countries; the unequal distribution and allocation of natural resources and of the wealth produced by human activity; the tragedy of hunger, thirst, and poverty on a planet where there is an abundance of food, water, and prosperity; the human suffering of refugees and displaced people; the continuing hostilities in many parts of the world; the lack of sufficient legal protection for the unborn; the exploitation of children; the international traffic in human beings, arms, and drugs; and numerous other grave injustices.
"A third challenge relates to the values of the spirit. Pressed by economic worries, we tend to forget that, unlike material goods, those spiritual goods which are properly human expand and multiply when communicated: unlike divisible goods, spiritual goods such as knowledge and education are indivisible, and the more one shares them, the more they are possessed. Globalization has increased the interdependence of peoples, with their different traditions, religions, and systems of education. This means that the peoples of the world, for all their differences, are constantly learning about one another and coming into much greater contact. All the more important, then, is the need for a dialogue which can help people to understand their own traditions vis-à-vis those of others, to develop greater self-awareness in the face of challenges to their identity, and thus to promote understanding and the acknowledgement of true human values within an intercultural perspective. To meet these challenges, a just equality of opportunity, especially in the field of education and the transmission of knowledge, is urgently needed. Regrettably, education, especially at the primary level, remains dramatically insufficient in many parts of the world.
"To meet these challenges, only love for neighbor can inspire within us justice at the service of life and the promotion of human dignity. Only love within the family, founded on a man and a woman, who are created in the image of God, can assure that inter-generational solidarity which transmits love and justice to future generations. Only charity can encourage us to place the human person once more at the center of life in society and at the center of a globalized world governed by justice. . ."
An international conference met April 17 in Geneva, Switzerland, to consider the humanitarian needs of refugees and other displaced persons in Iraq and neighboring states. The meeting was called by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent Vatican representative to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva spoke to the group on April 17. He stated:
"In Iraq it seems 'easier to die than to live,' as some media reported in the face of the increasing violence and daily atrocities that are destroying innumerable lives and the hope of an entire people. The initiative taken by the UNHCR to bring together representatives of governments and of humanitarian organizations is therefore an opportune and promising decision. The Delegation of the Holy See expresses its appreciation and looks forward, as a result of this conference, to heightened awareness on the part of the international community and to concrete forms of help for the uprooted populations of Iraq. Over the years, the UNHCR has rescued and given hope to millions of victims of persecution, conflicts, and violation of basic human rights. We are all challenged to maintain this noble tradition.
"The world is witnessing an unprecedented degree of hate and destructiveness in Iraq; this phenomenon concomitantly exerts a widening deadly impact in the entire Middle East region. Sectarian and tribal clashes, military actions, armed groups competing for power, kidnappings, rapes, international terrorism, threats to and murder of the innocent members of families simply because they uphold their ancestral faith – these are all elements that, in combination, threaten human dignity and social wellbeing in the region. Targeting of unarmed civilians is a particularly tragic sign of total disregard of the sacredness of human life. While the consequences of this generalized violence affect the social and economic life of the country, they also are a stark reminder of the passionate appeals of the late Pope John Paul II to avoid 'the tremendous consequences that an international military operation would have for the population of Iraq and for the balance of the Middle East region already sorely tried, and for the extremisms that could stem from it.' He insistently called for negotiations even though he knew well that peace at any price might not be possible. (John Paul II, Angelus, March 16, 2003).
"Massive uprooting and displacement of the Iraqi population is now indeed a tremendous consequence. The figures are telling: some two million Iraqis currently displaced internally and two million others have already fled the country and between 40 and 50,000 are fleeing their homes each month. The very generous welcome provided by Jordan and Syria in particular and by the other countries is certainly highly commendable. Economic, social, and security concerns, however, are putting to the test this willingness and capacity to welcome. It is urgent, therefore, for the international community to take up its responsibility and share in the task of protection and assistance, to answer the call for action now through the implementation on the ground and in practical decisions of the legal and moral commitments it patiently formulated and agreed upon. Where war and violence have destroyed the social tissue and the unity of Iraq, judicious political choices and a non-discriminatory humanitarian engagement would be the first step to re-establish a pluralistic unity.
"There are special categories of victims that stand out in this largest Middle East exodus since the still unresolved Palestinian one of 1948. Displaced women, elderly, and children bear the brunt of the tragedy. With the experience of daily violence and, even more tragically, with the killing of family members before their eyes, many children are traumatized and remain without professional care. Most uprooted Iraqi children wake up in their exile to a daily experience of uncertainty, deprivation, lack of schooling, and to hard labor just to attain the minimal essentials of human survival. One has to wonder how their psychological scars will condition the future. Christian and other religious minorities who have been a target of forced eviction and ethnic and religious cleansing by radical groups find themselves in limbo in their temporary place of refuge since they are unable to return to their homes and are without a possibility of local integration or resettlement. It is the suffering of all the victims that should prompt a coordinated, effective, and generous response.
"A comprehensive reconciliation and peace are the obvious responses that address the root of all forced displacement. As the international community pursues this complex goal, addressing immediately the needs of the millions of uprooted Iraqis and other refugees in the area will prevent further regional destabilization and will relieve their pain. This is not the time to look at technical definitions of a refugee, but to recall 'the exemplary value beyond its contractual scope' attributed by States, from the very beginning, to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951). Recently, the development of the concept of complementary protection has become a significant conclusion to support a humane response in massive displacement. Therefore, among the practical measures that must be upheld and implemented as means of due protection, are acceptance of all people fleeing generalized violence, respectful of their human rights and of the principle of non-refoulement, registration for an orderly assistance, provision of appropriate legal documentation.
"In this humanitarian response, the countries hosting displaced Iraqis cannot be ignored by the international community and must receive tangible and prompt solidarity. A community-inclusive approach to assist vulnerable displaced people and hosts can be a winning strategy for an effective outreach even to needy persons who are the most isolated and vulnerable. In fact, without this solidarity, the victims escaping violence are at risk of new forms of exploitation and of being deprived of health and education services, housing, and employment possibilities. Facing such vulnerability, some persons are tempted to place themselves in the hands of smugglers in order to escape but simply are confronted with additional difficulties in the countries they manage to reach.
"While the first humanitarian need is peace, equally vital is a coordinated response that raises awareness of the immense crisis we face. Such a response must involve actors from States, civil society, and United Nations. In order to ameliorate the plight of all displaced people inside and outside the country, this response must enjoy a responsible participation of all Iraqis.
"All humanitarian workers who have been delivering active assistance, notwithstanding risk and sacrifice, deserve the appreciation from the global human family as well as adequate resources to carry out their mission. They serve as effective instruments, as shown, for example, by the tens of thousands of people of all backgrounds and convictions being helped daily by the Catholic charitable network in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt. Local NGOs as well as faith-based organizations and others often have the best capacities to reach out to the neediest, build upon community solidarity, and, in this moment of increased tensions between ethnic, tribal, and religious groups, open up genuine dialogue. It makes good sense that they be empowered, financially supported, and actively engaged in situation assessments and response programming.
"In previous but similar crises of massive displacement, the mobilization of the international community proved effective in providing durable solutions. There is a need to match past effectiveness. While the right to return has to be kept alive for displaced Iraqis, other examples in recent history have demonstrated that the option of resettlement may need to be enhanced, and doors opened by more countries and for greater numbers, so that pressure within the region may be alleviated on a short-term basis. A renewed and concerted effort is called for, however, to make conditions in Iraq and in the whole region conducive to a decent and sustainable coexistence among all its citizens. The historical diversity of communities can contribute to a democratic experience and can link this society to the world. Such a contribution presupposes mutual acceptance, the rejection of homogenization, and constructive pluralism. The implementation of all durable solutions to end displacement in this context can prevent the emergence of chronic, protracted situations that result in long-term and humiliating circumstances for large numbers of new refugees. . .
"My Delegation is convinced that, at this juncture of the Middle East crisis, vigorous leadership is demanded of the international community. Surely, the greatest challenge is to find a way for reconciliation, to reconstruct the will to dialogue, and to hope again so that peace may win. Generous, timely, and coordinated humanitarian help for all the victims of such horrific violence will achieve justice for them and will begin the indispensable process of healing their tragic condition.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, stressed the importance of investing in people and in education in addressing shifting population demographics and in providing for human development in an April 10 address at the U.N. Commission on Population and Development of the Economic and Social Council.
Archbishop Migliore stated: "Indicators continue to suggest that by 2050 the world's population should stabilize at about nine billion. Although this implies that national populations will not need to be regulated as proposed by radical opinion in the past, this Commission should continue to serve a useful purpose in monitoring the demographic trends in all parts of the world. In this regard, policy goals and the means to achieve them must remain sound and focused on the dignity of the human person.
"This 40th session of the Commission coincides with the 40th anniversary of a document on population and development written by the late Pope Paul VI, known as Populorum Progressio, that is, The Progress of Peoples. At a time when the world was commonly divided into two blocs, East and West, the document focused instead on peoples and societies, whose conditions were marked not by being Eastern or Western, but by the levels of development and well-being in some parts of the world, in contrast to the degree of poverty and underdevelopment in others. The emphasis placed by the document on the individual and on societies, both as the primary focus of development policies and as protagonists of their own development, even today provides a sure guide for demographic policies to promote a culture respectful of the rights of the least-protected members of our human family, especially before birth and in extreme old age.
"The reports made to the Commission this year suggest that dependency ratios are set to soar in some places, where an increasing number of elderly people will lay a heavier burden on the active population.
"It is to be hoped that states will work to foster respect for human life in all its stages and to find solutions that are right and just, not merely pragmatic. Here in particular, promoting solidarity between generations will be very valuable.
"While by 2050 Europe is set to have an elderly dependency ratio similar to that of Africa's in the 1960s, Africa is set to have the lowest dependency ratio in the world. This projection should hand that Continent an unprecedented advantage in economic terms, as a young and numerous workforce should be available to it until at least 2050, while the demographic dividend in most other regions will have run out.
"To assure that Africa will not miss this window of opportunity for economic development, it must be helped, inter alia, to invest in its human capital and infrastructure to underpin economic growth. Because many of this future work force are already born and are already of school age, my delegation believes that the most decisive investment to be made here is in education. The U.N. Secretariat estimates that to achieve primary education for all by 2015 would cost nine billion dollars estimated in 1998 dollar value. By any estimate, this can hardly be considered a high price to pay for such a prize.
"Moreover, education, especially for girls and young women, can have a notable impact on population growth. As women become better educated, they gain greater respect; they become breadwinners; they acquire maturity in parental responsibility and a greater say in family affairs. Investing in people in this way, especially in education, is surely to be preferred to legal imposition of limits, to artificial corrective measures and drastic policies, and to the unacceptable practice of eliminating fetuses, especially females, in order to limit population growth.
"Finally, since this Commission's 39th session last year, important initiatives have been both completed and launched, in particular concerning migrants, a topic of no small importance in relation to the changing age structures of populations. My delegation regards last year's High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development as having been useful and welcomes the offer of Belgium and other countries to maintain its momentum in the form of the forthcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development. It is to be hoped that the Forum will build upon what was achieved during the High-level Dialogue. There is almost no country in the world untouched by migration and it has become an extremely important source both of labor and of remittances depending on each country's circumstances. Therefore, it is in the interests of all states – not to mention the migrants themselves – that the Forum be allowed room to succeed. . ."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
Have you ever heard a sermon about the Church's teachings concerning artificial contraception? Have you ever read an article in your local diocesan newspaper that presented the Church's teachings on homosexuality?
Except when I attend Masses sponsored by Northern Kentucky Right to Life, I have never, not even once, heard the word "contraception" mentioned at a weekday or Sunday Mass in a local diocesan church (even though I do know of some priests that have frequently addressed this issue). Probably less than once a year do I even hear the topic of abortion being brought up in a Sunday homily. I have never read anything in my local diocesan newspaper expressing the Church's teaching on homosexuality, even though it does talk about "homophilia."
Have you not had a similar experience? Do you also find yourself frustrated when priests and bishops, the Catholic news media, and Catholic universities and medical facilities remain silent as to what the Church is teaching, or make statements that are so confusing that one is left wondering what in fact the Church really teaches?
If so, I have the book for you, a must read this summer: Saving Those Damned Catholics.
The author, Judie Brown, longtime President of American Life League, an orthodox and uncompromising national pro-life organization, boldly documents the failure of our priests, bishops, religious orders, and bureaucracy to proclaim the Church's teachings, as well as their acceptance and frequent participation in the dissemination of false teaching, referred to as "dissent."
"This fearless and hard-hitting indictment reflects the views of faithful Catholics outraged by the many dissenters who have betrayed the Church's teaching on contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research," writes James Likoudis, President-emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith.
To whet your appetite, let's review some excerpts from this book.
"Yet in keeping with the ongoing effort among the bureaucrats at the USCCB to water down Catholic doctrine for the purpose of maintaining political power, the bishops' statements persist in using rhetoric that confuses the public. For example, in Faithful Citizenship, the American bishops state, '…We hope that voters will examine the positions of candidates on the full range of issues, as well as on their personal integrity, philosophy, and performance.'
"It is this kind of gobbledygook that baffles so many Catholics in the first place.
"Every bishop should have the courage to make it clear that those who in any way support the direct killing of innocent persons in the womb, in the nursing home, or at birth are not fit to serve in public office."
"What's even more astounding, of course, is the USCCB and most bishops rarely preach or require priests to preach against contraception."
As Mrs. Brown notes, for years many members of the clergy, as well as those claiming to be Catholic theologians, preached that using contraception was not wrong if the couple was obeying the dictates of their conscience. Seldom did faithful Catholics ever hear that one must conform one's conscience to what Christ thinks, as taught by His Church. Just because one thinks that contraception is morally acceptable does not make this intrinsic evil a good.
Mrs. Brown goes on to clearly identify the source of the sexual perversion experienced in American society. "…Contraceptive intercourse, which is an evil departure from God's plan, opens the door to every type of sexually deviant behavior including pedophilia, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and rape. Once the floodgates are opened and people fall into the mindset of accepting a practice as unnatural as birth control, the marriage act is no longer sacred; and in fact, sexuality itself is merely a mechanical function of the body. From that kind of attitude toward sex flows a free acceptance of homosexual acts and other deviant sexual behaviors.
"The perception, held by many priests and bishops, is that there are millions of Catholic women who have already had an abortion, and therefore nothing negative should be said for fear of alienating such women."
"They seem so afraid to deal with reality that they hide behind a very false, actually cruel type of compassion. And as a result, everybody in the parish suffers because nobody ever hears the truth, including the expectant mother who might be sitting in that church and preparing for an abortion."
In this book, Mrs. Brown explains that the so-called "emergency contraception," or "morning-after pill," not only functions to prevent ovulation, and/or the movement of sperm, but also functions to impede implantation of the newly conceived child into its mother's womb, and thus results in the killing of the child.
However, in cases of sexual assault, Catholic hospitals are dispensing these pills, relying on the confusing statements issued by conferences of bishops.
"The USCCB's pro-life office made it clear from the outset that the [emergency contraception and/or morning-after] pills had to be opposed because of their potential for aborting a human being during his first few days of life.
"But the USCCB has also issued directives for Catholic hospitals, directives which are not clear and do in fact contribute to confusion regarding what the Church actually says about rape treatment. …they can find an excuse for making the so-called morning-after pills readily available for sexual assault victims, even though they know that such pills can abort.
"Their guidelines for health care for sexual assault victims say this: if, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, blah, blah, blah.
"These words are meaningless. Doctors tell me there is much medical debate about the certainty of determining conception so soon after intercourse with the use of pregnancy tests. In fact, there is no such test that is totally reliable right now, so why give the Catholic hospital an excuse to use pills that can cause abortion?"
Withdrawal of Food and Water
As to the issue of whether it is morally acceptable to withdraw food and water, no matter how administered, from a patient who is in a coma or who is severely disabled, Mrs. Brown takes the opportunity to clearly explain what the Catholic Church teaches. No matter how the food and water are administered to a patient, they are not medical treatment but human care, which is always obligatory.
Mrs. Brown notes that the act of withdrawing food and water is not, as some priests and bishops have argued, allowing someone to die, but is in fact causing their death, a death by starvation and dehydration.
"The only time that food and fluids can be considered optional is when the administering of nutrition and hydration will cause the patient excruciating pain or when the body rejects it."
Get A Copy
Mrs. Brown's book brings to mind the clear public teaching of that great defender of the faith, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, more than 30 years ago: "Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and your religious act like religious."
Judie Brown's book can be obtained from American Life League. To order, call toll-free 1-866-538-5483 or go online at www.SavingThoseDamnedCatholics.com ($28.79 hardback and $18.69 paperback, plus shipping and handling).
"Her great new work tells it like it is," states Fr. Tom Euteneuer, President of Human Life International.
So what are you doing this summer? Why not read a book which helps you meet your Christian duty to educate yourself on what the Catholic Church teaches, especially on the moral issues facing our society today?
The 44th World Day of Prayer for Vocations on April 29 focused on the role of vocations in serving the Church as communion. In his message for this day, Pope Benedict XVI called this theme "more topical than ever." The pontiff said that this day highlights "the importance of vocations in the life and mission of the Church" and results in "intensifying our prayer that they may increase in number and quality."
The Pope continued: "The annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations is an appropriate occasion for highlighting the importance of vocations in the life and mission of the Church, as well as for intensifying our prayer that they may increase in number and quality. . .I would like to draw the attention of the whole people of God to the following theme, which is more topical than ever: the vocation to the service of the Church as communion.
"Last year, in the Wednesday general audiences, I began a new series of catechesis dedicated to the relationship between Christ and the Church. I pointed out that the first Christian community was built, in its original core, when some fishermen of Galilee, having met Jesus, let themselves be conquered by his gaze and his voice, and accepted his pressing invitation: 'Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men!' (Mk 1:17; cf. Mt 4:19). In fact, God has always chosen some individuals to work with him in a more direct way, in order to accomplish His plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, in the beginning, he called Abraham to form a 'great nation' (Gn 12:2); afterwards, he called Moses to free Israel from the slavery of Egypt (cf. Ex 3:10). Subsequently, he designated other persons, especially the prophets, to defend and keep alive the covenant with his people. In the New Testament, Jesus, the promised Messiah, invited each of the Apostles to be with him (cf. Mk 3:14) and to share his mission. At the Last Supper, while entrusting them with the duty of perpetuating the memorial of his death and resurrection until his glorious return at the end of time, he offered for them to his Father this heart-broken prayer: 'I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them' (Jn 17:26). The mission of the Church, therefore, is founded on an intimate and faithful communion with God.
"The Second Vatican Council's Constitution Lumen gentium describes the Church as 'a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit' (n. 4), in which is reflected the very mystery of God. This means that the love of the Trinity is reflected in her. Moreover, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, all the members of the Church form 'one body and one spirit' in Christ. This people, organically structured under the guidance of its Pastors, lives the mystery of communion with God and with the brethren, especially when it gathers for the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of that ecclesial unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of his passion: 'Father. . .that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me' (Jn 17:21). This intense communion favors the growth of generous vocations at the service of the Church: the heart of the believer, filled with divine love, is moved to dedicate itself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom. In order to foster vocations, therefore, it is important that pastoral activity be attentive to the mystery of the Church as communion; because whoever lives in an ecclesial community that is harmonious, co-responsible, and conscientious, certainly learns more easily to discern the call of the Lord. The care of vocations, therefore, demands a constant 'education' for listening to the voice of God. This is what Eli did, when he helped the young Samuel to understand what God was asking of him and to put it immediately into action (cf. 1 Sam 3:9). Now, docile and faithful listening can only take place in a climate of intimate communion with God which is realized principally in prayer. According to the explicit command of the Lord, we must implore the gift of vocations, in the first place by praying untiringly and together to the 'Lord of the harvest.' The invitation is in the plural: 'Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest' (Mt 9:38). This invitation of the Lord corresponds well with the style of the 'Our Father' (Mt 6:9), the prayer that he taught us and that constitutes a 'synthesis of the whole Gospel' according to the well-known expression of Tertullian (cf. De Oratione, 1,6: CCL I, 258). In this perspective, yet another expression of Jesus is instructive: 'If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven' (Mt 18:19). The Good Shepherd, therefore, invites us to pray to the heavenly Father, to pray unitedly and insistently, that he may send vocations for the service of the Church as communion.
"Harvesting the pastoral experience of past centuries, the Second Vatican Council highlighted the importance of educating future priests to an authentic ecclesial communion. In this regard, we read in Presbyterorum ordinis: 'Exercising the office of Christ, the shepherd and head, according to their share of his authority, the priests, in the name of the Bishop, gather the family of God together as a brotherhood enlivened by one spirit. Through Christ they lead them in the Holy Spirit to God the Father' (n. 6). The post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis echoes this statement of the Council, when it underlines that the priest is 'the servant of the Church as communion because – in union with the Bishop and closely related to the presbyterate – he builds up the unity of the Church community in harmony of diverse vocations, charisms, and services' (n. 16). It is indispensable that, within the Christian people, every ministry and charism be directed to full communion; and it is the duty of the Bishop and priests to promote this communion in harmony with every other Church vocation and service. The consecrated life, too, of its very nature, is at the service of this communion, as highlighted by my venerable predecessor John Paul II in the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata: 'The consecrated life can certainly be credited with having effectively helped to keep alive in the Church the obligation of fraternity as a form of witness to the Trinity. By constantly promoting fraternal love, also in the form of common life, the consecrated life has shown that sharing in the Trinitarian communion can change human relationships and create a new type of solidarity' (n. 41).
"At the center of every Christian community is the Eucharist, the source and summit of the life of the Church. Whoever places himself at the service of the Gospel, if he lives the Eucharist, makes progress in love of God and neighbor and thus contributes to building the Church as communion. We can affirm that the 'Eucharistic love' motivates and founds the vocational activity of the whole Church, because, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus caritas est, vocations to the priesthood and to other ministries and services flourish within the people of God wherever there are those in whom Christ can be seen through his Word, in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist. This is so because 'in the Church's Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence, and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives. He loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love' (n. 17).
"Lastly, we turn to Mary, who supported the first community where 'all these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer' (Acts 1:14), so that she may help the Church in today's world to be an icon of the Trinity, an eloquent sign of divine love for all people. May the Virgin, who promptly answered the call of the Father saying, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord' (Lk 1:38), intercede so that the Christian people will not lack servants of divine joy: priests who, in communion with their Bishops, announce the Gospel faithfully and celebrate the sacraments, take care of the people of God, and are ready to evangelize all humanity. May she ensure, also in our times, an increase in the number of consecrated persons, who go against the current, living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and give witness in a prophetic way to Christ and his liberating message of salvation. Dear brothers and sisters whom the Lord calls to particular vocations in the Church: I would like to entrust you in a special way to Mary, so that she, who more than anyone else understood the meaning of the words of Jesus, 'My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it' (Lk 8:21), may teach you to listen to her divine Son. May she help you to say with your lives: 'Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God' (cf. Heb 10:7). With these wishes, I assure each one of you a special remembrance in prayer and from my heart I bless you all."
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