"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
Josh Hamilton, a rookie with the Cincinnati Reds, has the prayers and good wishes of many in Cincinnati and across the nation as he resumes his baseball career after years off due to drug addiction. Hamilton credits his relationship with God, his Christian faith, and the faith and encouragement of his wife and family with making possible his rehabilitation. Hamilton is making the jump from playing in the low minor league to the major league level as a Rule 5 player. (Photo: courtesy of the Cincinnati Reds)
Hope Emerges In Sudan
Pope Urges Youth To Be Apostles
Youth Consider How To Witness For Christ At Work
In Defense of Life: Political Accountability
Prison To Praise: How I Came to Honor Mary
Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News
Pray The News
While the emergency of Darfur captures most of the attention when people talk of Sudan, a story of hope and homecoming is taking place in another region of the country. In southern Sudan, millions are expected to return home after the end of 22 years of brutal, deadly civil war — the longest continuous war on the African continent. With a peace agreement signed in January, southern Sudanese face the rebuilding of their homeland.
In Khartoum, Sudan's capitol, CRS (Catholic Relief Services) is helping people prepare for this journey. In the Homeward Bound project, CRS helps young displaced Sudanese learn the skills of plumbing, carpentry, engineering, and other such professions, to help them undertake a dignified, peaceful, and sustainable resettlement in their traditional southern homelands.
"The training program is the best thing that could have happened," says Deng Maween Akok, a Dinka tribal leader in the Jebel Awlia camp for internally displaced persons about 25 miles outside Khartoum, speaking through an interpreter. He and his family fled the south in 1986 and have lived in two such camps since arriving in Khartoum's unwelcoming environment.
"When they go south, they can help rebuild the country," he says of the young men learning bricklaying and construction at the St. Vincent de Paul training school next to Jebel Awlia.
In the mud-walled hut he has built in the Jebel Awlia community since marrying recently, Malwan Dan, who is 30 and older than most of the students enrolled at the St. Vincent training school, speaks of a day when he and his mother, Ajak Arou, and the rest of the family will return south.
"We have not had this hope before," Dan says, speaking through an interpreter. "When I finish (the eight-month program at St. Vincent's), I will try to go for more courses. Then I will go south and work.
"They will need me," he says. "It is our own country. We must go back to our own country."
At the St. Joseph Training School in Khartoum, 18-year-old Thomas Loira, speaks some English. He tells of his excitement when he saw the advertisement in his church bulletin inviting young men from the south to apply for places in the Homeward Bound project at St. Joseph's.
"I applied right away," he says. "This was very exciting. I want to be a carpenter. I wanted to make our situation good for when we return. Now I am learning to be a carpenter and I will return to my home in Juba and work as a carpenter."
At St. Joseph's, the 246 students enrolled in the Homeward Bound courses are studying to become carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, three of the eight courses offered by the school.
The Homeward Bound program provides tuition, food for one mid-day meal, transportation for those living far from the center, and supplies such as wood for the carpenters and plumbing and electrical equipment for the aspiring plumbers and electricians. Upon graduation from the eight-month program, each student receives a tool kit valued at $140 to embark upon his new livelihood, and a transportation stipend to allow students to return to the South.
Sudan at a Turning Point
Having escaped to Khartoum from the abiding battle grounds and hardships of the south, 10, 15, and 20 years ago, the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of southerners who settled in Khartoum found a harsh life.
Last January, the Islamic government in the north signed a peace treaty with rebels in the predominantly Christian and animist south in which some 2 million people are believed to have been killed. Roughly 4 million others were driven from their homes by marauding Arab tribesmen who raped, pillaged, and kidnapped with impunity, and the rebels who fought against them.
Between 1.5 million and 2 million Southern Sudanese displaced from the war still live in sprawling, dusty makeshift camps of mud dwellings around Khartoum. As in much of their quarter-century experience with the ravages of war, the internally displaced populations have depended on their own ingenuity and help from a vast array of foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations like CRS to survive.
The challenge, now that a peace treaty has been signed and the Khartoum government and southern rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement have agreed to form a national unity government, is to ensure a safe return of Sudanese to their ancestral homeland, where a long road of recovery and rebuilding has barely begun.
(This report was provided by Catholic Relief Service)
During his visit to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI met with youth on May 10 at the Municipal Stadium in Pacaembu, Sao Paulo. During his talk, the Pope reflected on the Gospel passage, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor . . . and come, follow Me." (Mt 19:21)
The Pope challenged the youth saying: ". . . As I gaze at you young people here present—you who radiate so much joy and enthusiasm—I see you as Christ sees you: with a gaze of love and trust, in the certainty that you have found the true way. You are the youth of the Church. I send you out, therefore, on the great mission of evangelizing young men and women who have gone astray in this world like sheep without a shepherd. Be apostles of youth. Invite them to walk with you, to have the same experience of faith, hope, and love; to encounter Jesus so that they may feel truly loved, accepted, able to realize their full potential. May they too discover the sure ways of the commandments, and, by following them, come to God.
"You can be the builders of a new society if you seek to put into practice a conduct inspired by universal moral values, but also a personal commitment to a vitally important human and spiritual formation. Men and women who are ill-prepared for the real challenges presented by a correct interpretation of the Christian life in their own surroundings will easily fall prey to all the assaults of materialism and secularism, which are more and more active at all levels.
"Be men and women who are free and responsible; make the family a center that radiates peace and joy; be promoters of life, from its beginning to its natural end; protect the elderly, since they deserve respect and admiration for the good they have done. The Pope also expects young people to seek to sanctify their work, carrying it out with technical skill and diligence, so as to contribute to the progress of all their brothers and sisters, and to shed the light of the Word upon all human activities (cf. Lumen Gentium, 36). But above all, the Pope wants them to set about building a more just and fraternal society, fulfilling their duties towards the State: respecting its laws; not allowing themselves to be swept along by hatred and violence; seeking to be an example of Christian conduct in their professional and social milieu, distinguishing themselves by the integrity of their social and professional relationships. They should remember that excessive ambition for wealth and power leads to corruption of oneself and others; there are no valid motives that would justify attempting to impose one's own worldly aspirations — economic or political — through fraud and deceit.
"There exists, in the final analysis, an immense panorama of action in which questions of a social, economic, and political nature take on particular importance, as long as they draw their inspiration from the Gospel and the social teaching of the Church. This includes building a more just and fraternal society, reconciled and at peace, it includes the commitment to reduce violence, initiatives to promote the fullness of life, the democratic order and the common good and especially initiatives aimed at eliminating certain forms of discrimination existing in Latin American societies: avoiding exclusion, for the sake of mutual enrichment.
"Above all, have great respect for the institution of the sacrament of Matrimony. There cannot be true domestic happiness unless, at the same time, there is fidelity between spouses. Marriage is an institution of natural law, which has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament; it is a great gift that God has given to mankind: respect it and honor it. At the same time, God calls you to respect one another when you fall in love and become engaged, since conjugal life, reserved by divine ordinance to married couples, will bring happiness and peace only to the extent that you are able to build your future hopes upon chastity, both within and outside marriage. I repeat here to all of you that 'eros tends to rise . . . towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification, and healing' (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, 5). To put it briefly, it requires a spirit of sacrifice and renunciation for the sake of a greater good, namely the love of God above all things. Seek to resist forcefully the snares of evil that are found in many contexts, driving you towards a dissolute and paradoxically empty life, causing you to lose the precious gift of your freedom and your true happiness. True love 'increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to "be there for" the other' (ibid., 7) and therefore will always grow in faithfulness, indissolubility, and fruitfulness.
"In all these things, count upon the help of Jesus Christ Who will make them possible through His grace (cf. Mt 19:26). The life of faith and prayer will lead you along the paths of intimacy with God, helping you to understand the greatness of His plans for every person. 'For the sake of the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 19:12), some are called to a total and definitive self-giving, by consecrating themselves to God in the religious life—an 'exceptional gift of grace,' as the Second Vatican Council expressed it (cf. Decree Perfectae Caritatis, 12). Consecrated persons, by giving themselves totally to God, prompted by the Holy Spirit, participate in the Church's mission, bearing witness before all people to their hope in the heavenly Kingdom. I therefore bless and invoke divine protection upon all those religious who have dedicated themselves to Christ and to their brothers and sisters within the vineyard of the Lord. Consecrated persons truly deserve the gratitude of the ecclesial community: monks and nuns, contemplative men and women, religious men and women dedicated to apostolic works, members of Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, hermits and consecrated virgins. 'Their existence witnesses to their love for Christ as they walk the path proposed in the Gospel and with deep joy commit themselves to the same style of life which He chose for Himself' (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction Starting Afresh from Christ, 5). I pray that in this moment of grace and profound communion in Christ, the Holy Spirit will awaken in the hearts of many young people an impassioned love, prompting them to follow and imitate Jesus Christ, chaste, poor, and obedient, totally devoted to the glory of the Father and to love for their brothers and sisters.
"The Gospel assures us that the young man who went to meet Jesus was very rich. We may understand this wealth not only on the material level. Youth itself is a singular treasure. We have to discover it and to value it. Jesus appreciated it so much that he went on to invite the young man to participate in his saving mission. He had great potential and could have accomplished great things.
"But the Gospel goes on to say that this young man, having heard the invitation, was saddened. He went away downcast and sad. This episode causes us to reflect further on the treasure of youth. It is not, in the first place, a question of material wealth, but of life itself, and the values inherent in youth. This wealth is inherited from two sources: life, transmitted from generation to generation, at the ultimate origin of which we find God, full of wisdom and love; and upbringing, which locates us within a culture, to such an extent that we might almost say we are more children of culture and therefore of faith, than of nature. From life springs freedom, which manifests itself, especially in this phase, as responsibility. There comes the great moment of decision, in a twofold choice: firstly, concerning one's state of life, and secondly concerning one's profession. It is about providing an answer to the question: what do I do with my life?
"In other words, youth appears as a form of wealth because it leads to the discovery of life as a gift and a task. The young man in the Gospel understood that his youth was itself a treasure. He went to Jesus, the good Teacher, in order to seek some direction. At the moment of the great decision, however, he lacked the courage to wager everything on Jesus Christ. In consequence, he went away sad and downcast. This is what happens whenever our decisions waver and become cowardly and self-seeking. He understood that what he lacked was generosity, and this did not allow him to realize his full potential. He withdrew to his riches, turning them to selfishness.
"Jesus regretted the sadness and the cowardice of the young man who had come to seek Him out. The Apostles, like all of you here today, filled the vacuum left by that young man who went away sad and downcast. They, and we, are happy, because we know the one in whom we believe (cf. 2 Tm 1:12). We know and we bear witness with our lives that he alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68). Therefore, we can exclaim with Saint Paul: Rejoice always in the Lord! (cf. Phil 4:4).
"My appeal to you today . . . is this: do not waste your youth. Do not seek to escape from it. Live it intensely. Consecrate it to the high ideals of faith and human solidarity.
"You, young people, are not just the future of the Church and of humanity, as if we could somehow run away from the present. On the contrary: you are that young man now; you are that young man in the Church and in humanity today. You are his young face. The Church needs you, as young people, to manifest to the world the face of Jesus Christ, visible in the Christian community. Without this young face, the Church would appear disfigured. . .
"My dear young friends, like the young man in the Gospel who asked Jesus: 'What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?', you are all seeking ways to respond generously to God's call. I pray that you may listen to His saving words and that you may become his witnesses for the peoples of today. May God pour out upon all of you His blessings of peace and joy.
"My dear young people, Christ is calling you to be saints. He Himself is inviting you and wants to walk with you. . ."
An International Youth Forum met in Rome from March 26-31 to consider "Witnessing to Christ in the world of work." The meeting involved the Pontifical Council for the Laity and had delegates from bishops' conferences from throughout the world and involving various fields of work.
In a message to participants from Pope Benedict XVI, dated March 28, the Pope said:
". . .The theme is very much a topical issue and takes into account the transformations that have taken place in recent years in the fields of economics, technology, and communications, changes that have radically changed the appearance and conditions of the labor market. The progress achieved has, on the one hand, given new hope to young people, but on the other it has created disturbing forms of marginalization and exploitation with more and more situations of personal hardship. Because of the noticeable difference between the education and training received and the world of work, it is now more difficult for them to find employment that meets with their personal skills and studies, and there is no certainty that they will be able to maintain even unstable employment for any length of time. The process of globalization taking place in the world entails a need for mobility that obliges numerous young people to emigrate and live far from their home countries and their families. This brings about an unsettling feeling of insecurity that undoubtedly has repercussions on their ability to not only dream and build up a project for the future, but even to commit themselves to matrimony and start a family. These are complex and delicate questions that must be faced in due course, keeping in mind the reality of our times while referring to the social doctrine of the Church. This is duly presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and especially in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
"The attention of the Church in recent years has been constantly directed on the social question, and in particular on that of work. We remember the encyclical Laborem exercens published a little over twenty-five years ago, on September 14, 1981, by my well loved predecessor John Paul II. This reaffirmed and updated the great intuitions developed by Pope Leo XIII and Pius XI in the encyclicals Rerum novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo anno (1931), both written during the period of the industrialization of Europe. In a context of economic liberalism conditioned by market forces, of competition and competitiveness, these pontifical documents forcefully call on the need to evaluate the human dimension of work and to protect the dignity of the person. In fact, the ultimate reference of every human activity can only be the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. A close analysis of the situation, in fact, shows that work is part of God's plan for humankind and that it is participation in His work of creation and redemption. Every human activity should be an occasion and place for the growth of individuals and society, the development of personal 'talents' that should be appreciated and placed at the ordered service of the common good, in a spirit of justice and solidarity. For believers, moreover, the ultimate aim of work is the building up of the Kingdom of God.
". . .Today, more than ever, it is necessary and urgent to proclaim 'the Gospel of Work,' to live as Christians in the world of work and become apostles among workers. In order to fulfill this mission it is necessary to remain united to Christ through prayer and a deep sacramental life, and for this purpose, to hold Sunday in special high regard, for it is the day dedicated to the Lord. . . I encourage young people not to lose heart when faced with these difficulties . . .
"The theme for reflection this year is: 'Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another' (Jn 13:34). Here I repeat what I wrote to young Christians all over the world, that there may be awakened in young Christians, 'trust in a love that is true, faithful, and strong; a love that generates peace and joy; a love that binds people together and allows them to feel free in respect for one another,' and allows them to develop their abilities to the full. It is not simply a question of becoming more 'competitive' and 'productive,' but it is necessary to be 'witnesses of charity.' It is only in this way that young people – with the support of their respective parishes, movements, and communities, in which it is possible to experience the greatness and vitality of the Church – will be able to experience work as a vocation and true mission. To this end, Venerable Brother, I assure you of my prayers, with the heavenly protection of Mary and Saint Joseph, patron of workers. . ."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
"We must allow the truth of God and the truth of the dignity of the human person to guide us in every decision we make. With each law or bill we consider, we must be first a people who recognize that there is the inherent dignity of human life which is bestowed by God and can never be violated.
"Once we begin to determine what is good or what is evil, once we begin to determine who has dignity and who doesn't, we will see that the lust for power, money, and control overtakes and guides the human heart. The result is that violence and murder govern society," warns Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota.
Right to Life
The news media, including many Catholic sources, along with many Catholic politicians, want us to believe that opposition to legalized abortion, euthanasia, cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, homosexuality, and assisted suicide are all based on religious beliefs, and thus it is wrong to use laws to prohibit such activities. However, true Catholics, as well as all people of faith, know that this is not correct.
The above-mentioned attacks on human life are not morally wrong because they are opposed by the Catholic Church, but because these intrinsically evil acts violate the natural law, the law of God.
The Declaration of Independence, which only one Catholic signed, clearly states that there are inalienable rights that are bestowed upon a person by God. The only thing for a government (in this case for the British government) to do was to recognize these inherent rights. These human rights are not granted by any government, or bestowed by any church or culture, but are rights that each person has simply because he is a human person.
Christianity, for 2,000 years, has been promoting this concept, i.e., that each person, made in the image of God, possesses an intrinsic dignity. This dignity does not depend on one's stage of development in life, one's physical, mental, or psychological abilities or disabilities, one's productivity, one's wealth or family ties, or one's political power. A person, by the very fact that he is a human person, has this human dignity, gratitude for which he owes no other human person, society, or church. Although not the only voice, the Catholic Church has been a clear teacher upholding the dignity, the sanctity of all innocent human life.
The basis for which the Catholic Church condemns the above acts is that they are intrinsically wrong, violating human dignity, and thus everywhere, in every time, are morally unacceptable.
The Church has long taught that those holding public offices have an obligation, as servants of the people they govern, to protect the fundamental rights of each citizen. Thus, those who are elected to public office, or appointed to the judiciary, have an obligation to recognize this inherent human dignity and to enact laws to equally protect each individual's basic human rights.
This obligation is imposed upon them by God, for which they will have to render an accounting.
As Robert P. George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, stated: "The obligation of the public official is not to 'enforce the teaching of the Catholic Church,' it is, rather, to fulfill the demands of justice and the common good in light of the principle of the inherent and equal dignity of every member of the human family."
A number of officeholders, while claiming to be Catholic, espouse that the government cannot force morality on other people, and thus it should not enact legislation banning the above intrinsic evils because it is necessary that we guarantee everyone a right to their religious beliefs in regard to these issues.
However, these intrinsic evils are not morally wrong because of anyone's religious beliefs. They are morally wrong because man has an intrinsic human dignity granted to him by God. What anyone of us may believe, based on religious principles or not, is not the reason why the government has an obligation to protect basic human rights. Government has a duty to protect each individual's human dignity, because each one of us is a human being.
Just because the teachings of the Catholic Church, as well as other religions, condemn slavery, does not mean that opposition to slavery was based on simply religious beliefs. One hundred fifty years ago, there were Christians opposing and supporting slavery. What made slavery an intrinsic evil was that it denied human dignity to a class or race of people. That was the basis for opposition to slavery and the basis for government to end this intrinsic evil.
Some who hold public office, claiming to be members of the Catholic Church, have enacted legislation, or encouraged funding, that support these intrinsic evils. What, if anything, should the Church do?
When Pope Benedict XVI was asked if he agreed with the excommunications given to legislators in Mexico City, he responded:
"Yes, the excommunication was not something arbitrary. It is part of the Canon Law Code [Canon 915]. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in communion with the body of Christ. Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. Politicians exclude themselves from Communion."
Such a statement quickly brought the allegation that this violated the "separation of church and state."
However, the First Amendment, which only states that the government may not establish a religion, does not state that the Constitution guarantees politicians membership in any particular church. It is the church's right to determine the beliefs and morality to which its members must adhere.
The Constitution, written by those wishing to form a government, imposed restrictions on the government they were forming, and never intended to create any type of limitations on the beliefs and practices of particular religions.
This is also obviously true with the freedom of the press. It is a limitation on the state, which may be tempted to control the press. Nobody in the public media seems to claim that freedom of the press is a restriction imposed upon the press on what it may say and demand of politicians.
Thus far, only 12 out of 183 Catholic bishops in the United States have chosen to give effect to the clear mandate of the canon law of their Church, and deny Communion to those who publicly and continuously sin by their active support of the killing of the most innocent member of the human family. We already know that these pro-abortion politicians don't believe what they say. The real test is now going to be whether these Catholic bishops actually believe the mandatory and fundamental teachings of their own Church.
by Louis Templeman
(Editor's note: Mr. Templeman writes from prison and is a student in Presentation Ministries' Guadalupe Bible College. We welcome contributions from prisoners and would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
Years ago when I heard my daughter Faith praying the rosary, I became so angry I nearly blew a gasket. She was about 9-years-old and was being influenced by her best friend who was a Catholic. I decided against confronting the girl's mother and risking bad feelings, but I demanded Faith stop that nonsense right away.
Today, 16 years later, Mary is one of the brightest stars in my sky and the rosary is an integral part of my prayer life. What happened to me that I went from dismissing Mary to honoring her? The change began about two years after that incident as I journeyed in my spiritual pilgrimage from Pentecostalism to Anglicanism. After that, things Catholics no longer were automatically anathema to me. Some things I found attractive such as Holy Communion. Other matters were merely a curiosity like Mary. Or, remained an irritant like the rosary.
Shortly after my youngest daughter, Michal, was born, I came across a pamphlet, "A Novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary." I knew little about novenas, but I was inspired to try one. So, I led my family in a 10-minute prayer of nine consecutive evenings. I was too embarrassed to read aloud the devotional section where Mary was honored. I prayed that part in secret. It was rather uncomfortable to my Protestant sensibilities.
We had a list of "prayer intentions" or prayer requests that we mentioned each evening, and we were all amazed that each was answered precisely. I was certainly impressed, and I embarked on a secret admiration and investigation of the claims of the Ancient Faith regarding this virtuous and mysterious woman, Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
The hunger I had for reading material on Catholic spirituality started increasing as I began to enjoy deepening satisfaction. I certainly had a lot of inbred anti-Catholicism to overcome. I grew up Southern Baptist and hold degrees from two Baptist seminaries.
As I studied and prayed, I found myself honoring Mary on a quite personal level. It came not through study but rather by inspiration, because it began to feel right. For me, belief proceeded understanding. I found myself wanting to honor Mary no more, but certainly no less than Jesus honors her. In time I discovered a Scriptural basis for holding her in high esteem:
Mary is the "woman of Messianic prophecy. The first mention of this woman is Genesis 3:15 where God addresses the serpent in the Garden of Eden:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel."
This "woman" could not have referred to Eve. This prophecy speaks of Mary and her offspring, Jesus. Nearly all Christian scholars agree this passage refers to Satan and Mary but in a larger, fuller sense, Satan and the Church. The victory over Satan would come through Christ alone but Mary is an attendant to the struggle even as the Church today is involved with Christ in the struggle between good and evil.
At the wedding in Cana where Jesus saved the day by turning water into wine, He at first resisted His mother's intercession to intervene. He addressed her prophetically as "woman." There is no other example in either Hebrew or Greek literature of a man addressing his mother as woman. That such a unique usage of this word should come from Jesus indicates a prophetic key to her role as the New Eve. Many Church fathers writing in the 1st and 2nd centuries referred to her as the New Eve. When Mary told her Son, "They have no wine," He replied:
"Woman, what concern is that to you and to Me? My hour has not yet come."
Obviously she disagreed with Him. His hour had indeed come. She spontaneously chose this wedding as a good place for her Son to come out, a good time for a miracle. We don't know that she expected a miracle. Or if she knew her Son would be a miracle worker. I think we can assume she knew her Son was capable of and bound for astounding greatness. I always imagine Jesus' reply to her as a flash-back, as it were, alluding to the incident when He was 12 and she'd spent three days searching for Him. At that time she insisted He go home with her because at the age of 12 His hour certainly had not yet come. However, 18 years later at the wedding at Cana she determined His hour had come.
We see the prophetic contrast here. The woman in Eden's garden drawing the man towards disobedience. And, here at the wedding the woman drawing the Man to work God's righteousness.
At Calvary Jesus also refers to Mary as woman (John 19:26):
"When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing beside her, He said to His mother, 'Woman, here is your son.' Then He said to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' "
Christ here gives His mother an expanded role. She would continue her work of intercession, comfort, and support with John. The prophetic drama here is amazing. In Eden there was a tree. At Calvary, also a tree. In Eden there was Eve, the mother of all living. At Calvary there was a woman appointed by Jesus as mother of John who represents God's new creation, the new people of God. Eden was the beginning of the old creation. Calvary is the beginning of the new creation.
In Simeon's prophecy in Luke 2 we find a prophetic word on the vocation God gave to Mary. She was appointed to be the intercessory partner to Christ in His ministry. When he said, "A sword shall pierce through your own soul also," we see her partnership so intimately woven into His that she even suffers with Him. She who felt His first breath and heard His first words was also there for His last. In five ways I find she served as an attendant to her Son's life and work:
"A great portent appeared in the heaven, a woman clothed with the sun. . .she gave birth to a son. . .who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron. . .the dragon. . .pursued the woman. . .then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children. . .who hold the testimony of Jesus."
As is typical of most apocalyptic literature, this passage has many rich layers. The "woman" in this picture is both the Church and the individual person, Mary. She serves as such an accurate prototype of the Church that I find those who honor her also honor Christ's Church. On the other hand, those who dismiss the importance of one usually also dismiss the importance of the other.
I found that once I received a deeper understanding of who Mary is, I also became more aware of what the Church is. And once I came to better understand the Church, I began to find out who I am. So I honor Mary. Jesus honors her. Scripture honors her. She has been a great benefit to me in my recent Christian pilgrimage. My desire is that I may honor Mary even as Jesus, my brother, honors His mother. No more. But, certainly no less.
VATICAN CITY – At the end of his general audience on June 8, Pope Benedict XVI made the following appeal to the leaders of G-8 countries:
"Today in Heiligendamm, Germany, under the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Annual Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Government of the G-8 – that is, the seven most industrialized countries of the world plus the Russian Federation – has begun. On last December 16, I had occasion to write to Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanking her, in the name of the Catholic Church, for the decision to keep the theme of world poverty on the agenda of the G-8, with specific reference to Africa. Doctor Merkel kindly replied to me on last February 2, assuring me of the G-8's commitment to attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Now, I should like to make a further appeal to the leaders meeting at Heiligendamm, not to retreat from their promises to make a substantial increase in development aid in favor of the most needy populations, especially those of the African Continent.
"In this regard, the second Millennium goal merits special attention: 'to achieve universal primary education – to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015.' This is an integral part of the attainment of all the other Millennium Goals: it is a guarantee of the consolidation of goals already reached; it is the starting-point for autonomous and sustainable processes of development.
"It must not be forgotten that the Catholic Church has always been at the forefront in the field of education, reaching places, particularly in the poorest countries, that State structures often fail to reach. Other Christian Churches, religious groups, and organizations of civil society share this educational commitment. According to the principle of subsidiarity, this reality should be recognized, valued, and supported by Governments and International Organizations, among other things by the allocation of sufficient funding, so that greater efficacy may be guaranteed in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Let us hope that serious efforts be made to reach these objectives."
(Source: L'Osservatore Romano English edition)
BALTIMORE – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) commends President Bush's proposal to extend and expand the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a pioneering program to battle HIV and AIDS in the developing world. The recipient of several large PEPFAR grants, CRS has seen both the dire needs in communities battling the epidemic, and the near-miraculous results that well-targeted programs have produced.
PEPFAR is a $15 billion, five-year program that provides vital services to more than a million people in 15 targeted nations in the hardest-hit countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Under the president's proposal, the program, which is set to expire in 2008, would be extended for another five years, fueled by an additional $30 billion. The expansion would allow the program to provide treatment to 2.5 million people, more than doubling its current reach.
CRS operates a range of programs across the developing world to help millions of people affected by HIV. Three PEPFAR grants have allowed the agency to work in 12 countries to provide comprehensive prevention programs and education on HIV and AIDS, serve more than 36,000 children affected by the epidemic, or provide antiretroviral therapy. Having started more than 65,000 people on the lifesaving drugs, CRS is a daily witness to the effects such medication can have.
CRS encourages Congress to reauthorize PEPFAR for five years and dramatically increase funding without affecting other humanitarian and development accounts. The agency also asks Congress to retain provisions that allow faith-based groups to conduct evidence-based activities around abstinence, behavior change, and partner reduction. Finally, CRS calls on Congress to structure the program so groups like CRS can more easily address nutritional needs and other concerns in communities affected by HIV.
(Source: CRS press release)
BALTIMORE – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is calling on Americans of all faiths to voice their support for a just peace in the Middle East that will guarantee security for Israel and a viable state for Palestinians. Only a dramatic change in the political situation – initiated by active U.S. engagement in the peace process – can help alleviate suffering in the Holy Land and protect human dignity.
"The humanitarian crisis is unacceptable," said Tom Garofalo, CRS Country Representative for Jerusalem/West Bank/Gaza. "Nearly half of Palestinians don't have reliable access to food, one in four Palestinian workers is unemployed, and others are working but not being paid because of economic sanctions, and basic services like health and education have been severely compromised". . .
The United Nations reports two-thirds of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza – two million people – now live on less than $2 a day and rely on humanitarian assistance to support their families. More than 500 checkpoints and obstacles in the West Bank, an area the size of Delaware, impede freedom of movement. The Separation Barrier, when finished, will enclose 274,000 Palestinians and block 400,000 others from their fields, jobs, schools, and hospitals.
"CRS will continue to provide aid to those in need in the Holy Land," said Garofalo. "But the real end to suffering here will only come about through peace and a lasting two-state settlement. Palestinians, and all the people of this region, need to feel secure and be able to look to the future with confidence."
CRS, in support of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Campaign for Peace in the Holy Land, an interreligious peace effort among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders, is urging Americans to:
(Source: CRS press release)
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.
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