"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
|(Photo by Bethany Strasser)|
Pope Benedict XVI's message for World Mission Sunday stresses the continued urgency of evangelization and missionary activity. World Mission Sunday will be celebrated on October 19.
The Pope's message, dated May 11, follows:
"On the occasion of the World Mission Day, I would like to invite you to reflect on the continuing urgency to proclaim the Gospel also in our times. The missionary mandate continues to be an absolute priority for all baptized persons who are called to be 'servants and apostles of Christ Jesus' at the beginning of this millennium. My venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, already stated in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi: 'Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity' (n. 14). As a model of this apostolic commitment, I would like to point to St. Paul in particular, the Apostle of the nations, because this year we are celebrating a special Jubilee dedicated to him. It is the Pauline Year which offers us the opportunity to become familiar with this famous Apostle who received the vocation to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles, according to what the Lord had announced to him: 'Go, I shall send you far away to the Gentiles' (Acts 22:21). How can we not take the opportunity that this special Jubilee offers to the local Churches, the Christian communities, and the individual faithful to propagate the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the world, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Cf. Rm 1:16)?
"Humanity needs to be liberated and redeemed. Creation itself - as St. Paul says - suffers and nurtures the hope that it will share in the freedom of the children of God (cf. Rm 8:19-22). These words are true in today's world too. Creation is suffering. Creation is suffering and waiting for real freedom; it is waiting for a different, better world; it is waiting for 'redemption.' And deep down it knows that this new world that is awaited supposes a new man; it supposes 'children of God.'
"Let us take a closer look at the situation of today's world. While, on the one hand, the international panorama presents prospects for promising economic and social development, on the other it brings some great concerns to our attention about the very future of man. Violence, in many cases, marks the relations between persons and peoples. Poverty oppresses millions of inhabitants. Discrimination and sometimes even persecution for racial, cultural, and religious reasons drive many people to flee from their own countries in order to seek refuge and protection elsewhere. Technological progress, when it is not aimed at the dignity and good of man or directed towards solidarity-based development, loses its potentiality as a factor of hope and runs the risk, on the contrary, of increasing already existing imbalances and injustices. There is, moreover, a constant threat regarding the man-environment relation due to the indiscriminate use of resources, with repercussions on the physical and mental health of human beings. Humanity's future is also put at risk by the attempts on his life, which take on various forms and means.
"Before this scenario, 'buffeted between hope and anxiety... and burdened down with uneasiness' (Gaudium et Spes, n. 4), with concern we ask ourselves: What will become of humanity and creation? Is there hope for the future, or rather, is there a future for humanity? And what will this future be like? The answer to these questions comes to those of us who believe from the Gospel. Christ is our future, and as I wrote in the Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, His Gospel is a 'life-changing' communication that gives hope, throws open the dark door of time, and illuminates the future of humanity and the university (cf. n. 2).
"St. Paul had understood well that only in Christ can humanity find redemption and hope. Therefore, he perceived that the mission was pressing and urgent to proclaim 'the promise of life in Christ Jesus' (2 Tm 1:1), 'our hope' (1 Tm 1: 1), so that all peoples could be co-heirs and co-partners in the promise through the Gospel (cf. Eph 3:6). He was aware that without Christ humanity is 'without hope and without God in the world' (Eph 2:12) - 'without hope because they were without God' (Spe Salvi, n. 3). In fact, 'anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12)' (ibid., n. 27).
"It is therefore an urgent duty for everyone to proclaim Christ and His saving message. St. Paul said, 'Woe to me if I do not preach it [the Gospel]!' (1 Cor 9:16). On the way to Damascus he had experienced and understood that the redemption and the mission are the work of God and His love. Love of Christ led him to travel over the roads of the Roman Empire as a herald, an apostle, a preacher and a teacher of the Gospel of which he declared himself to be an 'ambassador in chains' (Eph 6:20). Divine charity made him 'all things to all, to save at least some' (1 Cor 9: 22). By looking at St. Paul's experience, we understand that missionary activity is a response to the love with which God loves us. His love redeems us and prods us to the missio ad gentes. It is the spiritual energy that can make the harmony, justice, and communion grow among persons, races, and peoples to which everyone aspires (cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 12). So it is God, Who is Love, Who leads the Church towards the frontiers of humanity and calls the evangelizers to drink 'from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from Whose pierced heart flows the love of God' (Deus Caritas Est, n. 7). Only from this source can care, tenderness, compassion, hospitality, availability, and interest in people's problems be drawn, as well as the other virtues necessary for the messengers of the Gospel to leave everything and dedicate themselves completely and unconditionally to spreading the perfume of Christ's charity around the world.
"While the first evangelization continues to be necessary and urgent in many regions of the world, today a shortage of clergy and a lack of vocations afflict various Dioceses and Institutes of consecrated life. It is important to reaffirm that even in the presence of growing difficulties, Christ's command to evangelize all peoples continues to be a priority. No reason can justify its slackening or stagnation because 'the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church' (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 14). It is a mission that 'is still only beginning and we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service' (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, n. 1). How can we not think here of the Macedonian who appeared to Paul in a dream and cried, 'Will you come by to Macedonia to help us?' Today there are countless people who are waiting for the proclamation of the Gospel, those who are thirsting for hope and love. There are so many who let themselves be questioned deeply by this request for aid that rises up from humanity, who leave everything for Christ and transmit faith and love for Him to people! (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 8).
"Dear Brothers and Sisters, 'duc in altum!' Let us set sail in the vast sea of the world and, following Jesus' invitation, let us cast our nets without fear, confident in His constant aid. St. Paul reminds us that to preach the Gospel is no reason to boast (cf. 1 Cor 9: 16), but rather a duty and a joy. Dear brother Bishops, following Paul's example, may each one feel like 'a prisoner of Christ for the Gentiles' (Eph 3: 1), knowing that you can count on the strength that comes to us from Him in difficulties and trials. A Bishop is consecrated not only for his diocese, but for the salvation of the whole world (cf. Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, n. 63). Like the Apostle Paul, a Bishop is called to reach out to those who are far away and do not know Christ yet or have still not experienced His liberating love. A Bishop's commitment is to make the whole diocesan community missionary by contributing willingly, according to the possibilities, to sending priests and laypersons to other Churches for the evangelization service. In this way, the missio ad gentes becomes the unifying and converging principle of its entire pastoral and charitable activity.
"You, dear priests, the Bishops' first collaborators, be generous pastors and enthusiastic evangelizers! Many of you in these past decades have gone to the mission territories following the Encyclical Fidei Donum whose 50th anniversary we celebrated recently, and with which my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pius XII, gave an impulse to cooperation between the Churches. I am confident that this missionary tension in the local Churches will not be lacking, despite the lack of clergy that afflicts many of them.
"And you, dear men and women religious, whose vocation is marked by a strong missionary connotation, bring the proclamation of the Gospel to everyone, especially those who are far away, through consistent witness to Christ and radical following of His Gospel. Dear faithful laity, you who act in the different areas of society are all called to take part in an increasingly important way in spreading the Gospel. A complex and multiform areopagus thus opens up before you to be evangelized: the world. Give witness with your lives that Christians 'belong to a new society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage' (Spe Salvi, n. 4).
"Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the celebration of World Mission Day encourage everyone to take renewed awareness of the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel. I cannot fail to point out with sincere appreciation the contribution of the Pontifical Mission Societies to the Church's evangelizing activity. I thank them for the support they offer to all the Communities, especially the young ones. They are a valid instrument for animating and forming the People of God from a missionary viewpoint, and they nurture the communion of persons and goods between the different parts of the Mystical Body of Christ. May the collection that is taken in all the parishes on World Mission Day be a sign of communion and mutual concern among the Churches. Lastly, may prayer be intensified ever more in the Christian people, the essential spiritual means for spreading among all peoples the light of Christ, the 'light par excellence' that illuminates 'the darkness of history' (Spe Salvi, n. 49). As I entrust to the Lord the apostolic work of the missionaries, the Churches all over the world, and the faithful involved in various missionary activities and invoke the intercession of the Apostle Paul and Holy Mary, 'the living Ark of the Covenant,' the Star of evangelization and hope, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to everyone."
(Editor's note: Bethany Strasser is a member of the Acts 2:42 Home-based Community, Cincinnati.)
World Youth Day (WYD) was an amazing experience. Upon arriving in Sydney, Australia's airport, pilgrims flooded the area. As soon as we reached outside it seemed that people multiplied, there were buses everywhere. I was a bit surprised only because we arrived a week early before WYD, supposedly ahead of the crowd, and yet there were already so many already there. We arrived in Newcastle, which is about two miles outside of Sydney, and found that we were going to be staying in tents the rest of the week, along with 1,200 other youths! What a pilgrimage it was after that! There were never any complaints, the first night was ok, but the second night it went down into the lower 20's! The Australians said that this was the coldest night they have had in nearly 10 years. Some of the kids in the group were already coming down with colds, so we requested for those who were too sick to possibly stay in the classrooms where it was a little bit warmer. Amazingly enough, they offered to our entire group to sleep indoors the rest of the week, what a blessing that was! For the rest of that week we enjoyed viewing the city, listening to the didgeridoo, and enjoying the Masses we went to and the different cultures that participated in it. Every night after Mass, there would be a "youth party" celebrated with everyone dancing, singing, and enjoying a huge bonfire. The best out of that was the Tukelau and Cook Islands, it was amazing to see them dance, and hear their harmonious singing, absolutely beautiful, and especially neat around the campfire.
|Participants from Presentation Ministries at World Youth Day 2008.|
As we reached the week of WYD, we had to say a farewell to all of our friends we met there, the Tukelau, Detroit, Denver, Cook Islands, and the French. We knew that we might see them again in Sydney, except there would be hundreds of thousands of youth there, extremely hard to locate anyone. But we had to look forward to a new adventure, being able to see our Holy Father. Upon arriving in Syndey, just outside the city limits, we were staying at St. Agnes Parish, in the school, on their floors. That evening we had the pleasure of finally participating in our first "bobby" or "bar-b-q" as we call it, where we were able to try Australian sausages with fried onions, with a choice of ketchup or bar-b-q sauce. The rest of that week, we prepared for WYD, by attending Catechesis, Mass, and then heading off to whatever WYD events were going on that evening. Most of the events were either Catholic concerts, teachings, or vocation expos, of which all were exciting to attend.
The day had finally arrived when we would see our Holy Father. The Pope arrived on the cruise ship coming into Barangaroo Bay in one of Sydney's harbors; the excitement among all of these thousands upon thousands of youth was phenomenal, from loud chants of "Ben-e-dicto!!" "Ben-e-dicto!" or someone saying "Bene, Bene, Bene" everyone in unison would yell back "oy, oy, oy!!" It was amazing to see so many youth not only excited to see the Father of our Church, but just the fact that they were so on fire for the Lord.
The day before the Pope's Mass we went on the famous "pilgrimage walk" that all WYD participants attended. Overall it was about a 14-mile walk starting from the bus station and onto the famous Sydney bridge, and all the way through the city to where we would finally arrive at our destination Randwick Race Course. The walk itself was tolerable; we had been doing so much walking the days before we were prepared quite a bit for that long walk. Again there were no complaints from anyone, instead everyone enjoyed seeing all of these thousands of youth walking to Randwick; we would pass by the Italians, Belgium, Japan, India, Africa, South America, and so many more, all of them either singing their culture's songs, praying, or just enjoying being at WYD.
Upon arriving at Randwick, we all got our sleeping bags situated for another night of sleeping outside. There were some of us that just plopped down onto our sleeping bags and just slept, ate lunch, or just walked around to scout out the area. That evening was the night of the vigil. The Pope once again came to lead the vigil, which was so exciting. Thousands of candles could be seen everywhere. It was going to be another cold night, people were already just standing there in the sleeping bags trying to keep warm. Afterwards, we had the option of sleeping and getting ready for the Papal Mass early the next day, and attending adoration with the Missionary Sisters of Charity, Mother Teresa's order. It was pretty going to adoration there; they had the Eucharist surrounded by candles. It was so crowded in there, even though it was a huge tent! It was great to see Universal Church in its fullness, all these youth in adoration, some were just praying, a few just sat there, and others just knelt there soaking in the splendor of our Lord. It was amazing to see so many other people excited to be practicing their faith, which in these days we don't see much, definitely a blessing.
The next day was the Papal Mass. There was an excitement in everyone. Pope Benedict came, and in his Pope mobile he went around the entire track, which is fairly big since Randwick is one of the largest in the world. Our whole group was able to be right there as he went by, just feet away! The Mass itself was amazing, there were thousands of priests, bishops, and even some cardinals that were able to participate in the Mass with the Holy Father. Truly an amazing event, something beyond belief, memories that would be kept forever. We are all already looking forward to Madrid, Spain, where the next WYD will be held! G'day!
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
In tIn this year's presidential race, for whom should one, who embraces the Judeo-Christian principles of the sanctity of all innocent human life, vote?
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D) of Illinois has a strident 100 percent pro-abortion voting record, and as a state senator in Illinois even voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which requires medical care to be furnished to the child who survives an abortion. Obama has made his pro-abortion position a key plank of his campaign and indicates that it will enjoy top priority in his administration, especially the appointment of pro-abortion judges to the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Obama chose as his Vice Presidential running mate the pro-abortion U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden (D) of Delaware, a "Catholic." This long-time senator has consistently espoused the culture of death philosophy, opposing any attempts to restrict or regulate those who profit from the killing of unborn children. Obama and Biden are obviously kindred spirits.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver was interviewed by Raymond Arroyo of EWTN. In a recent televised debate between Obama and McCain in a Protestant church, Obama answered that "when human life begins is above my pay grade." The Archbishop pointed out that Obama's answer was disingenuous, first because the question didn't call for the opinion of the candidates as to when human life began, but rather called for a statement of when the life of the unborn child was entitled to legal rights. Chaput went on to point out that indeed every time Obama made a decision to vote for the destruction of unborn life, he was making a decision on that question, i.e., that the unborn child was not entitled to legal rights, and Obama's answer therefore was disingenuous.
At the end of the interview, Arroyo asked the Archbishop if he had any advice for Catholic voters, and the Archbishop responded directly and candidly: "Don't believe those who say that we can separate our religious beliefs from our public life."
ArchArchbishop Chaput was not invited to give a prayer at the Democratic National Convention, even though it was held in Denver, the seat of his archdiocese. Instead, on that evening he attended a Pro-Life prayer vigil with Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., near a Planned Parenthood abortuary in Denver.
Archbishop Chaput continued that if a Catholic politician continues to vote for the destruction of innocent unborn babies, his bishop should first advise the candidate privately of this inconsistency. If the candidate remains intransigent, then he "must be denied" Holy Communion, because he is not in communion with the Church, and indeed is in violation of a fundamental teaching, i.e., the sanctity of all innocent human life.
Other high-ranking Catholic officials have weighed in on related issues. Archbishop Raymond Burke, recently elevated from Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri, to Prefect of the Signatura in Rome (meaning chief justice of the supreme court of the Roman Catholic Church), reiterated that apostate Catholics, publicly supporting the killing of unborn babies, should be first admonished from persistence in that position. If he then "persists in public moral sin and attempts to receive Communion, the minister of the Eucharist has the obligation to deny it to him," for the reason, first, there is involved the salvation of that person, and secondly, scandal (danger to the souls of others) given by the Church permitting such a sacrilegious act.
"The vast majority of American bishops will not deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion political figures. This sends confusing messages to Catholics and to America in general," states Judie Brown of American Life League.
As to the question of the obligation of Catholic citizens not to advance abortion by electing pro-abortion candidates, the Kansas Catholic Bishops Conference has just issued a Voters Guide setting forth the clear principles applicable: "In light of the above, we would commit moral evil if we were to vote for a candidate who takes a permissive stand on those actions that are intrinsically evil when there is a morally acceptable alternative. ...So when there is no choice of a candidate that avoids supporting intrinsically evil actions, especially elective abortion, we should vote in such a way as to allow the least harm to innocent human life and dignity. ...We would not be acting immorally therefore if we were to vote for a candidate who is not totally acceptable in order to defeat one who poses an even greater threat to human life and dignity."
Although U.S. Senator John McCain (R) of Arizona has been referred to as "pro-life" by some national pro-life organizations, McCain's actual record includes (1) his votes in favor of using taxpayer funds to finance embryonic stem-cell research (necessitating the destruction of live pre-born human beings); (2) his opposition to the U.S. Congress' intervention to save Terri Schiavo's life; (3) his opposition to the Republican Party platform plank which calls for a Human Life Amendment, which Sen. McCain found unacceptable because it did not allow destruction of unborn children conceived in rape and incest; and (4) the fact that he was one of the two prime sponsors of the McCain-Feingold Bill which limited when right-to-life groups can publish the pro-abortion record of pro-abortion politicians.
Sen. McCain also voted in 1993 to confirm to the U.S. Supreme Court the admitted pro-abortion liberal, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had been an attorney for the stridently pro-abortion American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, he formed the "Gang of 14," seven senators from each party, to block the GOP senate from invoking the "nuclear option," i.e., empowering the GOP to break a filibuster of judicial nominees by majority vote - unless the seven Democrats agreed.
On the other hand, Sen. McCain has voted for Pro-Life measures in the Senate, including banning abortions on military bases, banning partial-birth abortion, granting protection to the survivor of abortion in the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, etc.
"Many national organizations that claim the pro-life mantle (including the NRLC) do not insist that candidates embrace a 100% pro-life stance. Some support candidates who would permit abortions in certain cases. Others are willing to support candidates who merely say they are pro-life, but actually have no intention at all to advance pro-life legislation. Therefore, candidates and elected officials can claim to be pro-life while doing little, if anything, to actually advance the personhood of the child. But, sadly, some pro-life groups refuse to hold these people responsible for their inaction," explains Judie Brown.
Another pro-life action of Sen. John McCain was his selecting as his Vice Presidential running mate a remarkable and uncompromising pro-lifer, Governor Sarah Palin (R) of Alaska. Palin is the mother of five, is strongly Pro-Life, and opposes gay marriage, which is constitutionally banned in Alaska. She vetoed legislation that would have granted benefits to gay state employees and their partners.
During her last pregnancy, she and her husband learned that her unborn child was a victim of Downs Syndrome, but gave no consideration to abortion: "We've both been very vocal about being pro-life," she said. "We understand that every innocent life has wonderful potential....We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives. We have faith that every baby is created for a good purpose and has the potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed."
While she is in favor of additional oil and gas drilling, including in her own state, she once stated: "Alaskans know I am pro-life and I have never wavered in my belief in the sanctity of every human life. These issues are so important they shouldn't be diluted with oil and gas deliberations."
Governor Palin last November lambasted a decision by the Alaskan Supreme Court that permitted underage girls to obtain abortions without parental consent, calling the decision "outrageous," and instructing the Attorney General to file a petition for rehearing.
While Pro-Lifers would not expect the support of Governor Palin by strident pro-abortionists, we feel confident that the nomination of this articulate and principled lady will furnish a national platform for the reinvigoration of these issues, and indeed will result in the change of hearts of many people.
If Governor Palin were the presidential nominee, she would clearly earn a Pro-Life endorsement. However, legislative initiatives, executive orders and appointments, including the all-important judicial appointments, and policy determinations, belong not to the vice president, but to the president. We can only hope and pray that if Sen. John McCain is elected, Governor Palin might have some considerable influence over his decisions in these respects.
So on November 4, for whom should you vote? Pray that God will give you guidance.
Remember that all your words and actions, including your exercise of your right to vote, should give witness to God's unchanging truth that abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are unspeakable crimes and are intrinsically evil.
(This article was prepared by Robert C. Cetrulo, President, and Fred H. Summe, Vice President, of Northern Kentucky Right to Life.)
Much has happened since "Protestant Pastors on the
Road to Rome" by Elizabeth Altham appeared in the Spring 1996 issue of Sursum
Included among the graduates of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Mass., mentioned in Altham's article, have been such evangelical Catholics as Marcus Grodi, Scott Hahn, Steve Wood, Bill Bales, and Gerald Matatics.
"Without sounding super-spiritual," says Steve Wood, "I think it's a sovereign move of God. I think I can tell you why it happened at my seminary. Our seminary was bought by Pew of Sun Oil, a very wealthy evangelical, and Billy Graham."
As part of the story he also tells about his meeting Fr. Schevers:
"He asked, 'Where did you do your theological studies?'
"I said, 'Oh, it's a place you'd never have heard of, Gordon-Conwell.'
"He looked at me and smiled. 'I taught there,' he said. You see, it had been a Carmelite boys' school with the purpose of producing vocations for the Church. They were praying and praying, but there weren't vocations coming and in great agony they put the property up for sale. To add double insult to injury, here came Billy Graham and bought the campus. I'm convinced that for us it was the prayers of those Carmelites."
Since his conversion, Marcus Grodi has founded the Coming Home Network International (chnetwork.org) which includes Deep in History conferences, Deep in Scripture radio, and Deep in Christ regional gatherings.
The goal of the CHNetwork is "to assist the Catholic Church in fulfilling its mission of evangelization and its call for Christian unity, as proclaimed by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, That They May Be One (Ut Unum Sint)." They do this especially by ministering to other converts to the Catholic Church and their families.
Scott Hahn, besides being a professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville (OH) and popular author and speaker, is the founder of St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Its website, salvationhistory.com, describes it as a non-profit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study in the Catholic tradition. Their goal is "to be a teacher of teachers. We want to raise up a new generation of priests who are fluent in the Bible and lay people who are biblically literate."
Their Letter and Spirit Journal began in 2005 and their monthly newsletter Breaking the Bread includes short Bible studies on the readings for each of that month's Sunday Masses.
Steve Wood founded Family Life Center International
His ministry is not only in strengthening marriages yet to be but saving those in trouble and aiding those which have broken. This includes the monthly Dads.org e-news and the Faith & Family Circle newsletters.
Bill Bales is now president of National Association of Catholic Home Educators, a Professor of Sacred Scripture, Mount St. Mary's Seminary, and a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He and his wife, Lisanne, have six children.
Gerald Matatics is currently a full-time staff
apologist for Catholic Answers in San Diego, CA. He is also the founder
of Biblical Foundations International (http://www.gerrymatatics.org/)
In a message to the 29th Meeting for Friendships Among Peoples in Rimini, Italy, from August 24-31, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, addressed the question of what constitutes success. Cardinal Bertone sent the message in a letter to Bishop Francesco Lambiasi, bishop of the diocese.
Cardinal Bertone conveyed the greetings of Pope Benedict XVI. He wrote:
"The provocative theme of the Meeting: 'Either protagonists or nobodies,' commands instant attention. Indeed, this was the organizers' precise intention: 'to provoke thought on the concept of a person.' What does being a protagonist of one's own life and of that of the world actually mean? The question has become urgent today because the alternative to protagonism seems all too often to be a life without meaning, the grey anonymity of so many 'nobodies' who get lost in the folds of an amorphous mass and unfortunately unable to emerge with a noteworthy face of their own. Then the question should be more focused and could perhaps be rephrased: what does a face give a human being, what makes a person unmistakeable and guarantees his/her existence full dignity?
"The society and culture in which we are immersed and of which the media are a powerful soundbox are largely dominated by the conviction that fame is an essential component of personal fulfilment. To emerge from anonymity, to succeed in imposing oneself on public attention with every possible means and pretext is the goal pursued by many. Political or financial power, prestige acquired in one's profession, a display of wealth, the renown of one's own achievements, even the ostentation of one's own excesses... all this is quietly taken to be 'success' and a 'triumph' in life. That is why the new generations aspire increasingly to idealized professions and careers precisely because they bring them into the limelight, which enables them to 'appear,' to feel that they are 'somebody.' The ideal for which they strive is represented by cinema actors, the mythical celebrities of television and of the entertainment world, by athletes, soccer players, etc.
"But what happens to those who have no access to this level of social visibility? What happens to those who are forgotten, if not actually crushed by the dynamics of worldly success on which the society they live in is based? What happens to those who are poor, defenseless, sick, elderly or disabled, those who have no talents to forge ahead among others or no means to cultivate them, who have no voice to make their own ideas and convictions heard? How should one perceive those who lead a hidden life, of no apparent importance to newspapers and television? Contemporary men and women, like all people down the ages, strive for their own happiness and pursue it wherever they think they can find it. Here then is the real question the word 'protagonism' conceals, which this year's Meeting proposes for our reflection: in what does happiness consist? What can truly help people to achieve it?
"This year Pope Benedict XVI established a special Jubilee Year dedicated to a 'champion' of Christianity of all time, the Pharisee of Tarsus called Saul, who after ferociously persecuting the early Church, converted when the Lord's call 'broke through' to him. From that moment he served the cause of the Gospel with total dedication, tirelessly travelling the then known world and helping to lay the foundations of what was to become the European culture, enlightened by Christianity.
"Few have shown a breadth of knowledge and an acumen equal to Paul's. His Letters express the explosive force of his passionate personality and have attracted millions of readers, exercising a unique influence on generation after generation of men and women and on entire peoples and nations. In his writings Paul never ceases to present Christ as an authentic source of respect among men, of peace among nations, of justice in coexistence. Two thousand years later, we can all consider ourselves 'sons' of his preaching, and our civilization knows that it is actually indebted to this man for the values on which it is founded.
"Yet St. Paul's existence is very far from being in the limelight of public recognition. When he died, the Church he had helped to disseminate was still a tiny seed, a group that the supreme authorities of the Roman Empire could allow themselves to neglect or endeavor to crush with bloodshed.
Moreover Paul's existence, examined in its daily dimension, appears troubled, beset by hostility and dangers, full of difficulties to face rather than consolations and joys to enjoy. He himself bears a vivid witness to this in a great many passages of his writings. This is what he says, for example, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: 'Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the Churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?' (11:24-29). It was with determination and in the Name of his Redeemer that Paul ended or rather completed this obstacle race - as we might describe it - in Rome, where he was condemned to death and beheaded. Many other Christians died with him in the Emperor Nero's raging persecution and among them was Peter, the fisherman of Galilee and Head of the Church.
"Can Paul's life really be considered 'successful'? Here we are before the paradox of Christian life as such. Indeed, to Christians what does 'succeeding' mean? What do the existences of so many holy people, who lived in the retirement of their convents tell us? What do the lives and deaths of numberless Christian martyrs tell us, most of whose names are unknown, who ended their lives not amidst acclamation but rather surrounded by contempt, hatred, and indifference? In what does the 'greatness' of their lives consist, the luminosity of their witness, their 'success'?
"Recently too, the Holy Father Benedict XVI recalled that man was made for the eternal fulfilment of his life. This goes far beyond mere worldly success and is not in opposition to the humility of the condition in which he makes his earthly pilgrimage. The fulfilment of the human being is knowledge of God, by Whom every person was created and for Whom he strives with every fiber of his being. Neither fame nor popularity with the masses serves to achieve this. This is the protagonism that the title of this year's Rimini Meeting seeks to propose anew. The protagonist of one's own existence is someone who gives his life to God, Who calls him to cooperate in the universal project of salvation.
"The Meeting intends to reaffirm that Christ alone can reveal to man his true dignity and communicate to him the authentic meaning of his life. When a believer follows Him docilely, he can leave a lasting trace in history. It is the trace of Love, of which he becomes a witness precisely because he has been grasped by Love. It is then that what was possible for St. Paul also becomes possible for each one of us. It does not matter whether or not God's design provides for a reduced sphere of action. It does not matter whether we live within the walls of a cloistered monastery or are immersed in the multiple and different activities of the world; it does not matter whether we are fathers and mothers of families or consecrated people, or priests. God uses us in accordance with His plan of love according to the ways that He chooses and He asks us to support the action of His Spirit; He wants us to be His collaborators for the realization of His Kingdom. He says to each one: 'Come, follow Me' (Lk 18:22), and only by following Him does man experience the true exaltation of his being.
"The experience of the Saints, men and women who very often lived their fidelity to God in a discreet and ordinary manner, teaches us this. Among them we find many true protagonists of history, people who are totally fulfilled, living examples of hope and witnesses of a love that fears nothing, not even death . . ."
(A Christian Perspective on World News)
CASTEL GANDOLFO, ITALY — On August 28, 70 Africans fleeing to Europe died when their boat sank in the Mediterranean. After his Angelus Message of August 31, Pope Benedict XVI responded to such tragic situations. The Pope said:
"In recent weeks the news has recorded an increase in episodes of illegal immigration from Africa. Crossing the Mediterranean to the continent of Europe, seen as a landing place of hope in order to escape adverse and frequently unbearable situations, often becomes a tragedy; the tragedy that occurred a few days ago seems to have been worse than the previous ones because of the large number of victims. Migration is a phenomenon that has existed since the dawn of human history and has, therefore, always characterized relations between peoples and nations. The emergency which it has become in our day, however, challenges us and while it calls for our solidarity at the same time demands effective political responses. I know that many regional, national, and international organizations are concerned with the matter of illegal migration and I applaud and encourage them so that they may continue their praiseworthy action with a sense of responsibility in a humanitarian spirit. The countries of origin must also show a sense of responsibility, not only because it is their citizens who are concerned but also to remove the causes of illegal migration, as well as to eliminate at the root all the forms of crime connected with it. For their part, the European countries and all those that are immigration destinations are called, among other things, in common accord, to develop increasingly adequate initiatives and structures to meet the needs of illegal migrants. Moreover the latter should also be made aware of the value of their own life, which is a unique good, always precious, and must be protected from the grave risks to which they are exposed in the search to improve their condition. They should also be made aware of the duty of legality which is obligatory for everyone. As Father, I feel a profound duty to call everyone's attention to the problem and to ask for the generous collaboration of individuals and institutions in order to face it and find ways to solve it. May the Lord accompany us and make our efforts fruitful!"
(Source: L'Osservatore Romano English edition)
CASTEL GANDOLFO, ITALY — After his Angelus message on August 24, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for continued efforts toward solidarity, peace, and justice. He indicated:
"In recent weeks the international situation has registered an increase in tension that is deeply disturbing. We have to note, with bitterness, the risk of a gradual deterioration of that atmosphere of trust and collaboration between nations which ought, instead, to characterize their relations. In the present circumstances how can we not assess all of humanity's efforts to form that common awareness of being the 'family of Nations' that Pope John Paul II pointed out to the General Assembly of the United Nations as an ideal? We must deepen our awareness of being bound together by a common destiny, which is ultimately transcendent (cf. Message for the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2006, n. 6) in order to ward off a return to forms of nationalistic opposition that have led to so many tragic consequences in other seasons of history. Recent events have undermined many people's trust that such experiences had been definitively consigned to the past. But we must not give in to pessimism! Rather, let us actively reject the temptation to tackle new situations with old methods. Violence must be rejected! The moral force of law, fair and transparent negotiations to settle controversies, starting with those linked to the relationship between the territorial integrity and self-determination of peoples, fidelity to one's given word, a search for the common good: these are some of the principal paths to take with tenacity and creativity in order to build fruitful and sincere relations and to guarantee present and future generations times of harmony and moral and civil progress! Let us transform these thoughts and hopes into a prayer that all members of the international community and, in particular, those who are invested with greater responsibility, may undertake to work generously to restore the superior motivations of peace and justice. Mary, Queen of Peace, intercede for us!"
(Source: L'Osservatore Romano English edition)
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