"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 adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your Holy Cross,
You have redeemed the world."|
– St. Francis of Assisi
Pope Benedict XVI stressed the key role of the family in building a peaceful society and world in his message for the World Day of Peace on January 1. The message, dated December 8, 2007, follows:
"At the beginning of a New Year, I wish to send my fervent good wishes for peace, together with a heartfelt message of hope to men and women throughout the world. I do so by offering for our common reflection the theme which I have placed at the beginning of this message. It is one which I consider particularly important: the human family, a community of peace. The first form of communion between persons is that born of the love of a man and a woman who decide to enter a stable union in order to build together a new family. But the peoples of the earth, too, are called to build relationships of solidarity and cooperation among themselves, as befits members of the one human family: 'All peoples' — as the Second Vatican Council declared — 'are one community and have one origin, because God caused the whole human race to dwell on the face of the earth (cf. Acts 17:26); they also have one final end, God' (1).
The family, society, and peace
"The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman (2), constitutes 'the primary place of "humanization" for the person and society' (3), and a 'cradle of life and love' (4). The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, 'a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order' (5).
"Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace. It is no wonder, therefore, that violence, if perpetrated in the family, is seen as particularly intolerable. Consequently, when it is said that the family is 'the primary living cell of society' (6), something essential is being stated. The family is the foundation of society for this reason too: because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family. Where can young people gradually learn to savor the genuine 'taste' of peace better than in the original 'nest' which nature prepares for them? The language of the family is a language of peace; we must always draw from it, lest we lose the 'vocabulary' of peace. In the inflation of its speech, society cannot cease to refer to that 'grammar' which all children learn from the looks and the actions of their mothers and fathers, even before they learn from their words.
"The family, since it has the duty of educating its members, is the subject of specific rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represents a landmark of juridic civilization of truly universal value, states that 'the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State' (7). For its part, the Holy See sought to acknowledge a special juridic dignity proper to the family by publishing the Charter of the Rights of the Family. In its Preamble we read: 'the rights of the person, even if they are expressed as rights of the individual, have a fundamental social dimension which finds an innate and vital expression in the family' (8). The rights set forth in the Charter are an expression and explicitation of the natural law written on the heart of the human being and made known to him by reason. The denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace.
"Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace. This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace. The family needs to have a home, employment, and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all. When society and public policy are not committed to assisting the family in these areas, they deprive themselves of an essential resource in the service of peace. The social communications media, in particular, because of their educational potential, have a special responsibility for promoting respect for the family, making clear its expectations and rights, and presenting all its beauty.
Humanity is one great family
"The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based. This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth. Here, however, we cannot forget that the family comes into being from the responsible and definitive 'yes' of a man and a women, and it continues to live from the conscious 'yes' of the children who gradually join it. The family community, in order to prosper, needs the generous consent of all its members. This realization also needs to become a shared conviction on the part of all those called to form the common human family. We need to say our own 'yes' to this vocation which God has inscribed in our very nature. We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters. Consequently, it is essential that we should all be committed to living our lives in an attitude of responsibility before God, acknowledging him as the deepest source of our own existence and that of others. By going back to this supreme principle we are able to perceive the unconditional worth of each human being, and thus to lay the premises for building a humanity at peace. Without this transcendent foundation society is a mere aggregation of neighbors, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family.
The family, the human community, and the environment
"The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all. Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations. Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.
"In this regard, it is essential to 'sense' that the earth is 'our common home' and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions. Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this 'home' of ours; more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation. The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony. One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth's energy resources. The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency. The emerging counties are hungry for energy, but at times this hunger is met in a way harmful to poor countries which, due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess. At times, their very political freedom is compromised by forms of protectorate or, in any case, by forms of conditioning which appear clearly humiliating.
Family, human community, and economy
"An essential condition for peace within individual families is that they should be built upon the solid foundation of shared spiritual and ethical values. Yet it must be added that the family experiences authentic peace when no one lacks what is needed, and when the family patrimony — the fruit of the labor of some, the savings of others, and the active cooperation of all — is well-managed in a spirit of solidarity, without extravagance and without waste. The peace of the family, then, requires an openness to a transcendent patrimony of values, and at the same time a concern for the prudent management of both material goods and interpersonal relationships. The failure of the latter results in the breakdown of reciprocal trust in the face of the uncertainty threatening the future of the nuclear family.
"Something similar must be said for that other family which is humanity as a whole. The human family, which today is increasingly unified as a result of globalization, also needs, in addition to a foundation of shared values, an economy capable of responding effectively to the requirements of a common good which is now planetary in scope. Here too, a comparison with the natural family proves helpful. Honest and straightforward relationships need to be promoted between individual persons and between peoples, thus enabling everyone to cooperate on a just and equal footing. Efforts must also be made to ensure a prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth. In particular, the aid given to poor countries must be guided by sound economic principles, avoiding forms of waste associated principally with the maintenance of expensive bureaucracies. Due account must also be taken of the moral obligation to ensure that the economy is not governed solely by the ruthless laws of instant profit, which can prove inhumane.
The family, the human community, and the moral law
"A family lives in peace if all its members submit to a common standard: this is what prevents selfish individualism and brings individuals together, fostering their harmonious coexistence and giving direction to their work. This principle, obvious as it is, also holds true for wider communities: from local and national communities to the international community itself. For the sake of peace, a common law is needed, one which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong. The family of peoples experiences many cases of arbitrary conduct, both within individual States and in the relations of States among themselves. In many situations the weak must bow not to the demands of justice, but to the naked power of those stronger than themselves. It bears repeating: power must always be disciplined by law, and this applies also to relations between sovereign States.
"The Church has often spoken on the subject of the nature and function of law: the juridic norm, which regulates relationships between individuals, disciplines external conduct, and establishes penalties for offenders, has as its criterion the moral norm grounded in nature itself. Human reason is capable of discerning this moral norm, at least in its fundamental requirements, and thus ascending to the creative reason of God which is at the origin of all things. The moral norm must be the rule for decisions of conscience and the guide for all human behavior. Do juridic norms exist for relationships between the nations which make up the human family? And if they exist, are they operative? The answer is: yes, such norms exist, but to ensure that they are truly operative it is necessary to go back to the natural moral norm as the basis of the juridic norm; otherwise the latter constantly remains at the mercy of a fragile and provisional consensus.
"Knowledge of the natural moral norm is not inaccessible to those who, in reflecting on themselves and their destiny, strive to understand the inner logic of the deepest inclinations present in their being. Albeit not without hesitation and doubt, they are capable of discovering, at least in its essential lines, this common moral law which, over and above cultural differences, enables human beings to come to a common understanding regarding the most important aspects of good and evil, justice and injustice. It is essential to go back to this fundamental law, committing our finest intellectual energies to this quest, and not letting ourselves be discouraged by mistakes and misunderstandings. Values grounded in the natural law are indeed present, albeit in a fragmentary and not always consistent way, in international accords, in universally recognized forms of authority, in the principles of humanitarian law incorporated in the legislation of individual States or the statutes of international bodies. Mankind is not 'lawless.' All the same, there is an urgent need to persevere in dialogue about these issues and to encourage the legislation of individual States to converge towards a recognition of fundamental human rights. The growth of a global juridic culture depends, for that matter, on a constant commitment to strengthen the profound human content of international norms, lest they be reduced to mere procedures, easily subject to manipulation for selfish or ideological reasons.
Overcoming conflicts and disarmament
"Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future. Vast areas of the world are caught up in situations of increasing tension, while the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension in every responsible person. Many civil wars are still being fought in Africa, even though a number of countries there have made progress on the road to freedom and democracy. The Middle East is still a theater of conflict and violence, which also affects neighboring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence. On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of States engaged in the arms race: even some developing nations allot a significant portion of their scant domestic product to the purchase of weapons. The responsibility for this baneful commerce is not limited: the countries of the industrially developed world profit immensely from the sale of arms, while the ruling oligarchies in many poor countries wish to reinforce their stronghold by acquiring ever more sophisticated weaponry. In difficult times such as these, it is truly necessary for all persons of good will to come together to reach concrete agreements aimed at an effective demilitarization, especially in the area of nuclear arms. At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity.
"Sixty years ago the United Nations Organization solemnly issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948-2008). With that document the human family reacted against the horrors of the Second World War by acknowledging its own unity, based on the equal dignity of all men and women, and by putting respect for the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples at the center of human coexistence. This was a decisive step forward along the difficult and demanding path towards harmony and peace. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the Charter of the Rights of the Family (1983-2008) and the 40th anniversary of the celebration of the first World Day of Peace (1968-2008). Born of a providential intuition of Pope Paul VI and carried forward with great conviction by my beloved and venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, the celebration of this Day of Peace has made it possible for the Church, over the course of the years, to present in these Messages an instructive body of teaching regarding this fundamental human good. In the light of these significant anniversaries, I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace. I likewise invite believers to implore tirelessly from God the great gift of peace. Christians, for their part, know that they can trust in the intercession of Mary, who, as the Mother of the Son of God made flesh for the salvation of all humanity, is our common Mother. . ."
(1) Declaration Nostra Aetate, 1.
(2) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 48.
(3) John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 40: AAS 81 (1989), 469.
(5) Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 211.
(6) Second Vatican Council, Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11.
(7) Art. 16/3.
(8) Holy See, Charter of the Rights of the Family, November 24, 1983, Preamble, A.
by Judy Grogan
Kenny Smith, a member of Cincinnati's Team Lachey, saw the power of God at work in the "Clash of the Choirs," which aired on NBC during the week of December 17-20. Team Lachey won the competition and an award of $250,000 for Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Cincinnati's team was victorious over teams from Philadelphia, New Haven, Oklahoma City, and Houston.
Mr. Smith said that Team Lachey prayed before each performance. He indicated that it was through prayers and hard work that they were successful.
Kenny Smith is the founder of Peace and Serenity Ministries, a Gospel choir currently in its 24th season. The choir is composed of 22 people from different churches and denominations and racial backgrounds and from a variety of walks of life. Mr. Smith described Peace and Serenity as "a beautiful ministry" which performs in prisons, nursing homes, churches, and wherever the Lord leads. This ministry seeks to serve Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel through music. Peace and Serenity has performed at Presentation Ministries' Bible Institute in the past. Presentation Ministry members Marianne Lander and Myles Kunkel are members of the group. Ivy Peppers was involved in the past.
A graduate of Cincinnati's School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), Mr. Smith is the music director at First Church and Southern Baptist Church, both in Cincinnati. Nick Lachey, who picked and led the choir, is also a graduate of SCPA. Mr. Smith has studied piano since he was seven. He has enhanced his skills through studies at the University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music.
Peace and Serenity states that "commitment and faithfulness rank higher in our estimation than quality and strength of voice. If you have a heart for singing, God can increase your capabilities through consistent attendance at rehearsals and engagements. Peace and Serenity is always ready to welcome new members. Mr. Smith may be contacted at (513) 546-1354.
At the recommendation of his high school music teacher, Mr. Smith auditioned for Team Lachey. The Lord blessed his efforts and he was one of 20 members selected out of 350 candidates. The competition was "a wonderful experience" where he saw the Lord at work. It was an experience of growth where he met a lot of different people. He believes many may well become life-long friends. Mr. Smith thanked God for giving him this opportunity and believes even more good things will come from this.
My People praises God for Kenny Smith and his ministry and work. We thank Mr. Smith for sharing some of his experiences.
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
With the primaries coming upon us, it is crucial for Christians to base their vote on the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life.
"This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn. May God bless you all. God Bless America!" Pope John Paul II, to the people of the United States
Issues such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, or so-called "same-sex" unions involve acts which are intrinsically evil, and are always, under any and all circumstances, morally unacceptable. These non-negotiable issues are so crucial that if a candidate supports legalization and/or funding for such immoral acts, he disqualifies himself from receiving the support, vote, and contribution of true pro-lifers.
If a candidate who agrees with you on all the issues about which you are most concerned, suddenly announces that he is in favor of legalizing child abuse, would he not disqualify himself from your vote and support? Even though there are other issues of concern, someone favoring the legalization and/or funding of the intrinsically evil act of abortion should disqualify himself from our vote or support of his election, no matter what position he takes on other issues.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani stated: "I'm pro-choice. I'm pro-gay rights." Giuliani has consistently espoused that abortion is a "woman's right," while ignoring the fact that abortion is the killing of an innocent child. "I ultimately do believe in a woman's right of choice." Guiliani has been a strong supporter of embryonic stem-cell research.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee promised that he would staff "all relevant positions with pro-life appointees," has consistently stated that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and advocates the passage of a constitutional amendment protecting the right to life.
California U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter not only supports a Right-to-Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but he did introduce the Right-to-Life Act, which defined "personhood" as the moment of conception. Hunter also is opposed to and voted against embryonic stem-cell research.
Alan Keyes, former Ambassador to the U.N. under President Reagan, is 100 percent pro-life and asserts it aggressively and publicly. He supports the Human Life Amendment and has stated it would be his first priority as president, in order to ensure that the government recognizes the constitutional requirement of the sanctity of all innocent human life.
Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain has a mixed position on pro-life issues. Although he states that he favors the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it may be because he thinks that the issue is one that belongs to the states and not the federal government. He voted in favor of using taxpayer funds to finance embryonic stem-cell research, which requires the killing of a human person, at the stage of life referred to as an embryo. He opposed the U.S. Congress's intervention to save Terri Schiavo's life. When running for U.S. senator, McCain stated that he could not support the Republican platform, since it did not make an exception which would permit abortion in the case of rape and incest.
Texas U.S. Congressman Ron Paul has a 100 percent pro-life voting record in the U.S. House of Representatives, and has consistently opposed the legalization of abortion. "There cannot be liberty in a society unless the rights of all innocents are protected." As an OB/GYN doctor, Paul observes: "…nor did I ever find abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman." Paul voted against and strongly opposed funding for embryonic stem-cell research. He also authored a bill which would prevent federal funds from being used for so-called "population control."
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney hopefully has become a convert to the pro-life movement. Though now he says he's pro-life, he ran for governor on a pro-abortion, pro-gay rights platform. It is unclear whether his opposition to Roe v. Wade is because he thinks judges should not be making laws. He really doesn't espouse a position that abortion should never be legal, when he states: "I would like to see the Court return the issue to the people to decide." He is not opposed to all embryonic stem-cell research. He also opposed Congressional efforts to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case.
Former Tennessee U.S. Senator Fred Thompson also has a mixed pro-life position. Although he claims he is pro-life and, as a U.S. Senator, has a pro-life voting record, he opposes a Constitutional amendment defending human life. "I'm not willing to support laws that prohibit early-term abortions." He also stated he opposed a Constitutional amendment against "gay marriages" and was opposed to the Congressional attempt to help save Terri Schiavo's life.
As a lawyer, Thompson also accepted employment to represent an abortion-rights group, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.
It was sad that Thompson even used pro-abortion language on national TV when he suggested pro-lifers wanted young girls to go to jail: "I do not think it is a wise thing to criminalize young girls and perhaps their parents as aiders and abettors." Why would Thompson, if he was truly pro-life, accuse pro-lifers of such action, when there has never been any anti-abortion legislation proposed anywhere in the country that would impose criminal penalties upon women who had an abortion? In fact, the laws prior to Roe v. Wade penalized the abortionists, and not the women they victimized.
New York U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton has been consistently pro-abortion: "I strongly support Roe v. Wade." As a strong advocate of legalized abortion, Clinton even voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. She voted in favor of the funding of embryonic stem-cell research, promising, if elected president, to strongly support such federal expenditures.
Former North Carolina U.S. Senator John Edwards has a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record and has consistently stated that abortion is a constitutionally protected right. He voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and promised to make sure there is federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
Former Alaskan U.S. Senator Mike Gravel publicly advocates the legalization of abortion and favors the federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.
Ohio U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich abandoned his previous pro-life position, now claiming that he "wholeheartedly supports a woman's right to choose." He strongly supports the use of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research, and he also voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
Illinois U.S. Senator Barack Obama, claiming that he "…has been a leader in the Illinois legislature in the battle to protect a woman's right to choose," he, like Clinton and Kucinich, was a co-sponsor of the "Freedom of Choice" Act, stating that he "…will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as president." He voted in favor of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has publicly expressed his pro-abortion views and his support for federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.
"No cause takes precedence over the preservation of innocent human life. It would be irresponsible for us to claim to be pro-life while voting for candidates who support the right to abortion." Bishop John Smith, Trenton, New Jersey
Preparation for the next World Youth Day in July in Australia is focusing on the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Fortitude and Witness. Pope Benedict XVI issued a message for the day, dated last July 20. His message follows:
"I always remember with great joy the various occasions we spent together in Cologne in August 2005. At the end of that unforgettable manifestation of faith and enthusiasm that remains engraved on my spirit and on my heart, I made an appointment with you for the next gathering that will be held in Sydney in 2008. This will be the XXIII World Youth Day and the theme will be: 'You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses' (Acts 1:8). The underlying theme of the spiritual preparation for our meeting in Sydney is the Holy Spirit and mission. In 2006 we focused our attention on the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. . . .in 2007 we. . .[sought] a deeper understanding of the Spirit of Love. We will continue our journey towards World Youth Day 2008 by reflecting on the Spirit of Fortitude and Witness that gives us the courage to live according to the Gospel and to proclaim it boldly. Therefore it is very important that each one of you young people – in your communities, and together with those responsible for your education – should be able to reflect on this Principal Agent of salvation history, namely the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Jesus. In this way you will be able to achieve the following lofty goals: to recognize the Spirit's true identity, principally by listening to the Word of God in the Revelation of the Bible; to become clearly aware of his continuous, active presence in the life of the Church, especially as you rediscover that the Holy Spirit is the 'soul,' the vital breath of Christian life itself, through the sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist; to grow thereby in an understanding of Jesus that becomes ever deeper and more joyful and, at the same time, to put the Gospel into practice at the dawn of the third millennium. In this message I gladly offer you an outline for meditation that you can explore during this year of preparation. In this way you can test the quality of your faith in the Holy Spirit, rediscover it if it is lost, strengthen it if it has become weak, savor it as fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, brought about by the indispensable working of the Holy Spirit. Never forget that the Church, in fact humanity itself, all the people around you now and those who await you in the future, expect much from you young people, because you have within you the supreme gift of the Father, the Spirit of Jesus.
The promise of the Holy Spirit in the Bible
Attentive listening to the Word of God concerning the mystery and action of the Holy Spirit opens us up to great and inspiring insights that I shall summarize in the following points.
"Shortly before his Ascension, Jesus said to his disciples: 'And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you' (Lk 24:49). This took place on the day of Pentecost when they were together in prayer in the Upper Room with the Virgin Mary. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the nascent Church was the fulfillment of a promise made much earlier by God, announced and prepared throughout the Old Testament.
"In fact, right from its opening pages, the Bible presents the spirit of God as the wind that 'was moving over the face of the waters' (cf. Gen 1:2). It says that God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7), thereby infusing him with life itself. After original sin, the life-giving spirit of God is seen several times in the history of humankind, calling forth prophets to exhort the chosen people to return to God and to observe his commandments faithfully. In the well-known vision of the prophet Ezekiel, God, with his spirit, restores to life the people of Israel, represented by the 'dry bones' (cf. 37:1-14). Joel prophesied an 'outpouring of the spirit' over all the people, excluding no one. The sacred author wrote: 'And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. . .Even upon the menservants and maidservants, in those days, I will pour out my spirit' (3:1-2).
"In 'the fullness of time' (cf. Gal 4:4), the angel of the Lord announced to the Virgin of Nazareth that the Holy Spirit, 'the power of the Most High,' would come upon her and overshadow her. The child to be born would be holy and would be called Son of God (cf. Lk 1:35). In the words of the prophet Isaiah, the Messiah would be the one on whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest (cf. 11:1-2; 42:1). This is the prophecy that Jesus took up again at the start of his public ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth. To the amazement of those present, he said: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor' (Lk 4:18-19; cf. Is 61:1-2). Addressing those present, he referred those prophetic words to himself by saying: 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing' (Lk 4:21). Again, before his death on the Cross, he would tell his disciples several times about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the 'Counselor' whose mission would be to bear witness to him and to assist believers by teaching them and guiding them to the fullness of Truth (cf. Jn 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26; 16:13).
Pentecost, the point of departure for the Church's mission
"On the evening of the day of resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples, 'he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit"' (Jn 20:22). With even greater power the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. We read in the Acts of the Apostles: 'And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them' (2:2-3).
"The Holy Spirit renewed the Apostles from within, filling them with a power that would give them courage to go out and boldly proclaim that 'Christ has died and is risen!' Freed from all fear, they began to speak openly with self-confidence (cf. Acts 2:29; 4:13; 4:29,31). These frightened fishermen had become courageous heralds of the Gospel. Even their enemies could not understand how 'uneducated and ordinary men' (cf. Acts 4:13) could show such courage and endure difficulties, suffering and persecution with joy. Nothing could stop them. To those who tried to silence them they replied: 'We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard' (Acts 4:20). This is how the Church was born, and from the day of Pentecost she has not ceased to spread the Good News 'to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit, soul of the Church and principle of communion
"If we are to understand the mission of the Church, we must go back to the Upper Room where the disciples remained together (cf. Lk 24:49), praying with Mary, the 'Mother,' awaiting the Spirit that had been promised. This icon of the nascent Church should be a constant source of inspiration for every Christian community. Apostolic and missionary fruitfulness is not principally due to programs and pastoral methods that are cleverly drawn up and 'efficient,' but is the result of the community's constant prayer (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75). Moreover, for the mission to be effective, communities must be united, that is, they must be 'of one heart and soul' (cf. Acts 4:32), and they must be ready to witness to the love and joy that the Holy Spirit instills in the hearts of the faithful (cf. Acts 2:42). The Servant of God John Paul II wrote that, even prior to action, the Church's mission is to witness and to live in a way that shines out to others (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 26). Tertullian tells us that this is what happened in the early days of Christianity when pagans were converted on seeing the love that reigned among Christians: 'See how they love one another' (cf. Apology, 39 § 7).
"To conclude this brief survey of the Word of God in the Bible, I invite you to observe how the Holy Spirit is the highest gift of God to humankind, and therefore the supreme testimony of His love for us, a love that is specifically expressed as the 'yes to life' that God wills for each of his creatures. This 'yes to life' finds its fullness in Jesus of Nazareth and in his victory over evil by means of the redemption. In this regard, let us never forget that the Gospel of Jesus, precisely because of the Spirit, cannot be reduced to a mere statement of fact, for it is intended to be 'good news for the poor, release for captives, sight for the blind. . .' With what great vitality this was seen on the day of Pentecost, as it became the grace and the task of the Church towards the world, her primary mission!
"We are the fruits of this mission of the Church through the working of the Holy Spirit. We carry within us the seal of the Father's love in Jesus Christ which is the Holy Spirit. Let us never forget this, because the Spirit of the Lord always remembers every individual, and wishes, particularly through you young people, to stir up the wind and fire of a new Pentecost in the world.
The Holy Spirit as "Teacher of the interior life"
"My dear young friends, the Holy Spirit continues today to act with power in the Church, and the fruits of the Spirit are abundant in the measure in which we are ready to open up to this power that makes all things new. For this reason it is important that each one of us know the Spirit, establish a relationship with Him, and allow ourselves to be guided by Him. However, at this point a question naturally arises: who is the Holy Spirit for me? It is a fact that for many Christians He is still the 'great unknown.' This is why, as we prepare for the next World Youth Day, I wanted to invite you to come to know the Holy Spirit more deeply at a personal level. In our profession of faith we proclaim: 'I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son' (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed). Yes, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the love of the Father and of the Son, is the Source of life that makes us holy, 'because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us' (Rom 5:5). Nevertheless, it is not enough to know the Spirit; we must welcome Him as the guide of our souls, as the 'Teacher of the interior life' who introduces us to the Mystery of the Trinity, because He alone can open us up to faith and allow us to live it each day to the full. The Spirit impels us forward towards others, enkindles in us the fire of love, makes us missionaries of God's charity.
"I know very well that you young people hold in your hearts great appreciation and love for Jesus, and that you desire to meet Him and speak with Him. Indeed, remember that it is precisely the presence of the Spirit within us that confirms, constitutes, and builds our person on the very Person of Jesus crucified and risen. So let us become familiar with the Holy Spirit in order to be familiar with Jesus.
The Sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist
"You might ask, how can we allow ourselves to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and to grow in our spiritual lives? The answer, as you know, is this: we can do so by means of the Sacraments, because faith is born and is strengthened within us through the Sacraments, particularly those of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, which are complementary and inseparable (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285). This truth concerning the three Sacraments that initiate our lives as Christians is perhaps neglected in the faith life of many Christians. They view them as events that took place in the past and have no real significance for today, like roots that lack life-giving nourishment. It happens that many young people distance themselves from their life of faith after they have received Confirmation. There are also young people who have not even received this sacrament. Yet it is through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and then, in an ongoing way, the Eucharist, that the Holy Spirit makes us children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, capable of a true witness to the Gospel, and able to savor the joy of faith.
"I therefore invite you to reflect on what I am writing to you. Nowadays it is particularly necessary to rediscover the sacrament of Confirmation and its important place in our spiritual growth. Those who have received the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation should remember that they have become 'temples of the Spirit': God lives within them. Always be aware of this and strive to allow the treasure within you to bring forth fruits of holiness. Those who are baptized but have not yet received the sacrament of Confirmation, prepare to receive it knowing that in this way you will become 'complete' Christians, since Confirmation perfects baptismal grace (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1302-1304).
"Confirmation gives us special strength to witness to and glorify God with our whole lives (cf. Rom 12:1). It makes us intimately aware of our belonging to the Church, the 'Body of Christ,' of which we are all living members, in solidarity with one another (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-25). By allowing themselves to be guided by the Spirit, each baptized person can bring his or her own contribution to the building up of the Church because of the charisms given by the Spirit, for 'to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good' (1 Cor 12:7). When the Spirit acts, He brings his fruits to the soul, namely 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control' (Gal 5:22). To those of you who have not yet received the sacrament of Confirmation, I extend a cordial invitation to prepare to receive it, and to seek help from your priests. It is a special occasion of grace that the Lord is offering you. Do not miss this opportunity!
"I would like to add a word about the Eucharist. In order to grow in our Christian life, we need to be nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, we are baptized and confirmed with a view to the Eucharist (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1322; Sacramentum Caritatis, 17). 'Source and summit' of the Church's life, the Eucharist is a 'perpetual Pentecost' since every time we celebrate Mass we receive the Holy Spirit who unites us more deeply with Christ and transforms us into Him. My dear young friends, if you take part frequently in the eucharistic celebration, if you dedicate some of your time to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Source of love which is the Eucharist, you will acquire that joyful determination to dedicate your lives to following the Gospel. At the same time it will be your experience that whenever our strength is not enough, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms us, filling us with his strength and making us witnesses suffused by the missionary fervor of the risen Christ.
The need and urgency of mission
"Many young people view their lives with apprehension and raise many questions about their future. They anxiously ask: How can we fit into a world marked by so many grave injustices and so much suffering? How should we react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can we give full meaning to life? How can we help to bring it about that the fruits of the Spirit mentioned above, 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control' (no. 6), can fill this scarred and fragile world, the world of young people most of all? On what conditions can the life-giving Spirit of the first creation and particularly of the second creation or redemption become the new soul of humanity? Let us not forget that the greater the gift of God – and the gift of the Spirit of Jesus is the greatest of all – so much the greater is the world's need to receive it and therefore the greater and the more exciting is the Church's mission to bear credible witness to it. You young people, through World Youth Day, are in a way manifesting your desire to participate in this mission. In this regard, my dear young friends, I want to remind you here of some key truths on which to meditate. Once again I repeat that only Christ can fulfill the most intimate aspirations that are in the heart of each person. Only Christ can humanize humanity and lead it to its 'divinization.' Through the power of his Spirit he instills divine charity within us, and this makes us capable of loving our neighbor and ready to be of service. The Holy Spirit enlightens us, revealing Christ crucified and risen, and shows us how to become more like Him so that we can be 'the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ' (Deus Caritas Est, 33). Those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit understand that placing oneself at the service of the Gospel is not an optional extra, because they are aware of the urgency of transmitting this Good News to others. Nevertheless, we need to be reminded again that we can be witnesses of Christ only if we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit who is 'the principal agent of evangelization' (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75) and 'the principal agent of mission' (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 21). My dear young friends, as my venerable predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II said on several occasions, to proclaim the Gospel and bear witness to the faith is more necessary than ever today (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 1). There are those who think that to present the precious treasure of faith to people who do not share it means being intolerant towards them, but this is not the case, because to present Christ is not to impose Him (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). Moreover, two thousand years ago twelve Apostles gave their lives to make Christ known and loved. Throughout the centuries since then, the Gospel has continued to spread by means of men and women inspired by that same missionary fervor. Today too there is a need for disciples of Christ who give unstintingly of their time and energy to serve the Gospel. There is a need for young people who will allow God's love to burn within them and who will respond generously to his urgent call, just as many young blesseds and saints did in the past and also in more recent times. In particular, I assure you that the Spirit of Jesus today is inviting you young people to be bearers of the good news of Jesus to your contemporaries. The difficulty that adults undoubtedly find in approaching the sphere of youth in a comprehensible and convincing way could be a sign with which the Spirit is urging you young people to take this task upon yourselves. You know the ideals, the language, and also the wounds, the expectations, and at the same time the desire for goodness felt by your contemporaries. This opens up the vast world of young people's emotions, work, education, expectations, and suffering. . .Each one of you must have the courage to promise the Holy Spirit that you will bring one young person to Jesus Christ in the way you consider best, knowing how to 'give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but [to] do it with gentleness and reverence' (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).
"In order to achieve this goal, my dear friends, you must be holy and you must be missionaries since we can never separate holiness from mission (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 90). Do not be afraid to become holy missionaries like Saint Francis Xavier who traveled through the Far East proclaiming the Good News until every ounce of his strength was used up, or like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus who was a missionary even though she never left the Carmelite convent. Both of these are 'Patrons of the Missions.' Be prepared to put your life on the line in order to enlighten the world with the truth of Christ; to respond with love to hatred and disregard for life; to proclaim the hope of the risen Christ in every corner of the earth.
Invoking a "new Pentecost" upon the world
"My dear young friends, I hope to see very many of you in Sydney in July 2008. It will be a providential opportunity to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit's power. Come in great numbers in order to be a sign of hope and to give appreciative support to the Church community in Australia that is preparing to welcome you. For the young people of the country that will host you, it will be an exceptional opportunity to proclaim the beauty and joy of the Gospel to a society that is secularized in so many ways. Australia, like all of Oceania, needs to rediscover its Christian roots. In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania, Pope John Paul II wrote: 'Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church in Oceania is preparing for a new evangelization of peoples who today are hungering for Christ. . .A new evangelization is the first priority for the Church in Oceania' (no. 18).
"I invite you to give time to prayer and to your spiritual formation during this last stage of the journey leading to the XXIII World Youth Day, so that in Sydney you will be able to renew the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation. Together we shall invoke the Holy Spirit, confidently asking God for the gift of a new Pentecost for the Church and for humanity in the third millennium.
"May Mary, united in prayer with the Apostles in the Upper Room, accompany you throughout these months and obtain for all young Christians a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to set their hearts on fire. Remember: the Church has confidence in you! We Pastors, especially, pray that you may love and lead others to love Jesus more and more and that you may follow Him faithfully. With these sentiments I bless you all with deep affection."
vatican city – In the aftermath of post-election violence in Kenya, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent a letter to Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, on January 5. Cardinal Bertone was writing at the request of Pope Benedict XVI. In the letter the Pope expressed his closeness to the victims and gave assurances of his prayer for a quick end to this tragedy.
Cardinal Bertone stated: ". . .It is His Holiness's heartfelt hope that this beloved Nation, whose experience of social tranquility and development represents an element of stability in the entire troubled region, will banish as quickly as possible the threat of ethnic conflict which continues to result in so many crimes in certain parts of Africa.
"His Holiness therefore associates himself with the Message My Peace I Give You, which the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Kenya addressed to Christians and to all the people of your country. He pleads for an immediate end to acts of violence and fratricidal conflict. Violence is futile as a means of resolving problems; it only exacerbates them and leads to unprecedented suffering!
"The Pope also appeals to political leaders, who are responsible for the common good, and invites them to embark resolutely on the path of peace and justice, since the country needs peace that is based on justice and brotherhood. He encourages them to resolve the present difficulties through dialogue and democratic debate, heeding the practical suggestions which you offered in your Message.
"Just a few days ago, at the beginning of the new year, the World Day of Peace was celebrated with the theme: 'The Human Family, a Community of Peace.' In this context the Holy Father expresses his hope that all Kenyans will work to make their country ever more like a family in which all see themselves as brothers and sisters whose relationships are marked by justice and love. He likewise asks believers to pray tirelessly to God for the great gift of peace. . ."
baltimore, Md – Millions of Catholics from more than 14,000 parishes, schools and community groups in the U.S. are ready to launch Operation Rice Bowl (ORB), Catholic Relief Services' (CRS) annual Lenten program, on Ash Wednesday, February 6. In advance of the Lenten season, CRS will send out millions of symbolic rice bowls that are used as the focal point for their prayer, fasting, learning, and giving.
Each Lent, participants in ORB put donations into individual cardboard bowls, or rice bowls, which are collected and donated to projects that alleviate hunger in 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and also the United States. By making a small sacrifice and eating less than they normally would each week, people can donate the money they would have spent on food to support CRS' mission to fight global hunger.
"Helping people in need through fasting and giving is a big component of ORB, but we also urge people to help others through prayer and by learning about the factors that cause hunger and poverty," says Beth Martin, Director of Operation Rice Bowl for CRS. "Every year, we highlight the lives of people in five countries who have benefited from ORB to demonstrate the impact these contributions can have."
Operation Rice Bowl also offers meatless meal recipes similar to those prepared in the featured countries. An accompanying calendar and interactive Web site serve as a guide by providing daily activities, prayers, and traditional recipes from Guatemala, Mali, India, Haiti, and Cameroon.
Last year, Catholic Relief Services raised $8 million through Operation Rice Bowl. Seventy-five percent of the money is used to fund food security projects overseas in the areas of agriculture, water and sanitation, education, HIV and AIDS, microfinance, and maternal and child health. The remaining 25 percent stay in U.S. dioceses to support local projects like food pantries and hunger centers.
In Fort Myers, Florida, for example, ORB supports a local outreach center run by St. Peter Claver Catholic Mission. In addition to providing supplies like clothing, household goods, diapers, and emergency prescription medicines, the center's food bank supplies food to over 100 people in the community.
Since its beginning in 1975, ORB has raised more than $167 million to fund CRS' development projects. With participation in almost every diocese in the U.S., many communities and families have adopted ORB as a way to observe Lent.
(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.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com