"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
|Pope John Paul II|
April 2 marked the third anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. A Mass was celebrated in the Vatican to mark the occasion. In his homily, Pope Benedict XVI said:
"The date April 2 is impressed in the Church's memory as the day of the departure from this world of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II. Let us relive with emotion the hours of that Saturday evening when the news of his death was greeted by a great prayerful crowd that filled St. Peter's Square to overflowing. For several days the Vatican Basilica and this Square were truly the heart of the world. A never-ending river of pilgrims paid homage to the body of the venerated Pontiff and his funeral was marked by a further testimony of the esteem and affection he had won in the hearts of multitudes of believers and people who had come from every corner of the earth. Today too, as it did three years ago, April 2 falls shortly after Easter. The heart of the Church is still deeply immersed in the mystery of the Lord's Resurrection. We can truly interpret the whole life of my beloved Predecessor, particularly his Petrine ministry, in the sign of the Risen Christ. He had an extraordinary faith in him and carried on an unusual and uninterrupted conversation with him. Indeed, among his many human and supernatural qualities he possessed exceptional spiritual and mystic sensibilities. It was enough to see him praying: he literally immersed himself in God and it seemed that in those moments everything else was foreign to him. At liturgical celebrations he was attentive to the mystery-in-action, showing an outstanding ability to grasp the eloquence of God's Word in the development of history, at the profound level of God's plan. As he often said, Holy Mass for him was the center of every day, and every day of his life. The 'living and holy' reality of the Eucharist gave him the spiritual energy to guide the People of God on their journey through history.
"John Paul II passed away on the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter, at the end of the 'day that the Lord has made.' His agony took place throughout this 'day,' in the new space-time which is the 'eighth day,' desired by the Most Holy Trinity through the work of the Incarnate Word, dead and Risen. In this spiritual dimension Pope John Paul II often demonstrated that during his life he had in a certain way already been steeped in this spiritual dimension, both earlier and especially in the fulfillment of his mission as Supreme Pontiff. His Pontificate as a whole and in a multitude of specific moments appears to us as a sign and testimony of the Resurrection of Christ. The paschal dynamism that made John Paul II's life a total response to the Lord's call could not be expressed without participation in the suffering and death of the Divine Master and Redeemer. 'The saying is sure,' the Apostle Paul said: 'If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him' (II Tm 2:11-12). Since his childhood Karol Wojtyla had experienced the truth of these words, encountering the cross on his way, in his family and among his people. It was not long before he decided to carry it with Jesus, following in his footsteps. He wanted to be Jesus' faithful servant to the point of accepting the call to the priesthood as a lifelong gift and commitment. He lived with him and wished to die with him, all through the unique mediation of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Mother of the Redeemer, intimately and effectively associated with the saving mystery of his death and Resurrection.
"In this evocative reflection may we be guided by the biblical Readings just proclaimed: 'Do not be afraid' (Mt 28:5). The words we have just heard, which the Angel of the Resurrection addressed to the women by the empty tomb, had become a sort of motto that had been on Pope John Paul II's lips since the solemn beginning of his Petrine ministry. He often repeated them to the Church and to humanity on the way towards the Year 2000, and then through that historical goal and beyond, to the dawn of the third millennium. He always spoke them with unbending firmness, first brandishing his crosier crowned with a Crucifix and then, when his physical energy was ebbing away, almost clinging to it until that last Good Friday, when he took part in the Way of the Cross in his private chapel, gripping the cross tightly in his arms. We cannot forget his last and silent testimony of love for Jesus. That eloquent scene of human suffering and faith on that last Good Friday also showed believers and the world the secret of the entire Christian life. His 'Do not be afraid' was not based on human strength or successes achieved but only on the Word of God, the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. As John Paul II was gradually emptied of everything, at last even the ability to speak, this entrustment of himself to Christ appeared ever more clearly. As it was for Jesus, so too it was for John Paul II: in the end words gave way to the extreme sacrifice, to the gift of self. And his death was sealed by a life entirely given to Christ and even physically conformed to him with features of suffering and trusting abandonment in the Heavenly Father's arms. 'Let me go to the Father' were his last words, the fulfillment of a life completely spent in striving to know and contemplate the Face of the Lord.
"Venerable and dear Brothers, I thank you all for joining me at this Holy Mass of suffrage for beloved John Paul II. I address a special thought to the participants of the First World Congress on Divine Mercy, which is opening this very day and which intends to deepen his rich Magisterium on the subject. God's mercy, as he himself said, is a privileged key to the interpretation of his Pontificate. He wanted the message of God's merciful love to be made known to all and urged the faithful to witness to it (cf. Homily at Krakow-Lagiewniki, August 17, 2002). This is why he desired to raise to the honor of the altars Sr. Faustina Kowalska, a humble Sister who, through a mysterious divine plan, became a prophetic messenger of Divine Mercy. The Servant of God John Paul II had known and personally experienced the terrible tragedies of the 20th century and for a long time wondered what could stem the tide of evil. The answer could only be found in God's love. In fact, only Divine Mercy is able to impose limitations on evil; only the almighty love of God can defeat the tyranny of the wicked and the destructive power of selfishness and hate. For this reason, during his last visit to Poland, he said on his return to the land of his birth: 'Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind' (ibid.).
"Let us give thanks to the Lord for having given the Church this faithful and courageous Servant of his. Let us praise and bless the Blessed Virgin Mary for having watched ceaselessly over his person and ministry, for the benefit of the Christian people and all humanity. And while we offer the redeeming Sacrifice for his chosen soul, let us pray to him to continue to intercede from Heaven for each one of us, especially for me whom Providence called to take up his priceless spiritual legacy. The Church, following his teaching and example, faithfully continues without compromise in her evangelizing mission and never ceases to spread Christ's merciful love, a source of true peace for the whole world. Amen."
There is a worldwide crisis in education. Pope Benedict XVI addressed a letter to the faithful of the diocese of Rome on the urgent task of educating young people. The letter was dated January 21. Because many of the same issues face people everywhere, My People is printing this letter, which follows:
"I thought of addressing this Letter to you in order to speak to you about a problem of which you yourselves are aware and to which the various members of our Church are applying themselves: the problem of education. We all have at heart the good of the people we love, especially our children, adolescents, and young people. Indeed, we know that it is on them that the future of our City depends. Therefore, it is impossible not to be concerned about the formation of the new generations, about their ability to give their lives a direction and to discern good from evil, and about their health, not only physical but also moral.
"Educating, however, has never been an easy task and today seems to be becoming ever more difficult. Parents, teachers, priests, and everyone who has direct educational responsibilities are well aware of this. Hence, there is talk of a great 'educational emergency,' confirmed by the failures we encounter all too often in our efforts to form sound people who can cooperate with others and give their own lives meaning. Thus, it is natural to think of laying the blame on the new generations, as though children born today were different from those born in the past. There is also talk of a 'generation gap' which certainly exists and is making itself felt, but is the effect rather than the cause of the failure to transmit certainties and values.
"Must we therefore blame today's adults for no longer being able to educate? There is certainly a strong temptation among both parents and teachers as well as educators in general to give up, since they run the risk of not even understanding what their role or rather the mission entrusted to them is. In fact, it is not only the personal responsibilities of adults or young people, which nonetheless exist and must not be concealed, that are called into question but also a widespread atmosphere, a mindset and form of culture which induce one to have doubt about the value of the human person, about the very meaning of truth and good, and ultimately about the goodness of life. It then becomes difficult to pass on from one generation to the next something that is valid and certain, rules of conduct, credible objectives around which to build life itself.
". . .At this point I would like to say some very simple words to you: Do not be afraid! In fact, none of these difficulties is insurmountable. They are, as it were, the other side of the coin of that great and precious gift which is our freedom, with the responsibility that rightly goes with it. As opposed to what happens in the technical or financial fields, where today's advances can be added to those of the past, no similar accumulation is possible in the area of people's formation and moral growth, because the person's freedom is ever new. As a result, each person and each generation must make his own decision anew, alone. Not even the greatest values of the past can be simply inherited; they must be claimed by us and renewed through an often anguishing personal option.
"When the foundations are shaken, however, and essential certainties are lacking, the impelling need for those values once again makes itself felt: thus today, the request for an education which is truly such is in fact increasing. Parents, anxious and often anguished about the future of their children, are asking for it; a great many teachers going through the sorrowful experience of their schools' deterioration are asking for it; society overall, seeing doubts cast on the very foundations of coexistence, is asking for it; children and young people themselves who do not want to be left to face life's challenges on their own are also asking for it in their inmost being. Those who believe in Jesus Christ, moreover, have a further and stronger reason for not being afraid: they know in fact that God does not abandon us, that his love reaches us wherever we are and just as we are, in our wretchedness and weakness, in order to offer us a new possibility of good.
"Dear brothers and sisters, to make my considerations more meaningful, it might be useful to identify several common requirements of an authentic education. It needs first of all that closeness and trust which are born from love: I am thinking of the first and fundamental experience of love which children have, or at least should have, from their parents. Yet every true teacher knows that if he is to educate he must give a part of himself, and that it is only in this way that he can help his pupils overcome selfishness and become in their turn capable of authentic love.
"In a small child there is already a strong desire to know and to understand, which is expressed in his stream of questions and constant demands for explanations. Therefore, an education would be most impoverished if it were limited to providing notions and information and neglected the important question about the truth, especially that truth which can be a guide in life.
"Suffering is also part of the truth of our life. So, by seeking to shield the youngest from every difficulty and experience of suffering, we risk raising brittle and ungenerous people, despite our good intentions: indeed, the capacity for loving corresponds to the capacity for suffering and for suffering together.
"We thus arrive, . . .at what is perhaps the most delicate point in the task of education: finding the right balance between freedom and discipline. If no standard of behavior and rule of life is applied even in small daily matters, the character is not formed and the person will not be ready to face the trials that will come in the future. The educational relationship, however, is first of all the encounter of two kinds of freedom, and successful education means teaching the correct use of freedom. As the child gradually grows up, he becomes an adolescent and then a young person; we must therefore accept the risk of freedom and be constantly attentive in order to help him to correct wrong ideas and choices. However, what we must never do is to support him when he errs, to pretend we do not see the errors or worse, that we share them as if they were the new boundaries of human progress.
"Education cannot, therefore, dispense with that authoritativeness which makes the exercise of authority possible. It is the fruit of experience and competence, but is acquired above all with the coherence of one's own life and personal involvement, an expression of true love. The educator is thus a witness of truth and goodness. He too, of course, is fragile and can be mistaken, but he will constantly endeavor to be in tune with his mission.
". . .from these simple observations it becomes clear that in education a sense of responsibility is crucial: the responsibility of the educator, of course, but also, as he grows up, the responsibility of the child, the student, the young person who enters the world of work. Those who can measure up to themselves and to others are responsible. Those who believe seek further; indeed, they seek to respond to God who loved them first.
"Responsibility is in the first place personal, but there is also a responsibility which we share as citizens in the same city and of one nation, as members of the human family and, if we are believers, as children of the one God and members of the Church. Indeed, ideas, lifestyles, laws, the orientations in general of the society in which we live and the image it has of itself through the mass media exercise a great influence on the formation of the new generations, for good but often also for evil. However, society is not an abstraction; in the end we are ourselves all together, with the orientations, rules, and representatives we give one another, although the roles and responsibilities of each person are different. Thus, the contribution of each one of us, of each person, family, or social group, is necessary if society, starting with our City of Rome, is to become a more favorable context for education.
"Lastly, I would like to offer you a thought which I developed in my recent Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi on Christian hope: the soul of education, as of the whole of life, can only be a dependable hope. Today, our hope is threatened on many sides and we even risk becoming, like the ancient pagans, people 'having no hope and without God in the world,' as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus (Eph 2:12). What may be the deepest difficulty for a true educational endeavor consists precisely in this: the fact that at the root of the crisis of education lies a crisis of trust in life.
"I cannot finish this Letter, therefore, without a warm invitation to place our hope in God. He alone is the hope that withstands every disappointment; his love alone cannot be destroyed by death; his justice and mercy alone can heal injustices and recompense the suffering experienced. Hope that is addressed to God is never hope for oneself alone, it is always also hope for others; it does not isolate us but renders us supportive in goodness and encourages us to educate one another in truth and in love. . ."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator. . . Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper."
Do not these words describe the culture of our times? Two thousand years ago, St. Paul (Romans 1:25-28) not only condemned homosexual acts, but also revealed the reason why our society has embraced this immorality. Have we not exchanged the truth for a lie? Has not our culture decided that it is not God who decides what is good and evil, but it is we, the creatures, who determine what human activities are morally acceptable?
What Does the Church Teach?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Section 2357) explains Christ's moral teaching:
"Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementary. Under no circumstances can they be approved."
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 1975, issued Persona Humana, which distinguished between the homosexual condition and homosexual acts, but also concluded:
"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."
Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, adds:
"As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. . . What at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behavior of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable… Christians who are homosexuals are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life."
Legal recognition of so-called same-sex "marriages" or unions have found strong opposition from the Catholic Church. The Church has long recognized that a marriage between a man and a woman is God's plan and is not subject to redefinition by civil law or by the culture. Marriage is not a right granted by the government, whether through its legislatures or courts, but is a human covenant instituted by God.
Thus, civil law cannot define or establish marriage to be anything other than what is intended by God. Those in authority need to acknowledge that marriage is between a man and a woman, and through the law, they need to try to foster and support this relationship.
If the civil law can redefine the term "marriage" to include a union between two people of the same sex, why can't it define "marriage" to be the union of three people of the same sex or different sexes? Why not four, or five?
If "domestic partners" should be entitled to legal recognition and the benefits and support normally granted to traditional marriages, why shouldn't the term "domestic partners" also include siblings, roommates, or parents and adult children?
As the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated in Considerations regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons:
"There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. . . The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it."
Prior to the political movement demanding recognition of so-called same-sex "marriages" or unions, the understanding of marriage had been undermined by the activities of heterosexuals. Premarital sex, adultery, contraception, and abortion have set the stage for the acceptance of homosexuality.
For 2,000 years, Christianity refocused humanity's concept of marriage. The Church taught that marriage was a permanent relationship between a male and female, a relationship oriented to bring children into life, and nurture them. Human activities which emphasize marriage to be simply personal satisfaction of two individuals are attacks on marriage and family.
In the 60's and 70's, America witnessed the so-called "sexual revolution." Premarital sex, long recognized as sinful and harmful, was raised by the popular culture, especially through the entertainment media, to be a great good, one which would help individuals to reach their "potential."
The entertainment industry, through movies, books, and music, promotes the idea that a sexual relationship is simply a sort of recreation, one completely separated from any procreative or unitive purpose, and has encouraged the rise in adultery.
In a marriage covenant, the spouses vow to give themselves completely to each other, thus excluding anyone else.
If heterosexuals can have sexual relations outside of marriage, totally void of any commitment to each other, just for the pure sexual satisfaction they may experience, then the stage is set for the acceptance of sexual activity simply for its own sake.
We have seen our culture's acceptance of not only homosexual activity, but also masturbation, pornography, and premarital sexual activity.
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz advises couples that there are two kinds of fidelity in marriage, internal and external. Bishop Bruskewitz writes:
"Marriage, just like the single life, requires the Christian to keep careful control over his internal senses and mind. Unfaithfulness in marriage always begins in the memory or imagination, and then goes on into the intellect, and from there it is only a short step to a violation of marriage vows. Imagination and desire, especially when stimulated by various kinds of videos, magazines, or other visual depictions, can exert a tremendous pressure on the human will. Jesus told us very clearly that there is such a thing as illicit lust and adultery in one's heart."
Bishop Bruskewitz goes on to stress the importance of family prayer and the importance of spending time together: "It is important that a married couple always try to find and exercise common interests and common activities."
As so often in the past, people of today deny that the plan of God should govern their lives, and they set out to demonstrate that the laws of God are not binding on men. However, by their sinful activities, men and women of today again prove, by their failures, that adherence to the natural law is the only path to human happiness.
In modern society, men and women struggling with their marriage and families need to especially pray and ask the assistance of the Holy Family.
Pope Benedict XVI focused on current issues facing the communications media and society in his message for the 42nd World Communications Day. This day will be observed on Sunday, May 4. The message, which was issued on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Catholic press, follows:
"The theme of this year's World Communications Day – 'The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in order to Share it with Others' – sheds light on the important role of the media in the life of individuals and society. Truly, there is no area of human experience, especially given the vast phenomenon of globalization, in which the media have not become an integral part of interpersonal relations and of social, economic, political, and religious development. As I said in my Message for this year's World Day of Peace (January 1, 2008): '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' (No. 5).
"In view of their meteoric technological evolution, the media have acquired extraordinary potential, while raising new and hitherto unimaginable questions and problems. There is no denying the contribution they can make to the diffusion of news, to knowledge of facts, and to the dissemination of information: they have played a decisive part, for example, in the spread of literacy and in socialization, as well as the development of democracy and dialogue among peoples. Without their contribution it would truly be difficult to foster and strengthen understanding between nations, to breathe life into peace dialogues around the globe, to guarantee the primary good of access to information, while at the same time ensuring the free circulation of ideas, especially those promoting the ideals of solidarity and social justice. Indeed, the media, taken overall, are not only vehicles for spreading ideas: they can and should also be instruments at the service of a world of greater justice and solidarity. Unfortunately, though, they risk being transformed into systems aimed at subjecting humanity to agendas dictated by the dominant interests of the day. This is what happens when communication is used for ideological purposes or for the aggressive advertising of consumer products. While claiming to represent reality, it can tend to legitimize or impose distorted models of personal, family, or social life. Moreover, in order to attract listeners and increase the size of audiences, it does not hesitate at times to have recourse to vulgarity and violence, and to overstep the mark. The media can also present and support models of development which serve to increase rather than reduce the technological divide between rich and poor countries.
"Humanity today is at a crossroads. One could properly apply to the media what I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi concerning the ambiguity of progress, which offers new possibilities for good, but at the same time opens up appalling possibilities for evil that formerly did not exist (cf. No. 22). We must ask, therefore, whether it is wise to allow the instruments of social communication to be exploited for indiscriminate 'self-promotion' or to end up in the hands of those who use them to manipulate consciences. Should it not be a priority to ensure that they remain at the service of the person and of the common good, and that they foster 'man's ethical formation. . .man's inner growth' (ibid.)? Their extraordinary impact on the lives of individuals and on society is widely acknowledged, yet today it is necessary to stress the radical shift, one might even say the complete change of role, that they are currently undergoing. Today, communication seems increasingly to claim not simply to represent reality, but to determine it, owing to the power and the force of suggestion that it possesses. It is clear, for example, that in certain situations the media are used not for the proper purpose of disseminating information, but to 'create' events. This dangerous change in function has been noted with concern by many Church leaders. Precisely because we are dealing with realities that have a profound effect on all those dimensions of human life (moral, intellectual, religious, relational, affective, cultural) in which the good of the person is at stake, we must stress that not everything that is technically possible is also ethically permissible. Hence, the impact of the communications media on modern life raises unavoidable questions, which require choices and solutions that can no longer be deferred.
"The role that the means of social communication have acquired in society must now be considered an integral part of the 'anthropological' question that is emerging as the key challenge of the third millennium. Just as we see happening in areas such as human life, marriage and the family, and in the great contemporary issues of peace, justice, and protection of creation, so too in the sector of social communications there are essential dimensions of the human person and the truth concerning the human person coming into play. When communication loses its ethical underpinning and eludes society's control, it ends up no longer taking into account the centrality and inviolable dignity of the human person. As a result it risks exercising a negative influence on people's consciences and choices and definitively conditioning their freedom and their very lives. For this reason it is essential that social communications should assiduously defend the person and fully respect human dignity. Many people now think there is a need, in this sphere, for 'info-ethics,' just as we have bioethics in the field of medicine and in scientific research linked to life.
"The media must avoid becoming spokesmen for economic materialism and ethical relativism, true scourges of our time. Instead, they can and must contribute to making known the truth about humanity, and defending it against those who tend to deny or destroy it. One might even say that seeking and presenting the truth about humanity constitutes the highest vocation of social communication. Utilizing for this purpose the many refined and engaging techniques that the media have at their disposal is an exciting task, entrusted in the first place to managers and operators in the sector. Yet it is a task which to some degree concerns us all, because we are all consumers and operators of social communications in this era of globalization. The new media – telecommunications and internet in particular – are changing the very face of communication; perhaps this is a valuable opportunity to reshape it, to make more visible, as my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II said, the essential and indispensable elements of the truth about the human person (cf. Apostolic Letter The Rapid Development, 10).
"Man thirsts for truth, he seeks truth; this fact is illustrated by the attention and the success achieved by so many publications, programs, or quality fiction in which the truth, beauty, and greatness of the person, including the religious dimension of the person, are acknowledged and favorably presented. Jesus said: 'You will know the truth and the truth will make you free' (Jn 8:32). The truth which makes us free is Christ, because only he can respond fully to the thirst for life and love that is present in the human heart. Those who have encountered him and have enthusiastically welcomed his message experience the irrepressible desire to share and communicate this truth. As Saint John writes, 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life. . .we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete' (1 Jn 1:1-3).
"Let us ask the Holy Spirit to raise up courageous communicators and authentic witnesses to the truth, faithful to Christ's mandate and enthusiastic for the message of the faith, communicators who will 'interpret modern cultural needs, committing themselves to approaching the communications age not as a time of alienation and confusion, but as a valuable time for the quest for the truth and for developing communion between persons and peoples' (John Paul II, Address to the Conference for those working in Communications and Culture, November 9, 2002). . ."
Pope Benedict XVI presented his "letter on the urgent task of education" to the diocese of Rome on February 23. This letter is carried in this issue of My People. In his talk, the Pope said:
". . .We are gathered here, . . .because we are motivated by our common solicitude for the good of the generations to come and for the growth and future of the children the Lord has given to this city. We are also motivated by a worry: the perception of what we have called 'a great educational emergency.' Educating has never been an easy undertaking and seems to be becoming increasingly difficult today; thus, many parents and teachers are tempted to give up their task and do not even succeed in understanding what the mission entrusted to them truly is. Indeed, too many uncertainties, too many doubts are circulating in our society and our culture, too many distorted images are transmitted by the media. It thus becomes difficult to propose to the new generations something valid and reliable, rules of conduct and worthwhile objectives to which to devote one's life. We are here today, however, also and above all because we feel sustained by a great hope and strong trust: by the certainty, that is, that the clear and definitive 'yes' which God in Jesus Christ has said to the human family (cf. II Cor 1:19-20), is also valid for our boys and girls and young people, valid for our babies who today are at the beginning of life. Therefore, it is also possible to teach goodness in our time; it is a passion we must carry in our hearts, a common enterprise to which each one is called to make his own contribution.
"Indeed, we are here today because we wish to respond to that educational question felt by parents who worry about their children's future, teachers who are living the school crisis from within, priests and catechists who know from experience how difficult it is to teach the faith, and the children, adolescents, and young people themselves who do not want to be left on their own to face life's challenges. This is why I wrote this Letter to you, dear brothers and sisters, which I am about to present to you. In it you will find some simple and practical guidelines concerning fundamental and common aspects of the task of education. Today, I address each one of you in order to offer you my affectionate encouragement to take on joyfully the responsibilities the Lord entrusts to you, so that the great heritage of faith and culture which is the truest treasure of this beloved city of ours may not be lost in passing from one generation to the next, but on the contrary, be renewed and invigorated and serve as a guide and incentive on our journey towards the future.
"In this spirit I address you, dear parents, to ask you first of all to remain firm for ever in your reciprocal love: this is the first great gift your children need if they are to grow up serene, acquire self-confidence, and thus learn to be capable in turn of authentic and generous love. Further, your love for your children must endow you with the style and courage of a true educator, with a consistent witness of life and the necessary firmness to temper the character of the new generations, helping them to distinguish clearly between good and evil so they in turn can form solid rules of life that will sustain them in future trials. Thus, you will enrich your children with the most valuable and lasting inheritance that consists in the example of a faith lived daily.
"In the same way, I ask you, teachers at different kinds of schools, to have a lofty and great conception of your demanding work despite the difficulties, misunderstandings, and disappointments that you meet with all too often. In fact, teaching means satisfying that desire to know and understand that is inherent in man and which in the child, adolescent, and young person is expressed in its full force and spontaneity. Your task, therefore, cannot be limited to providing notions and information, leaving aside the important question concerning truth, above all that truth which can serve as one's guide in life. Indeed, you are properly qualified educators: the noble art of forming the person is entrusted to you, in close syntony with parents. In particular, those who teach in Catholic schools bear within them and express in daily action that educational project centered on the Lord Jesus and his Gospel.
"And you, dear priests and Religious, catechists, leaders and teachers in parishes, youth groups, ecclesial associations and movements, prayer and recreation centers, sports and leisure activities: always seek to feel for the children and young people around you the same sentiments that were in Jesus Christ (cf. Phil 2:5). Be trustworthy friends, therefore, in whom they may tangibly feel Jesus' friendship for them, and at the same time be sincere and courageous witnesses of that truth which sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32) and points out to the new generations the path that leads to life.
"Education, however, is not only the work of educators: it is a relationship between people in which, as they grow older, the freedom and responsibility of those who are educated comes increasingly into play. I therefore turn with deep affection to you, children, adolescents, and young people, to remind you that you yourselves are called to be the architects of your own moral, cultural, and spiritual growth. It is up to you, therefore, to freely accept in your hearts, your minds, and your lives, the patrimony of truth, goodness, and beauty which has taken shape in the course of centuries and whose cornerstone is Jesus Christ. It is up to you to renew this patrimony and develop it further, liberating it from the many falsehoods and ugly things that often make it unrecognizable and give rise to diffidence and disappointment in you. In any case, know that you are never alone on this difficult journey: close to you are not only your parents, teachers, priests, friends, and formation teachers, but above all the God who created us and is the secret guest of our hearts. It is he who illumines our intelligence from within and directs to goodness our freedom that we often feel is frail and unsteady; he is the true hope and the solid foundation of our lives. In him, first and foremost, can we trust.
"Dear brothers and sisters, as I symbolically present to you the Letter on The Urgent Task of Education, let us together entrust ourselves to the One who is our true and only Teacher (cf. Mt 23:8), to work with him, with trust and joy, in that marvelous undertaking which is people's formation and authentic growth. With these sentiments and hopes, I impart my Blessing to you all."
Vatican city – During the Regina Caeli on March 30, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI, focused on the importance of Divine Mercy. He said:
"During the Jubilee of the Year 2000 the beloved Servant of God John Paul II established that throughout the Church the Sunday after Easter should be called Domenica in Albis and Divine Mercy Sunday. This occurred contemporaneously with the canonization of Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish Sister who was born in 1905 and died in 1938, a zealous messenger of the Merciful Jesus. Indeed, mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the Face with which He revealed Himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive Love. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for man, and therefore for us. When the Church has to recall an unrecognized truth or a betrayed good, she always does so impelled by merciful love, so that men and women may have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn 10:10). From divine mercy, which brings peace to hearts, genuine peace flows into the world, peace between different peoples, cultures, and religions.
"Like Sr. Faustina, John Paul II in his turn made himself an apostle of Divine Mercy. In the evening of the unforgettable Saturday, April 2, 2005, when he closed his eyes on this world, it was precisely the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter and many people noted the rare coincidence that combined the Marian dimension - the first Saturday of the month - and the dimension of Divine Mercy. This was in fact the core of John Paul II's long and multi-faceted Pontificate. The whole of his mission at the service of the truth about God and man and of peace in the world is summed up in this declaration, as he himself said in Krakow-Lagiewniki in 2002 when he inaugurated the large Shrine of Divine Mercy: 'Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind.' John Paul II's message, like St. Faustina's, thus leads back to the Face of Christ, a supreme revelation of God's mercy. Constant contemplation of this Face is the legacy he bequeathed to us which we joyfully welcome and make our own."
Baltimore – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) President Ken Hackett today (3/11/08) urged Congress to preserve the $600 million safebox in the Senate version of the 2008 Farm Bill. The measure is designed to guard against drastic cuts in food aid programs that are combating chronic hunger around the world.
Catholic Relief Services and more than a dozen other humanitarian agencies support the safebox as a way to protect vitally important food aid programs that increase food security over the long term. Such initiatives enable extremely poor and chronically hungry people to feed themselves and break out of the cycle of poverty and hunger.
Food aid is used to fund agriculture programs that help farmers increase their yields and grow more marketable crops. It is used for "food for work," which increases employment in communities while improving infrastructure. It is also used in school feeding initiatives that provide an incentive for parents to send their children to school. Food aid programs help improve the health of mothers and young children, offering a chance for a better future.
The Senate safebox mandates that $600 million of the food aid budget be used exclusively for these development programs, with no exceptions. Supporting a safebox, however, does not mean turning a blind eye to emergency needs. CRS and other advocates of the safebox say that the Administration and Congress must provide adequate resources to fund both short-term and long-term food aid requirements.
"This is presented as a zero-sum dilemma, and it's not," Hackett said. "We need to provide resources for both short-term emergencies and the long-term grinding poverty that is taking even more lives. Tragically, every 3.6 seconds another person dies of starvation. This is unconscionable. We won't break the cycle of hunger unless we attack the root causes.
"The fact is, if food aid were funded at the $2 billion required for the usual U.S. contribution to global needs, instead of the $1.2 billion that has been requested in recent budgets, there would be no controversy. There would be enough money to maintain these vital food aid programs and to respond to unanticipated emergencies."
(Source: CRS press release)
". . .I shall come to the United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings. I shall also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations, to the representatives of all the peoples of the world. Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfilment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do. This 'golden rule' is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community."
(Pope Benedict XVI, Video Message to Catholics and the people of United States, 4/8/08.)
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