"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
|World Youth Day 2008 was celebrated in Sydney, Australia. Bethany Strasser provided these photos.|
The 24th World Youth Day will be celebrated in dioceses throughout the world on Palm Sunday, April 5. In his message for the Day, which was dated February 22, Pope Benedict XVI referred to last year's World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. He indicated that:
"It was a most memorable encounter, during which the Holy Spirit renewed the lives of countless young people who had come together from all over the world. The joy of celebration and spiritual enthusiasm experienced during those few days was an eloquent sign of the presence of the Spirit of Christ. Now we are journeying towards the international gathering due to take place in Madrid in 2011, which will have as its theme the words of the Apostle Paul: 'Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith' (cf. Col 2:7). As we look forward to that global youth meeting, let us undertake a path of preparation together. We take as our text for the year 2009 a saying of Saint Paul: 'We have set our hope on the living God' (1 Tim 4:10), while in 2010 we will reflect on the question put to Jesus by the rich young man: 'Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' (Mk 10:17)
"In Sydney, our attention was focussed upon what the Holy Spirit is saying to believers today, and in particular to you, my dear young people. During the closing Mass, I urged you to let yourselves be shaped by Him in order to be messengers of divine love, capable of building a future of hope for all humanity. The question of hope is truly central to our lives as human beings and our mission as Christians, especially in these times. We are all aware of the need for hope, not just any kind of hope, but a firm and reliable hope, as I wanted to emphasize in the Encyclical Spe Salvi. Youth is a special time of hope because it looks to the future with a whole range of expectations. When we are young we cherish ideals, dreams, and plans. Youth is the time when decisive choices concerning the rest of our lives come to fruition. Perhaps this is why it is the time of life when fundamental questions assert themselves strongly: Why am I here on earth? What is the meaning of life? What will my life be like? And again: How can I attain happiness? Why is there suffering, illness, and death? What lies beyond death? These are questions that become insistent when we are faced with obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable: difficulties with studies, unemployment, family arguments, crises in friendships or in building good loving relationships, illness or disability, lack of adequate resources as a result of the present widespread economic and social crisis. We then ask ourselves: where can I obtain and how can I keep alive the flame of hope burning in my heart?
"Experience shows that personal qualities and material goods are not enough to guarantee the hope which the human spirit is constantly seeking. As I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi, politics, science, technology, economics, and all other material resources are not of themselves sufficient to provide the great hope to which we all aspire. This hope 'can only be God, Who encompasses the whole of reality and Who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain' (no. 31). This is why one of the main consequences of ignoring God is the evident loss of direction that marks our societies, resulting in loneliness and violence, discontent, and loss of confidence that can often lead to despair. The word of God issues a warning that is loud and clear: 'Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes' (Jer 17:5-6).
"The crisis of hope is more likely to affect the younger generations. In socio-cultural environments with few certainties, values, or firm points of reference, they find themselves facing difficulties that seem beyond their strength. My dear young friends, I have in mind so many of your contemporaries who have been wounded by life. They often suffer from personal immaturity caused by dysfunctional family situations, by permissive and libertarian elements in their education, and by difficult and traumatic experience. For some – unfortunately a significant number – the almost unavoidable way out involves an alienating escape into dangerous and violent behavior, dependence on drugs and alcohol, and many other such traps for the unwary. Yet, even for those who find themselves in difficult situations, having been led astray by bad role models, the desire for true love and authentic happiness is not extinguished. But how can we speak of this hope to those young people? We know that it is in God alone that a human person finds true fulfillment. The main task for us all is that of a new evangelization aimed at helping younger generations to rediscover the true face of God, Who is Love. To you young people, who are in search of a firm hope, I address the very words that Saint Paul wrote to the persecuted Christians in Rome at that time: 'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit' (Rom 15:13). During this Jubilee Year dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles on the occasion of the two thousandth anniversary of his birth, let us learn from him how to become credible witnesses of Christian hope.
"When Paul found himself immersed in difficulties and trials of various kinds, he wrote to his faithful disciple Timothy: 'We have set our hope on the living God' (1 Tim 4:10). How did this hope take root in him? In order to answer that question we must go back to his encounter with the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. At that time, Saul was a young person like you in his early twenties, a follower of the Law of Moses and determined to fight with every means, and even to kill those he regarded as God's enemies (cf. Acts 9:1). While on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers of Christ, he was blinded by a mysterious light and he heard himself called by name: 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?' He fell to the ground, and asked: 'Who are you, Lord?' The reply came: 'I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting' (Acts 9:3-5). After that encounter, Paul's life changed radically. He received Baptism and became an Apostle of the Gospel. On the road to Damascus, he was inwardly transformed by the Divine Love he had met in the person of Jesus Christ. He would later write: 'The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me' (Gal 2:20). From being a persecutor, he became a witness and a missionary. He founded Christian communities in Asia Minor and Greece, and travelled thousands of miles amid all kinds of perils, culminating in his martyrdom in Rome. All this for love of Christ.
"For Paul, hope is not simply an ideal or sentiment, but a living person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Profoundly imbued with this certainty, he could write to Timothy: 'We have set our hope on the living God' (1 Tim 4:10). The 'living God' is the Risen Christ present in our world. He is the true hope: the Christ Who lives with us and in us and Who calls us to share in His eternal life. If we are not alone, if He is with us, even more, if He is our present and our future, why be afraid? A Christian's hope is therefore to desire 'the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).
"Just as he once encountered the young Paul, Jesus also wants to encounter each one of you, my dear young people. Indeed, even before we desire it, such an encounter is ardently desired by Jesus Christ. But perhaps some of you might ask me: How can I meet Him today? Or rather, in what way does He approach me? The Church teaches us that the desire to encounter the Lord is already a fruit of His grace. When we express our faith in prayer, we find Him even in times of darkness because He offers Himself to us. Persevering prayer opens the heart to receive Him, as Saint Augustine explains: 'Our Lord and God . . . wants our desire to be exercised in prayer, thus enabling us to grasp what He is preparing to give' (Letter 130:8,17). Prayer is the gift of the Spirit that makes us men and women of hope, and our prayer keeps the world open to God (cf. Spe Salvi, 34).
"Make space for prayer in your lives! To pray alone is good, although it is even more beautiful and fruitful to pray together, because the Lord assured us He would be present wherever two or three are gathered in His name (cf. Mt 18:20). There are many ways to become acquainted with Him. There are experiences, groups and movements, encounters and courses in which to learn to pray and thus grow in the experience of faith. Take part in your parish liturgies and be abundantly nourished by the word of God and your active participation in the Sacraments. As you know, the summit and center of the life and mission of every believer and every Christian community is the Eucharist, the sacrament of salvation in which Christ becomes present and gives His Body and Blood as spiritual food for eternal life. A truly ineffable mystery! It is around the Eucharist that the Church comes to birth and grows – that great family of Christians which we enter through Baptism, and in which we are constantly renewed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The baptized, through Confirmation, are then confirmed in the Holy Spirit so as to live as authentic friends and witnesses of Christ. The Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony enable them to accomplish their apostolic duties in the Church and in the world. Finally, the Sacrament of the Sick grants us an experience of divine consolation in illness and suffering.
"If you find your sustenance in Christ, my dear young people, and if you live profoundly in Him as did the Apostle Paul, you will not be able to resist speaking about Him and making Him known and loved by many of your friends and contemporaries. Be His faithful disciples, and in that way you will be able to help form Christian communities that are filled with love, like those described in the Acts of the Apostles. The Church depends on you for this demanding mission. Do not be discouraged by the difficulties and trials you encounter. Be patient and persevering so as to overcome the natural youthful tendency to rush ahead and to want everything immediately.
"My dear friends, follow the example of Paul and be witnesses to the Risen Christ! Make Christ known, among your own age group and beyond, to those who are in search of 'the great hope' that would give meaning to their lives. If Jesus has become your hope, communicate this to others with your joy and your spiritual, apostolic, and social engagement. Let Christ dwell within you, and having placed all your faith and trust in Him, spread this hope around you. Make choices that demonstrate your faith. Show that you understand the risks of idolizing money, material goods, career and success, and do not allow yourselves to be attracted by these false illusions. Do not yield to the rationale of selfish interests. Cultivate love of neighbor and try to put yourselves and your human talents and professional abilities at the service of the common good and of truth, always prepared to 'make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you' (1 Pt 3:15). True Christians are never sad, even if they have to face trials of various kinds, because the presence of Jesus is the secret of their joy and peace.
"May Saint Paul be your example on this path of apostolic life. He nourished his life of constant faith and hope by looking to Abraham, of whom he wrote in the Letter to the Romans: 'Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become the father of many nations' (Rom 4:18). Following in the footsteps of the people of hope – composed of prophets and saints of every age – we continue to advance towards the fulfillment of the Kingdom, and on this spiritual path we are accompanied by the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope. She who incarnated the hope of Israel, who gave the world its Savior, and who remained at the foot of the Cross with steadfast hope, is our model and our support. Most of all, Mary intercedes for us and leads us through the darkness of our trials to the radiant dawn of an encounter with the Risen Christ. I would like to conclude this message, my dear young friends, with a beautiful and well-known prayer by Saint Bernard that was inspired by one of Mary's titles, Stella Maris, Star of the Sea: 'You who amid the constant upheavals of this life find yourself more often tossed about by storms than standing on firm ground, do not turn your eyes from the brightness of this Star, if you would not be overwhelmed by boisterous waves. If the winds of temptations rise, if you fall among the rocks of tribulations, look up at the Star, call on Mary . . . In dangers, in distress, in perplexities, think on Mary, call on Mary . . . Following her, you will never go astray; when you implore her aid, you will never yield to despair; thinking on her, you will not err; under her patronage you will never wander; beneath her protection you will not fear; she being your guide, you will not weary; with her assistance, you will arrive safely in the port' (Homilies in Praise of the Virgin Mother, 2:17).
"Mary, Star of the Sea, we ask you to guide the young people of the whole world to an encounter with your Divine Son Jesus. Be the celestial guardian of their fidelity to the Gospel and of their hope.
"Dear young friends, be assured that I remember all of you every day in my prayers. I give my heartfelt blessing to you and to all who are dear to you."
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's Permanent Observer to the United Nations office in Geneva, addressed a special session of the Human Rights Council considering the world financial crisis in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 20. His remarks follow:
"As we are daily reminded by the media, the world financial crisis has created a global recession causing dramatic social consequences, including the loss of millions of jobs and the serious risk that, for many of the developing countries, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) may not be reached. The human rights of countless persons are compromised, including the right to food, water, health, and decent work. Above all, when large segments of a national population see their social and economic rights frustrated, the loss of hope endangers peace. The international community has a legitimate responsibility to ask why such a situation developed, whose responsibility it is, and how a concerted solution can lead us out of the crisis and facilitate the restoration of rights. The crisis was caused, in part, by problematic behavior of some actors in the financial and economic system, including bank administrators and those who should have been more diligent in monitoring and accountability systems; thus they bear much responsibility for the current problems. The causes of the crisis, however, are deeper.
"Reflecting, at that time, on the 1929 crisis Pius XI observed that: '… it is obvious that not only is wealth concentrated in our times but an immense power and despotic economic dictatorship is consolidated in the hands of a few, who often are not owners but only the trustees and managing directors of invested funds which they administer according to their own arbitrary will and pleasure' (Quadragesimo Anno, n.105). He also noted that free competition had destroyed itself by relying on profit as the only criterion. There are economic, juridical, and cultural dimensions of the present crisis. To engage in financial activity cannot be reduced to making easy profits, but also must include the promotion of the common good among those who lend, those who borrow, and those who work. The lack of an ethical base has brought the crisis to low, middle, and high income countries alike. The Delegation of the Holy See, Mr. President, calls for renewed 'attention to the need for an ethical approach to the creation of positive partnerships between markets, civil society, and States.' (Pope Benedict XVI).
"The negative consequences, however, exert a more dramatic impact on the developing world and on the most vulnerable groups in all societies. In a recent document, the World Bank estimates that, in 2009, the current global economic crisis could push an additional 53 million people below the threshold of $2 a day. This figure is in addition to the 130 million people pushed into poverty in 2008 by the increase in food and energy prices. Such trends seriously threaten the achievement of the fight against poverty in the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Evidence indicates that children, in particular, will suffer the most from economic hardship, and a strong increase in the infant mortality rate in poor countries is forecasted for 2009.
"It is well known that low-income countries are heavily dependent upon two financing flows: foreign aid and migrant remittances. Both flows are expected to decline significantly over the next months, due to the worsening of the economic crisis. Despite the official reaffirmation of commitment by donors to increase Official Development Assistance (ODA) in accord with the Gleneagles agreement, currently most donors are not on track to meet their target for significant scale-up of ODA by 2010. Moreover, the most recent figures reveal a slowing down of aid flows. This results in worry that a possible direct effect of the global economic crisis will be a major reduction of aid to the poor countries. On the other hand, remittances from migrant workers already have been reduced significantly. This threatens the economic survival of entire families who derive a consistent share of their income from the transfer of funds by relatives working overseas.
"The Delegation of the Holy See, Mr. President, would like to focus on a specific case in this crisis: its impact on the human rights of children, which exemplifies, as well, what is symptomatic of the destructive impact on all other social and economic rights. At present some important rights of poor people are heavily dependent on official aid flows and on workers' remittances. These include the right to health, education, and food. In several poor countries, in fact, educational, health, and nutritional programs are implemented with the help of aid flows from official donors. Should the economic crisis reduce this assistance, the successful completion of these programs could be threatened. By the same token, in many poor regions, entire families can afford to have their children educated and decently nourished due to remittances received from migrants. If the reduction of both aid and remittances continue, it will deprive children of the right to be educated creating a double negative consequence. Not only will we prevent children from the full exercise of their talent that, in turn, could be put to use for the common good, but also the preconditions will be established for long-range economic hardship. Lower educational investment today, in fact, will be translated into lower future growth. At the same time, poor nutrition among children significantly worsens life expectancy by increasing both child and adult mortality rates. The negative economic consequences of this go beyond the personal dimension and affect entire societies.
"Mr. President, let me mention another consequence of the global economic crisis that could be particularly relevant for the mandate of the United Nations. All too often, periods of severe economic hardship have been characterized by the rise in power of governments with dubious commitments to democracy. The Holy See prays that such consequences will be avoided in the present crisis, since they would result in a serious threat for the diffusion of basic human rights for which this institution has so tenaciously struggled.
"The last fifty years have witnessed some great achievements in poverty reduction. Mr. President, these achievements are at risk, and a coherent approach is required to preserve them through a renewed sense of solidarity, especially for the segments of population and for the countries more affected by the crisis. Old and recent mistakes will be repeated, however, if concerted international action is not undertaken to promote and protect all human rights and if direct financial and economic activities are not placed on an ethical road that can prioritize persons, their productivity, and their rights over the greed that can result from a fixation on profit alone."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
Writing in Ethics & Medics, A Commentary of the National Catholic Bioethics Center on Health Care and the Life Sciences, attorney Denise M. Burke, Vice President of Legal Affairs for Americans United for Life, presents an accurate and complete discussion of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which will most likely be introduced soon by the Democratic-controlled Congress.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have already expressed their condemnation of this legislation and are starting to implement plans to oppose it. The following are summaries and excerpts from Burke's article.
Even prior to Roe v. Wade, pro-abortion members of Congress had introduced the National Abortion Act, which sought to legalize abortion, striking down all state laws restricting or regulating abortion. Then in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an act of raw judicial power, struck down all abortion laws, legalizing the killing of unborn children for any reason, or no reason at all, up to the time of birth.
Since a number of pro-abortion congressmen feared that Roe v. Wade may eventually be overturned, the inaugural version of FOCA was introduced in 1989 in order to create a fundamental right to abortion and to eliminate any federal, state, or local government actions which in any way might limit or impede the abortion industry.
Over the next several years, similar versions of FOCA were submitted in Congress. Now, the time seems ripe for the Democratic-controlled pro-abortion Senate and House of Representatives to successfully pass and place before President Barack Obama this far-reaching and radical legislation which will expand the culture of death. In July 2007, candidate Barack Obama promised Planned Parenthood Action Fund that "the first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." (A video clip of this promise can be viewed at www.fightfoca.com.)
As stated by Burke: "Although expressing as its goal the simple codification of Roe v. Wade, FOCA also expressly provides that it would apply 'to every federal, state, and local statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, policy, practice, or other action enacted, adopted, or implemented before, on, or after the date of enactment.' Senator Barbara Boxer, a key supporter of FOCA, has forthrightly explained that FOCA will supersede all other laws, especially those that the Supreme Court has held to be constitutional under Roe v. Wade and its progeny."
The article continues:
"FOCA provides that 'it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.' ("Health" has been judicially interpreted so broadly that any reason, or no reason at all, is sufficient.)
"Furthermore, FOCA would specifically invalidate any 'statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, policy, practice, or other action' of any federal, state, or local government or governmental official (or any person acting under government authority) that would 'deny or interfere with a woman's right to choose' abortion, or that would 'discriminate against the exercise of the right…in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.'
"FOCA creates a new and dangerously radical 'right.' It establishes the right to abortion as a 'fundamental right,' elevating it to the same status as the right to vote and the right to free speech…Critically, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court did not define abortion as a 'fundamental right.' …the Supreme Court has not subsequently defined abortion as a 'fundamental right.' Thus, FOCA goes beyond any Supreme Court decision by enshrining unlimited abortion-on-demand into American law."
More than 550 federal and state laws that FOCA would nullify include:
The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which would prevent that most heinous, barbaric, and savage method of abortion. A partial-birth abortion involves the inverting of the baby for delivery in the breech position, feet first, and then delivering the feet, legs, torso, arms, and shoulders, leaving only the head inside the womb, and then taking a scalpel and puncturing a hole at the base of the skull, followed by the insertion of a tube and a suctioning out of the brains of the baby, which causes the head to collapse and then a dead baby is delivered, which of course is authorized under Roe v. Wade.
These federal and state statutes, passed by the hard work of pro-lifers over 35 years, are responsible for greatly reducing the number of annual abortions from a peak of 1,600,000 in the 1980's to about 1,200,000 today.
"FOCA also poses a significant danger to the nation's Catholic health care system – a system providing care to millions of poor, uninsured, and under-insured Americans each year," states Burke. "If enacted, FOCA could force hundreds of Catholic hospitals across the nation to either permit abortions within their facilities or forgo government funding assistance and perhaps close their doors. Moreover, Catholic health care providers would be put in the unenviable position of choosing whether to follow the dictates of their faith and their consciences or begin performing or participating in abortions in order to advance their careers and maintain their livelihoods."
Will those who hold the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life sit by idly and allow the Democratic-controlled Congress and President Obama to enshrine in our laws the culture of death?
First, we must pray constantly, especially in our churches. Sadly, one seldom hears petitions offered at Mass concerning abortion or euthanasia.
Secondly, now is the time to contact not only your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives, but also other members of Congress, to demand they not only vote against FOCA but that they publicly denounce it and publicly demand their colleagues to do so. It is necessary to remind them that legalized abortion is the sole issue on which you will cast your vote. Those who fail to vote pro-life are disqualified from your support no matter what their positions are on other issues.
Now, more than ever, Americans must respond to John Paul II's command, which is really the teaching of 2,000 years of Christianity: STAND UP FOR LIFE!!!
by Michael P. Davis
(Mr. Davis writes from MS. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisioners.)
"They're just a bunch of knots and beads!" "What makes you think that'll get you closer to heaven?" "Mary ain't a god, she's a woman!"
All these are true in and of themselves, but the reason for the thousand plus years that the "faithful" have recited the rosary is a mystical one. No one really knows when the "habit" of reciting 50 Hail Marys, five Our Fathers, five Glory Bes, and the Apostles Creed began. No one can truly set a date. What can be said of the rosary is what the Immaculate Conception has said and why she, the holy mother of Jesus Christ, asks us to comply. The answer? Peace! Peace of heart, peace of soul, peace of mind, and best of all, peace upon this great creation.
Our prayers have ended communism in Russia, but the plight of ruthless government oversight is still prevalent in the world, even in our own country!
No more oppression, no more war, no more hatred toward our brothers and sisters! No more torture, no more starvation, no more suppression of religion, only love, only love!
We point the "finger" of accusation toward our brothers and sisters and accuse them of sinning against God! Yes, they may be sinners, well and true, but have we "cleaned out the inside of our crip" enough to be holy enough, wise enough, and righteous enough to stand in accusation?
Ash Wednesday begins Lent, the time before we celebrate the "risen Lord" in all His might! We pause, reflect, abstain, ask forgiveness, but do we maintain that through-out the year? We should, but we don't because of all the abstractions of the world. That is why Jesus told us to turn our backs on the world and embrace Him! A simple thing, for the amount of pain, suffering, and mental anguish He's endured for our sake!
People chuckle to themselves when they hear, "attend Mass daily" or "Pray the rosary." "That's the thinking of old people and nuns." Shouldn't it be the thinking of all God's people?
We can manage to meet our friends every day for lunch break, but can we find ten minutes just to seclude ourselves from the world and listen to the "whisperings" of God?
The Holy Father says that we should forgive and not take our gifts to the altar with bruised egos, animosities, grudges, and downright anger at our brothers and sisters. Looks like we don't even have time for forgive. Maybe if we set the chronograph on our digital watches for 3 p.m. every day and when we hear the alarm, pause to remember why Jesus died for us, how He suffered, and the promise that He gave at His Resurrection, that we too in both body and soul, fully restored, totally perfect, may join Him in the New Jerusalem to praise Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit for all eternity singing His glory! So what are you giving up for Lent? Maybe some old habits?
The 17th World Day of the Sick was celebrated on February 11, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that diocesan communities would meet with their bishops on this day "in order to reflect and decide on initiatives of sensitization concerning the reality of suffering."
In his message for this day, dated February 2, the Pope wrote:
" . . . The Pauline Year that we are celebrating is a favorable opportunity to pause and meditate with the Apostle Paul on the fact that 'as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too' (2 Cor 1:5).
"The spiritual connection with Lourdes also calls to mind the motherly concern of the Mother of Jesus for the brethren of her Son, 'who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home' (Lumen gentium, n. 62).
"This year our attention focuses in particular on children, the weakest and most defenseless creatures, and on those of them who are sick and suffering. There are tiny human beings who bear in their bodies the consequences of incapacitating diseases, and others who are fighting illnesses that are still incurable today, despite the progress of medicine and the assistance of qualified researchers and health-care professionals.
"There are children injured in body and in mind, subsequent to conflicts and wars, and other innocent victims of the insensate hatred of adults. There are 'street' children, who are deprived of the warmth of a family and left to themselves, and minors defiled by degenerate people who violate their innocence, causing them psychological damage that will mark them for the rest of their lives.
"Then we cannot forget the incalculable number of minors who die of thirst, hunger, and the lack of medical help, as well as the small exiles and refugees who flee from their countries together with their parents in search of a better life. A silent cry of pain rises from all these children which questions our consciences as human beings and believers.
"The Christian community, which cannot remain indifferent to such tragic situations, feels the impelling duty to intervene. Indeed, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus caritas est, the Church 'is God's family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life' (n. 25,b).
"I therefore hope that the World Day of the Sick will offer the parish and diocesan communities an opportunity to be ever more aware that they are the 'family of God' and will encourage them to make the love of the Lord, Who asks that 'within the ecclesial family no member should suffer through being in need,' visible in villages, neighborhoods, and cities (ibid).
"The witness of charity is part of the very life of every Christian community. And from the outset the Church has expressed the Gospel principles in practical gestures, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles.
"Today, given the changed conditions of health-care assistance, people are feeling the need for closer collaboration between health-care professionals who work in the various health-care institutions and the ecclesial communities present in the territory. In this perspective the value of an institution linked to the Holy See such as the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital – this year celebrating its 140th anniversary – is confirmed in every way.
"But this is not all. Since the sick child belongs to a family that frequently shares in his or her suffering with serious hardship and difficulties, Christian communities cannot but also feel duty-bound to help families afflicted by the illness of a son or daughter.
"After the example of the 'Good Samaritan,' it is necessary to bend over the people so harshly tried and offer them the support of their concrete solidarity.
"In this way the acceptance and sharing of suffering is expressed in the practical support of sick children's families, creating in them an atmosphere of serenity and hope and making them feel that they are in the midst of a larger family of brothers and sisters in Christ.
"Jesus' compassion for the widow of Nain (cf. Lk 7:12-17) and for Jairus' supplication (cf. Lk 8:41-56) constitute, among others, useful reference points for learning to share in the moments of physical and moral suffering of the many sorely tried families.
"All this implies disinterested and generous love, a reflection and a sign of the merciful love of God Who never abandons His children in trial but always provides them anew with wonderful resources of heart and mind to equip them to face life's difficulties adequately.
"The daily devotion and continuous commitment to serving sick children is an eloquent testimony of love for human life, particularly for the life of those who are weak and dependant on others in all things and for all things.
"In fact, it is necessary to assert vigorously the absolute and supreme dignity of every human life. The teaching that the Church ceaselessly proclaims does not change with the passing of time: human life is beautiful and should be lived to the full, even when it is weak and enveloped in the mystery of suffering.
"We must turn our gaze to the Crucified Jesus: in dying on the Cross He wished to share in the suffering of all humanity. We may discern in His suffering for love a supreme sharing in the plight of little ones who are ill and of their parents.
"My venerable Predecessor John Paul II who offered a shining example of patient acceptance of suffering, particularly towards the end of his life, wrote: 'On this Cross is the "Redeemer of man," the Man of Sorrows, Who has taken upon Himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all of their questions' (Salvifici Doloris, n. 31).
"I would like here to express my appreciation and encouragement to the international and national organizations which care for sick children, especially in the poor countries, and which with generosity and abnegation make their contribution to assuring them adequate and loving care.
"At the same time, I address a heartfelt appeal to the leaders of nations that they will strengthen the laws and provisions for sick children and their families. For her part, the Church – always, but especially when a child's life is at stake – is prepared to offer cordial collaboration with the intention of transforming the whole human civilization into a 'civilization of love' (Salvifici Doloris, n. 30).
"To conclude, I would like to express my spiritual closeness to all of you, dear brothers and sisters who are suffering from an illness. I address an affectionate greeting to all those who assist you: the Bishops, priests, consecrated people, health-care workers, volunteers, and all who devote themselves lovingly to treating and alleviating the sufferings of those who are grappling with illness.
"Here is a special greeting for you, dear sick and suffering children: the Pope embraces you with fatherly affection together with your parents and relatives, and assures you of his special remembrance in prayer, as he asks you to trust in the maternal help of the Immaculate Virgin Mary who last Christmas we once again contemplated joyfully holding in her arms the Son of God Who became a Child. As I invoke upon you and upon every sick person the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin, Health of the Sick, I cordially impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing."
A Mass for the sick and those providing care to the ill was held in St. Peter's Basilica on February 11.
After the Mass, the Holy Father made the following address:
"Our meeting has a special value and significance: it is taking place on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick which occurs today, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. My thoughts turn to that Shrine which I too visited on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions to St. Bernadette. And I have kept a vivid memory of that pilgrimage which was focused in particular on the contact I had with the sick gathered at the Grotto of Massabielle. I have come very gladly to greet you at the end of the Eucharistic celebration at which Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, has presided. I address a cordial thought to him. Together with him I greet the Prelates present and the priests, men and women religious, volunteers, pilgrims, and especially the beloved sick people and those who care for them daily. It is always moving to relive in this circumstance, here, in St. Peter's Basilica, that typical atmosphere of prayer and Marian spirituality which characterizes the Shrine of Lourdes. Thank you, therefore, for this expression of your faith and love for Mary; I thank all those who have sponsored and organized this event, especially UNITALSI [the Italian National Union for Transporting the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines] and the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi [Roman Society for Pilgrimages].
"This Day invites us to feel with greater intensity the spiritual closeness to the Church's sick which, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus caritas est, is the family of God in the world within which no one must go without the necessities of life (cf. n. 25b). At the same time, today we are given the opportunity to reflect on the experience of illness, suffering, and more generally, on the meaning of life to be lived to the full even in suffering. In the Message for today's event, I wished to focus attention on sick children who are the weakest and most defenseless of creatures. It is true! If we are left speechless before an adult who is suffering, what can we say when illness affects an innocent child?
"How is it possible to perceive the merciful love of God, Who never abandons His children in trial, even in these difficult situations? Such questions are frequent and at times disturbing. Truly, they find no adequate answers on the merely human level since the meaning of pain, illness, and death remains incomprehensible to the human mind. However, the light of faith comes to our aid. The Word of God reveals to us that even these ills are mysteriously 'embraced' by the divine plan of salvation; faith helps us to consider human life beautiful and worthy of living to the full, even when it is undermined by evil. God created the human being for happiness and for life, while illness and death entered the world as a consequence of sin. However, the Lord has not left us to ourselves. He, the Father of life, is the physician of man par excellence Who ever lovingly bends over suffering humanity. The Gospel shows Jesus Who 'cast out the spirits . . . and healed all who were sick' (Mt 8:16), pointing out the way of conversion and faith as conditions for obtaining healing of body and mind. With His passion and His death He took our weakness upon Himself and totally transformed it. This is why according to what the Servant of God John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris 'To suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ' (n. 23).
"Dear brothers and sisters, we are increasingly realizing that human life is not a disposable good but a precious coffer to be preserved and looked after with every possible attention, from the moment of its origin to its ultimate natural end. Life is a mystery that in itself demands responsibility, love, patience, and charity, on the part of each and every one. It is especially necessary to surround those who are sick and suffering with care and respect. This is not always easy; yet we know where to find the courage and patience to face the vicissitudes of earthly existence, and in particular sickness and every kind of suffering. For us Christians, it is in Christ that the answer is found to the enigma of pain and death. By participating in Holy Mass, as you have just done, we are immersed in the mystery of His death and Resurrection. Every Eucharistic celebration is the perennial memorial of the Crucified and Risen Christ, Who defeated the power of evil with the omnipotence of His love.
"It is therefore at the 'school' of the Eucharistic Christ that we are granted to learn and to love life always and to accept our apparent powerlessness in the face of illness and death.
"My venerable Predecessor John Paul II wished the World Day of the Sick to coincide with the Feast of the Immaculate Virgin of Lourdes. In that sacred place, our heavenly Mother came to remind us that on this earth we are only passing through and that the human being's true and definitive dwelling place is Heaven. We must all strive for this goal. May the light that comes 'from on High' help us to understand and to give meaning and value to the experience of suffering and death too. Let us ask Our Lady to turn her motherly gaze on every sick person and on his or her family, to help each one to carry the weight of the Cross with Christ. Let us entrust to her, the Mother of humanity, the poor, the suffering, the sick of the whole world, with a special thought for suffering children. With these sentiments, I encourage you to trust in the Lord always and I warmly bless you all."
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
"Hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. At the appointed time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for us godless men. It is rare that anyone should lay down his life for a just man, though it is barely possible that for a good man someone may have the courage to die. It is precisely in this that God proves His love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Now that we have been justified by His blood, it is all the more certain that we shall be saved by Him from God's wrath. For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him by the death of His Son, it is all the more certain that we who have been reconciled will be saved by His life. Not only that; we go so far as to make God our boast through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received reconciliation" (Rom 5:5-11).
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com