"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
|These file photos show scenes from the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. (photo by Beth Strasser)|
Pope Benedict XVI urged young people to attend next year's 26th World Youth Day in his message for the Day. The message, which was dated August 6, follows:
"I often think back on the World Youth Day held in Sydney in 2008. There we had an experience of a great festival of faith in which the Spirit of God was actively at work, building deep communion among the participants who had come from all over the world. That gathering, like those on previous occasions, bore rich fruit in the lives of many young people and in the life of the whole Church. Now we are looking forward to the next World Youth Day, to be held in Madrid in August 2011. Back in 1989, several months before the historic fall of the Berlin Wall, this pilgrimage of young people halted in Spain, in Santiago de Compostela. Now, at a time when Europe greatly needs to rediscover its Christian roots, our meeting will take place in Madrid with the theme: 'Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith' (cf. Col 2:7). I encourage you to take part in this event, which is so important for the Church in Europe and for the universal Church. I would like all young people – those who share our faith in Jesus Christ, but also those who are wavering or uncertain, or who do not believe in Him – to share this experience, which can prove decisive for their lives. It is an experience of the Lord Jesus, risen and alive, and of His love for each of us.
"In every period of history, including our own, many young people experience a deep desire for personal relationships marked by truth and solidarity. Many of them yearn to build authentic friendships, to know true love, to start a family that will remain united, to achieve personal fulfillment, and real security, all of which are the guarantee of a serene and happy future. In thinking of my own youth, I realize that stability and security are not the questions that most occupy the minds of young people. True enough, it is important to have a job and thus to have firm ground beneath our feet, yet the years of our youth are also a time when we are seeking to get the most out of life. When I think back on that time, I remember above all that we were not willing to settle for a conventional middle-class life. We wanted something great, something new. We wanted to discover life itself, in all its grandeur and beauty. Naturally, part of that was due to the times we lived in. During the Nazi dictatorship and the war, we were, so to speak, 'hemmed in' by the dominant power structure. So we wanted to break out into the open, to experience the whole range of human possibilities. I think that, to some extent, this urge to break out of the ordinary is present in every generation. Part of being young is desiring something beyond everyday life and a secure job, a yearning for something really truly greater. Is this simply an empty dream that fades away as we become older? No! Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough. Saint Augustine was right when he said 'our hearts are restless till they find their rest in You.' The desire for a more meaningful life is a sign that God created us and that we bear His 'imprint.' God is life, and that is why every creature reaches out towards life. Because human beings are made in the image of God, we do this in a unique and special way. We reach out for love, joy, and peace. So we can see how absurd it is to think that we can truly live by removing God from the picture! God is the source of life. To set God aside is to separate ourselves from that source and, inevitably, to deprive ourselves of fulfillment and joy: 'without the Creator, the creature fades into nothingness' (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 36). In some parts of the world, particularly in the West, today's culture tends to exclude God, and to consider faith a purely private issue with no relevance for the life of society. Even though the set of values underpinning society comes from the Gospel – values like the sense of the dignity of the person, of solidarity, of work, and of the family – we see a certain 'eclipse of God' taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity.
"For this reason, dear friends, I encourage you to strengthen your faith in God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are the future of society and of the Church! As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Colossae, it is vital to have roots, a solid foundation! This is particularly true today. Many people have no stable points of reference on which to build their lives, and so they end up deeply insecure. There is a growing mentality of relativism, which holds that everything is equally valid, that truth and absolute points of reference do not exist. But this way of thinking does not lead to true freedom, but rather to instability, confusion, and blind conformity to the fads of the moment. As young people, you are entitled to receive from previous generations solid points of reference to help you to make choices and on which to build your lives: like a young plant which needs solid support until it can sink deep roots and become a sturdy tree capable of bearing fruit.
"In order to highlight the importance of faith in the lives of believers, I would like to reflect with you on each of the three terms used by Saint Paul in the expression: 'Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith' (cf. Col 2:7). We can distinguish three images: 'planted' calls to mind a tree and the roots that feed it; 'built up' refers to the construction of a house; 'firm' indicates growth in physical or moral strength. These images are very eloquent. Before commenting on them, I would like to point out that grammatically all three terms in the original text are in the passive voice. This means that it is Christ Himself Who takes the initiative to plant, build up, and confirm the faithful.
Dave Willig took this shot of youth from Presentation Ministries leaving for a previous World Youth Day.
"The first image is that of a tree which is firmly planted thanks to its roots, which keep it upright and give it nourishment. Without those roots, it would be blown away by the wind and would die. What are our roots? Naturally our parents, our families, and the culture of our country are very important elements of our personal identity. But the Bible reveals a further element. The prophet Jeremiah wrote: 'Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit' (Jer 17:7-8). For the prophet, to send out roots means to put one's trust in God. From Him we draw our life. Without Him, we cannot truly live. 'God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son' (1 Jn 5:11). Jesus Himself tells us that He is our life (cf. Jn 14:6). Consequently, Christian faith is not only a matter of believing that certain things are true, but above all a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is an encounter with the Son of God that gives new energy to the whole of our existence. When we enter into a personal relationship with Him, Christ reveals our true identity and, in friendship with Him, our life grows towards complete fulfillment. There is a moment, when we are young, when each of us wonders: what meaning does my life have? What purpose and direction should I give to it? This is a very important moment, and it can worry us, perhaps for some time. We start wondering about the kind of work we should take up, the kind of relationships we should establish, the friendships we should cultivate . . . Here, once more, I think of my own youth. I was somehow aware quite early on that the Lord wanted me to be a priest. Then later, after the war, when I was in the seminary and at university on the way towards that goal, I had to recapture that certainty. I had to ask myself: is this really the path I was meant to take? Is this really God's will for me? Will I be able to remain faithful to Him and completely at His service? A decision like this demands a certain struggle. It cannot be otherwise. But then came the certainty: this is the right thing! Yes, the Lord wants me, and He will give me strength. If I listen to Him and walk with Him, I become truly myself. What counts is not the fulfillment of my desires, but of His will. In this way life becomes authentic.
"Just as the roots of a tree keep it firmly planted in the soil, so the foundations of a house give it long-lasting stability. Through faith, we have been built up in Jesus Christ (cfr Col 2:7), even as a house is built on its foundations. Sacred history provides many examples of saints who built their lives on the word of God. The first is Abraham, our father in faith, who obeyed God when he was asked to leave his ancestral home and to set out for an unknown land. 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God' (Jas 2:23). Being built up in Jesus Christ means responding positively to God's call, trusting in Him and putting His word into practice. Jesus Himself reprimanded His disciples: 'Why do you call Me "Lord, Lord," and do not do what I tell you?' (Lk 6:46). He went on to use the image of building a house: 'I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, listens to My words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built' (Lk 6:47-48).
"Dear friends, build your own house on rock, just like the person who 'dug deeply.' Try each day to follow Christ's word. Listen to Him as a true friend with Whom you can share your path in life. With Him at your side, you will find courage and hope to face difficulties and problems, and even to overcome disappointments and set-backs. You are constantly being offered easier choices, but you yourselves know that these are ultimately deceptive and cannot bring you serenity and joy. Only the word of God can show us the authentic way, and only the faith we have received is the light which shines on our path. Gratefully accept this spiritual gift which you have received from your families; strive to respond responsibly to God's call, and to grow in your faith. Do not believe those who tell you that you don't need others to build up your life! Find support in the faith of those who are dear to you, in the faith of the Church, and thank the Lord that you have received it and have made it your own!
"You are 'planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith' (cf. Col 2:7). The Letter from which these words are taken was written by Saint Paul in order to respond to a specific need of the Christians in the city of Colossae. That community was threatened by the influence of certain cultural trends that were turning the faithful away from the Gospel. Our own cultural context, dear young people, is not unlike that of the ancient Colossians. Indeed, there is a strong current of secularist thought that aims to make God marginal in the lives of people and society by proposing and attempting to create a 'paradise' without him. Yet experience tells us that a world without God becomes a 'hell': filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals, and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy, and hope. On the other hand, wherever individuals and nations accept God's presence, worship Him in truth, and listen to His voice, then the civilization of love is being built, a civilization in which the dignity of all is respected, and communion increases, with all its benefits. Yet some Christians allow themselves to be seduced by secularism or attracted by religious currents that draw them away from faith in Jesus Christ. There are others who, while not yielding to these enticements, have simply allowed their faith to grow cold, with inevitable negative effects on their moral lives.
American and Canadian youth marching at Sydney World Youth Day. (photo by Beth Strasser)
"To those Christians influenced by ideas alien to the Gospel the Apostle Paul spoke of the power of Christ's death and resurrection. This mystery is the foundation of our lives and the center of Christian faith. All philosophies that disregard it and consider it 'foolishness' (1 Cor 1:23) reveal their limitations with respect to the great questions deep in the hearts of human beings. As the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I too want to confirm you in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32). We firmly believe that Jesus Christ offered Himself on the Cross in order to give us His love. In His passion, He bore our sufferings, took upon Himself our sins, obtained forgiveness for us, and reconciled us with God the Father, opening for us the way to eternal life. Thus we were freed from the thing that most encumbers our lives: the slavery of sin. We can love everyone, even our enemies, and we can share this love with the poorest of our brothers and sisters and all those in difficulty.
"Dear friends, the Cross often frightens us because it seems to be a denial of life. In fact, the opposite is true! It is God's 'yes' to mankind, the supreme expression of His love and the source from which eternal life flows. Indeed, it is from Jesus' heart, pierced on the Cross, that this divine life streamed forth, ever accessible to those who raise their eyes towards the Crucified One. I can only urge you, then, to embrace the Cross of Jesus, the sign of God's love, as the source of new life. Apart from Jesus Christ risen from the dead, there can be no salvation! He alone can free the world from evil and bring about the growth of the Kingdom of justice, peace, and love to which we all aspire.
"In the Gospel we find a description of the Apostle Thomas's experience of faith when he accepted the mystery of the Cross and resurrection of Christ. Thomas was one of the twelve Apostles. He followed Jesus and was an eyewitness of His healings and miracles. He listened to His words, and he experienced dismay at Jesus' death. That Easter evening when the Lord appeared to the disciples, Thomas was not present. When he was told that Jesus was alive and had shown Himself, Thomas stated: 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in His side, I will not believe' (Jn 20:25).
"We too want to be able to see Jesus, to speak with Him and to feel His presence even more powerfully. For many people today, it has become difficult to approach Jesus. There are so many images of Jesus in circulation which, while claiming to be scientific, detract from His greatness and the uniqueness of His person. That is why, after many years of study and reflection, I thought of sharing something of my own personal encounter with Jesus by writing a book. It was a way to help others see, hear, and touch the Lord in Whom God came to us in order to make Himself known. Jesus Himself, when He appeared again to His disciples a week later, said to Thomas: 'Put your finger here and see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Do not doubt but believe' (Jn 20:27). We too can have tangible contact with Jesus and put our hand, so to speak, upon the signs of His Passion, the signs of His love. It is in the sacraments that He draws particularly near to us and gives Himself to us. Dear young people, learn to 'see' and to 'meet' Jesus in the Eucharist, where He is present and close to us, and even becomes food for our journey. In the sacrament of Penance the Lord reveals His mercy and always grants us His forgiveness. Recognize and serve Jesus in the poor, the sick, and in our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and in need of help.
"Enter into a personal dialogue with Jesus Christ and cultivate it in faith. Get to know Him better by reading the Gospels and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Converse with Him in prayer, and place your trust in Him. He will never betray that trust! 'Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 150). Thus you will acquire a mature and solid faith, one which will not be based simply on religious sentiment or on a vague memory of the catechism you studied as a child. You will come to know God and to live authentically in union with Him, like the Apostle Thomas who showed his firm faith in Jesus in the words: 'My Lord and my God!'
"Jesus said to Thomas: 'Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe' (Jn 20:29). He was thinking of the path the Church was to follow, based on the faith of eyewitnesses: the Apostles. Thus we come to see that our personal faith in Christ, which comes into being through dialogue with Him, is bound to the faith of the Church. We do not believe as isolated individuals, but rather, through Baptism, we are members of this great family; it is the faith professed by the Church which reinforces our personal faith. The Creed that we proclaim at Sunday Mass protects us from the danger of believing in a God other than the one revealed by Christ: 'Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 166). Let us always thank the Lord for the gift of the Church, for the Church helps us to advance securely in the faith that gives us true life (cf. Jn 20:31).
Presentation Ministries’ youth are shown participating in the Way of the Cross at a recent World Youth Day. (photo by Dave Willig)
"In the history of the Church, the saints and the martyrs have always drawn from the glorious Cross of Christ the strength to be faithful to God even to the point of offering their own lives. In faith they found the strength to overcome their weaknesses and to prevail over every adversity. Indeed, as the Apostle John says, 'Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?' (1 Jn 5:5). The victory born of faith is that of love. There have been, and still are, many Christians who are living witnesses of the power of faith that is expressed in charity. They have been peacemakers, promoters of justice, and workers for a more humane world, a world in accordance with God's plan. With competence and professionalism, they have been committed in different sectors of the life of society, contributing effectively to the welfare of all. The charity that comes from faith led them to offer concrete witness by their actions and words. Christ is not a treasure meant for us alone; He is the most precious treasure we have, one that is meant to be shared with others. In our age of globalization, be witnesses of Christian hope all over the world. How many people long to receive this hope! Standing before the tomb of His friend Lazarus, who had died four days earlier, as He was about to call the dead man back to life, Jesus said to Lazarus' sister Martha: 'If you believe, you will see the glory of God' (cf. Jn 11:40). In the same way, if you believe, and if you are able to live out your faith and bear witness to it every day, you will become a means of helping other young people like yourselves to find the meaning and joy of life, which is born of an encounter with Christ!
"Dear friends, once again I invite you to attend World Youth Day in Madrid. I await each of you with great joy. Jesus Christ wishes to make you firm in faith through the Church. The decision to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow Him is not an easy one. It is hindered by our personal failures and by the many voices that point us towards easier paths. Do not be discouraged. Rather, look for the support of the Christian community, the support of the Church! Throughout this year, carefully prepare for the meeting in Madrid with the bishops, priests, and youth leaders in your dioceses, parish communities, associations, and movements. The quality of our meeting will depend above all on our spiritual preparation, our prayer, our common hearing of the word of God, and our mutual support.
"Dear young people, the Church depends on you! She needs your lively faith, your creative charity, and the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates, and gives new energy to the Church. That is why World Youth Days are a grace, not only for you, but for the entire People of God. The Church in Spain is actively preparing to welcome you and to share this joyful experience of faith with you. I thank the dioceses, parishes, shrines, religious communities, ecclesial associations and movements, and all who are hard at work in preparing for this event. The Lord will not fail to grant them His blessings. May the Virgin Mary accompany you along this path of preparation. At the message of the angel, she received God's word with faith. It was in faith that she consented to what God was accomplishing in her. By proclaiming her 'fiat,' her 'yes,' she received the gift of immense charity which led her to give herself entirely to God. May she intercede for each one of you so that, in the coming World Youth Day you may grow in faith and love. I assure you of a paternal remembrance in my prayers and I give you my heartfelt blessing."
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, TX, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Pro-Life Committee urged awareness, prayer, healing, and action in defense of life in a September 27 statement. The statement was issued for Respect Life Month (October). Cardinal DiNardo urged Catholics to take part in the "Vigil for All Nascent Human Life" on November 27, as called for by Pope Benedict XVI.
The statement follows:
This file photo shows pro-lifers on the historic Suspension Bridge between Cincinnati and Covington, Ky.
"During the Respect Life Month of October, Catholics across the United States will gather in prayer and thanksgiving, at charitable and educational events, and in public witness to the unique and priceless value of every human life, guided by the theme for this year's Respect Life Program: 'The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure.' With each passing year, the need for personal and public witness grounded in God's boundless love for each and every human being grows more urgent.
"With over one million innocent children dying from abortion each year, the plague of abortion remains embedded in our culture. It is encouraging to see the continuing decline nationwide in the number and rate of abortions — due in large part to fewer teens becoming sexually active, and to growing recognition of the humanity of the unborn child. Yet the loss of even one child, and the pain experienced by the child's mother and father in the aftermath of abortion, should impel us to redouble our efforts to end legal abortion, and to ensure that every pregnant woman has whatever help she needs to turn away from this heartbreaking choice.
"For those the pro-life community could not reach and assist before they underwent an abortion, the Catholic Church throughout the United States offers compassionate, confidential counseling through its Project Rachel ministry. In contacting Project Rachel, no one need fear that they will encounter anything less than a reflection of God's love and mercy and His constant offer of forgiveness and healing.
"In many areas of public policy, the rift continues to widen between the moral principles expressed by a majority of Americans and the actions of government. For example, Americans oppose public funding of abortion by wide margins, with 67% opposing federal funding of abortion in health care in one recent poll. In early 2009, Catholics and others sent over 33 million postcards, and countless e-mails and letters to Members of Congress, urging them to 'retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.'
"Yet in March of this year, Congress passed a health care reform law that allows for federal funding of abortion in some programs and could pressure millions of Americans to help subsidize other people's abortions through their health care premiums. Ensuring that health care reform will meet the urgent needs for which it has been proposed, and is not misused to promote abortion or to trample on rights of conscience, will be an urgent task in the coming year.
"Defenseless human life is also placed at risk today in the name of science, when researchers seek to destroy human life at its embryonic stage for stem cell research—and demand the use of all Americans' tax dollars to support this agenda. In a recent poll commissioned by the Catholic bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, 57 percent of respondents favored funding only stem cell research avenues that do not harm the donor, using stem cells from cord blood, placentas, and other 'adult' tissues; only 21 percent favor funding all stem cell research, including research that requires killing embryonic human beings. Yet the current Administration issued guidelines last year to fund human embryonic stem cell research, and some in Congress are preparing legislation to ensure continued funding despite a federal court's finding that these guidelines may violate the law.
"At the other end of life, seriously ill patients are again under threat from a renewed campaign for legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Instead of addressing these patients' real problems by providing love, support, and relief of suffering, this agenda urges us to eliminate the patient as though he or she is the problem. Marching under the false banner of 'compassion' and 'choice,' it raises the fearsome prospect of a future in which the only 'choice' cheerfully granted to our most vulnerable patients is a lethal overdose of drugs.
"Becoming a voice for the child in the womb, and for the embryonic human being at risk of becoming a mere object of research, and for the neglected sick and elderly is one of many ways we can teach our fellow citizens that 'The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure.' While critics want to portray the Church's witness as a narrow and negative ideology, it is just the opposite: A positive vision of the dignity of each and every human being without exception, each loved equally by God and so equally deserving of our love and our nation's respect.
"Because we are created in the image of God, Who is Love, our identity and vocation is to love sacrificially for the sake of others. Pope Benedict XVI has called this 'the key to [our] entire existence.' In a homily during his recent visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict reminded us that 'our hearts can easily be hardened by selfishness, envy, and pride,' and that 'pure and generous love is the fruit of a daily decision.' Every day, he reminded us, 'we have to choose to love.' In our homes, schools, workplaces, and in public, if we constantly witness to the inestimable worth and dignity of each human life through a loving concern for the good of others, if we allow the dignity of every human life to guide the decisions we make as voters and public policy advocates, we can surely succeed in creating a more just and humane society.
"Our efforts, of course, must always be undergirded with prayer — the silent space for personal daily prayer that allows us to hear God's voice deep in our hearts, and communal prayer that asks God to transform our culture into one that welcomes every human person.
"Recently Pope Benedict made an unprecedented request for such prayer, by asking that Catholic bishops throughout the world, and all parishes and religious communities, observe a 'Vigil for All Nascent Human Life' on the evening of Saturday, November 27, 2010. The U.S. bishops' offices for pro-life activities and for divine worship will be working together to provide worship aids to assist pastors in planning these vigil services.
"Speaking for the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, I heartily encourage all Catholics, whether at home or traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays, to take part in this special prayer, whose purpose according to the Holy See is to 'thank the Lord for His total self-giving to the world and for His Incarnation which gave every human life its real worth and dignity,' and to 'invoke the Lord's protection over every human being called into existence.'
"May God bless all who work tirelessly to build a culture of respect for every human life, from conception to natural death."
On September 5, Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Carpineto, Italy, the birthplace of Pope Leo XIII (Vincenzo Pecci). This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of this great pontiff (3/2/1810). The Pope celebrated Mass and in a homily remarked on the legacy of Pope Leo XIII.
The Pope said: ". . . First of all it should be emphasized that he was a man of great faith and profound devotion. This still continues to be the basis of everything for every Christian, including the Pope. Without prayer, that is, without inner union with God, we can do nothing, as Jesus clearly tells His disciples at the Last Supper (cf. Jn 15:5). Pope Pecci's deep religious feeling shone out through his words and actions and was also reflected in his Magisterium: among his numerous Encyclicals and Apostolic Letters, like the theme running through a series of books, there are those of a properly spiritual character which aim above all at increasing Marian devotion, especially through the Holy Rosary. It is a true and proper 'catechesis,' which marks the 25 years of his Pontificate from beginning to end. Yet we also find Documents on Christ the Redeemer, on the Holy Spirit, on the consecration to the Sacred Heart, on the devotion to St. Joseph, on St. Francis of Assisi. Leo XIII had special ties with the Franciscan Family as he belonged to the Third Order. I like to consider all these different elements as facets of a single reality: love of God and of Christ, to which absolutely nothing must be preferred. And Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci assimilated this, his first and principal quality, here in his native town from his parents and from his parish.
"However there is also a second aspect which once again derives from the primacy of God and of Christ. It is found in the public action of every Pastor of the Church in particular of every Supreme Pontiff with the characteristics proper to the personality of each one. I would say that the very concept of 'Christian wisdom,' which emerged earlier in the First Reading and in the Gospel, offers us the synthesis of this structure according to Leo XIII it is not by chance that it is also the incipit of one of his Encyclicals. Every Pastor is called to pass on to the People of God 'wisdom' not abstract truths; in other words a message that combines faith and life, truth, and practical reality. Pope Leo XIII, with the help of the Holy Spirit, was able to do this in one of the most difficult periods of history for the Church by staying faithful to tradition and, at the same time, measuring up to the great open questions. And he succeeded precisely on the basis of 'Christian wisdom,' founded on the Sacred Scriptures, on the immense theological and spiritual patrimony of the Catholic Church, and also on the sound and crystal clear philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, whom he esteemed highly and promoted throughout the Church.
"At this point after considering the basis, in other words the faith and spiritual life and hence the general framework of Leo XIII's Message, I shall refer to his social Magisterium. The Encyclical Rerum Novarum brought it undying fame but it was enriched by many other interventions that constitute an organic body, the first nucleus of the Church's social doctrine. Let us start with St. Paul's Letter to Philemon . . . It is the shortest text of all the Pauline Letters. During a period in prison the Apostle transmitted the faith to Onesimus, a slave originally from Colossae, after he had escaped from his master Philemon, a rich inhabitant of that city, and had become Christian together with his relatives, thanks to Paul's preaching. The Apostle now writes to Philemon asking him to receive Onesimus no longer as a slave but as a brother in Christ. The new Christian brotherhood overcame the separation between slaves and free men, and grafted on to history a principle of the promotion of the individual that was to lead to the abolition of slavery and also to surmounting other barriers that still exist today. Pope Leo XIII dedicated to the theme of slavery his Encyclical Catholicae Ecclesiae, of 1890.
"This particular experience of St. Paul with Onesimus can give rise to a broad reflection on the incentive to human promotion contributed by Christianity in the process of civilization and also on the method and style of this contribution, that are in conformity with the Gospel images of 'seed' and 'leaven': within historical reality Christians, acting as individual citizens or in an association, constitute a beneficial and peaceful force for profound change, encouraging the development of the potentials inherent in reality itself. It is this form of presence and action in the world that is proposed by the Church's social doctrine, which always focuses on the development of consciences as a condition for effective and lasting transformations.
"We must now ask ourselves: what was the context into which, 200 years ago, was born the man who 68 years later was to become Pope Leo XIII? Europe was then weathering the great Napoleonic storm that followed the French Revolution. The Church and many expressions of Christian culture were radically disputed (think only of examples such as, calculating the years no longer from Christ's birth but from the beginning of the new revolutionary era, or of removing the names of Saints from the calendar, from streets, from villages . . .). Rural populations were not, of course, favorable to these overwhelming changes and remained firm to religious traditions. Daily life was hard and difficult: the conditions of health and of nourishment left much to be desired. In the meantime industry was developing and with it the workers' movement, more and more politically organized. The Magisterium of the Church, at its highest level, was driven and aided by local thoughts and experiences to compile an overall interpretation in view, of the new society and of its common good. Thus when Leo XIII was elected Pope in 1878 he felt called to bring this interpretation to completion in the light of his extensive knowledge of international breadth, but also of many projects put into practice 'on the spot' by Christian communities and men and women of the Church.
"Indeed, dozens and dozens of Saints and Blesseds, from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th, sought and tested, with the creativity of charity, many ways to put the Gospel message into practice in the new social situations. There is no doubt that such initiatives, with the sacrifices and reflection of these men and women, prepared the ground for Rerum Novarum and for Pope Pecci's other social Documents. Since the time when he was Apostolic Nuncio in Belgium, he had realized that the social question could be positively and effectively confronted with dialogue and mediation. In a time of harsh anti-clericalism and passionate demonstrations against the Pope, Leo XIII knew how to guide and support Catholics on the path to a constructive participation, rich in content, firm on principles and capable of openness. Subsequent to Rerum Novarum, in Italy and in other countries an authentic explosion of initiatives arose: associations, rural and artisan country banks, newspapers . . . a vast 'movement' of which the Servant of God Giuseppe Toniolo was an enlightened animator. A very elderly Pope but wise and far-sighted, Leo XIII was able to usher into the 20th century a rejuvenated Church with the right approach to facing the new challenges. He was a Pope still politically and physically a 'prisoner' in the Vatican, but in reality, with his Magisterium, he represented a Church which could face without complexes the important questions of the contemporary age.
"Dear friends of Carpineto Romano, we do not have time to examine these subjects in depth. The Eucharist which we are celebrating, the Sacrament of Love, recalls to us the essential: charity, the love of Christ that renews men and women and the world. This is the essential and we see it clearly, we almost perceive it in the words of St. Paul in his Letter to Philemon. In that short note, in fact, can be felt all the gentleness at the same time as the revolutionary force of the Gospel; one feels the discreet and at the same time irresistible style of charity, which, as I wrote in my social Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, it is 'the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity' (n. 1). With joy and affection I therefore leave you the old and ever new commandment: love one another as Christ has loved us, and with this love may you be the salt and light of the world. Thus you will be faithful to the legacy of your great and venerable Fellow Citizen, Pope Leo XIII; and so may it be throughout the Church! Amen."
The African nation of Sudan, which has been torn by civil war and violence for many years, is at a critical crossroads. In January, 2011, the Sudanese people will vote in a referendum to determine if the country of Sudan should be split into two separate countries, North and South. Religious leaders have pointed out the critical need for prayer for Sudan and this vote. The Bishops of Sudan issued the following plan: "We call upon our brothers and sisters and all people of good will to pray earnestly for a peaceful and successful referendum. May the God of Justice and Truth guide us all at this momentous time." The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for 101 Days of Prayer for Peace in Sudan from September 21, 2010, the International Day of Peace, and January 1, 2011, the World Day of Prayer for Peace.
Prayer For Peace In Sudan
Lord Jesus, You said to us;
“I leave you peace. My peace I give you.”
Look upon us Your sisters and brothers in Sudan
as we face this moment of referendum.
Send us Your Spirit to guide us.
Give us the wisdom we need to choose our future where we will know Your true peace.
You call us out of slavery, oppression, and persecution
So that we may have life in abundance.
Grant us peace with one another.
Give peace among ethnic groups.
Help us to work together for the good of all.
We ask this in Your name, Jesus our Lord. Amen
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
(Official campaign prayer approved by Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference)
In a September 23 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, NY, wrote:
"In my capacity as Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I recently returned from Sudan where I met with Catholic Church leaders, officials in the U.S. Embassy and USAID, and United Nations staff. The trip made me cognizant of both the potential for a long-awaited peace and the dangers posed by the challenges yet to be overcome. Since the situation in the Sudan is rapidly reaching a critical point, I want to share some important insights and urgent recommendations for your consideration.
"With only four months left of the five-year implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), most of the important benchmarks of the agreement remain outstanding. Not surprisingly, this lack of progress has instilled little confidence in the chances for a
lasting peace. The Catholic Church in Sudan has stated clearly that they remain increasingly concerned about the situation in their country. The Church is particularly focused on the following crucial issues:
"1. A successful referendum on Southern self-determination is the highest priority for the South and the best chance for peace in Sudan. Time is increasingly short. The lack of progress threatens the validity of the referendum results and may deny the people of Southern Sudan their right to self-determination, a right for which Southerners fought and died for thirty years.
"2. The United States and its international partners must work with the governments of the North and the South to complete a legitimate referendum registration process that puts registration cards into the hands of every valid Southern voter. It is the firm belief of the Church in Sudan and others that the registration card would represent for people the first concrete sign of hope that their destiny is finally in their hands. That hope might be enough to allow any postponement needed to guarantee a free and fair referendum.
"3. The Government of Southern Sudan asked the Church to revive the Kajiko peace process that built unity among Southern political leaders in the run up to the CPA. The Church has also revived the People to People peace process at the grassroots level of society. The Church is a trusted and viable force for peace and good governance. The newly reinforced Special Envoy's team shares the same goals as the Church and should partner with the Church to reach those objectives.
"4. The Special Envoy's office should work with the Government of Southern Sudan to guarantee that it is inclusive of all ethnic and political groups and that its policies and actions are transparent and accountable to the people it serves. Such policies are the
best guarantees that violence in the South will not occur.
"5. The Church in Sudan has serious concerns about the rights of Southerners in the
North and Northerners in the South if the South votes for separation. The United States must remain vigilant and act decisively to protect religious freedom and citizenship rights for all minority peoples in Sudan no matter the outcome of the referendum. This concern also pertains to the people residing in the border areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states where creative solutions are needed to guarantee self determination and human rights.
"6. Oil revenue is the life blood of the governments in the North and the South. If a successful referendum is the means to resolve the issues of the past, a fair, mutually acceptable agreement on the sharing of oil revenue is the best guarantee for a peaceful future between the North and the South. Agreement on oil revenue, the border, citizenship rights, currency, migration rights and all other crucial issues to the CPA depends on fostering a spirit of mutual trust and balanced compromise. This is the responsibility that the United States and the other guarantors to the CPA must bear if Sudan is to build a future of peace for the first time in its history.
"7. Earlier this month you acknowledged the explosive nature of Sudan. While the U.S. works to defuse the situation, we must also be prepared to respond to the needs of a humanitarian disaster should the referendum fail, or violence erupts . . ."
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