"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 photos were taken at a past World Youth Day.|
The 27th World Youth Day was celebrated in Vatican City and throughout the world on Palm Sunday, April 1. In his message for the day, dated March 15, Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes the importance of joy in the Christian life. His message follows:
"I am happy to address you once more on the occasion of the 27th World Youth Day. The memory of our meeting in Madrid last August remains close to my heart. It was a time of extraordinary grace when God showered His blessings on the young people gathered from all over the world. I give thanks to God for all the fruits which that event bore, fruits which will surely multiply for young people and their communities in the future. Now we are looking forward to our next meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, whose theme will be: 'Go and make disciples of all nations!' (cf. Mt 28:19).
"This year's World Youth Day theme comes from Saint Paul's exhortation in his Letter to the Philippians: 'Rejoice in the Lord always' (4:4). Joy is at the heart of Christian experience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy of communion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of the marks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises. In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith.
"The Church's vocation is to bring joy to the world, a joy that is authentic and enduring, the joy proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born (cf. Lk 2:10). Not only did God speak, not only did He accomplish great signs throughout the history of humankind, but He drew so near to us that He became one of us and lived our life completely. In these difficult times, so many young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is a message of joy and hope! I would like to reflect with you on this joy and on how to find it, so that you can experience it more deeply and bring it to everyone you meet.
"A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. Far more than immediate and fleeting feelings of satisfaction, our hearts seek a perfect, full, and lasting joy capable of giving 'flavor' to our existence. This is particularly true for you, because youth is a time of continuous discovery of life, of the world, of others, and of ourselves. It is a time of openness to the future and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, a time when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans.
"Each day is filled with countless simple joys which are the Lord's gift: the joy of living, the joy of seeing nature's beauty, the joy of a job well done, the joy of helping others, the joy of sincere and pure love. If we look carefully, we can see many other reasons to rejoice. There are the happy times in family life, shared friendship, the discovery of our talents, our successes, the compliments we receive from others, the ability to express ourselves and to know that we are understood, and the feeling of being of help to others. There is also the excitement of learning new things, seeing new and broader horizons open up through our travels and encounters, and realizing the possibilities we have for charting our future. We might also mention the experience of reading a great work of literature, of admiring a masterpiece of art, of listening to or playing music, or of watching a film. All these things can bring us real joy.
"Yet each day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry about the future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we long might be an illusion and an escape from reality. Many young people ask themselves: is perfect joy really possible? The quest for joy can follow various paths, and some of these turn out to be mistaken, if not dangerous. How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?
"Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, He is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love Him. God created us in His image out of love, in order to shower His love upon us and to fill us with His presence and grace. God wants us to share in His own divine and eternal joy, and He helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed, and loved by Him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: 'I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God. If God accepts me and loves me and I am sure of this, then I know clearly and with certainty that it is a good thing that I am alive.'
An Act Of Consecration To The Holy Spirit
Divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate my mind and heart and will to You for time and for eternity. May my mind be open to Your divine inspirations and to the teachings of the Church, whose infallible guide You are. May my heart be filled with love of God and of my neighbor and my will conformed to the will of God. May my whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of Christ our Lord to Whom, with the Father and You, be honor and glory forever. Amen.
- Pope St. Pius X
"God's infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in Him. We see in the Gospel how the events at the beginning of Jesus' life are marked by joy. When the Archangel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she is to be the mother of the Savior, his first word is 'Rejoice!' (Lk 1:28). When Jesus is born, the angel of the Lord says to the shepherds: 'Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you, Who is Messiah and Lord' (Lk 2:10-11). When the Magi came in search of the child, 'they were overjoyed at seeing the star' (Mt 2:10). The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God Who became one of us. This is what Saint Paul means when he writes to the Philippians: 'Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near' (Phil 4:4-5). Our first reason for joy is the closeness of the Lord, Who welcomes me and loves me.
"An encounter with Jesus always gives rise to immense inner joy. We can see this in many of the Gospel stories. We recall when Jesus visited Zacchaeus, a dishonest tax collector and public sinner, He said to him: 'Today I must stay at your house.' Then, Saint Luke tells us, Zacchaeus 'received Him with joy' (Lk 19:5-6). This is the joy of meeting the Lord. It is the joy of feeling God's love, a love that can transform our whole life and bring salvation. Zacchaeus decides to change his life and to give half of his possessions to the poor.
"At the hour of Jesus' passion, this love can be seen in all its power. At the end of His earthly life, while at supper with His friends, Jesus said: 'As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love . . . I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete' (Jn 15:9,11). Jesus wants to lead His disciples and each one of us into the fullness of joy that He shares with the Father, so that the Father's love for Him might abide in us (cf. Jn 17:26). Christian joy consists in being open to God's love and belonging to Him.
"The Gospels recount that Mary Magdalene and other women went to visit the tomb where Jesus had been laid after His death. An angel told them the astonishing news of Jesus' resurrection. Then, the Evangelist tells us, they ran from the sepulchre, 'fearful yet overjoyed' to share the good news with the disciples. Jesus met them on the way and said: 'Peace!' (Mt 28:8-9). They were being offered the joy of salvation. Christ is the One Who lives and Who overcame evil, sin, and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and He will remain with us until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Savior tells us that God's love is victorious.
"This deep joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit Who makes us God's sons and daughters, capable of experiencing and savoring His goodness, and calling Him 'Abba,' Father (cf. Rm 8:15). Joy is the sign of God's presence and action within us.
"At this point we wonder: 'How do we receive and maintain this gift of deep, spiritual joy?'
"One of the Psalms tells us: 'Find your delight in the Lord Who will give you your heart's desire' (Ps 37:4). Jesus told us that 'the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field' (Mt 13:44). The discovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter with the Lord. Jesus asks us to follow Him and to stake our whole life on Him. Dear young people, do not be afraid to risk your lives by making space for Jesus Christ and His Gospel. This is the way to find inner peace and true happiness. It is the way to live fully as children of God, created in His image and likeness.
"Seek joy in the Lord: for joy is the fruit of faith. It is being aware of His presence and friendship every day: 'the Lord is near!' (Phil 4:5). It is putting our trust in God, and growing in His knowledge and love. Shortly we shall begin the 'Year of Faith,' and this will help and encourage us. Dear friends, learn to see how God is working in your lives and discover Him hidden within the events of daily life. Believe that He is always faithful to the covenant which He made with you on the day of your Baptism. Know that God will never abandon you. Turn your eyes to Him often. He gave His life for you on the cross because He loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy to our hearts that nothing can destroy. Christians can never be sad, for they have met Christ, Who gave His life for them.
"To seek the Lord and find Him in our lives also means accepting His word, which is joy for our hearts. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote: 'When I found Your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart' (Jer 15:16). Learn to read and meditate on the sacred Scriptures. There you will find an answer to your deepest questions about truth. God's word reveals the wonders that He has accomplished throughout human history, it fills us with joy, and it leads us to praise and adoration: 'Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us kneel before the Lord Who made us' (Ps 95:1,6).
"The liturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which she receives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass the Christian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is the death and resurrection of Christ. This is a very important moment for all the Lord's disciples because His sacrifice of love is made present. Sunday is the day when we meet the risen Christ, listen to His word, and are nourished by His body and blood. As we hear in one of the Psalms: 'This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad' (Ps 118:24). At the Easter Vigil, the Church sings the Exultet, a hymn of joy for the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death: 'Sing, choirs of angels! . . . Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor . . . Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God's people!' Christian joy is born of this awareness of being loved by God Who became man, gave His life for us and overcame evil and death. It means living a life of love for Him. As Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a young Carmelite, wrote: 'Jesus, my joy is loving You' (P 45, 21 January 1897).
"Dear friends, joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:23). Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta drew on Jesus' words: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' (Acts 20:35) when she said: 'Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls; God loves a cheerful giver. Whoever gives with joy gives more.' As the Servant of God Paul VI wrote: 'In God Himself, all is joy because all is giving' (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, May 9, 1975).
For The Spirit Of Jesus In Our Society
O Jesus, come back into our society, our family life, our souls, and reign there as our peaceful Sovereign. Enlighten with the splendor of faith and the charity of Your tender heart the souls of those who work for the good of the people, for Your poor. Impart to them Your own spirit, a spirit of discipline, order, and gentleness, preserving the flame of enthusiasm ever alight in their hearts . . . May that day come very soon, when we shall see You restored to the center of civic life, borne on the shoulders of Your joyful people.
Blessed Pope John XXII
"In every area of your life, you should know that to love means to be steadfast, reliable, and faithful to commitments. This applies most of all to friendship. Our friends expect us to be sincere, loyal, and faithful because true love perseveres even in times of difficulty. The same thing can be said about your work and studies and the services you carry out. Fidelity and perseverance in doing good brings joy, even if not always immediately.
"If we are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot be content to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to pay particular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who are competent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. Make every effort to study conscientiously, to develop your talents, and to put them at the service of others even now. Find ways to help make society more just and humane wherever you happen to be. May your entire life be guided by a spirit of service and not by the pursuit of power, material success, and money.
"Speaking of generosity, I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. Dear young people, do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic, or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that He fills with joy all those who respond to His invitation to leave everything to be with Him and to devote themselves with undivided heart to the service of others. In the same way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family and to be signs of Christ's love for the Church.
"Let me remind you of a third element that will lead you to the joy of love. It is allowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities. There is a close bond between communion and joy. It is not by chance that Saint Paul's exhortation: 'Rejoice in the Lord always' (Phil 4:4) is written in the plural, addressing the community as a whole, rather than its individual members. Only when we are together in the communion of fellowship do we experience this joy. In the Acts of the Apostles, the first Christian community is described in these words: 'Breaking bread in their homes, they ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart' (Acts 2:46). I ask you to make every effort to help our Christian communities to be special places of sharing, attention, and concern for one another.
"Dear friends, experiencing real joy also means recognizing the temptations that lead us away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements, and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more than perseverance, hard work, and fidelity to commitments. The messages it sends push a consumerist mentality and promise false happiness. Experience teaches us that possessions do not ensure happiness. How many people are surrounded by material possessions yet their lives are filled with despair, sadness, and emptiness! To have lasting joy we need to live in love and truth. We need to live in God.
"God wants us to be happy. That is why he gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ's message that the commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God's plan. How often, on the other hand, do we see that choosing to build our lives apart from God and His will brings disappointment, sadness, and a sense of failure. The experience of sin, which is the refusal to follow God and an affront to His friendship, brings gloom into our hearts.
"At times the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to the Lord's love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in His mercy never abandons us; He always offers us the possibility of returning to Him, being reconciled with Him, and experiencing the joy of His love which forgives and welcomes us back.
"Dear young people, have frequent recourse to the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the sacrament of joy rediscovered. Ask the Holy Spirit for the light needed to acknowledge your sinfulness and to ask for God's forgiveness. Celebrate this sacrament regularly, with serenity and trust. The Lord will always open His arms to you. He will purify you and bring you into His joy: for there is joy in heaven even for one sinner who repents (cf. Lk 15:7).
"In the end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is really possible to live joyfully amid all life's trials, especially those which are most tragic and mysterious. We wonder whether following the Lord and putting our trust in Him will always bring happiness.
"We can find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselves who have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even in difficult situations. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) experienced many trials during his short life, including a romantic experience that left him deeply hurt. In the midst of this situation he wrote to his sister: 'You ask me if I am happy. How could I not be? As long as faith gives me strength, I am happy. A Catholic could not be other than happy . . . The goal for which we were created involves a path which has its thorns, but it is not a sad path. It is joy, even when it involves pain' (Letter to his sister Luciana, Turin, February 14, 1925). When Blessed John Paul II presented Blessed Pier Giorgio as a model for young people, he described him as 'a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life' (Address to Young People, Turin, April 13, 1980).
"Closer to us in time is Chiara Badano (1971-1990), who was recently beatified. She experienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped in joy. At the age of eighteen, while suffering greatly from cancer, Chiara prayed to the Holy Spirit and interceded for the young people of the movement to which she belonged. As well as praying for her own cure, she asked God to enlighten all those young people by His Spirit and to give them wisdom and light. 'It was really a moment of God's presence. I was suffering physically, but my soul was singing' (Letter to Chiara Lubich, Sassello, December 20, 1989). The key to her peace and joy was her complete trust in the Lord and the acceptance of her illness as a mysterious expression of His will for her sake and that of everyone. She often said: 'Jesus, if You desire it, then I desire it too.'
"These are just two testimonies taken from any number of others which show that authentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced with difficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality, but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of daily life. We know that the crucified and risen Christ is here with us and that He is a faithful friend always. When we share in His sufferings, we also share in His glory. With Him and in Him, suffering is transformed into love. And there we find joy (cf. Col 1:24).
"Dear friends, to conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannot be happy if others are not. Joy has to be shared. Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus Himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away. Saint John said: 'What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; we are writing this so that our joy may be complete' (1 Jn 1:3-4).
"Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in His hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full, and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the 'good news' that God loves us and that each of us is important to Him. Show the world that this is true!
"Be enthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are suffering and those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow. Bring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplaces, and your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious. You will receive a hundredfold: the joy of salvation for yourselves, and the joy of seeing God's mercy at work in the hearts of others. And when you go to meet the Lord on that last day, you will hear Him say: 'Well done, My good and faithful servant . . . Come, share your master's joy' (Mt 25:21).
"May the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany you on this journey. She welcomed the Lord within herself and proclaimed this in a song of praise and joy, the Magnificat: 'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior' (Lk 1:46-47). Mary responded fully to God's love by devoting her life to Him in humble and complete service. She is invoked as 'Cause of our Joy' because she gave us Jesus. May she lead you to that joy which no one will ever be able to take away from you!"
The 46th World Communications Day will be Sunday, May 20. The theme is "Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization." Pope Benedict XVI's message for the Day was dated January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Catholic Press. The Pope's message follows:
"As we draw near to World Communications Day 2012, I would like to share with you some reflections concerning an aspect of the human process of communication which, despite its importance, is often overlooked and which, at the present time, it would seem especially necessary to recall. It concerns the relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.
"Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions, and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence – indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression. Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of 'eco-system' that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images, and sounds.
"The process of communication nowadays is largely fueled by questions in search of answers. Search engines and social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information, and answers. In our time, the internet is becoming ever more a forum for questions and answers – indeed, people today are frequently bombarded with answers to questions they have never asked and to needs of which they were unaware. If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive. Amid the complexity and diversity of the world of communications, however, many people find themselves confronted with the ultimate questions of human existence: Who am I? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? It is important to affirm those who ask these questions, and to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue, by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection, something that is often more eloquent than a hasty answer and permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.
“I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for all men, especially for kings and those in authority, that we may be able to lead undisturbed and tranquil lives."
1 Tm 2:1-2
"Ultimately, this constant flow of questions demonstrates the restlessness of human beings, ceaselessly searching for truths, of greater or lesser import, that can offer meaning and hope to their lives. Men and women cannot rest content with a superficial and unquestioning exchange of skeptical opinions and experiences of life – all of us are in search of truth and we share this profound yearning today more than ever: 'When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals' (Message for the 2011 World Day of Communications).
"Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications, and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation, or sharing of the word of God. In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives. It is hardly surprising that different religious traditions consider solitude and silence as privileged states which help people to rediscover themselves and that Truth which gives meaning to all things. The God of biblical revelation speaks also without words: 'As the Cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by His silence. The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word . . . God's silence prolongs His earlier words. In these moments of darkness, He speaks through the mystery of His silence' (Verbum Domini, 21). The eloquence of God's love, lived to the point of the supreme gift, speaks in the silence of the Cross. After Christ's death there is a great silence over the earth, and on Holy Saturday, when 'the King sleeps and God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages' (cf. Office of Readings, Holy Saturday), God's voice resounds, filled with love for humanity.
"If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God. 'We need that silence which becomes contemplation, which introduces us into God's silence and brings us to the point where the Word, the redeeming Word, is born' (Homily, Eucharistic Celebration with Members of the International Theological Commission, October 6, 2006). In speaking of God's grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation 'to communicate that which we have seen and heard' so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, His message of life and His saving gift of the fullness of love.
"In silent contemplation, then, the eternal Word, through Whom the world was created, becomes ever more powerfully present and we become aware of the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing throughout our history by word and deed. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, divine revelation is fulfilled by 'deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them' (Dei Verbum, 2). This plan of salvation culminates in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the mediator and the fullness of all revelation. He has made known to us the true face of God the Father and by His Cross and Resurrection has brought us from the slavery of sin and death to the freedom of the children of God. The fundamental question of the meaning of human existence finds in the mystery of Christ an answer capable of bringing peace to the restless human heart. The Church's mission springs from this mystery; and it is this mystery which impels Christians to become heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.
"Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church's work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today's world. To Mary, whose silence 'listens to the Word and causes it to blossom' (Private Prayer at the Holy House, Loreto, September 1, 2007), I entrust all the work of evangelization which the Church undertakes through the means of social communication."
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
"Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience," warns Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, concerning President Obama's new mandate requiring that all health insurance plans cover contraception, sterilization, and some abortion-inducing drugs.
From the most pro-abortion president in the history of the United States comes a federal requirement that insurers not even charge a co-payment for such "services" as they would do for all other prescription drugs and surgical procedures.
In November, the U.S. bishops appealed to Obama to exempt religious institutions and individuals from the mandate, but Obama would only, as originally planned, exempt churches, i.e., houses of worship, and not religious ministries that serve and employ people of different faiths, which include Catholic hospitals, nursing homes, schools, universities, and charities.
Worrying about his reelection, Obama announced in February that he would issue a new regulation by which religious institutions (not individuals) would not have to provide coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. Instead, the employees would be contacted by the insurer and told that this so-called preventive healthcare would be covered free of charge.
In the pouring rain, about 800 gathered at St. Peter In Chains Catholic Church in Cincinnati to protest President Obama’s mandate. Cincinnati Right to Life Executive Director, Paula Westwood, stated: “We must hold every political candidate and our U.S. representatives, senators, and the President accountable for this mandate...And we shall remember whether they stand for religious liberty or not at the ballot box this November.” Photo by Mark Benken
Although the pro-abortion news media announced that this was a compromise by Obama, resolving the issue raised by the Catholic Church, it was obvious to anyone that it was simply another political ploy to help save Obama's reelection efforts.
In a letter signed by hundreds of national religious leaders, it is pointed out that: "This so-called 'accommodation' changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy. It is certainly no compromise.
". . . it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers. …It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased . . . What matters is what services the policy covers.
"It is an insult to the intelligence of…people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick."
In an era where U.S. Catholics have seen such disunity among the U.S. bishops, it is most encouraging to hear: "Every diocesan bishop in the country, without exception, has publicly opposed the mandate," reports Columbia, published by the Knights of Columbus.
These men are apparently waking up to the fact that something Americans have assumed they would always have, i.e., freedom of religion, may soon be lost.
Archbishop José Gomez
Obama's mandate "has become maybe the most controversial issue of our day," writes Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles.
"Our freedom to carry out our mission is totally threatened by this new mandate. As I have said, the issues at stake go far beyond the morality of contraception. This government mandate threatens the basic character of our society and puts every American's freedom at risk . . .
"What's been happening in recent decades is that the government on all levels has been exerting greater influence in almost every area of American life. In the process, nongovernmental institutions are being crowded out of our public life.
"Religious freedom is now reduced to the freedom to pray and go to church. …Church agencies are now treated as if they are arms of the government. Increasingly, these agencies are expected to serve and submit to the government's agendas and priorities . . .
"This new mandate moves us closer to what Pope Benedict XVI warned against in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est: 'The state which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself – a state which regulates and controls everything.' "
Although the U.S. bishops have shown unity, they have to contend with prominent Catholics, and the organizations they manage, many of whom are reluctant to abandon their support for President Obama and the Democratic Party.
In response to an editorial in America, a publication of the Jesuits, calling for the bishops to abandon their opposition to Obama's mandate, Cardinal Dolan responded: "Some, like America magazine, want us to cave in and stop fighting, saying this is simply a policy issue; some want us to close everything down rather than comply. …There have been many threats to religious freedom over the decades and years, but these often came from without. This one sadly comes from within."
“If we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill each other? . . .
Abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace today.”
In order to offer President Obama and the Democrats political cover, Fr. John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, called Obama's accommodation a "welcome step toward recognizing the freedom of religious institutions." Remember, just a few years ago Fr. Jenkins at the commencement exercise gave President Obama an honorary degree and a platform to speak, for which Notre Dame was richly awarded with a $30 million gift from the "Stimulus Fund."
"We've had 40 years of silence from the hierarchy and the clergy on the issue of contraception. I have lived in the Archdiocese of Boston all of my life, and I have never once heard a homily on birth control," states C. Joseph Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts.
"We've witnessed four decades in which the bishops have tolerated dissent on this issue from religious orders, Catholic colleges and universities, and Catholic publications – including their own diocesan newspapers at times.
"If the bishops are serious about fighting Obama on this, they need to start cleaning up their own institutions," concludes Doyle.
As Cardinal Timothy Dolan humbly confessed: Humanae vitae "brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, and disapproval of the church, that I think most of us – and I'm using the first-person plural intentionally, including myself – kind of subconsciously said, 'Whoa. We'd better talk about that, because it's just too hot to handle'. …We forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day."
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
"It is frequently asserted that contraception, if made safe and available to all, is the most effective remedy against abortion. The Catholic Church is then accused of actually promoting abortion, because she obstinately continues to teach the moral unlawfulness of contraception. When looked at carefully, this objection is clearly unfounded," writes John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).
"Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected. …But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree.
"The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception."
There can be no doubt that if this federal mandate goes into effect, the next attack on innocent human life by the Obama administration will be to require, under Obamacare, that all healthcare plans cover, free of charge, surgical abortions.
Colton Burpo's visit to heaven and back when he was four has now reached over six million people in various formats. Heaven is for Real has been a bestseller for adults and is again in an edition for children, Heaven Is for Real for Kids, illustrated by Wilson Ong.
From the comments of readers at its Facebook page, it is not surprising. Andre Landgraf wrote, "Every human being should read this book." Collette M. Imbeault's reaction was that of millions of other readers, "I loved this book! Totally awesome!"
Cyndi Benner Gray's comment was "You know you have a good book when you are telling someone about it and there are tears in your eyes."
Laura Minchew, Senior Vice President of Specialty Publishing at Thomas Nelson says, "It is a simple and pure message from the experience of a four-year-old child: 'Jesus really loves children. And He loves You!' "
The new book features a letter to parents and a section that answers questions kids frequently have when they finish Colton's story.
The Heaven is for Real DVD includes a Conversation Kit feature with footage of the Burpo family talking about their experiences while offering discussion questions and suggestions for participants.
It is even an interactive children's app through Apple. Among its features are Ong's artwork, sound effects, coloring pages, and jigsaw puzzles and the capability to gift the app to friends.
"This delightful app, with strong messages of faith, comfort, and hope makes a perfect gift for kids," Minchew says. "Parents and grandparents will enjoy the ability to record their own voice reading the story."
Basically the story is that while on a trip to Colorado, Colton complained of a stomach ache. After five days of being misdiagnosed, his appendix burst. Through the difficult surgery, his pastor father Todd Burpo and mother Sonja prayed.
Passing the hospital four months after his surgery, Colton said, "You know, Dad, the angels sang to me while I was there."
Colton went on to tell of the other things he saw including Pop, his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. But Colton says he didn't look like the photo in his house. He was a young man without glasses.
He told of the miscarried sister that his parents had never told him about, who was a young girl who wanted to be given a name, of sitting on Jesus' lap, and even of Armageddon.
When the folks in little Imperial, Nebraska, encouraged Todd to write Colton's story, he prayed, "God, if this is really You, if You want me to do this, You will have the publishing industry come to me."
God answered his prayers again and they did. "I don't know why God picked us," Todd says. "We are just normal people that God did a miracle for."
The story, however, has triggered many more miracles for other people, has gotten them to believe and pray. Jennie Belinsky writes, "This was certainly an eye opener for me. I laughed and cried and cried more. I have never been to Heaven but I cannot wait to go! I was just asking my husband about what happens to babies when a woman has a miscarriage — I did last month — and he wasn't sure; it was so comforting to read that they are in Heaven. It's as if God wanted me to read this just to find out."
Amanda Lynn Rugg wrote, "Thank you so much, little Colton. I lost my grandma and pappy. I love them so much and I couldn't get over the loss of them. I also lost my baby at 17 weeks pregnant and after reading your story it helps my heart to know that my loved ones are in such a beautiful place."
"I read the entire book from front to back today," Lisa Paone says. "I couldn't put it down. It's such a powerful and uplifting story!" and prays "May God continue to bless that precious child and his family."
On May 24, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited Monte Cassino, an Italian town destroyed in World War II and home to a famous Benedictine Abbey. His trip was during the 65th anniversary of the May, 1944, occupation of the monastery after five months of fighting in which 4,600 Allied soldiers died. The Pope visited the Polish cemetery in Monte Cassino and offered the following prayer:
Photo: American Battle Monuments Commission, taken at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Normandy, France.
O God, our Father, inexhaustible source of life and peace,
welcome in Your merciful embrace
those who fell in the war that ravaged this land,
the fallen of every war that has tainted the earth with blood.
Grant that they may enjoy the light that never fades,
which they glimpsed in faith and yearned for
during their earthly pilgrimage.
You, Who in Jesus Christ, Your Son,
offered to suffering humanity the most exalted proof of Your love
and through His Cross redeemed the world
from the dominion of sin and death,
give to all who still suffer
because of fratricidal wars
the strength of invincible hope,
the courage to perform daily actions for peace
and active trust in the civilization of love.
Pour out Your Holy Spirit, the Paraclete,
upon the people of our time
that they may understand that peace
is more precious than any corruptible treasure
and that they all work tirelessly together
to prepare a world in which justice and peace may reign
for the new generations.
O good and merciful Father,
give to us, Your children in Christ,
and tireless servants of life,
the invaluable gift of Your love.
by Brandon M. Ennis, Sr.
Breaking the living bread, future foretold.
The cup offered up, symbol of His blood.
At our table sits His traitor, Behold!
Pieces of silver buying truth and love.
Revilement, hate rained on the reigning king.
Asked, "Are You the Messiah?" "You say that I am,"
Pilate pardons Christ while judges guilt would bring.
Herod's "not guilty" refuses to damn.
Pilate agrees, rules to "flog and set free."
The crowd condemns and begs for execution.
Messiah advises "weep not for Me,"
Bearing His heavy cross towards Crucifixion.
"Remember me" requests the thief then wise.
Messiah's death takes all to Paradise.
(Editor's note: Mr. Ennis writes from Indiana. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
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