"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
|O Come Let Us Adore Him!|
(Editor's note: This article was provided by Vatican News Service.)
“When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us; not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the baptism of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit He lavished on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs, in hope, of eternal life. You can depend on this to be true.” (Titus 3:4-8)
Vatican City (VIS) More than 150,000 people from 75 countries representing all five continents gathered in Rome this afternoon to meet the Pope in St. Peter's Square, following the pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter as part of the Year of Faith. The pilgrimage was entitled "Family, live the joy of faith," and the Holy Father, who toured St. Peter's Square by open car, embracing children along the way, dedicated his address to this theme.
Francis entered the square, shaking hands with ten children carrying balloons; before his address he listened to several people who recounted their experiences: families going through difficult times and young people who would like to marry but are unable to find work, and he asked, "How is it possible to live the joy which comes from faith, in the family, today? Life is often wearisome, and many times tragically so. We have heard this recently But what is most burdensome in life is not this: what weighs more than all of these things is a lack of love. Without love, the burden becomes even heavier, intolerable."
"Dear families", he continued, "the Lord knows our struggles: He knows them. He knows the burdens we have in our lives. But the Lord also knows our great desire to find joy and rest! Jesus wants our joy to be complete! He said this to the apostles and today he says it to us. Take home this Word of Jesus, carry it in your hearts, share it with the family."
Francis took his second word from the Rite of Marriage. "'I promise to be true to you, in joy and in sadness' At that moment, the couple does not know what will happen, nor what joys and pains await them. They are setting out, like Abraham, on a journey together. And that is what marriage is! Setting out and walking together, hand in hand, putting yourselves in the Lord's powerful hands. Hand in hand, always and for the rest of your lives. And do not pay attention to this makeshift culture, which can shatter our lives. With trust in God's faithfulness, everything can be faced responsibly and without fear. Christian spouses are not naive; they know life's problems and temptations. But they are not afraid to be responsible before God and before society. They do not run away, they do not hide, they do not shirk the mission of forming a family and bringing children into the world."
He added, "Christians celebrate the sacrament of marriage because they know they need it! They need Jesus' help to walk beside one another in trust, to accept one another each day, and daily to forgive one another. And this is important! To know how to forgive one another in families because we all make mistakes, all of us! Sometimes we do things which harm others. It is important to have the courage to ask for forgiveness when we are at fault in the family."
He repeated the three key words for family life: please, thank you, and sorry. "We say please so as not to be forceful in family life. ... We say thank you, thank you for love! And the last word: sorry. We all make mistakes and harsh words are spoken but please listen to my advice: don't ever let the sun set without reconciling. Peace is made each day in the family. If love is missing, joy is missing, nothing is fun. Jesus gives always gives us that love: He is its endless source."
Finally, he offered as an example the scene of Jesus' Presentation in the Temple, chosen by the Pontifical Council for the Family as the image to represent this event. "Like all of you, the persons depicted in this scene have a journey to make: Mary and Joseph have travelled as pilgrims to Jerusalem in obedience to the Law of the Lord; the aged Simeon and the elderly prophetess Anna have come to the Temple led by the Holy Spirit. In this scene three generations come together, the interweaving of three generations. These two elderly persons represent faith as memory. But let me ask you: Do you listen to your grandparents? Grandparents are like the wisdom of the family, they are the wisdom of a people. And a people that does not listen to grandparents is one that dies! Mary and Joseph are the family, sanctified by the presence of Jesus Who is the fulfilment of all God's promises. Like the Holy Family of Nazareth, every family is part of the history of a people; it cannot exist without the generations who have gone before it. Therefore, today we have grandparents and children. The children learn from their grandparents, from the previous generation."
"Dear families", he concluded, "you, too, are a part of God's people. Walk joyfully in the midst of this people. Remain ever close to Jesus and bring Him to everyone by your witness."
The World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be held on January 19, 2014. Pope Francis called for new ways of addressing migration in his message for The Day. The message, dated August 5, follows:
"Our societies are experiencing, in an unprecedented way, processes of mutual interdependence and interaction on the global level. While not lacking problematic or negative elements, these processes are aimed at improving the living conditions of the human family, not only economically, but politically and culturally as well. Each individual is a part of humanity and, with the entire family of peoples, shares the hope of a better future. This consideration inspired the theme I have chosen for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this year: Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World.
"In our changing world, the growing phenomenon of human mobility emerges, to use the words of Pope Benedict XVI, as a 'sign of the times' (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Migrants and Refugees). While it is true that migrations often reveal failures and shortcomings on the part of States and the international community, they also point to the aspiration of humanity to enjoy a unity marked by respect for differences, by attitudes of acceptance and hospitality which enable an equitable sharing of the world's goods, and by the protection and the advancement of the dignity and centrality of each human being.
"From the Christian standpoint, the reality of migration, like other human realities, points to the tension between the beauty of creation, marked by Grace and the Redemption, and the mystery of sin. Solidarity, acceptance, and signs of fraternity and understanding exist side by side with rejection, discrimination, trafficking and exploitation, suffering, and death. Particularly disturbing are those situations where migration is not only involuntary, but actually set in motion by various forms of human trafficking and enslavement. Nowadays, 'slave labor' is common coin! Yet despite the problems, risks and difficulties to be faced, great numbers of migrants and refugees continue to be inspired by confidence and hope; in their hearts they long for a better future, not only for themselves but for their families and those closest to them.
"What is involved in the creation of 'a better world?' The expression does not allude naively to abstract notions or unattainable ideals; rather, it aims at an authentic and integral development, at efforts to provide dignified living conditions for everyone, at finding just responses to the needs of individuals and families, and at ensuring that God's gift of creation is respected, safeguarded, and cultivated. The Venerable Paul VI described the aspirations of people today in this way: 'to secure a sure food supply, cures for diseases, and steady employment to exercise greater personal responsibility; to do more, to learn more, and have more, in order to be more' (Populorum Progressio, 6).
"Our hearts do desire something 'more.' Beyond greater knowledge or possessions, they want to 'be' more. Development cannot be reduced to economic growth alone, often attained without a thought for the poor and the vulnerable. A better world will come about only if attention is first paid to individuals; if human promotion is integral, taking account of every dimension of the person, including the spiritual; if no one is neglected, including the poor, the sick, prisoners, the needy, and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:31-46); if we can prove capable of leaving behind a throwaway culture and embracing one of encounter and acceptance.
"Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women, and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more. The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history. As the Church accompanies migrants and refugees on their journey, she seeks to understand the causes of migration, but she also works to overcome its negative effects, and to maximize its positive influence on the communities of origin, transit, and destination.
"While encouraging the development of a better world, we cannot remain silent about the scandal of poverty in its various forms. Violence, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, restrictive approaches to fundamental freedoms, whether of individuals or of groups: these are some of the chief elements of poverty which need to be overcome. Often these are precisely the elements which mark migratory movements, thus linking migration to poverty. Fleeing from situations of extreme poverty or persecution in the hope of a better future, or simply to save their own lives, millions of persons choose to migrate. Despite their hopes and expectations, they often encounter mistrust, rejection, and exclusion, to say nothing of tragedies and disasters which offend their human dignity.
"The reality of migration, given its new dimensions in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner; more than anything, this calls for international cooperation and a spirit of profound solidarity and compassion. Cooperation at different levels is critical, including the broad adoption of policies and rules aimed at protecting and promoting the human person. Pope Benedict XVI sketched the parameters of such policies, stating that they 'should set out from close collaboration between the migrants' countries of origin and their countries of destination; they should be accompanied by adequate international norms able to coordinate different legislative systems with a view to safeguarding the needs and rights of individual migrants and their families, and at the same time, those of the host countries' (Caritas in Veritate, 62). Working together for a better world requires that countries help one another, in a spirit of willingness and trust, without raising insurmountable barriers. A good synergy can be a source of encouragement to government leaders as they confront socioeconomic imbalances and an unregulated globalization, which are among some of the causes of migration movements in which individuals are more victims than protagonists. No country can singlehandedly face the difficulties associated with this phenomenon, which is now so widespread that it affects every continent in the twofold movement of immigration and emigration.
"It must also be emphasized that such cooperation begins with the efforts of each country to create better economic and social conditions at home, so that emigration will not be the only option left for those who seek peace, justice, security, and full respect of their human dignity. The creation of opportunities for employment in the local economies will also avoid the separation of families and ensure that individuals and groups enjoy conditions of stability and serenity.
"Finally, in considering the situation of migrants and refugees, I would point to yet another element in building a better world, namely, the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions in the approach to migration. Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers, and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility. There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase. The communications media have a role of great responsibility in this regard: it is up to them, in fact, to break down stereotypes and to offer correct information in reporting the errors of a few as well as the honesty, rectitude, and goodness of the majority. A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization all typical of a throwaway culture towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world. The communications media are themselves called to embrace this 'conversion of attitudes' and to promote this change in the way migrants and refugees are treated.
"I think of how even the Holy Family of Nazareth experienced initial rejection: Mary 'gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn' (Lk 2:7). Jesus, Mary, and Joseph knew what it meant to leave their own country and become migrants: threatened by Herod's lust for power, they were forced to take flight and seek refuge in Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-14). But the maternal heart of Mary and the compassionate heart of Joseph, the Protector of the Holy Family, never doubted that God would always be with them. Through their intercession, may that same firm certainty dwell in the heart of every migrant and refugee.
"The Church, responding to Christ's command to 'go and make disciples of all nations,' is called to be the People of God which embraces all peoples and brings to them the proclamation of the Gospel, for the face of each person bears the mark of the face of Christ! Here we find the deepest foundation of the dignity of the human person, which must always be respected and safeguarded. It is less the criteria of efficiency, productivity, social class, or ethnic or religious belonging which ground that personal dignity, so much as the fact of being created in God's own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27) and, even more so, being children of God. Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected, and loved. They are an occasion that Providence gives us to help build a more just society, a more perfect democracy, a more united country, a more fraternal world, and a more open and evangelical Christian community. Migration can offer possibilities for a new evangelization, open vistas for the growth of a new humanity foreshadowed in the paschal mystery: a humanity for which every foreign country is a homeland and every homeland is a foreign country.
"Dear migrants and refugees! Never lose the hope that you too are facing a more secure future, that on your journey you will encounter an outstretched hand, and that you can experience fraternal solidarity and the warmth of friendship! To all of you, and to those who have devoted their lives and their efforts to helping you, I give the assurance of my prayers and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing."
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
"A promise was made at this nation's founding, where this nation was founded for a different purpose than any other nation previously in the history of the world. This nation made a promise at its founding that its government wasn't there to perpetuate the power of the powerful, but rather it was there to protect the inherent rights of even the most vulnerable.
"There was a profound recognition at the time of this nation's founding which had not been as clearly articulated previously in any political document, even though it had developed through theology in Christian thinking, and that is that there is a higher moral authority than government. That higher moral authority granted intrinsic, inherent value in every human being, regardless of his or her eventual station in life, at the moment of his or her creation, the moment of fertilization. This nation was founded upon a promise that what God gives value to, the government doesn't have a right to devalue, " expressed Phill Kline, J.D., former Attorney General of Kansas, who Northern Kentucky Right to Life was honored to have as its guest speaker at the 40th Annual Celebration for Life, held on September 15, 2013.
Phill Kline, J.D.
"'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these is life '
"How have we done with that promise in regards to the most innocent and the most vulnerable, the unborn?
"As I became Attorney General, I always believed it was fundamentally important when you are engaged in law to recognize truth, and what truth is. But what I've learned during my tenure as Attorney General, and as a District Attorney, is that a culture that denies truth is a culture that becomes lawless. For what is the power of law without the recognition of truth?
"The only power of that document [Declaration of Independence] is that the truth reflected in the words of the document resonates in the heart of a people. When you lose that truth, that document loses its power, which is what we're seeing in America today."
Phill Kline, as the Attorney General of Kansas, and as a county prosecutor, took on the abortion goliath, Planned Parenthood, and its entrenched political supporters, including the governor of the state of Kansas (now Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services), pro-abortion Kathleen Sebelius, and exposed and tried to prosecute Planned Parenthood for its failure to report child abuse (i.e., rape of minor girls), allowing their victimization to continue.
Mr. Kline is a visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, and Director of The Amistad Journey, a project of Life Issues Institute of Cincinnati.
"I have asked students, 'Do you believe in absolute truth, or is it all relative depending upon your culture, your circumstances, and your upbringing?' What do you believe that they said? Relative. Ninety percent (90%) in our urban areas will say it's relative, 75% in suburbia, 60% in rural America, and 50/50 in Christian schools.
"I then ask them, 'Okay, if there's no right or wrong, who defines right or wrong for you?' What do you believe they say then? Themselves. That's the logical conclusion, is it not? We see that in the Scripture.
"The first assault upon our relationship with God is to call into question the truth of God's Word, for if God didn't say it, you can say it. You can proclaim your own truth. You can be your own god. That's the rational conclusion, if there is not truth. But they still have some respect for authority, so they don't say themselves; they'll say government.
"I'll say, 'Okay, then, if I start hitting one of you over the head with a baseball bat, will any of you stop me? Will anybody stop me?' And eventually a hand will go up in the room, 'I'll stop you, Mr. Kline,' to which I respond, 'How dare you. How intolerant, dogmatic, close-minded of you to presume your truth upon my life.' Do you hear that in our culture today? Do you hear that?
"We are called to be intolerant of injustice, intolerant of exploitation, intolerant of the culture of death. The truth does not tolerate the lie. We can be discriminating, intolerant people against that which is a lie and that which is wrong. And we must be.
"In those arbitrary relationships, the rules of the game for us will be changed. Can you have faith? No, you can't have faith in something that constantly changes, right? Faith is an anticipated outcome. If you can't anticipate any outcome because things constantly change, you cannot have faith.
"When you can't have faith, can you have hope? Hope is an anticipated good outcome, and if you can't anticipate any outcome, you can't anticipate a good one. Without hope, you can't experience love. Without love, you die. The assault upon truth is the assault upon all human relationships."
"Tolerance is the last virtue of a man without principle."
– G.K. Chesterton
"If your friend struggled with a difficulty, a sin alcoholism or drug addiction would you, as his friend, say, 'Who am I to say that's wrong? Who am I to say that's a problem?' and stand back and say, 'Alcohol might work for them. It doesn't work for me'?
"A friend gets involved in another's life, and says: 'I'm here to bring you a truth. Your life is more valuable than that bottle of alcohol; it's more valuable than those drugs. There's a God Who created you for a purpose. You can't see it now, but it's beautiful and wondrous, and He loves you, so I will not enable; I will not tolerate. I will not condone your self-destruction." Isn't that our God, caring enough to not tolerate our self-destruction that He comes down among us and climbs up on a cross? But a friend does something else. He says, 'I will not leave. I will not abandon. I will stand by your side and suffer though the consequences of this, so from the truth of my love you will form a new hope.'"
"A nation which promised to protect the most vulnerable and with our wealth and power certainly has room at the table for both the woman facing the unwanted pregnancy and her unborn child. We must deliver that promise. But as I became involved and investigated Planned Parenthood and Dr. George Tiller, I came to learn that without truth, there is no law, and without law, with lawlessness, there's nothing but violence and power."
"A democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism."
Pope John Paul II
"Abortion is no more, no less, than, in its fundamental sense, sin. Now, I'm not saying that our government should prescribe punishment for all sin. I speak honestly. The only reason anything has come from me that is good and real and genuine is because of my Savior. I know my nature. I'm not saying government has a role in punishing all sin. I believe government should ban all abortion.
"I want to explain how abortion holds us in its grasp today, and it's because it is sin. How does all sin start? With a lie. It's not really a child. It's not really a human being. It won't have a future. What will the community say when it learns that our daughter is pregnant? You don't really love her. It would be best if you forced her to get an abortion or if you paid for it, right? All sin begins with a lie. But its aim is not the lie, but ownership. Once it gets you to buy into a lie, it grabs more with another lie.
"Every woman who has had an abortion, despite the lies of our culture, knows in her heart what she chose to do, and she suffers in that shame, unless she meets the grace of Jesus Christ.
"You can shout the lie. It's not going to overwhelm the truth. Every father who has paid for an abortion of his child knows the truth of what he did, and it's laid on his heart.
"Every parent who has looked the other way. That's one of the reasons, by the way, that the message of the Cross is so powerful, because have you ever met a woman who had an abortion who was deceived by the lies but has the courage, through the grace of God, to stand up and speak the truth? Isn't that a powerful witness, through God's grace and truth? And I thank them for that witness.
"That's the power of our Savior. But without that there is nothing but shame. Over half of our nation has paid for it, allowed it, looked the other way, encouraged, and supported abortion.
"We are a nation covered in shame. Shame generally knows two outlets: virtual anger and self-rationalization, or isolation, silence, and slow death.
"If you believe in truth, if you're a people of truth, all of God's promises in that Book are true to you personally. The victory is already declared. One of the mistakes we often make, and I make it so often, I'm the worst at this, is that we judge our success by early measurements. Did I win that election? Did I get recognized over here? Do I have this title? Have I been able to do this? That is a false measurement. Our only duty, our only obligation, is to be obedient to the One Who has made those promises to deliver us and made the promises of victory.
"Do not be discouraged. Even in the midst of all the lies, the truth stands out more starkly. If you stand in it with grace, you attract in ways you can never imagine, and change the world. That's our strength. I thank you for your mission."
Faithit.com is a place to find faith-building videos on the usually faith-challenging internet. This one site collects thousands of testimonies from many sources.
Heath White's story, for example, from "The Best Stories in Sports" has a seemingly perfect beginning. He was a 4.0 student and winning long distance runner. He became Air Force pilot and married his middle school sweetheart, Jennifer. Then they learned their baby had Down syndrome.
"I did everything I could to try to force her into having an abortion," he says on his video. When Paisley was born White quit running and made himself absent from his family.
Jennifer says, "I felt like I had a broken baby, that I had lost a baby," and still breaking up at the memory, "I thought he would leave."
When he tickled his little daughter and she laughed and pushed away his hands, "Paisley was able to change me," he explains.
He began running again this time pushing Paisley's baby carriage. By their ninth marathon they came in first together.
"I'll never be perfect," White now proclaims, "but my love for Paisley is perfect. If I can keep one family, one person, from having to live with the guilt and almost making the mistake I almost made, it's going to be worth it, the pain that Paisley will feel later in life knowing the way I felt."
Scott Hamilton's story doesn't start out perfect. An unknown disease stunted his growth, but his mother strengthened him. He was a world champ skater 16 years in a row. Then she died of cancer and he got testicular cancer. He found Tracy who took him to church and his life seemed to be getting better. God blessed them with a child just nine months and two days after their marriage.
Fourteen months later when the doctors found a tumor in his brain, they prayed, "Whatever it is, whatever it takes, we're going to face it."
It turned out to be a pituitary tumor he was born with, the reason he was only 5 foot 4, the reason he got into skating. He thanked God. "I changed the way I pray now," he says, after the tumor re-grew. "I ask uninhibitedly. I asked for strength. I ask for courage." He asked for another child and they were blessed with "Miracle Max."
God changed Eric Metaxas's life with a dream. His grew up in a culturally Greek Orthodox family, but by the time he had graduated from Yale, he says, "I didn't know what to believe. He got a job at Union Carbide and was encouraged by a co-worker to "pray that God reveals Himself to you."
He was put off, however, because he did not have faith in a God who actually cared, like his co-worker, but in a distant, impersonal God, if he existed at all.
God did reveal Himself using Eric's own "secret vocabulary of the heart." In his dream he was ice fishing, when a shining, golden fish came up out of the hole. His father had explained to him that the ICHTYOS symbol meant Christ. Jung had used ice and water as symbols for the conscious and subconscious mind.
"It was life-changing and mind-blowing," Eric says. "It was transcendental."
"To think that I could grow up in a church and go to one of the finest universities and never encounter any credible witness of this kind of faith says a lot about this culture we live in."
Metaxas's video comes from "I Am Second," with the implication that God is First, or as John put it, "He must increase and I must decrease" (Jn 3:30).
From "On The Road" by Steve Hartman comes a Secret Santa story, where one recipient was more than usually surprised by the gift of hundred dollar bills.
Thomas Coates was an atheist, a drug addict, living off his girlfriend. The night before she encouraged him to pray and he did for the first time since childhood.
Coates says, "It was God saying 'Have you had enough yet now?' "
He re-entered rehab yet again, but this time relying on a higher power.
Katie Davis write her story in Kisses for Katie. She felt called to volunteer in Uganda against the advice of her parents. When she took in an orphan girl, just until she could be adopted, it lead her to take in another and another. Then one little one called her "Mom." She now is in Uganda for good and found what God has called her to be, the adoptive mother of 14 children.
When asked why she does it, Davies answers, "Jesus said 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Myself doesn't want to be starving, so I don't want anyone to be starving."
Allison Vesterfeld's book Packing Light is actually a collection of stories like her own. She went on a road trip finding other people who had re-directed their lives by simplifying their lives in different ways.
Carlos Whittaker had his family put everything they really needed into one room and then had an estate sale of all the stuff they didn't really need. Bryan Allain quit his job of 14 years to start his own business. "It was a leap of faith," he says, "but I don't regret it." Matt Appling unloaded himself of his prayer requests. "It's when I empty out my prayer life," he says, "that's when God does surprising things."
Marissa Cope starts her story with the puzzling statement, "When I was born my parents were at the circus." That was true because her adoptive parents didn't get her from her teenage biological parents until five days later. Although she had a head indentation from being birthed with forceps, her new brother commented, "Isn't she pretty? Doesn't she look just like me?"
Cope says she thinks of this as how Jesus presents us to His and our adoptive Father. She didn't learn about Jesus, however, until she got a Christian babysitter. Eventually Marissa's family became adopted into God's family too. She now tells her story for Heroic Media, which encourages adoption rather than abortion.
"We see that God intervenes in almost flagrant ways in our lives," she says. "He took me from being an unwanted pregnancy to a pined after, inordinately loved child, who has had a life defined by hope."
(Editor's note: Mr. Dennis writes from Kentucky. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
As far as I can, as much as I can
I bless you with crossed hands.
Be peaceful, at peace all your days,
May you always walk the straight way.
Even larks of air and wolves of wood
Offer praise as we all should.
With Tau in hand go marching on
Till every land does sing His song.
The rich and poor, treat all as one.
Were all made and bought equally by His Son.
But give all to those who have naught,
And you'll get the freedom you have sought.
To all now present and to come,
Whose feet I'd wash till the race be done,
I bless you all with crossed hands
As far, and as much, as I can.
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
Vatican City October 13, 2013 (VIS) More than one hundred thousand people attended the Holy Mass in St. Peter's Square this morning, celebrated by the Holy Father Francis before the statue of the Virgin of Fatima, on the occasion of the Marian Day. The Pope's homily focused on three points: God surprises us, He asks our fidelity, and He is our strength. It is Mary who helps us to say "yes" to God every day.
We offer here below a broad synthesis of the homily.
"In the Psalm we recite, 'Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvellous things.' Today we consider one of the marvellous things which the Lord has done: Mary! A lowly and weak creature like ourselves, she was chosen to be the Mother of God, the Mother of her Creator. Considering Mary in the light of the readings we have just heard, I would like to reflect with you on three things: God surprises us, God asks us to be faithful, and God is our strength.
"First: God surprises us. The story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, is striking. In order to be healed of leprosy, he turns to the prophet of God, Elisha, who does not demand anything unusual of him, but asks him simply to trust in God and to wash in the water of the river in the little stream of the Jordan. Naaman is left surprised and perplexed. What kind of God is this who asks for something so simple? He wants to turn back, but then he goes ahead, he immerses himself in the Jordan and is immediately healed. ... God surprises us. It is precisely in poverty, in weakness, and in humility that He reveals Himself and grants us His love, which saves us, heals us, and gives us strength. He asks us only to obey His word and to trust in Him.
"This was also the experience of the Virgin Mary. At the message of the angel, she does not hide her surprise. It is the astonishment of realizing that God, to become man, had chosen her, a simple maid of Nazareth: not someone who lived in a palace amid power and riches, or who had done extraordinary things, but simply someone who was open to God and put her trust in Him, even without understanding everything: God always surprises us, He overturns our categories, He wreaks havoc with our plans. And He tells us: Trust Me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow Me!
"Today let us all ask ourselves: Do I fear what God might ask of me, or what He does ask of me? Do I let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was, or do I remain caught up in my own security, in my plans? Do I truly let God into my life? How do I respond to Him?
"In the passage from Saint Paul which we have heard, the Apostle tells his disciple Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ: if we persevere with Him, we will also reign with Him. This is the second thing: to remember Christ always and to persevere in faith. God surprises us with His love, but He asks us to be faithful in following Him. Think of all the times we were excited about something or other, some initiative, some task, but then, at the first sign of difficulty, we threw in the towel. Sadly, this also happens in the case of fundamental decisions, such as marriage. It is the difficulty of remaining steadfast, faithful to decisions we have made, and to commitments we have taken on. Often it is easy enough to say 'yes,' but then we fail to repeat this 'yes' each and every day.
"Mary said her 'yes' to God: a 'yes' which upset her simple life in Nazareth, and not only once. Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt 'yes' at moments of both joy and sorrow, culminating in the 'yes' she spoke at the foot of the Cross. Here today there are many mothers present; think of the full extent of Mary's faithfulness to God: seeing her only Son on the cross.
"Am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time? The culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes it toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to Him, daily, in our everyday actions. He goes on to say that, even if we are sometimes unfaithful to Him, He remains faithful. In His mercy, He never tires of stretching out His hand to lift us up, to encourage us to continue our journey, to come back and tell Him of our weakness, so that He can grant us His strength.
"The last thing: God is our strength. I think of the ten lepers in the Gospel who were healed by Jesus. They are sick, they need love and strength, and they are looking for someone to heal them. Jesus responds by freeing them from their disease. Strikingly, however, only one of them comes back, praising God and thanking Him in a loud voice. Jesus notes this: ten asked to be healed and only one returned to praise God in a loud voice and to acknowledge that He is our strength. To know how to give thanks, to give praise for everything that the Lord has done for us.
"Let us look to Mary. After the Annunciation, her first act is one of charity towards her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Her first words are: 'My soul magnifies the Lord' the Magnificat, a canticle of praise and thanksgiving to God not only for what He did for her, but for what He has done throughout the history of salvation. Everything is His gift; if we were able to understand that everything is a gift from God, how much happiness there would be in our hearts! He is our strength. Saying 'thank you' is so easy, and yet so hard! How often do we say 'thank you' to one another in our families? It is one of the key words of co-existence. How often do we say 'please,' 'I'm sorry,' 'thank you,' to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? Often we take everything for granted! This happens with God too. It is easy to go to the Lord to ask for help, but to give thanks to Him 'Ah, it didn't occur to me...'
"As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, let us invoke Mary's intercession. May she help us to be open to God's surprises, to be faithful to Him each and every day, and to praise and thank Him, for He is our strength."
At the culmination of the ceremony the Pope consecrated the world to the Virgin of Fatima. "Teach us your love, especially for the minor and the poor, the marginalized and the suffering, for sinners and for those who have gone astray."
Vatican City (VIS) In a press conference held in the Holy See Press Office on November 5, Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, Bishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, and Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, respectively relator general, secretary general, and special secretary of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, presented the preparatory document for the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme "The pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelization," scheduled to be held in the Vatican from October 5 to 19, 2014.
Bishop Baldisseri explained that "the theme of this Synod forms part of a work itinerary in two phases: the first is the Extraordinary General Assembly of 2014, which is intended to ascertain the status quaestionis and gather testimonies and proposals from the bishops to proclaim and credibly live the Gospel for the family; the second, the Ordinary General Assembly scheduled for 2015, which has the aim of finding working approaches for the pastoral of the human person and the family."
He went on to mention that the process of preparing each Assembly "begins with a consultation between the various entities to be surveyed on the theme in question. In this case, however, the process develops according to particular methods, both because the synodal methodology is under general revision at present, and because it is an Extraordinary Assembly."
With regard to methodological renewal, "the idea is that of transforming the synodal Institution into a real and effective tool for communion, through which the collegiality hoped for by the Vatican Council II is expressed and achieved. Indeed, with this aim it is the Holy Father's wish to strengthen also the activity of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in order that it may adequately perform its mission of promoting episcopal collegiality, cum Petro and sub Petro, in the governance of the Universal Church. This leads not only to changes to the synodal process of both a structural and methodological nature, but also to the functional adaptation of the General Secretariat, including of course the reconstitution of the physical spaces of its seat."
With reference to the extraordinary nature of the next synodal Assembly, "this type of synod responds to the need to deal with a subject that, 'while also regarding the good of the Universal Church, requires rapid definition.' It is evident that the social and spiritual crisis of today's world has an impact on family life and creates a situation of genuine pastoral urgency, which justifies the convocation of an Extraordinary General Assembly."
Cardinal Erdo observed that in the preparatory document, "the family appears as a reality that springs from the will of the Creator and that constitutes a social reality. It is not, therefore, a mere invention of human society or, much less, of some purely human power, but rather a natural reality that has been elevated by Christ the Lord in the context of divine grace. The Document, just like the Church herself, closely connects the issue of the family with that of marriage."
The Cardinal summarized all the questions considered in the test, from preparation for marriage and the evangelization of couples and their families, to de facto unions without religious or civil recognition, to the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics and same-sex couples, as well as the procedures for the annulment of marriage. However, he affirmed that the entire questionnaire "is located within a higher context: beyond the problems that exist, it opens the horizons towards recognizing the fact that the family is a true gift from the Creator to humanity."
Finally, Archbishop Bruno Forte recalled that the approach for addressing the challenges of contemporary family life should be that which Blessed John XXIII noted in his diary shortly before the opening of Vatican Council II: "All is to be seen in the light of pastoral ministry: that is, in terms of souls to save and to edify." He added, "It is not, therefore, a matter of debating doctrinal questions, which have in any case been clarified by the Magisterium recently the invitation deriving from this for all the Church is to listen to the problems and expectations of many families today, manifesting her closeness and credibly proposing God's mercy and the beauty of responding to His call."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
Vatican City (VIS) Mary as a model of the Church "in the order of faith, charity, and the perfect union with Christ," according to the definition offered by the Vatican Council II, was the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis during general audience on October 23 in St. Peter's Square, attended by over ninety thousand people.
Mary is a model of faith, not only as a Jewish girl who awaited the redemption of her people with all her heart, but also for the "yes" she proclaims at the Annunciation, when God reveals His plan to her. "From that moment Mary's faith receives a new light: it is focused on Jesus. Mary's faith is the fulfilment of the faith of Israel, and in this sense it is the model of the faith of the Church, which has Christ, incarnation of God's infinite love, as her center."
The mother of Christ lives this faith "in the simplicity of the thousand daily tasks and worries of every mother: it was precisely this normal existence of the Virgin that provided the terrain for the development of the singular relationship and profound dialogue between her and God, between her and her Son. Mary's 'yes,' already perfect from the beginning, grew up until the time of the Cross. There, her maternity broadened to embrace every one of us, to lead us to her Son. Mary always lived immersed in the mystery of God made man, as His first and perfect disciple, contemplating everything in her heart in the light of the Holy Spirit, to understand and put into practice all of God's will."
To explain the second aspect, Mary as a model of charity, the Pope used the Gospel story of her visit to Elizabeth. "Visiting her, the Virgin Mary did not take merely material assistance to her; she took this too, but she brought Jesus to her, Who already lived inside her womb. Bringing Jesus into her house meant bringing joy, the fullest joy that comes from Jesus and from the Holy Spirit, and is expressed in freely given charity, in sharing, helping, and understanding. Mary also wants to bring to us, to all, the great gift of Jesus; and with Him, she brings us His love, His peace, His joy. Thus is the Church: she is like Mary, she is not a shop, she is not a humanitarian organization, she is not an NGO, but rather she is sent to bring Christ and His Gospel to all; she does not bring herself, she brings Jesus. And the Church must be like Mary when she went to visit Elizabeth. She must bring Jesus. If the Church did not bring Jesus, she would be a lifeless Church. She must bring the strength of Jesus, of Jesus' love."
Mary is also a model of union with Christ. "The life of the holy Virgin", concluded the Pope, "was the life of a woman of her people: she prayed, she worked, she went to the synagogue... but every action was carried out in perfect union with Jesus. This union reached its culmination on Calvary: there, Mary united with her Son in His martyrdom of the heart and in the offering of His life to the Father for the salvation of humanity. Our Lady made her Son's suffering her own, and accepted with Him the will of the Father, in that obedience that bears fruit, that leads to true victory over evil and death."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
Pope Francis called on Christians to bring faith and hope to the world in an October 14 speech in Vatican City. The Pope was addressing the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. His remarks follow:
". . . I extend my greetings to you all and thank you for your work at the service of the New Evangelization and of the Year of Faith. You have my heartfelt gratitude! What I would like to tell you today may be summarized in three points: the primacy of witness; the urgency of going out to meet others; the need for a pastoral plan centered on the essential.
"Often today there is an attitude of indifference toward the faith which regards it as irrelevant for human life. The New Evangelization means reawakening the life of faith in the minds and hearts of our contemporaries. Faith is a gift of God; however, it is important that we Christians demonstrate that we live faith in a concrete way, through love, harmony, joy, suffering, because this gives rise to questions, as those that were raised at the beginning of the Church's journey: Why do they live that way? What urges them on? These are questions which lead straight to the heart of evangelization, to the witness of faith and charity. What we especially need in these times are credible witnesses who make the Gospel visible by their lives as well as by their words, and who reawaken the attraction for Jesus Christ, for the beauty of God.
"Many people have drifted away from the Church. It would be a mistake to place the blame on one side or the other; indeed, there is no need even to speak of blame. There were responsibilities in the history of the Church and her men, there were in certain ideologies and also in individuals. As children of the Church we must continue on the journey of the Second Vatican Council and divest ourselves of useless and hurtful things, of false worldly security that weigh down the Church and injure her true face.
"We need Christians who make God's mercy and tenderness for every creature visible to the men of our day. We all know that the crisis of modern man is not superficial but profound. That is why the New Evangelization, while it calls us to have the courage to swim against the tide and to be converted from idols to the true God, cannot but use a language of mercy which is expressed in gestures and attitudes even before words. The Church says as she stands amid humanity today: Come to Jesus, all you who labor and are heavy laden..., and you will find rest for your souls (cf. Mt 11:28-30). Come to Jesus. He alone has the words of eternal life.
"Every baptized Christian is a 'Christopher,' namely a Christ- bearer, as the Church Fathers used to say. Whoever has encountered Christ like the Samaritan woman at the well cannot keep this experience to himself but feels the need to share it and to lead others to Jesus (cf. Jn 4). We all need to ask ourselves if those who encounter us perceive the warmth of faith in our lives, if they see in our faces the joy of having encountered Christ!
"Here we pass to the second aspect: encounter, going out to meet others. The New Evangelization is a renewed movement toward those who have lost the faith and a sense of the deep meaning of life. This dynamism is part of Christ's great mission to bring life to the world, to bring the Father's love to mankind. The Son of God 'went forth' from His divine condition and came to meet us. The Church abides within this movement; every Christian is called to go out to meet others, to dialogue with those who do not think as we do, with those who have another faith, or who have no faith. To encounter all, because for what we all share in common is that we were created in the image and likeness of God. We can go out to everyone without fear and without renouncing our membership in the Church.
"No one is excluded from life's hope, from God's love. The Church is sent to reawaken this hope everywhere, especially where it has been suffocated by difficult and oftentimes inhuman living conditions; where hope cannot breathe it suffocates. We need the fresh air of the Gospel, the breath of the Spirit of the Risen Christ, to rekindle it in people's hearts. The Church is the home where the doors are always open, not only because everyone finds a welcome and is able to breathe in love and hope, but also because we can go out bearing this love and this hope. The Holy Spirit urges us to go beyond our own narrow confines and He guides us to the outskirts of humanity.
"However, in the Church all of this cannot be left to chance or improvisation. It requires a shared commitment to a pastoral plan which brings us back to the essential and which is solidly focused on the essential; that is, on Jesus Christ. To get diverted by many secondary or superfluous things does not help; what helps is to focus on the fundamental reality, which is the encounter with Christ, with His mercy and with His love, and to love our brothers and sisters as He has loved us. An encounter with Christ is also adoration, a little used word: to adore Christ. We need a plan animated by the creativity and imagination of the Holy Spirit, who also urges us to take new paths with courage without becoming fossils! We might ask ourselves: what is the pastoral plan of our dioceses or parishes like? Does it make the essential visible, namely Jesus Christ? Do the various experiences and features that the Holy Spirit grants journey together in harmony? Or is our pastoral plan dissipated and fragmented, such that in the end everyone goes his own way? In this context I would like to emphasize the importance of catechesis as a moment for evangelization. Pope Paul vi spoke of it some years ago in Evangelii Nuntiandi (cf. n. 44). Starting from there, the great catechetical movement has promoted renewal to overcome the split between the Gospel and culture and the illiteracy that exists today in matters of faith. I have recalled many times something which greatly impressed me in my ministry: meeting children who did not even know how to make the Sign of the Cross! In our cities! The role that catechists play is a truly valuable service for the New Evangelization, and it is important that parents be the first catechists, the first educators of the faith in their own family by their witness and by their word. . ."
“The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age as we await our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Christ Jesus. It was He Who sacrificed Himself for us, to redeem us from all unrighteousness and to cleanse for Himself a people of His own, eager to do what is right.”
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