"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
"We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your Holy Cross,
You have redeemed the world."|
– St. Francis of Assisi
"We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us" (1 Jn 4:16).
Pope Benedict XVI focused on faith and love in his message for Lent, dated October 15, 2012. His message follows:
". . . The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between believing in God – the God of Jesus Christ – and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.
"In my first Encyclical, I offered some thoughts on the close relationship between the theological virtues of faith and charity. Setting out from Saint John's fundamental assertion: 'We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us' (1 Jn 4:16), I observed that 'being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction … Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere "command"; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us' (Deus Caritas Est, 1). Faith is this personal adherence – which involves all our faculties – to the revelation of God's gratuitous and 'passionate' love for us, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. The encounter with God Who is Love engages not only the heart but also the intellect: 'Acknowledgement of the living God is one path towards love, and the "yes" of our will to His will unites our intellect, will, and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never "finished" and complete' (ibid., 17). Hence, for all Christians, and especially for 'charity workers,' there is a need for faith, for 'that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbor will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love' (ibid., 31a). Christians are people who have been conquered by Christ's love and accordingly, under the influence of that love – 'Caritas Christi urget nos' (2 Cor 5:14) – they are profoundly open to loving their neighbor in concrete ways (cf. ibid., 33). This attitude arises primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, and even served by the Lord, Who bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles and offers himself on the Cross to draw humanity into God's love.
" 'Faith tells us that God has given His Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! … Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light – and in the end, the only light – that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working' (ibid., 39). All this helps us to understand that the principal distinguishing mark of Christians is precisely 'love grounded in and shaped by faith' (ibid., 7).
"The entire Christian life is a response to God's love. The first response is precisely faith as the acceptance, filled with wonder and gratitude, of the unprecedented divine initiative that precedes us and summons us. And the 'yes' of faith marks the beginning of a radiant story of friendship with the Lord, which fills and gives full meaning to our whole life. But it is not enough for God that we simply accept His gratuitous love. Not only does He love us, but He wants to draw us to Himself, to transform us in such a profound way as to bring us to say with Saint Paul: 'it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me' (cf. Gal 2:20).
"When we make room for the love of God, then we become like Him, sharing in His own charity. If we open ourselves to His love, we allow Him to live in us and to bring us to love with Him, in Him, and like Him; only then does our faith become truly 'active through love' (Gal 5:6); only then does He abide in us (cf. 1 Jn 4:12).
"Faith is knowing the truth and adhering to it (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); charity is 'walking' in the truth (cf. Eph 4:15). Through faith we enter into friendship with the Lord, through charity this friendship is lived and cultivated (cf. Jn 15:14ff). Faith causes us to embrace the commandment of our Lord and Master; charity gives us the happiness of putting it into practice (cf. Jn 13:13-17). In faith we are begotten as children of God (cf. Jn 1:12ff); charity causes us to persevere concretely in our divine sonship, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22). Faith enables us to recognize the gifts that the good and generous God has entrusted to us; charity makes them fruitful (cf. Mt 25:14-30).
"In light of the above, it is clear that we can never separate, let alone oppose, faith and charity. These two theological virtues are intimately linked, and it is misleading to posit a contrast or 'dialectic' between them. On the one hand, it would be too one-sided to place a strong emphasis on the priority and decisiveness of faith and to undervalue and almost despise concrete works of charity, reducing them to a vague humanitarianism. On the other hand, though, it is equally unhelpful to overstate the primacy of charity and the activity it generates, as if works could take the place of faith. For a healthy spiritual life, it is necessary to avoid both fideism and moral activism.
"The Christian life consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from Him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God's own love. In sacred Scripture, we see how the zeal of the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel and awaken people's faith is closely related to their charitable concern to be of service to the poor (cf. Acts 6:1-4). In the Church, contemplation and action, symbolized in some way by the Gospel figures of Mary and Martha, have to coexist and complement each other (cf. Lk 10:38-42). The relationship with God must always be the priority, and any true sharing of goods, in the spirit of the Gospel, must be rooted in faith (cf. General Audience, April 25, 2012). Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term 'charity' to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the 'ministry of the word.' There is no action more beneficial – and therefore more charitable – towards one's neighbor than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person. As the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal contributor to development (cf. n. 16). It is the primordial truth of the love of God for us, lived and proclaimed, that opens our lives to receive this love and makes possible the integral development of humanity and of every man (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 8).
"Essentially, everything proceeds from Love and tends towards Love. God's gratuitous love is made known to us through the proclamation of the Gospel. If we welcome it with faith, we receive the first and indispensable contact with the Divine, capable of making us 'fall in love with Love,' and then we dwell within this Love, we grow in it, and we joyfully communicate it to others.
"Concerning the relationship between faith and works of charity, there is a passage in the Letter to the Ephesians which provides perhaps the best account of the link between the two: 'For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not because of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them' (2:8-10). It can be seen here that the entire redemptive initiative comes from God, from His grace, from His forgiveness received in faith; but this initiative, far from limiting our freedom and our responsibility, is actually what makes them authentic and directs them towards works of charity. These are not primarily the result of human effort, in which to take pride, but they are born of faith and they flow from the grace that God gives in abundance. Faith without works is like a tree without fruit: the two virtues imply one another. Lent invites us, through the traditional practices of the Christian life, to nourish our faith by careful and extended listening to the word of God and by receiving the sacraments, and at the same time to grow in charity and in love for God and neighbor, not least through the specific practices of fasting, penance, and almsgiving.
"Like any gift of God, faith and charity have their origin in the action of one and the same Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 13), the Spirit within us that cries out 'Abba, Father' (Gal 4:6), and makes us say: 'Jesus is Lord!' (1 Cor 12:3) and 'Maranatha!' (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20).
"Faith, as gift and response, causes us to know the truth of Christ as Love incarnate and crucified, as full and perfect obedience to the Father's will and infinite divine mercy towards neighbor; faith implants in hearts and minds the firm conviction that only this Love is able to conquer evil and death. Faith invites us to look towards the future with the virtue of hope, in the confident expectation that the victory of Christ's love will come to its fullness. For its part, charity ushers us into the love of God manifested in Christ and joins us in a personal and existential way to the total and unconditional self-giving of Jesus to the Father and to His brothers and sisters. By filling our hearts with His love, the Holy Spirit makes us sharers in Jesus' filial devotion to God and fraternal devotion to every man (cf. Rom 5:5).
"The relationship between these two virtues resembles that between the two fundamental sacraments of the Church: Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism (sacramentum fidei) precedes the Eucharist (sacramentum caritatis), but is ordered to it, the Eucharist being the fullness of the Christian journey. In a similar way, faith precedes charity, but faith is genuine only if crowned by charity. Everything begins from the humble acceptance of faith ('knowing that one is loved by God'), but has to arrive at the truth of charity ('knowing how to love God and neighbor'), which remains for ever, as the fulfilment of all the virtues (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).
". . . In this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection – in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history – I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with Him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord's blessing upon each individual and upon every community!"
A Pastoral Exhortation on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
(Editor's note: The following statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is reprinted with permission. The Pastoral Exhortation on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation was approved by the full body of bishops at their annual Fall General Assembly in Baltimore on November 13.)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
"Peace be with you!" With these words, the Risen Lord greeted His frightened Apostles in the Upper Room on the day of His Resurrection. They were troubled, anxious, and fearful—much like each one of us at some point in our lives. Christ repeated the words, "Peace be with you." But then He added, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them" (Jn 20:19-23).
What an extraordinary gift! The Risen Lord was proclaiming that all the suffering He had just endured was in order to make available the gifts of salvation and forgiveness. He wanted the Apostles to receive these gifts. He wanted them to become apostles of this forgiveness to others.
In the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, also called confession, we meet the Lord, Who wants to grant forgiveness and the grace to live a renewed life in Him. In this sacrament, He prepares us to receive Him free from serious sin, with a lively faith, earnest hope, and sacrificial love in the Eucharist. The Church sees confession as so important that she requires that every Catholic go at least once a year.1 The Church also encourages frequent confession in order to grow closer to Christ Jesus and His Body, the Church. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we seek forgiveness and repentance, let go of patterns of sin, grow in the life of virtue, and witness to a joyful conversion. Since the graces of the sacrament are so similar to the purpose of the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI has said, "The New Evangelization . . . begins in the confessional!"2
We bishops and priests are eager to help you if you experience difficulty, hesitation, or uncertainty about approaching the Lord in this sacrament. If you have not received this healing sacrament in a long time, we are ready to welcome you. We, whom Christ has ordained to minister this forgiveness in His name, are also approaching this sacrament, as both penitents and ministers, throughout our lives and at this special moment of grace during Lent. We want to offer ourselves to you as forgiven sinners seeking to serve in the Lord's name.
During Lent—in addition to the various penitential services during which individual confession takes place—we bishops and priests will be making ourselves available often for the individual celebration of this sacrament. We pray that through the work of the Holy Spirit, all Catholics—clergy and laity—will respond to the call of the New Evangelization to encounter Christ in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Come to the Lord and experience the extraordinary grace of his forgiveness!
1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1457-1458.
2 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Annual Course on the Internal Forum
Organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, www.vatican.va/holy_father/
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
In his oration of his second inauguration, the most pro-abortion president in the history of the nation quoted the Declaration of Independence that all men "are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." As with so many of these staunch supporters of legalized abortion, President Barack Obama gives lip service that there is a Creator Who endows men with inalienable rights.
In reality, those who have rejected the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life deny that there are rights that men have which are not subject to the whims of those who control the government. Those who support the government's right to deny the inalienable right of an unborn child to life would think that the government is endowed by God to create or "un-create" inalienable rights. "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," continued Obama.
In this manner, in his Inaugural Address, Obama reveals that he thinks "same-sex marriage" is an inalienable right.
By the very act of creating male and female, it was the Creator Who created marriage as between a man and a woman (the two becoming one flesh).
Never in the thousands of years of recorded history has any religion, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc., nor any pagan society, ever thought that the sexual relationship between two of the same sex was anything but just that. It was never elevated to the status of a "marriage."
Now, in the 21st Century, when relativism has gripped the nations of Western Civilization, man thinks that he can create his own reality, ignoring the very laws of nature. According to relativism, it is not God Who established truth, but a majority of people which decides what is true and good, and that in fact makes it true and good.
It is not the government, neither state nor federal, that defines marriage to be a relationship between one man and one woman. It is God, through His creation, that establishes that marriage is between one man and one woman. The role of the government, as with all society, is to recognize this and to support and foster marriage.
For 2,000 years, Christianity has taught that sexual acts outside of marriage are always sinful and immoral. Fornication, homosexual acts, adultery, and masturbation are essentially self-indulgent and are sins contrary to chastity. As to homosexual acts, the Catholic Church teaches that they are "acts of grave depravity…they are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357).
Marriage is "a union between a man and a woman who, by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons." Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (2003).
The document continues: "Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties, and purpose. No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman.
"There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law," stated Pope Benedict XVI. "All Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions."
Does governmental legal recognition of the true nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, result in discrimination or injustice? Recognizing a distinction is not the same as discrimination.
Throughout history, societies have excluded some relationships from consideration as marriage. People under a certain age can't marry, those who are married can't marry, parents do not marry their children, nor do brothers and sisters marry. Groups of three or more individuals (polygamy) cannot all be married to each other.
Is it discrimination, a denial of equal rights, for the government to refuse the recognition of the legal status of marriage for three adults who "love each other"?
Just because someone desires to have their relationship recognized as a "marriage" does not obligate others to grant them their wish, to avoid the label of discrimination.
The agenda of homosexual activists does not only include legal recognition of the so-called "same-sex marriage," but also insists upon the right of homosexual couples to adopt children. Many of our state-controlled adoption agencies have placed children for adoption with homosexual couples, claiming that they have a "right to adopt."
"People with a homosexual orientation want to build a pair bond more and more similar to the family, claiming a right to adopt children. …But there is no such right, even for heterosexual couples," states Adriano Pessina, director of bioethics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. "Children are not objects or instruments of production; they are people."
It is not a right of an adult to adopt a child. It is the right of the child to be raised in a family based on a natural marriage. In 2005, the head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family called adoption by a homosexual couple "an act of moral violence against the child."
So what advice does the Church offer those who struggle with same-sex attraction?
The same direction given to all human beings – live a chaste life, with the help of God's grace.
This basic moral principle applies to all, including any single man or woman, or any married man or woman in regards to others than their spouse. The sexual act is God's will for only a man and woman who are married to each other.
Courage, a Catholic ministry, helps those who have a same-sex attraction to "live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality." The following testimonials are found on their website:
In order to assist those who do struggle with same-sex attraction, Christians must speak the truth about the true nature and purpose of marriage.
Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort
and restore me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
Prayer attributed to St. Patrick
In 1863 President Lincoln wrote, "We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the generous Hand Which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success we have become . . . too proud to pray to the God that made us!"
In Miracles in American History, Bill Federer notes that he might very well say the same to Americans in this Lent, 2013. "It's in time of crisis," he says in the book and the DVD, "that we need to follow our leaders in the past and turn to the God our Creator that we acknowledge in our Declaration of Independence."
"It behooves us then," he quotes Lincoln, "to humble ourselves before the offended Power; to confess our national sins and to pray for cleansing and forgiveness." Within days after he prayed, General Stonewall Jackson had died, shot by his own soldiers and the tide of the war turned.
Mabel Kunkel notes in Abraham Lincoln: Unforgettable American, that on July 4, 1861, he prayed with Congress, "Having thus chosen our course, without guile, and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God."
It was not only during times of war that the country has prayed. When cholera threatened the country in 1849, President Zachery Taylor led prayer and the epidemic ended. Nixon encouraged the country to unite in prayer when Apollo 13 was falling to Earth in 1970 and they returned safely.
In Seven Miracles that Saved America, Chris and Ted Stewart include the unlikely discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, the survival of the Jamestown colonists, the Constitution, and the breaking of the so-called curse of Tippecanoe with the preservation of Ronald Reagan's life. John Ferling's book, Almost A Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence, gets its title from Washington's calling America's providential survival, like that of the Jewish people, "little short of a standing miracle."
James Madison wrote, "Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle."
Before the American colonies became the United States, the country was founded on prayer from the first meeting of the Continental Congress. In 1746, colonial governor William Shirley's declared a fast when the British fleet threatened. Rev. Thomas Prince of Boston prayed, "Send Thy tempest, Lord, upon the water . . . scatter the ships of our tormentors." The hurricane that came destroyed d'Anvilles' 73 ships and killed 2,000 of the enemy.
During the French-Indian war, Col. George Washington wrote that Providence had saved him. Although he had four bullets passed through his coat and two horses were shot out from under him, he was not harmed. The Indian's medicine man call him "not born to be killed by a bullet."
In 1775 Gov. Jonathan Trumbull prayed, "make the land a mountain of holiness and habitation of righteousness forever." At the battle of Bunker Hill, where Americans were outnumbered two-to-one, the British brought the wrong sized cannonballs.
Washington's comment then was, "I shall rely, therefore, confidently on the Providence which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me."
After Henry Know brought 42 cannons from Ticongaroga in 1776, Washington declared a fast day, asking Americans "to pay all the reverence and attention on that day to the sacred duties to the Lord of hosts for His mercies already received and for those blessings which our holiness and uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through His mercy obtain."
Yale president Ezra Stiles asked the rectorial question, "Who but a Washington, inspired by Heaven, could have conceived the surprise move upon the enemy at Princeton or that Christmas Eve when Washington and his army crossed the Delaware." Then he concluded, "The United States are under a peculiar obligation to become a holy people unto the Lord our God."
After the victory of Valley Forge, Washington wrote, "I most devoutly congratulate my country, and every well-wisher to the cause on this signal stroke of Providence." Elsewhere he added, "The Hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this — the course of the war — that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more wicked that has not gratitude to acknowledge his obligation; but it shall be time enough for me to turn preacher when my present appointment ceases."
Speaking of Benedict Arnold's plot to betray the American forces at Annapolis, John André Stiles wrote, "The Providential train of circumstances which led to its discovery affords the most convincing proof that the liberties of America are the object of divine protection."
After the battle of Cowpen in 1781, in which three rivers flooding thwarted the pursuing British army, Washington wrote, "We have . . . abundant reason to thank Providence for its many favorable interposition in our behalf. It has at times been my only dependence, for all other resources seemed to have failed us."
Washington was called out of retirement when the War of 1812 broke out. The city named after him was attacked, the White House, Capital building, and Library of Congress was burned. The residents prayed and tornadoes put out the fires and saved the city named for him.
(Editor's note: Mr. Carlisle writes from Florida. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
When someone mentioned Easter (and you might find this funny)
but the thing that used to come to mind was a fluffy little bunny,
and baskets full of Jelly Beans and lots of chocolate treats,
throw in a couple colored eggs and the day could not be beat.
Yet as years passed, I came to know with no uncertain dread,
no matter how my parents lied, the Easter Bunny's dead!
Still there were my teenage years where a party needed small reason.
Easter was a raucous time, the only party of the season.
'Twas sometime later, the candy gone, that the fog began to lift.
I began to see beyond the hype and realize the gift.
This present that was offered me had a value beyond price,
and none to do with sweets and treats; it was a gift from Christ.
Jesus paid for all of us when they nailed Him to that tree.
He did this all for you and me so from sin we could be free!
So before you try to gripe and groan how the Easter Bunny's dead,
just praise God and Jesus Christ; you have eternal life instead.
(Editor's note: The following article was provided by Vatican Information Service)
Vatican City, February 4, 2013 (VIS) – This morning in the Press Office of the Holy See, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family presented the details of the conference "From Milan to Philadelphia: Perspectives of the Pontifical Council for the Family," which analyzed the results of the 7th World Meeting of Families that took place in Milan in May of last year. Also participating in the press conference were married couple Francesca Dossi and Alfonso Colzani, directors of the Archdiocese of Milan's Service for Families.
The archbishop noted that that event "showed the vital force that families represent in the Church and in society itself. … Of course, there are many problems related to marriage and the family, but we must not forget … that the family continues to be the fundamental 'resource' of our society. … The statistics are unanimous in pointing out that the family is the first place of safety, refuge, and support for life and remains at the top of the vast majority of young person's wishes. In Italy, for example, around 80% of young people say that they prefer marriage (whether it be civil or religious) and only 20% would choose co-habitation. … In France, surveys indicate that 77% want to build their family life, staying with the same person throughout their lives. … On the other hand, the need for family is inscribed on the human heart, since God tells us 'It is not good for the man to be alone.' "
"This profound truth, which marks human life so radically, seems to take a beating from counter culture. … There is an escalation in the race to individualism that is breaking up the family as well as other forms of society. That is why the breakdown of the family is the first problem of contemporary society … It is true that much of contemporary Western History has been conceived as a liberation from every bond: from ties to others and thus the family, from any responsibility toward the other. It is also true that bonds have, sometimes, oppressed individuality. But today, the vertigo of solitude with its cult of 'me,' free from any attachment … and the disorientation caused by globalization further accentuate our becoming locked within ourselves and the temptation of self-absorption."
"The Church," he continued, "is concerned … with the current crisis in marriage and the family, because she is aware that both are a Gospel, a good news for men and women today who are often alone, lacking love, parenting, and support. … The Church, an 'expert in humanity' knows well … the high price of the fragility of the family, which is paid mainly by the children (born and unborn), by the elderly, and by the ill. … At times in various historical periods there have been transformations, even profound ones, in the institution of the family. But it has never abandoned its 'genome,' its deep dimension, that is, its being as an institution formed by a man, a woman, and children. That is why a careful cultural reflection and an even more vigorous defense of the family is urgent, so that it might be placed?and quickly?at the center of politics, the economy, and culture, in the different countries as well as in the different international organizations, even involving believers of other religious traditions and all persons of good will."
"The Pontifical Council for the Family feels the urgency to help from within as well as from outside the confines of the Church in order to rediscover the value of the Family. ... There is great work to be done on the cultural level: working to restore value to a culture of the family so that it might once more become attractive to and relevant for life itself and for society. … Taking care of a family does not mean restricting oneself to a segment of life or of society. Today it means widening horizons beyond oneself and deciding to participate in the building of a society that is familial, even of embracing the 'family' of peoples and nations."
The prelate concluded by pointing out the initiatives that the pontifical council will launch throughout this year up to the next World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, including the presentation of the Charter of Rights of the Family?which that dicastery has developed over thirty years?at the sites of the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and the European Parliament. In April, a series of seminars entitled "Dialogues for the Family" will begin, in which experts in different fields will address issues concerning the main challenges related to marriage and the family. In Rome, at the end of June, an international congress of Catholic lawyers will take place, focusing on the rights of the family. Finally, in October, the plenary assembly of the pontifical council will look at the Charter of the Rights of the Family. On the 26th and 27th of that month, for the Year of Faith, there will be a pilgrimage of families to the tomb of St. Peter.
(Editor's note: The following was provided by Vatican Information Service)
The Holy Father's Lenten Message for 2013 was presented February 1 in the Press Office of the Holy See. It is entitled: Believing in Charity Calls Forth Charity ? "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us" (1Jn 4:16). Participating in the press conference were: Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"; Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso and Msgr. Segundo Tejado Munoz, respectively secretary and undersecretary of that dicastery; and Dr. Michael Thio, president general of the International Confederation-Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
"This year," Cardinal Sarah said, "the theme of the message focuses on the compelling relationship between faith and charity … between believing in God, the God revealed by Jesus Christ, and the charity that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and that leads us to the horizon of a deeper openness to God and neighbor. … If we talk about the connection between faith and charity we are referring to, at least, two dimensions. Firstly, there can be no true faith without action: whoever believes must learn to give of themselves to others. Secondly, charity calls forth faith, which therefore makes it witness."
Introduced during this Year of Faith, the Lenten Message is "a valuable opportunity to keep this bond between all the faithful alive. In this sense, it is a propitious moment, since we are preparing for Easter, that is, to celebrate the event that Christians recognize as the source of charity: Christ Who dies and is resurrected out of love. … Lent is always an opportune time for opening … our hearts to our brothers and sisters who are most in need, sharing what we have with them. In this particular historical moment, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of an informed and documented charity that is attentive to the many areas of poverty, misery, and suffering: from the increase in number and scale of natural disasters, which are not without human responsibility, ... to the escalation of violent conflicts, often forgotten by the media; the worsening of living conditions for many families, also a consequence of the economic and financial crisis that affects so many countries in Europe and around the world; the increase in unemployment, particularly among young adults; and the situations where jobs exist, but the workers are exploited, underpaid, and without the minimum security that guarantees the dignity of work itself and consequently, therefore, of the dignity of the human person."
"The center of this Lenten Message," the cardinal reiterated, "is certainly the indissoluble interrelation of faith and charity. … 'We can never separate, let alone oppose, faith and charity.' However, this separation or opposition can take different forms. … It is a misunderstanding to emphasize the faith, and the liturgy as its privileged channel, so strongly as to forget that they are intended for actual persons who have their own needs?human as they may be?their own history, their own relationships. This becomes so convenient for so many of us?inside and outside of church, which is fragrant with candles, busy putting the sacristy in order, concentrating on abstract theological discussions and clerical disputes?to overlook persons in their totality, the whole person to whom Christ calls."
"Another misconception is thinking that the Church is some kind of great act of philanthropy or solidarity that is purely human, in which social commitment is a priority, or that what is important is the promotion of a humanity that has culture and enough to eat." Such a misunderstanding extends to thinking that "the Church's main task is to build a just and equitable society, forgetting our need for God that lies at the heart of our very being."
"A further misconception is to divide the Church into a 'good Church'?the one of charitable action?and a 'bad Church'?the one that insists on the truth, that defends and protects human life and the universal moral values." Such a misunderstanding proposes that "the Church is fine when taking care of the sick, but it does less well when exercising the duty of raising awareness."
"Faith and charity go together, which is why the Gospel and action go together. What holds as true in personal experience also applies to the Church as a community. … On the one hand, a life based solely on faith runs the risk of sinking into a banal sentimentality that reduces our relationship with God to mere consolation. On the other hand, a charity that kneels in adoration of God without taking into account the source from which it springs and to which every good deed must be directed, is likely to be reduced to mere philanthropy, to mere 'moral activism.' In our lives, therefore, we are called to keep the 'knowing' of truth and the 'walking' in truth united."
"This is why I believe this Message is so timely," Cardinal Sarah concluded. "Not only because it falls during the Year of Faith and therefore in this context we do well to remember that faith and charity are the two faces of the same coin, that is, our belonging to Christ. But is timely because in this phase of history, when humanity struggles to recognize itself and to find a path to the future, the Pope's words present a unified proposal, a way of life in which accepting God engenders acceptance of others in all their dimensions, expressions, and needs. The Church can thus be the beacon of a renewed humanity and contribute to the coming of the 'Civilization of Love.' "
WASHINGTON — In his message for the 47th World Communications Day, Pope Benedict XVI continues a theme of offering encouragement for Catholics to engage in new media. Written to highlight the Catholic Church's 2013 World Communications Day, which will be celebrated on May 12 in the United States, the message is titled "Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization."
Social networks are the "new 'agora,' " the pope writes, "an open public square" where "new relationships and forms of community can come into being." As such, they offer new ways for Christians to introduce the faith to others, as long as they are savvy to the medium.
"The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young," said Pope Benedict. "Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there."
He encourages members of social media networks to consider using more than words in their interaction on the networks. "Effective communication, as in the parables of Jesus, must involve the imagination and the affectivity of those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery of God's love," he writes.
He also cautions Christians not to get caught up in the rapid and sometimes volatile exchanges that happen within social media networks. "We are called to attentive discernment," he said, especially in digital networks, "where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail."
(Source: USCCB press release)
In Darfur there has always been a lack of schools, resources and qualified teachers. Caritas supported the construction of permanent class rooms at different schools.
Credits: Mohamed Nureldin/Act Caritas 2010
Caritas will help over half a million people in Sudan's Darfur region this year as part of a US$9.6 million (7.3 million euro) program.
Through its work with the Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance, a network of over 130 churches and related development organizations, Caritas will place a big focus on helping people become more self-sufficient.
"The joint ACT-Caritas program provides badly needed basic services to people in Darfur year in year out. Now we're making a big investment in livelihoods so people are more autonomous and communities can become more self-sufficient," says Alistair Dutton, humanitarian director at Caritas and co-chair of the program.
According to the UN, a total of 3.4 million people in Darfur are in need of humanitarian assistance. This figure includes 1.4 million displaced people (IDPs) in camps receiving food aid.
ACT-Caritas will continue to build community resilience by investing in water and sanitation, health, nutrition, education, social integration, and other development programs.
Projects such as the replacement of fuel-powered water pumping systems with solar powered systems mean that communities will save money and will not be so reliant on outside factors for their access to water.
Another focus will be ensuring people have access to agricultural training as well as seeds, tools, and cash grants.
Caritas began to work in Darfur in 2004 after a conflict between rebels and the Government led to a massive humanitarian emergency.
A shift in Sudanese Government policy means that aid workers from South Sudan had to return home last year. There will be a further shift to put aid programs in the hands of local agencies this year. ACT-Caritas has been giving increasing support and training to local Sudanese partners who will be accompanying Darfuris in the future.
(Source: Caritas press release)
WASHINGTON — A committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has endorsed the principles of a national campaign to end the practice of sentencing people under the age of 18 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development agreed to endorse the Statement of Principles for the Fair Sentencing of Youth at their December 2012 meeting.
"While there is no question that violent and dangerous youth need to be confined for their safety and that of society, the USCCB does not support provisions that treat children as though they are equal to adults in their moral and cognitive development," said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the committee. "Life sentences without parole eliminate the opportunity for rehabilitation or second chances."
In their 2000 document, "Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice," the bishops wrote, "Placing children in adult jails is a sign of failure, not a solution."
More than 100 organizations have endorsed the Statement of Principles of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, including a diverse array of faith-based organizations such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. Supporters also include groups representing law enforcement officials, victims' families, mental health experts, parents, teachers, and child welfare advocates.
"We welcome the opportunity to partner with USCCB, a national leader defending the rights of our most vulnerable," said Jody Kent Lavy, director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. "We support the Church's efforts to promote the greater good by ensuring that children are held accountable for the harm that they have caused in age-appropriate ways that uphold their human dignity and focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society."
The federal government and 38 states allow youth convicted of a crime to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Currently, over 2,500 youth are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. African American youth are sentenced to life without parole as children at a per capita rate that is 10 times that of white youth convicted of the same crimes. . . . The United States is the only country that imposes this sentence upon children.
(Source: USCCB press release)
A Family Prayer For The Year Of Faith
O God our Father, in Jesus You call all Christian families and homes to be signs of living faith. By the light of the Holy Spirit, lead us to be thankful for the gift of faith, and by that gift may we grow in our relationship with Jesus, Your Son, and be confident witnesses to Christian hope and joy to all we meet. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
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