"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
Memorial Day 2012 at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Belgium. (Credit: American Battle Monuments Commission) See Prayer for Those Killed In War.
"Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization is the theme of World Communications Day on May 12. The message for the Day was issued by Pope Benedict XVI on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Catholic press. Pope Benedict's message follows:
"As the 2013 World Communications Day draws near, I would like to offer you some reflections on an increasingly important reality regarding the way in which people today communicate among themselves. I wish to consider the development of digital social networks which are helping to create a new 'agora,' an open public square in which people share ideas, information, and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being.
"These spaces, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility, and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family. The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion. If the networks are called to realize this great potential, the people involved in them must make an effort to be authentic since, in these spaces, it is not only ideas and information that are shared, but ultimately our very selves.
"The development of social networks calls for commitment: people are engaged in building relationships and making friends, in looking for answers to their questions and being entertained, but also in finding intellectual stimulation and sharing knowledge and know-how. The networks are increasingly becoming part of the very fabric of society, inasmuch as they bring people together on the basis of these fundamental needs. Social networks are thus nourished by aspirations rooted in the human heart.
"The culture of social networks and the changes in the means and styles of communication pose demanding challenges to those who want to speak about truth and values. Often, as is also the case with other means of social communication, the significance and effectiveness of the various forms of expression appear to be determined more by their popularity than by their intrinsic importance and value. Popularity, for its part, is often linked to celebrity or to strategies of persuasion rather than to the logic of argumentation. At times the gentle voice of reason can be overwhelmed by the din of excessive information and it fails to attract attention which is given instead to those who express themselves in a more persuasive manner. The social media thus need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate, and logical argumentation; of people who strive to cultivate forms of discourse and expression which appeal to the noblest aspirations of those engaged in the communication process. Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own. 'Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true, and beautiful' (Address at the Meeting with the World of Culture, Bélem, Lisbon, May 12, 2010).
"The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which His teaching promotes. Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. 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.
"The ability to employ the new languages is required, not just to keep up with the times, but precisely in order to enable the infinite richness of the Gospel to find forms of expression capable of reaching the minds and hearts of all. In the digital environment the written word is often accompanied by images and sounds. 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. Besides, we know that Christian tradition has always been rich in signs and symbols: I think for example of the Cross, icons, images of the Virgin Mary, Christmas cribs, stained-glass windows, and pictures in our churches. A significant part of mankind's artistic heritage has been created by artists and musicians who sought to express the truths of the faith.
"In social networks, believers show their authenticity by sharing the profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus. This sharing consists not only in the explicit expression of their faith, but also in their witness, in the way in which they communicate 'choices, preferences, and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically' (Message for the 2011 World Communications Day). A particularly significant way of offering such witness will be through a willingness to give oneself to others by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence. The growing dialogue in social networks about faith and belief confirms the importance and relevance of religion in public debate and in the life of society.
"For those who have accepted the gift of faith with an open heart, the most radical response to mankind's questions about love, truth, and the meaning of life – questions certainly not absent from social networks – are found in the person of Jesus Christ. It is natural for those who have faith to desire to share it, respectfully and tactfully, with those they meet in the digital forum. Ultimately, however, if our efforts to share the Gospel bring forth good fruit, it is always because of the power of the word of God itself to touch hearts, prior to any of our own efforts. Trust in the power of God's work must always be greater than any confidence we place in human means. In the digital environment, too, where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail, we are called to attentive discernment. Let us recall in this regard that Elijah recognized the voice of God not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake or the fire, but in 'a still, small voice' (1 Kg 19:11-12). We need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth – a desire which God Himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman – keeps our contemporaries ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the 'kindly light' of faith.
"Social networks, as well as being a means of evangelization, can also be a factor in human development. As an example, in some geographical and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated, social networks can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of believers. The networks facilitate the sharing of spiritual and liturgical resources, helping people to pray with a greater sense of closeness to those who share the same faith. An authentic and interactive engagement with the questions and the doubts of those who are distant from the faith should make us feel the need to nourish, by prayer and reflection, our faith in the presence of God as well as our practical charity: 'If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal' (1 Cor 13:1).
"In the digital world there are social networks which offer our contemporaries opportunities for prayer, meditation, and sharing the word of God. But these networks can also open the door to other dimensions of faith. Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters, experiences of community, and even pilgrimage, elements which are always important in the journey of faith. In our effort to make the Gospel present in the digital world, we can invite people to come together for prayer or liturgical celebrations in specific places such as churches and chapels. There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God to the furthest ends of the earth.
"I pray that God's Spirit will accompany you and enlighten you always, and I cordially impart my blessing to all of you, that you may be true heralds and witnesses of the Gospel. 'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation' (Mk 16:15)."
On April 7, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the first time in the Lateran Basilica, Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome.
The Holy Father focused on God's love, mercy, and forgiveness. His homily follows:
". . . Today we are celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as 'Divine Mercy Sunday.' What a beautiful truth of faith this is for our lives: the mercy of God! God's love for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one which always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up, and leads us on.
"In today's Gospel, the Apostle Thomas personally experiences this mercy of God, which has a concrete face, the face of Jesus, the risen Jesus. Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: 'We have seen the Lord.' It isn't enough for him that Jesus had foretold it, promised it: 'On the third day I will rise.' He wants to see, he wants to put his hand in the place of the nails and in Jesus' side. And how does Jesus react? With patience: Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief; He gives him a week's time, He does not close the door, He waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith. 'My Lord and my God!': with this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus' patience. He lets himself be enveloped by divine mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ's hands and feet and in His open side, and he discovers trust: he is a new man, no longer an unbeliever, but a believer.
"Let us also remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him; and when he hits bottom he meets the gaze of Jesus Who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: 'Peter, don't be afraid of your weakness, trust in Me.' Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus, and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus – how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!
"Let us think too of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: their sad faces, their barren journey, their despair. But Jesus does not abandon them: He walks beside them, and not only that! Patiently He explains the Scriptures which spoke of Him, and He stays to share a meal with them. This is God's way of doing things: He is not impatient like us, who often want everything all at once, even in our dealings with other people. God is patient with us because He loves us, and those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive. Let us remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left Him behind! He is never far from us, and if we return to Him, He is ready to embrace us.
"I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope. Think of that younger son who was in the Father's house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance; he goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the Father, yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the Father's house and he goes back. And the Father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar, he was waiting for him every hour of every day, the son was always in his father's heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom. The Father, with patience, love, hope, and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: he has returned! And that is the joy of the Father. In that embrace for his son is all this joy: he has returned! God is always waiting for us, He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope – always! A great German theologian, Romano Guardini, said that God responds to our weakness by His patience, and this is the reason for our confidence, our hope (cf. Glaubenserkenntnis, Würzburg, 1949, p. 28). It is like a dialogue between our weakness and the patience of God, it is a dialogue that, if we do it, will grant us hope.
"I would like to emphasize one other thing: God's patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to Him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of His hands and His feet, and in His side. We too can enter into the wounds of Jesus, we can actually touch Him. This happens every time that we receive the sacraments with faith. Saint Bernard, in a fine homily, says: 'Through the wounds of Jesus I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty rock (cf. Deut 32:13), I can taste and see the goodness of the Lord' (On the Song of Songs, 61:4). It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, 'My merit is God's mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as He is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits' (ibid., 5). This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus' mercy, to trust in His patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of His love. Saint Bernard even states: 'So what if my conscience gnaws at me for my many sins? "Where sin has abounded, there grace has abounded all the more" (Rom 5:20) (ibid.). Maybe someone among us here is thinking: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don't have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me, and that He is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; He asks of you only the courage to go to Him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said: 'Father, I have many sins;' and I have always pleaded: 'Don't be afraid, go to Him, He is waiting for you, He will take care of everything.' We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God's offer instead: His is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important thing to Him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to His heart.
"Adam, after his sin, experiences shame, he feels naked, he senses the weight of what he has done; and yet God does not abandon him: if that moment of sin marks the beginning of his exile from God, there is already a promise of return, a possibility of return. God immediately asks: 'Adam, where are you?' He seeks him out. Jesus took on our nakedness, He took upon Himself the shame of Adam, the nakedness of his sin, in order to wash away our sin: by His wounds we have been healed. Remember what Saint Paul says: 'What shall I boast of, if not my weakness, my poverty? Precisely in feeling my sinfulness, in looking at my sins, I can see and encounter God's mercy, His love, and go to Him to receive forgiveness.
"In my own life, I have so often seen God's merciful countenance, His patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to Him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in Your wounds, wash it away with Your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this – He accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.
"Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in His patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to His house, to dwell in His loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by Him and to encounter His mercy in the sacraments. We will feel His wonderful tenderness, we will feel His embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness, and love."
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
To the shock of pro-lifers around the world, the German Bishops' Plenary Assembly issued their decision this February that the so-called "morning-after pill" may be administered in Catholic hospitals to victims of rape.
Equally as disturbing was the statement of Bishop Ignacio Carrasco De Pala, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, that the decision of the bishops is "exemplary."
The German bishops stated: "The plenary meeting affirmed that at Catholic hospitals, women who are victims of rape receive human, medical, psychological, and pastoral help as a matter of course. This can include administration of a 'morning-after pill' to the extent that it has a preventative and not an abortifacient effect. Medical-pharmacological methods that cause the death of an embryo still may not be used."
There is simply no "morning-after pill," or any other pill or chemical that has a preventative and not an abortifacient effect. Such a statement may please the pro-abortion secular media of Germany and of Europe, which has been strongly pressuring the Church to approve the morning-after pill. However, this statement simply creates confusion, which practical effect will be that Catholic hospitals will administer these morning-after pills.
Many others will be misled into thinking that the morning-after pill is not an abortifacient, but only a contraceptive, and will administer it to women who wish to practice the intrinsic evil of contraception, but who would not be willing to abort the child growing within.
Is there a "morning-after pill" which is not an abortifacient?
The morning-after pill (also known as "emergency contraception," or EC, or Plan B) is a high dosage of birth control pills. Those who promote the morning-after pill claim it may be used after sexual intercourse over the period of 72 hours to achieve the goal of preventing pregnancy.
The overwhelming medical evidence has and continues to be that the standard birth control pill, including when it is used in high dosage as a morning-after pill, impedes the implantation into the mother's womb of the newly conceived child, resulting in its death. This is a chemical abortion.
"There are no birth control pills that do not have the potential to abort a developing child. At my last count in looking at the Physicians' Desk Reference [the most widely used medical text in the United States, on the desk of every physician] ... there were 44 different types of birth control pills... None of these so-called birth control pills has a mechanism which is completely contraceptive." – Thomas Hilgers, M.D., world famous fertility specialist
"The birth control pill frequently acts to prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum." – Sworn testimony given by Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on January 18, 2001 (see Senate Judiciary Committee website)
"EC pills...act by delaying or inhibiting ovulation, and/or altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova (thereby inhibiting fertilization), and/or altering the endometrium (thereby inhibiting implantation)." – FDA–Federal Register Notice, Vol. 62, No. 37, 2/25/97
"The evidence that the 'morning-after' pills are, in fact, abortifacients, is overwhelming and irrefutable," states Dr. Eugene Diamond, director of the Catholic Medical Association's Linacre Institute.
Ironically, the same month that the German bishops issued their statement, one of the world's leading authorities on the morning-after pill advised doctors that they have a duty to inform women that it could prevent a newly conceived child from implanting in the womb.
As reported by LifeSiteNews.com, Dr. James Trussell, director of Princeton's Office of Population Research, makes the following statement in an academic review of the drug dated February, 2013, and co-authored with Dr. Elizabeth G. Raymond:
"To make an informed choice, women must know that [emergency contraceptive pills] … prevent pregnancy primarily by delaying or inhibiting ovulation and inhibiting fertilization, but may at times inhibit implantation of a fertilized egg in the endometrium."
A senior fellow at the Guttmacher Institute, a member of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's national medical committee, and a board member of the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, Trussell has published over 50 academic articles on the morning-after pill and runs a popular website and hotline to promote its use.
It should be noted that these two doctors make the ludicrous claim that the morning-after pill is not "abortifacient," since pregnancy begins at implantation and not fertilization. By simply claiming that a new human life does not begin when the egg and sperm are joined, i.e., at fertilization, then one can pretend that a drug which prevents the newly conceived child from implanting into the mother's womb does not cause an abortion, since she was not yet pregnant.
Such misleading and unscientific statements do not change reality.
"After fertilization has taken place, a new human being has come into being. ...This is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. Each individual has a very neat beginning at conception." – Dr. Jerome LeJeune, Genetics Professor at the University of Descartes in Paris, internationally famous scientist who discovered the Downs Syndrome chromosome.
"It is unscientific for the Germans' Conference to claim that 'non-abortifacient' morning-after pills exist in the absence of evidence of same," states Steven Mosher, president of Population Research Institute, which he co-founded with Fr. Paul Marx, OSB, founder and former president of Human Life International.
"Where human lives are at stake, we must always err on the side of caution.
"If there were a pill that acted only to prevent conception in cases of rape, then it would be licit to use it," continued Mosher.
"Once conception has occurred, however, the situation changes, since another human being has come into existence and, as such, is deserving of protection. The German Bishops' Conference rightly rules out the use of 'any methods that involve the death of the embryo.' To reiterate: every known morning-after pill has abortifacient effects.
"The German Bishops' Conference has neatly boxed itself in. On the one hand, it wishes, in cases of rape, to authorize the use of a kind of morning-after pill that does not exist. On the other hand, it condemns the use of all kinds of morning-after pills that do exist."
For sure, the confusion will mislead many into using the morning-after pill, since they have been misled into thinking that it will not cause an abortion.
We hope and pray that the German Bishops' Conference will reconsider its statement, for the blood of many little ones, regardless of their intention, and regardless of their understanding or misunderstanding, is on their hands.
The woman who has conceived a child by the violent act of rape or by incest needs understanding, encouragement, and support by family, friends, and the entire community. An abortion, whether surgical or chemical, cannot and will not remove the suffering from such trauma nor cause the woman to forget such acts.
"Rape and incest victims actually suffer considerably from the abortion. What are some of the symptoms of rape? The woman feels dirty, guilty, sexually violated, down on herself, angry, and fearful or hateful toward men; she may experience sexual dysfunction, or feel she has lost control of her life.
"Now let's look at the symptoms of abortion. The woman feels dirty, guilty, sexually violated, down on herself, angry, and fearful or hateful toward men; she may experience sexual dysfunction or a loss of control of her life – all the same symptoms.
"So instead of curing the problem, we are intensifying the same symptoms by offering abortion. Abortion, then, is a 'cure' that only aggravates the problem." – David C. Reardon, director of Eliot Institute for Social Sciences Research
Regardless of the circumstances in which a child is conceived, an unborn baby is still a baby.
"The Bible" is not just The Good Book any more. This year it has come to mean the media campaign by Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey. Burnett is best known for the popular shows "Survivor" and "The Celebrity Apprentice," and Downey for her role in "Touched by an Angel."
Downey suggested the idea to her husband over a cup of tea nearly four years ago, after they watched the classic "Ten Commandments," and it grew and grew. It now includes not only a mini-series on the History Channel, but a game on Facebook, on-line communities, companion study guides, books, DVDs, and even a Bible app.
"The most-read book of all time is the most watched TV event of our time!" Burnett said. "Roma and I can't thank the show's millions of fans enough for taking this passion project of ours and making it the breakout hit of the year."
Bishop Michael Sheridan, Diocese of Colorado Springs, CO, said, "What I saw impressed me a great deal. It's quite a challenge to get hold of both the Old and New Testaments in only 10 hours of film, but Mark and Roma did a fantastic job. May God bless them, and may many souls be led to Christ by their viewing 'The Bible.' "
Tom Peterson, of Catholics Come Home, was also favorable, saying, "We were extremely impressed by the production quality of Mark and Roma's mini-series 'The Bible,' and thankful for their personal testimonies and commitment to spreading the good news of Jesus to the world."
"We just wanted to breathe a little fresh visual life into the sacred text we both love," Downey explains. "The response has been more than we could have hoped for. The Bible says we love God, because He first loved us; the ratings show just how deeply people love God, and we pray the series makes clear just how deeply God loves us."
"Jesus is coming!" she said. "He's the 'leading man' of the Bible's grand story of God's love for us." He came back on the first Easter and has come back for many this Easter.
Timing the ending of the series with Jesus' passion and resurrection on Easter was certainly part of their strategy. There was, however, much more to the evangelical media blitz.
"We brought experts in once the scripts were created to take a look at the scripts to make sure we were accurate and true to the Bible," she says, "but obviously we're making a movie, and so we breathed creative expansion into that."
"The Bible" project advisers included: Leith Anderson (National Association of Evangelicals), Andrew Benton (Pepperdine University), Jim Daly (Focus on the Family), Paul Eshleman (Campus Crusade for Christ), Craig Groeschel (Life Church), Bobby Gruenewald (You Version Bible), Tom Peterson (Catholics Come Home), Sam Rodriguez (National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference), Denny Rydberg (Young Life), Geoff Tunnicliffe (World Evangelical Alliance), George Wood (Assemblies of God), and Frank Wright (National Religious Broadcasters).
The mini-series has many supporters, but also some critics. "The characters are just as one-dimensional as the ones described in a Sunday school fable, only angrier," said Businessweek.
Downey countered such criticism by explaining Diogo Morgado's Jesus as "both tough and tender, exactly as Jesus is depicted in the Bible. Diogo is both the Lion and the Lamb, strong when it's called for and sensitive when it's called for."
The Portuguese actor himself explained, "When you grow up in a religious country, you take it for granted. [Playing Jesus] was a really personal journey. From now on I'm going to pay even more attention to stuff that will show even more of the human condition."
He also noted that following after "The Passion of the Christ," they did not want to repeat what had been done so well in that film. They tried to tell the larger story, focused on portraying Jesus' suffering through Mary's interior suffering.
Talking about the series, Downey also denied the mistaken idea that the actor playing Satan was cast to took like President Obama. Talking about the book, the Bible, she says, "It's something everybody should know. What God reveals about Himself through the Bible is our pathway to truly knowing Him."
"Light the Way: The Bible" is the associated hidden-object adventure game. Many are playing the game as they watch the mini-series. With the prophet Daniel as their guide, players follow Abraham, Moses, David, and others in their faith journeys. Although it takes a bit of patience to upload the images and music, they are worth it.
Brenda Angel Rose says, "I love this game." Barbara Starr Scott commented, "I love Jesus!!!" Hundred of others have "liked" the game with comments like "I [heart] Jesus. Share if you agree God is good," or "My heart belongs to Jesus," or "I want all my Facebook friends to know I love Jesus."
Both the game and the miniseries websites have grown into on-line communities. Many fans share favorite Bible quotes or personal praises. Jude Jorge, winner of the on-line contest, posted, "Watching 'The Bible' going into Holy Week has made me fall in love with Jesus all over again. I'm sure others will be inspired to know more about Him after seeing this." Still others have been prompted to ask and answer basic questions about Easter, Mary, Bible authority, etc.
There are also associated books. A Story of God and All of Us; Reflections: 100 Daily Inspirations includes a Bible verse, a personal reading, and a short prayer accompanied again by images from the mini-series. An abridged Young Readers edition is for children eight and up and a little 8-page pamphlet Easter: an Epic Story of Love is for mass distribution.
Regarding the Bible app by YouVersion, Downey and Burnet say, "We are thrilled to provide millions of people with an easy way to explore this sacred text." It does so with 400 translations in 200 languages.
(Editor's note: Mr Maitre writes from Florida. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
I believe the answer to that question is PRAYER! I don't mean a quick blessing before meals. I'm referring to the old-fashion, get-down-on-your-knees, kind where we tell Our Lord what's on our minds and hearts.
Our country was founded by people of faith, and PRAYER! The first thing the Pilgrims did after landing was to give thanks and pray. General Washington is often pictured on his knees at Valley Forge praying for his troops. Of the men who drafted the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, almost all were leaders in their local churches. This country was founded as "one nation under god." What happened to us?
Churches are closing, vocations are dwindling, services go unattended, and the downward cycle continues. In response we spend more time planning, organizing, and trying to use our human resources to stop the trend. We need to spend less time planning and more time praying. Less time should be spent assessing our needs and more time seeking guidance while on our knees. We spend way too much time planning what we can do of our own strength. Instead we should be spending time praying to the Holy Spirit, asking Him for the strength to do what He wants us to do. Even the Apostle James cautioned us against saying "I will" instead of saying "if the Lord wills, I can . . ." (James 4:13-15)
The early Church prayed with such fervor that they caused the whole house to shake. (Acts 4:31) Paul and Silas caused the foundations of the prison to shake. (Acts 16:25-26) The Church today can't even shake the cobwebs on the altar railings. Just as a ship must float on the surface of the sea, so our lives and our Church must float on a sea of prayer. Instead of floating we're floundering on the rocks and sandbars of indifference.
Prayer starts in the home. Many of us remember the "Cuban Missile Crisis" during the early 60's. The churches were full each night and day. Families gathered after supper each night to pray for peace and for our nation's leaders. The crisis was resolved and war averted. What about today? Do we fuss and fume about abortion, the culture of death, and a dozen other problems, but never spend time praying for change? We, as individuals, as a family, and as the people of God need to storm the gates of Heaven with prayers!
King Hezekiah, when war threatened, went to the House of the Lord and prayed. Sennacherib and his army were sent packing. (II Kings 19:1-376) Later Hezekiah fell seriously ill. He "prayed unto the Lord" from his death bed and the Lord "added 15 years" to his lifetime. (II Kings 20:1-7) What a sea of grace and blessings we would all be floating on if we'd start praying for ourselves, our family, our church, and our nation. Prayer should be a daily routine, not done "as needed" or in time of crisis. The "effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16) Let's get busy, Church! Our Father is waiting to hear from us!
Memorial Day 2012 at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, France. (Credits: American Battle Monuments Commission)
O God, our Father, inexhaustible source of life and peace,
welcome in Your merciful embrace
those who fell in the war that ravaged this land,
the fallen of every war that has tainted the earth with blood.
Grant that they may enjoy the light that never fades,
which they glimpsed in faith and yearned for
during their earthly pilgrimage.
You, Who in Jesus Christ, Your Son,
offered to suffering humanity the most exalted proof of Your love
and through His Cross redeemed the world
from the dominion of sin and death,
give to all who still suffer
because of fratricidal wars
the strength of invincible hope,
the courage to perform daily actions for peace
and active trust in the civilization of love.
Pour out Your Holy Spirit, the Paraclete,
upon the people of our time
that they may understand that peace
is more precious than any corruptible treasure
and that they all work tirelessly together
to prepare a world in which justice and peace may reign
for the new generations.
O good and merciful Father,
give to us, Your children in Christ,
and tireless servants of life,
the invaluable gift of Your love.
Pope Benedict XVI, Monte Cassino, Italy, 2009
(Editor's note: This article was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
Vatican City, (VIS) – On the occasion of the celebration, April 2, of the Sixth World Autism Awareness Day, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, published the following message:
"Dearest brothers and sisters, on the occasion of the Sixth World Autism Awareness Day, which this year takes place during the liturgical period of the Easter festivities, the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers intends to express the solicitude of the Church for autistic people and their families, inviting Christian communities and people of good will to express authentic solidarity towards them.
"I would like to take as a point of departure for my reflections the approach of Jesus Who drew near to, and walked with, the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). The look marked by loss, and even more by amazement, that shaped the steps of Cleopas and Simon could be a similar expression to—and equally similarly be found within—that which marks the faces and the hearts of parents who have a son or a daughter with autism.
"Autism: this is a word that still generates fear today even though in very many cultures which traditionally excluded handicaps the 'diversely able' have begun to be accepted socially, and many of the prejudices that have surrounded people with disabilities and even their parents have begun to be dismantled. To define someone as autistic seems automatically to involve a negative judgement about those who are afflicted by it, and, implicitly, a sentence involving a definitive distancing from society. On the other hand, the person concerned seems to be unable to communicate in a productive way with other people, at times as though shut up in a 'glass bell,' in his or her impenetrable, but for us wonderful, interior universe.
"This is a 'typical and stereotyped' image of the autistic child which requires profound revision. Ever since her birth, as a guiding theme, the Church has always expressed her care for this aspect of medicine through practical testimonies at a universal level. Above all else, this is witness to Love beyond stigma, that social stigma that isolates a sick person and makes him or her feel an extraneous body. I am referring to that sense of loneliness that is often narrated within modern society but which becomes even more present in modern health care which is perfect in its 'technical aspects' but increasingly deprived of, and not attentive to, that affective dimension which should, instead, be the defining aspect of every therapeutic act or pathway.
"Faced with the problems and the difficulties that these children and their parents encounter, the Church with humility proposes the way of service to the suffering brother, accompanying him with compassion and tenderness on his tortuous human and psycho-relational journey, and taking advantage of the help of parishes, of associations, of Church movements and of men and women of good will.
"Dear brothers and sisters, setting oneself to listen must necessarily be accompanied by an authentic fraternal solidarity. There should never fail to be global care for the 'frail' person, as a person with autism can be: this takes concrete form with that sense of nearness that every worker, each according to his or her role, must know how to transmit to the sick person and his or her family, not making that person feel a number but making real the situation of a shared journey that is made up of deeds, of attitudes, and of words—perhaps not dramatic ones but ones that suggest a daily life that is nearer to normality. This means listening to the imperious exhortation that we should not lose sight of the person in his or her totality: no procedure, however perfect it may be, can be 'effective' if it is deprived of the 'salt' of Love, of that Love that each one of these sick people, if looked at in their eyes, asks of you. Their smile, the serenity of a family that sees its loved one at the center of the complex organization that each one of us, by our specific tasks, is called to manage for his or her life, and perceived and achieved sharing: this is the best 'outcome' that will enrich us.
"In practice, this is a matter of welcoming autistic children in the various sectors of social, educational, catechistic, and liturgical activity in a way that corresponds and is proportionate to their capacity for relationships. Such solidarity, for those who have received the gift of Faith, becomes a loving presence and compassionate nearness for those who suffer, following the example and in imitation of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan Who by His passion, death, and resurrection redeemed humanity.
"The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, during the Year of Faith, wishes to share with people who suffer because of autism the hope and certainty that adherence to Love enables us to recognize the Risen Christ every time that He makes Himself our neighbor on the journey of life. Let what John Paul II, in whose intercession we trust and the eighth anniversary of whose return to the house of the Father we remember specifically today, be a reference point for us: 'The quality of life in a community is measured largely by its commitment to assist the weaker and needier members with respect for their dignity as men and women. The world of rights cannot only be the prerogative of the healthy. People with disabilities must also be enabled to participate in social life as far as they can, and helped to fulfill all their physical, psychological, and spiritual potential. Only by recognizing the rights of its weakest members can a society claim to be founded on law and justice' (John Paul II, Message on the Occasion of the International Symposium on the Dignity and Rights of the Mentally Disabled Person, January 7-9, 2004, n. 3).
"May what the Holy Father Francis observed during the first days of his papacy—expressing his nearness to the sick and the suffering—be constant light: 'we must keep the thirst for the absolute alive in the world, not allowing a one-dimensional vision of the human person to prevail, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and to what he consumes: this is one of the most dangerous snares of our time!'
"While I hope for the cooperation of everyone in a choral and compassionate answer to the numerous needs that come to us from our brothers and sisters with autism and their families, I entrust the sufferings, the joys, and the hopes of these people to the mediation of Mary, Mother of Christ and 'Health of the Sick' who, at the foot of the Cross, taught us to pause beside all the crosses of contemporary Man (cf. 'Salvifici Doloris,' n. 31).
"To people with autism, to their families, and to all those who are involved in their service, while confirming my nearness and prayer, I send my personal and affectionate best wishes for a serene and joyous Easter with the Risen Lord."
WASHINGTON—Asian and Pacific Catholics will hold the annual Marian Pilgrimage Saturday, May 11. This one-day pilgrimage is a celebration of faith and heritage held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and is open to everyone.
The event will begin at 1 p.m. with a procession with many of the Marian images venerated throughout Asia and the Pacific. This is followed by a call to prayer and the Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Rosary will follow at 2 p.m. with each mystery led by a different Asian community. The climax of the celebration is a multilingual Mass, at 2:30 p.m., celebrated by His Excellency, Bishop Barry C. Knestout, Archdiocese of Washington.
Participating communities include Bengali, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Lebanese, Indonesian, Indian (Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites), Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Montagnard, Pakistani, Samoan, Sri Lankan, Tongan, Thai, and Vietnamese Catholics.
As in previous years the pilgrimage is sponsored by the Asian Pacific Catholic Network (APC-Network) of the mid-Atlantic Region, in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Secretariat on Cultural Diversity. The APC-Network is committed to sharing the Catholic faith expressed in the cultures and languages of Asian and Pacific immigrants.
The Secretariat on Cultural Diversity also works towards the pastoral goal of promoting understanding of cultural diversity in the Church. One aspect of this is training pastoral leaders on Building Intercultural Competencies for Ministers (BICM) which supports the richness and diversity of Asian Pacific and other ethnic groups present in the Catholic Church in the United States.
The Asian and Pacific Catholics of Metropolitan Washington area invite all Catholics and other religious groups to participate in the Asian Pacific for Mary Pilgrimage. For further information, media and others may contact Fred Semendy (703) 764-1450, or Sister Anna Nguyen at (202) 541-3384.
Vatican City, (VIS) – April 5 in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the Second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference, "Regenerative Medicine: A Fundamental Shift in Science & Culture," which took place in the new Synod Hall of the Paul VI building in the Vatican from April 11-13. Participating in the press conference were: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Dr. Robin Smith, president of The Stem for Life Foundation and CEO of NeoStem; and Msgr. Tomasz Trafny, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture's Science and Faith foundation.
"This conference," said Msgr. Trafny, "is part of a project that developed thanks to the generosity, determination, and passion of many people belonging to different communities [such as] The Stem for Life Foundation..., the scientific community, benefactors..., journalists, as well as pastoral caregivers at various levels.
"There are three sets of words that ideally describe our course of action. The first set is related to the objectives we have set ourselves in preparing for 2011's International Conference. They are three words: understanding, knowing, and studying. We wanted to understand what consequences the field of regenerative medicine in general and adult stem cells in particular might have upon society and culture. … It was very clear that the impact and the cultural dynamics of the research cannot be understood without first knowing what it is and it cannot be known unless it is studied. … This perspective of constant study and reflection is always valid because research progresses and we don't want to follow it but rather accompany it."
But the organizers of the 2011 conference realized that their initial course of action had to be enriched by three other terms: translation, formation, and dissemination. "We realized," Msgr. Trafny observed, "that contemporary science seems increasingly hermetic, impenetrable to the uninitiated and, as such, needs translating, without which it sometimes becomes difficult, if not impossible, to follow its developments. … So we focused mainly on first asking the speakers to make their knowledge more accessible to those without a scientific background. But immediately after the conference we were committed to identifying possible paths of development and dissemination at a high level. The publication of our book, 'The Healing Cell,' is part of that process and we are happy that, last year, we were able to present a limited edition of the book to Pope Benedict XVI."
To these two paths is added today a third, always expressed in three words: influence, support, and collaboration. We want "to have a cultural influence on society, pointing to research models of excellence that are, nevertheless, in tune with the highest moral values of protecting the life and dignity of the human being from the moment of conception. However, we are aware that you cannot permanently influence society and culture without the constant and far-sighted support that comes from religious, social, and political leaders, from the community of entrepreneurs, and from benefactors who are ready to commit to developing long-term scientific, bioethical, and cultural research."
In the end we are convinced that, in order to have a meaningful impact on culture it is necessary to know how to overcome prejudice and antagonism, promoting the logic of dialogue and cooperation at various levels. That is why we feel called to collaborate with the most prestigious professors, research institutes, and universities around the world."
In conclusion, Msgr. Trafny invited journalists to attend this International Conference in order to communicate "the positive, encouraging, and optimistic message of the Church's support of high quality, ethical research to both scholars—so that they have no doubts of our commitment—as well as to those who are struggling with the pain of degenerative disease and who are awaiting hopeful signs from the research."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
An Act Of Consecration To The Holy Spirit
Divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate my mind and heart and will to You for time and for eternity. May my mind be open to Your divine inspirations and to the teachings of the Church, whose infallible guide You are. May my heart be filled with love of God and of my neighbor and my will conformed to the will of God. May my whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of Christ our Lord to Whom, with the Father and You, be honor and glory forever. Amen.
- Pope St. Pius X
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.
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