"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
|Risen Christ by Joseph Fisher|
World Youth Day will be celebrated in dioceses throughout the world on April 13, Palm Sunday. Pope Francis' message for the day, dated January 21, follows:
"How vividly I recall the remarkable meeting we had in Rio de Janeiro for the Twenty-eighth World Youth Day. It was a great celebration of faith and fellowship! The wonderful people of Brazil welcomed us with open arms, like the statue of Christ the Redeemer Who looks down from the hill of Corcovado over the magnificent expanse of Copacabana beach. There, on the seashore, Jesus renewed His call to each one of us to become His missionary disciples. May we perceive this call as the most important thing in our lives and share this gift with others, those near and far, even to the distant geographical and existential peripheries of our world.
"The next stop on our intercontinental youth pilgrimage will be in Krakow in 2016. As a way of accompanying our journey together, for the next three years I would like to reflect with you on the Beatitudes found in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (5:1-12). This year we will begin by reflecting on the first Beatitude: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 5:3). For 2015 I suggest:'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God' (Mt 5:8). Then,in 2016, our theme will be: 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy' (Mt 5:7).
"It is always a joyful experience for us to read and reflect on the Beatitudes! Jesus proclaimed them in His first great sermon,preached on the shore of the sea of Galilee. There was a very large crowd, so Jesus went up on the mountain to teach His disciples. That is why it is known as 'the Sermon on the Mount.' In the Bible, the mountain is regarded as a place where God reveals Himself. Jesus, by preaching on the mount, reveals Himself to be a divine teacher, a newMoses. What does He tell us? He shows us the way to life, the way that He Himself has taken. Jesus Himself is the way, and He proposes this way as the path to true happiness. Throughout His life, from His birth in the stable in Bethlehem until His death on the cross and His resurrection, Jesus embodied the Beatitudes. All the promises of God'sKingdom were fulfilled in Him.
"In proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus asks us to follow Him and to travel with Him along the path of love, the path that alone leads to eternal life. It is not an easy journey, yet the Lord promises us His grace and He never abandons us. We face so many challenges in life:poverty, distress, humiliation, the struggle for justice, persecutions,the difficulty of daily conversion, the effort to remain faithful to our call to holiness, and many others. But if we open the door to Jesus and allow Him to be part of our lives, if we share our joys and sorrows with Him, then we will experience the peace and joy that only God, Who is infinite love, can give.
"The Beatitudes of Jesus are new and revolutionary. They present a model of happiness contrary to what is usually communicated by the media and by the prevailing wisdom. A worldly way of thinking finds it scandalous that God became one of us and died on a cross! According to the logic of this world, those whom Jesus proclaimed blessed are regarded as useless, 'losers.' What is glorified is success at any cost, affluence, the arrogance of power and self-affirmation at the expense of others.
"Jesus challenges us, young friends, to take seriously His approach to life and to decide which path is right for us and leads to true joy. This is the great challenge of faith. Jesus was not afraid to ask His disciples if they truly wanted to follow Him or if they preferred to take another path (cf. Jn 6:67). Simon Peter had the courage to reply: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life' (Jn 6:68). If you too are able to say 'yes' to Jesus, your lives will become both meaningful and fruitful.
"What does it mean to be 'blessed' (makarioi in Greek)? To be blessed means to be happy. Tell me: Do you really want to be happy? In an age when we are constantly being enticed by vain and empty illusions of happiness, we risk settling for less and 'thinking small' when it comes to the meaning of life. Think big instead! Open your hearts! As Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati once said, 'To live without faith, to have no heritage to uphold, to fail to struggle constantly to defend the truth: this is not living. It is scraping by. We should never just scrape by, but really live' (Letter to I. Bonini, February 27, 1925). In his homily on the day of Piergiorgio Frassati's beatification (May 20, 1990), John Paul II called him 'a man of the Beatitudes' (AAS 82 , 1518).
"If you are really open to the deepest aspirations of your hearts, you will realize that you possess an unquenchable thirst for happiness, and this will allow you to expose and reject the 'low cost' offers and approaches all around you. When we look only for success, pleasure, and possessions, and we turn these into idols, we may well have moments of exhilaration, an illusory sense of satisfaction, but ultimately we become enslaved, never satisfied, always looking for more. It is a tragic thing to see a young person who 'has everything,' but is weary and weak.
"Saint John, writing to young people, told them: 'You are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one' (1 Jn 2:14). Young people who choose Christ are strong: they are fed by His word and they do not need to 'stuff themselves' with other things! Have the courage to swim against the tide. Have the courage to be truly happy! Say no to an ephemeral, superficial, and throw away culture, a culture that assumes that you are incapable of taking on responsibility and facing the great challenges of life!
"The first Beatitude, our theme for the next World Youth Day, says that the poor in spirit are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. At a time when so many people are suffering as a result of the financial crisis, it might seem strange to link poverty and happiness. How can we consider poverty a blessing?
"First of all, let us try to understand what it means to be 'poor in spirit.' When the Son of God became man, He chose the path of poverty and self-emptying. As Saint Paul said in his letter to the Philippians: 'Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness' (2:5-7). Jesus is God Who strips Himself of His glory. Here we see God's choice to be poor: He was rich and yet He became poor in order to enrich us through His poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). This is the mystery we contemplate in the crib when we see the Son of God lying in a manger, and later on the cross, where his self-emptying reaches its culmination.
"The Greek adjective ptoch—s (poor) does not have a purely material meaning. It means 'a beggar,' and it should be seen as linked to the Jewish notion of the anawim, 'God's poor.' It suggests lowliness, a sense of one's limitations and existential poverty. The anawim trust in the Lord, and they know that they can count on Him.
"As Saint Therese of the Child Jesus clearly saw, by his incarnation Jesus came among us as a poor beggar, asking for our love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that 'man is a beggar before God' (No. 2559) and that prayer is the encounter of God's thirst and our own thirst (No. 2560).
"Saint Francis of Assisi understood perfectly the secret of the Beatitude of the poor in spirit. Indeed, when Jesus spoke to him through the leper and from the crucifix, Francis recognized both God's grandeur and his own lowliness. In his prayer, the Poor Man of Assisi would spend hours asking the Lord: 'Who are you?' 'Who am I?' He renounced an affluent and carefree life in order to marry 'Lady Poverty,' to imitate Jesus and to follow the Gospel to the letter. Francis lived in imitation of Christ in His poverty and in love for the poor - for him the two were inextricably linked - like two sides of one coin.
"You might ask me, then: What can we do, specifically, to make poverty in spirit a way of life, a real part of our own lives? I will reply by saying three things.
"First of all, try to be free with regard to material things. The Lord calls us to a Gospel lifestyle marked by sobriety, by a refusal to yield to the culture of consumerism. This means being concerned with the essentials and learning to do without all those unneeded extras which hem us in. Let us learn to be detached from possessiveness and from the idolatry of money and lavish spending. Let us put Jesus first. He can free us from the kinds of idol-worship which enslave us. Put your trust in God, dear young friends! He knows and loves us, and He never forgets us. Just as He provides for the lilies of the field (cf. Mt 6:28), so He will make sure that we lack nothing. If we are to come through the financial crisis, we must be also ready to change our lifestyle and avoid so much wastefulness. Just as we need the courage to be happy, we also need the courage to live simply.
"Second, if we are to live by this Beatitude, all of us need to experience a conversion in the way we see the poor. We have to care for them and be sensitive to their spiritual and material needs. To you young people I especially entrust the task of restoring solidarity to the heart of human culture. Faced with old and new forms of poverty - unemployment, migration, and addictions of various kinds - we have the duty to be alert and thoughtful, avoiding the temptation to remain indifferent. We have to remember all those who feel unloved, who have no hope for the future, and who have given up on life out of discouragement, disappointment, or fear. We have to learn to be on the side of the poor, and not just indulge in rhetoric about the poor! Let us go out to meet them, look into their eyes and listen to them. The poor provide us with a concrete opportunity to encounter Christ Himself, and to touch His suffering flesh.
"However - and this is my third point - the poor are not just people to whom we can give something. They have much to offer us and to teach us. How much we have to learn from the wisdom of the poor! Think about it: several hundred years ago a saint, Benedict Joseph Labre, who lived on the streets of Rome from the alms he received, became a spiritual guide to all sorts of people, including nobles and prelates. In a very real way, the poor are our teachers. They show us that people's value is not measured by their possessions or how much money they have in the bank. A poor person, a person lacking material possessions, always maintains his or her dignity. The poor can teach us much about humility and trust in God. In the parable of the pharisee and the tax-collector (cf. Lk 18:9-14), Jesus holds the tax-collector up as a model because of his humility and his acknowledgment that he is a sinner. The widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury is an example of the generosity of all those who have next to nothing and yet give away everything they have (Lk 21:1-4).
"The central theme of the Gospel is the kingdom of God. Jesus is the kingdom of God in person; He is Immanuel, God-with-us. And it is in the human heart that the kingdom, God's sovereignty, takes root and grows. The kingdom is at once both gift and promise. It has already been given to us in Jesus, but it has yet to be realized in its fullness. That is why we pray to the Father each day: 'Thy kingdom come.'
"There is a close connection between poverty and evangelization, between the theme of the last World Youth Day - 'Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations!' (Mt 28:19) - and the theme for this year: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 5:3). The Lord wants a poor Church which evangelizes the poor. When Jesus sent the Twelve out on mission, he said to them: 'Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborers deserve their food' (Mt 10:9-10). Evangelical poverty is a basic condition for spreading the kingdom of God. The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold onto. Evangelization in our time will only take place as the result of contagious joy.
"We have seen, then, that the Beatitude of the poor in spirit shapes our relationship with God, with material goods, and with the poor. With the example and words of Jesus before us, we realize how much we need to be converted, so that the logic of being more will prevail over that of having more! The saints can best help us to understand the profound meaning of the Beatitudes. So the canonization of John Paul II, to be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter, will be an event marked by immense joy. He will be the great patron of the World Youth Days which he inaugurated and always supported. In the communion of saints he will continue to be a father and friend to all of you.
"This month of April marks the thirtieth anniversary of the entrustment of the Jubilee Cross of the Redemption to the young. That symbolic act by John Paul II was the beginning of the great youth pilgrimage which has since crossed the five continents. The Pope's words on that Easter Sunday in 1984 remain memorable: 'My dear young people, at the conclusion of the Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of the love of the Lord Jesus for humanity, and proclaim to everyone that it is only in Christ, Who died and rose from the dead, that salvation and redemption are to be found.'
"Dear friends, the Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary, poor in spirit, is also the song of everyone who lives by the Beatitudes. The joy of the Gospel arises from a heart which, in its poverty, rejoices and marvels at the works of God, like the heart of Our Lady, whom all generations call 'blessed' (cf. Lk 1:48). May Mary, Mother of the poor and Star of the new evangelization help us to live the Gospel, to embody the Beatitudes in our lives, and to have the courage always to be happy."
Pope Francis sent a message to the Pontifical Academy for Life on February 19 to mark the 20th anniversary of its founding. The Pope stated:
". . . On this occasion our grateful thoughts turn to Blessed John Paul II, who established this Academy, as well as to all of the Presidents who have promoted its activity and all those who, throughout the world, collaborate in its mission. The specific task of the Academy, as expressed in the Motu Proprio Vitae Mysterium, is 'to study and to provide information and training about the principle problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion and protection of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church's Magisterium' (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, March 9, 1994, n. 4). In this way, you strive to make known to people of goodwill that science and technology, when placed at the service of the human person and his or her fundamental rights, contribute to the integral good of the person.
"The work that you are carrying out over the course of these days has the theme: 'Aging and Disability.' It is an extremely relevant topic, which is close to the Church's heart. In fact, in our societies we find the tyrannical dominion of an economic logic that excludes and sometimes kills, and of which so many today are victims, beginning with our elderly. 'We have created a "throw away" culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society's underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised - they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the "exploited" but the outcast, the "leftovers" ' (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 53). The socio-demographic situation of the aged clearly reveals to us this exclusion of the elderly, especially when he or she is ill, disabled, or vulnerable for any reason. One too often forgets, in fact, that human relationships are always relationships of mutual dependence, which is manifest to different degrees over the course of a person's life and which becomes most apparent in old age, illness, disability, and suffering in general. And this requires that, in interpersonal relationships such as those which exist in a community, we offer the necessary help, in order to seek to respond to the need the person presents at that moment. However, at the basis of discrimination and exclusion there lies an anthropological question: what is man's worth and what is the basis of his worth? Health is certainly an important value, but it does not determine the value of a person. Furthermore, health in and of itself is no guarantee of happiness: for this may occur even in the presence of poor health. The fullness towards which every human life tends is not in contradiction with a condition of illness and suffering. Therefore, poor health and disability are never a good reason for excluding or, worse, for eliminating a person; and the most serious privation that elderly persons undergo is not the weakening of the body and the disability that may ensue, but abandonment and exclusion, the privation of love.
"The family, instead, is the teacher of acceptance and solidarity: it is within the family that education substantially draws upon relationships of solidarity; in the family one learns that the loss of health is not a reason for discriminating against human life; the family teaches us not to fall into individualism and to balance the "I" with the "we."
"It is there that 'taking care of one another' becomes a foundation of human life and a moral attitude to foster, through the values of commitment and solidarity. The witness of the family is crucial, before the whole of society, in reaffirming the importance of an elderly person as a member of a community, who has his or her own mission to accomplish and who only seemingly receives with nothing to offer. 'Whenever we attempt to read the signs of the times it is helpful to listen to young people and the elderly. Both represent a source of hope for every people. The elderly bring with them memory and the wisdom of experience, which warns us not to foolishly repeat our past mistakes' (ibid., n. 108).
"A society truly welcomes life when it recognizes that it is also precious in old age, in disability, in serious illness and even when it is fading; when it teaches that the call to human fulfillment does not exclude suffering; indeed, when it teaches its members to see in the sick and suffering a gift for the entire community, a presence that summons them to solidarity and responsibility. This is the Gospel of life which, through your scientific and professional competence, and sustained by grace, you are called to spread.
"Dear friends, I bless the work of the Academy for Life, which is often demanding since it requires that you go against the tide, but which is always extremely valuable since it seeks to join scientific rigour and respect for the human person. I have been able to observe this by becoming more familiar with your work and publications; and I hope that you preserve this same spirit in your ongoing service to the Church and to the whole human family. May the Lord bless you and may Our Lady protect you always."
Pope Francis wrote a letter to families, dated February 2, asking for their prayers and support. His letter follows:
"With this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes to speak about an event which will take place at the Vatican this coming October. It is the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of 'pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.' Indeed, in our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family.
"This important meeting will involve all the People of God - bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world - all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever. This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task. As you know, this Extraordinary Synodal Assembly will be followed a year later by the Ordinary Assembly, which will also have the family as its theme. In that context, there will also be the World Meeting of Families due to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015. May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.
"I am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally 'seen' salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigor and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips, and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support... Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us His word, which illuminates our path; He gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.
"Dear families, your prayer for the Synod of Bishops will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church. I thank you, and I ask you to pray also for me, so that I may serve the People of God in truth and in love. May the protection of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph always accompany all of you and help you to walk united in love and in caring for one another. I willingly invoke on every family the blessing of the Lord."
As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul; "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9).
Pope Francis addressed engaged couples preparing for marriage on February 14 in St. Peter's Square.
The Pope responded to questions from some of the couples. The questions and answers follow:
"Nicolas and Marie Alexia, a young engaged couple from Gibraltar, asked: 'Your Holiness, many today think that life-long fidelity is too challenging; many feel that the struggle to live together may be beautiful, enchanting, but it is difficult, even impossible. We ask you for a word to enlighten us on this.' The Holy Father responded:
"I thank you for your witness and for the question. Let me explain to you: they sent me these questions ahead of time... you know... and so I was able to reflect and think of an answer that is a little more solid.
"It's important to ask yourself if it is possible to love each other 'forever.' This is a question that must be asked: is it possible to love 'forever?' Today so many people are afraid of making definitive decisions. One boy said to his bishop: 'I want to become a priest, but only for ten years.' He was afraid of a definitive choice. But that is a general fear that comes from our culture. To make life decisions seems impossible. Today everything changes so quickly, nothing lasts long. And this mentality leads many who are preparing for marriage to say: 'we are together as long as the love lasts,' and then? All the best and see you later... and so ends the marriage. But what do we mean by 'love?' Is it only a feeling, a psychophysical state? Certainly, if that is it, then we cannot build on anything solid. But if, instead, love is a relationship, then it is a reality that grows, and we can also say by way of example that it is built up like a home. And a home is built together, not alone! To build something here means to foster and aid growth. Dear engaged couples, you are preparing to grow together, to build this home, to live together forever. You do not want to found it on the sand of sentiments, which come and go, but on the rock of true love, the love that comes from God. The family is born from this plan of love, it wants to grow just as a home is built, as a place of affection, of help, of hope, of support. As the love of God is stable and forever, so too should we want the love on which a family is based to be stable and forever. Please, we mustn't let ourselves be overcome by the 'culture of the provisory!' Today this culture invades us all, this culture of the temporary. This is not right!
"How, then, does one cure this fear of the 'forever?' One cures it day by day, by entrusting oneself to the Lord Jesus in a life that becomes a daily spiritual journey, made in steps - little steps, steps of shared growth - it is accomplished through a commitment to becoming men and women who are mature in faith. For, dear engaged couples, 'forever' is not only a question of duration! A marriage is not successful just because it endures; quality is important. To stay together and to know how to love one another forever is the challenge for Christian couples. What comes to mind is the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves: for you too, the Lord can multiply your love and give it to you fresh and good each day. He has an infinite reserve! He gives you the love that stands at the foundation of your union and each day He renews and strengthens it. And He makes it ever greater when the family grows with children. On this journey prayer is important, it is necessary, always: he for her, she for him and both together. Ask Jesus to multiply your love. In the prayer of the Our Father we say: 'Give us this day our daily bread.' Spouses can also learn to pray like this: 'Lord, give us this day our daily love,' for the daily love of spouses is bread, the true bread of the soul, what sustains them in going forward. And the prayer: can we practice to see if we know how to say it? 'Lord give us this day our daily love.' All together! [couples: 'Lord give us this day our daily love'] One more time! [couples: 'Lord give us this day our daily love']. This is the prayer for engaged couples and spouses. Teach us to love one another, to will good to the other! The more you trust in Him, the more your love will be 'forever,' able to be renewed, and it will conquer every difficulty. This was what I thought I would like to say to you, responding to your question. Thank you!
"This question was asked by Stefano and Valentina, two young people from Ciociaria. 'Your Holiness, every day life together is beautiful, it gives joy, and support. But it is a challenge to face. We believe that we need to learn how to love one another. There is a 'style' of life as a couple, a spirituality of daily life that we want to take on. Can you help us in this Holy Father?' The Pope responded:
"Living together is an art, a patient, beautiful, fascinating journey. It does not end once you have won each other's love... Rather, it is precisely there where it begins! This journey of every day has a few rules that can be summed up in three phrases which you already said, phrases which I have already repeated many times to families, and which you have already learned to use among yourselves: May I - that is, 'can I,' you said - thank you, and I'm sorry.
" 'Can I, may I?' This is the polite request to enter the life of another with respect and care. One should learn how to ask: may I do this? Would you like for us to do this? Should we take up this initiative, to educate our children in this way? Do you want to go out tonight? ... In short, to ask permission means to know how to enter with courtesy into the lives of others. Pay attention to this: to know how to enter with courtesy into the lives of others. It's not easy, not easy at all. Sometimes, however, manners are used in a heavy way, like hiking boots! True love does not impose itself harshly and aggressively. In the Fioretti of St Francis we find this expression: 'For know, dear brother, that courtesy is one of the attributes of God, for courtesy is the sister of charity, it extinguisheth hatred and kindleth love' (Ch. 37). Yes, courtesy kindles love. And today in our families, in our world, which is frequently violent and arrogant, there is so much need for courtesy. And this can begin at home.
" 'Thank you.' It seems so easy to say these words, but we know that it is not. But it is important! We teach it to children, but then we ourselves forget it! Gratitude is an important sentiment! Do you remember the Gospel of Luke? An old woman once said to me in Buenos Aires: 'gratitude is a flower that grows on a noble ground.' Nobility of soul is necessary so that this flower might grow. Do you remember the Gospel of Luke? Jesus heals ten lepers and then only one returns to say thank you to Jesus. The Lord says: and the other nine, where are they? This also holds true for us: do we know how to give thanks? In your relationship, and tomorrow in married life, it is important to keep alive the awareness that the other person is a gift from God - and for the gifts of God we say thank you! - we must always give thanks for them. And in this interior attitude one says thank you to the other for everything. It is not a kind word to use with strangers, to show you are polite. You need to know how to say thank you in order to go forward in a good way together in married life.
"The third: 'I'm sorry.' In life we err frequently, we make many mistakes. We all do. Wait, maybe someone here has never made a mistake? Raise your hand if you are that someone, there: a person who has never made a mistake? We all do it! All of us! Perhaps not a day goes by without making some mistake. The Bible says that the just man sins seven times a day. And, thus, we make mistakes... Hence the need to use these simple words: 'I'm sorry.' In general each of us is ready to accuse the other and to justify ourselves. This began with our father Adam, when God asks him: 'Adam, have you eaten of the fruit?' 'Me? No! It was her, she gave it to me!' Accusing the other to avoid saying 'I'm sorry,' 'forgive me.' It's an old story! It is an instinct that stands at the origin of so many disasters. Let us learn to acknowledge our mistakes and to ask for forgiveness. 'Forgive me if today I raised my voice;' 'I'm sorry if I passed without greeting you;' 'excuse me if I was late,' 'if this week I was very silent,' 'if I spoke too much without ever listening;' 'excuse me if I forgot;' 'I'm sorry I was angry and I took it out on you'... We can say many 'I'm sorrys' every day. In this way, too, a Christian family grows. We all know that the perfect family does not exist, nor a perfect husband or wife... we won't even speak about a perfect mother-in-law. We sinners exist. Jesus, Who knows us well, teaches us a secret: don't let a day end without asking forgiveness, without peace returning to our home, to our family. It is normal for husband and wife to quarrel, but there is always something, we had quarreled... Perhaps you were mad, perhaps plates flew, but please remember this: never let the sun go down without making peace! Never, never, never! This is a secret, a secret for maintaining love and making peace. Pretty words are not necessary... Sometimes just a simple gesture and... peace is made. Never let a day end... for if you let the day end without making peace, the next day what is inside of you is cold and hardened and it is even more difficult to make peace. Remember: never let the sun go down without making peace! If we learn to say sorry and ask one another for forgiveness, the marriage will last and move forward. When elderly couples, celebrating 50 years together, come to audiences or Mass here at Santa Marta I ask them: 'Who supported whom?' This is beautiful! Everyone looks at each other, they look at me and say: 'Both!' And this is beautiful! This is a beautiful witness!
"The last question was asked by Miriam and Marco, a young engaged couple from Massa Carrara, 'Your Holiness, in these months we are preparing for our wedding. Can you give us some advice on how to celebrate our marriage well?' The Pope answered:
"Make it a real celebration - because marriage is a celebration - a Christian celebration, not a worldly feast! The Gospel of John points to the most profound reason for joy on that day: do you remember the miracle at the wedding in Cana? At a certain point there was no more wine and the celebration seemed to be ruined. Imagine drinking tea at the end of a celebration! No, it's not good! There is no party without wine! At Mary's suggestion, in that moment Jesus reveals Himself for the first time and gives a sign: He transforms water into wine, thus saving the wedding feast. What happened in Cana 2,000 years ago, happens today at every wedding celebration: that which makes your wedding full and profoundly true will be the presence of the Lord Who reveals Himself and gives His grace. It is His presence that offers the 'good wine,' He is the secret to full joy, that which truly warms the heart. It is the presence of Jesus at the celebration. May it be a beautiful celebration, but with Jesus! Not with a worldly spirit, no! You can feel it when the Lord is there.
"At the same time, however, it is good that your wedding be simple and make what is truly important stand out. Some are more concerned with the exterior details, with the banquet, the photographs, the clothes, the flowers... These are important for a celebration, but only if they point to the real reason for your joy: the Lord's blessing on your love. Make it so that, like the wine in Cana, the exterior signs of your celebration reveal the Lord's presence and remind you and everyone present of the origin and the reason for your joy.
"But there is something that you said that I would like to address immediately because I do not want to let it slip away. Marriage is also an everyday task, I could say a craftsman's task, a goldsmith's work, because the husband has the duty of making the wife more of a woman and the wife has the duty of making the husband more of a man. Growing also in humanity, as man and woman. And this you do together. This is called growing together. This does not come out of thin air! The Lord blesses it but it comes from your hands, from your attitudes, from your way of loving each other. To make us grow! Always act so that the other may grow. Work at this. And thus, I don't know, I am thinking of you that one day you will walk along the streets of your town and the people will say: 'Look at that beautiful woman, so strong!...' 'With the husband that she has, it's understandable!' And to you too: 'Look at him and how he is!...' 'With the wife he has, I can understand why!' It's this, reaching this point: making one another grow together, one another. And the children will have the inheritance of having a father and a mother who grew together, making each other - one another - more of a man and more of a woman!"
An Easter Prayer
Of all of God's gifts
Easter shows us our fate
Forgiven we will rise
And pass through Heaven's gate
This Easter remember
The sacrifice of a Son
And through His resurrection
Eternal life we have won
This Easter I pray
That the love of God
Inside your heart
God Bless You!
The 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations will be May 11, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. This year's theme is "Vocations, Witness to the Truth." Pope Francis' message for the day, dated January 15, follows:
"1. The Gospel says that 'Jesus went about all the cities and villages... When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" ' (Mt 9:35-38). These words surprise us, because we all know that it is necessary first to plow, sow, and cultivate to then, in due time, reap an abundant harvest. Jesus says instead that 'the harvest is plentiful.' But who did the work to bring about these results? There is only one answer: God. Clearly the field of which Jesus is speaking is humanity, us. And the efficacious action which has borne 'much fruit' is the grace of God, that is, communion with Him (cf. Jn 15:5). The prayer which Jesus asks of the Church, therefore, concerns the need to increase the number of those who serve His Kingdom. Saint Paul, who was one of 'God's fellow workers,' tirelessly dedicated himself to the cause of the Gospel and the Church. The Apostle, with the awareness of one who has personally experienced how mysterious God's saving will is, and how the initiative of grace is the origin of every vocation, reminds the Christians of Corinth: 'You are God's field' (1 Cor 3:9). That is why wonder first arises in our hearts over the plentiful harvest which God alone can bestow; then gratitude for a love that always goes before us; and lastly, adoration for the work that He has accomplished, which requires our free consent in acting with Him and for Him.
"2. Many times we have prayed with the words of the Psalmist: 'It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture' (Ps 100:3); or: 'The Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel as His own possession' (Ps 135:4). And yet we are God's 'possession' not in the sense of a possession that renders us slaves, but rather of a strong bond that unites us to God and one another, in accord with a covenant that is eternal, 'for His steadfast love endures for ever' (Ps 136). In the account of the calling of the prophet Jeremiah, for example, God reminds us that He continually watches over each one of us in order that His word may be accomplished in us. The image is of an almond branch which is the first tree to flower, thus announcing life's rebirth in the springtime (cf Jer 1:11-12). Everything comes from Him and is His gift: the world, life, death, the present, the future, but - the Apostle assures us - 'you are Christ's; and Christ is God's' (1 Cor 3:23). Hence the way of belonging to God is explained: it comes about through a unique and personal relationship with Jesus, which Baptism confers on us from the beginning of our rebirth to new life. It is Christ, therefore, who continually summons us by His word to place our trust in him, loving Him 'with all the heart, with all the understanding, and with all the strength' (Mk 12:33). Therefore every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to center one's life on Christ and on His Gospel. Both in married life and in the forms of religious consecration, as well as in priestly life, we must surmount the ways of thinking and acting that do not conform to the will of God. It is an 'exodus that leads us on a journey of adoration of the Lord and of service to Him in our brothers and sisters' (Address to the International Union of Superiors General, May 8, 2013). Therefore, we are all called to adore Christ in our hearts (1 Pet 3:15) in order to allow ourselves to be touched by the impulse of grace contained in the seed of the word, which must grow in us and be transformed into concrete service to our neighbor. We need not be afraid: God follows the work of His hands with passion and skill in every phase of life. He never abandons us! He has the fulfilment of His plan for us at heart, and yet He wishes to achieve it with our consent and cooperation.
"3. Today too, Jesus lives and walks along the paths of ordinary life in order to draw near to everyone, beginning with the least, and to heal us of our infirmities and illnesses. I turn now to those who are well disposed to listen to the voice of Christ that rings out in the Church and to understand what their own vocation is. I invite you to listen to and follow Jesus, and to allow yourselves to be transformed interiorly by His words, which 'are spirit and life' (Jn 6:62). Mary, the Mother of Jesus and ours, also says to us: 'Do whatever He tells you' (Jn 2:5). It will help you to participate in a communal journey that is able to release the best energies in you and around you. A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love. Did not Jesus say: 'By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13:35)?
"4. Dear brothers and sisters, this 'high standard of ordinary Christian living' (cf John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31) means sometimes going against the tide and also encountering obstacles, outside ourselves and within ourselves. Jesus Himself warns us: the good seed of God's word is often snatched away by the Evil one, blocked by tribulation, and choked by worldly cares and temptation (cf Mt 13:19-22). All of these difficulties could discourage us, making us fall back on seemingly more comfortable paths. However, the true joy of those who are called consists in believing and experiencing that He, the Lord, is faithful, and that with Him we can walk, be disciples and witnesses of God's love, open our hearts to great ideals, to great things. 'We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for small things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals!' (Homily at Holy Mass and the Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation, April 28, 2013). I ask you bishops, priests, religious, Christian communities, and families to orient vocational pastoral planning in this direction, by accompanying young people on pathways of holiness which, because they are personal, 'call for a genuine "training in holiness" capable of being adapted to every person's need. This training must integrate the resources offered to everyone with both the traditional forms of individual and group assistance, as well as the more recent forms of support offered in associations and movements recognized by the Church' (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31).
"Let us dispose our hearts therefore to being 'good soil,' by listening, receiving, and living out the word, and thus bearing fruit. The more we unite ourselves to Jesus through prayer, Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the Sacraments celebrated and lived in the Church, and in fraternity, the more there will grow in us the joy of cooperating with God in the service of the Kingdom of mercy and truth, of justice and peace. And the harvest will be plentiful, proportionate to the grace we have meekly welcomed into our lives. With this wish, and asking you to pray for me, I cordially impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing."
It is quite fitting that Pope Francis will be canonizing Pope John XXIII on Divine Mercy Sunday. They share many of the same qualities, humility, love of the poor, and disregard for formalities. The Wit and Wisdom of Good Pope by Henri Fesquet (1965) is well worth a re-reading.
There are many other, newer books and e-books on Pope John XXIII, such as Pope John XXIII: the Good Pope by Wyatt North (2014), The Good Pope by Greg Tobin (2012), and Pope John XXIII by Peter Hebblethwaite (1985, 2000). There are also DVDs like "the Good Pope: John XXIII" (2003). There is, of course, his own autobiography, Journal of a Soul, and his Prayers and Devotions as well. Fesquet's paperback, however, is a very easy read.
Just before his death, Fesquet notes, Good Pope John wrote of the Second Vatican council, "May He grant me enough time to finish it? May He be praised if He does not grant it. I shall see the happy conclusion from Heaven where I hope, and am even certain, Divine Mercy will allow me to enter."
The devotions which he carried on since childhood were to Jesus, Joseph, and the three Francises, Francis of Assisi, Francis Xavier, and Francis de Sales. At the end of his life, like Francis of Assisi, he welcomed Sister Death. "I await the arrival of Sister Death calmly and gladly," he wrote and died the morning after Pentecost, 1963, just as Mass im the next room ended.
While walking through Rome, he heard a woman remark, "God, but he's fat!" He responded with, "But Madam, you must know that the conclave is not exactly a beauty contest."
On another occasion a boy asked him in a letter, "My dear pope: I am undecided. I want to be a policeman or a pope. What do you think?" Pope John answered, "If you want my opinion, learn how to be a policeman, because that cannot be improved. As regards being pope, you will see later. Anybody can be pope; the proof of this is that I have become one."
One of 13 children, he nevertheless says that his farming family had all that they needed. Yet Pope John wrote, "I thank God for this grace of poverty to which I vowed myself in my youth, poverty of spirit as a priest of the Sacred Heart and real poverty. It sustains me in my resolve never to ask for anything."
Pope John XXIII is said to have used only two missals to celebrate Mass. Both were gifts from prisoners he had visited. One had been presented to him by inmates of Melun and the other from Regina Coeli prison in Rome.
Pope John admitted that he had some difficulty sleeping on the night after he had announced the Vatican II council, the first in almost a century. He says he talked away his anxiety by putting on the mind of Christ. He told himself, "Giovanni, why don't you sleep? Is it the pope or the Holy Spirit Who governs the Church? It's the Holy Spirit, no? Well, then go to sleep, Giovanni!"
In the midst of the Cold War, and as a veteran of World War I, he wrote "What a response to Pacem in Terris! What there is of myself in this document is above all the humble example of the 'peace and patient man.' (Imitation of Christ, 2, 3) which I have tried to set during the whole of my poor life."
Pope John was uncomfortable with all the applause that followed his words. He, therefore, ordered the Credo be said as soon as he had finished speaking. Thus he re-focused the attention of his listeners on God and away from God's messenger.
Like Pope Francis he preferred informality to formality. When president Kennedy and the first lady visited him, he asked how he should address the president's wife, but then simply called her Jacqueline.
On another occasion while visiting the Hospital of the Holy Spirit in Rome, he met with the mother superior. She introduced herself as the Superior of the Holy Spirit. He replied, "I must say you're lucky. I'm only the Vicar of Jesus Christ."
He sometimes had to remind himself that he was now pope and not say, as he had as a cardinal, "I'll talk it over with the pope." He changed that to "I'll talk it over with our Lord."
Like Pope Francis Pope John caused unintentional distress among his staff. When he could not be found in his private apartment or the chapel, the cardinal, police, and Swiss guard were alerted and he was found reading in the park.
Fesquet also includes some of Pope John's favorite maxims. Several are trinitarian: "Listen to everything, forget much, correct little."; "Let us look at each other without mistrust, meet each other without fear, talk with each other without surrendering principle." and "Unity in necessary things, freedom in doubtful things, charity in all things."
"We are here on Earth," he explained in words of his own, "not to guard a museum, but to cultivate a garden flourishing with life and promised to a glorious future." Yet he also warned against keeping "hidden the treasure that is the truth handed down by our forefathers."
Pope John was pastorally concerned about modesty as well. When he was apostolic nuncio to France at banquet, he noticed one lady had a very low neckline. He offered her an apple, saying, "Do take it, madame, please do. It was only after Eve ate the apple that she became aware of how little she had on!"
Another time when asked if such dress embarrassed him he answered, "Why no, when there's a woman with a plunging neckline, the guests don't look at her. They look at the apostolic nuncio to see how he is taking it."
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.
(A Christian Perspective on World News)
VATICAN CITY (VIS) - The Pontifical Council for the Laity has issued a press release on February 6 to explain the content and objectives of the Holy Father's message for the 29th World Youth Day.
"This is the first annual Message from Pope Francis to the youth of the world. It follows the tradition begun by Blessed John Paul II and continued by Benedict XVI on the occasion of each World Youth Day (WYD). Pope Francis is resuming the conversation he began with young people at the very successful WYD that took place in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013. He presents the themes for the next three WYDs in order to set in motion the three-year path of spiritual preparation leading to the international celebration in Krakow in July 2016.
The themes for the next three WYDs are taken from the Beatitudes. The Holy Father considers this passage from Matthew's Gospel to be a central point of reference in a Christian's life. It should be part of everyone's life plan.
In this Message, the Holy Father reminds young people that Jesus Himself showed the way by embodying the Beatitudes in His life. It is a real challenge for young people today to live according to the Beatitudes by following Jesus. It means going against the tide and being witnesses of revolutionary innovation. As you cannot be a real Christian and "think small" about life, the Pope urges young people to resist 'low cost' offers of happiness and to have the courage to be truly happy, a gift that only God can give.
Pope Francis explains to young people what it means to be 'poor in spirit,' thus entering into the heart of the theme for the next World Youth Day. Jesus Himself chose the way of dispossession and poverty. The Pope addressed a pressing invitation to young people to imitate Jesus, and he pointed to the example of Saint Francis of Assisi. Young Christians are, therefore, called to conversion, to embrace an evangelical lifestyle, one of moderation in which we seek the essential and act in solidarity with the poor. The Pope explains that the poor are both the 'suffering flesh' of Christ that we are all called to personally touch, and they are also true masters of life, often with much to offer on the human and spiritual plane.
The Pope emphasizes the close connection between the theme for the Rio WYD - 'Go and make disciples of all nations!' - and the Beatitude about the poor in spirit. Pope Francis explains, 'evangelical poverty is a basic condition for spreading the kingdom of God.' It is often the most simple of hearts that express true joy, and evangelization depends on this joy.
The Holy Father reminds young people that thirty years have passed since the Cross of the Jubilee of the Redemption was entrusted to young people. The anniversary is on April 22. 'That symbolic act by John Paul II was the beginning of the great youth pilgrimage which has since crossed the five continents.' Pope Francis tells young people that after John Paul II's canonization, 'an event marked by immense joy,' he will be 'the great patron of the World Youth Days which he inaugurated and always supported.' "
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
VATICAN CITY (VIS) - Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, commented in his presentation on February 25 of the Pope's letter to families that during these months the family has been, more than ever before, in the mind and the heart of the Church. He gave examples including the pilgrimage of families for the Year of Faith, the Holy Father's encounter with engaged couples on February 14, last week's extraordinary Consistory in the Vatican, the next Synod which will take place in October, and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, U.S.A., scheduled for September 2015.
"Pope Francis, with this letter to the 'dear families' of the world, wishes to involve them in the Synod path," explained the Archbishop. É Prayer is the first form of participation in this joint path. Families - and this is the Pope's intention - are not simply the object of attention, but are also the subjects of this pilgrimage, given that they form a majority within the Church, and are marked by the Sacrament of Marriage.
"One must not forget that that spread of early Christianity occurred through a network of families," he added. "It is an important lesson for our times, in which we invoke a new missionary season for evangelical preaching. É The Pope asks Christian families to be aware of the responsibility of their mission in times of confusion and restlessness. He asks for their help. In addition, if there is a theme of Christian life, for which the support of the family is indispensable both to the Pope and to the Church, then this is it. If there were no families, then Jesus' Word - the word of the Church, the word of the Pope - on the married love which is able to open us up to God's unconditional love for all, would appear abstract, unrealistic, and ineffectual."
"But families, thanks to God, exist and have a living presence," concluded the prelate. "Therefore, it is important for Pastors and families to live 'in harmony in prayer' in this time, as if in a spiritual Cenacle that gathers the whole world together, waiting for the Spirit to evoke a renewed Pentecost."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
VATICAN CITY (VIS), March 5, 2014 - Pope Francis has sent a message to the faithful in Brazil on the occasion of the annual Lenten "Fraternity Campaign," which this year takes on the theme of "Brotherhood and human trafficking," and whose slogan will be "For freedom Christ has set us free."
"During the next forty days, we will seek to be more aware of the infinite mercy God has given to us and asks us to give to others, especially those most in need: 'You are free! Go and help your brothers to be free!' In this sense, and wishing to mobilize Christians and persons of good will in Brazilian society against the social ill of human trafficking, our Brazilian brother bishops propose this year the theme 'Fraternity and human trafficking.' "
"It is not possible to remain indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold like goods! I think of the adoption of children for the extraction of their organs, of woman deceived and obliged to prostitute themselves, of workers exploited and denied rights or a voice, and so on. And this is human trafficking. 'It is precisely on this level that we need to make a good examination of conscience: how many times have we permitted a human being to be seen as an object, to be put on show in order to sell a product, or to satisfy an immoral desire? The human person ought never to be sold or bought as if he or she were a commodity. Whoever uses human persons in this way and exploits them, even if indirectly, becomes an accomplice of this injustice.' Moving on to the family level, entering into the home, how often do we see that even there, often there is abuse. Parents who enslave their children, children who enslave their parents; married couples who, forgetting their duty in receiving this gift, exploit one another as if they were products for consumption, disposable products; the elderly, without a place in society and children and adolescents without a voice. How many attacks to the basic values of the fabric of family life and social coexistence. Yes, there is a need to profoundly examine our consciences. How can one proclaim the joy of Easter, without lending support to those who are denied their freedom on this earth?"
He continues, "Be sure: if I offend the human dignity of others, it is because I have previously divested myself of my own. And why have I done this? For power, fame, material goods É in exchange for my dignity as a son or daughter of God, whose salvation comes at the price of Christ's blood on the Cross and is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who calls inside us, 'Abba, father!'. Human dignity is the same for all human beings; if I trample that of another, I also trample my own. Christ freed us so that we might live free in freedom! É I hope that Christians and persons of good faith may make efforts to ensure that men, women, young people, or children may never more be victims of human trafficking. It is the most effective foundation for re-establishing human dignity and proclaiming Christ's Gospel in towns and country, because Jesus wishes to sow life in abundance everywhere," concludes the Holy Father.
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
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