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My People

Vol. 28, Issue 1, January 2015

"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


"The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and live temperately and devoutly in this age as we await our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Christ Jesus. It was He Who sacrificed Himself for us, to redeem us from all unrighteousness and to cleanse for Himself a people of His own, eager to do what is right" (Titus 2:11-14).

Happy Epiphany

World Day Of Peace Begins New Year

(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)

Vatican City (VIS) - This morning (December 10, 2014) in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the Holy Father's Message for the 48th World Day of Peace, to be held on January 1, 2015 on the theme "Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters." The speakers were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace;" Bishop Mario Toso, S.D.B., secretary of the same dicastery; Vittorio V. Alberti, official of "Justice and Peace;" and Sister Gabriella Bottani, Combonian missionary representing the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Human Trafficking (of the International Union of Superior Generals) and head of Talitha Kum.

The theme chosen by the Pope, explained Cardinal Turkson, "regards not only the foundation of peace but also its concrete achievement in interpersonal relations. Therefore, it must be an invitation to transform social relations from a relationship of dependence-slavery, and the negation of the humanity of the other, to a relationship of fraternity lived between brothers and sisters who share the same Father. An itinerary of conversion for believers that leads to recognition of the other not as an enemy to combat or an inferior being to exploit, but rather a brother or sister to love and for this reason to free from all the chains of slavery."

"Starting from the Epistle of Paul to Philemon and other passages from the Bible, "the Holy Father shows that God's plan for humanity does not have any place for the enslavement of others, since God calls to all of his sons and daughters to renew their interpersonal relationships, respecting in each person the image and semblance of God along with the intangible dignity of every person, confident in the Good News of Jesus Christ, who is capable of renewing the heart of man, where sin is most abundant."

"However, despite the great efforts of many people, modern slavery continues to be an atrocious scourge that is present on a large scale throughout the world, even as tourism. This 'crime of injured humanity' is masked by apparently accepted habits, but in reality it creates victims in prostitution, human trafficking, forced labor, slave labor, mutilation, the sale of organs, drug abuse, and child labor. They are concealed behind closed doors, in special places, on the streets, in cars, in factories, in the country, in fishing boats, and in many other places. And this happens in both cities and villages, in the reception centers of the richest and poorest countries in the world. And the worst thing is that this situation unfortunately worsens every day."

With regard to the joint effort against human trafficking and other forms of slavery, the Cardinal emphasized a number of points. First, there is the fact that slavery, "fruit and sign of the rupture of fraternity and the denial of communion, once accepted by civil law as the right to ownership of another person, is now a 'crime of injured humanity' that, as previously mentioned, assumes various faces in the context of globalization, creating new needs, new forms of poverty and slavery." In this year dedicated to the family, he reiterated that it is unacceptable for the institution of the family, "a place of acceptance and promotion of life," to be "transformed into the place in which life is betrayed, treated with disdain, denied, manipulated, and sold." Finally, to defeat the wound of modern slavery, there needs to be a mobilization on a scale comparable to that of the phenomenon itself, both locally - families, schools, parishes - and at the global levels of state institutions and civil society.

"The Church of Jesus Christ, that announces the Good News of liberation from sin and from every form of enslavement, must continue her mission of announcing the Word on every occasion, convenient or otherwise, denouncing every form of slavery and violation of the dignity of the human person, offering at the same time, also through daily gestures of welcome and closeness, the witness of a free life, renewed and open to Transcendence."

"Following the example of St. Josephine Bakhita, the former slave who later became a free daughter of God, we look with hope to Jesus Christ Who has defeated evil and Who is the maker and icon of the liberation of humanity and the freedom of the sons and daughters of God," concluded Cardinal Turkson. "We must work together and never tire until there no longer remains any person reduced to slavery in this world, because no-one can be freed without regard for others, for humanity and for the creation that, as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Romans, 'is waiting with eagerness for the children of God to be revealed ... with the intention that the whole creation itself might be freed from its slavery to corruption and brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God.' "

Build Peace

(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)

Vatican City (VIS) - At midday on November 25 the Holy Father proceeded by car to the seat of the Council of Europe, where he met the authorities, including the secretary general Thorbjørn Jagland, who accompanied him to the lobby of the Committee of Ministers. This was followed by an exchange of gifts, after which they entered the Great Hall where, following greetings and the opening discourse by the secretary general, the Pontiff addressed those present, thanking them for their invitation and for their "work and contribution to peace in Europe through the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

He continued, "This year the Council of Europe celebrates its sixty-fifth anniversary. It was the intention of its founders that the Council would respond to a yearning for unity which, from antiquity, has characterized the life of the continent. Frequently, however, in the course of the centuries, the pretension to power has led to the dominance of particularist movements... The dream of the founders was to rebuild Europe in a spirit of mutual service which today too, in a world more prone to make demands than to serve, must be the cornerstone of the Council of Europe's mission on behalf of peace, freedom, and human dignity."

On the other hand, the road to peace, and avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two World Wars of the last century, "is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be embraced. This entails an ongoing process which may never be considered fully completed. This is precisely what the founders grasped. They understood that peace was a good which must continually be attained, one which calls for constant vigilance... . Consequently, the founders voiced their desire to advance slowly but surely with the passage of time. That is why the founders established this body as a permanent institution. Pope Paul VI, several years later, observed that 'the institutions which in the juridical order and in international society have the task and merit of proclaiming and preserving peace, will attain their lofty goal only if they remain continually active, if they are capable of creating peace, making peace, at every moment.' What is called for is a constant work of humanization, for 'it is not enough to contain wars, to suspend conflicts ... An imposed peace, a utilitarian, and provisional peace, is not enough. Progress must be made towards a peace which is loved, free and fraternal, founded, that is, on a reconciliation of hearts.' "

Achieving the good of peace first calls for education in peace, "banishing a culture of conflict aimed at fear of others, marginalizing those who think or live differently … Tragically, peace continues all too often to be violated. This is the case in so many parts of the world where conflicts of various sorts continue to rage. It is also the case here in Europe, where tensions persist," he said. "Yet peace is also put to the test by other forms of conflict, such as religious and international terrorism, which displays deep disdain for human life and indiscriminately reaps innocent victims. This phenomenon is unfortunately bankrolled by a frequently unchecked traffic in weapons. The Church is convinced that 'the arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured.' Peace is also violated by trafficking in human beings, the new slavery of our age, which turns persons into merchandise for trade and deprives its victims of all dignity. Not infrequently we see how interconnected these phenomena are. The Council of Europe, through its Committees and Expert Groups, has an important and significant role to play in combating these forms of inhumanity. … Peace is not merely the absence of war, conflicts, and tensions. In the Christian vision, peace is at once a gift of God and the fruit of free and reasonable human acts aimed at pursuing the common good in truth and love."

"The path chosen by the Council of Europe is above all that of promoting human rights, together with the growth of democracy and the rule of law. This is a particularly valuable undertaking, with significant ethical and social implications, since the development of our societies and their peaceful future coexistence depends on a correct understanding of these terms and constant reflection on them... . In your presence today, then, I feel obliged to stress the importance of Europe's continuing responsibility to contribute to the cultural development of humanity.

"Throughout its history, Europe has always reached for the heights, aiming at new and ambitious goals, driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, development, progress, peace, and unity... . But in order to progress towards the future we need the past, we need profound roots. We also need the courage not to flee from the present and its challenges. We need memory, courage, a sound and humane utopian vision... . Truth appeals to conscience, which cannot be reduced to a form of conditioning. Conscience is capable of recognizing its own dignity and being open to the absolute; it thus gives rise to fundamental decisions guided by the pursuit of the good, for others and for one's self; it is itself the locus of responsible freedom... . It also needs to be kept in mind that apart from the pursuit of truth, each individual becomes the criterion for measuring himself and his own actions. The way is thus opened to a subjectivistic assertion of rights, so that the concept of human rights, which has an intrinsically universal import, is replaced by an individualistic conception of rights."

"This kind of individualism leads to human impoverishment and cultural aridity, since it effectively cuts off the nourishing roots on which the tree grows. Indifferent individualism leads to the cult of opulence reflected in the throwaway culture all around us... . And so today we are presented with the image of a Europe which is hurt, not only by its many past ordeals, but also by present-day crises which it no longer seems capable of facing with its former vitality and energy; a Europe which is a bit tired and pessimistic, besieged by events and winds of change coming from other continents... . Europe should reflect on whether its immense human, artistic, technical, social, political, economic, and religious patrimony is simply an artifact of the past, or whether it is still capable of inspiring culture and displaying its treasures to mankind as a whole. In providing an answer to this question, the Council of Europe with its institutions has a role of primary importance."

"The history of Europe might lead us to think somewhat naively of the continent as bipolar, or at most tripolar ... and thus to interpret the present and to look to the future on the basis of this schema, which is a simplification born of pretensions to power. But this is not the case today, and we can legitimately speak of a 'multipolar' Europe. Its tensions - whether constructive or divisive - are situated between multiple cultural, religious, and political poles. Europe today confronts the challenge of creatively 'globalizing' this multipolarity" which calls for "striving to create a constructive harmony, one free of those pretensions to power which, while appearing from a pragmatic standpoint to make things easier, end up destroying the cultural and religious distinctiveness of peoples."

To speak of European multipolarity is to speak of peoples which are born, grow, and look to the future. The task of globalizing Europe's multipolarity cannot be conceived by appealing to the image of a sphere - in which all is equal and ordered, but proves reductive inasmuch as every point is equidistant from the center - but rather, by the image of a polyhedron, in which the harmonic unity of the whole preserves the particularity of each of the parts."

"The second challenge which I would like to mention is transversality... . Were we to define the continent today, we should speak of a Europe in dialogue, one which puts a transversality of opinions and reflections at the service of a harmonious union of peoples. To embark upon this path of transversal communication requires not only generational empathy, but also an historic methodology of growth. In Europe's present political situation, merely internal dialogue between the organizations (whether political, religious, or cultural) to which one belongs, ends up being unproductive. Our times demand the ability to break out of the structures which 'contain' our identity and to encounter others, for the sake of making that identity more solid and fruitful in the fraternal exchange of transversality. A Europe which can only dialogue with limited groups stops halfway; it needs that youthful spirit which can rise to the challenge of transversality."

"In the light of all this, I am gratified by the Council of Europe's desire to invest in intercultural dialogue, including its religious dimension, through the Exchanges on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue. Here is a valuable opportunity for open, respectful, and enriching exchange between persons and groups of different origins and ethnic, linguistic and religious traditions, in a spirit of understanding and mutual respect."

"This way of thinking also casts light on the contribution which Christianity can offer to the cultural and social development of Europe today within the context of a correct relationship between religion and society... . European society as a whole cannot fail to benefit from a renewed interplay between these two sectors, whether to confront a form of religious fundamentalism which is above all inimical to God, or to remedy a reductive rationality which does no honor to man. There are in fact a number of pressing issues which I am convinced can lead to mutual enrichment, issues on which the Catholic Church - particularly through the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE) - can cooperate with the Council of Europe and offer an essential contribution."

"Similarly, the contemporary world offers a number of other challenges requiring careful study and a common commitment, beginning with the welcoming of migrants... . Then too, there is the grave problem of work... . It is my profound hope that the foundations will be laid for a new social and economic cooperation, free of ideological pressures, capable of confronting a globalized world while at the same time encouraging that sense of solidarity and mutual charity which has been a distinctive feature of Europe, thanks to the generous efforts of hundreds of men and women - some of whom the Catholic Church considers saints - who over the centuries have worked to develop the continent, both by entrepreneurial activity and by works of education, welfare, and human development. These works, above all, represent an important point of reference for the many poor people living in Europe. How many of them there are in our streets! They ask not only for the food they need for survival, which is the most elementary of rights, but also for a renewed appreciation of the value of their own life, which poverty obscures, and a rediscovery of the dignity conferred by work."

"Finally, among the issues calling for our reflection and our cooperation is the defense of the environment, of this beloved planet earth. It is the greatest resource which God has given us and is at our disposal not to be disfigured, exploited, and degraded, but so that, in the enjoyment of its boundless beauty, we can live in this world with dignity."

"Pope Paul VI called the Church an 'expert in humanity.' In this world, following the example of Christ and despite the sins of her sons and daughters, the Church seeks nothing other than to serve and to bear witness to the truth. This spirit alone guides us in supporting the progress of humanity. In this spirit, the Holy See intends to continue its cooperation with the Council of Europe, which today plays a fundamental role in shaping the mentality of future generations of Europeans. This calls for mutual engagement in a far-ranging reflection aimed at creating a sort of new agora, in which all civic and religious groups can enter into free exchange, while respecting the separation of sectors and the diversity of positions, an exchange inspired purely by the desire of truth and the advancement of the common good. For culture is always born of reciprocal encounter which seeks to stimulate the intellectual riches and creativity of those who take part in it; this is not only a good in itself, it is also something beautiful. My hope is that Europe, by rediscovering the legacy of its history and the depth of its roots, and by embracing its lively multipolarity and the phenomenon of a transversality in dialogue, will rediscover that youthfulness of spirit which has made this continent fruitful and great."

Exercise, Serve God

by Leiann Spontaneo

"Since when did exercise become almost as if it were a chore? Play regularly. Find something that is physically active 'play' that you enjoy doing and do it four times per week for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Make sure it is something you enjoy (if you like watching television, get an exercise bike and watch your favorite show). Play your fat away" (Shintani 372-373).

"1 Corinthians 6:19-20 explains that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" (Meyer xiv).

"God gave us these incredible vehicles, our bodies, to carry us through life. If we care for our bodies, they will care for us" (Schuller 15).

"It is not good to be preoccupied with your body, but it is wise to value the temple God has given you. The Holy Spirit of God dwells in and works through that wonderful body of yours ... Your body is a tool of ministry" (Omartian 24-25).

It is stated in Joyce Meyer's Look Great Feel Great that "What if you went to a church and it was run-down? Peeling paint, broken doors, and smudged windows that did not let the light in. You'd wonder about the pastor, wouldn't you? ... What does this say about his relationship with God? The same question applies to your own body. It's your God-given instrument for experiencing life on Earth and for doing good works. It is the home of your Spirit where God dwells. To do the work you were meant to do, you need to keep it in shape" (ix).

"When you are self-conscious around other people, you lose a lot of your power for ministry. If you're always nervous about how you look or what you lack, you can't be free to worry about how other people are feeling and what they need. ... Regular physical exercise can minimize some of our insecurities" (Omartian 145).

"God designs us to be in good health ... He loves you and longs to bless you, but He can't reward disobedience when you make His temple your trash can" (Shepherd 62).

As Omartian states in Greater Health God's Way: "There is no record in Scripture that Jesus ever took an aerobics class. There is also no record of Him being sick ... He certainly had a right relationship with God, ate food the way God make it, drank plenty of pure water, fasted, and prayed, spent time in fresh air and sunshine as the Gospels tell how he was often outside ministering to people and he rested so deeply that even a storm did not wake Him. As for exercise, Jesus was a walker. He walked everywhere - uphill, downhill, to the sea, and to the wilderness" (130).

"If we are to do all to the glory of God and to seek His face regarding every issue of life, surely we must ask Him what to eat and what not to eat" (Dorian 14).

"Eating is a spiritual matter! If people who do not know Christ can walk in discipline and self-control, surely we as Christians can walk free from bondage to food" (44).

Finally, in Appendix D of Look Great Feel Great there are a list of 12 keys for healthy living now and space to write one's actions for such keys. This is my favorite fitness book and would like to share with you my personal actions:

Key #1=Getting God's Help - ASK!!!

Key #2=Accepting Your Body - view body as friend!!!

Key #3=Mastering Metabolism - fidget!!!

Key #4=Exercise - indoor exercise!!!

Key #5=Balanced Eating - make food sacred!!!

Key #6=Water - carry water everywhere!!!

Key #7=Mindful Eating - attention to feelings after!!!

Key #8=Spiritual Nourishment - ask!!!

Key #9=Reducing Stress - relaxation techniques!!!

Key #10=Long Term Goals - get small things right!!!

Key #11=A Supportive Structure - make it fun!!!

Key #12=Taking Responsibility - i can look healthy and attractive ... i can feel great inside and out

Works Cited

Dorian, Ph.D., Terry, Healthy Begins In Him, Louisiana, Huntingtown House Publishers, 1995, Pages 14 and 44.

Meyer, Joyce, Look Great Feel Great: 12 Keys To A Healthy Life Now, New York, Warner Faith, 2006, Pages ix, xiv, and Appendix D.

Omartian, Stormie, Greater Health God's Way, Oregon, Harvest House Publishers, 1996, Pages 24, 25, 130, and 145.

Schuller, Robert A. and Douglas Di Siena, Possibility Living, New York, Harper Large Print, 2000, Page 15.

Shepherd, Sheri Rose, Fit To My King, Michigan Revell, 2009, Page 62.

Shintani, M.D., J.D., MPH, Terry, Eat More Weigh Less Cookbook, Hawaii, Halpax Publishing, 1995, Pages 372 and 373.

2015 Focuses On Consecrated Life

(Editor's note: The following is a press release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)

WASHINGTON - As the Catholic Church prepares to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations is promoting "Days with Religious" initiatives and resources to help families learn about the consecrated life of religious men and women. Activities will focus on sharing experiences of prayer, service, and community life with those living a consecrated life.

"Our brothers and sisters in Christ living consecrated lives make great contributions to our society through a vast number of ministries," said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of USCCB. "They teach in our schools, take care of the poor and the sick, and bring compassion and the love of Christ to those shunned by society; others lead lives of prayer in contemplation for the world."

Pope Francis proclaimed 2015 a Year of Consecrated Life, starting on the First Sunday of Advent, the weekend of November 29, 2014, and ending on February 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated life. The year also marks the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, a decree on religious life, and Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council's constitution on the Church. Its purpose, as stated by the Vatican is to "make a grateful remembrance of the recent past" while embracing "the future with hope."

"The 'Days with Religious' activities will represent great opportunities for families and adults to look at the many ways men and women serve Christ and the Church while answering the call to live in consecrated life," said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

Catholics are invited to join activities that will be promoted in collaboration with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, (CMSWR), the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM).

The events planned are as follows:

  • February 8, 2015: Religious Open House. Events will be coordinated to also celebrate the World Meeting of Families to take place in Philadelphia and will include tours, open houses, receptions, family activities, and presentations on the history of religious communities at convents, abbeys, monasteries and religious houses.
  • Summer 2015: Day of Mission and Service with Religious. Events will include joining religious in their apostolates or special service projects, such as assisting the elderly, ministering to the poor and homeless, and caring for the less fortunate.
  • September 13, 2015: Day of Prayer with Religious. Events will include vespers, rosary, or holy hours in convents, monasteries, religious houses, parishes, and churches.

Prayers intentions, prayer cards, a video on consecrated life, and other resources are available at: beliefs-and-teachings/ vocations/consecrated-life/year-of-consecrated-life/index.cfm

Prison To Praise

Living Pro-Life In Prison

by Stephen Stoeltje

(Editor's note: Mr. Stoeltje writes from Texas. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)

I have a friend who was once on Death Row. Phillip is now a great man of God. He has been locked up going on thirty-plus years now. He is a Vietnam Vet. Returning home from Vietnam he killed a man and was put on Death Row. Then the State was forced by the Federal Government to reprieve the Death Sentence. So Phillip's sentence was commuted to a Life Sentence. Because of this, after some years of struggle, Phillip was given then a chance to convert back to his great Catholic faith in a prison spiritual retreat. He then became a great leader of faith in our Christian community. He always encourages me with the words of St. Pope John Paul: "Be not afraid!"

Phillip taught me the value and what it means to be "Pro-Life." What it means to be "Pro-Life" is to believe that the value of life is inherent in itself. The value of life is completely unconditional. That means there is nothing you or I can do which can take away the value of your life or mine. The value of life is not based upon our past. The value of life is here and now. It is always present.

When I got my "Aggravated Life Sentence" everybody said to me, "Oh man, your life is over!" I did truly feel that despair. So many nights I remember fervently praying to God to take my life. "O Lord, please let me die. Don't let me wake up in the morning." Have you ever prayed that hopeless prayer? (By the way, that is a very Biblical prayer, prayed by many men of God including Moses, Elijah, Job, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah.)

But you know what, my life kept going on. God heard my prayer, yet He would not answer it in the manner I wanted. I kept on waking up here in prison every morning. So what was I to do? Keep on living in this death? So I learned that was a lie; "Oh man, your life is over."

Yet, in many ways that statement was true. God was answering my prayer. For at that time, fifteen years ago, I literally had to "die to the world." This is what Jesus calls each of us to do. Jesus said, "It is the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies - but if it dies - it produces an abundance of harvest!" (Jn 12:24) In that truth, in that sense, in my Life Sentence I received a "Death Sentence," which has been the greatest and most powerful blessing for my life.

Do you hear that paradox? Yes, my life was over! And praise God for that! My life of living in that sinful lifestyle of destruction was over. My life of living for the flesh was over. My life of living for the things of the world, for the culture of the world was over. I had to die! Die to my flesh! Die to the world!

I had to either die to my flesh or my flesh was going to destroy my life and my soul. In Recovery circles it is called "hitting bottom" or "bottoming out." But you know, it seems like when some people hit bottom they start digging. I know, I have been there. The whole time saying, "I'll show them ..." It is that stubborn pride and ego. That "self-will run riot" refusing to die to the flesh.

So I had to die to myself. And as with any death and grieving I prayed many times for God to take my life. But the paradoxal truth is that in this dying God was giving me a great power of an abundant life; in the very process of this dying to my flesh and to the world. The proverb is so very true, "It is in dying that we are born unto eternal (abundant) life!" (Prayer of St. Francis) An abundant life living in great peace, joy, and love in the here and now.

Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul ... Whoever would save his life will lost it, but who-so-ever will lose his life (and let it go) for Me and for the gospel will save it." (Mk 34-37)

Jesus is not speaking only about the heroic dramatic martyrs. He is talking about you and me being living martyrs. A "living sacrifice" as St. Paul puts it (Rm 12:1-2). And we know the problem with a "living sacrifice" is that it keeps crawling off the altar. That is my problem many times. But I refuse to forfeit my soul for the price of the pleasures in the culture of this world. So I have to keep on crawling back on that altar to offer, over and over again, my life to God. Then He gives me His life.

Then I become a great "who-so-ever!" Jesus said, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that who-so-ever would believe in Him will not die, but will have (an abundant) ever lasting life." (Jn 3:16) Are you also "who-so-ever?"

It is this relentless, furious love of God, this Gospel of Jesus, which gives life an unconditional value and abundance. This love is a powerful force to work in our lives, in our heart and soul, which gives our life a great joy, peace, and love.

My parents were the ones who most demonstrated this "agape" unconditional love of God. They would come to visit me here in prison and they would say to me, "Stephen, I am so proud of you!" And I would say, "But Mom! I am in prison!" And she would say to me, "I don't care. You are my son. And I love you and I am proud of you!" And the Voice came down from Heaven and said, "You are my Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased!" (Mt 3:17)

That same Voice of God comes down from Heaven and speaks that love over you. "You are my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." It does not matter what you have ever done. God says to you as your Father, "You are my Beloved Son in whom I take great pleasure." Simply because you are a child of God you give Him delight.

When we receive this incredible, powerful, strong love in our hearts it becomes in us a great power and strength and spiritual force to work great abundance in life. A great abundance of joy, peace, love, a life of patience, kindness, goodness, tranquility, and beauty, a life of faithfulness and self-control, full of comfort, understanding, wisdom, and knowledge (Ga 5:22, Isa 11:2). Now does that sound like a life in prison? But it can be so in any life circumstance with this powerful spiritual force of love within us. Does it sound like a life that we want?

This life shines in the face of this "Culture of Death" we live in. That is why I am "Pro-Life." What it means to be "Pro-Life" is to believe, because of God's love for us, there is nothing which can take away the value of living life. No matter where we are living. Living life in Jesus. Living life in the love of God.

I hear it said in here all the time; you ask someone, "You okay?" They answer, "Oh I'm making it, but I'll never be okay in prison." I hear that attitude all the time. "I'll never be happy until I get out of prison." (And it seems it is spoken with some kind of false virtue or pride.) This is the "Anti-Life" lie from the Devil. That is the "Culture of Death" from Satan.

To say that "I can never be happy until ..." - whatever; "... until I go home," ... "until I get my family back," "...until I can make some money," "until ..." - an infinitum! That is a lie of death from the Evil One because it puts a condition on the value of life. This is how Satan comes "to steal, kill, and destroy" life! (Jn 10:10)

I do not believe prison life is a "detour" from life. Our lives are never "on hold," as it is often said here.

To be "Pro-Life" means to confront this lie of Satan (and of death) with the love of Jesus. To be "Pro-Life" means to confront the "Culture of Death" knowing that to put a condition on the value of life is to put a condition on the love and grace of God (which is impossible to do). So we know in our hearts and we are convinced that God's love for us is completely unconditional. That is what "agape" love is. That is why it is called Grace.

To be "Pro-Life" means to believe that the quality of life is not based upon the circumstances of life. Rather the quality of life is based upon the quality of one's spirit. This quality of spirit of abundant life comes from the Spirit of Jesus.

With this spiritual perspective of the love of God; an eternal point of view; there is nothing that can happen in your life which can take away the quality and value of your life. In this spiritual life in Jesus nothing can touch nor effect your spirit and soul hidden in the spirit and love of Jesus.

Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). It is for freedom that He came. He came to set us free. He said, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!" (Jn 8:36) What is this freedom? What is this freedom for?

I do not believe Jesus came to set me free from the prison of TDCJ. He came to set us free from our attachments of the flesh. He came to set us free from our attachments to the world. He came to set our hearts free from sin. To set our souls free. He said, "Anyone living in sin is a slave to sin" (Jn 8:34). Anyone set free from the attachments of the flesh and sin is "free indeed." This is truly the Abundant Life in the Love, Life, and Spirit of Jesus. St. Paul says, "The Lord is Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17). I am free to live. I am free to love. I am free to worship. I am free to serve. Free to live for Jesus.

You ask how do I get this freedom and abundant life? Like this; The crucifixion of our Savior is a beautiful picture of freedom. Jesus' body on most western crucifixes are sagging and stretched out. This is a true picture of His suffering passion. But on Eastern Orthodox crosses Jesus' arms are straight out, His feet are side by side, and He is standing up straight. So here He is on an instrument of suffering and he is in control, poised and in peace. This pictures the deeper spiritual image of the Passion of the Cross of Jesus. Jesus said, "No one takes my life from me. (give it freely, of my own (freely for you). I have the power to lay it down and the power to take it up again" (Jn 10:18).

By His death and resurrection Jesus gives us this same power of freedom. That power for freedom is found in love. Jesus said, "No greater love has any man than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). The same is also powerfully true: No greater freedom has any man than this, that a man would give up his life for his friend Jesus. There is no greater freedom of power than living in love for Jesus!

This means stop putting conditions on life. But simply live freely for the love of Jesus. This means stop putting conditions on others around us. But simply live to love others. Stop putting conditions on God. But simply live to love Him. Stop trying to figure out life. But simply give up your life for Jesus. Stop trying to figure out God. Just "let go and let God!" Let God be God and not I and simply love Him.

"O God, Your life is stronger than death! (Sgs 8:6) O Lord, Your love is better than life ..." (Ps 63:3)

The Hope Of Migrants

(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)

Vatican City (VIS) - "Migration is still an aspiration to hope, notwithstanding new developments and the emergence of situations which are at times painful and even tragic", said the Pope in his address (November 21) to the participants in the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, affirming the powerful hope that inspires many inhabitants of troubled areas throughout the world to seek a better future for their families in other places, even at the risk of disappointment and failure. This, he remarked, is caused in great part by the economic crisis which, to differing degrees, affects every country.

The three-day Congress highlighted the dynamics of cooperation and development in the pastoral care of migrants. "First and foremost you have analysed the factors which cause migration, in particular: inequality, poverty, overpopulation, the growing need for employment in some sectors of the global job market, disasters caused by climate change, wars and persecution, and the desire of younger people to relocate as they seek new opportunities. Moreover, the link between cooperation and development shows, on the one hand, the difference of interests between states and migrants, and, on the other hand, the opportunities which derive for both."

"In effect, receiving nations draw advantages from employing immigrants for production needs and national prosperity, not infrequently filling gaps created by the demographic crisis", observed the Holy Father. "In turn, the nations which migrants leave show a certain reduction in unemployment and, above all, benefit from earnings which are then sent back to meet the needs of families which remain in the country. Emigrants, in the end, are able to fulfil the desire for a better future for themselves and their families. Yet we know that some problems also accompany these benefits. We find in the countries of origin, among other things, an impoverishment due to the so-called 'brain drain', the effects on infants and young people who grow up without one or both parents, and the risk of marriages failing due to prolonged absences. In the receiving nations, we also see difficulties associated with migrants settling in urban neighborhoods which are already problematic, as well as their difficulties in integrating and learning to respect the social and cultural conventions which they find. In this regard, pastoral workers play an important role through initiating dialogue, welcoming and assisting with legal issues, mediating with the local population. In the countries of origin, on the other hand, the closeness of pastoral workers to the families and children of migrant parents can lessen the negative repercussions of the parents' absence."

However, the Congress affirmed that the implications of the Church's pastoral concern in the overall context of cooperation, development, and migration go much further, and "it is here that the Church has much to say. The Christian community, in fact, is continuously engaged in welcoming migrants and sharing with them God's gifts, in particular the gift of faith." Furthermore, the Church "promotes pastoral plans for the evangelization and support of migrants throughout their journey from their country of origin, through countries of transit, to the receiving countries. She gives particular attention to meeting the spiritual needs of migrants through catechesis, liturgy and the celebration of the Sacraments."

"Sadly", he added, "migrants often experience disappointment, distress, loneliness, and marginalization. In effect, the migrant worker has to deal with the problem both of being uprooted and needing to integrate. Here the Church also seeks to be a source of hope: she develops programs of education and orientation; she raises her voice in defense of migrants' rights; she offers assistance, including material assistance to everyone, without exception, so that all may be treated as children of God. When encountering migrants, it is important to adopt an integrated perspective, capable of valuing their potential rather than seeing them only as a problem to be confronted and resolved. The authentic right to development regards every person and all people, viewed integrally. This demands that all people be guaranteed a minimal level of participation in the life of the human community. How much more necessary must this be in the case of the Christian community, where no one is a stranger and, therefore, everyone is worthy of being welcomed and supported."

"The Church, beyond being a community of the faithful that sees the face of Jesus Christ in its neighbor, is a Mother without limits and without frontiers. She is the Mother of all and so she strives to foster the culture of welcome and solidarity, where no one is considered useless, out of place or disposable. … Migrants, therefore, by virtue of their very humanity, even prior to their cultural values, widen the sense of human fraternity. At the same time, their presence is a reminder of the need to eradicate inequality, injustice, and abuses. In that way, migrants will be able to become partners in constructing a richer identity for the communities which provide them hospitality, as well as the people who welcome them, prompting the development of a society which is inclusive, creative, and respectful of the dignity of all."

The Pope concluded by invoking upon the participants in the Congress "the protection of Mary, Mother of God, and St. Joseph, who themselves experienced the difficulty of exile in Egypt."

Biblical Films Change

by Michael Halm

"Exodus: Gods and Kings" does have a river of blood, clouds of locusts, many maggots, an awesome army all in 3-D as might be expected by the director of "Gladiator." Its tagline says, "When men ruled as gods, one was chosen to change the world." This is a sign of how much the culture has changed since The Ten Commandments, which while have epic special effects for the time emphasized the Commandments. In "Exodus" they are a postscript.

Ridley Scott says he wants to treat the climatic Red Sea parting as realistically as possible. "I didn't believe it then, when I was just a kid sitting in the third row. I remember that feeling and thought that I'd better come up with a more scientific or natural explanation. It's always interesting to address all the facts. Out of the facts comes the logic and of the logic comes reality."

That the Egyptian army was overcome by a tsunami is not such a new idea. Although the Red Sea region is highly seismically active, Doron Nof and Nathan Paldor in their 1992 rejected the tsunami as the most likely explanation in favor of the wind setdown, which fits better with the description of the event laid down in Exodus.

Christian Bale described his Moses a "schizophrenic" and "barbaric," an anti-hero, more like his Dark Knight Batman. He is hit over the head before his vision of the burning bush, so be may be hallucinating. Bale admitted that he was not knowledgeable about the Bible and prepared for the role by reading the Torah, the Koran, and Moses: A Life by Jonathan Kirsch.

Chris Stone, the CEO of Faith-Driven Consumer, says, "God delivered the Israelites from Egypt and he used sovereign supernatural abilities to do it." He notes that the makers of this film "do not share our basic understanding of the reason for the story," and predicted that Christians will "boycott" - that is, stay away from the theaters.

Tariq Nasheed, a director of the race documentary series Hidden Colors, on the other hand, has advocated a boycott for its "redefining history." For him it is all about color, and not that the wrong pharaoh, wrong century, the wrong dynasty is portrayed. Stone's response to this was, "It doesn't matter what they look like. The question is 'Are they depicted in the story in a way that's true to its purpose its function?' "

Steve Rudd would object that Thutmose III was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, that the Exodus happened in 1446 BC. He bases this not only on 1 Kings 6:1; Judges 11:26; Acts 13:19, but archeology. Imitation Cypriot pottery and the Amarna tablets confirm Jericho fell about 1406 BC and that the Akhenaten's attempt a monotheism (1358-1341 BC) came after the Exodus. The Merneptah Stele (1205 BC) shows Israel an established nation.

Thutmose III is the only other pharaoh of the 18th or 19th dynasties besides Ramses II to rule over forty years. Bryon Wood, however, favors his son, Amenhotep II, while still calculating the Exodus at 1446 BC. Interestingly both Prince Amenemhet, the eldest son of Thutmose III, the keeper of cattle, and Prince Amenhotep, the eldest son of Amenhotep I, died before their fathers. So too did Ramses II's son, Amun-her-khepeshef. So what was miraculous about the Passover was ot the deaths of Egyptian princesses but the survival of the Jews.

Eric Kohn write, "One of the disappointments of the film is the way Scott squanders his cast. He has formidable actors at his disposal: Sigourney Weaver as the pharaoh's wife Hiam Abbass as Moses' adoptive mother, Ben Kinglsey as the Hebrew leader who first recognizes Moses. Darren Aronofsky's wildly uneven 'Noah' looks like a visionary masterpiece - or at least an innovative attempt to shake up the familiar ingredients."

Catherine Shoard wrote similarly that at times, it can feel like the Bible is the least key text. Scott adds crocodiles and sharks a special Excalibur-like sword, even a dash of "Hunger Games," with the massed rebels and flaming archery.

At Rotten Tomatoes Robbie Collin called it "a Biblical epic to shake your faith in the order of things, not reaffirm it." Tim Grierson called it "Spectacle run amok, so big and brawny that it's almost laughably gargantuan, a warning about the hubris of mere mortals thinking that they're gods. Apparently, some blockbuster filmmakers think it's acceptable to exclude themselves from such judgments."

Not all the reviews have been entirely unfavorable, however. Steven Farber wrote, "The picture looks likely to attract a substantial audience, even it some religious leaders voice protests. No movie with such a limp ending can be fully satisfying and the beginning also falters. But the long middle section is a rousing good show."

Justin Chang has even more good things to say about this film that "rivals any of the lavish visions of ancient times the director has given us - while turning his own skepticism into a potent source of moral and dramatic conflict." "Like 'Noah,' the year's other nonconformist Judio-Christian blockbuster," he continues, "this is an uncommonly intelligent, respectful but far-from-reverent outsider's take on Scripture, although 'Exodus' is less madly eccentric and more firmly grounded in the sword-and-sandal tradition."

Chang does catch the reason for casting Isaac Andrews as Malak, the burning bush angel, "whose petulant manner and British elocution at times suggest a very young Voldemort. It's a mild provocation of sorts, a means of getting us to see the Lord as a skeptic, like Moses would initially: callous and whimsical by turns, a jealous, vengeful deity with a literally childish streak."

All the reviewers would likely agree with his statement, "Some may well desire a purer, fuller version of the story, one more faithful to the text and less clearly shaped by the demands of the Hollywood blockbuster." Some may even want to read the Book instead.

Light to the Nations

(A Christian Perspective on World News)

the family, special home of solidarity

Vatican City (VIS) - "The future of humanity depends upon the family, and it is therefore necessary to allow it to play its role", writes the Pope in his message to the participants in the Festival of the Family, taking place in Riva del Garda, Italy, on the theme "The Life and Work Ecosystem." "But", he adds, "it is not enough to reiterate the importance of the family and to affirm its rights: it is necessary to consider how the tasks of the family and of society can be structured in real terms, especially with regard to the relationship between professional life and family life."

The family has its own mission, in the service of its members, its development, and life; it has rights and therefore needs support and guarantees to be able to exercise them. On the other hand, the family also has a duty to society; it must offer its collaboration in the service of the community. It is a privileged environment for the harmonious practice of solidarity and subsidiarity, or rather a synergy between public and private, enterprise, and families. Precisely on account of the effort and responsibility required to raise and educate children, families need appropriate assistance from public agencies and companies, in the context of mutual collaboration. The worrying demographic trend requires an extraordinary and courageous strategy, on the part of all interested parties, in favor of families. This may also give rise to an economic recovery for the country. In this regard, the crisis of unemployment, especially amongst the young, must be addressed and resolved."

The Pope goes on to write about policy in relation to families, the social and legal status of the family in general, the assistance that should be offered to those who are materially or morally disadvantaged, and the attention that should be given to female work. "We must ensure that women are not, for economic reasons, compelled to undertake too heavy a burden or accept excessive working hours, which are then added to all their responsibilities in housekeeping and raising children. But above all, it is necessary to recognizes that women's work, at all levels of family life, also constitutes an unparalleled contribution to the family and the future of society."

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

fight against human trafficking

Vatican City (VIS) - The Pope has sent a message to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster and president of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales on the occasion of the Second Conference of the Santa Marta Group, taking place in London, United Kingdom, on December 5 and 6.

The Santa Marta Group - whose name derives from the Holy Father's residence, where the members stayed during their first conference held in the Vatican last April - is composed of High Commissioners of international police forces and bishops from around the world who, along with members of civil society, are working together to prevent and eradicate human trafficking, and to help victims. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, London, and Cardinal Nichols are the co-presidents of the group.

Francis expressed his deep gratitude to all present for their resolve in combating this evil and for your commitment to carry on the work begun at the conference held in the Vatican in April of this year. "Your labors to promote ongoing dialogue on the legal remedies to human trafficking and on the essential care of those who suffer this enslavement are especially important because of the hidden nature of this crime. We must never forget, nor may we ignore, the suffering of so many men, women, and children whose human dignity is violated through this exploitation."

He went on to thank the Home Secretary of the British government, the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police, and the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales for organizing the event and the delegates "who demonstrate anew their commitment by their participation in this initiative. In assuring you that the Church remains steadfast in her pledge to combat human trafficking and to care for victims of this scourge, I offer the promise of my prayers that Almighty God may bless and guide your efforts."

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

church is with people of iraq

Vatican City, (VIS) - Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, France, will transmit a video message from Pope Francis to the Christians and the population as a whole in Iraq, to be screened this afternoon in the city of Erbil. The twinning of the diocese with Mosul, which began last summer, has given rise to several initiatives to support the Iraqi population. The full text of the Pope's message is published below:

"I would like to greet each and every one of you, along with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who once again brings you the concern and the love of the entire Church. I too would like to be there with you, but since I am unable to travel, I will do this instead ... but I am very close to you in these difficult moments. I said, during my return journey from Turkey: Christians are being driven out of the Middle East, with suffering. I thank you for the witness you give; and there is a great deal of suffering in your witness. Thank you! Many thanks.

"It would seem that there they do not want there to be any Christians, but you bear witness to Christ. I think of the wounds, of the pain of women with their children, the elderly, and the displaced, the wounds of those who are victims of every type of violence.

"As I mentioned in Ankara, particular concern is caused by the fact that above all, due to an extremist and fundamentalist group, entire communities, especially, - but not only - Christians and Yazidi, have suffered and continue to suffer inhuman violence because of their religious and ethnic identity. Christians and Yazidis have been forced out of their homes, they have had to abandon everything to save their lives, but they have not denied their faith. Even holy buildings, monuments, religious symbols, and cultural heritage have been affected by the violence, almost as if to cancel every trace, every memory of the other.

"As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations of the dignity and rights of humanity.

"Today I wish to draw closer those of you who tolerate this suffering, and to be close to you … And I think of St. Therese of the Baby Jesus, who said that she and the Church were like a rod: when the wind rises and the storm comes, the rod bends but it does not break. At the moment, you are like this rod: you bend painfully, but you have the strength to carry forth your faith, which is a testimony to us. You are God's rod today! The rods that bend under this ferocious wind, but then rise up again.

"I wish to thank you again. I pray that the Spirit, Who makes all things new, will give each of you strength and resistance. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And I strongly urge, as I did in Turkey, greater international collaboration to resolve the conflicts that cause blood to be shed in your lands of origin, to combat the other causes that lead people to leave their homelands and to promote suitable conditions for them to remain or return. I hope that you will return, that you will be able to return.

"Dear brothers and sisters, you are in my heart and my prayers, and in the hearts and prayers of all Christian communities, whom I will ask to pray in a special way for you on December 8, to pray to Our Lady to protect you: she is our mother and will protect you.

"Brothers and sisters, your resistance is martyrdom, it is dew that brings fruitfulness. Please, I ask you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you.

May God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless you."

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

Edge To Edge

Pray The News

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.

  • We pray that we will grow in relationship with Jesus this Christmas season.
  • We pray in thanksgiving for all the saints.
  • We pray that we will be instruments of God's peace.
  • We pray for an end to wars, violence, and terrorism.
  • We pray for migrants and refugees to be welcomed with love and to contribute to their new communities.
  • We pray for progress in achieving Christian unity.
  • We pray for an end to abortion, euthanasia, and all attacks on life.
  • We pray for the victory of the civilization of life and love over the culture of death.
  • We pray for all prisoners to love Jesus, give their lives to Him, and be witnesses for life.
  • We pray that we will share the Gospel with all we meet.
  • We pray for all families through the intercession of the Holy Family.

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Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378,



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