"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
|Pope Francis in the United States (photo by Joe Edwards)|
Catholics throughout the world will observe the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on January 17. Pope Francis addresses the challenges presented by migrants and refugees in his Message for the Day. That Message, dated September 12, follows:
"... In the Bull of indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy I noted that 'at times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father's action in our lives' (Misericordiae Vultus, 3). God's love is meant to reach out to each and every person. Those who welcome the Father's embrace, for their part, become so many other open arms and embraces, enabling every person to feel loved like a child and 'at home' as part of the one human family. God's fatherly care extends to everyone, like the care of a shepherd for his flock, but it is particularly concerned for the needs of the sheep who are wounded, weary or ill. Jesus told us that the Father stoops to help those overcome by physical or moral poverty; the more serious their condition, the more powerfully is His divine mercy revealed.
"In our time, migration is growing worldwide. Refugees and people fleeing from their homes challenge individuals and communities, and their traditional ways of life; at times they upset the cultural and social horizons which they encounter. Increasingly, the victims of violence and poverty, leaving their homelands, are exploited by human traffickers during their journey towards the dream of a better future. If they survive the abuses and hardships of the journey, they then have to face latent suspicions and fear. In the end, they frequently encounter a lack of clear and practical policies regulating the acceptance of migrants and providing for short or long term programs of integration respectful of the rights and duties of all. Today, more than in the past, the Gospel of mercy troubles our consciences, prevents us from taking the suffering of others for granted, and points out way of responding which, grounded in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, find practical expression in works of spiritual and corporal mercy.
"In the light of these facts, I have chosen as the theme of the 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy. Migration movements are now a structural reality, and our primary issue must be to deal with the present emergency phase by providing programs which address the causes of migration and the changes it entails, including its effect on the makeup of societies and peoples. The tragic stories of millions of men and women daily confront the international community as a result of the outbreak of unacceptable humanitarian crises in different parts of the world. Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying of suffocation, starvation, violence, and shipwreck. Whether large or small in scale, these are always tragedies, even when a single human life is lost.
"Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation, and the unjust distribution of the planet's resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don't we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?
"At this moment in human history, marked by great movements of migration, identity is not a secondary issue. Those who migrate are forced to change some of their most distinctive characteristics and, whether they like or not, even those who welcome them are also forced to change. How can we experience these changes not as obstacles to genuine development, rather as opportunities for genuine human, social, and spiritual growth, a growth which respects and promotes those values which make us ever more humane and help us to live a balanced relationship with God, others and creation?
"The presence of migrants and refugees seriously challenges the various societies which accept them. Those societies are faced with new situations which could create serious hardship unless they are suitably motivated, managed and regulated. How can we ensure that integration will become mutual enrichment, open up positive perspectives to communities, and prevent the danger of discrimination, racism, extreme nationalism, or xenophobia?
"Biblical revelation urges us to welcome the stranger; it tells us that in so doing, we open our doors to God, and that in the faces of others we see the face of Christ Himself. Many institutions, associations, movements and groups, diocesan, national and international organizations are experiencing the wonder and joy of the feast of encounter, sharing and solidarity. They have heard the voice of Jesus Christ: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock' (Rev 3:20). Yet there continue to be debates about the conditions and limits to be set for the reception of migrants, not only on the level of national policies, but also in some parish communities whose traditional tranquillity seems to be threatened.
"Faced with these issues, how can the Church fail to be inspired by the example and words of Jesus Christ? The answer of the Gospel is mercy.
"In the first place, mercy is a gift of God the Father who is revealed in the Son. God's mercy gives rise to joyful gratitude for the hope which opens up before us in the mystery of our redemption by Christ's blood. Mercy nourishes and strengthens solidarity towards others as a necessary response to God's gracious love, 'which has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit' (Rom 5:5). Each of us is responsible for his or her neighbor: we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, wherever they live. Concern for fostering good relationships with others and the ability to overcome prejudice and fear are essential ingredients for promoting the culture of encounter, in which we are not only prepared to give, but also to receive from others. Hospitality, in fact, grows from both giving and receiving.
"From this perspective, it is important to view migrants not only on the basis of their status as regular or irregular, but above all as people whose dignity is to be protected and who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare. This is especially the case when they responsibly assume their obligations towards those who receive them, gratefully respecting the material and spiritual heritage of the host country, obeying its laws and helping with its needs. Migrations cannot be reduced merely to their political and legislative aspects, their economic implications and the concrete coexistence of various cultures in one territory. All these complement the defense and promotion of the human person, the culture of encounter, and the unity of peoples, where the Gospel of mercy inspires and encourages ways of renewing and transforming the whole of humanity.
"The Church stands at the side of all who work to defend each person's right to live with dignity, first and foremost by exercising the right not to emigrate and to contribute to the development of one's country of origin. This process should include, from the outset, the need to assist the countries which migrants and refugees leave. This will demonstrate that solidarity, cooperation, international interdependence, and the equitable distribution of the earth's goods are essential for more decisive efforts, especially in areas where migration movements begin, to eliminate those imbalances which lead people, individually or collectively, to abandon their own natural and cultural environment. In any case, it is necessary to avert, if possible at the earliest stages, the flight of refugees and departures as a result of poverty, violence, and persecution.
"Public opinion also needs to be correctly formed, not least to prevent unwarranted fears and speculations detrimental to migrants.
"No one can claim to be indifferent in the face of new forms of slavery imposed by criminal organizations which buy and sell men, women, and children as forced laborers in construction, agriculture, fishing, or in other markets. How many minors are still forced to fight in militias as child soldiers! How many people are victims of organ trafficking, forced begging, and sexual exploitation! Today's refugees are fleeing from these aberrant crimes, and they appeal to the Church and the human community to ensure that, in the outstretched hand of those who receive them, they can see the face of the Lord, 'the Father of mercies and God of all consolation' (2 Cor 1:3).
"... Migrants and refugees! At the heart of the Gospel of mercy the encounter and acceptance by others are intertwined with the encounter and acceptance of God Himself. Welcoming others means welcoming God in person! Do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope and joy of life born of your experience of God's mercy, as manifested in the people you meet on your journey! I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, Mother of migrants and refugees, and to Saint Joseph, who experienced the bitterness of emigration to Egypt. To their intercession I also commend those who invest so much energy, time, and resources to the pastoral and social care of migrants. To all I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing."
Pope Francis focused on the family in his October 7 general audience. The Pope's remarks follow:
"Just a few days ago the Synod of Bishops opened on the theme: 'The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.' The family that walks in the way of the Lord is fundamental to the witness of God's love and therefore deserves all the dedication the Church is capable of. The Synod is called to interpret this concern and this attention of the Church for the present. Let us accompany the entire path of the Synod first of all with our prayer and our interest. In this period the catechesis reflection will draw inspiration from certain aspects of the relationship - which we might well call indissoluble! - between the Church and the family, whose horizon is open to the good of the entire Christian community.
"An attentive look at the everyday life of today's men and women immediately shows the omnipresent need for a healthy injection of 'family spirit.' Indeed, the form of the relationship - civil, economic, juridical, professional, civic - seems quite rational, formal, organized, but also very 'dehydrated,' arid, anonymous. At times it becomes unbearable. While seeking to be inclusive in its forms, in reality it abandons more and more people to loneliness and discards them.
"This is why, for the whole of society, the family opens a much more human prospect: it opens its sons and daughters' eyes - and not only sight but also all the other senses - to life, representing a vision of the human relationship built on the free covenant of love. The family posits the need for the bonds of loyalty, sincerity, trust, cooperation, and respect. It encourages its members to plan an inhabitable world and belief in trusting relationships, even in difficult conditions; it teaches them to honor one's word, to respect each individual, to share within one's personal limitations and those of others. We are all aware of the irreplaceable attention of the family for the littlest, most vulnerable, most wounded, and even the most debilitated members, in living their lives. In society, those who practice these attitudes have assimilated them from the family spirit, certainly not through competition and the desire for self-fulfillment.
"Well, although knowing all this, the family is not accorded due importance - or recognition, or support - in the political and economic organization of contemporary society. Furthermore, I would like to say: not only does the family not receive adequate recognition, but it no longer engenders learning! At times it might be said that, with all its science, its technology, modern society is no longer able to translate this knowledge into better forms of civil coexistence. Not only is the organization of ordinary life increasingly thwarted by a bureaucracy completely irrelevant to fundamental human bonds but, even social and political customs often show signs of degradation - aggressiveness, vulgarity, contempt - which are well below the threshold of even a minimal family education. In such circumstances, the opposite extremes of this abasement of relationships - namely technocratic obtuseness and amoral familism - join and incite each other. This is a paradox.
"The Church identifies today, at this exact point, the historical meaning of her mission with regard to the family and to the authentic family spirit: beginning from a careful review of life, which examines itself. One could say that the 'family spirit' is a constitutional charter for the Church: this is how Christianity must appear, and this is how it must be. It is written in bold characters: 'you who were far off' - St Paul says - '[...] are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God' (Eph 2:17, 19). The Church is and must be the family of God.
"Jesus, when He called Peter to follow Him, told him that he would make him a 'fisher of men;' and for this reason a new type of net is needed. We should say that today families are one of the most important nets for the mission of Peter and of the Church. This is not a net that takes one prisoner! On the contrary, it frees people from the cruel waters of abandonment and indifference, which drown many human beings in the sea of loneliness and indifference. Families know well the feeling of dignity conferred by being sons and daughters and not slaves, nor strangers, not just a number on an identity card.
"From here, from the family, Jesus resumes His passage among human beings to persuade them that God has not forgotten them. From here Peter draws the strength for his ministry. From here the Church, obeying the Teacher's word, puts out to fish in the deep waters, certain that, if she does so, the catch will be miraculous. May the enthusiasm of the Synod Fathers, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, foster the impetus of a Church that abandons the old nets and puts out again to fish, trusting in the word of her Lord. Let us pray earnestly for this! Christ, after all, promised and encourages us: even if bad fathers do not deny their hungry children bread, how much more will God give the Spirit to those who - imperfect as they are - ask him with fervent persistence (cf. Lk 11:9-13)!"
(Editor's note: this report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
Vatican City (VIS) - The catechesis of this Wednesday's (September 30, 2015) general audience in St. Peter's Square was dedicated to the Holy Father's recent apostolic trip in Cuba and the United States, which originated with his wish to participate in the Eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on September 28. The visit was extended to include a visit to the United States, to the headquarters of the United Nations, and to Cuba, which was the first stage of his itinerary. The Pope took the opportunity to once again express his gratitude to the president of Cuba, Raul Castro, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, and the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, for the welcome they reserved to him, and to the bishops and collaborators in the organization of the trip for their work.
The Pope recounted that he presented himself in Cuba, "a land rich in natural beauty, culture, and faith", as a "Missionary of Mercy." "God's mercy is greater than any affliction, any conflict, any ideology; and with this gaze of mercy I was able to embrace the entire Cuban population, at home and abroad, looking beyond any division. The symbol of this deep unity is Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, ... Patroness of Cuba, ... Mother of Hope ... who guides us on the path of justice, peace, freedom, and reconciliation. ... I was able to share with the Cuban people the hope of fulfilling the prophecy of St. John Paul II: that Cuba will open up to the world, and the world will open up to Cuba. No more closure, no more exploitation of the poor, but instead freedom and dignity. It is the path that draws strength from the Christian roots of the people, who have suffered greatly."
After Cuba, the Pope proceeded the United States. "A symbolic step, a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt," he commented, adding that "God always wants to build bridges; we are the ones who build walls. But walls always fall down."
He then spoke about the three phases of his trip to the United States: Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia. In Washington D.C. he met not only with the political authorities, but also the clergy, the poor, and the marginalized. He remarked that the greatest wealth of the country and her people is her "spiritual and ethical heritage. And so, I wanted to encourage to continuation of social construction faithful to the United States' fundamental principle, that all men are created by God, equal and endowed with inalienable rights, such as life, liberty, an the pursuit of happiness. These values, that may be shared by all, find their fulfilment in the Gospel, as was clearly shown by the canonization of the Franciscan Fr. Junipero Serra, the great evangelizer of California. St. Junipero shows us the way to joy: going forth and sharing Christ's love with others. This is the way of Christians, but also of any person who has known love: not to keep it to oneself but to share it with others. The United States of America have grown on this religious and moral base, and on this base they can continue to be a land of freedom, welcome and cooperation for a more just and fraternal world."
Turning to the second phase of the trip, in New York, the Pope recalled his address to the representatives of nations at the General Assembly of the United Nations, in which he renewed the Catholic Church's commitment to support the institution and "its role in the promotion of development and peace, especially with regard to the need for joint and active commitment to care for creation," and highlighted his appeal "to stop and prevent violence against ethnic and religious minorities and against civil populations." The Holy Father recounted that he had prayed at Ground Zero for peace and fraternity, accompanied by representatives of various religions and families of victims of the September 11 attacks, and celebrated Mass for peace and justice in Madison Square Garden.
"In both Washington D.C. and New York I was able to meet various charitable and educational bodies, emblematic of the enormous service that the Catholic community - priests, man and women religious, and laypeople - offer in these fields."
However, the climax of the trip was the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, "where the horizon extends to all the world through the 'prism' of the family." He continued, "the family is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a dual challenge: fragmentation and solidification, two extremes which co-exist, support each other and together support the consumerist economic model. The family is the answer as it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and community dimensions, and at the same time the model for a sustainable management of the goods and resources of creation. The family is the protagonist of an integral ecology, as it is the primary social subject which contains within itself the two basic principals of human civilization on earth: the principles of communion and fruitfulness. Biblical humanism presents us with this icon: the human couple, united and fruitful, placed by God in the garden of the world to cultivate it and protect it."
The Holy Father concluded by greeting the archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, noting his great love for the family made manifest in the organization of the event. "It is not by chance, but rather providential that ... the witness of the World Meeting of Families came at this moment from the United States of America - that is, the country that during the last century reached the highest level of economic and technological development without renouncing its religious roots. Now these same roots are asking to be replanted in the family, to rethink and change the model of development, for the good of the entire human family."
In How To Give Away Your Faith Marie and Paul Little state that each of us should ask ourselves, "Are there people for whom I am praying by name every day asking God, the Holy Spirit, to open their eyes, enlighten them, and bend their wills until they receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Are there any people with whom I am seeking opportunities to show the love of Christ?" We may simply ask God to show us even one person whom He wants us to befriend, pray for, love, and eventually bring to the Savior.
Furthermore, having a few things in mind to say beforehand will help overcome our nervousness. When we assume people lack interest we tend to defeat ourselves before we start. Each successful encounter with a non-Christian will lead us to greater faith and confidence for the next one. Many people are deeply touched by a genuine compliment. Criticism sometimes can be far more natural to our lips than praise, but praise can make others more open to the gospel. Jesus Christ has come into our lives and given us the capacity to get out of ourselves and love others. If Jesus Christ is a reality to us, His love might reach out through us to some very unlikely people whom everyone else might shun. The very capacity t love them comes from Him.
All Christians should be able to defend their faith. The authors state that they are not suggesting that we should stop if we don't have all the answers. When we don't know the answers we can always stand on what we do know: Jesus Christ has changed our lives. Our own personal experience of how Jesus Christ meets specific needs will help others to see how very relevant and reliable the promises of Jesus Christ are. A hymn that expresses well the reality of living by faith in all life's situations is based on the promise of Jesus' continuing presence. He said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
Vatican City (VIS) - After addressing the visiting bishops on September 28, the Pope transferred by helicopter to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, Philadelphia's largest male prison, which holds 2,800 inmates. Francis met with one hundred of them, along with the directors of the Center, who awaited him in the gymnasium.
After hearing greetings from some of the detainees and receiving a gift that they had made for him, a chair, Francis thanked those present for welcoming him and giving him the opportunity to share this moment in their lives. "It is a difficult time, one full of struggles. I know it is a painful time not only for you, but also for your families and for all of society. Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society 'condemned' to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain. I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own. I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection."
The Pope spoke about the Gospel scene where Jesus washes the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper. "This was something His disciples found hard to accept. Even Peter refused, and told Him: 'You will never wash my feet.' In those days, it was the custom to wash someone's feet when they came to your home. That was how they welcomed people. The roads were not paved, they were covered with dust, and little stones would get stuck in your sandals. Everyone walked those roads, which left their feet dusty, bruised, or cut from those stones. That is why we see Jesus washing feet, our feet, the feet of His disciples, then and now."
"We all know that life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us," said the Pope. "We also know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn't ask us where we have been, He doesn't question us what about we have done. Rather, He tells us: 'Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me.' Unless I wash your feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Father always dreamed of, the life for which He created you. Jesus comes to meet us, so that He can restore our dignity as children of God. He wants to help us to set out again, to resume our journey, to recover our hope, to restore our faith and trust. He wants us to keep walking along the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission, and that confinement is never the same thing as exclusion."
"Life means 'getting our feet dirty' from the dust-filled roads of life and history," he continued. "All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us. Myself, first and foremost. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher, Who wants to help us resume our journey. The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us He stretches out a helping hand. It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain, and wounds are also the weariness, pain, and wounds of society. The Lord tells us this clearly with a sign: He washes our feet so we can come back to the table. The table from which He wishes no one to be excluded. The table which is spread for all and to which all of us are invited."
"This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help, and enable your rehabilitation. A rehabilitation which everyone seeks and desires: inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social and educational programs. A rehabilitation which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community and society. I encourage you to have this attitude with one another and with all those who in any way are part of this institution. May you make possible new opportunities; may you blaze new trails, new paths. All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from. All of us. May the knowledge of this fact inspire us all to live in solidarity, to support one another and seek the best for others."
"Let us look to Jesus, Who washes our feet," concluded Francis. "He is 'the way, and the truth, and the life'. He comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change, the lie of thinking that no one can change. Jesus helps us to journey along the paths of life and fulfilment. May the power of His love and His resurrection always be a path leading you to new life."
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
Vatican City (VIS) - Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States, today (October 8) spoke in Brescia, Italy, during the meeting entitled "Dialogue between Peoples in the name of Paul VI," which commemorated the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI's visit to the General Assembly of the United Nations on October 4, 1965.
The prelate noted that a few months after the beginning of his papacy, in the encyclical "Ecclesiam Suam," Paul VI proposed dialogue between the Church and the contemporary world as the cornerstone of his pontificate, assigning a fundamental role to dialogue between peoples to guarantee peace and equitable human development. "Pope Montini saw the theme of peace as an urgent and imperative duty, emphasized both by doctrinal reflections on the role of the Church in the contemporary world and the development of international institutions, which were reborn after the interruption of the second World War and grew rapidly in number and quality. We must not forget that the backdrop to Paul VI's commitment to peace, and in contrast to it, was the threat of a total nuclear war, the unfettered arms race and the difficult and at times tragic crisis of the Cold War, such as the raising of the Berlin wall, the Cuban missile crisis, the beginning of the United States' involvement in Vietnam, and many other minor conflicts."
With regard to dialogue between States and peace-building, Archbishop Gallagher recalled Paul VI's memorable message to the United Nations in 1965 in which he indicated four key points in the mission of the institution: offering States a formula for peaceful co-existence, a sort of international citizenship; working to unite nations, without exclusion; following the formula of equality, so that no State may be superior to the others; and considering the legal pact that unites the member States of the United Nations as a solemn oath that must change the future history of the world: "No more war, no more war." To these points, the Pope adds another two points relating to the development and dignity of humanity: peace cannot be constructed solely through politics and the balance of forces and interests, but rather with the spirit, with ideas, and with works of peace. It involves working for development and for the rights and fundamental duties of humanity. International dialogue is concerned primarily with the issue of human life, which is sacred.
In the second part of the encyclical "Populorum Progressio," on the development of peoples, Paul VI explains economic relations with great lucidity, highlighting finance and credit on the one hand, and international trade on the other, as priority areas for joint work. He underlines, among other things, the need for a global fund to assist poor countries, funded by richer nations principally through the limitation of military spending. With regard to international commerce, he observes that the financial and technical efforts to assist developing countries will be illusory if their results are cancelled by the interplay of trade relations between rich and poor countries.
"It is well known that Pope Montini viewed nationalism and racism as basic obstacles to the construction of a fraternal international community, based on the United Nations Charter, on an equitable legal, financial, and commercial multilateral system and on respect for human rights," noted Archbishop Gallagher.
The prelate went on to refer to the international presence that the Holy See acquired during Paul VI's papacy, entering as an Observer in the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1964, participating then as a member in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and often as an observer in many international bodies and at many conventions, from the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva, the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization, the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States.
Again between the years 1963 and 1978 the Holy See participated in the development of the international system for the protection of human rights, through its adhesion to the Convention against Racial Discrimination and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and its participation in the Conference for Cooperation and Security in Europe.
Blessed Paul VI, added Archbishop Gallagher, developed the progress made by St. John XXIII in the opening of the East European countries, adding to the objective of recognition of the rights of the Holy See, the desire to promote religious freedom, including the freedom of the Catholic Church, and to favor peace and harmony between peoples. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, ratified by the Holy See on February 25, 1971, formed part of the efforts made to contain the nuclear threat and the arms race in general, but also served to establish channels for dialogue with the authorities of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Finally, the Holy See, as a State, was invited by the Warsaw Pact to participate in the Helsinki Final Act, which laid the foundations for the basic exercise of freedom, of thought, conscience, and religion or religious belief for the citizens of Eastern Europe.
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
Vatican City (VIS) - Blessed Junipero Serra (1713-1784), known as the "Apostle of California," was canonized on September 23, 2015 by Pope Francis during a solemn Mass celebrated in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the title under which, since 1847, the Virgin Mary is the patroness of the United States.
The new saint, born in Mallorca, Spain, was a missionary first in Mexico, where he learned the Pame language in order to teach the indigenous peoples the catechism and ordinary prayers, which he translated for them. He was also master of novices in the apostolic College of San Fernando. In 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from the missions of Baja California, which were entrusted to the Franciscans. Fr. Junipero was appointed Superior and arrived with 14 companions in the territory in 1760, where he founded the first mission of San Diego. He went on to found missions in Alta California: San Carlos de Monterrey, San Anselmo, San Gabriel, and San Luis Obispo. In California alone he travelled 9,900 kilometers and 5,400 nautical miles to found new missions from which there derive the Franciscan names of Californian cities such as San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Serra was beatified by John Paul II in 1988.
In his homily the Pope cites St. Paul's words to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, rejoice!" "Paul tells us to rejoice; he practically orders us to rejoice. This command resonates with the desire we all have for a fulfilling life, a meaningful life, a joyful life. ... Something deep within us invites us to rejoice and tells us not to settle for placebos which simply keep us comfortable. At the same time, though, we all know the struggles of everyday life. So much seems to stand in the way of this invitation to rejoice. Our daily routine can often lead us to a kind of glum apathy which gradually becomes a habit, with a fatal consequence: our hearts grow numb."
"We don't want apathy to guide our lives ... or do we?" he continued. "We don't want the force of habit to rule our life ... or do we? So we ought to ask ourselves: What can we do to keep our heart from growing numb, becoming anaesthetized? How do we make the joy of the Gospel increase and take deeper root in our lives? Jesus gives the answer. He said to His disciples then and He says it to us now: Go forth! Proclaim! The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away."
The spirit of the world "tells us to be like everyone else, to settle for what comes easy. Faced with this human way of thinking, 'we must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world.' It is the responsibility to proclaim the message of Jesus. For the source of our joy is 'an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of our own experience of the power of the Father's infinite mercy.' Go out to all, proclaim by anointing and anoint by proclaiming. This is what the Lord tells us today. He tells us that a Christian finds joy in mission: Go out to people of every nation! A Christian experiences joy in following a command: Go forth and proclaim the good news! A Christian finds ever new joy in answering a call: Go forth and anoint!"
"Jesus sends His disciples out to all nations. To every people. We too were part of all those people of two thousand years ago. Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving His message, His presence. Instead, He always embraced life as He saw it. In faces of pain, hunger, sickness, and sin. In faces of the wounded, in thirst, weariness, doubt, and pity. Far from expecting a beautiful life, smartly-dressed and neatly groomed, He embraced life as He found it. It made no difference whether it was dirty, unkempt, broken. Jesus said: Go out and tell the good news to everyone. Go out and in my name embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be. Go out to the highways and byways, go out to tell the good news fearlessly, without prejudice, without superiority, without condescension, to all those who have lost the joy of living. Go out to proclaim the merciful embrace of the Father. Go out to those who are burdened by pain and failure, who feel that their lives are empty, and proclaim the 'folly' of a loving Father Who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil of salvation. Go out to proclaim the good news that error, deceitful illusions, and falsehoods do not have the last word in a person's life. Go out with the balm which soothes wounds and heals hearts."
Mission is "never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God's merciful anointing. The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice, and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into elites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy. So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet.
"The reason we are here today is that many other people wanted to respond to that call. They believed that 'life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort.' We are heirs to the bold missionary spirit of so many men and women who preferred not to be 'shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security ... within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving.' We are indebted to a tradition, a chain of witnesses who have made it possible for the good news of the Gospel to be, in every generation, both 'good' and 'new.' "
"Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands, Fr. Junipero Serra. He was the embodiment of 'a Church which goes forth,' a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junipero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God's life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people."
Father Serra "had a motto which inspired his life and work, a saying he lived his life by: siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anaesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let's keep moving forward! ..."
(A Christian Perspective on World News)
Vatican City (VIS) - "Dono di Misericordia" ("Gift of Mercy") - is the name of the new dormitory for the homeless, newly established near Santo Spirito Hospital and the Church of the same name in Rome. In an extraterritorial zone, the dormitory is a gift to the Pope from the General House of the Society of Jesus in response to the Pope's appeal to religious communities and orders to house people in need or in difficulty in their properties.
It is a "Gift of Mercy" as it is offered as a gift from the community, and mercy is the second name of the love expressed through concrete and generous gestures towards others, according to a press release from the Apostolic Almoner, which financed and carried out the works necessary to adapt the structure to the needs of its users. It was funded by the proceeds from the sale of parchments of the Apostolic Blessing and by generous contributions from private individuals. The Almoner, along with the Sisters of Mother Teresa, will continue to provide economic support for the Dormitory.
The structure is able to house 34 men. The religious sisters engaged in its administration are those who already assist people in need at Termini Station and San Gregorio Magno al Celio. According to the regulations of the Gift of Mercy Dormitory, guests are received following an interview with the Sisters for reception and registration of applicants (at the Casa Dono di Maria in the Vatican), and may stay for a maximum period of thirty days. There is a precise timetable regarding entry into the dormitory (between 6 and 7 p.m.), waking time (6.15 a.m.) and closing time (8 a.m., to allow general tidying and cleaning). There are also rules regarding personal hygiene and the personal maintenance of each bed and cupboard.
Guests who stay the night may also dine at the canteen at the Casa Dono di Maria before arriving at the Dormitory, and are offered breakfast prepared at the Dormitory before they leave. They may use the showers available under the Colonnade of St. Peter's Square.
It should be recalled that since 1988, in the Casa Dono di Maria in the Vatican, fifty beds are available to accommodate women for overnight stays, of which around thirty are occupied on a stable basis.
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
Vatican City (VIS) - Pope Francis arrived in Philadelphia for the last stage of his apostolic trip yesterday at 9.30 a.m. local time (3.30 p.m. in Rome). His first act in this historic city, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the United States Constitution was signed, was the celebration of Holy Mass at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, a votive mass to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, attended by the bishops, clergy, and men and women religious of the state of Pennsylvania.
"This morning I learned something about the history of this beautiful Cathedral: the story behind its high walls and windows," said the Pope in his homily. "I would like to think, though, that the history of the Church in this city and state is really a story not about building walls, but about breaking them down. It is a story about generation after generation of committed Catholics going out to the peripheries, and building communities of worship, education, charity, and service to the larger society. ... All of this is a great legacy which you have received, and which you have been called to enrich and pass on."
"Most of you know the story of Saint Katharine Drexel, one of the great saints raised up by this local Church," he continued. "When she spoke to Pope Leo XIII of the needs of the missions, the Pope ... asked her pointedly: 'What about you? What are you going to do?' Those words changed Katharine's life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord's call to build up His Body, the Church."
Those words were addressed to a "a young woman with high ideals, and they changed her life. They made her think of the immense work that had to be done, and to realize that she was being called to do her part. How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! ... To find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others?" asked the Pope.
"One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church's mission, and to enable them to fulfil that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life."
Francis remarked that "it is significant that those words of the elderly Pope were also addressed to a lay woman. We know that the future of the Church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity. The Church in the United States has always devoted immense effort to the work of catechesis and education. Our challenge today is to build on those solid foundations and to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions. This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the Church. In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities."
"During these days of the World Meeting of Families, I would ask you in a particular way to reflect on our ministry to families, to couples preparing for marriage, and to our young people", he concluded. "I know how much is being done in your local Churches to respond to the needs of families and to support them in their journey of faith. I ask you to pray fervently for them, and for the deliberations of the forthcoming Synod on the Family."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
Vatican City (VIS) - Pope Francis' third message to the young, for World Youth Day (WYD), like the first two, is dedicated to the theme of the Beatitudes and is intended to accompany young people throughout the world on their long and challenging spiritual journey to Krakow, where in July next year World Youth Day will be held.
According to a press release from the Pontifical Council for the Laity, issued September 28, the WYD is a precious heritage left by St. John Paul II, and over the past thirty years it has become a powerful instrument of evangelization of young people and a wonderful opportunity for dialogue between the Church and the younger generations. This spiritual adventure has already mobilized millions of young people from all continents. WYD has moved many of them to make big changes in their lives, and has led them to the discovery of a call, one that is an intrinsic part of being young: many are the vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life following each WYD, and many young people, after sharing this experience, have chosen to join with another as a couple in the sacrament of marriage.
In his message, the Holy Father remarked that the theme of the 31st World Youth Day places the event in the heart of the Holy Year of Mercy, and this makes it 'a Youth Jubilee at world level.' As the Successor of Peter reminds us, it is the third time that an international gathering of young people coincides with a Jubilee Year. It happened during the Holy Year of Redemption (1983/1984) when St. John Paul II invited young people from around the world for Palm Sunday for the first time. Then, during the Great Jubilee of 2000, more than two million young people from about 165 countries met in Rome for the 15th World Youth Day. Pope Francis says, "I am sure that the Youth Jubilee in Krakow will be, as on those two previous occasions, one of the high points of this Holy Year!"
The Pope goes on to explain to young people how God revealed his mercy in the Holy Scriptures by showing his untiring loyalty and eternal love, always ready to forgive. In the New Testament, mercy is presented to us as "a synthesis of the work that Jesus came to accomplish in the world in the name of the Father [...] Everything in Jesus speaks of mercy. Indeed, he himself is mercy."
The Holy Father invites young people to have firsthand experience of the Lord's mercy. He says: "When I was seventeen years old, it happened one day that, as I was about to go out with friends, I decided to stop into a church first. I met a priest there who inspired great confidence, and I felt the desire to open my heart in Confession. That meeting changed my life! I discovered that when we open our hearts with humility and transparency, we can contemplate God's mercy in a very concrete way."
After explaining how God shows us his mercy, the Pope invites young people to become, in turn, instruments of that mercy towards others. He suggests a very concrete way of responding to this call: "I would suggest that for the first seven months of 2016 you choose a corporal and a spiritual work of mercy to practice each month."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
A Star in the East by Rodney Stark and Xiuhua Wang is subtitled "The Rise of Christianity in China." Stark comes at the topic as a sociologist researching both Christianity and Chinese history, while Wang provides an more modern inside look at both.
Together their book refutes the theories that China is invulnerable to religion or that past efforts of missionaries have failed or that the Cultural Revolution extinguished any chance for Christianity in China. They claim that just considering the visible Christians, those not part of underground Church, thousands still convert to Christianity each day, and forty new churches open each week. If the current rate of growth were to hold until 2030, there would be more Christians in China, about 295 million, than any other nation on Earth. By 2040 there could be twice that many.
A Chinese friend of Joann Pittman of the Gospel Coalition told her, "What we need is more persecution. It is way too easy to be Christian in China today." Pittman herself notes in her review of the book, "As hostility to Christianity and the gospel grows in the West, I suspect that we have much to learn about standing firm from the historical experience of our brothers and sisters in China."
"Persecution served as a potent selection mechanism," the authors write. "Lukewarm liberalism could not generate the level of commitment needed to hold onto one's faith in the face of considerable persecution risk." The Protestant missions were more successful in the long run than Catholic missions, although starting three centuries earlier and initially growing much faster. The pope connection and the need for priests for the sacraments made persecution easier.
But they add "Without the conviction that they were bringing priceless truths to those in need, the mission spirit quickly dissipated in liberal Protestant circles." Christianity has been legal since 1979. Today Catholic Christians in China are outnumbered by Protestant Christians by at least 10-to-1.
Not all of the converts were "rice Christians," as The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin pointed out. A remnant survived both the Nationalists and the Communists. "Conversion," Start and Wang's analysis of surveys says,"is the result of coming to agree with others to whom one is attached via family of friendship," not through media, even the Bible, or through preaching. They even found that more of the affluent and well-educated than the poor convert and have a chapter devoted to each.
Catholics were severely persecuted. About 4,000 Catholic schools were closed, as well as all the Catholic hospitals and orphanages and printing presses. Many priests and bishops were killed. "By 1954 three hundred Chinese priests were in prison ... and then ... there was a mass arrest of more than two hundred clergy" (p 53) and other Catholics.
"Ironically, the persecution of Protestants [under Mao] may have been the single most beneficial event for the success of Christianity," the author conclude. "The continuing growth of Christianity in China during the years of the Cultural Revolution was truly an underground activity."
David Aikman, author of Jesus in Beijing, wrote, "Readers who enjoyed [Stark's] earlier works on the Crusades, the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, and Christianity's role in ending slavery will be grateful that he has now applied his brilliance to China." Fellow Baylor professor Phillip Jenkins noted, "What makes A Star in the East wholly distinctive though - and so very valuable - is its reliance on credible and strictly current quantitative evidence."
Reader Lemas Mitchel commented on Amazon that although "Baylor University is known to be a Baptist university, yet the authors were very even handed in their treatments." She also liked that the book was wonderfully brief, 160 pages, that took her about three hours. She asks, "If people who are well-fed, who have time to ponder existential questions, such as "values" and the "meaning of life." Why should we not be surprised that as China gets richer there are more people who have time to find such needs?"
Many Chinese practice fold religion, based on ancestral worship with some Confucianism and Buddhism thrown in, and yet will nevertheless say that they don't practice a religion, meaning an organized religion. Even many who will admit to believing in Jesus Christ, do not identify as Christians. Estimates on Christians in China vary widely between 16 million and 200 million.
In his review of Jesus in Beijing Louis F. DeBoer asks a question that applies also to A Star in the East, "Is Christ extinguishing His Church in the West? Is Christ replanting His Church in other parts of the globe?" He continues to explain, "As we look around us we see a Post-Christian America and an apostate West that has not only forsaken its spiritual heritage, but actively hates Christianity."
"According to Aikman," DeBoer says, Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds in China and is on a course to become not only the dominant religion in China, but also the dominant cultural force in the great nation."
DeBoer notes that "classes in Christianity at secular Chinese universities are packed. Many intellectuals ... have a very favorable attitude towards Christianity. They have seen the kind of societies that Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam have produced and are not impressed. They have seen what Christianity ... has historically produced and they believe that this is an example to emulate."
An example given in the book was Jiang Zeming, President of China and leader of the Chinese Communist party, who when asked in 2002 before leaving office if he could make one last decree that would be obeyed in China, what would it be? He replied, "I would make Christianity the official religion of China." The Chinese Christians are not crusading to overthrow communism, only to advance Christianity. They are already sending out missionaries to neighboring nations with a zeal to convert the Islamic world.
Pope Francis in his recent visit to the United Nations, speaking for all Christians, emphasized the same, avoiding the political divisions. "The hour has indeed struck for conversion, for personal transformation, for interior renewal," he told the General Assembly. "The hour has come for a halt, a moment of contemplation, of reflection, almost a prayer, a moment to think anew of our common origin, our history, our common destiny."
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com