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My People

Vol. 28, Issue 3, March 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


"Make Your Hearts Firm" (Jas 5:8)

Pope Francis addressed the need for conversion of heart in his Lenten message this year. The message, dated October 4, 2014, follows:

Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each communities and every believer. Above all it is a "time of grace" (2 Cor 6:2). God does not ask of us anything that He Himself has not first given us. "We love because He first has loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in His heart. He knows us by name, He cares for us and He seeks us out whenever we turn away from Him. He is interested in each of us; His love does not allow Him to be indifferent to what happens to us. Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings, and the injustices they endure... Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don't think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.

When the people of God are converted to His love, they find answers to the questions that history continually raises. One of the most urgent challenges which I would like to address in this Message is precisely the globalization of indifference.

Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.

God is not indifferent to our world; He so loves it that He gave His Son for our salvation. In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all. The Church is like the hand holding open this gate, thanks to her proclamation of God's word, her celebration of the sacraments, and her witness of the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). But the world tends to withdraw into itself and shut that door through which God comes into the world and the world comes to Him. Hence the hand, which is the Church, must never be surprised if it is rejected, crushed, and wounded.

God's people, then, need this interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves. To further this renewal, I would like to propose for our reflection three biblical texts.

1. "If one member suffers, all suffer together" (1 Cor 12:26) - The Church

The love of God breaks through that fatal withdrawal into ourselves which is indifference. The Church offers us this love of God by her teaching and especially by her witness. But we can only bear witness to what we ourselves have experienced. Christians are those who let God clothe them with goodness and mercy, with Christ, so as to become, like Christ, servants of God and others. This is clearly seen in the liturgy of Holy Thursday, with its rite of the washing of feet. Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet, but he came to realize that Jesus does not wish to be just an example of how we should wash one another's feet. Only those who have first allowed Jesus to wash their own feet can then offer this service to others. Only they have "a part" with Him (Jn 13:8) and thus can serve others.

Lent is a favorable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like Him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts. For whoever is of Christ, belongs to one body, and in Him we cannot be indifferent to one another. "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy" (1 Cor 12:26).

The Church is the communio sanctorum not only because of her saints, but also because she is a communion in holy things: the love of God revealed to us in Christ and all His gifts. Among these gifts there is also the response of those who let themselves be touched by this love. In this communion of saints, in this sharing in holy things, no one possesses anything alone, but shares everything with others. And since we are united in God, we can do something for those who are far distant, those whom we could never reach on our own, because with them and for them, we ask God that all of us may be open to His plan of salvation.

2. "Where is your brother?" (Gen 4:9) - Parishes and Communities

All that we have been saying about the universal Church must now be applied to the life of our parishes and communities. Do these ecclesial structures enable us to experience being part of one body? A body which receives and shares what God wishes to give? A body which acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest, and most insignificant members? Or do we take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors (Lk 16:19-31)?

In order to receive what God gives us and to make it bear abundant fruit, we need to press beyond the boundaries of the visible Church in two ways.

In the first place, by uniting ourselves in prayer with the Church in heaven. The prayers of the Church on earth establish a communion of mutual service and goodness which reaches up into the sight of God. Together with the saints who have found their fulfilment in God, we form part of that communion in which indifference is conquered by love. The Church in heaven is not triumphant because she has turned her back on the sufferings of the world and rejoices in splendid isolation. Rather, the saints already joyfully contemplate the fact that, through Jesus' death and resurrection, they have triumphed once and for all over indifference, hardness of heart and hatred. Until this victory of love penetrates the whole world, the saints continue to accompany us on our pilgrim way. Saint Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, expressed her conviction that the joy in heaven for the victory of crucified love remains incomplete as long as there is still a single man or woman on earth who suffers and cries out in pain: "I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in heaven; my desire is to continue to work for the Church and for souls" (Letter 254, July 14, 1897).

We share in the merits and joy of the saints, even as they share in our struggles and our longing for peace and reconciliation. Their joy in the victory of the Risen Christ gives us strength as we strive to overcome our indifference and hardness of heart.

In the second place, every Christian community is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away. The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people.

Her mission is to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father. Her mission is to bring to all a love which cannot remain silent. The Church follows Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). In each of our neighbors, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!

3. "Make your hearts firm!" (James 5:8) - Individual Christians

As individuals too, we have are tempted by indifference. Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness?

First, we can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer! The 24 Hours for the Lord initiative, which I hope will be observed on March 13-14 throughout the Church, also at the diocesan level, is meant to be a sign of this need for prayer.

Second, we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church's many charitable organizations. Lent is a favorable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family.

Third, the suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters. If we humbly implore God's grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God's love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.

As a way of overcoming indifference and our pretensions to self-sufficiency, I would invite everyone to live this Lent as an opportunity for engaging in what Benedict XVI called a formation of the heart (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 31). A merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A heart which lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters. And, ultimately, a poor heart, one which realizes its own poverty and gives itself freely for others.

During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: "Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum": Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent, or prey to the globalization of indifference.

It is my prayerful hope that this Lent will prove spiritually fruitful for each believer and every ecclesial community. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you.

Fight Indifference This Lent

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

Vatican City (VIS) - A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office on January 27, during which Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," presented the Pope's Message for Lent 2015, explaining that its central theme is indifference, an issue that the Holy Father has touched upon on a number of occasions. In addition, in his speech to the UN last September Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin emphasized "widespread indifference," which he equated with an "apathy" that is at times even "synonymous with irresponsibility."

Indifference is, therefore, "an important concept to explain the different phenomena of the modern world. In this way, we can understand this same concept, including it in what is surely a partial interpretation of a certain culture. Indifference comes from a lack of difference, from a lack of attention to the difference. This can be applied at least on three levels."

"At the interpersonal level, the play on words between difference and indifference is perhaps more easily understood. On the one hand, the difference is stressed in order to provoke a separation. On the other hand, a lack of attention to the difference between the other and myself conforms the other to one's own parameters and thus annihilates him."

"At the cultural level, that is, in the everyday environment that helps shape our thoughts and judgement, I seem to notice an indifference to values. This is not only related to a lack of awareness of values or an incomplete observance of values; it is above all a lack of judgement on values. In this way, every choice becomes interchangeable, every option becomes viable, any assessment on good and evil, truth and falsity becomes useless. If there is no difference, everything is the same and is therefore not permissible for anyone to propose something that is more or less appropriate to a person's nature. In my opinion, global uniformity, the lowering of the standards of values that comes from the lack of difference is linked to the experience of many of our contemporaries of a lack of meaning. If everything is the same, if nothing is different and everything is therefore more or less valid, in what can one invest one's life? If everything is the same, it means that nothing really has value and therefore it means nothing fully deserves our gift."

"We then come to a third level, that more specifically regards metaphysical principles. Here lies the greatest indifference, the largest and most consequential form of the lack of attention to difference, that is: indifference towards God and as a result, a lack of attention to the difference between the Creator and creature, which causes so much harm to modern man as it leads him to believe that he is God, while he must continually push against his own limitations."

Msgr. Dal Toso went on to consider the globalization of indifference not merely as a geographical phenomenon, but also a cultural one. As it spreads, a Western concept of the world, or Weltanschauung, prevails, linked not only to relationships but also as an existential attitude. The Church does not denounce certain situations simply in order to censure them but instead to offer paths towards healing. For this reason, the Lenten season is always a time of conversion, change, and renewal. It is a time for overcoming this globalization of indifference and entering into a new phase in which we recognize the difference between the self and the other, between one lifestyle and another, between oneself and God. This year's Lenten Message presents three areas in which indifference must be overcome: the Church, the community, and the individual."

He continued, "Pope Francis speaks about the necessary conversion and the new heart that can beat within us. The key step in all social reconstruction and cultural renewal is change in the individual. The Gospel provides the keys for achieving this change in the person, which then affects the whole social fabric." However, he warns, "conversion does not have its purpose in a better society, but in the knowledge of Christ and in becoming like Him. Therefore, as we can see in Pope Francis' Magisterium, he calls us to go beyond a faith that serves only to care for oneself and one's own well being. Indifference stems from an attitude to life in which otherness does not make a difference and so each person withdraws into himself. Faith also can become instrumental in this search for self." Our path, he explained, must therefore take us further, "beyond ourselves," so that we "live our faith by looking at Christ and in Him we find the Father and brothers and sisters who await us."

Indifference must also be overcome in Christian communities, which are required to be "islands of mercy in a world dominated by the globalization of indifference. There is a distinction between the Church and the world, between the heavenly city and the earthly city, a distinction which become increasingly evident. Our Christian places - parishes, communities, and groups - must be transformed into places that manifest God's mercy. Faced with this globalization of indifference, some might be discouraged as it seems as if nothing can be changed, since we are part of a great social and economic process that is beyond us. Instead, this is not the case. The Christian community can already overcome this indifference, it can show the world that one can live differently and that it can become the city on the mount mentioned in the Gospel. Beginning with this Lent season, Christian community life, where one lives for the other, can be not merely a chimera but instead a living reality; rather than a distant dream, a living sign of the presence of God's mercy in Christ." Finally, the third level is the Church in her global reality. "Unfortunately," remarked Msgr. Del Toso, "we tend to see the Church only as an institution and a structure. Instead, she is the living body of those who believe in Christ. It is the Church in her entirety that needs to be renewed. As a body, she shows that she is really alive because she changes, grows, and develops. In this body, the members take care of each other."

Finally, the prelate recalled that "Cor Unum" has always acted as an "instrument of the Pope's proximity to the least of our brothers and sisters," offering three examples. First, he mentioned the recent joint meeting with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the various other entities involved in the reconstruction of Haiti, during which the balance of the financial aid raised by the Catholic Church's for the island during the five years since the earthquake, estimated at 21.5 million dollars, was presented. He also referred to the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, "where the great victims of these wars are the people, especially the most vulnerable minorities such as Christians who again have become the 'cards' with which those in power play." Finally, he remarked on the Pope's recent trip to the Philippines, where it could be seen what it means to " 'make hearts firm' where there is nothing left to hope for." In Tacloban, the area visited by the Pope, "Cor Unum" has built large community center named after Pope Francis, to care for the young and the elderly. He concluded, "Our Dicastery wishes to be a great global expression of what it means for the Church to be a body in which each member can experience the love of the other."

Fathers Play Critical Role

(Editor's note: Pope Francis devoted his general audiences on January 28 and February 4 to the role of fathers in the family. The following are press reports from Vatican Information Service.)

Prayer to St. Joseph

O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty to work; above all,with purity of intention and unselfishnesss, having unceasingly before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain compliancy in success, so baneful to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O Patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity. Amen.

Vatican City (VIS) - Pope Francis, returning to the theme of the family, dedicated the catechesis of January 28's general audience to the figure of the father: "a word dear to us as Christians, more than any other, as it is the name with which Jesus taught us to call God," he said to the thousands of faithful gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

"Father is a universal word, known to all. It indicates a fundamental relationship that is real and ancient as the history of mankind. Today, however, we have reached the point of affirming that ours would be a 'society without fathers.' In other words, in particular in western culture, the figure of the father would be symbolically absent, to have vanished. ... At first, this was perceived as a form of liberation: freedom from the father-master, from the father as the representative of a law imposed from the outside, from the father as the censor of the happiness of his children and an obstacle to the emancipation of the autonomy of the young. Indeed, in the past in some cases authoritarianism, indeed even oppression reigned in some homes: parents who treated their children like servants, who did not respect the personal needs of their growth, fathers who did not help them to embark on their path in freedom, to assume their own responsibilities for building their future and that of society."

"And, as often happens, we have passed from one extreme to the other. The problem of our times no longer seems to be the invasive presence of fathers, but rather their absence. ... Fathers are so focused on themselves, on their work, and at times their personal fulfilment, that they even forget their families, leaving children and the young to their own devices. ... Now, on this shared path of reflection on the family, I would like to say to all Christian communities that we must be more careful: the absence of the paternal figure in the life of children and the young produces lacunae and wounds that can be very serious. And in effect the deviances of children and adolescents may to a considerable extent be due to this lack of examples and authoritative guidance in their everyday life, to this lack of closeness and love from their fathers."

"The feeling of orphanhood experienced by many young people is more profound than we might think. They are orphans in their families because their fathers are often absent, also physically, from the home, but above all because when they are present, they do not act like fathers: they do not speak with their children, they do not give their children, by their example accompanied by words, those principles, those values, those rules for life that the young need in the same way as they need bread. ... At times it seems as if fathers are not sure what position they should occupy in the family, or how to educate their children. And so, in doubt, they abstain, they withdraw and neglect their responsibilities, possibly seeking refuge in an improbable relationship of parity with their children."

The civil community with its institutions too has "a certain responsibility towards the young, that might be described as paternal," the Pope added: "a responsibility that at times it neglects or exercises poorly. This too leaves them as orphans, and does not offer them true prospects. The young are therefore orphaned of sure paths to follow, orphaned of teachers in whom they can trust, orphaned of ideals to warm their hearts, orphaned of values and hopes that support them day by day. They are filled with idols but robbed of their hearts; they are driven to dream of enjoyment and pleasure, but they are not given work; they are deluded by the god of money and denied true richness."

"Therefore, it is good for all of us, fathers and children, to listen once again to the promise that Jesus made to His disciples: 'I will not leave you orphans.' Indeed, He is the path to follow, the master to listen to, the hope that the world can change, that love will conquer hate, that there can be a future of brotherhood and peace for all," Francis concluded. He added that next Wednesday he will further pursue this theme, focusing on "the beauty of paternity." "For this reason I have chosen to begin with the darkness in order to reach the light. May the Lord help us to understand these things well."

Prison To Praise


by Edwin Bigon

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

"Hey cellie, where's da bar o' soap that was on the sink, right here?"

"I don't know," comes my reply as I look at the combination toilet-lavatory in our cell. My cellie is standing next toit with a t-shirt he wants to wash. "What's that under the sink?" I ask him. Stooping down and looking under the bottom of the toilet, my cellie grimaces.

"That's it ... but I ain't touch in' it. It's covered with dust and stuff. "Man ... it looks like a dead rat!" my cellie exclaims in disgust.

"Let me see," I tell him. He is right. It looks awful. However, it is the last bar of soap we have. "Maybe we can clean it up so we can use it," I say trying to ease his tension.

I pull a sheet of paper off the tablet I am writing a letter on and go over to the toilet. Sliding the paper under the ball of filth I manage to pull it out from under its hiding place and dump it in the sink. As I run water over it debris slowly starts to go down the drain. In a minute the bar of soap looks new.

"Good job, man ... thanks," says my cellie.

"No problem," I reply as I head back to my bunk to continue my letter.

Before I can resume the thought of that dirty bar of soap causes me to pause. It reminded me that long ago my soul was once made new through the water and grace of Baptism. Then, I allowed sin to cover me like the dust on that soap bar. I felt spoiled, tarnished. Doubt and despair entered my thoughts. I was a sinner and knew it. How could I regain the newness of soul that came with Baptism? I would wonder silently.

Fortunately, I came to know that through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I can be washed of my sins as the soap bar was rinsed of its debris. The Catechism tells us "Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of His Church: above all for those, who since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin ... (CCC 1446). With this truth, I find forgiveness hope, and new life. Doubt and despair seemingly dissolve. I feel clean.

"Hey cellie, this bar o' soap works better than ever," comes a voice from across the room. I look over to see a man with suds halfway up his arms.

"It's amazing what a little cleansing water can do," I say.

We both smile.

Book Challenges Christians

by Michael Halm

Brian Fisher's new book Deliver Us From Abortion challenges Christians who are not fighting to end the killing of the most innocent, the unborn, and encourages those who are. Its subtitle is "Awakening the Church to End the Killing of America's Children." He dedicated the book to a Korean girl who could have been aborted, but was left at an orphanage and then adopted by an American Christian couple. "To my wife," he writes, "and best friend, whose very presence at my side is a constant reminder that God is the author of every life, and every life has priceless value and unlimited potential."

Brian Fisher is co-founder and president of Online for Life. He has written books on other aspects of the subject, such as, Abortion: The Ultimate Exploitation of Women. In his "Personal Note to Parents and Relatives of Aborted Children" he writes, "My hope and prayer is that you finish this book with a renewed sense of Christ's work in your life and a passionate desire to stop this unspeakable tragedy."

The book is aimed particularly at Protestants, but many Catholics need to hear the message as well. Julie Klose wrote, "Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2015 March for Life conference and walking in my first March. At the conference there was the first ever evangelical worship gathering called One Voice DC. One of the leaders prayed about the church's ‘sin of apathy over abortion.' His words hit me with such great conviction. That was once me, but tragically that is the state of the evangelical church in America.

"The Catholic Church has often been outspoken warriors for life," she points out, "and they are without a doubt a strong presence within the anti-abortion movement. But unfortunately, even a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute (a pro-abortion research group) reports that twenty-seven percent of Catholic women and thirty-seven percent of Protestant women received abortions."

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life shares that "Dr. Bernard Nathanson, whom I knew personally, and who was a key architect of the abortion industry, said he succeeded only because the Church was asleep. To end abortion, the Church must awaken, and that's why this book is so important."

The first section, called Abortion 101, is an overview of abortion in America, pointing out for example that ours is one of just four countries, with North Korea, China, and Canada, that permit abortion at any stage of pregnancy for any reason. Chapter two deals with the Dr. Kermis Gosnell scandal and others. Chapter three is unabashedly entitled "Child Sacrifice in Church."

The next three chapters are a Bible study on the value of human life and the role the Church to protect it. Fisher quotes passages like, "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter" (Prv 24:11) and "And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me' " (Mt 25:45).

Proving the authority of God over all human life, Fisher refers to Psalm 24:1, "The Earth is the Lord's and all it contains, the world and all who dwell in it," and Matthew 10:31, "You are more valuable than many sparrows," among other verses. "God is the author of all life," he tells the reader, "regardless of how he or she is conceived, has priceless value, uniqueness, and purpose."

Going through the Scripture pointing out God's concern for every human conception, every human life. Then he writes, "I can think of no better reason to equate the value of life in the womb the same as life outside. God Himself came to earth as a zygote."

He quotes other verses to demonstrate that the good news is not "fire insurance," a way to avoid hell. It is much, much more. "The kingdom of God is at hand." He describes some of this in his previous book, Media ‘Revolution: a battle Plan to defeat Mass Deception in American.

In another chapter, "Deadly Doctrines," Fisher deals with individual Protestant churches, particularly with their leadership. As he puts it, "what a few pro-life are (or are not) doing from the top down."

In the back of this book fisher includes "a partial list of post-abortive recovery sites, curricula, and resources." These include books, organizations, and websites. He invites the reader to search for others.

The book seems to be getting very favorable reviews. This is perhaps mostly because of the final practical chapter. In it Fisher describes seven obstacles to ending abortion. Some think the issue too political or too offensive or too accusatory. Others think it is not a core issue or not evangelical enough. Still others are put off by thinking it is too challenging a task.

He also lists seven areas in which the Church must act, in the church itself, in business, education, government, the arts and entertainment, family, and the media. These are just the areas that Pope John Paul II's Toward the Third Millenium directed us.

He ends by describing seven ways in which the Church can act. We can learn about the issue from others, pray for and assist in the healing of the aborting parents. We can rescue babies in danger of being aborted. We can teach others the truth about abortion and the abortion industry. We can give our time and finances to the cause, and perhaps most importantly we can disciple others to do likewise.

Dr. Alveda King prays, "May [this book] challenge and equip the Church to end the abortion holocaust in America." Shadia Hrichi joins her, writing, "I pray it will stir the hearts of our church leaders and laypeople to embrace the call to defend - through both word and deed - God's most vulnerable image-bearers."

Josh McDowell wrote, "The author provides a powerful defense for the children who can't speak for themselves."

Delivering the world from the evil of abortion "will only happen," John Stonestreet of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview says, "when the church addresses abortion with all the fervor, clarity, love, and compassion it can muster by God's grace and power."

Archbishop Romero, Blessed Defender Of Poor

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

Vatican City (VIS) - On February 4 Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and postulator of the cause for the beatification of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, presented the figure of the Salvadoran archbishop assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass and whose martyrdom was acknowledged yesterday with the signing of the necessary decree by Pope Francis. Historian Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, professor of modern history at the University of Rome III and author of a biography of Oscar Romero, also participated in the conference. Extensive extracts of Archbishop Paglia's presentation are published below.

"It is an extraordinary gift for all of the Church at the beginning of this millennium to see rise to the altar a pastor who gave his life for his people; and this is true for all Christians. This can be seen in the attention of the Anglican Church, which has placed a statue of Romero in the facade of Westminster Abbey alongside those of Martin Luther King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and for all of society that regards him as a defender of the poor and of peace. Gratitude is also due to Benedict XVI, who followed the cause from the very beginning and on December 20, 2012 - just over a month before his resignation - decided to unblock the process to enable it to follow the regular itinerary."

"The work of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, with Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., has been careful and attentive. The unanimity of both the commission of cardinals and the commission of theologians confirmed his martyrdom in odium fidei. ... The martyrdom of Romero has given meaning and strength to many Salvadoran families who lost relatives and friends during the civil war. His memory immediately became the memory of other victims, perhaps less illustrious, of the violence."

"Following a lengthy procedure that encountered many difficulties, on account of opposition due to both the archbishop's thought and pastoral action, and the situation of conflict that developed in relation to him, the itinerary finally reached its conclusion. Romero becomes, as it were, the first of a long line of contemporary New Martyrs. March 24 - the day of his death - became, by decision of the Italian Episcopal Conference, the "Day for Prayer for Missionary Martyrs." The United Nations have proclaimed that day "International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims."

The world has changed greatly since 1980, but that pastor from a small Central American country speaks powerfully. It is not without significance that his beatification will take place precisely when there is for the first time in history a Latin American Pope who wants a 'poor Church, for the poor.' It is a providential coincidence."

Romero the pastor

"Romero believed in his role as a bishop and primate of his country, and he considered himself responsible for the population, especially the poorest. Therefore, he took upon himself the bloodshed, pain, and violence, denouncing their causes in his charismatic Sunday preaching that was listened to on the radio by the entire nation. We might say that it was a 'pastoral conversion,' with the assumption by Romero of a strength that was indispensable in the crisis that beset the country. He transformed himself into a defensor civitatis following the tradition of the ancient Fathers of the Church, defending the persecuted clergy, protecting the poor, and affirming human rights."

"The climate of persecution was palpable. However, Romero clearly became the defender of the poor in the face of cruel repression. After two years as archbishop of San Salvador, Romero counted thirty lost priests - killed, expelled, or forced to flee from death. The death squads killed scores of catechists from the base communities, and many faithful disappeared from these communities. The Church was the main target of accusation and therefore the hardest hit. Romero resisted and accepted giving his life to defend his people."

Assassinated at the altar during Mass

"He was killed at the altar. Killing him was intended to strike at the Church that flowed from Vatican Council II. His death - as the detailed documentary examination clearly showed - was not only politically motivated, but due also to hatred for a faith that, combined with charity, would not stay silent when faced with the injustices that implacably and cruelly afflicted the poor and their defenders. His assassination at the altar - without doubt a more uncertain death as it meant shooting from a distance of thirty meters rather than an attempt from a shorter range - had a symbolic nature that resounded as a terrible warning for whoever wished to follow the same route. John Paul II himself - who was well aware of the other two saints killed at the altar, St. Stanislaus of Krakow and St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury - noted effectively, 'they killed him precisely at the most sacred moment, during the highest and most divine act. ... A bishop of God's Church was assassinated while he exercised his sanctifying mission, offering the Eucharist.' On a number of occasions he repeated forcefully, 'Romero is ours, Romero is of the Church!' "

Romero and the poor

"Romero had always loved the poor. As a very young priest in San Miguel he was accused of communism because he asked the rich to give a fair salary to the peasant coffee cultivators. He told them that not only did they act against justice, but also that they themselves opened the doors to communism."

"Romero understood increasingly clearly that being a pastor to all meant starting with the poor. Placing the poor at the center of the pastoral concerns of the Church and therefore of all Christians, including the rich, was the new pastoral way. His preferential love for the poor not only did not attenuate his love for his country, but on the contrary supported it. In this sense, Romero was not partisan, although to some he appeared that way; rather, he was a pastor who sought the common good of all, starting however with the poor. He never ceased to seek out the way for the pacification of the country.

Romero, man of God and of the Church

Romero was a man of God, a man of prayer, of obedience and love for the people. He prayed a lot ... and he was harsh on himself, a severity linked to an old-fashioned spirituality made up of sacrifices. He had a 'linear' spiritual life, in spite of having a character that was not always easy - rigorous with himself, intransigent, tormented. But in prayer he found rest, peace, and strength. When he had to make complicated or difficult decisions, he withdrew in prayer."

"He was a bishop faithful to the magisterium. From his papers there clearly emerges his familiarity with the documents of Vatican Council II, Medellin, Puebla, the social doctrine of the Church and other pontifical texts in general. ... It has often been said that Romero was suborned by liberation theology. Once, a journalist asked him, 'Do you agree with liberation theology?' He answered, 'Yes, of course. But there are two forms of liberation theology. There is the one that sees liberation solely as material liberation. The other is that of Paul VI. I am with Paul VI.' "

... Unthinkable

by Leianne Spontaneo

The following has been borrowed from Fr. Frank Pavone on He states that the pro-life message is true and truth will ultimately prevail. In any movement things get done by a small and active core group. Nurture that small group. It may be just two. Focus on action rather than numbers. The most important advice is the simplest: Do It! If you have a couple of interested people, start by doing. Take time to send a letter to the newspaper about abortion. Have confidence and always conduct your pro-life work with prayer and joy! You are never alone.

However, this does not mean that you can relax or take anything for granted. Just the opposite in fact. The closer we get to victory the harder the other side will fight to keep abortion legal and the mose hostile they will become. Still, we now know the key weaknesses of the abortion movement. Abortions continues because of a supply: the existence of a half-billion dollars a year industry providing abortions. These weaknesses are primarily in the area of supply. An action card provided by Life Dynamics states, "Years ago we were assured that abortion was a cure of child abuse, domestic violence, poverty, divorce, and almost every other social problem we had. Somehow killing our babies was going to set us free and guarantee our equality. So tell me, how many children have to be butchered before this plan starts working?" Many American people admit that abortion is murder but believe it needs to be available anyway. The goal of the pro-life movement is to make it unavailable, unnecessary, and unthinkable.

Fr. Frank Pavone states to be of good cheer! We have the devil of abortion on the ropes.

the gospel changes life

Vatican City (VIS) - On February 1, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, and to reflect on the readings in today's liturgy.

This Sunday's Gospel passage narrates Jesus' arrival with his disciples in the city of Capernaum, the birthplace of St. Peter and the largest city in Galilee at the time. St. Mark writes that, since it was the Sabbath, Jesus went immediately to the synagogue and began to teach. "This makes us think of the primacy of the Word of God, a word to listen to, receive and announce," explained the Holy Father. Upon His arrival in Capernaum, Jesus does not delay in proclaiming the Gospel: "He does not think first of the logistical arrangements, certainly necessary, for his little community; nor does He take His time over organization. His main concern is communicating the Word of God with the strength of the Holy Spirit. And the people in the synagogue are impressed, because Jesus 'taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.' "

"What does 'with authority' mean?" asked the Pope, before explaining that in human words, Jesus felt "all the strength of the Word of God, He felt the same authority of God Himself, the inspirer of the Holy Scriptures. And one of the characteristics of the Word of God is that it accomplishes what it says." Indeed Jesus, after preaching, immediately demonstrates His authority by freeing a man, present in the synagogue, from possession by a demon. "It was Christ's authority that had provoked the reaction of Satan, hidden in that man. In turn, Jesus immediately recognized the voice of the devil and, severely rebuking him, ordered: 'Quiet! Come out of him!' With the strength of His word alone, Jesus freed the person from evil. And again those present were astounded. 'He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him.' The Word of God creates this wonder in us. It possesses the strength to astonish us."

"The Gospel is the word of life: it does not oppress people, but on the contrary, frees those who are enslaved by the many evil spirits of this world: the spirit of vanity, attachment to money, pride, sensuality; the Gospel changes hearts, changes lives, transforms the inclination to evil into good resolutions. The Gospel is capable of changing people. Therefore, it is the duty of Christians to spread this redeeming power everywhere, becoming missionaries and heralds of the Word of God. ... The new doctrine that Jesus taught with authority is that which the Church brings to the world, along with the effective signs of His presence: authoritative teaching and the liberating action of the Son of God become the words of salvation and the gestures of love of the missionary Church."

Pope Francis concluded by reminding those present that the Gospel has the strength to change life. "It is the Good News that transforms us only when we let ourselves be transformed by it. This is why I ask you always to make daily contact with the Gospel; to read a passage every day, to meditate upon it, and to carry it everywhere with you, in your pocket or in your bag. ... It is the power that changes us, that transforms us. It changes life, and it changes the heart."

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

Light to the Nations

(A Christian Perspective on World News)

Vatican Provides For Homeless

Vatican City (VIS) - In recent days work has been concluded for the installation of new showers below Bernini's Colonnade, thus completing an extensive project to provide this service for the poor of the city of Rome through the participating parishes, especially those where there already exist canteens for the poor or where there is a greater concentration of homeless people.

The project was planned, guided, and implemented by the technicians and employees of the Governorate of Vatican City State: three showers and a small "barbershop" have been incorporated in the complete renovation of a section of the bathrooms present under the right wing of the Colonnade.

This has been achieved with great sobriety and dignity, but also using modern techniques: every washbasin is equipped with hot water, a soap dispenser, and a hot air jet for drying hands, all photocell-activated; instead of tiles, a special resin has been used to coat the walls, which is easy to wash and ensures optimum hygiene.

The showers will be available for use every day, except on Wednesday during the general audience and during celebrations in St. Peter's Square and in the Basilica. On Monday, Thursday, and Saturday the service and management of the showers is ensured by volunteers from UNITALSI - Rome Section. The barber will be available on Monday from 9 am to 3 pm. The service is provided by various voluntary barbers and final year students from a hairdressing school in Rome.

Our homeless pilgrims who wish to use the shower will receive a complete change of underwear and a kit including a towel, soap, toothpaste, a razor, shaving cream, and deodorant, in accordance with their specific needs. The majority of the material will be offered free of charge by several companies and private individuals who, having heard of this project, have offered to share their own resources with the needy. The remainder of the material will be purchased as necessary by the Almoner of His Holiness using proceeds from the distribution of parchments for Papal Blessings.

On certain days of the week the poor will be received by volunteers, starting with the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Albertine Sisters who assist the Swiss Guard, the Vincentian Sisters and many other kind-hearted volunteers in Rome who have offered their time and collaboration.

The Centro Televisivo Vaticano and the Photographic Service of L'Osservatore Romano will produce video footage and photographs of the new services and will make them available, from their offices, upon request.

The Almoner wishes to offer heartfelt thanks to all the Parishes that have participated in this project and, in particular, all those who have contributed to producing the showers below the Colonnade and who will endeavour in various ways to their use to assist the poor.

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

Children Need Wisdom Of Parents

Vatican City (VIS) - A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office on January 23 in which Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and Professor Chiara Giaccardi of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy, presented the Holy Father's Message for the 49th World Day of Communications, entitled "Communicating the family: a privileged place of encounter with the gift of love."

Archbishop Celli explained, "From this text there emerges a positive overall message, given that the Pope affirms that the family continues to be a great resource and not merely a problem or an institution in crisis. As we can see, the Pope is not interested principally in the problem between the family and communication linked to new technologies. He instead focuses on the most profoundly true and human dimension of communication."

The message affirms, he continued, that the family "has the capacity to communicate itself and to communicate, by virtue of the bond that links its various members," and he noted that "a paragraph is dedicated to prayer, defined as a fundamental form of communication that finds in the family its truest environment of discovery and experience."

"In this context", he added, forgiveness is understood "as a dynamic of communication, since when contrition is expressed and accepted, it becomes possible to restore and rebuild the communication which broke down." He also remarked that a long paragraph is devoted to the most modern media and their influence on communication in and among families, both as a help and a hindrance. He noted that the text clearly restates what has already been underlined in the teachings of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. "But it is important to rediscover yet again that the parents are the first educators of their children, who are increasingly present in the digital sphere. The presence of parents does not have a primarily technological dimension - generally children know more than their parents in this field - but is important on account of the wisdom they contribute."

"It is well-known that one of the great risks is that children or teenagers may isolate themselves in a 'virtual world', significantly reducing their necessary integration in real everyday life and in the interrelationships of friendship. This is not to say that the relationships of affection or friendship that develop in the context of the web are not real. It must also be remembered that the young - and the not so young - are called upon to give witness to Christ in the digital world too, in the social networks we all inhabit."

(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 this Lent will be a time of deep conversion and spiritual growth.
  • We pray that the Sacred Heart of Jesus will give us His heart for others and that we will overcome indifference with compassion.
  • We pray for all fathers through the intercession of St. Joseph.
  • We pray for persecuted Christians throughout the world and especially in the Middle East.
  • We pray for an end to terrorism.
  • We pray for an end to abortion, euthanasia, war, terrorism, and all attacks against life.
  • We pray for all those suffering from cold and snowy weather.
  • We pray for the homeless to find warm shelter and compassion.
  • We pray for all prisoners to grow in faith this Lent.
  • We pray for all peacemakers.
  • We pray for Ireland and England through the intercession of St. Patrick.

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