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My People

Vol. 29, Issue 1, January 2016

"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: Mercy Must Precede Judgement

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

Vatican City (VIS) - This morning (December 8, 2015) at 9.30, in the presence of 60 thousand faithful in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The celebration preceded the opening of the Holy Door, the gesture with which the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy began. In his homily the Pope spoke about the fullness of grace as revealed in Mary, which is capable of transforming the heart. He described the Holy Year as a gift of grace that leads us to discover the depth of the Father's mercy and, finally, he recalled the other door opened to the world by the Vatican Council II fifty years ago, allowing the Church to encounter the men and women of our time.

The following is the full text of the homily:

"In a few moments I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door of Mercy. We carry out this act - as I did in Bangui - so simple yet so highly symbolic, in the light of the word of God which we have just heard. That word highlights the primacy of grace. Again and again these readings make us think of the words by which the angel Gabriel told an astonished young girl of the mystery which was about to enfold her: 'Hail, full of grace.'

The Virgin Mary was called to rejoice above all because of what the Lord accomplished in her. God's grace enfolded her and made her worthy of becoming the Mother of Christ. When Gabriel entered her home, even the most profound and impenetrable of mysteries became for her a cause for joy, a cause for faith, a cause for abandonment to the message revealed to her. The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception expresses the grandeur of God's love. Not only does he forgive sin, but in Mary he even averts the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world. This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves. The beginning of the history of sin in the Garden of Eden yields to a plan of saving love. The words of Genesis reflect our own daily experience: we are constantly tempted to disobedience, a disobedience expressed in wanting to go about our lives without regard for God's will. This is the enmity which keeps striking at people's lives, setting them in opposition to God's plan. Yet the history of sin can only be understood in the light of God's love and forgiveness. Sin can only be understood in this light. Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ's love enfolds everything in the Father's mercy. The word of God which we have just heard leaves no doubt about this. The Immaculate Virgin stands before us as a privileged witness of this promise and its fulfilment.

This Extraordinary Year is itself a gift of grace. To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. It is he who seeks us! It is he who comes to encounter us! This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God's mercy. How much wrong we do to God and His grace when we speak of sins being punished by His judgement before we speak of their being forgiven by His mercy! But that is the truth. We have to put mercy before judgement, and in any event God's judgement will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love, of tenderness. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things.

Today, here in Rome and in all the dioceses of the world, as we pass through the Holy Door, we also want to remember another door, which fifty years ago the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council opened to the world. This anniversary cannot be remembered only for the legacy of the Council's documents, which testify to a great advance in faith. Before all else, the Council was an encounter. A genuine encounter between the Church and the men and women of our time. An encounter marked by the power of the Spirit, who impelled the Church to emerge from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey. It was the resumption of a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces. Wherever there are people, the Church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel, and the mercy and forgiveness of God. After these decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm. The Jubilee challenges us to this openness, and demands that we not neglect the spirit which emerged from Vatican II, the spirit of the Samaritan, as Blessed Paul VI expressed it at the conclusion of the Council. May our passing through the Holy Door today commit us to making our own the mercy of the Good Samaritan."

Following the Holy Mass, the Pope, followed by the cardinals, bishops, and priests who participated in the rite, proceeded to the vestibule of the Basilica to open the Holy Door. First, he greeted and embraced Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, and then walked alone to the Door where he recited the words of Psalm 118: "Open to me the gates of justice."

Francis pushed against the Door with his hands until it opens and then prayed a moment before entering the Basilica. The Pope emeritus then entered, followed by the cardinals, bishops, religious, and laypeople, including some of Italy's most prominent political figures.

The Jubilee of Mercy is the first extraordinary Jubilee of the 21st century. In the 20th century Pius XI proclaimed a Holy Year in 1933 to commemorate the nineteenth centenary of the death of Christ, and Paul VI inaugurated another in 1966 that lasted five months, dedicated to the closure shortly beforehand of Vatican Council II. St. John Paul II convoked a Jubilee with the Bull "Aperite Portas Redemptori" the Holy Year of Redemption in 1983, for the 1950th anniversary of the Redemption.

Holy Year Opens In Africa

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

Vatican City (VIS) - "Today Bangui becomes the spiritual capital of the world. The Holy Year of Mercy comes in advance to this land. A land that has suffered for many years as a result of war, hatred, misunderstanding, and the lack of peace. But in this suffering land there are also all the countries that are experiencing the Cross of war," said Pope Francis yesterday afternoon in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Bangui, before opening the Holy Door and thus beginning the Jubilee Year of Mercy on November 30.

Bangui thus becomes, he continued, the spiritual capital of prayer for the Father's mercy. We all ask for peace, mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness, and love. For Bangui, and for all the Central African Republic, for all the world, for countries that suffer war, we ask for peace. Let us all ask together for love and peace!" he exclaimed, adding in the Sango language of the Central African Republic, "Doye Siriri! Love and peace!"

With this prayer he began the Holy Year following the rite for the opening of the Holy Door. "Open the doors of justice; this is the door of the Lord; I enter Your House, Lord," said Francis before entering first, alone, into the cathedral where he was awaited by the priests, men and women religious, and seminarians of the Central African Republic to participate in the Holy Mass. In his homily, the Pope reiterated that all, without exception, share in the "God's grace, alms of peace," and he made an fresh appeal to those who "make unjust use" of weapons: "Lay down these instruments of death. Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace."

The following is the full text of the homily pronounced by the Holy Father:

"On this first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season of joyful expectation of the Saviour and a symbol of Christian hope, God has brought me here among you, in this land, while the universal Church is preparing for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which we inaugurated here today. I am especially pleased that my pastoral visit coincides with the opening of this Jubilee Year in your country. From this cathedral I reach out, in mind and heart, and with great affection, to all the priests, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers of the nation, who are spiritually united with us at this moment. Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic: the sick, the elderly, those who have experienced life's pains. Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness. All of us are looking for God's grace, for the alms of peace.

"But like the Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, who had neither gold nor silver to give to the paralytic in need, I have come to offer God's strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to 'go across to the other side.'

"Jesus does not make us cross to the other side alone; instead, He asks us to make the crossing with Him, as each of us responds to his or her own specific vocation. We need to realize that making this crossing can only be done with Him, by freeing ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God's family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God's people, in accounting for the hope which is in us, in testifying to the infinite mercy of God who, as the Responsorial Psalm of this Sunday's liturgy makes clear, is 'good [and] instructs sinners in the way.' Jesus teaches us that our heavenly Father 'makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good.' Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn. This is our fundamental vocation: 'You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.'

"One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony. Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy. This is how we can help our brothers and sisters to 'cross to the other side' - by showing them the secret of our strength, our hope, and our joy, all of which have their source in God, for they are grounded in the certainty that He is in the boat with us. As He did with the apostles at the multiplication of the loaves, so too the Lord entrusts His gifts to us, so that we can go out and distribute them everywhere, proclaiming His reassuring words: 'Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.'

"In the readings of this Sunday's liturgy, we can see different aspects of this salvation proclaimed by God; they appear as signposts to guide us on our mission. First of all, the happiness promised by God is presented as justice. Advent is a time when we strive to open our hearts to receive the Saviour, Who alone is just and the sole Judge able to give to each his or her due. Here as elsewhere, countless men and women thirst for respect, for justice, for equality, yet see no positive signs on the horizon. These are the ones to whom He comes to bring the gift of His justice. He comes to enrich our personal and collective histories, our dashed hopes, and our sterile yearnings. And He sends us to proclaim, especially to those oppressed by the powerful of this world or weighed down by the burden of their sins, that 'Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it shall be called, The Lord is our righteousness.' Yes, God is righteousness; God is justice. This, then, is why we Christians are called in the world to work for a peace founded on justice.

"The salvation of God which we await is also flavored with love. In preparing for the mystery of Christmas, we relive the pilgrimage which prepared God's people to receive the Son, who came to reveal that God is not only righteousness, but also and above all love. In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice, and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God Who is love. In encouraging the priests, consecrated men and women, and committed laity who, in this country live, at times heroically, the Christian virtues, I realize that the distance between this demanding ideal and our Christian witness is at times great. For this reason I echo the prayer of St. Paul: 'Brothers and sisters, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men and women.' Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: 'See how they love one another, how they truly love one another.'

"Finally, the salvation proclaimed by God has an invincible power which will make it ultimately prevail. After announcing to His disciples the terrible signs that will precede His coming, Jesus concludes: 'When these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.' If St. Paul can speak of a love which 'grows and overflows,' it is because Christian witness reflects that irresistible power spoken of in the Gospel. It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show His great power, His incomparable glory, and the power of that love which stops at nothing, even before the falling of the heavens, the conflagration of the world, or the tumult of the seas. God is stronger, more powerful, than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage, and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be one of love and peace!

"To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace. As followers of Christ, dear priests, religious and lay pastoral workers, here in this country, with its suggestive name, situated in the heart of Africa and called to discover the Lord as the true center of all that is good, your vocation is to incarnate the very heart of God in the midst of your fellow citizens. May the Lord deign to 'strengthen your hearts in holiness, that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints,' Reconciliation, forgiveness, love, and peace! Amen."

Pope Francis: Hunger Threatens Many

Pope Francis sent a message on October 16 for World Food Day. The message was addressed to Professor Jose Graziano da Silva, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Pope's message follows:

"1. This day, on which the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is being celebrated, focuses on our many brothers and sisters who, despite their efforts, suffer from hunger and malnutrition. This is due first and foremost to the unfair distribution of the goods of the earth but also due to insufficient agricultural development. We are living in an epoch in which the unbridled search for profit, concentration on specific interests, and the effects of unjust policies hinder the implementation of actions within countries or prevent effective cooperation in the international community. In this regard much remains to be done to ensure food security, which for many people still appears to be a distant goal. This painful situation, Mr Director General, renders it even more urgent to return to the inspiration which led to the birth of this Organization, and demands that we find the necessary means to free humanity from hunger and to promote agricultural and farming enterprises that can satisfy the actual practical needs of the various parts of the globe.

"It is certainly an ambitious aim, but one which cannot be delayed and should be pursued with renewed determination in a world where the gap is widening between levels of wellbeing, revenue, consumption, access to health care assistance, and education, as well as with regard to a longer life expectancy. We are witnesses, often silent and paralyzed, of situations which cannot be exclusively related to economic phenomena, since inequality is increasingly the result of that culture which rejects and excludes so many of our brothers and sisters from social life, fails to take their abilities into account, and even deems their contribution to the life of the human family superfluous.

"The theme chosen for World Food Day this year: Social protection and agriculture - breaking the cycle of rural poverty is important. This is a problem that underscores our responsibility towards the two-thirds of the world population who lack even minimal social protection. This is rendered even more alarming by the fact that the majority of these people live in the most underprivileged countries where being poor is a discounted reality and the only source of survival is linked to meagre agricultural production, to small-scale fishing, or to small-scale livestock breeding.

"Indeed the lack of social protection weighs primarily on small farmers, breeders, fishermen, and forestry workers who are forced to live in a precarious situation, because the result of their work is largely dependent on environmental conditions over which they often have no control, and on a lack of the wherewithal to cope with bad harvests or to obtain the necessary technical means. Paradoxically, then, even when production is plentiful they run into serious difficulties regarding the transportation, sale, and preservation of the fruits of their labor.

"During my journeys and pastoral visits I have had numerous opportunities to listen to these people expressing their difficulties and it is natural that I should offer to be the spokesman of the serious concerns that they have confided to me. Their vulnerability, in fact, has very heavy repercussions on their personal and family lives, already burdened by so many trials and tribulations or by back-breaking days and with no time schedule, unlike what applies to other categories of workers.

"2. The condition of hungry and malnourished people shows that a generic appeal for cooperation or for the common good is not enough and we cannot stop at that. Perhaps a different question should be asked: is it still possible to conceive of a society whose resources are in the hands of the few which forces the least privileged to make do with no more than the crumbs?

"The answer cannot be limited to suitable proposals but rather must consist of the 'social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues' (Encyclical Laudato Si', n. 157). Indeed, both for people and communities, the lack of social protection is a negative factor in itself and cannot be seen only in terms of possible threats to public order, since the inequality concerns such fundamental factors as individual and collective wellbeing: for example, health, education, and participation in decision-making processes.

"I am thinking of the most destitute of people, of those who, because they lack social protection, suffer the negative consequences of the ongoing financial crisis, or of phenomena linked to corruption and mismanage-ment, as well as being affected by climate change that jeopardizes their food security. They are people, not numbers, and they ask for our support to be able to look to the future with a minimum of hope. They ask governments and international institutions to act swiftly, to do all they can in their respective fields of responsibility.

"Considering the rights of the hungry and accepting their aspirations means first of all expressing solidarity in practical actions, which require sharing and not only better management of social and financial risks or immediate help in the event of catastrophes and environ-mental crises. This is what is required of the FAO, of its decisions and initiatives and of the practical programs that are implemented in various places.

"This anthropological perspective, however, shows that social protection cannot be limited to an increase in revenue or reduced to an investment in means of subsistence for an improvement in agricultural productivity and the promotion of equitable economic development. It must be achieved within that 'social love' which is the key to genuine development (cf. ibid., n. 231). If its essentially human components are considered, social protection can give increased resilience to the most disadvantaged people, enabling them to face and surmount difficulties and setbacks and at the same time, it will lead everyone to understand the real meaning of the sustainable use of natural resources and full respect for our common home. I am thinking in particular of the role that social protection can fulfil in supporting the family, whose members learn from the outset the meaning of sharing, mutual help, and protection. Guaranteeing family life means promoting the financial development of women, thereby consolidating their role in society, as well as fostering care of the elderly and enabling the young to pursue scholastic and professional training in order to enter the world of work well prepared.

"3. It is not the Church's mission to address these problems directly from a technical standpoint. Nevertheless, the human aspects of these situations do not leave her indifferent. Creation and the goods of the earth are gifts of God bestowed upon all human beings who are at the same time their custodians and beneficiaries. For this reason these gifts are meant to be shared equitably by all. This demands the firm determination to face the injustices we meet with every day, particularly the most serious ones, those that offend human dignity and touch the very depths of our conscience. These are facts that do not permit Christians to abstain from actively contributing their professionalism, above all through the different forms of organization that do so much good in rural areas.

"In the face of difficulties, pessimism, and indifference cannot prevail. Despite the complexity of the problems, what has been achieved so far is already a cause of encouragement for the entire international community, due to its institutions and its courses of action. Among these I am thinking of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recently approved by the United Nations. I hope that the Agenda will not remain merely a set of rules and possible agreements. I trust that it will serve to inspire a different model of social protection, at both the international and national levels. Such will prevent it from being used to the advantage of interests that are contrary to human dignity, or that fail to fully respect life, that justify omissive attitudes that leave problems unresolved, and thereby aggravate situations of inequality.

"May each one, as far as he or she is able, give his or her best in a spirit of genuine service to others. In this effort the FAO's action will be fundamental, as long as it has at its disposal the necessary means to assure social protection within the framework of sustainable development and the advancement of all those who make their living by farming, raising livestock, fishing, and forestry.

"With these hopes I invoke upon you, Mr. Director General, and on all those engaged in this service to the human family, the Blessing of God, who is rich in mercy."

Nun Witnesses Through Cooking

by Michael Halm

"You and I must work for peace; it is a duty for us, for all people. The most powerful weapon for achieving peace is love, and loving for God."

~ Mother Teresa

Sr. Anita Torres won the "Thanksgiving Souper Stars" episode on the show "Chopped" on the Food Network. All four of the contestants were soup kitchen cooks. Thirty-year-old Sr. Anita is a member of the Franciscans of the Eucharist, having only professed in October.

Fr. Bob Lombardo, the director of Our Lady of the Angels mission in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Chicago's Westside, suggested she apply. It is located in what is considered a "food desert" with only convenience stores for the residents to choose from, rather that fresh food markets or grocery stores.

"This is an opportunity to highlight a major problem in our country," he says, "the fact that people are hungry and that there is food anxiety."

Fr. Bob was brought in by Cardinal Francis George in 2005 to help rebuild the Catholic presence in the neighborhood that had its church destroyed by fire. In 2010 he founded the Franciscans of the Eucharist as the support community for the mission.

"I think when you put in enough time and that famous "secret" ingredient, love," like St. Anita, he adds, "you put out a really good meal that people will enjoy."

Sr. Anita explains, "The Lord gave me this talent. I believe the kitchen is my canvas where I get to express myself creatively. When I cook, I want to share that love and I try to put care into everything that I make for every person that I serve."

"I am really greatful to the Food Network for making it a priority to have a show that highlights the work that people who work to serve the poor do. I wanted to do it for Jesus, to be a witness to how fulfilling a life surrendered to God can be. I also wanted to represent the least among us, the very poor, who are so dear to Jesus."

"The daily challenge to grow in holiness and serve my brothers and sisters in need," she says is a great blessing.

Being on the show was, she says, "a really good opportunity for all of those who are on the show, myself included, to kind of be a face or a witness or kind of spokesperson for the people that we serve and that we love."

"It's been a very humbling experience to share the freedom and joy of religious life on the show," she adds. "If we come together, brothers and sisters of people of good will, we can make a big difference."

"What it really is about is 'How can I be a good steward of everything coming in and make the most delicious meal possible with the ingredients we have right now?' "

"Not only is it an opportunity to be artistic, but even more importantly to show our deep gratitude to God and our benefactors for their generosity that sustains our life and our work."

Sr. Anita credited her spouse. "I felt His help and guidance. Perhaps being on national television and winning this competition will bring some attention to the issue of hunger and to the reality that God's love is so strong and so big. He can take this little nun from Chicago who never went to culinary school to compete. Literally nothing is impossible with God!"

As usual for the show they were all given an unusual collection of ingredients with which to work with and had to come up with servings in three different categories. One contestant was eliminated with each category.

For the appetizer category Sr. Anita created Mexican-style quesadillas. For the main entrée she made a Mediterranean-style curry turkey, sweet potato-cranberry hash with goat cheese and green bean sauce. She won with her dessert entry, pancakes with dark chocolate sauce and cranberry salsa.

"I've been told," she admits, "my out-side-the-box pesto, moving beyond the boundaries of pine-nuts to other, more economical nuts, and my picadillo, Spanish beef dish, are well done."

She also loves to bake strawberry-rhubarb pie, which was a favorite of Cardinal Francis George, who died earlier this year. The prize of ten thousand dollars was used to restock Our Lady of the Angel's pantry for the holidays. For Christmas they expect to serve 1,500 and distribute 1,200 Christmas gifts.

"We have an emphasis on satisfying not only physical hunger, but also spiritual hunger," she explains. "We begin any meal with a prayer service with a Liturgy of the Word format, as most of our neighbors are not Catholic, but Baptist. Keeping God's Word at the center helps us to stay united. I think, many people are attracted by the joy the sisters have and it makes them wonder if that joy is possible for them too."

The mission also serves 900 youth in their after-school program and summer Bible school. They serve 30 or more seniors with computer class, Bible study, lunch, and exercise. Another Franciscan of the Eucharist Sr. Stephanie's recent Olympic trial was covered in the Wall St. Journal and Runner's World.

Prison To Praise

Thank You, Lord!

by Cliff Smith

(Editor note: Mr. Smith writes from California. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)

"Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for men, since you know full well you will receive an inheritance from Him as your reward. Be slaves of Christ the Lord."

(Col 3:23-24)

I give thanks to the Lord for waiting on me.

Even if I had an addiction for sin.

The world I lived in was dark and hidden.

I lived for the dream ...

I give thanks to the Lord for re-shaping me.

I was living as I had no future.

With no sense of direction, I was lost in dismay.

I had an addiction for self-gratification.

I was filled with "me!"

I give thanks to the Lord for teaching me how to pray;

to put my life in His hand as He listened to me.

Living on the edge was my life.

Choices made usually wrong.

I give thanks to the Lord for giving me a reason and a

purpose to love.

What love is ... My heart is now soft and free of sin,

Now I walk in the light of our Lord

And sin is not there.

I know the Lord is the way, and I give Thanks to the Lord.

Pope Details African Trip

(This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)

Vatican City (VIS) - The catechesis of today's (December 2, 2015) Wednesday general audience was dedicated to the Holy Father's apostolic trip to Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic from November 25 to 30. "How beautiful Africa is!" he said, before explaining the details of the trip to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The first country he visited, Kenya, "is a country that represents very well the global challenge of our time: protecting creation while reforming the model of development, so that it may be equitable, inclusive and sustainable," he said. "All this is reflected in Nairobi, the largest city in East Africa, where wealth and poverty coexist. But this is a scandal! Not only in Africa: even here, everywhere. The coexistence of wealth and poverty is a scandal, it brings shame upon humanity."

The Pope recalled that on many occasions he encouraged Kenyans to cherish the great wealth of their country: their natural and spiritual wealth, made up of the resources of the land, the new generations, and the values that form the wisdom of the people. In this context, so dramatically relevant today, I had the joy of bringing the Jesus' Word of hope: be firm in faith, do not be afraid. This was the motto of the visit. A word that is lived every day by many humble and simple people, with noble dignity; a word that was demonstrated tragically and heroically by the young people of the University of Garissa, killed on April 2 because they were Christians. Their blood is the seed of peace and fraternity for Kenya, for Africa, and for the whole world."

In Uganda, the second country, the fiftieth anniversary of the canonization of the nation's martyrs by Blessed Paul VI set the tone for the visit. "For this, the motto was, 'You will be my witnesses.' ... The entire visit to Uganda took place in the fervour of witness animated by the Holy Spirit. Witness in the explicit sense of the service of catechists ... the witness of charity ... that involves many communities and associations in service to the poorest, the disabled, and the sick. There was witness of the young who, in spite of difficulties, safeguard the gift of hope and seek to live according to the Gospel and not according to the world, thus going against the grain. There was the witness of the priests and consecrated persons who day by day renew their total 'yes' to Christ and devote themselves with joy to the service of God's holy people... All this multiform witness, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is a leaven for all society, as is shown by the effective work carried out in Uganda in the battle against AIDS and in the welcome to refugees."

The third stage in the Pope's trip was the Central African Republic, the geographical heart of the continent, the heart of Africa. "This visit was in reality the first in my intentions, as it is a country that is trying to come out of a very difficult period, of violent conflicts and great suffering among the population. For this reason I wanted to open there, in Bangui, a week ahead of time, the Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy, as a sign of faith and hope for the people, and symbolically for all the African peoples who are most in need of redemption and consolation."

Christ's invitation to His disciples - to go over to the other side - was the theme of this leg of the journey. "Passing to the other side, in the civil sense, means leaving behind war, divisions and poverty, and choosing peace, reconciliation, development. But this presupposes a 'passage' that takes place in the conscience, in the attitudes and intentions of the people. And at this level, the contribution of religious communities is decisive. For this reason I met with the Evangelical and the Muslim communities, sharing in prayer and commitment to peace... And finally, in the final Mass in the Bangui stadium ... we renewed our commitment to following Jesus, our hope, our peace, the face of Divine Mercy. This final Mass was marvellous: it was full of young people, a stadium full of the young! Half the population of the Central African Republic is less than eighteen years old; a promise for the future."

The Pope also spoke about missionaries, "the men and women who left their homeland, when they were young, leading a life of work, at times sleeping on the ground." Francis mentioned that when he was in Bangui he met an Italian religious sister aged 81, who had been in Africa since she was 24, and had come to Bangui from her home in nearby Congo by canoe, accompanied by a child. "This is how missionaries are: brave," he said. She was a nurse who then became a midwife, and had delivered 3,280 babies. "All a life, spent for life, for the life of others. And there are many more like her, many: nuns, priests, men and women religious who spend their life proclaiming Jesus."

"I would like to say a word to the young," he concluded. "Think about what you do with your lifes. Think about that religious sister and the many others like her, who have given their lives, and so many others like her have died there. Being a missionary is not about proselytism: she told me that Muslim women came to her because they knew that religious sisters were good nurses who cure well, without giving catechesis to convert them! Bearing witness: then offering catechesis to those who want it. Witness is the great heroic missionary act of the Church. Announcing Jesus Christ with your own life. I ask the young: think about what you want to do with your life. It is the moment to think and ask the Lord to let you hear His will. But do not exclude, please, this possibility of becoming a missionary, to take love, humanity, and faith to other countries. Not to proselytize: no. Those who do that are seeking something else. Faith is preached first in witness and then in words. Slowly."

Join God's Great Welcoming Committee

by Leiann Spontaneo

Bob Jacks and Matthew R. Jacks, with Pam Mellskog in Divine Appointments state that if you have accepted Jesus Christ you can trust that the Holy Spirit hovers in and round you at all times. He's got big plans for each day that go beyond earning a living, caring for your family, and enjoying leisure time. The Holy Spirit appoints each of us to God's great welcoming committee.

Following plainclothes believers must remain transparent in every area of daily life - from marketplace interactions to the relationships developing under their own roof. Let those who know you see Christ in you, warts and all.

Next, getting equipped also involves recognizing spiritual warfare. Building a spiritual team is like building a baseball team. You don't want all catchers or all pitchers. The same with your spiritual team. You will have the best chance at success if you have a team of people with these gifts: hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and faith. We are, therefore, Christ's ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us.

Finally, sharing the uncommon love of Christ raises eyebrows, turns heads. However, like it or not, the heartbreakers will help you identify more deeply with the Man of Sorrows. If you embrace the richness of your blessing and mix that with 24/7 availability - look out! You may have to quit your day job because God's going to keep you busy.

Light to the Nations

(A Christian Perspective on World News)

Be Beacons Of God's Mercy

Vatican City, 9 December 2015 (VIS) - Pope Francis dedicated today's general audience, the first of the Holy Year, to explaining why he convoked a Jubilee of Mercy. "The Church needs this extraordinary moment", he explained. "In our time of profound change, the Church is called upon to offer her special contribution, making visible the signs of God's presence and closeness. And the Jubilee is a propitious time for all, as contemplating Divine Mercy, that exceeds all human limits and shines onto the darkness of sin, we can be surer and more effective witnesses".

"Celebrating a Jubilee of Mercy means restoring the specifics of Christian faith to the center of our personal life and of our communities. … This Holy Year is offered to us so that we are able to experience in our life the sweet and gentle touch of God's forgiveness, His presence next to us and His closeness, especially in our moments of greatest need. … This Jubilee is therefore a special moment for the Church to learn to choose solely 'what God likes the most'. … Forgiving His children, having mercy on them, so that they can in turn forgive their brethren, to shine like beacons of God's mercy in the world. … The Jubilee will be a propitious moment for the Church if we learn to choose what God likes the most, without giving in to the temptation to think that there is something else more important or that takes priority. Nothing is more important than choosing what God likes most, His mercy".

"The necessary work of renewing institutions and structures of the Church is also a way that can lead us to a more lively and life-giving experience of God's mercy that alone can ensure that the Church is that city on the mount that cannot remain hidden. If we should forget, even for just a moment, that mercy is what God likes the most, all our efforts would be in vain, as we would become slaves to our institutions and our structures, no matter how reformed they may be".

The Pope emphasized that the Church's aim during this Holy Year is to "strongly feel the joy of being found by Jesus, Who like the Good Shepherd has come in search of us as we were lost. … In this way we strengthen in ourselves our certainty that mercy can truly contribute to building a more human world. Especially in these times of ours, in which forgiveness is a rare guest in the circles of human life, the call for mercy becomes more urgent, and this is true in all places: in society, in institutions, at work and in the family".

Before concluding, he commented that while there appear to be many other needs more urgent than that of mercy, at the root of the negation of mercy there is always self-love, "which results in the pursuit of self-interest and the accumulation of honors, riches or worldliness. There are so many manifestations of self-love, "that make mercy foreign to the world" that often we are not even able to recognize them as limitations and sins. He concluded, "we must recognize that we are sinners, so as to strengthen our certainty of divine mercy".

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

pope honors mary

Vatican City (VIS) - On December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Father went to Piazza di Spagna where he performed the traditional act of veneration below the statue of Mary Immaculate crowning the Roman marble column com-memorating the proclamation of the dogma by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854.

Continuing a tradition established by St. John XXIII in 1958, Francis left a floral tribute at the foot of the column and, accompanied by thousands of faithful led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, recited a prayer to the Virgin that he had composed himself, the full text of which is published below:

"Virgin Mother, on this day, the feast of your Immaculate Conception, I pay homage to you in faith and love on behalf of God's holy people who live in this city and diocese. I come before you in the name of families, with their joys and troubles; on behalf of children and young people, exposed to life's challenges; on behalf of the elderly, laden with age and years of experience. I come especially on behalf of the sick, the imprisoned, and those who struggle. As a leader I also come here for the sake of all those who have come from faraway lands in search of peace and work."

There is space for everyone beneath your mantel, because you are the Mother of Mercy. Your heart is full of tenderness towards all your children: the tenderness of God, who, by you, became incarnate and became our brother, Jesus, Savior of every man and every woman. Looking at you, Our Immaculate Mother, we see the victory of divine mercy over sin and all its consequences; and hope for a better life is reignited within us, free from slavery, rancor, and fear.

Here, today, in the heart of Rome, we hear your motherly voice calling all of us to walk towards that door, which represents Christ. You say to everyone: "Come, come closer, faithful ones; enter and receive the gift of mercy; do not be afraid, do not be ashamed: the Father awaits you with open arms. He will forgive and welcome you into his house. Come, all those in search of peace and joy."

"We thank you, Immaculate Mother, because you do not make us walk along this path alone; you guide us, you are near us, and help us through every difficulty. May God bless you, now and forever. Amen."

After his homage to the statue of Mary Immaculate, the Pope greeted those present and, as his final act on the first day of the Holy Year of Mercy, he transferred to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the image of Mary "Salus Populi Romani," where he was awaited by a large crowd. As he left for the Vatican, the bells of the Basilica, whose Holy Door he will open on January 1, 2016, rang in celebration.

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

global agreement needed

Vatican City (VIS) - Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke November 30 at the opening of the 21st Conference of States Parties to the Convention COP 21, held in Paris from November 30 to December 11. After communicating Pope Francis' greetings and encouragement to the participants in the hope of a fruitful outcome, the Cardinal mentioned the Holy Father's address to the United Nations Office at Nairobi on November 26, when he expressed his hope that the Paris conference result in the adoption of a "global and transformational" agreement, based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality, and participation, orientated towards the attainment of three complex and interdependent objectives: mitigating the effects of climate change, combating poverty, and promoting the dignity of the human person.

He went on to list the three pillars of this "global and transformational" agreement. "The first consists in the adoption of a clear ethical orientation, inspiring the motivations and aims of the Agreement to be implemented. We are well aware that the people most vulnerable to the impact of the phenomenon of climate change are the poorest and future generations, who suffer the gravest consequences, often without bearing any responsibility... Faced with the urgency of a situation that requires the broadest collaboration possible so as to reach a common plan, it is important that this Agreement be focused on the recognition both of the ethical imperative to act in a context of global solidarity, and of the common but differentiated responsibilities of all actors in accordance with their respective capacities and conditions."

"The second pillar regards the fact that the Agreement should not only identify the methods for its implementation, but should also and above all transmit clear signs to guide the behavior of all the actors involved, beginning with governments, but also local authorities, the world of business, the scientific community, and civil society... This necessitates undertaking with conviction the road towards a low-carbon economy and full human development... In this regard, the countries with greater resources and capacities should set a good example, contributing resources to those countries in greater need so as to promote sustainable development policies and programs. For instance, the promotion of renewable energy and dematerialization, as well as the development of energy efficiency, come to mind, or the correct management of forests, transport, and waste; the development of a circular model for the economy; the implementation of appropriate, sustainable, and diversified programs for food safety and to combat food waste; strategies against speculation and ineffective or indeed at times harmful subsidies; and the development and transfer of suitable technologies."

The third and final pillar is the vision of the future. "COP 21 is not a moment of arrival or a starting point, but rather a crucial path in a process that without doubt will not end in 2015," emphasized Cardinal Parolin. "An agreement with a long term perspective of this type should provide for processes for the revision of commitments and transparent, effective and dynamic follow-ups, able to progressively increase the level of ambition, as well as to guarantee suitable control. Furthermore, it is necessary to take into serious consideration the implementation of sustainable models of production and consumption, new attitudes, and new lifestyles. Here we enter the fundamental fields of education and training, unfortunately often situated at the margins of negotiations for international agreements. Technical solutions are necessary, but they are not enough if they do not consider education in sustainable life styles and responsible awareness."

(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 the holy year of mercy will be very fruitful with many conversions.
  • We pray that we will be peacemakers.
  • We pray that we will share with others and for an end to hunger.
  • We pray for God's wisdom in caring for all creation.
  • We pray for an end to wars, violence, and terrorism.
  • We pray for migrants and refugees to be welcomed with love and to contribute to their new communities.
  • We pray for progress in achieving Christian unity.
  • We pray for an end to abortion, euthanasia, and all attacks on life.
  • We pray for the victory of the civilization of life and love over the culture of death.
  • We pray for all prisoners to love Jesus, give their lives to Him, and be witnesses for life.
  • We pray that we will share the Gospel with all we meet.
  • We pray for all families through the intercession of the Holy Family.

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Copyright © 2016 Presentation Ministries
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Cincinnati, OH 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378

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



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