"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
|"For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." - St. Therese de Lisieux|
Mission Sunday will be celebrated on October 16. This year the focus is on mission and mercy. Pope Francis issued his message for the day on May 15, Pentecost Sunday. The message, titled "Missionary Church, Witness of Mercy," follows:
"... The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which the Church is celebrating, casts a distinct light on World Mission Sunday 2016: it invites us to consider the missio ad gentes as a great, immense work of mercy, both spiritual and material. On this World Mission Sunday, all of us are invited to 'go out' as missionary disciples, each generously offering their talents, creativity, wisdom, and experience in order to bring the message of God's tenderness and compassion to the entire human family. By virtue of the missionary mandate, the Church cares for those who do not know the Gospel, because she wants everyone to be saved and to experience the Lord's love. She 'is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel' (Misericordiae Vultus, 12) and to proclaim mercy in every corner of the world, reaching every person, young or old.
"When mercy encounters a person, it brings deep joy to the Father's heart; for from the beginning the Father has lovingly turned towards the most vulnerable, because His greatness and power are revealed precisely in His capacity to identify with the young, the marginalized, and the oppressed (cf. Deut 4:31; Ps 86:15; 103:8; 111:4). He is a kind, caring, and faithful God who is close to those in need, especially the poor; He involves Himself tenderly in human reality just as a father and mother do in the lives of their children (cf. Jer 31:20). When speaking of the womb, the Bible uses the word that signifies mercy: therefore it refers to the love of a mother for her children, whom she will always love, in every circumstance and regardless of what happens, because they are the fruit of her womb. This is also an essential aspect of the love that God has for all His children, whom He created and whom He wants to raise and educate; in the face of their weaknesses and infidelity, His heart is overcome with compassion (cf. Hos 11:8). He is merciful towards all; His love is for all people and His compassion extends to all creatures (cf. Ps 144:8-9).
"Mercy finds its most noble and complete expression in the Incarnate Word. Jesus reveals the face of the Father who is rich in mercy; He 'speaks of [mercy] and explains it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all He Himself makes it incarnate and personifies it' (John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, 2). When we welcome and follow Jesus by means of the Gospel and sacraments, we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, become merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful; we can learn to love as He loves us and make of our lives a free gift, a sign of His goodness (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 3). The Church, in the midst of humanity, is first of all the community that lives by the mercy of Christ: she senses His gaze and feels He has chosen her with His merciful love. It is through this love that the Church discovers its mandate, lives it, and makes it known to all peoples through a respectful dialogue with every culture and religious belief.
"This merciful love, as in the early days of the Church, is witnessed to by many men and women of every age and condition. The considerable and growing presence of women in the missionary world, working alongside their male counterparts, is a significant sign of God's maternal love. Women, lay, and religious, and today even many families, carry out their missionary vocation in various forms: from announcing the Gospel to charitable service. Together with the evangelizing and sacramental work of missionaries, women and families often more adequately understand people's problems and know how to deal with them in an appropriate and, at times, fresh way: in caring for life, with a strong focus on people rather than structures, and by allocating human and spiritual resources towards the building of good relations, harmony, peace, solidarity, dialogue, cooperation, and fraternity, both among individuals and in social and cultural life, in particular through care for the poor.
"In many places evangelization begins with education, to which missionary work dedicates much time and effort, like the merciful vine-dresser of the Gospel (cf. Lk 13:7-9; Jn 15:1), patiently waiting for fruit after years of slow cultivation; in this way they bring forth a new people able to evangelize, who will take the Gospel to those places where it otherwise would not have been thought possible. The Church can also be defined as 'mother' for those who will one day have faith in Christ. I hope, therefore, that the holy people of God will continue to exercise this maternal service of mercy, which helps those who do not yet know the Lord to encounter and love Him. Faith is God's gift and not the result of proselytizing; rather it grows thanks to the faith and charity of evangelizers who witness to Christ. As they travel through the streets of the world, the disciples of Jesus need to have a love without limits, the same measure of love that our Lord has for all people. We proclaim the most beautiful and greatest gifts that He has given us: His life and His love.
"All peoples and cultures have the right to receive the message of salvation which is God's gift to every person. This is all the more necessary when we consider how many injustices, wars, and humanitarian crises still need resolution. Missionaries know from experience that the Gospel of forgiveness and mercy can bring joy and reconciliation, justice, and peace. The mandate of the Gospel to 'go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you' (Mt 28:19-20) has not ceased; rather this command commits all of us, in the current landscape with all its challenges, to hear the call to a renewed missionary 'impulse,' as I noted in my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: 'Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey His call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the "peripheries" in need of the light of the Gospel' (20).
This Jubilee year marks the 90th anniversary of World Missionary Day, first approved by Pope Pius XI in 1926 and organized by the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. It is appropriate then to recall the wise instructions of my Predecessors who ordered that to this Society be destined all the offerings collected in every diocese, parish, religious community, association, and ecclesial movement throughout the world for the care of Christian communities in need and for supporting the proclamation of the Gospel even to the ends of the earth. Today too we believe in this sign of missionary ecclesial communion. Let us not close our hearts within our own particular concerns, but let us open them to all of humanity.
"May Holy Mary, sublime icon of redeemed humanity, model of missionaries for the Church, teach all men, women and families, to foster and safeguard the living and mysterious presence of the Risen Lord in every place, He who renews personal relationships, cultures, and peoples, and who fills all with joyful mercy."
People throughout the world celebrated the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1. Pope Francis' message for the day, titled "Show Mercy to our Common Home" follows:
United with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, and with the support of other Churches and Christian communities, the Catholic Church today marks the "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation." This Day offers "individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which He has entrusted to our care, and to implore His help for the protection of creation as well as His pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live." 
It is most encouraging that concern for the future of our planet is shared by the Churches and Christian communities, together with other religions. Indeed, in past decades numerous efforts have been made by religious leaders and organizations to call public attention to the dangers of an irresponsible exploitation of our planet. Here I would mention Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople who, like his predecessor Patriarch Dimitrios, has long spoken out against the sin of harming creation and has drawn attention to the moral and spiritual crisis at the root of environmental problems. In response to a growing concern for the integrity of creation, the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu in 2007 proposed celebrating a "Time for Creation" during the five weeks between September 1 (the Orthodox commemoration of God's creation) and October 4 (the commemoration of Francis of Assisi in the Catholic Church and some other Western traditions). This initiative, supported by the World Council of Churches, has since inspired many ecumenical activities in different parts of the world. It is also encouraging that throughout the world similar initiatives promoting environmental justice, concern for the poor, and responsible social commitment have been bringing together people, especially young people, from diverse religious backgrounds. Christians or not, as people of faith and goodwill, we should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common home and cherishing the world in which we live as a place for sharing and communion.
1. The earth cries out ...
With this Message, I renew my dialogue with "every person living on this planet" (Laudato Si', 3) about the sufferings of the poor and the devastation of the environment. God gave us a bountiful garden, but we have turned it into a polluted wasteland of "debris, desolation, and filth" (ibid., 161). We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behavior. "Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right" (ibid., 33).
Global warming continues, due in part to human activity: 2015 was the warmest year on record, and 2016 will likely be warmer still. This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires, and extreme weather events. Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world's poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact.
As an integral ecology emphasizes, human beings are deeply connected with all of creation. When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings. At the same time, each creature has its own intrinsic value that must be respected. Let us hear "both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" (Laudato Si', 49), and do our best to ensure an appropriate and timely response.
2. ... for we have sinned
God gave us the earth "to till and to keep" (Gen 2:15) in a balanced and respectful way. To till too much, to keep too little, is to sin.
My brother, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has courageously and prophetically continued to point out our sins against creation. "For human beings... to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life - these are sins." Further, "to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God."
In the light of what is happening to our common home, may the present Jubilee of Mercy summon the Christian faithful "to profound interior conversion" (Laudato Si', 217), sustained particularly by the sacrament of Penance. During this Jubilee Year, let us learn to implore God's mercy for those sins against creation that we have not hitherto acknowledged and confessed. Let us likewise commit ourselves to taking concrete steps towards ecological conversion, which requires a clear recognition of our responsibility to ourselves, our neighbors, creation, and the Creator (ibid., 10 and 229).
3. An examination of conscience and repentance
The first step in this process is always an examination of conscience, which involves "gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God's loving gift, and that we are called quietly to imitate his generosity in self-sacrifice and good works... It also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion. As believers, we do not look at the world from without but from within, conscious of the bonds with which the Father has linked us to all beings" (Laudato Si', 220).
Turning to this bountiful and merciful Father who awaits the return of each of His children, we can acknowledge our sins against creation, the poor and future generations. "Inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage," we are called to acknowledge "our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation." This is the first step on the path of conversion.
In 2000, also a Jubilee Year, my predecessor Saint John Paul II asked Catholics to make amends for past and present religious intolerance, as well as for injustice towards Jews, women, indigenous peoples, immigrants, the poor, and the unborn. In this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I invite everyone to do likewise. As individuals, we have grown comfortable with certain lifestyles shaped by a distorted culture of prosperity and a "disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary" (Laudato Si', 123), and we are participants in a system that "has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature." Let us repent of the harm we are doing to our common home.
After a serious examination of conscience and moved by sincere repentance, we can confess our sins against the Creator, against creation, and against our brothers and sisters. "The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents the confessional as the place where the truth makes us free." We know that "God is greater than our sin," than all our sins, including those against the environment. We confess them because we are penitent and desire to change. The merciful grace of God received in the sacrament will help us to do so.
4. Changing course
Examining our consciences, repentance and confession to our Father who is rich in mercy lead to a firm purpose of amendment. This in turn must translate into concrete ways of thinking and acting that are more respectful of creation. For example: "avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices" (Laudato Si', 211). We must not think that these efforts are too small to improve our world. They "call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread" and encourage "a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption" (ibid., 212, 222).
In the same way, the resolve to live differently should affect our various contributions to shaping the culture and society in which we live. Indeed, "care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together and communion" (Laudato Si', 228). Economics and politics, society and culture cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains. Instead, they urgently need to be redirected to the common good, which includes sustainability and care for creation.
One concrete case is the "ecological debt" between the global north and south (cf. Laudato Si', 51-2). Repaying it would require treating the environments of poorer nations with care and providing the financial resources and technical assistance needed to help them deal with climate change and promote sustainable development.
The protection of our common home requires a growing global political consensus. Along these lines, I am gratified that in September 2015 the nations of the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, and that, in December 2015, they approved the Paris Agreement on climate change, which set the demanding yet fundamental goal of halting the rise of the global temperature. Now governments are obliged to honor the commitments they made, while businesses must also responsibly do their part. It is up to citizens to insist that this happen, and indeed to advocate for even more ambitious goals.
Changing course thus means "keeping the original commandment to preserve creation from all harm, both for our sake and for the sake of our fellow human beings." A single question can keep our eyes fixed on the goal: "What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?" (Laudato Si', 160).
5. A new work of mercy
"Nothing unites us to God more than an act of mercy, for it is by mercy that the Lord forgives our sins and gives us the grace to practice acts of mercy in his name."
To paraphrase Saint James, "we can say that mercy without works is dead ... In our rapidly changing and increasingly globalized world, many new forms of poverty are appearing. In response to them, we need to be creative in developing new and practical forms of charitable outreach as concrete expressions of the way of mercy."
The Christian life involves the practice of the traditional seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy. "We usually think of the works of mercy individually and in relation to a specific initiative: hospitals for the sick, soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, schools for those to be educated, the confessional and spiritual direction for those needing counsel and forgiveness... But if we look at the works of mercy as a whole, we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces."
Obviously "human life itself and everything it embraces" includes care for our common home. So let me propose a complement to the two traditional sets of seven: may the works of mercy also include care for our common home.
As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a "grateful contemplation of God's world" (Laudato Si', 214) which "allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us" (ibid., 85). As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires "simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness" and "makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world" (ibid., 230-31).
6. In conclusion, let us pray
Despite our sins and the daunting challenges before us, we never lose heart. "The Creator does not abandon us; He never forsakes His loving plan or repents of having created us... for He has united Himself definitively to our earth, and His love constantly impels us to find new ways forward" (Laudato Si', 13; 245). In a particular way, let us pray on September 1, and indeed throughout the year:
"O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth,
who are so precious in Your eyes...
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of Your love
for all the creatures of this earth" (ibid., 246),
God of mercy, may we receive Your forgiveness
and convey Your mercy throughout our common home.
Praise be to You!
 Letter for the Establishment of the "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation" (August 6, 2015).
 Address in Santa Barbara, California (November 8, 1997).
 Bartholomew I, Message for the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation (September 1, 2012).
 Address to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia (July 9, 2015).
 Third Meditation, Retreat during the Jubilee for Priests, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Rome (June 2, 2016).
 General Audience of March 30, 2016.
 Bartholomew I, Message for the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation, January 9, 1997.
 First Meditation, Retreat during the Jubilee for Priests, Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Rome (June 2, 2016).
 General Audience of June 30, 2016.
 The corporal works of mercy are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, burying the dead. The spiritual works of mercy are counselling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, consoling the afflicted, forgiving offenses, bearing patiently those who do us ill, praying for the living and the dead.
 Third Meditation, Retreat for the Jubilee for Priests, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Rome (June 2, 2016).
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops
September 5, 2016
In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
- Psalm 90:1
This Labor Day, we draw our attention to our sisters and brothers who face twin crisesâ€”deep trials in both the world of work and the state of the family. These challenging times can pull us toward despair and all the many dangers that come with it. Into this reality, the Church shares a word of hope, directing hearts and minds to the dignity of each human person and the sanctity of work itself, which is given by God. She seeks to replace desperation and isolation with human concern and true solidarity, reaffirming the trust in a good and gracious God who knows what we need before we ask him (Mt. 6:8).
A World of Work in Disarray
We behold signs that have become too familiar in the years following the Great Recession: stagnant wages, industry leaving towns and cities behind, and the sharp decline in the rate of private-sector organized labor, which fell by more than two-thirds between 1973 and 2009 down to 7%. Millions of families still find themselves living in poverty, unable to work their way out. Poverty rates among children are alarmingly high, with almost 40 percent of American children spending at least one year in poverty before they turn eighteen. Although this reality is felt nation-wide, this year new research has emerged showing the acute pain of middle and rural America in the wake of the departure of industry. Once the center of labor and the promise of family-sustaining wages, research shows these communities collapsing today, substance abuse on the rise, and an increase in the number of broken families.
Family in Crisis
The family is bent under the weight of these economic pressures and related cultural problems. Pope Francis, at the conclusion of his address to Congress last September, spoke of the consequences for families:
How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! ... In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.1
Economic and political forces have led to increasingly lowered economic prospects for Americans without access to higher education, which is having a direct impact on family health and stability. For example, over half of parents between the ages of 26 and 31 now have children outside of a marriage, and research shows a major factor is the lack of middle-skill jobs - careers by which someone can sustain a family above the poverty line without a college degree - in regions with high income inequality. Divorce rates and the rate of single-parent households break down along similar educational and economic lines. Financial concerns and breakdowns in family life can lead to a sense of hopelessness and despair. The Rust Belt region now appears to have the highest concentration in the nation of drug-related deaths, including from overdoses of heroin and prescription drugs.
The Church weeps with all of these families, with these children, whose homes and worlds are broken. As Pope Francis has said: "There are many unjust situations, but we know that God is suffering with us, experiencing them at our side. He does not abandon us. Jesus not only wanted to show solidarity with every person. He not only wanted everyone to experience his companionship, his help, his love. He identified with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice. He says this clearly: 'I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me.' (Mt. 25:35)."2
"So That They May All Be One" - John 17:21
When we begin to look for answers to these realities, we gain less confidence from many of our political leaders these days. Instead of dialogue and constructive solutions that bring people together, we see increasing efforts to divide as a means to gain support. But more divisions are never the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:19-21). When our leaders ought to be calling us toward a vision of the common good that lifts the human spirit and seeks to soothe our tendencies toward fear, we find our insecurities exploited as a means to further partisan agendas. Our leaders must never use anxiety as a means to manipulate persons in desperate situations, or to pit one group of persons against another for political gain. For our dynamics to change, we must replace fear with a fuller vision that can be powerfully supported by our faith.
The Good News is Still Good
Jesus said: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Mt. 11:28-30). Let us begin by going to the Lord, laying our burdens at the foot of His cross and giving over our hearts that we might find rest.
Pope Francis paints a picture of a lasting answer to the growing isolation and desperation that we see all around us. To counter hopelessness, he tells us that the Christian community gets involved "by word and deed in people's daily lives; it bridges distances ... and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others."3 In the face of endless, hectic activity and self-concern, the Church "is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance," as well as "patience and disregard for constraints of time."4 The kind of encounter that we offer can be transformative, fill others with a sense of their God-given dignity, and help them to know they are not alone in their struggles. The Church's history is filled with communities that took seriously the call to be their "brother's keeper" (Gen. 4:9), faced challenges together, and lifted up the "cry of the poor" (Psalm 34:7). For those who feel left behind today, know that the Church wants to walk with you, in the company of the God who formed your "inmost being" and who knows that you are "wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:13-14).
Dignified work is at the heart of our efforts because we draw insight into who we are as human beings from it. Saint John Paul II reminded us that human labor is an essential key to understanding our social relationships, vital to family formation and the building up of community according to our God-given dignity. He wrote "... man's life is built up every day from work, from work it derives its specific dignity."5 We know work has dignity because Jesus "devoted most of the years of his life on earth to manual work at the carpenter's bench. This circumstance constitutes in itself the most eloquent 'Gospel of work,' showing that the basis for determining the value of human work is not primarily the kind of work being done but the fact that the one who is doing it is a person."6 Poverty therefore appears "as a result of the violation of the dignity of human work: either because the opportunities for human work are limited as a result of the scourge of unemployment, or because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family."7
In our call to rebuild community on a firmer foundation, we must rely upon the sister principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. Solidarity recognizes that each of us is connected, and that we all have the responsibility to care for one another, particularly those who are poor and vulnerable. The principle of subsidiarity recognizes that issues facing human beings should be addressed at the appropriate level of society with the capacity to do so, and often in concert with others.
The first response, then, is local, to look to our neighbors in need, our brothers and sisters who may be without sufficient work for their families, and offer them help. That help may take the form of food, money, counsel, friendship, spiritual support or other forms of love and kindness. We ought to expect this kind of engagement from Christians in the midst of our difficulties, and we should pray to find ways to provide it as members of the Church. If you are an employer, you are called to respect the dignity of your workers through a just wage and working conditions that allow for a secure family life.
As we engage with our neighbors and our communities, we quickly find ways to deepen solidarity in a broader way, and to act on the structures and policies that impact meaningful work and family stability. The mystical body of Christ is alive across our nation and world, and our response in Christ looks to our larger society as well. "Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also 'macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones.' "8 Simply put, we must advocate for jobs and wages that truly provide a dignified life for individuals and their families, and for working conditions that are safe and allow for a full flourishing of life outside of the workplace. Unions and worker associations, while imperfect, remain an essential part of the effort, and people of faith and goodwill can be powerful leaven to ensure that these groups, so important in society, continue to keep human dignity at the heart of their efforts.
As the fruits of solidarity and our care for one another increase, as we begin to make real impacts toward policies that help individuals begin stable families and live in accord with their dignity, the tired paradigm that fuels our national politics will be challenged. As Pope Francis has written "[e]very economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one's own human potential."9 With time, we will begin to restore a sense of hope and lasting change that places our economic and political systems at the service of the human person once more.
Let us always remember in these difficult times the Lord's offer of "rest" for "all you who labor and are burdened." As Pope Francis writes, the Sabbath Day "proclaims 'man's eternal rest in God.'"10 As we advocate for all who are struggling to find sufficient work that honors their dignity, we should also affirm in society the need of all people to rest, and finally to "rest in God." In times of restlessness and discouragement, let us recall the beautiful prayer of St. Augustine, who wrote: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."
There is much to be done! Let us go forth with the hopeful expectation of the Psalmist:
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:14-17)
1 Pope Francis, Address to U.S. Congress, September 24, 2015.
2 Pope Francis, Address to St. Patrick in the City, Washington, DC, September 24, 2015.
3 Evangelii Gaudium, no. 24.
5 Laborem Exercens, no. 1.
6 Laborem Exercens, no. 6.
7 Laborem Exercens, no. 8.
8 Laudato Si, no. 231, quoting Caritas in Veritate, no. 2.
9 Pope Francis, Letter to H.E. Mr David Cameron, British Prime Minister, on the Occasion of the G8 Meeting (17-18 June 2013)
10 Laudato Si, no. 237, quoting Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2175.
(Editor's note: This statement is reprinted with permission of The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
Elderly Fr. Jacques Hamel of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, had his throat slit by an Islamic terrorist in July. Both the Catholic Herald and the American Conservative quickly labeled him a martyr. The president of Lombardy, Roberto Maroni, publicly called for him to be made a saint. Catholic Answers, however, explains that it takes more than a Christian being killed for being Christian to become a martyr officially recognized by the Church. The candidate must have the opportunity to witness to Christ before being killed. The world "martyr" means "witness." The official beatification process normally would not begin for Fr. Hamel until 2021.
How a person lived their life before their death, any signs of heroic virtue, also are important. Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, told the nearly two thousand attending Fr. Hamel's funeral in Rouen cathedral, some of them Muslims, his last words were: "Get away, Satan," perhaps a reference to Jesus' words to Peter in Matthew 16:23. The archbishop praised Fr. Hamel for his 58 years of loyal service to the Church saying, "Jacques, you were a loyal disciple of Jesus. Where you went you did good."
Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean, both 19, did talk about the incredibility of God becoming man, according to a surviving witness, but they also talked of politics. Sorting out the cases for other recent possible martyrs is taking some time already.
Jesuit Fr. Frans van der Lugt established a community center and farm near the city of Homs, Syria, and worked to reconcile Christians and Muslims. He was gunned down in the center's garden in 2014.
Clement Shahbaz Bhatti's killing in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2001 might more accurately be called an assassination since he was a member of the National Assembly, but he was the only one who was a Roman Catholic. He spoke out against the country's blasphemy laws. the Taliban claimed it was for this he was killed. His cause for beatification was open in the usual five years.
Fr. Andrea Santoro was shot from behind while kneeling in Santa Maria Church, Trabzon, Turkey, in 2006. Oguzhan Akdin, 16, was sentenced to over 18 years for the crime. According to Msgr. Luigi Padovese, Akdin's mother compared her son to Mehmet Ali Agca, would-be assassin of St. Pope John Paul II in 1981. At Fr. Santoro's funeral at the St. John Lateran basilica, Cardinal Camillo Ruini already was suggesting in his homily that the beatification process for Fr. Santoro may be opened in five years.
Sr. Leonella (Rosa Maria) Sgorbati 2006 was shot in the back in Mogadishu, Somolia, in 2006 outside her children's hospital along with her bodyguard, Mohamed Osman Mahamud. Her last words were reported to be "Perdono. Perdono," Italian for "I forgive. I forgive." Fellow Italian Bishop Salvatore Colombo had previously been shot dead while celebrating Mass there in 1989.
Fabianus Tibo was a Catholic layman shot by firing squad with Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu in Poso, Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 2006. Religious leaders of Christianity and Islam, including Pope emeritus Benedics XVI and former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid protested the suspicious 'execution' of Tibo and his companions.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and permanent observer of the Vatican to the United Nations (UN), addressed a meeting of the UN Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict on August 2. His remarks follow:
"... My Delegation wishes to thank the Malaysian Presidency for convening this particularly important Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, and conveys to Malaysia its appreciation for all that it has done and will continue to do as Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
"The year 2014 was described as the worst year for children affected by armed conflict. But as the Secretary-General's Report on Children and Armed Conflict covering the year 2015 illustrates, the 2014 horror-list has been surpassed by the number of children caught in armed conflicts and the scale and severity of violations in 2015. As the Secretary-General states in his Report, 'The impact on children of our collective failure to prevent and end conflict is severe, and the present Report highlights the increased intensity of grave violations in a number of situations of armed conflict.'
"No one can ignore this damning observation. Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such violent brutality: children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves, and disposable intelligence-gatherers in the most dangerous military operations. The deliberate destruction of their schools and hospitals in total disregard of international humanitarian law has become a strategy of war. These crimes must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
"As the Report of the Secretary-General points out, while there has been progress in the overall protection of children caught in armed conflict, much more must be done. Governments must be held accountable for the full and complete implementation of action plans and commitments they have taken to end and prevent all recruitment of child-soldiers. In the fight against non-State armed groups and terrorism, States are urged to ensure that their responses to all threats against peace and security are conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian law, to ensure that children are not victimized twice. My Delegation fully agrees with the Report that the use of airstrikes and explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas exacerbates the dangers to which children caught in armed conflict are exposed.
"Moreover, double standards, or even a perception of double standards, in listing and delisting perpetrators must be avoided, since it encourages disregard for international humanitarian law, frustrates the implementation of commitments and action plans, and discourages Governments and other concerned institutions from making stronger commitments and action plans...
"The Holy See has been a constant partner of the United Nations in opposing not only the use of children as combatants, but the many other forms of violence against children caught in armed conflict. Through its various structures operating in most of the conflict zones, the Catholic Church is actively engaged in taking care of the victims of such violence. Over the years, Holy See structures and numerous Catholic institutions have collaborated with UN Peacekeeping Missions and Agencies to help alleviate the sufferings of children in armed conflict and to share best practices to address this ongoing scourge. Expressing deep appreciation for all those who work in this area, the Holy See hopes that the plight of children caught in armed conflict will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart, and inspire all parties to lay down their arms and take up the path of dialogue.
"Considering the best interest of children and the fundamental role of parents, my Delegation encourages Governments to affirm and support families of children who are victimized in armed conflict. They must be assisted in overcoming prejudices against child survivors of armed conflicts, in particular against women and girls who are victims of rape, and in welcoming back children into the family fold.
"Moreover, while the International Community plays an important role in supporting States in their primary responsibility to protect their citizens, it must also interact with the local communities affected by violence against children in armed conflict so that solutions and programs can emerge organically, while fostering local ownership. A solution to the plight of children caught in armed conflict, in particular of child soldiers, requires sensitivity to finding ways to reintegrate these children back into their own communities. While we witness barbaric acts beyond anyone's imagination committed also by child soldiers, we must remember that these children are exploited and manipulated into what they have become. Thus, while their reintegration into society requires that we recognize the atrocities they may have committed, we must also build pathways for counseling and reconciliation with a view to accomplishing fully that reintegration...
"The obligation to put an end to barbaric acts against children caught in armed conflict is incumbent upon every one of us. In a particular way, it is incumbent upon this Council, as it calls on all States to put in place and implement stronger measures for the protection of children in armed conflict, and as it ensures that UN peacekeeping operations strictly adhere to all laws and measures in this regard..."
Want to do something good for someone else? Then read on!
In December 2013 an organization called Love for the Elderly was born. High school student Jacob Cramer started this organization. It began a letter writing program to bring smiles to the faces of seniors.
Many seniors are neglected and forgotten with over 70% of them in the United States feeling lonely and depressed. You have the power to make a difference! All it takes are pen and paper. Do not you think a lonely senior deserves some love?
If not, here is what to do: 1) Cards and letters must be legible. Also be creative;
2) Any of the following languages are accepted, English, Italian, German, French, and Spanish;
3) Place in individual envelopes but do not seal;
4) Place individual envelopes together in a bigger mailing package;
5) Mail to: Love for the Elderly, P.O. Box 24248, Cleveland, Ohio 44124;
6) Kindly do not include the date;
7) Include a return address.
Love for the Elderly has a Senior Buddies program, Sunshine box program, and Kindness Ambassador program. The Senior Buddies program connects young students with seniors. The Sunshine Box program places together cute boxes of sunshine to give to seniors in nursing homes. The boxes are designed to give the seniors a good chuckle! Kindness Ambassadors go into schools and organizations to discuss Letters of Love and pen pal groups.
If you have questions or would like to meet Jacob Cramer, contact him via: firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, this is a fun and easy way to give!
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com