"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
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
St. Francis of Assisi, Feast Day, October 4th
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Caritas Internationalis.)
Pope Francis is urging governments to find a political solution to the war in Syria as part of the Caritas Internationalis 'Syria: Peace is Possible' campaign
"I would like to address all the faithful and all of those who work with Caritas to build a just society," said Pope Francis, in a specially recorded video message released July 5, "Peace is possible in Syria."
"Everyone has to recognize that there is no military solution for Syria, only a political one," said the pope. "The international community must therefore support peace talks towards the building of a national unity government."
"I invite you to ask those who are involved in peace talks to take these agreements seriously and to commit to facilitating access to humanitarian aid."
Dealing with the humanitarian consequences of the five year war in Syria is the largest Caritas relief operation in the world.
Caritas provides food, healthcare, basic needs, education, shelter, counselling, protection, and livelihoods in Syria and to refugees in host countries. National Caritas organizations reached 1.3 million people last year alone.
Caritas is also urging its supporters around the world to put pressure on their governments to:
"While the people suffer an incredible amount of money is being spent on giving fighters weapons. Some of the countries providing these arms are also those talking of peace," said Pope Francis, "How can one believe in those who caress you with the right hand while hitting you with the left?"
Caritas is launching a new website to support the campaign syria.caritas.org which includes specially commissioned artwork from Syrian artist Tammam Azzam, an animated film on the war, an award winning photo series and testimony from Syrians living both inside the country and as refugees in bordering nations and beyond.
Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has met with Syrians in Lebanon and Greece. He said, "These are not just number, these are human beings. We need to give them hope, dignity, and peace. In the names of all the people touched by this conflict, we are appealing to everyone, can we work for peace in Syria."
Follow the campaign on Twitter #peacepossible4syria @iamCaritas
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Caritas Internationalis. It contains a message from Michel Roy, its Secretary General.)
If I had to sum up Laudato Si' in one word, it would be interconnection. It is an invitation to heal the broken connections between God, humankind, and the planet. It is a call to arms to fight for global unity at the most profound level.
Pope Francis' plan for achieving his vision in Laudato Si' is "renewal" - in short a rebirth of our way of seeing ourselves and the world and also of our commitment to love and care for the world, the other, and ourselves.
Caritas has heard Pope Francis' call and answered his challenge with a concrete plan of action. Our global confederation's long-term strategic vision launched last year is "One Human Family, Caring for Creation."
Over the past year, Laudato Si' has been "wind in the sails" of Caritas' fight and against poverty and injustice on every level.
Inspired by Pope Francis' words regarding the "need to respect the rights of peoples and cultures", we have increased our commitment within REPAM (Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network) along with other Church organizations and contributed to the creation of a human rights school for community leaders in the Amazon.
|Two brothers dig holes in the sand for a shelter at a camp of displaced people in the neighbourhood of Chateau, Diffa, Niger on February 12, 2016. Photo by Sam Phelps/Caritas|
Pope Francis' emphasis on educating people in ecological citizenship has been heeded by many Caritas organizations across the world with the creation of films, reflections for schools, reports, and also quizzes.
Laudato Si' encourages our work on environmental issues that devastate the lives of the poor such as fracking, coal mining, food waste, and climate change.
Pope Francis' encyclical is revolutionary as it challenges accepted ways of thinking and of organizing the world. Caritas has taken it as an opportunity to influence people to act and support the causes we stand for.
In short Laudato Si' has renewed the energies that Caritas dedicates to being activists and advocates for the poor.
The success of Laudato Si' rests not only on our actions and consciousness, but also on healing the spiritual bonds between ourselves, God and the world. Caritas organizations offer a wealth of materials to promote reflection of Laudato Si' on a deeper level.
In the words of Pope Francis, " There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself." (LS.118)
Caritas has started this process of rebirth and we are inviting all of you to join us on our journey.
The Jubilee for Priests was celebrated on June 3, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Pope Francis urged priests to turn to the Good Shepherd in his homily. The homily follows:
"This celebration ... invites us all to turn to the heart, the deepest root and foundation of every person, the focus of our affective life and, in a word, his or her very core. Today we contemplate two hearts: the Heart of the Good Shepherd and our own heart as priests.
"The Heart of the Good Shepherd is not only the Heart that shows us mercy, but is itself mercy. There the Father's love shines forth; there I know I am welcomed and understood as I am; there, with all my sins and limitations, I know the certainty that I am chosen and loved. Contemplating that heart, I renew my first love: the memory of that time when the Lord touched my soul and called me to follow Him, the memory of the joy of having cast the nets of our life upon the sea of his word (cf. Lk 5:5).
"The Heart of the Good Shepherd tells us that His love is limitless; it is never exhausted and it never gives up. There we see His infinite and boundless self-giving; there we find the source of that faithful and meek love which sets free and makes others free; there we constantly discover anew that Jesus loves us 'even to the end' (Jn 13:1), to the very end, without ever imposing.
"The Heart of the Good Shepherd reaches out to us, above all to those who are most distant. There the needle of His compass inevitably points, there we see a particular 'weakness' of His love, which desires to embrace all and lose none.
"Contemplating the Heart of Christ, we are faced with the fundamental question of our priestly life: Where is my heart directed? It is a question we need to keep asking, daily, weekly... Where is my heart directed? Our ministry is often full of plans, projects, and activities: from catechesis to liturgy, to works of charity, to pastoral and administrative commitments. Amid all these, we must still ask ourselves: What is my heart set on? I think of that beautiful prayer of the liturgy, 'Ubi vera sunt gaudia'... Where is it directed, what is the treasure that it seeks? For as Jesus says: 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also' (Mt 6:21). All of us have our weaknesses and sins. But let us go deeper: what is the root of our failings, those sins, the place we have hid that 'treasure' that keeps us from the Lord?
"The great riches of the Heart of Jesus are two: the Father and ourselves. His days were divided between prayer to the Father and encountering people. Not distance, but encounter. So too the heart of Christ's priests knows only two directions: the Lord and His people. The heart of the priest is a heart pierced by the love of the Lord. For this reason, he no longer looks to himself, or should look to himself, but is instead turned towards God and his brothers and sisters. It is no longer 'a fluttering heart,' allured by momentary whims, shunning disagreements, and seeking petty satisfactions. Rather, it is a heart rooted firmly in the Lord, warmed by the Holy Spirit, open and available to our brothers and sisters. That is where our sins are resolved.
"To help our hearts burn with the charity of Jesus the Good Shepherd, we can train ourselves to do three things suggested to us by today's readings: seek out, include, and rejoice.
"Seek out. The prophet Ezekiel reminds us that God Himself goes out in search of His sheep (Ez 34:11, 16). As the Gospel says, he 'goes out in search of the one who is lost' (Lk 15:4), without fear of the risks. Without delaying, he leaves the pasture and his regular workday. He doesn't demand overtime. He does not put off the search. He does not think: 'I have done enough for today; perhaps I'll worry about it tomorrow.' Instead, he immediately sets to it; his heart is anxious until he finds that one lost sheep. Having found it, he forgets his weariness and puts the sheep on his shoulders, fully content. Sometimes he has to go and seek it out, to speak, to persuade; at other times he must remain in prayer before the tabernacle, struggling with the Lord for that sheep.
"Such is a heart that seeks out. A heart that does not set aside times and spaces as private. Woe to those shepherds to privatize their ministry! It is not jealous of its legitimate quiet time, even that, and never demands that it be left alone. A shepherd after the heart of God does not protect his own comfort zone. He is not worried about protecting his good name, but will be slandered as Jesus was. Unafraid of criticism, he is disposed to take risks in seeking to imitate his Lord. 'Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you....' (Mt 5:11).
"A shepherd after the heart of God has a heart sufficiently free to set aside his own concerns. He does not live by calculating his gains or how long he has worked: he is not an accountant of the Spirit, but a Good Samaritan who seeks out those in need. For the flock he is a shepherd, not an inspector, and he devotes himself to the mission not fifty or sixty percent, but with all he has. In seeking, he finds, and he finds because he takes risks. Unless a shepherd risks, he does not find. He does not stop when disappointed and he does not yield to weariness. Indeed, he is stubborn in doing good, anointed with the divine obstinacy that loses sight of no one. Not only does he keep his doors open, but he also goes to seek out those who no longer wish to enter them. Like every good Christian, and as an example for every Christian, he constantly goes out of himself. The epicenter of his heart is outside of himself. He is centered only in Jesus, not in himself. He is not attracted by his own 'I,' but by the 'Thou' of God and by the 'we' of other men and women.
"The second word: Include. Christ loves and knows His sheep. He gives His life for them, and no one is a stranger to Him (cf. Jn 10:11-14). His flock is His family and His life. He is not a boss to feared by His flock, but a shepherd who walks alongside them and calls them by name (cf. Jn 10:3-4). He wants to gather the sheep that are not yet of his fold (cf. Jn 10:16).
"So it is also with the priest of Christ. He is anointed for his people, not to choose his own projects but to be close to the real men and women whom God has entrusted to him. No one is excluded from his heart, his prayers, or his smile. With a father's loving gaze and heart, he welcomes and includes everyone, and if at times he has to correct, it is to draw people closer. He stands apart from no one, but is always ready to dirty his hands. The Good Shepherd does not wear gloves. As a minister of the communion that he celebrates and lives, he does not await greetings and compliments from others, but is the first to reach out, rejecting gossip, judgements, and malice. He listens patiently to the problems of his people and accompanies them, sowing God's forgiveness with generous compassion. He does not scold those who wander off or lose their way, but is always ready to bring them back and to resolve difficulties and disagreements. He knows how to include.
"Rejoice. God is 'full of joy' (cf. Lk 15:5). His joy is born of forgiveness, of life risen and renewed, of prodigal children who breathe once more the sweet air of home. The joy of Jesus the Good Shepherd is not a joy for Himself alone, but a joy for others and with others, the true joy of love. This is also the joy of the priest. He is changed by the mercy that he freely gives. In prayer he discovers God's consolation and realizes that nothing is more powerful than his love. He thus experiences inner peace, and is happy to be a channel of mercy, to bring men and women closer to the Heart of God. Sadness for him is not the norm, but only a step along the way; harshness is foreign to him, because he is a shepherd after the meek Heart of God.
Dear priests, in the Eucharistic celebration we rediscover each day our identity as shepherds. In every Mass, may we truly make our own Christ's words: 'This is My body, which is given up for you.' This is the meaning of our life; with these words, in a real way we can daily renew the promises we made at our priestly ordination. I thank all of you for saying 'yes,' and also for all those many times you secretly say 'yes' each day, things that only the Lord knows about. I thank you for saying 'yes' to giving your life in union with Jesus: for in this is found the pure source of our joy."
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI celebrated the 65th anniversary of his ordination as a priest on June 29. A commemoration was held on June 28 in Vatican City.
Pope Francis stated:
"Today we celebrate the story of a call that began 65 years ago with your priestly ordination in the Cathedral of Freising on June 29, 1951. But what is the characteristic that runs through this long history and increasingly dominates your priestly service from the first moment until now?
"In one of the many beautiful passages you have written on the priesthood, you emphasize that, at the hour of Simon's definitive call, Jesus, fixing His gaze on him, essentially asks only one thing: 'Do you love Me?" How beautiful and true this is! Because it is here, as you go on to tell us, in that 'Do you love Me?,' that the Lord establishes the true meaning of shepherding, because only through love for the Lord will the Lord be able to shepherd through us: 'Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You' (cf. John 21:15-19). This is the characteristic that has predominated your entire life spent in priestly service and in the service of theology, which you defined, not by happenstance, as the search for the beloved; and this is indeed what you have always given witness to and continue to witness to today: that the decisive thing that frames each of our days - come rain or come shine - that which gives rise to everything else, is that the Lord is truly present, that we desire Him, that we are close to Him interiorly, that we love Him, that we really believe in Him and, believing in Him, truly love Him. It is this loving that truly fills our hearts, this believing that allows us to walk confidently and peacefully upon the waters, even in the midst of a storm, as Peter did. This loving and this believing allow us to look to the future not with fear or nostalgia, but with joy, even in the twilight of our lives.
"And in this way, precisely by living and giving such an intense and bright witness today to this one truly decisive thing - to have our eyes and hearts turned to God - you, Your Holiness, continue to serve the Church, and you never cease to contribute with vigor and wisdom to her growth; and you do so from that little monastery of Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican Gardens, a place that shows itself to be anything but one of those forgotten corners in which today's wasteful culture tends to relegate persons when, because of their age, they begin to lose their strength. To the contrary. And I can say this as your Successor who decided to take the name 'Francis!' Because St. Francis' spiritual journey began at San Damiano; but the place he loved the most, the beating heart of the Order he founded, is that place where he established the Order and gave his life to God: the Portiuncula, that 'little portion,' a hidden corner near the Mother of the Church, near Mary whom, because of her steadfast faith and a life entirely lived for the love of the Lord and in His love, all generations will call blessed. In this way, Providence wanted you, my dear confrere, to be in a place we might call 'Franciscan,' and from which would emanate a tranquility, a peace, a strength, a trust, a maturity, a faith, a dedication, and a fidelity that helps me so much and that gives such strength to me and to the entire Church. And may I also say that you exude such a healthy and joyful sense of humor.
"I wish to conclude with a prayerful wish for you, for all of us, and for the entire Church: that you, Your Holiness, will continue to feel the hand of our merciful God supporting you, and that you will experience and witness the love of God, and that you, together with Peter and Paul, will continue to exult with great joy as you strive toward the goal of faith (cf. 1 Pt 1:8-9; 2 Tm 4:6-8)!
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said:
"Sixty-five years ago, a brother priest who was ordained with me decided to have written on the card commemorating his first Mass, in addition to the name and the date, a single word in Greek - eucharistomen - convinced that this multi-faceted term expressed everything that could be said at such a moment. Eucharistomen expresses a human 'thank you;' a 'thank you' to everyone. First of all, thank you, Holy Father! Your goodness, evident from the moment of your election, has continually impressed me, and greatly sustains my interior life. The Vatican Gardens, even for all their beauty, are not my true home: my true home is your goodness. There, I feel safe. Thank you also for the kind words of gratitude, for everything. We hope that you will continue to go forward with all of us on this road of Divine Mercy, showing us the way of Jesus, toward Jesus, toward God.
"Thanks to you as well, Your Eminence (Cardinal Sodano), for the words that have touched me deeply: Cor ad cor loquitur. You have reminded me of the day of my priestly ordination, as well as my visit to Freising in 2006, where I had the opportunity to relive that special day. I can only say that your words have captured the essence of my vision of the priesthood and my work as a priest. I am grateful to you for the bond of friendship that has long continued up to now, roof to roof [here the Pope emeritus refers to the close proximity of their homes]: it's so close you can reach out and touch it.
"Thank you, Cardinal Muller, for your work in helping me to publish my written reflections on the priesthood in which I try to help our brother priests to enter ever anew the mystery by which the Lord places himself into our hands.
" 'Eucharistomen:' at that moment, my friend [Ruper] Berger wished to allude not only to the dimension of human gratitude, but especially to the deeper underlying meaning that appears in the Liturgy, in Scripture, in the words gratias agens benedixit fregit deditque. Eucharistomen harks back to the reality of thanksgiving, to the new dimension that Christ imparts to it. The cross, suffering, all that is wrong with the world: he transformed all this into 'thanks' and therefore into a 'blessing.' Hence he fundamentally transubstantiated life and the world, and he has given us and gives us each day the bread of true life, which transcends this world thanks to the strength of His love.
"Finally, we wish to insert ourselves into the 'thanks' of the Lord, and thus truly receive the newness of life and contribute to the 'transubstantiation' of the world so that it might not be a place of death, but of life: a world in which love has conquered death.
"I thank you all. May the Lord bless you.
"Thank you, Holy Father."
(Editor's note: Mr. Bigon writes from Texas. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
"Mom, watcha doin'?"
"That was kinda dumb question. Wasn't it?"
"She simply looked at me. A radiant, loving, knowing smile crossed her face.
"How may I help You?" she calmly inquired.
"I need you to ask Him a favor for me," I answered.
"Why don't you ask Him yourself? You know that He loves to hear from you."
"Well ... I know He will do what you ask. He always has."
"Don't you trust Him yourself with your desires?" she asked.
"Yes, but others ask ..."
"The ole 'yes, but'," she said, cutting me off as I started to answer. "Son, as close as He and I are, I am still not of a complete mind with Him. As for 'others' who go to Him and do not seemingly have their wishes answered, I can only speculate that their trust and faith may not be that strong. Yet, their requests will be answered in time. They must be open to solutions that are beyond their thinking. He answers in ways that ultimately are more good that they ever imagined."
"Mom," I replied after a quiet pause, "I understand what you are saying. I can see that over the years I have lived through situations that turned out almost miraculous because He blessed them. These experiences have strengthened my trust, faith, and confidence that He hears me."
"So, what's the problem?" Mom interrupted.
"Well ... I also know that He listens to the intentions of saints and others who pray for our intentions. Most of all and more importantly, I know that He listens to you and does what you ask as at Cana (cf Jn 2:5). He loves and obeys you as only a Son could do."
Mom smiled lovingly at my reply.
"Love, she began, "is the important word here. He does not take any action based on reason or logic. He moves the world out of love. I will share with Him your love for Him as seen through your devotion to me. By your devotion, I know He will look with favor upon your desire. Keep your trust, faith, and confidence strong, keep your heart and eyes open to His Hand in your life, most of all, love and believe."
As Mom finished these words, my heart and mind were filled with joy and peace. I knew she would help.
Thank you, Mother Mary, I love you were my only thoughts.
"... I fly to you, O virgin of virgins, my Mother, to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen. (The 'Memorare')
Michael O'Neil is the author of Exploring the Miraculous and 365 Days with Mary. He hosts "The Miracle Hunter" show in Revenant radio and has appeared on EWTN News. His Miracle Hunter's website includes several types of miracles, including apparitions, miraculous images, Eucharistic miracles, stigmata, and incorruptibles, all arranged chronologically.
The earliest known apparition was from St. James the Greater who saw the Virgin Mary while he was in preaching on the banks of the Ebro River in Saragosa, Spain, in 40 AD. Today, apparition reports occur more frequently. Some scholars estimate the total number of apparition claims throughout history to be approximately 2,500 (with about 500 of those coming in the 20th century alone). According to the Dictionary of Apparitions of the Virgin Mary, throughout history, 308 apparitions are attributed to saints and blesseds. Seven popes throughout history have witnessed Marian apparitions.
The most famous apparitions have been those reported in Guadalupe, Mexico (1531), Rue du Bac (1830), and Lourdes, Frances (1858), and Fatima, Portugal (1917). The most recently Vatican recognized apparitions are those from and Kibeho, Rwanda (1989) and Le Laus, France (1664). Those in Itapirange, Brazil (1994), Lipa, Phillipines (1948), and Robinson, WI (1859) were declared supernatural by the local bishop.
The appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego Cuauthtlantzin is well-known. The one to Juan Diego Bernadino is not. This Juan‚ÄąDiego was a young convert a few years after Mary's appearance to his namesake. This native Tlaxcalan was going to a river believed to have healing propeties when sickness had overtaken his family when he also encountered a lady. The lady told him, "I will give you another water with which you will extinguish the contagion and cure not only your family but all who drink of it, for my heart is always inclined toward the lowly and will not suffer to see such things without remedying them. When the server lead Franciscans there, they found also the lady's image in a pine tree and took it to the San Lorenzo monastery. She became known as Our Lady of Ocotlan. Many notable pilgrims visited her shrine, including Christopher Columbus. It was expanded into a monastery by Juan 1, but was besieged in 1835.
Bishop Juan de Zaumarraga mistakenly gave the name Our Lady of Guadalupe to the second appearance in Mexico, when St. Juan Diego called Coatlaxopeuh, meaning "one who crushes the head of the snake."
The original Lady of Guadalupe appeared near the Guadalupe River, at Caceres, Spain, in 1326 to reveal to Gil Cordano who was looking for a lost cow. She guided him to the cave where the statue of Seville had been hidden since 850. It was protected by a church bell and accompanied by the relics of St. Fulgentius and St. Forentina.
Pope Gregory the Great had given the miraculous statue from the basilica of Mary Major to St. Leander the bishop of Seville. It had lead a procession in Rome during which an angel appeared and a plague ended in 542.
In 1134 Our Lady of Liesse appeared to Ismenia, the daughter of the sultan of Egypt. Her father had sent her to seduce three captive knights from Laon, France. She, however, was converted and requested an image of Mary. The next day dazzling light and a delicious perfume accompanied their carving. On the next day she heard, "Trust me, Ismenia! I have prayed to my Son for you. You will be His faithful servant. You will free my three beloved knights. You will be baptized and through you France will be enriched by countless graces. Through you my name will become famous and later I will receive you forever in paradise."
The miracles are certainly not all ancient, though the Miracle Hunteer's are mostly associated with apparitions. The categories overlap. The painting and statues remind of the saints, particularly Mary, as do the saints' incorrupt bodies and relics. Their stigmata and Eucharistic miracles remind us of Jesus Himself through Whom all the miracles ultimately come.
On Christmas in 2013 a consecrated Host fell and was put into a container of water. Red stains then appeared on the Host and the bishop of Legnica had the Host investigated by the Department of Forensic Medicine, Wroclaw, and the Pomeranian Medical University, Szczecin. They concluded that it was cross striated muscle, similar to heart muscle, of human origin and bearing signs of stress.
In 1936 Blessed Maria Pierina De Micheli of Milan, Italy, promoted a devotion and medal, which was approved by Pope Piux XII. He set the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus for Shrove Tuesday.
In 1982 Myrna Nazzour's stigmata was approved by papal nuncio Luigi Accogli, the Melkite prelate Isidore Battikha and an Orthodox patriarch.
The body of St. Isadore, who died in 1172, was exhumed five times and found intact, though darkened and rigid. So too was Blessed George Preca of Malta, who died in 1962. St. John XXIII, who died in 1963, was exhumed in 2001 and found incorrupt.
The Church celebrated the Jubilee for the Sick and Persons with Disabilities on Sunday, June 12 as part of The Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Francis' homily for the day follows:
" 'I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me' (Gal 2:19). In these words, the Apostle Paul powerfully expresses the mystery of the Christian life, which can be summed up in the paschal dynamic of death and resurrection received at baptism. Indeed, through immersion in water, each of us, as it were, dies and is buried with Christ (cf. Rom 6:3-4), and remerging, shows forth new life in the Holy Spirit. This rebirth embraces every aspect of our lives: even sickness, suffering, and death are taken up in Christ and in Him find their ultimate meaning. Today, on the Jubilee day devoted to the sick and bearers of disabilities, this word of life has a special resonance for our assembly.
"Each of us, sooner or later, is called to face - at times painfully - frailty and illness, both our own and those of others. How many different faces do these common yet dramatically human experiences take! Yet all of them directly raise the pressing question of the meaning of life. Our hearts may quietly yield to cynicism, as if the only solution were simply to put up with these experiences, trusting only in our own strength. Or we may put complete trust in science, thinking that surely somewhere in the world there is a medicine capable of curing the illness. Sadly, however, this is not always the case, and, even if the medicine did exist, it would be accessible to very few people.
"Human nature, wounded by sin, is marked by limitations. We are familiar with the objections raised, especially nowadays, to a life characterized by serious physical limitations. It is thought that sick or disabled persons cannot be happy, since they cannot live the lifestyle held up by the culture of pleasure and entertainment. In an age when care for one's body has become an obsession and a big business, anything imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model. Such persons should best be kept apart, in some 'enclosure' - even a gilded one - or in 'islands' of pietism or social welfare, so that they do not hold back the pace of a false well-being. In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis. Yet what an illusion it is when people today shut their eyes in the face of sickness and disability! They fail to understand the real meaning of life, which also has to do with accepting suffering and limitations. The world does not become better because only apparently 'perfect' people live there - I say 'perfect' rather than 'false' - but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance, and respect increase. How true are the words of the Apostle: 'God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong' (1 Cor 1:27)!
"This Sunday's Gospel (Lk 7:36-8:3) presents us with a specific situation of weakness. The woman caught in sin is judged and rejected, yet Jesus accepts and defends her: 'She has shown great love' (7:47). This is the conclusion of Jesus, who is attentive to her suffering and her plea. This tenderness is a sign of the love that God shows to those who suffer and are cast aside. Suffering need not only be physical; one of today's most frequent pathologies is also spiritual. It is a suffering of the heart; it causes sadness for lack of love. It is the pathology of sadness. When we experience disappointment or betrayal in important relationships, we come to realize how vulnerable and defenceless we are. The temptation to become self-absorbed grows stronger, and we risk losing life's greatest opportunity: to love in spite of everything!
"The happiness that everyone desires, for that matter, can be expressed in any number of ways and attained only if we are capable of loving. This is the way. It is always a matter of love; there is no other path. The true challenge is that of who loves the most. How many disabled and suffering persons open their hearts to life again as soon as they realize they are loved! How much love can well up in a heart simply with a smile! The therapy of smiling. Then our frailness itself can become a source of consolation and support in our solitude. Jesus, in His passion, loved us to the end (cf. Jn 13:1); on the cross He revealed the love that bestows itself without limits. Can we reproach God for our infirmities and sufferings when we realize how much suffering shows on the face of His crucified Son? His physical pain was accompanied by mockery, condescension, and scorn, yet He responds with a mercy that accepts and forgives everything: 'by His wounds we are healed' (Is 53:5; 1 Pet 2:24). Jesus is the physician who heals with the medicine of love, for He takes upon Himself our suffering and redeems it. We know that God can understand our infirmities, because He Himself has personally experienced them (cf. Heb 4:15).
"The way we experience illness and disability is an index of the love we are ready to offer. The way we face suffering and limitation is the measure of our freedom to give meaning to life's experiences, even when they strike us as meaningless and unmerited. Let us not be disturbed, then, by these tribulations (cf. 1 Th 3:3). We know that in weakness we can become strong (cf. 2 Cor 12:10) and receive the grace to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for His body, the Church (cf. Col 1:24). For that body, in the image of the risen Lord's own, keeps its wounds, the mark of a hard struggle, but they are wounds transfigured for ever by love.
I stumbled upon a topic last night out of the clear blue that I think will prove to be interesting ... romance novels. Is it okay for a Catholic/Christian to read a romance? I was thinking to myself, boy would I like to read a romance. But I never allow myself. I only permit myself to read fitness, religion, cookbooks, etc. Since I am no spring chicken and still not married, I felt like escaping into a good romance. But would it be good?
So I have done a little driving on the internet to answer my own questions. This is what the websites had to say ...
Love is wonderful and beautiful. But it isn't what you read about in books. Real love involves a deep commitment to loving someone else more than you love yourself. It involves sticking with that commitment even when the other person makes you angry or gets on your nerves - two realities that aren't in most romance novels. So go ahead and read Christian romance novels. But remember that they are entertainment, not real life. They are meant to be fun and enjoyable. But they are not roadmaps for how your life should be.
If the romance novel contains anything that is not honorable, pure, lovely, or admirable, then we are not to "think about" it. A good test is whether we could honestly say we could read from the novel outloud to Jesus and feel comfortable in doing so.
In spite of the addictive nature of these books, many are blind to the harm they cause. Just as it is wrong for men to engage in sexual arousal and attraction to women by viewing porn, so it is wrong for women to engage in fantasy of other men through romance novels. Some reviewers fear the Fifty Shades of Gray will start a new sexual revolution. Through God's grace the bad times are survived and overcome. Love and romance, when experienced in union with God, can lead to marriage and a fulfilling relationship, not escaped in fantasy.
Know yourself. The enemy can use the smallest weakness in our spiritual armor to attack us. Even if you think you are emotionally and spiritually strong enough to read a romance novel, put some safeguards into place that will help you stay strong. Understand what is happening in your own heart that draws you so much and put safeguards in place that allow you to approach these novels safely - or not at all.
The romance genre is a 1.4 billion industry, the largest sector in publishing. So should we read Christian romances? First read two chapters of the Bible a day. Then read whateve seems right. When we read God's word, He changes us. After a while we start to want for what is godly and edifying. We lose our taste for what is not.
(A Christian Perspective on World News)
WASHINGTON - Following the deadly attacks on police officers in Dallas, during a protest rally stemmed by the killings of two men in Louisiana and Minnesota, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops extended a call to prayer, reflection, civility, and peaceful dialogue.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, issued the following statement July 8.
Let Us Gather at the Cross
A statement from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The assassination of Dallas police officers last night was an act of unjustifiable evil. To all people of good will, let us beg for the strength to resist the hatred that blinds us to our common humanity. To my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us gather at the Cross of Jesus. Our Savior suffered at the hands of humanity's worst impulses, but He did not lose hope in us or in His heavenly father. Love overcomes evil.
The police are not a faceless enemy. They are sons and daughters offering their lives to protect their brothers and sisters. Jesus reminds us, "no one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (JN 15:13). So too, the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a faceless threat. They are members of our family in need of assistance, protection, and fairness. When compassion does not drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one another.
The need to place ever greater value on the life and dignity of all persons, regardless of their station in life, calls us to a moment of national reflection. In the days ahead, we will look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest, and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.
Let us pray for the comfort of everyone affected and that our national conversation will bear the good fruit of healing and peace.
(Source: USCCB press release)
oslo, norway - Pope Francis sent the following message to the 6th World Congress against The Death Penalty which met here June 21-23."I greet the organizers of this World Congress against the death penalty, the group of countries supporting it, particularly Norway as its host country, and all those representatives of governments, international organizations, and civil society taking part in it. I likewise express my personal appreciation, along with that of men and women of good will, for your commitment to a world free of the death penalty.
"One sign of hope is that public opinion is manifesting a growing opposition to the death penalty, even as a means of legitimate social defense. Indeed, nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God's plan for individuals and society, and His merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.
"The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is an auspicious occasion for promoting worldwide ever more evolved forms of respect for the life and dignity of each person. It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal.
"Today I would encourage all to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated. 'Rendering justice' does not mean seeking punishment for its own sake, but ensuring that the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender. The question must be dealt with within the larger framework of a system of penal justice open to the possibility of the guilty party's reinsertion in society. There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment.
"I trust that this Congress can give new impulse to the effort to abolish capital punishment. For this reason, I encourage all taking part to carry on this great initiative and I assure them of my prayers."
(Source: Vatican, Va)
Vatican City - Pope Francis sent a Message to the participants of a European meeting of prison chaplains taking place in Strasbourg discussing radicalization in prisons.
The message, sent by the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Pope Francis "wishes to assure all who are serving prison communities of his prayerful solidarity and deep gratitude for their efforts in upholding the human dignity of all those incarcerated."
The full message follows:
His Holiness Pope Francis was pleased to learn of the European meeting of prison chaplains, entitled "Radicalization in prisons: a pastoral view," to be held at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg from May 30 to June 1, 2016. With appreciation to the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care and the Permanent Mission of the Holy See for organizing this important event, the Holy Father sends cordial greetings to all those participating. He especially wishes to assure all who are serving prison communities of his prayerful solidarity and deep gratitude for their efforts in upholding the human dignity of all those incarcerated. So too Pope Francis thanks prison chaplains for assisting prisoners to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy fruitfully: "May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom. (Letter according to which an Indulgence is granted on the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, September 1, 2015). With these sentiments, Pope Francis willingly invokes upon you and all gathered the divine blessings of peace and joy.
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.
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