"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
Girl Scouts place flags at tombs in Manila American Cemetery for Memorial Day 2017. (Photo credit: American Battle Monuments Commission)
World Communications Day will be celebrated on Sunday, May 13 this year. This year the theme focuses on truth, fake news, and journalism for peace. Pope Francis issued his message for the day on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Catholic press. His message follows:
"... Communication is part of God's plan for us and an essential way to experience fellowship. Made in the image and likeness of our Creator, we are able to express and share all that is true, good, and beautiful. We are able to describe our own experiences and the world around us, and thus to create historical memory and the understanding of events. But when we yield to our own pride and selfishness, we can also distort the way we use our ability to communicate. This can be seen from the earliest times, in the biblical stories of Cain and Abel and the Tower of Babel (cf. Gen 4:4-16; 11:1-9). The capacity to twist the truth is symptomatic of our condition, both as individuals and communities. On the other hand, when we are faithful to God's plan, communication becomes an effective expression of our responsible search for truth and our pursuit of goodness.
"In today's fast-changing world of communications and digital systems, we are witnessing the spread of what has come to be known as 'fake news.' This calls for reflection, which is why I have decided to return in this World Communications Day Message to the issue of truth, which was raised time and time again by my predecessors, beginning with Pope Paul VI, whose 1972 Message took as its theme: 'Social Communications at the Service of Truth.' In this way, I would like to contribute to our shared commitment to stemming the spread of fake news and to rediscovering the dignity of journalism and the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth.
"The term 'fake news' has been the object of great discussion and debate. In general, it refers to the spreading of disinformation on line or in the traditional media. It has to do with false information based on non-existent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader. Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests.
"The effectiveness of fake news is primarily due to its ability to mimic real news, to seem plausible. Secondly, this false but believable news is 'captious,' inasmuch as it grasps people's attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger, and frustration. The ability to spread such fake news often relies on a manipulative use of the social networks and the way they function. Untrue stories can spread so quickly that even authoritative denials fail to contain the damage.
"The difficulty of unmasking and eliminating fake news is due also to the fact that many people interact in homogeneous digital environments impervious to differing perspectives and opinions. Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue; instead, it risks turning people into unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas. The tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict. Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred. That is the end result of untruth.
"None of us can feel exempted from the duty of countering these falsehoods. This is no easy task, since disinformation is often based on deliberately evasive and subtly misleading rhetoric and at times the use of sophisticated psychological mechanisms. Praiseworthy efforts are being made to create educational programs aimed at helping people to interpret and assess information provided by the media, and teaching them to take an active part in unmasking falsehoods, rather than unwittingly contributing to the spread of disinformation. Praiseworthy too are those institutional and legal initiatives aimed at developing regulations for curbing the phenomenon, to say nothing of the work being done by tech and media companies in coming up with new criteria for verifying the personal identities concealed behind millions of digital profiles.
"Yet preventing and identifying the way disinformation works also calls for a profound and careful process of discernment. We need to unmask what could be called the 'snake-tactics' used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place. This was the strategy employed by the 'crafty serpent' in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news (cf. Gen 3:1-15), which began the tragic history of human sin, beginning with the first fratricide (cf. Gen 4) and issuing in the countless other evils committed against God, neighbor, society, and creation. The strategy of this skilled 'Father of Lies' (Jn 8:44) is precisely mimicry, that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments.
"In the account of the first sin, the tempter approaches the woman by pretending to be her friend, concerned only for her welfare, and begins by saying something only partly true: 'Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?' (Gen 3:1). In fact, God never told Adam not to eat from any tree, but only from the one tree: 'Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat' (Gen 2:17). The woman corrects the serpent, but lets herself be taken in by his provocation: Of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, 'You must not eat it nor touch it, under pain of death' (Gen 3:2). Her answer is couched in legalistic and negative terms; after listening to the deceiver and letting herself be taken in by his version of the facts, the woman is misled. So she heeds his words of reassurance: 'You will not die!' (Gen 3:4).
"The tempter's 'deconstruction' then takes on an appearance of truth: 'God knows that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil' (Gen 3:5). God's paternal command, meant for their good, is discredited by the seductive enticement of the enemy: 'The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye and desirable' (Gen 3:6). This biblical episode brings to light an essential element for our reflection: there is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences. Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects.
"What is at stake is our greed. Fake news often goes viral, spreading so fast that it is hard to stop, not because of the sense of sharing that inspires the social media, but because it appeals to the insatiable greed so easily aroused in human beings. The economic and manipulative aims that feed disinformation are rooted in a thirst for power, a desire to possess and enjoy, which ultimately makes us victims of something much more tragic: the deceptive power of evil that moves from one lie to another in order to rob us of our interior freedom. That is why education for truth means teaching people how to discern, evaluate and understand our deepest desires and inclinations, lest we lose sight of what is good and yield to every temptation.
"Constant contamination by deceptive language can end up darkening our interior life. Dostoevsky's observation is illuminating: 'People who lie to themselves and listen to their own lie come to such a pass that they cannot distinguish the truth within them, or around them, and so lose all respect for themselves and for others. And having no respect, they cease to love, and in order to occupy and distract themselves without love they give way to passions and to coarse pleasures, and sink to bestiality in their vices, all from continual lying to others and to themselves.' (The Brothers Karamazov, II, 2).
"So how do we defend ourselves? The most radical antidote to the virus of falsehood is purification by the truth. In Christianity, truth is not just a conceptual reality that regards how we judge things, defining them as true or false. The truth is not just bringing to light things that are concealed, 'revealing reality,' as the ancient Greek term aletheia (from a-lethÃ¨s, 'not hidden') might lead us to believe. Truth involves our whole life. In the Bible, it carries with it the sense of support, solidity, and trust, as implied by the root 'aman, the source of our liturgical expression Amen. Truth is something you can lean on, so as not to fall. In this relational sense, the only truly reliable and trustworthy One - the One on whom we can count - is the living God. Hence, Jesus can say: 'I am the truth' (Jn 14:6). We discover and rediscover the truth when we experience it within ourselves in the loyalty and trustworthiness of the One who loves us. This alone can liberate us: 'The truth will set you free' (Jn 8:32).
"Freedom from falsehood and the search for relationship: these two ingredients cannot be lacking if our words and gestures are to be true, authentic, and trustworthy. To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose. Truth, therefore, is not really grasped when it is imposed from without as something impersonal, but only when it flows from free relationships between persons, from listening to one another. Nor can we ever stop seeking the truth, because falsehood can always creep in, even when we state things that are true. An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful. We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.
"The best antidotes to falsehoods are not strategies, but people: people who are not greedy but ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge; people who are attracted by goodness and take responsibility for how they use language. If responsibility is the answer to the spread of fake news, then a weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of those whose job is to provide information, namely, journalists, the protectors of news. In today's world, theirs is, in every sense, not just a job; it is a mission. Amid feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop, they must remember that the heart of information is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons. Informing others means forming others; it means being in touch with people's lives. That is why ensuring the accuracy of sources and protecting communication are real means of promoting goodness, generating trust, and opening the way to communion and peace.
"I would like, then, to invite everyone to promote a journalism of peace. By that, I do not mean the saccharine kind of journalism that refuses to acknowledge the existence of serious problems or smacks of sentimentalism. On the contrary, I mean a journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines. A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those - and they are the majority in our world - who have no voice. A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous processes. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence.
"To this end, drawing inspiration from a Franciscan prayer, we might turn to the Truth in person:
"Lord, make us instruments of Your peace.
Help us to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion.
Help us to remove the venom from our judgements.
Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters.
You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world:
where there is shouting, let us practise listening;
where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;
where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;
where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;
where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety;
where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions;
where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;
where there is hostility, let us bring respect;
where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.
China was the focus of a March 22-23 meeting in Vatican City at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States for the Vatican gave an address which follows:
"... It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation ... to address you at the beginning of this Symposium, during which various experts and scholars will reflect on the theme 'Christianity in the Chinese Society: Impact, Interaction, and Inculturation.'
"Without wishing to enter into the specifics of the various issues which will be competently dealt with by the speakers, I would like to present some considerations which I believe to be helpful in the present context, where China is taking its place in a stable and influential way in the network of international relations, with its own original vision of the world and its own priceless heritage of culture and civilization.
"I shall begin with an observation. At the international level, today more than ever, Mainland China is at the center of political, economic, and cultural interest. China sees itself as a crossroads of development, thanks to such important projects as the New Silk Road ('One belt, one road'). In foreign policy, it is clearly adopting a new approach to the existing balances in international relations and is also consolidating its presence in developing countries. In domestic policy, China is promoting long-term programs aimed at giving a considerable number of citizens the possibility of overcoming poverty. At the same time, the Chinese cultural system is committed to a strong drive in the areas of scientific and technological research.
"It should also be noted that China is tackling the global challenge by insisting on its own identity by means of an economic, political, and cultural model which seeks to give 'Chinese characteristics' to globalization. In this way, the Middle Kingdom seeks to regain a central position in the world, in accordance with what was already Matteo Ricci's way of seeing things, when he drew a complete geographical map of all world's countries for the Chinese. This was the first great map of the world in the Chinese language; its sixth edition was commissioned by the Emperor himself in 1608. In this context, and also at the religious level, the key word which is constantly repeated and put forward for general consideration is the term 'Sinicization.'
"Given that we are here in the Pontifical Gregorian University, I would like to mention another consideration. In this place it is natural to recall, with deep admiration, the extraordinary contribution which many Jesuits down through the centuries made to the rediscovery of Chinese culture, thus enabling us to move from the initial impact with a world which is so far away to an encounter with the scientific, technical, philosophical, and moral patrimony of the West. This was an extraordinary human and ecclesial adventure, driven by a deeply missionary spirit, which inspired many members of the Society of Jesus, as well as other religious orders, to set out for the Asian continent and, in particular, China.
"In this regard, when he met with the Jesuits of La Civilta Cattolica on February 9, 2017, Pope Francis encouraged them in this way: 'Stay on the open sea! A Catholic should not be afraid of the open sea, he should not seek refuge in secure ports. ... The Lord calls us to engage in mission. ... When we set out into the deep, we encounter storms and there can be a contrary wind. Yet the holy voyage is always made in the company of Jesus who said to His disciples: 'Courage, it is I, do not be afraid!' (Mt 14:27). On that occasion, the Pope also presented three qualities which make it possible for us to remain on this open sea: 'restlessness,' without which 'we are sterile,' 'incompleteness,' which remind us that 'God is the Deus semper maior, the God who always surprises us.' 'imagination,' which enables us to practise without rigidity the discernment of the signs and the things that happen.
"At this point, I wish to refer to the dynamic of discernment in connection with the task of evangelization. Discernment allows us not only to gain an ever deeper understanding of the Word of God but also to proclaim it, while at the same time avoiding two rather common dangers. The first is proselytism, which measures the success of mission in terms of numbers rather than by the quality of the choice of the one who comes into contact with Christian experience. The second danger is that of an abstract proclamation of the faith, one which does not take account of the complex social and cultural nature of the human contexts to which the message of the Gospel is addressed.
"Both of these attitudes merely scratch the surface of an authentic missionary task, because they cannot grasp the spatio-temporal coordinates that make a fruitful inculturation of the faith possible. However, it should be possible to discern an even greater horizon in the mission 'ad gentes,' namely the vertical one of the primacy of God's grace, which precedes human action and animates the history of peoples from within. In China too, God is already present and active in the culture and life of the Chinese people.
"As Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., put it very well in a recent talk, 'the Catholic community is born, grows, and makes its contribution in the Chinese context not because of an external and extraneous bond, but as the fruit of the seed of the Gospel which was planted in the land and culture of China and is developing in a manner corresponding to its "genetic identity" ' In this way, this seed produces its fruit by drawing sustenance and assuming characteristics proper to the local culture in which it was sown. This is somewhat like what happens with many plants which produce fruit we eat every day and which we consider as ours for centuries, while, in reality, they were introduced into our lands in the past and from faraway places.
"In the light of these brief considerations, it seems clear that the mission of the Church in China today is one of being 'fully Catholic and genuinely Chinese,' making the Gospel of Jesus available to all and placing it at the service of the common good. Furthermore, over time, relations between China and the Catholic Church have gone through different phases, alternating between moments of fruitful cooperation and ones of great misunderstanding and hostility, leading, at times, to situations in which the community of the faithful experienced great suffering.
"Looking at matters carefully, however, the method which in the past made possible a fruitful encounter between the 'Christian world' and the 'Chinese world' was that of inculturation of faith through the concrete experience of knowledge, artistic culture, and friendship with the Chinese people. In this regard, still exemplary is the undertaking of missionaries like Alessandro Valignano, Matteo Ricci, Giuseppe Castiglione, and many others, who wished to open the way to a Catholicism with 'Chinese forms,' solidly grounded in the very heart of the Middle Kingdom in order to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ from a fully Chinese perspective.
"Thus, when considering mission and theological reflection, two expressions or, more precisely, two principles stand out, which should interact with each other, namely 'Sinicization' and 'inculturation.' I am convinced that an important intellectual and pastoral challenge arises in an almost natural way from the bringing together of these two terms, which indicate two real visions of the world. From these two visions, it should be possible to work out the coordinates of an authentic Christian presence in China, which could present the special nature and the newness of the Gospel in a context deeply rooted in the specific identity of the age-old Chinese culture. In his treatise on friendship, Fr. Matteo Ricci had this to say: 'Before engaging in friendship, one must observe; after engaging, one must trust.'
"... The universality of the Catholic Church, with its natural openness to all peoples, can make a contribution in terms of moral and spiritual inspiration to the great effort at dialogue between China and the contemporary world, doing so precisely through the Chinese Catholic community, which is fully integrated into the historical and current dynamism of the land of Confucius. In wishing every success to this present initiative aimed at promoting dialogue and encounter, I am sure that the speakers and experts who will have the opportunity to engage with one another during this Symposium will be able to identify and evaluate the best approaches so as to ensure that the friendship between the Christian and the Chinese worlds will produce genuine fruits of mutual understanding and fraternity..."
 Pope Francis, Address to the Community of La Civilta Cattolica, Hall of the Concistory, Vatican Apostolic Palace, February 9, 2017.
 Matteo Ricci, S.J., Sull'Amicizia, 7..
Lent and Easter with Mary by Thomas J. Craughwell is certainly different than his previous book. That book was Saints Behaving Badly, subtitled The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men and Evil-Worshippers Who Became Saints. Just in the Easter part of this book are many little-known faith-building stories featuring Jesus' and our blessed mother.
Craughwell tells of the small painting of Mary and the Child Jesus on a thin piece of plaster found in Genazzano, Italy, in 1467, called Our Lady of Good Counsel. The town notary noted no less than 171 miracles within four months of its discovery. Several popes from Urban VIII to St. John XXIII have visited the shrine seeking good counsel.
He notes that St. Pope John Paul II added the title "Mother of the Church" in 1981 to the traditional Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pius XII added "Queen assumed into heaven" in 1950. Pope Benedict XV added Queen of Peace in 1917. Leo XIII added "Queen of the most holy rosary" in 1883. Pius IX added "Queen conceived without original sin" in 1846.
In 1874 at the shrine of Our Lady of Quito, the secular and Church leaders of Ecuador consecrated the country to Mary. In 1906 a copy of the cathedral's painting at the Jesuit College was witnessed by 42 people to open and close her eyes. It toured the country before returning to the college church.
In 1873 a dark-skinned statue of Mary as Our Lady of Africa was brought to Algieres by Bishop Charles-Martial-Allermand Lavigerie. The bishop asked for her intercession for the conversion of Moslems and the end of slavery.
In 1640 Miguel Juan Pellicer prayed yet again to Our Lady of the Pillar. Mary is honored as such in the basilica of Saragosa with a statue on a pillar said to have come from St. James. Miguel had lost his leg to gangrene three years before. This time Mary responded miraculously, regrowing his leg overnight.
In 1630 a terra-cotta statue of Mary sculpted in Brazil was on its way to Argentina when the oxen stopped at the Lugan River. She became known as Our Lady of Lujan. For forty years the Rosendo housed the statue in their family shrine before moving to a large shrine church.
In 1502 Alfonzo and Antonio Trejo emigranted to what is now known as Higuey in the Dominican Republic. With them they brought a painting of Mary and Joseph with Jesus in the manger called Our Lady of Altagracia "High Grace"). In 1979 St. John Paul II called her under that title "the first evangelizer of the Americans."
The shrine of Our Lady of Willesden, near London, traces back to 938 when it was founded by King Athelstan. The future saint Thomas More visited there in 1537 just before he was arrested and martyred. Three years later Henry VIII burned the statue along with many others, but a replica was made in 1892.
In 1370 while throwing cargo overboard during a storm the storm suddenly stopped when a certain crate went into the water. When it came ashore in Sardinia it was found to be a sculpture of Mary and the Child Jesus. The Mercy Fathers there took it as the fulfillment of a forty-year-old prophesy of "a great lady" who would stop a plague of malaria ("bad air"). She became known as Our Lady of Bonaria ("Good Air"), patron of Sardinia.
Mary with the Child Jesus is honored in Moscow in an icon called Eleousa or Mother of Kindness. She is credited with saving the Russian capital from the Mongols in 1365, when she gained the additional title The Lady Who Saves Russia.
In 1204 the icon called the Virgin Nicopeia ("Bringer of Victory") was rescued during the siege of Constantinople. Pilgrims continue pray in Mary's chapel in St. Mark's in Venice for victory in both physical and spiritual battles.
Pope Francis traveled to Pietrelcino, Italy on March 17 to observe the century of the apparition of a permanent stigmata and the 50th anniversary of the saint's death. He celebrated Mass. His homily follows:
"From the biblical Readings we have heard, I would like to expand on three words: prayer, smallness, wisdom.
"Prayer. Today's Gospel Reading presents to us Jesus who prays. From His heart these words flow: 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth...' (Mt 11:25). Praying for Jesus was spontaneous; it was not optional: He would frequently go to lonely places to pray (cf. Mk 1:35); dialogue with the Father came first. In this way the disciples naturally saw the importance of prayer, and so one day they asked Him: 'Lord, teach us to pray' (Lk 11:1). If we wish to imitate Jesus, let us too begin from where He started, that is, from prayer.
"We can ask ourselves: do we Christians pray enough? Often, when it is time for prayer, many excuses come to mind, many urgent things to do.... At times, then, we set prayer aside because we are caught up in an activism that becomes inconclusive when we forget that 'one thing is needful' (Lk 10:42), when one forgets that without Him we cannot do anything (cf. Jn 15:5), and in this way we abandon prayer. Saint Pio, 50 years since his departure to Heaven, helps us, because he wished to leave us the legacy of prayer. He would recommend: 'Pray a lot, my children, pray always, never tiring' (Words to the Second International Congress of Prayer Groups, May 5, 1966).
"Jesus in the Gospel also shows us how to pray. First of all He says: 'I praise you, Father.' He does not begin by saying, 'I need this and that,' but says, 'I thank you.' One does not know the Father without opening oneself to praise, without devoting time to Him alone, without adoration. How often have we forgotten the prayer of adoration, the prayer of praise! We must recover this. Each one can ask him or herself: how do I worship? When do I worship? When do I praise God? Recover the prayer of adoration and praise. It is the personal contact, face to face, staying in silence before the Lord, the secret to entering ever more into communion with Him. A prayer may start as a request, even a hasty one but it matures in adoration and prayer. Mature prayer. Then it becomes truly personal, as for Jesus, who then engages freely in dialogue with the Father: 'Yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will' (Mt 11:26). And then, in free and trustful dialogue, prayer takes on the burden of life and places it before God.
"And then we ask ourselves: do our prayers resemble Jesus', or are they reduced to occasional emergency calls? 'I need this.' and so I start to pray straight away. And when you do not need it, what do you do? Or do we consider them as tranquilizers to take in regular doses, to have a little relief from stress? No, prayer is an act of love, of staying with God and laying the life of the world before Him: it is an indispensable work of spiritual mercy. Thus, if we do not entrust our brothers and sisters, situations, to the Lord, who will? Who will intercede, who will take care to knock on God's heart to open the door of mercy to humanity in need? For this, Padre Pio left us prayer groups. He said to them, 'It is prayer, the united force of all good souls, that moves the world, that renews consciences ... that heals the sick, that sanctifies work, that elevates healthcare, that gives moral strength ... that spreads God's smile and blessing on every languor and weakness (ibid). Let us safeguard these words, and ask ourselves again: do I pray? And when I pray, do I know how to praise, do I know how to worship, do I know how to take my life, and that of all people, to God?
"Second word: smallness. In the Gospel, Jesus praises the Father because he revealed the mysteries of His Kingdom to the little ones. Who are these little ones, who know how to welcome God's secrets? The little ones are those who are in need of the great, who are not self-sufficient, who do not think that they can rely on themselves alone. The little are those who have a humble and open heart, poor and needy, who are aware of the need to pray, to entrust themselves and to let themselves be accompanied. The heart of these little ones is like an antenna: it receives God's signal, immediately; they notice it immediately. Because God seeks contact with all, but those who make themselves great create enormous disturbance, and God's intention does not arrive when one is full of oneself, there is no room for God. This is why He prefers the little ones; He reveals Himself to them, and the way to encounter Him is by abasing oneself, becoming inwardly smaller, acknowledging oneself as in need. The mystery of Jesus Christ is a mystery of smallness: He abased Himself; He annihilated Himself. The mystery of Jesus, as we see in the Host at every Mass, is a mystery of smallness, of humble love, and it can be grasped only by becoming small and attending to the little ones.
"And now we can ask ourselves: do we know how to seek God where He dwells? Here there is a special Shrine where He is present, because there are many little ones chosen by Him. Saint Pio called it 'a temple of prayer and science,' where all are called to be 'reserves of love' for others (Address for the First Anniversary of the Inauguration, May 5, 1957): it is the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (House for the Relief of Suffering). In the sick, one finds Jesus, and in the loving care of those tending to the wounds of one's neighbor there is the path to encounter Jesus. Those who care for the little ones are on God's side and defeat the throwaway culture, which on the contrary, prefers the powerful and considers the poor useless. Those who prefer the little ones proclaim a prophecy of life against the prophets of doom of every age, even today, [against] those who discard people, discard children, the elderly, because they are not useful. As a child, at school, they taught us the history of the Spartans. I was always struck by what the teacher told us, that when a deformed baby was born, they would carry him or her to the top of a mountain and throw [the child] down, so that these little ones would not live. We children would say: 'But what cruelty!' Brothers and sisters, we do the same, with more cruelty, with more science. What is not needed, what is not productive must be discarded. This is the throwaway culture: the little ones are not wanted today. And this is why Jesus is set aside.
"Finally the third word. In the first Reading God says: 'Let not a wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might' (Jer 9:23). True wisdom does not lie in having great qualities, nor does true strength lie in power. Those who show themselves to be strong are not wise and those who respond to evil with evil are not strong. The only wise and invincible weapon is charity inspired by faith, because it has the power to disarm the forces of evil. Saint Pio fought evil throughout his life and fought it wisely, like the Lord: with humility, with obedience, with the Cross, offering up suffering for love. And everyone admired him; but few do the same. Many speak well, but how many follow his example? Many are willing to put a 'like' on the page of the great saints, but who acts like them? Because the Christian life is not a 'like;' it is 'my offering.' Life is scented when it is offered as a gift; it is tasteless when it is kept to oneself.
"And in the First Reading, God also explains from where to draw the wisdom of life: 'Let the one who glories glory in this: that he understands and knows Me' (Jer 9:23). To know Him, that is to meet Him, as God who saves and forgives: this is the way of wisdom. In the Gospel Jesus reaffirms: 'Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden' (Mt 11:28). Who among us can feel excluded from the invitation? Who can say, 'I do not need it?' Saint Pio offered his life and untold suffering to enable his brothers and sisters to encounter the Lord. And the decisive way of encountering him was through Confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There, a wise life begins and starts afresh, loved and forgiven; there begins the healing of the heart. Padre Pio was an apostle of the confessional. Today too he invites us there ...
(A Christian Perspective on World News)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Administrative Committee has issued the following statement today (March 28) marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Administrative Committee serves as the Board of Trustees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The committee's full statement follows:
" 'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends' (Jn 15:13). April 4th marks 50 years since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. On this day, as we reflect on his life and work, we need to ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to build the culture of love, respect, and peace to which the Gospel calls us. What are we being asked to do for the sake of our brother or sister who still suffers under the weight of racism? Where could God use our efforts to help change the hearts of those who harbor racist thoughts or engage in racist actions?
This anniversary gives us an important moment to draw inspiration from the way in which Dr. King remained undeterred in his principle of non-violent resistance, even in the face of years of ridicule, threats, and violence for the cause of justice. Dr. King came to Memphis to support underpaid and exploited African-American sanitation workers, and arrived on a plane that was under a bomb threat. He felt God had called him to solidarity with his brothers and sisters in need. In his final speech on the night before he died, Dr. King openly referenced the many threats against him, and made clear that he would love a long life. But more important to him, he said, was his desire to simply do the will of God.
Our faith urges us to be courageous, to risk something of ourselves, in defending the dignity of our neighbor who is made in the image of God. Pope Francis reminds us often that we must never sit on the sidelines in the face of great evil or extreme need, even when danger surrounds us. St. Paul proclaims that: 'We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body' (2 Cor. 47-10). We can best honor Dr. Martin Luther King and preserve his legacy by boldly asking God-today and always-to deepen our own commitment to follow His will wherever it leads in the cause of promoting justice."
(Source: USCCB press release)
WASHINGTON - Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is welcoming the release of Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation, "Gaudete et Exsultate" (Rejoice and Be Glad), subtitled "On the Call to Holiness in the Contemporary World." In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo expresses his deep gratitude to the Holy Father for the exhortation and the call for each Christian to "acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be."
In the introduction to the exhortation, the Pope emphasizes that the goal of his exhortation is to "repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities."
An apostolic exhortation is considered the second-highest form of papal teaching after an encyclical letter. Since his election, Pope Francis has issued two other exhortations: "Evangelii Gaudium" (Joy of the Gospel) in 2013 and "Amoris Laetitia" (The Joy of Love) in 2016.
Cardinal DiNardo's full statement on "Gaudete et Exsultate" follows:
"I want to personally express my deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his powerful, straightforward words in Gaudete et Exsultate. In this exhortation, Pope Francis is very clear - he is doing his duty as the Vicar of Christ, by strongly urging each and every Christian to freely, and without any qualifications, acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be - that is 'to be holy, as He is holy' (1 Pet 1:15). The mission entrusted to each of us in the waters of baptism was simple - by God's grace and power, we are called to become saints.
'Do not be afraid of holiness (no. 32).' These words of the Holy Father jumped out at me when I first read them. In a way, each one of us has a fear of striving for holiness - a fear that we would be mocked, ignored, or even hated by others because we would stand out. Yet that is what the Lord has called each and every person to! Pope Francis calls us out: A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for 'this is the will of God, your sanctification (I Thess 4:3) (no. 19).'
The Holy Father describes how holiness comes through the daily struggles each of us face. In the ordinary course of each day, the Pope reminds us, 'We need to recognize and combat our aggressive and selfish inclinations, and not let them take root' (no. 114). Yet, he says, this 'battle is sweet, for it allows us to rejoice each time the Lord triumphs in our lives' (no. 158).
One paragraph in particular points out the continuing need we have for civility in all our interactions, especially in the media. 'Christians too,' the Holy Father writes, 'can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication.' This can be true even in Catholic media (no. 115). Even in our heated disagreements with one another, we always need to remember that it is God who judges, not man (James 4:12).'
In the light of Easter joy, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, I encourage every Christian to rekindle their baptismal call to be holy by reading this wonderful exhortation by Pope Francis, especially the beautiful section on the Beatitudes. Through an exploration of the Beatitudes, and by offering examples of how to live out our call to holiness in everyday life, the Holy Father has given us a wonderful tool for renewing our love for God and for each other."
The USCCB has made the exhortation available for order online at http://store.usccb.org/rejoice
The Vatican has also posted the exhortation online at ... http://w2.vatican.va/content/f
(Source: USCCB press release)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Chairmen for the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations and the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth have expressed gratitude for the openness and honesty of the young adults who participated as delegates to the Pre-Synodal Meeting in anticipation of this October's Ordinary Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.
On March 19-25, 2018, over 300 young adults, representing episcopal conferences, ecclesial movements, apostolates, and religious and educational institutions, came together for a pre-synodal gathering convened by Pope Francis to discuss the experiences, challenges, and hopes of their generation. At the conclusion of the gathering, on Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018, the participants presented a summary document of insights and recommendations to Pope Francis. This document will be utilized, along with episcopal conference consultations and online feedback from young people, in the development of the Instrumentum Laboris that will guide the October Synod.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, commented on the release of the document, saying, "It is inspiring to hear such a great desire on the part of young adults for active participation and involvement in the Church, and a deep desire to grow in their faith. I look forward to accompanying them on their vocational journey."
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, also said, "I am grateful that the delegates engaged in a robust dialogue and offered honest feedback for the bishops to consider in light of the upcoming Synod. I am particularly happy that the young adults are ready to work with the Church on better engaging their peers, especially those who have disconnected from the practice of the faith."
The complete Pre-Synodal Document can be found online at the Vatican Synod website at: www.synod2018.va/content/synod
The USCCB sent three young adult representatives to the Pre-Synodal Meeting: Br. Javier Hansen, FSC of the Lasallian Christian Brothers; Mr. Nick Lopez of the University of Dallas; and Mrs. Katie Prejean McGrady of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Mr. Lopez also gave a ten-minute presentation on the state of youth and young adults in the Americas before the Holy Father and the Synod delegates. In addition, other delegates from the United States, nominated by their respective movements and institutions, included: Mr. Christian Huebner, seminarian from the Archdiocese of Washington; Rev. Nathaniel Johnson from the YOUTH 2000 movement; Ms. Nicole Perone from the Archdiocese of Hartford; Mr. Christopher Russo from the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Passaic; Sr. Marie Faustina Paige Wolniakowski, RSM, from the Sisters of Mercy in Alma, Michigan; and Ms. Cherise Klekar and Ms. Briana Santiago, in formation with the Apostles of the Interior Life.
The official USCCB web page for the Synod is www.usccb.org/synod-2018.
(Source: USCCB press release)
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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