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My People

Vol. 25, Issue 2, February 2012

"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." — 2 Chronicles 7:14


Pope Benedict XVI

Youth Can Offer New Hope To World

In his message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, Pope Benedict XVI focused on the importance of educating young people in justice and peace. The message, dated December 8, follows:

"1. The beginning of a new year, God's gift to humanity, prompts me to extend to all, with great confidence and affection, my heartfelt good wishes that this time now before us may be marked concretely by justice and peace.

"With what attitude should we look to the New Year? We find a very beautiful image in Psalm 130. The Psalmist says that people of faith wait for the Lord 'more than those who watch for the morning' (v. 6); they wait for Him with firm hope because they know that He will bring light, mercy, salvation. This waiting was born of the experience of the Chosen People, who realized that God taught them to look at the world in its truth and not to be overwhelmed by tribulation. I invite you to look to 2012 with this attitude of confident trust. It is true that the year now ending has been marked by a rising sense of frustration at the crisis looming over society, the world of labor and the economy, a crisis whose roots are primarily cultural and anthropological. It seems as if a shadow has fallen over our time, preventing us from clearly seeing the light of day.

"I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put My spirit within you and make you live by My statutes, careful to observe My decrees."
(Ez 36:25-27)

"In this shadow, however, human hearts continue to wait for the dawn of which the Psalmist speaks. Because this expectation is particularly powerful and evident in young people, my thoughts turn to them and to the contribution which they can and must make to society. I would like therefore to devote this message for the XLV World Day of Peace to the theme of education: 'Educating Young People in Justice and Peace,' in the conviction that the young, with their enthusiasm and idealism, can offer new hope to the world.

"My Message is also addressed to parents, families and all those involved in the area of education and formation, as well as to leaders in the various spheres of religious, social, political, economic, and cultural life and in the media. Attentiveness to young people and their concerns, the ability to listen to them and appreciate them, is not merely something expedient; it represents a primary duty for society as a whole, for the sake of building a future of justice and peace.

"It is a matter of communicating to young people an appreciation for the positive value of life and of awakening in them a desire to spend their lives in the service of the Good. This is a task which engages each of us personally.

"The concerns expressed in recent times by many young people around the world demonstrate that they desire to look to the future with solid hope. At the present time, they are experiencing apprehension about many things: they want to receive an education which prepares them more fully to deal with the real world, they see how difficult it is to form a family and to find stable employment; they wonder if they can really contribute to political, cultural, and economic life in order to build a society with a more human and fraternal face.

"It is important that this unease and its underlying idealism receive due attention at every level of society. The Church looks to young people with hope and confidence; she encourages them to seek truth, to defend the common good, to be open to the world around them, and willing to see 'new things' (Is 42:9; 48:6).


"2. Education is the most interesting and difficult adventure in life. Educating from the Latin educere means leading young people to move beyond themselves and introducing them to reality, towards a fullness that leads to growth. This process is fostered by the encounter of two freedoms, that of adults and that of the young. It calls for responsibility on the part of the learners, who must be open to being led to the knowledge of reality, and on the part of educators, who must be ready to give of themselves. For this reason, today more than ever we need authentic witnesses, and not simply people who parcel out rules and facts; we need witnesses capable of seeing farther than others because their life is so much broader. A witness is someone who first lives the life that he proposes to others.

"Where does true education in peace and justice take place? First of all, in the family, since parents are the first educators. The family is the primary cell of society; 'it is in the family that children learn the human and Christian values which enable them to have a constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that they learn solidarity between the generations, respect for rules, forgiveness, and how to welcome others.'(1) The family is the first school in which we are trained in justice and peace.

"We are living in a world where families, and life itself, are constantly threatened and not infrequently fragmented. Working conditions which are often incompatible with family responsibilities, worries about the future, the frenetic pace of life, the need to move frequently to ensure an adequate livelihood, to say nothing of mere survival all this makes it hard to ensure that children receive one of the most precious of treasures: the presence of their parents. This presence makes it possible to share more deeply in the journey of life and thus to pass on experiences and convictions gained with the passing of the years, experiences and convictions which can only be communicated by spending time together. I would urge parents not to grow disheartened! May they encourage children by the example of their lives to put their hope before all else in God, the one source of authentic justice and peace.

"I would also like to address a word to those in charge of educational institutions: with a great sense of responsibility may they ensure that the dignity of each person is always respected and appreciated. Let them be concerned that every young person be able to discover his or her own vocation and helped to develop his or her God-given gifts. May they reassure families that their children can receive an education that does not conflict with their consciences and their religious principles.

"Every educational setting can be a place of openness to the transcendent and to others; a place of dialogue, cohesiveness and attentive listening, where young people feel appreciated for their personal abilities and inner riches, and can learn to esteem their brothers and sisters. May young people be taught to savor the joy which comes from the daily exercise of charity and compassion towards others and from taking an active part in the building of a more humane and fraternal society.

"I ask political leaders to offer concrete assistance to families and educational institutions in the exercise of their right and duty to educate. Adequate support should never be lacking to parents in their task. Let them ensure that no one is ever denied access to education and that families are able freely to choose the educational structures they consider most suitable for their children. Let them be committed to reuniting families separated by the need to earn a living. Let them give young people a transparent image of politics as a genuine service to the good of all.

"I cannot fail also to appeal to the world of the media to offer its own contribution to education. In today's society the mass media have a particular role: they not only inform but also form the minds of their audiences, and so they can make a significant contribution to the education of young people. It is important never to forget that the connection between education and communication is extremely close: education takes place through communication, which influences, for better or worse, the formation of the person.

"Young people too need to have the courage to live by the same high standards that they set for others. Theirs is a great responsibility: may they find the strength to make good and wise use of their freedom. They too are responsible for their education, including their education in justice and peace!

Educating in truth and freedom

"3. Saint Augustine once asked: 'Quid enim fortius desiderat anima quam veritatem? What does man desire more deeply than truth?'(2) The human face of a society depends very much on the contribution of education to keep this irrepressible question alive. Education, indeed, is concerned with the integral formation of the person, including the moral and spiritual dimension, focused upon man's final end and the good of the society to which he belongs. Therefore, in order to educate in truth, it is necessary first and foremost to know who the human person is, to know human nature. Contemplating the world around him, the Psalmist reflects: 'When I see the heavens, the work of Your hands, the moon and the stars which You arranged, what is man that You should keep him in mind, mortal man that You care for him?' (Ps 8:4-5). This is the fundamental question that must be asked: who is man? Man is a being who bears within his heart a thirst for the infinite, a thirst for truth a truth which is not partial but capable of explaining life's meaning since he was created in the image and likeness of God. The grateful recognition that life is an inestimable gift, then, leads to the discovery of one's own profound dignity and the inviolability of every single person. Hence the first step in education is learning to recognize the Creator's image in man, and consequently learning to have a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life consonant with this supreme dignity. We must never forget that 'authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension,'(3) including the transcendent dimension, and that the person cannot be sacrificed for the sake of attaining a particular good, whether this be economic or social, individual or collective.

"Only in relation to God does man come to understand also the meaning of human freedom. It is the task of education to form people in authentic freedom. This is not the absence of constraint or the supremacy of free will, it is not the absolutism of the self. When man believes himself to be absolute, to depend on nothing and no one, to be able to do anything he wants, he ends up contradicting the truth of his own being and forfeiting his freedom. On the contrary, man is a relational being, who lives in relationship with others and especially with God. Authentic freedom can never be attained independently of God.

"Freedom is a precious value, but a fragile one; it can be misunderstood and misused. 'Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own self. With such a relativistic horizon, therefore, real education is not possible without the light of the truth; sooner or later, every person is in fact condemned to doubting the goodness of his or her own life and the relationships of which it consists, the validity of his or her commitment to build with others something in common.'(4)

"In order to exercise his freedom, then, man must move beyond the relativistic horizon and come to know the truth about himself and the truth about good and evil. Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law that he did not lay upon himself, but which he must obey. Its voice calls him to love and to do what is good, to avoid evil and to take responsibility for the good he does and the evil he commits.(5) Thus, the exercise of freedom is intimately linked to the natural moral law, which is universal in character, expresses the dignity of every person and forms the basis of fundamental human rights and duties: consequently, in the final analysis, it forms the basis for just and peaceful coexistence.

"The right use of freedom, then, is central to the promotion of justice and peace, which require respect for oneself and others, including those whose way of being and living differs greatly from one's own. This attitude engenders the elements without which peace and justice remain merely words without content: mutual trust, the capacity to hold constructive dialogue, the possibility of forgiveness, which one constantly wishes to receive but finds hard to bestow, mutual charity, compassion towards the weakest, as well as readiness to make sacrifices.

Educating in justice

"4. In this world of ours, in which, despite the profession of good intentions, the value of the person, of human dignity and human rights is seriously threatened by the widespread tendency to have recourse exclusively to the criteria of utility, profit, and material possessions, it is important not to detach the concept of justice from its transcendent roots. Justice, indeed, is not simply a human convention, since what is just is ultimately determined not by positive law, but by the profound identity of the human being. It is the integral vision of man that saves us from falling into a contractual conception of justice and enables us to locate justice within the horizon of solidarity and love.(6)

"We cannot ignore the fact that some currents of modern culture, built upon rationalist and individualist economic principles, have cut off the concept of justice from its transcendent roots, detaching it from charity and solidarity: 'The "earthly city" is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy, and communion. Charity always manifests God's love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world.'(7)

" 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied' (Mt 5:6). They shall be satisfied because they hunger and thirst for right relations with God, with themselves, with their brothers and sisters, and with the whole of creation.

Educating in peace

"5. 'Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity.'(8) We Christians believe that Christ is our true peace: in Him, by His Cross, God has reconciled the world to Himself and has broken down the walls of division that separated us from one another (cf. Eph 2:14-18); in Him, there is but one family, reconciled in love.

"Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community, and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development, and conflict resolution. 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,' as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:9).

"Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice, according to one's particular areas of competence and responsibility. To the young, who have such a strong attachment to ideals, I extend a particular invitation to be patient and persevering in seeking justice and peace, in cultivating the taste for what is just and true, even when it involves sacrifice and swimming against the tide.

Raising one's eyes to God

"6. Before the difficult challenge of walking the paths of justice and peace, we may be tempted to ask, in the words of the Psalmist: 'I lift up my eyes to the mountains: from where shall come my help?' (Ps 121:1).

"To all, and to young people in particular, I wish to say emphatically: 'It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true an unconditional return to God Who is the measure of what is right and Who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?'(9) Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13).

"Dear young people, you are a precious gift for society. Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems. Do not be afraid to make a commitment, to face hard work and sacrifice, to choose the paths that demand fidelity and constancy, humility, and dedication. Be confident in your youth and its profound desires for happiness, truth, beauty, and genuine love! Live fully this time in your life so rich and so full of enthusiasm.

"Realize that you yourselves are an example and an inspiration to adults, even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future. Be aware of your potential; never become self-centered but work for a brighter future for all. You are never alone. The Church has confidence in you, follows you, encourages you, and wishes to offer you the most precious gift she has: the opportunity to raise your eyes to God, to encounter Jesus Christ, Who is Himself justice and peace.

"All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace. With these thoughts I offer my reflections and I appeal to everyone: let us pool our spiritual, moral, and material resources for the great goal of 'educating young people in justice and peace.' "

(1) BENEDICT XVI, Address to Administrators of Lazio Region and of the Municipality and Province of Rome (January 14, 2011):

(2) Commentary on the Gospel of John, 26, 5.

(3) BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate . . . ; cf. PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio . . .

(4) BENEDICT XVI, Address for the Opening of the Diocesan Ecclesial Meeting in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran (June 6, 2005) . . .

(5) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 16.

(6) Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag (Berlin, September 22, 2011) . . .

(7) ID., Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 6 (June 29, 2009), . . .

(8) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2304.

(9) BENEDICT XVI, Address at Youth Vigil (Cologne, August 20, 2005): . . .

Faith Is A Safe Anchor For The Sick And Suffering

The universal Church will focus on the sick and suffering on February 11, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the 20th World Day of the Sick. In his message for the Day, dated November 20, the feast of Christ the King, Pope Benedict XVI said:

". . . I wish to renew my spiritual closeness to all sick people who are in places of care or are looked after in their families, expressing to each one of them the solicitude and the affection of the whole Church. In the generous and loving welcoming of every human life, above all of weak and sick life, a Christian expresses an important aspect of his or her Gospel witness, following the example of Christ, Who bent down before the material and spiritual sufferings of man in order to heal them.

"Hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.  At the appointed time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for us godless men.  It is rare that anyone should lay down his life for a just man, though it is barely possible that for a good man someone may have the courage to die.  It is precisely in this that God proves His love for us:  that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Now that we have been justified by His blood, it is all the more certain that we shall be saved by Him from God's wrath.  For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him by the death of His Son, it is all the more certain that we who have been reconciled will be saved by His life.  Not only that; we go so far as to make God our boast through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received reconciliation" (Rom 5:5-11).

"1. This year, which involves the immediate preparations for the Solemn World Day of the Sick that will be celebrated in Germany on February 11, 2013, and will focus on the emblematic Gospel figure of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:29-37), I would like to place emphasis upon the 'sacraments of healing,' that is to say upon the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and that of the Anointing of the Sick, which have their natural completion in Eucharistic Communion.

"The encounter of Jesus with the ten lepers, narrated by the Gospel of Saint Luke (cf. Lk 17:11-19), and in particular the words that the Lord addresses to one of them, 'Stand up and go; your faith has saved you' (v. 19), help us to become aware of the importance of faith for those who, burdened by suffering and illness, draw near to the Lord. In their encounter with Him they can truly experience that he who believes is never alone! God, indeed, in His Son, does not abandon us to our anguish and sufferings, but is close to us, helps us to bear them, and wishes to heal us in the depths of our hearts (cf. Mk 2:1-12).

"The faith of the lone leper who, on seeing that he was healed, full of amazement and joy, and unlike the others, immediately went back to Jesus to express his gratitude, enables us to perceive that reacquired health is a sign of something more precious than mere physical healing, it is a sign of the salvation that God gives us through Christ; it finds expression in the words of Jesus: your faith has saved you. He who in suffering and illness prays to the Lord is certain that God's love will never abandon him, and also that the love of the Church, the extension in time of the Lord's saving work, will never fail. Physical healing, an outward expression of the deepest salvation, thus reveals the importance that man in his entirety of soul and body has for the Lord. Each sacrament, for that matter, expresses and actuates the closeness of God Himself, Who, in an absolutely freely-given way, 'touches us through material things that He takes up into His service, making them instruments of the encounter between us and Himself' (Homily, Chrism Mass, April 1, 2010). 'The unity between creation and redemption is made visible. The sacraments are an expression of the physicality of our faith, which embraces the whole person, body and soul' (Homily, Chrism Mass, April 21, 2011).

"The principal task of the Church is certainly proclaiming the Kingdom of God, 'But this very proclamation must be a process of healing: "bind up the broken-hearted" (Is 61:1)' (ibid.), according to the charge entrusted by Jesus to His disciples (cf. Lk 9:1-2; Mt 10:1,5-14; Mk 6:7-13). The tandem of physical health and renewal after lacerations of the soul thus helps us to understand better the 'sacraments of healing.'

"2. The sacrament of Penance has often been at the center of the reflection of the Church's Pastors, specifically because of its great importance in the journey of Christian life, given that 'The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God's grace, and joining with Him in an intimate friendship' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1468). The Church, in continuing to proclaim Jesus' message of forgiveness and reconciliation, never ceases to invite the whole of humanity to convert and to believe in the Gospel. She makes her own the call of the Apostle Paul: 'So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God' (2 Cor 5:20). Jesus, during His life, proclaimed and made present the mercy of the Father. He came not to condemn but to forgive and to save, to give hope in the deepest darkness of suffering and sin, and to give eternal life; thus in the sacrament of Penance, in the 'medicine of confession,' the experience of sin does not degenerate into despair but encounters the love that forgives and transforms (cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 31).

"God, 'rich in mercy' (Eph 2:4), like the father in the Gospel parable (cf. Lk 15:11-32), does not close His heart to any of His children, but waits for them, looks for them, reaches them where their rejection of communion imprisons them in isolation and division, and calls them to gather around His table, in the joy of the feast of forgiveness and reconciliation. A time of suffering, in which one could be tempted to abandon oneself to discouragement and hopelessness, can thus be transformed into a time of grace so as to return to oneself, and like the prodigal son of the parable, to think anew about one's life, recognizing its errors and failures, longing for the embrace of the Father, and following the pathway to His home. He, in His great love, always and everywhere watches over our lives and awaits us so as to offer to every child that returns to Him the gift of full reconciliation and joy.

"3. From a reading of the Gospels it emerges clearly that Jesus always showed special concern for sick people. He not only sent out His disciples to tend their wounds (cf. Mt 10:8; Lk 9:2; 10:9) but also instituted for them a specific sacrament: the Anointing of the Sick. The Letter of James attests to the presence of this sacramental act already in the first Christian community (cf. 5:14-16): by the Anointing of the Sick, accompanied by the prayer of the elders, the whole of the Church commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord so that He may alleviate their sufferings and save them; indeed she exhorts them to unite themselves spiritually to the passion and death of Christ so as to contribute thereby to the good of the People of God.

"This sacrament leads us to contemplate the double mystery of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus found Himself dramatically confronted by the path indicated to Him by the Father, that of His Passion, the supreme act of love; and He accepted it. In that hour of tribulation, He is the mediator, 'bearing in Himself, taking upon Himself the sufferings and passion of the world, transforming it into a cry to God, bringing it before the eyes and into the hands of God and thus truly bringing it to the moment of redemption' (Lectio Divina, Meeting with the Parish Priests of Rome, February 18, 2010). But 'the Garden of Olives is also the place from which He ascended to the Father, and is, therefore, the place of redemption This double mystery of the Mount of Olives is also always "at work" within the Church's sacramental oil the sign of God's goodness reaching out to touch us' (Homily, Chrism Mass, April 1, 2010). In the Anointing of the Sick, the sacramental matter of the oil is offered to us, so to speak, 'as God's medicine which now assures us of His goodness, offering us strength and consolation, yet at the same time points beyond the moment of the illness towards the definitive healing, the resurrection (cf. Jas 5:14)' (ibid.).

"This sacrament deserves greater consideration today both in theological reflection and in pastoral ministry among the sick. Through a proper appreciation of the content of the liturgical prayers that are adapted to the various human situations connected with illness, and not only when a person is at the end of his or her life (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1514), the Anointing of the Sick should not be held to be almost 'a minor sacrament' when compared to the others. Attention to and pastoral care for sick people, while, on the one hand, a sign of God's tenderness towards those who are suffering, on the other brings spiritual advantage to priests and the whole Christian community as well, in the awareness that what is done to the least, is done to Jesus Himself (cf. Mt 25:40).

"4. As regards the 'sacraments of healing,' Saint Augustine affirms: 'God heals all your infirmities. Do not be afraid, therefore, all your infirmities will be healed You must only allow Him to cure you and you must not reject His hands' (Exposition on Psalm 102, 5; PL 36, 1319-1320). These are precious instruments of God's grace which help a sick person to conform himself or herself ever more fully to the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. Together with these two sacraments, I would also like to emphasize the importance of the Eucharist. Received at a time of illness, it contributes in a singular way to working this transformation, associating the person who partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ to the offering that He made of Himself to the Father for the salvation of all. The whole ecclesial community, and parish communities in particular, should pay attention to guaranteeing the possibility of frequently receiving Holy Communion, to those people who, for reasons of health or age, cannot go to a place of worship. In this way, these brothers and sisters are offered the possibility of strengthening their relationship with Christ, crucified and risen, participating, through their lives offered up for love of Christ, in the very mission of the Church. From this point of view, it is important that priests who offer their discreet work in hospitals, in nursing homes, and in the homes of sick people, feel they are truly "ministers of the sick," signs and instruments of Christ's compassion who must reach out to every person marked by suffering' (Message for the XVIII World Day of the Sick, November 22, 2009).

"Becoming conformed to the Paschal Mystery of Christ, which can also be achieved through the practice of spiritual Communion, takes on a very particular meaning when the Eucharist is administered and received as Viaticum. At that stage in life, these words of the Lord are even more telling: 'Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day' (Jn 6:54). The Eucharist, especially as Viaticum, is according to the definition of Saint Ignatius of Antioch 'medicine of immortality, the antidote for death' (Letter to the Ephesians, 20: PG 5, 661); the sacrament of the passage from death to life, from this world to the Father, Who awaits everyone in the celestial Jerusalem.

"5. The theme of this Message for the Twentieth World Day of the Sick, 'Stand up and go; your faith has saved you,' also looks forward to the forthcoming Year of Faith which will begin on October 11, 2012, a propitious and valuable occasion to rediscover the strength and beauty of faith, to examine its contents, and to bear witness to it in daily life (cf. Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, October 11, 2011). I wish to encourage sick people and the suffering always to find a safe anchor in faith, nourished by listening to the Word of God, by personal prayer and by the sacraments, while I invite pastors to be increasingly ready to celebrate them for the sick. Following the example of the Good Shepherd and as guides of the flocks entrusted to them, priests should be full of joy, attentive to the weakest, the simple, and sinners, expressing the infinite mercy of God with reassuring words of hope (cf. Saint Augustine, Letter 95, 1: PL 33, 351-352).

"To all those who work in the field of health, and to the families who see in their relatives the suffering face of the Lord Jesus, I renew my thanks and that of the Church, because, in their professional expertise and in silence, often without even mentioning the name of Christ, they manifest Him in a concrete way (cf. Homily, Chrism Mass, April 21, 2011).

"To Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick, we raise our trusting gaze and our prayer; may her maternal compassion, manifested as she stood beside her dying Son on the Cross, accompany and sustain the faith and the hope of every sick and suffering person on the journey of healing for the wounds of body and spirit! . . ."

In Defense of Life: The Beginning Of The End Of Religious Freedom

Fred H. Summe
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012

by Fred H. Summe

"In the name of tolerance, we're not being tolerated, " said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois.

As reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Illinois Catholic bishops have closed their adoption services rather than comply with the state requirement that they place children for adoption with homosexual couples. The Illinois bishops have now joined their colleagues in Washington, D.C., and in Massachusetts, in refusing to place children with those who perform unnatural and perverted homosexual acts.

In order to appease their so-called "gay" sources of political contributions, these three areas of the country, controlled by the ultra-liberal Democratic Party, have denied children and young mothers wanting to place their children in the loving care of a family, the guidance and care of the Catholic Church.

A second example of the beginning of a persecution of the Catholic Church and those who hold the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life by the government controlled by liberal socialists, is a decision of the Obama Administration to deny federal funding to the U.S. Bishops' Office of Immigration and Refugee Services, based on a new regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, requiring that contraception and abortion be made available to victims of human trafficking.

The Obama Administration argued that no group has a constitutional right to a government contract.  In response, Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made an important distinction:  "It's true that the church doesn't have a First Amendment right to have a government contract, but it does have a First Amendment right not to be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs."


A third, and probably the most destructive federal mandate, is the one issued last year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  In August, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) demanded that the Obama Administration withdraw the new federal requirement that private insurance provide women with coverage for FDA-approved contraception, including sterilization and contraceptives that have an abortifacient effect.

Even though the mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided for a so-called "conscience clause," it interprets it so narrowly that any religious group that provides services to or employs people of other faiths does not qualify under this exception.

"Such nationwide government coercion of religious people and groups…represents an unprecedented attack on religious liberty," stated the general counsel for the USCCB, reports The Catholic World Report. reports: "Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic college located in North Carolina, has launched a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the pending abortifacient contraceptive mandate.

"The suit alleges that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has infringed upon Belmont Abbey's First Amendment freedom of religion by requiring employers to offer health insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including the abortion-inducing drugs Plan B and Ella. The directive was issued as part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

"The Becket Fund, which is representing Belmont Abbey, argued in a press release that the narrow religious exemption has forced Belmont Abbey into the situation of having to choose between holding to its religious beliefs or providing its employees and students with health insurance."

In a letter to President Obama, a group of Protestant and Orthodox Jewish leaders have joined the protest.  Over 60 religious leaders, including Dr. Richard Land, with the Southern Baptist Convention, Tom Minnery, with Focus on the Family, and Nathan Diament, of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, stated:

"We write to express our deep concern about the contraceptives mandate in the health insurance regulations, and about the 'religious employer' exemption that is so narrow that it does not protect most faith-based organizations.

"It is not only Catholics who object to the narrow exemption that protects only seminaries and a few churches, but not churches with a social outreach and other faith-based organizations that serve the poor and needy broadly providing help that goes beyond worship and prayer. …An organization does not cease to be a religious organization just because it serves the poor and needy in material ways and does not confine its help to prayer and religious teaching."

Even if the Obama Administration would exempt religious organizations from its mandate, other Christian employers would be forced to pay, through the hospitalization coverage, for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients.

So concerned are the Catholic bishops, that at their last conference they formed a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, to be chaired by Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Testifying in October before Congress, Bishop Lori addressed a number of "grave threats to religious liberty," specifically mentioning not only the above three policies, but others by the USAID, and by the Department of Justice.

Sheep in Wolves' Clothing

To the rescue of the Obama Administration now comes Fr. John Jenkins, President of Notre Dame University, and Sr. Carol Keehan, President of the Catholic Health Association.  (Remember in 2009, Fr. Jenkins gave to President Obama an honorary degree, plus an opportunity to speak at Notre Dame University's commencement ceremony.  The Catholic Health Association was a key supporter of Obama care, poo-pooing the Bishops' direct opposition to the abortion-expanding law.)

To help make the Obama Administration appear in a better light, Fr. Jenkins and Sr. Keehan proposed that the exemption would be available to an organization that is "controlled by or associated with a church or a convention or association of churches."

However, as pointed out by Patrick J. Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society, most Catholic colleges and universities would be unlikely to meet this exemption.  The practical effect of the Jenkins/Keehan proposal "would be to slam the door on most religious organizations while providing political coverage to the Obama Administration."

Wake Up and Stand Up

Highlighting the threats to religious freedom by the present federal administration, the Columbia, published by the Knights of Columbus, carries an interview with Professor Helen Alvaré, an associate professor of law at George Mason University and former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.  Alvaré states:

"Undoubtedly, there are many recipients of the Church's services who would like to avoid providers that believe the body is an object, sex is an animal instinct, and the unborn child is less than human.

"The federal government, more than ever before, will not abide the slightest dissenting voice on the subject of human sexuality.  They have put their vision of the human person directly in conflict with religious freedom.

"Despite the fact that religious institutions have been superior providers in education, healthcare, and social services, the federal administration appears to prefer that the government cooperate with, or even allow to exist, only those organizations strictly agreeing with the government's philosophy.  As a result, religious institutions could grow smaller and, in some cases, disappear.

"The health of their own families, communities, and really their nation is at stake.  Catholics need to take these teachings seriously and seek out candidates who support this view of the human person.  They also need to contact members of their federal and state delegations because there is a tremendous amount going on right now with regard to marriage, respect for life, healthcare, and educational policy that closely relates to whether or not Catholics will even be permitted to act publicly, or even speak publicly, about their convictions in these crucial areas."

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former Archbishop of St. Louis, now the head of the Vatican's highest court, stated, according to Catholic News Agency, that the Catholic Church in America, "even by announcing her own teaching," will be accused of "engaging in illegal activity, for instance in its teaching on human sexuality." 

Burke continued:  The United States is "well on the way" to the persecution of Christians.  "It is critical at this time that Christians stand up for the natural law."  If they fail, he warned, "secularization will in fact predominate, and it will destroy us." 

Prison To Praise: "I Am A Christian And A Criminal"

by Brandon M. Ennis

(Editor's note: Mr. Ennis writes from Indiana. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners. Scripture quotations are from the New American Bible, Catholic Mission Edition, 1987.)

"I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for all men, especially for kings and those in authority, that we may be able to lead undisturbed and tranquil lives."
(1 Tm 2:1-2)

Recently I made this statement to a Christian brother here at Indiana State Prison. My name is Brandon M. Ennis, better known as "Thumper." I lost my way in the world and lost my faith upon returning to prison. Why did God turn His back on me? It was I who turned my back on God. ?My testimony would take up this entire periodical. A synopsis is I grew up Catholic, knew the Bible, got locked up young, ran with a gang, got out of lock up, and then I was in and out for years until I finally was sentenced to a long term bit. I look institutionalized! My arms are full of tattooed sleeves and my face has tattooed teardrops.

I was sentenced to 55 years for murder with 18 months consecutive for refusing to testify at a co-defendant's trial. Upon arrival to prison, I could not accept the tenets of Catholicism on faith; I denounced the faith, and became a Pagan Priest for over ten years. I had simply superimposed the structure and conservatism of Catholicism over another faith influenced by Paganism, looking for so-called "liberation" and "freedom." Even though that path is somewhat conservative by nature, there were people who disliked my interpretation of the path I taught, and rightly so. Those who turn their back on Christianity, especially in this environment, are often simply frustrated with the word being shoved down their throat, the guidelines set forth by logos, God, and Jesus.

Upon returning to my Catholic faith, and embracing the tenets, I still am tempted by the carnal, and this is viewed by my former "parishioners" as hypocritical. The word is strong, and daily strengthens me. Yet talking to my Christian brother concerning my struggle I spoke on what ones perceived as hypocrisy, what was, and is essentially me convicting my own heart in the walk.

"I'm a Christian and a criminal" it is hard to walk the narrow path here. I want to make excuses not to serve, excuses on why I should involve myself in the daily hustle. I want that little $10 I can earn skirting the authorities (it helps to offset the $25 a month I make working at my job 50 hours a week). But the effects are long reaching, anything from engaging in the traffic of illicit contraband to theft to flat out armed robberies are considered "jobs" and "hustles" here.

There is a victim, or multiple victims, depending on how one perceives the situation. I try to justify the small things I do, stating they are more venial then mortal and for the most part seem victimless. However, if I were to actually live in the WORD as a basis, most of this stuff would not need to be done.

I had not studied my original baptized belief as much as been trained in it. But returning from apostasy my hunger is voracious, my thirst unquenchable. I explained what I was going through, trying to justify my actions to pursue mammon. I want to live comfortable and the very temptation of mammon and lust induces a very personal spiritual warfare that I feel is almost insurmountable, even as my heart lauds the Apostle Paul. He did not have the amenities I have. Television, college degrees, a cell full of books, he had manacles and the faith of Jesus Who he witnessed and preached. This makes me realize that my own faith can be strengthened by so much. At the end of our conversation, the brother directed me to read Romans, and it was such a perfect lead.

Paul's letter to the Romans gave voice to my heart and struggles. Paul forecasted me so many years ago. What I was declaring in conversation Paul had articulated eloquently in Romans 7:13-25 (Sin and Death) God knows my heart. He makes the evil good. The same questions I used to intimidate ignorant Christians I know firsthand. Had I studied God's word as in depth as I studied other faiths, maybe I would not have strayed. But all happens for the Glory of God, Who in Isaiah 45:7 says, "I form the light and create darkness, I make well being and create woe" (footnote 45:7 Create Woe: God permits evil for the sake of a greater good). (New American Bible)

As it is, many pagans believe I returned to the path of slavery to which I can only say, "So be it," and close with "Be blessed" (a play on the phrase "Blessed Be, my blessings are given in the name of Jesus). The reality is, upon my return, I would initially argue the word to show them the truth, as the same texts I presented to Christians ignorant of their faith were presented to me.

However, at this moment, I am actually more versed in Pagan religion via rote memory. The armor of God truly is the word (Logos) and the word made flesh is not only in God, but also in those of us created in the image. I had gained much respect for my intensive knowledge as a Pagan Priest. Now I humbly strive to attain the same respect for my Catholic walk and growing knowledge. I cannot force it onto these brothers; like myself, they can only arrive when their hearts are ready. But I do need to be prepared with the word and the answers for those who seek.

Therefore, my biblical studies have changed. I can tell you what the Holy Bible says about something, but not exactly where to find it. That is why one of my justifications striving for mammon comes in, "How can I get this master's degree in Theology from a fully accredited university?" Then I remember Paul and realize my own selfishness.

Matthew Kelly in his excellent text Rediscover Catholicism states, "Find a friend who is not Catholic and don't talk about the word, don't preach it, live it." And that is what it takes not only in prison but in the world. We are all doing time in some form or another, slave to the housework, slave to the grind, slaves to our passions, and in this existence I would expect these problems affect more than me. How many young Catholics have to resist the temptation to engage in the sales of illicit wares, or thieve in these trying economic times? In order to pay for their college credit hours, books, etc? How many attend church weekly, pray nightly, knowing they do wrong, but are somewhat forced into the situations in their own minds. Young fathers who are trying to keep their kids in diapers and milk or keep up with support payments just to stay out of jail?

No matter where we are the temptations are there, and it has been so all through time. It crosses all political and racial lines, and imprisons ones in a so-called free society. Freedom is in the word, and those who walk in the word glorify and imitate Christ in their daily walk, for all who are watching. So, as you start the day, begin with the sign of the cross and throughout the day pray unceasingly that you may be a living example, spreading the love bestowed upon us by the Catholic Church. May the Lord be with you.

Edge to Edge

Pray The News

Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.

  • Sacred Heart of Jesus, we pray that we will give our hearts completely to You.
  • We pray that we will faithfully walk the way of justice and peace and encourage others to do the same.
  • We pray with St. Francis of Assisi that we will be instruments of peace and builders of a more fraternal world.
  • We pray young people will be encouraged, supported, and educated in justice and peace.
  • We pray for the virtue of hope and that Christians will be beacons of hope in our troubled world.
  • We pray for an end to war, violence, abortion, euthanasia, and all attacks on life.
  • We pray for the sick and suffering to grow ever closer to Jesus.
  • We pray for those caring for the sick and suffering to be a strong support and encouragement.
  • We pray for an end to drought and famine throughout the world.
  • We pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
  • We pray that we will have the heart of Jesus for the poor, marginalized, sick, and suffering.

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