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My People

Vol. 28, Issue 4, April 2015

"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


Risen Christ by Joseph Fisher

Pope Calls Youth To Be Brave Adventurers

World Youth Day 2015 will be observed in dioceses throughout the world on Palm Sunday, March 29. Pope Francis issued his message for the 30th World Youth Day on January 31, the memorial of St. John Bosco. His message follows:

"... We continue our spiritual pilgrimage toward Krakow, where in July 2016 the next international World Youth Day will be held. As our guide for the journey we have chosen the Beatitudes. Last year we reflected on the beatitude of the poor in spirit, within the greater context of the Sermon on the Mount. Together we discovered the revolutionary meaning of the Beatitudes and the powerful summons of Jesus to embark courageously upon the exciting quest for happiness. This year we will reflect on the sixth beatitude: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God' (Mt 5:8).

1. The desire for happiness

"The word 'blessed,' or 'happy,' occurs nine times in this Jesus' first great sermon (cf. Mt 5:1-12). It is like a refrain reminding us of the Lord's call to advance together with him on a road which, for all its many challenges, leads to true happiness.

"... This search for happiness is shared by people of all times and all ages. God has placed in the heart of every man and woman an irrepressible desire for happiness, for fulfillment. Have you not noticed that your hearts are restless, always searching for a treasure which can satisfy their thirst for the infinite?

"The first chapters of the Book of Genesis show us the splendid 'beatitude' to which we are called. It consists in perfect communion with God, with others, with nature, and with ourselves. To approach God freely, to see Him and to be close to Him, was part of His plan for us from the beginning; His divine light was meant to illumine every human relationship with truth and transparency. In the state of original purity, there was no need to put on masks, to engage in ploys or to attempt to conceal ourselves from one another. Everything was clear and pure.

"When Adam and Eve yielded to temptation and broke off this relationship of trusting communion with God, sin entered into human history (cf. Gen 3). The effects were immediately evident, within themselves, in their relationship with each other and with nature. And how dramatic the effects are! Our original purity as defiled. From that time on, we were no longer capable of closeness to God. Men and women began to conceal themselves, to cover their nakedness. Lacking the light which comes from seeing the Lord, they saw everything around them in a distorted fashion, myopically. The inner compass which had guided them in their quest for happiness lost its point of reference, and the attractions of power, wealth, possessions, and a desire for pleasure at all costs, led them to the abyss of sorrow and anguish.

"In the Psalms we hear the heartfelt plea which mankind makes to God: 'What can bring us happiness? Let the light of Your face shine on us, O Lord' (Ps 4:7). The Father, in His infinite goodness, responded to this plea by sending His Son. In Jesus, God has taken on a human face. Through His Incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus frees us from sin and opens new and hitherto unimaginable horizons.

"... In Christ you find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness. He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises. As Saint John Paul II said: 'He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives' (cf. Discourse at the Prayer Vigil at Tor Vergata, August 19, 2000: Insegnamenti XXIII/2, [2000], 212).

2. Blessed are the pure in heart...

"Let us now try to understand more fully how this blessedness comes about through purity of heart. First of all, we need to appreciate the biblical meaning of the word heart. In Hebrew thought, the heart is the center of the emotions, thoughts, and intentions of the human person. Since the Bible teaches us that God does not look to appearances, but to the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7), we can also say that it is from the heart that we see God. This is because the heart is really the human being in his or her totality as a unity of body and soul, in his or her ability to love and to be loved.

"As for the definition of the word pure, however, the Greek word used by the evangelist Matthew is katharos, which basically means clean, pure, undefiled. In the Gospel we see Jesus reject a certain conception of ritual purity bound to exterior practices, one which forbade all contact with things and people (including lepers and strangers) considered impure. To the Pharisees who, like so many Jews of their time, ate nothing without first performing ritual ablutions and observing the many traditions associated with cleansing vessels, Jesus responds categorically: 'There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride,'foolishness" (Mk 7:15, 21-22).

"In what, then, does the happiness born of a pure heart consist? From Jesus' list of the evils which make someone impure, we see that the question has to do above all with the area of our relationships. Each one of us must learn to discern what can 'defile' his or her heart and to form his or her conscience rightly and sensibly, so as to be capable of 'discerning the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect' (Rom 12:2). We need to show a healthy concern for creation, for the purity of our air, water and food, but how much more do we need to protect the purity of what is most precious of all: our heart and our relationships. This 'human ecology' will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beauty, from true love, and from holiness.

"Once I asked you the question: 'Where is your treasure? In what does your heart find its rest?' (cf. Interview with Young People from Belgium, March 31, 2014). Our hearts can be attached to true or false treasures, they can find genuine rest or they can simply slumber, becoming lazy and lethargic. The greatest good we can have in life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Do you realize how much you are worth in the eyes of God? Do you know that you are loved and welcomed by Him unconditionally, as indeed you are? Once we lose our sense of this, we human beings become an incomprehensible enigma, for it is the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives. Do you remember the conversation that Jesus had with the rich young man (cf. Mk 10:17-22)? The evangelist Mark observes that the Lord looked upon him and loved him (v. 21), and invited him to follow Him and thus to find true riches. I hope, dear young friends, that this loving gaze of Christ will accompany each of you throughout life.

"Youth is a time of life when your desire for a love which is genuine, beautiful, and expansive begins to blossom in your hearts. How powerful is this ability to love and to be loved! Do not let this precious treasure be debased, destroyed, or spoiled. That is what happens when we start to use our neighbors for our own selfish ends, even as objects of pleasure. Hearts are broken and sadness follows upon these negative experiences. I urge you: Do not be afraid of true love, the love that Jesus teaches us and which Saint Paul describes as 'patient and kind.' Paul says: 'Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things' (1 Cor 13:4-8).

"In encouraging you to rediscover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone, deprived of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity, and responsibility. Dear young friends, 'in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of "enjoying" the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, "for ever," because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage to "swim against the tide." And also have the courage to be happy' (Meeting with the Volunteers of the XXVIII Word Youth Day, July 28, 2013).

"You young people are brave adventurers! If you allow yourselves to discover the rich teachings of the Church on love, you will discover that Christianity does not consist of a series of prohibitions which stifle our desire for happiness, but rather a project for life capable of captivating our hearts.

3. ...for they shall see God

"In the heart of each man and woman, the Lord's invitation constantly resounds: 'Seek My face!' (Ps 27:8). At the same time, we must always realize that we are poor sinners. For example, we read in the Book of Psalms: 'Who can climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart' (Ps 24:3-4). But we must never be afraid or discouraged: throughout the Bible and in the history of each one of us we see that it is always God who takes the first step. He purifies us so that we can come into His presence.

"When the prophet Isaiah heard the Lord's call to speak in His name, he was terrified and said: 'Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips' (Is 6:5). And yet the Lord purified him, sending to him an angel who touched his lips, saying: 'Your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven' (v. 7). In the New Testament, when on the shores of lake Genessaret Jesus called His first disciples and performed the sign of the miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter fell at His feet, exclaiming: 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord' (Lk 5:8). Jesus' reply was immediate: 'Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be fishers of men' (v. 10). And when one of the disciples of Jesus asked Him: 'Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied,' the Master replied: 'He who has seen Me has seen the Father' (Jn 14:8-9).

"The Lord's invitation to encounter Him is made to each of you, in whatever place or situation you find yourself. It suffices to have the desire for 'a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter you; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day' (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 3). We are all sinners, needing to be purified by the Lord. But it is enough to take a small step towards Jesus to realize that He awaits us always with open arms, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation, a privileged opportunity to encounter that divine mercy which purifies us and renews our hearts.

"Dear young people, the Lord wants to meet us, to let Himself 'be seen' by us. 'And how?' you might ask me. Saint Teresa of Avila, born in Spain five hundred years ago, even as a young girl, said to her parents, 'I want to see God.' She subsequently discovered the way of prayer as 'an intimate friendship with the One who makes us feel loved' (Autobiography, 8,5). So my question to you is this: 'Are you praying?' Do you know that you can speak with Jesus, with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, as you speak to a friend? And not just any friend, but the greatest and most trusted of your friends! You will discover what one of his parishioners told the Cure of Ars: 'When I pray before the tabernacle, "I look at him, and he looks at me" ' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2715).

"Once again I invite you to encounter the Lord by frequently reading sacred Scripture. If you are not already in the habit of doing so, begin with the Gospels. Read a line or two each day. Let God's word speak to your heart and enlighten your path (cf. Ps 119:105). You will discover that God can be 'seen' also in the face of your brothers and sisters, especially those who are most forgotten: the poor, the hungry, those who thirst, strangers, the sick, those imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Have you ever had this experience? Dear young people, in order to enter into the logic of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must recognize that we are poor with the poor. A pure heart is necessarily one which has been stripped bare, a heart that knows how to bend down and share its life with those most in need.

"Encountering God in prayer, the reading of the Bible and in the fraternal life will help you better to know the Lord and yourselves. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35), the Lord's voice will make your hearts burn within you. He will open your eyes to recognize His presence and to discover the loving plan He has for your life.

"Some of you feel, or will soon feel, the Lord's call to married life, to forming a family. Many people today think that this vocation is 'outdated,' but that is not true! For this very reason, the ecclesial community has been engaged in a special period of reflection on the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world. I also ask you to consider whether you are being called to the consecrated life or the priesthood. How beautiful it is to see young people who embrace the call to dedicate themselves fully to Christ and to the service of His Church! Challenge yourselves, and with a pure heart do not be afraid of what God is asking of you! From your 'yes' to the Lord's call, you will become new seeds of hope in the Church and in society. Never forget: God's will is our happiness!

These file photos show scenes from the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. (photos by Beth Strasser)

4. On the way to Krakow

" 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God' (Mt 5:8). Dear young men and women, as you see, this beatitude speaks directly to your lives and is a guarantee of your happiness. So once more I urge you: Have the courage to be happy!

"This year's World Youth Day begins the final stage of preparations for the great gathering of young people from around the world in Krakow in 2016. Thirty years ago Saint John Paul II instituted World Youth Days in the Church. This pilgrimage of young people from every continent under the guidance of the Successor of Peter has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative. Together let us thank the Lord for the precious fruits which these World Youth Days have produced in the lives of countless young people in every part of the globe! How many amazing discoveries have been made, especially the discovery that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life! How many people have realized that the Church is a big and welcoming family! How many conversions, how many vocations have these gatherings produced! May the saintly Pope, the Patron of World Youth Day, intercede on behalf of our pilgrimage toward his beloved Krakow. And may the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, all-beautiful and all-pure, accompany us at every step along the way."

Treasure Grandparents And The Elderly

Pope Francis focused on grandparents and the elderly in his March 4 general audience. His address follows:

"Today's catechesis and next Wednesday's will be dedicated to the elderly, who in the family are the grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Today we will reflect on the current problematic condition of the elderly, and next time, that is, next Wednesday, on a more positive note, on the vocation pertaining to this stage of life.

"Thanks to the progress of medicine life-spans have increased: but society has not 'expanded' to life! The number of elderly has multiplied, but our societies are not organized well enough to make room for them, with proper respect and practical consideration for their frailty and their dignity. While we are young, we are led to ignore old age, as if it were a disease to keep away from; then when we become old, especially if we are poor, if we are sick and alone, we experience the shortcomings of a society programmed for efficiency, which consequently ignores its elderly. And the elderly are a wealth not to be ignored.

"Benedict XVI, visiting a home for the elderly, used clear and prophetic words, saying in this way: 'The quality of a society, I mean of a civilization, is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life' (November 12, 2012). It's true, attention to the elderly makes the difference in a civilization. Is there attention to the elderly in a civilization? Is there room for the elderly? This civilization will move forward if it knows how to respect wisdom, the wisdom of the elderly. In a civilization in which there is no room for the elderly or where they are thrown away because they create problems, this society carries with it the virus of death.

"In the West, scientists present the current century as the aging century: children are diminishing, the elderly are increasing. This imbalance challenges us, indeed, it is a great challenge for contemporary society. Yet a culture of profit insists on casting off the old like a 'weight.' Not only do they not produce - this culture thinks - but they are a burden: in short, what is the outcome of thinking like this? They are thrown away. It's brutal to see how the elderly are thrown away, it is a brutal thing, it is a sin! No one dares to say it openly, but it's done! There is something vile in this adherence to the throw-away culture. But we are accustomed to throwing people away. We want to remove our growing fear of weakness and vulnerability; but by doing so we increase in the elderly the anxiety of being poorly tolerated and neglected.

"During my ministry in Buenos Aires I was in direct contact with this reality and its problems: 'The elderly are abandoned, and not only in material instability. They are abandoned out of a selfish incapacity to accept their limitations that reflect our own limitations, because of the numerous difficulties that must be overcome in order to survive in a society that does not allow them to participate, to have their say, or be referents in the consumer model of "only the young can be useful and enjoy." These elderly persons throughout society ought to be a reservoir of wisdom for our people. The elderly are the reservoir of wisdom for our people! How easily the conscience falls dormant when there is no love!' (Solo l'amore ci può salvare, Vatican City, 2013, p. 83).

"And it happens like that. I remember, when I was visiting a retirement home, I spoke with each person and I frequently heard this: 'How are you? And your children? Well, well. How many do you have? Many. And do they come to visit you? Oh sure, yes, always, yes, they come. When was the last time they came?' I remember an elderly woman who said to me: 'Mmm, for Christmas.' It was August! Eight months without being visited by her children, abandoned for eight months! This is called mortal sin, understand? Once as a child, a grandmother told us the story of an old grandfather who got dirty while eating because he couldn't easily bring the spoonful of soup to his mouth. And his son, that is, the father of the family, had decided to move him from the dinner table and set up a little table in the kitchen to eat alone, so he couldn't be seen. In this way he wouldn't make a bad impression when friends came over to lunch or dinner. A few days later, he came home and found his youngest child playing with some wood and a hammer and nails, he was making something there, he said: 'What are you making? - I'm making a table, papa. - A table, why? - To have one for when you grow old, so that you can eat there.' Children are more aware than we are!

"In the tradition of the Church there is a wealth of wisdom that has always supported a culture of closeness to the elderly, a disposition of warm and supportive companionship in this final phase of life. This tradition is rooted in Sacred Scripture, as these passages from the Book of Sirach attest: 'Do not disregard the discourse of the aged, for they themselves learned from their fathers; because from them you will gain understanding and learn how to give an answer in time of need' (Sir 8:9).

"The Church cannot and does not want to conform to a mentality of impatience, and much less of indifference and contempt, towards old age. We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elder feel like a living part of his community.

"Our elders are men and women, fathers and mothers, who came before us on our own road, in our own house, in our daily battle for a worthy life. They are men and women from whom we have received so much. The elder is not an alien. We are that elder: in the near or far future, but inevitably, even if we don't think it. And if we don't learn how to treat the elder better, that is how we will be treated.

"We old people are all a little fragile. Some, however, are particularly weak, many are alone, and stricken by illness. Some depend on the indispensable care and attention of others. Are we going to take a step back? Abandon them to their fate? A society without proximity, where gratuity and affection without compensation- between strangers as well - is disappearing, is a perverse society. The Church, faithful to the Word of God, cannot tolerate such degeneration. A Christian community in which proximity and gratuity are no longer considered indispensable is a society which would lose her soul. Where there is no honor for elders, there is no future for the young."

Defy Throwaway Culture With Embrace Of Young/Elderly

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

Every family needs a father ... I would like to begin ... with the Book of Proverbs, words that a father addresses to his own son ... "My son, if your heart if wise, my heart too will be glad. My soul will rejoice when your lips speak what is right" ( Pr 23:15-16).

Vatican City (VIS) - The value and importance of grandparents in the family was the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis during this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Firstly, Francis affirmed that he was able to identify with grandparents as he is of the same age. "When I was in the Philippines, the people called me 'Lolo Kiko,' or rather, 'Grandpa Francis,' " he said, emphasizing that although society tends to reject the elderly, the Lord does not: on the contrary, He calls us to follow Him in all stages of life as old age too "contains a grace and a mission, a true vocation."

"However, it is not yet the time to 'set down our oars,' " he said. "This period of life is different to those that preceded it, without doubt; we must also reinvent it a little since our societies are not yet ready spiritually or morally to accord it its full value. Previously, in fact, it was not normal to have so much free time; today far more so. And even Christian spirituality has been taken a little by surprise, and has had to delineate a spirituality for the elderly. But thanks to God there is no lack of testimonies from elderly saints!"

The Pope gave the example of the elderly Simeon and Anna, who awaited the arrival of Jesus in the temple for many years, and who were resigned to dying before seeing Him, even though that long wait had occupied all their lives and had been their most important commitment. However, when Mary and Joseph arrived in the Temple in compliance with the Law, the burdens of age and their long wait disappeared in an instant. "They recognized the Child, and discovered a new strength, for a new task: to give thanks and to bear witness to this Sign of God. Simeon improvised a beautiful hymn of jubilation and Anna became Jesus' first preacher, as Luke tells us in his Gospel: she began 'to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.' "

"Dear grandparents, dearly elderly," exclaimed the Pope, "let us follow in the wake of these extraordinary old people! Let us too become poets of prayer: let us acquire the taste for seeking new words, reappropriation those that the Word of God teaches us. The prayer of grandparents and the elderly is a great gift for the Church. It is a great injection of wisdom for all society, especially for those who are too busy, too encumbered, too distracted. Someone has to sing the signs of God for these people too, to proclaim the signs of God. Let us look at Benedict XVI, who has chosen to spend the final part of his life in prayer and in listening to God. Olivier Clement, a great believer from the last century, of Orthodox tradition, said, "A civilization where one does not pray is a civilization in which old age no longer has any meaning. And this is terrifying: more than anything we need the elderly who pray, because old age was given to us for this."

"We are able to thank the Lord for the favors received, and fill the emptiness of ingratitude that surrounds us. We can intercede for the expectations of the new generations and give dignity to the memory and sacrifices of those past. We can remind the ambitious young that a life without love is arid. We can say to the fearful young that anguish about the future can be defeated. We can teach the young who are too wrapped up in themselves that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. Grandparents form the permanent 'choir' of a great spiritual shrine, where prayer of supplication and hymns of praise support the community that works and struggles in the field of life."

Likewise, "prayer incessantly purifies the heart. Praise and supplication to God prevent the hardening of the heart in resentment and selfishness. How sad it is to see the cynicism of an elderly person who has lost the sense of his or her own testimony, who is disdainful towards the young and does not communicate the wisdom of a lifetime! Instead, it is beautiful to see the encouragement that an elderly person is able to transmit to the young in search of the meaning of faith and life. It is truly the mission of grandparents, the vocation of the elderly. The words of the elderly hold something special for the young. And they know this. The words my grandmother wrote to me on the day of my priestly ordination I still carry with me now, in my breviary; I often read them and this does me good."

"How I would like to see a Church that challenges the throwaway culture with the superabundant joy of a new embrace between the young and the elderly! And this is what I ask of the Lord today: this embrace," concluded the Holy Father.

Series Focuses On The Birth Of The Church

by Michael Halm

"A.D.: the Bible Continues" is, as its title says, the continuation of the story begun in the miniseries "The Bible" (2013) and its film adaptation "Son of God" (2014). "The Bible" had a hundred million viewers and "Son of God" grossed over 70 million dollars, but as their tagline for this series says, "The crucifixion was only the beginning." Although the first installment is not coming until Easter Sunday, there have been several sneak previews made available. (

Some of these feature the accompanying sings "By Our Love" by For King and Country and "We Believe" by the Newsboys. Lorne Balfe, who composed the music for both "The Bible" and "Son of God" also composed for "A. D."

Some fans of the cast in "The Bible," however, are upset about the many new cast members replaying the ending scenes of the first series in the beginning of the new one. Others consider the recastings an improvement. Perhaps most confusing is recasting Francis Magee who previously played Saul now playing Levi.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., says, " 'A. D.' is a triumph! It tells the riveting story of the very beginning of the Church with reverence, excitement, and brilliance. This series not only captures our attention but also our hearts as we trace the steps of those who first walked in the way of Jesus.

"While 'A. D.' dazzles the eye" he continues, "it also engages the imagination. The narrative recounts how, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a small band of men and women witnesses to the Risen Lord and set out to change the world. The mission endures today and people everywhere can find both drama and inspiration in this telling of the story of the Church, her origins, mission, and timeless challenge. "A. D.' helps us recover the wonder of the ongoing Christian adventure."

Several best-selling Christian writers also praise the film. Wilfredo De Jesus, author of Amazing Faith, says, "Finally someone has told the story of the birth of the church in all of its power, drama, and glory. 'A. D.' masterfully shows why it is that Christianity emerged from nowhere to become the largest and most diverse religious movement in history."

Max Lucado, author of You'll Get Through This, says " 'A. D.' shows us how a deep faith results in raw courage. The key players in this story - the earliest Christins, stunned by the brutal execution of Jesus, were pathfinders for today's believers. Their compelling story gives hope for the modern-day faithful, who face brutality and persecution simply for believing ... even today."

Christine Caine, founder of the A21 Campaign, says, " 'A. D.' shows us in living color how that movement changed the world - and why it is still changing the world today. This television series is historic."

Karen Kingsbury, author of A Treasury of Miracles for Friends and A Treasury of Miracles for Teens, says, "This epic real-life story that will take you back to the beginning and leave you with tears on your face and Jerusalem dust on your feet. 'A. D.' is going to capture the nation. Get ready America!"

Francis Chan, author with his wife of You and Me Forever, just says, "Pray with us that God would use this series to lead many people to Himself."

The Study and Guidebook included in the Church Kit is "to help viewers learn more about how the stories they're watching apply to their lives and faith today."

The first episode, "Hope for a New Beginning" retells the passion. Episode 2, "What for It" covers the ascension, with "it" being the descent of the Holy Spirit in "Pentecost Power." Episode 4 illustrates "What Matters Most" with Barnabas. With the martyrdom of Stephen we get "A Bigger Picture" and the real persecutions begin. The Christians flee Jerusalem and are pursued by Saul in "Scattered Seeds." Then in "A Wider Circle" Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the apostle.

In the eighth week after Easter, Pentecost, "Respond to God" has Paul visiting the other apostles in Jerusalem. In "Let It Go" Paul leaves Jerusalem. In "Life Moments" ordinary Christianity is shown in the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch and the raising of Tabitha. In "Credit the Source" Peter proclaims Jesus as the Healer, and the series finally concludes with the baptism of the Gentiles in "Unstoppable," chapters 10 and 11 of Acts.

Many of the early comments at the Internet Movie Database ( are from unbelievers who dismiss the Bible itself as myth or fiction and who obviously do not know either Christ or the Bible. One commenter, however, did know that Acts does have 28 chapters and expects the series to continue for at least another season.

Someone else asked if there was any connection to the 1985 miniseries "A. D.," the sequel to "Jesus of Nazareth," which continued the story through to the reign of Nero. There will undoubtedly be comparisons between the two. The first was 600 minutes, the new one will be nearly as long. IMDb says people who liked the first one will also like the second.

Executive directors Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, however, seem not yet working on a trilogy, but on a new version of "Ben Hur" for 2016.

Democrats Rally For Life

by Leiann Spontaneo

Buttons were available at the Democrats for Life of America forum on September 4, during the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. "Do We Count?" the buttons asked. The forum was an effort by pro-life Democrats to examine the question. "Can you be pro-life in a pro-choice party?"

There are 21 million Democrats who identify themselves as pro-life but the party's refusal to budge on it's pro-abortion stance leaves pro-lifers out in the cold as stated in "America," dated September 24, 2012. Furthermore, "Human Life Review" goes on to say in Summer/Fall 2006 that one can imagine practical things that Democrats for Life might do to extend their reach. Most chapter websites, for example, need to be updated, expanded, or generally spiffed-up. More chapters should challenge state party platforms that support abortion and they should use such battles to recruit new members. Perhaps some chapters should recruit more retirees, thus gaining activists who have good experience and much free time. Student interns might be another source of help.

Why do we need pro-life Democrats? As Marjorie Dannenfelser states in "Human Life Review" Spring 2013, more than 4,000 boys and girls - each one necessary, sent for a purpose - continue to die every day. We can't accurately measure the effect of these losses because we do not know what each life was sent to teach, what piece in the human puzzle each was meant to fill. As a nation, we stumble on, absent 50 million people who could have contributed their share to solving society's many critical problems. As pre-born human beings their weakness was mistaken for unimportance, the freshness of their creation, dismissed as "a glob of tissue" or a bunch of cells. National Organization of Women (NOW) president Terry O'Neill published an editorial in the Huffington Post entitled, "Abortion, Like Contraception, Is Essential Health Care That Saves Lives." Let that sink in for a second ... A procedure that's taken over 50 million lives in the U.S. alone since 1973 ... saves lives. ( What can pro-life Democrats think about so as not to lose faith? Fr. Frank Pavone states in "How To Keep The Fire Burning," one of the fastest, most effective way to lose energy is to lose focus. He wants abortion to end. Since this is what he wants to achieve, he judges his decisions of where he is to go and how to spend time and energy on how they will bring him closer. This is a desire which is more than a wish, a passionate longing and yearning to end abortion. Yes, we all know what abortion is. But we're not talking about getting the answer right. We are talking about keeping the fire burning. And to do that the startling reality, the disturbing fact of what abortion is must jolt you every day.

To close on a happy note, there is the report of little Leo David Hargreaves who could just be the cheeriest baby in England! Not only does he smile all the time, he has been smiling since before he was born! A 4D ultrasound scan, taken when Leo's mothers as 31 weeks pregnant, clearly shows him grinning from ear-to-ear! Baby Leo has continued to wear a perma-grin, since he was born on June 30. Modelling companies, and Next, the high-street fashion chair, have already been in touch with his parents to show an interest in signing-up Leo's winning grin! To see for yourself, go to: Are you smiling?

Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) is a national organization with chapters in 32 states. The DFLA website is You may write them at 1667 K Street NW, Suite 520, Washington, D.C. 20006. (Commonweal, October 22, 2004)

children open up the future

Vatican City (VIS) - The Pope held February 11's general audience in St. Peter's Square. In his catechesis, the Holy Father continued his reflections on the family, referring on this occasion to children as a gift from God to their parents and to society as a whole. "There is a close link between the hope of a people and harmony between the generations", he said. "The joy of children makes their parents' hearts leap and opens up the future. Children are the joy of the family and of society. They are not a matter of reproductive biology, or one of the many ways of producing them, much less their parents' possession. Children are a gift. They are a gift. Each one is unique and unrepeatable, and at the same time unmistakably linked to his or her roots. Indeed, to be a son or a daughter according to God's plan, means carrying in oneself the memory and hope of a love that has become tangible by kindling the life of another human being, original and new. And for parents each child is him- or herself, different, unique."

Francis emphasized the gratuitous dimension of the love that we receive as sons and daughters: "children are loved before they are born. I often encounter expectant mothers in the square who ask me to bless their unborn babies. These children are loved before they come into the world. This is gratuitousness, this is love; they are loved before they are born, like the love of God, Who always loves us first. They are loved before having done anything to deserve it, before being able to speak or to think, even before being able to come into the world. To be sons and daughters is the fundamental condition for knowing God's love, which is the ultimate source of this authentic miracle. In the soul of every child, although vulnerable, God places the seal of this love, which is the basis of his or her personal dignity, a dignity that nothing and no-one can destroy."

The Pope remarked that the good relations between generations can be learned from the Heavenly Father Who "does not take steps backwards in His love for us - never! He always moves forward, and if He cannot go ahead He waits for us, but He never goes backwards; He wants all His children to be courageous and take their steps ahead. Sons and daughters, on their part, must not be afraid of the commitment to building a new world: it is right for them to want it to be better than the one they have received! But this must be done without arrogance, without presumption."

He mentioned the fourth commandment, to honor one's father and mother, and explained that "a society of children who do not honor their parents is a society without honor. It is a society destined to become full of barren and greedy young people." He added that a society in which the adult generations "do not love to be surrounded by children, considering them above all as a worry, a burden, a risk, is a depressed society" and that while the conception of children must be responsible, having many children should not automatically be considered an irresponsible decision, and choosing not to have children is "a selfish decision." "Life is rejuvenated and acquires energy by multiplying; it is enriched, not impoverished. ... In the multiplication of generation there is the mystery of the enrichment of the life of all, that comes from God Himself. We must rediscover this, challenging prejudice; and live it, in faith and in perfect joy." He concluded by addressing the mothers and fathers who raise their children to be blessed as he passes through the square: "it is a gesture that is almost divine. Thank you for doing it!"

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

Light to the Nations

(A Christian Perspective on World News)

a challenge which can't be deferred

Vatican City (VIS) - "Women's cultures: between equality and difference" was the theme of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, an issue of great interest to Pope Francis, as he affirmed on February 7 while receiving in audience the participants in the event. He reiterated the importance of finding "criteria and new ways to enable women to no longer feel like guests, but instead to be full participants in the various areas of social and ecclesial life."

"The Church is a woman, she is female!" he exclaimed. "This is a challenge that cannot be deferred. I say this to the pastors of Christian communities, here representing the universal Church, but also to lay women and men engaged in different ways in culture, education, the economy, politics, the world of work, families, and religious institutions," he continued, offering an "itinerary" and a series of "guidelines to develop this effort throughout the world, in the heart of all cultures, in dialogue with the various religious affiliations."

With reference to the first theme considered in the Plenary Assembly, "Between equality and difference: the quest for an equilibrium," Pope Francis remarked that this equilibrium must be harmonious, not merely a question of balance. "This aspect must not be faced ideologically, because the 'lens' of ideology prevents us from seeing reality clearly. Equality and difference of women - like that of men - is best perceived from the perspective of 'with,' in relation to, rather than 'against.' We have long left behind, at least in western societies, the model of the social subordination of women to men, a centuries-old model whose negative effects are nonetheless not yet fully spent. We have also left behind a second model, that of parity, pure and simple, applied mechanically, and of absolute equality. A new paradigm has thus taken shape, that of reciprocity in equivalence and in difference. The relationship between man and woman, therefore, must recognize that both are necessary inasmuch as they possess an identical nature but different modalities. One is necessary to the other, since the fullness of the person is thus truly achieved."

The second theme, "'generativity' as a symbolic code," broadens the horizons of biological maternity to include the transmission and the protection of life. It may be summarized in four verbs: to wish for, to bring into the world, to care for, and to let go. The Pope acknowledges the contribution in this area of the many women who work in the family, in the field of education in faith, in pastoral activity, in education in schools, and also in social, cultural, and economic structures. "You, women, know how to embody the tender face of God, His mercy, which translates into willingness to offer time rather than occupy space, to accommodate rather than exclude. In this sense, I like to describe the feminine dimension of the Church as a welcoming womb for the regeneration of life."

"The female body: between culture and biology," the third point for reflection, "reminds us of the beauty and harmony of the body God gave to women, but also the painful wounds inflicted upon them, often with brutal violence, for the mere fact of being women. A symbol of life, the female body is unfortunately not infrequently attacked and disfigured by those who ought instead to be its protectors and companions in life. The many forms of enslavement, commodification, and mutilation of women's bodies require us to work to defeat this form of degradation that reduces them to mere objects to be sold on various markets," "I wish to draw attention, in this respect, to the suffering of many poor women, forced to life in conditions of danger and exploitation, relegated to the margins of society and rendered victims of a throwaway culture," stressed the Holy Father.

The fourth theme, "Women and religion: flight or new forms of participation in the life of the Church?" is of particular relevance to believers. The Pope reiterated his conviction that it is urgent to "offer space to women in the life of the Church and to welcome them, bearing in mind the specific features and changes in cultural and social sensibilities. A more capillary and incisive female presence within the Church is desirable, so that we can see many women involved in pastoral responsibilities and in accompanying individuals, families, and groups, as well as in theological reflection."

Finally, the Holy Father spoke about the indispensable role of women in the family, and highlighted the importance of "encouraging and promoting the effective presence of women in many areas of the public sphere, in the world of work and in places where the most important decisions are taken," without prejudice to their role in the private domain. "We must not leave women to bear these burdens and take all these decisions alone; all institutions, including the ecclesial community, must guarantee freedom of choice for women, so that they have the opportunity to assume social and ecclesial responsibilities, in harmony with family life."

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

syrian refugee crisis at tipping point

WASHINGTON - The Syrian refugee crisis - now totaling nearly 4 million refugees - has reached a "tipping point," in which countries in the region are no longer able to handle the flow of refugees across their borders, warned U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) officials who recently traveled to the Middle East.

"Without more international support, we will find Syrians fleeing extremists being turned away and forced back to danger," said Anastasia Brown, interim executive director for USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services (MRS). "The global community, led by Europe and the United States, needs to increase its support in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis."

A delegation of USCCB officials which visited the region in late 2014, released their report March 6. Entitled "Refuge and Hope in the Time of ISIS: The Urgent need for Protection, Humanitarian Support, and Durable Solutions in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece," the report looks at the plight of Syrians in the three countries, a growing trek for Syrians attempting to reach Europe.

The report highlights the gaps Syrians face as they attempt to find protection, with many traveling through Greece and Bulgaria on their way to Europe. According to the United Nations, many more are taking dangerous sea journeys in boats to reach the continent.

At the same time, countries bordering Syria and Iraq are showing signs of strain and imposing new policies at their borders. In recent months, Jordan has exerted more control over its northern border, denying entry to some refugees from ISIS-controlled areas, while Lebanon has instituted a visa policy for Syrians seeking to enter their country. While Turkey has kept its border open, refugee interviews are being scheduled for 2022.

"It was apparent from our trip that the protection space in the region for Syrians is shrinking," said Matt Wilch, refugee policy advisor for MRS/USCCB. "People are becoming more desperate and are attempting dangerous journeys to Europe and beyond."

Of special note is the impact the crisis is having on children, who number as many as 2 million-half the total of Syrian refugees. Among those are unaccompanied children who, according to the delegation, have a special claim on protection.

"The number of unaccompanied children and other vulnerable children from Syria and elsewhere is rising, yet there are few protection mechanisms in place to identify and rescue them from harm," said Nathalie Lummert, director of Special Programs for MRS/USCCB. "What we are seeing is an exodus of the next generation in Syria, with little hope for their future."

The delegation also expressed grave concern for the plight of religious minorities, who are targets of extremists in the region. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, along with Yazidis, are at risk of their lives.

"Without a dramatic response to this unprecedented humanitarian challenge, we will continue to see ongoing suffering and even death in this population, especially among the most vulnerable," Brown said.

The delegation's report lists several recommendations to address the crisis, including increased refugee assistance and resettlement. The full report is available at

Edge To Edge

Pray The News

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

  • We pray that the upcoming Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis will lead many to Jesus.
  • We pray for the whole Church to follow Jesus more closely this Easter Season.
  • We pray for repentant hearts and willingness to seek and give God’s Mercy.
  • We pray for the elderly and children to be treasured.
  • We pray for youth to be tireless proclaimers of the Gospel.
  • We pray that this year’s World Youth Day will result in many conversions.
  • We pray for fathers to be strong, compassionate, and faithful leaders of families.
  • We pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
  • We pray for persecuted Christians throughout the world.
  • We pray for refugees to receive hospitality and help.

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



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