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My People

Vol. 29, Issue 4, April 2016

"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

Church: Mother Of Vocation

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

Vatican City (VIS) - "The Church, mother of vocations" is the theme of the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be held on April 17, 2016, the fourth Sunday of Easter. In the text, signed in Vatican City on November 29, first Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father comments that every vocation in the Church originates with Jesus' compassionate gaze, and he emphasized that the call of God is heard through community mediation. The Pope's message follows:

"... It is my great hope that, during the course of this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, all the baptized may experience the joy of belonging to the Church and rediscover that the Christian vocation, just like every particular vocation, is born from within the People of God, and is a gift of divine mercy. The Church is the house of mercy, and it is the 'soil' where vocations take root, mature, and bear fruit.

"For this reason, on the occasion of the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I invite all of you to reflect upon the apostolic community, and to give thanks for the role of the community in each person's vocational journey. In the Bull of Indiction for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I recalled the words of the venerable Bede, describing the call of Saint Matthew: 'Miserando atque eligendo.' The Lord's merciful action forgives our sins and opens us to the new life which takes shape in the call to discipleship and mission. Each vocation in the Church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus. Conversion and vocation are two sides of the same coin, and continually remain interconnected throughout the whole of the missionary disciple's life.

"Blessed Paul VI, in his exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, described various steps in the process of evangelization. One of these steps is belonging to the Christian community, that community from which we first received the witness of faith and the clear proclamation of the Lord's mercy. This incorporation into the Christian community brings with it all the richness of ecclesial life, particularly the sacraments. Indeed, the Church is not only a place in which we believe, but it is also an object of our faith; it is for this reason that we profess in the Creed: 'I believe in the Church.'

"The call of God comes to us by means of a mediation which is communal. God calls us to become a part of the Church and, after we have reached a certain maturity within it, He bestows on us a specific vocation. The vocational journey is undertaken together with the brothers and sisters whom the Lord has given to us: it is a con-vocation. The ecclesial dynamism of the call is an antidote to indifference and to individualism. It establishes the communion in which indifference is vanquished by love, because it demands that we go beyond ourselves and place our lives at the service of God's plan, embracing the historical circumstances of His holy people.

"On this day dedicated to prayer for vocations, I urge all the faithful to assume their responsibility for the care and discernment of vocations. When the Apostles sought someone to take the place of Judas Iscariot, St. Peter brought together one hundred and twenty of the brethren; and in order to chose seven deacons, a group of disciples was gathered. St. Paul gave Titus specific criteria for the selection of presbyters. Still today, the Christian community is always present in the discernment of vocations, in their formation and in their perseverance.

"Vocations are born within the Church. From the moment a vocation begins to become evident, it is necessary to have an adequate 'sense' of the Church. No one is called exclusively for a particular region, or for a group or for an ecclesial movement, but rather for the Church and for the world. 'A sure sign of the authenticity of a charism is its ecclesial character, its ability to be integrated harmoniously into the life of God's holy and faithful people for the good of all.' In responding to God's call, young people see their own ecclesial horizon expand; they are able to consider various charisms and to undertake a more objective discernment. In this way, the community becomes the home and the family where vocations are born. Candidates gratefully contemplate this mediation of the community as an essential element for their future. They learn to know and to love their brothers and sisters who pursue paths different from their own; and these bonds strengthen in everyone the communion which they share.

"Vocations grow within the Church. In the course of formation, candidates for various vocations need to grow in their knowledge of the ecclesial community, overcoming the limited perspectives that we all have at the beginning. To that end, it is helpful to undertake some apostolic experience together with other members of the community, for example: in the company of a good catechist, to communicate the Christian message; together with a religious community, to experience the evangelization of the peripheries sharing in the life of the cloister, to discover the treasure of contemplation; in contact with missionaries, to know more closely the mission ad gentes; and in the company of diocesan priests, to deepen one's experience of pastoral life in the parish and in the diocese. For those who are already in formation, the ecclesial community always remains the fundamental formational environment, towards which one should feel a sense of gratitude.

"Vocations are sustained by the Church. After definitive commitment, our vocational journey within the Church does not come to an end, but it continues in our willingness to serve, our perseverance and our ongoing formation. The one who has consecrated his life to the Lord is willing to serve the Church wherever it has need. The mission of Paul and Barnabas is a good example of this readiness to serve the Church. Sent on mission by the Holy Spirit and by the community of Antioch, they returned to that same community and described what the Lord had worked through them. Missionaries are accompanied and sustained by the Christian community, which always remains a vital point of reference, just as a visible homeland offers security to all who are on pilgrimage towards eternal life.

"Among those involved in pastoral activity, priests are especially important. In their ministry, they fulfill the words of Jesus, Who said: 'I am the gate of the sheepfold ... I am the good shepherd.' The pastoral care of vocations is a fundamental part of their ministry. Priests accompany those who are discerning a vocation, as well as those who have already dedicated their lives to the service of God and of the community.

"All the faithful are called to appreciate the ecclesial dynamism of vocations, so that communities of faith can become, after the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, like a mother's womb which welcomes the gift of the Holy Spirit. The motherhood of the Church finds expression in constant prayer for vocations and in the work of educating and accompanying all those who perceive God's call. This motherhood is also expressed through a careful selection of candidates for the ordained ministry and for the consecrated life. Finally, the Church is the mother of vocations in her continual support of those who have dedicated their lives to the service of others.

"We ask the Lord to grant to all those who are on a vocational journey a deep sense of belonging to the Church; and that the Holy Spirit may strengthen among Pastors, and all of the faithful, a deeper sense of communion, discernment, and spiritual fatherhood and motherhood.

"Father of mercy, Who gave Your Son for our salvation and Who strengthens us always with the gifts of Your Spirit, grant us Christian communities which are alive, fervent, and joyous, which are fonts of fraternal life, and which nurture in the young the desire to consecrate themselves to You and to the work of evangelization. Sustain these communities in their commitment to offer appropriate vocational catechesis and ways of proceeding towards each one's particular consecration. Grant the wisdom needed for vocational discernment, so that in all things the greatness of Your merciful love may shine forth. May Mary, Mother and guide of Jesus, intercede for each Christian community, so that, made fruitful by the Holy Spirit, it may be a source of true vocations for the service of the holy People of God."

Modern Martyrs Honored

(Editor's note: The following is a news release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Administrative Committee issued a statement, March 8, honoring the work and the lives of the four religious sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, who along with 12 other people were murdered in Yemen, March 4.

"Wherever people of good will, of any faith, face death because they reject violence and extremism, we must be their witness," the statement reads. "We give particular thanks to God for the 'martyrs of charity.' "

The Committee also renewed their call for an increase in the international response to violence in the Middle East.

The full statement follows.

Honoring the "Martyrs of Charity" A Statement from the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops March 8, 2016

Caring for the aging and dying is an act of love and mercy. Giving totally of oneself to serve the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters is an act of courageous faith. Thus, it is always a great sorrow when such acts of mercy lead to martyrdom. On March 4, four sisters from the Missionaries of Charity, along with 12 people for whom they cared, were murdered in Yemen. Acknowledging they "gave their blood for the Church," Pope Francis described these sisters as "martyrs of charity."

In the words of the Holy Father, they were "victims not only of those who have murdered them, but also of the globalization of indifference." As the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops convenes this week in Washington, DC, we pause to make our own the words and prayer of Pope Francis. We invite the faithful and all people of good will to join in solidarity with people of faith - all faiths - who see their lives threatened by evil, indifference, hatred, and terrorism.

We renew our call for an increased international response. Addressing the full body of bishops in November, USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz described the atrocities faced by Christians in the Middle East as "nothing short of genocide." The United States Department of State is considering an official finding of probable cause that genocide is occurring against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. It would be an important step toward a declaration of genocide. That declaration would be a life-saving aid in the defense of those facing the extremists' violence. The Christian community along with others is working to help gather the necessary evidence to urge State Department action.

Wherever people of good will, of any faith, face death because they reject violence and extremism, we must be their witness. We give particular thanks to God for the "martyrs of charity." Through their sacrifice, they were transformed into signs of Christ's victory over sin, violence, and death.

Crisis In Syria Continues

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for the Vatical's Relations with States spoke at an international conference on Syria in London on February 4. His remarks follow:

"The Holy See is pleased to participate in the 'Supporting Syria and the Region' Conference aimed at responding to the humanitarian crisis in Syria that is now, regrettably and painfully, entering into its sixth year. A crisis that is characterized by ever-increasing human suffering, including extreme cases of malnourishment of innocent children and other civilians, especially among the high number of people who are trapped in hard-to-reach and besieged areas and are deprived of essential humanitarian aid. Notwithstanding renewed hopes for the political resolution of the crisis, our humanitarian efforts are increasingly focused on not only emergency aid but also the medium and long-term needs of refugees and host countries. Therefore, the Holy See warmly welcomes the emphasis on providing education, jobs, and economic development at this pledging conference.

"As we address the humanitarian needs of this crisis, it behoves us to remember that the real cost of this humanitarian crisis is measured by the deaths and suffering of millions of our fellow human beings. In his recent address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, on last January 11, His Holiness Pope Francis recalled 'the plea of thousands of people who weep as they flee horrific wars, persecutions, and human rights violations, or political or social instability...forced to flee in order to escape unspeakable acts of cruelty towards vulnerable persons, such as children and the disabled, or martyrdom solely on account of their religion.' In looking ahead to the First World Humanitarian Summit, which will take place next May, His Holiness expressed his desire that this Summit 'will succeed in its goal of placing the person and human dignity at the heart of every humanitarian response.'

"The Holy See, through the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum,' and the Catholic Church, through its network of charitable agencies, have been responding to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the region from the very beginning. The funding needs of many Catholic agencies and NGOs are already included in the United Nations Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan [3RP] 2016-2017 in response to the Syria Crisis. The 3RP funding requirement for 2016 alone is significantly greater than the amount appealed for in 2015, which regrettably was only 50% funded. Given such overwhelming humanitarian needs, the Holy See joins its voice to the appeals for increased funding to help refugees and impacted host communities in the 3RP countries: Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt.

"In 2015, entities of the Catholic Church (dioceses, Catholic Church aid agencies, and Catholic NGOs) with funds received from appeals promoted by national episcopal conferences, private donations of Catholic faithful throughout the world, and in partnership with Governments and International organizations, contributed to providing USD 150 million of humanitarian assistance of direct benefit to more than 4 million people. The following were the principal areas of priority for Catholic agencies in 2015: Education: USD 37 million for education programs in Lebanon and Jordan, for both refugees and impacted host communities; Food aid: USD 30 million, of which USD 25 million was distributed in Syria; Non-Food aid: approximately US 30 million in Syria and Iraq; Health: approximately US 16 million was provided to the health sector, particularly in Syria, Jordan, and Iraq; and finally, Accommodation: US 10 million for accommodation and lodging for refugees and IDPs. A further US 12 million of funds were used in the provision of direct cash assistance, water and sanitation, livelihood and socio-psychological assistance.

"On this occasion, I wish to give assurances of the commitment of the Catholic Church to continue its humanitarian assistance in the coming year.

"In distributing aid, Catholic agencies and entities make no distinction regarding the religious or ethnic identity of those requiring assistance, and seek always to give priority to the most vulnerable and to those most in need. Particularly vulnerable are religious minorities, including Christians, who suffer disproportionately the effects of war and social upheaval in the region. In fact, their very presence and existence are gravely threatened. For this reason, His Holiness Pope Francis has repeatedly called attention to the particular needs of Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East."

Consecrated Life Year Ends

"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)

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

Vatican City (VIS) - On February 2, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Day of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis presided at the Holy Mass for the Jubilee of Consecrated Life, held in the Vatican Basilica at 5.30 p.m. Members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life concelebrated with the Holy Father.

During the rite, which opened with the blessing of the candles and the procession, the Pope pronounced a homily, extensive extracts of which are published below. He emphasized that gratitude, for the gift of the Holy Spirit that always inspires the Church through different charisms is the word that best summarizes the Year of Consecrated Life.

"Before our eyes there is a simple, humble, and great fact: Jesus was taken by Mary and Joseph to the temple of Jerusalem. He is a child like any other ... but He is unique: He is the only begotten Son Who came for all of us. This Child brought us God's mercy and tenderness. Jesus is the face of the Father's mercy. This is the icon that the Gospel offers us at the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, a year lived with great enthusiasm. Like a river, it now flows into the sea of mercy, in this immense mystery of love that we are experiencing with the extraordinary Jubilee."

"Today's feast, especially in the East, is called the feast of encounter. Indeed, in the Gospel there are several encounters. In the temple, Jesus comes towards us and we come towards Him. We contemplate the encounter with the elderly Simeon, who represents the faithful hope of Israel and the exultation of the heart for the fulfillment of the ancient promises. We also admire the encounter with the elderly prophetess Anna. Simeon and Anna are hope and prophecy; Jesus is newness and completion. He presents Himself to us as God's perennial surprise. In this Child, born for all, the past, made up of memory and promise, and the future, full of hope, are brought together."

"We can see here the beginning of consecrated life. Consecrated men and women are called, first of all, to be men and women of encounter. Vocation, indeed, is not the result of a project of our own ... but rather the grace of the Lord Who reaches out to us, through a life-changing encounter. Those who encounter Jesus cannot stay the same as they were before. Those who live this encounter become witnesses and make encounter possible for others too; and they become promoters of the culture of encounter, avoiding the self-referentiality that causes us to become self-centered."

"Jesus, to come towards us, did not hesitate to share in our human condition. ... He did not save us 'from outside,' He did not stay out of our drama, but instead chose to share our life. Consecrated men and women are called to be a concrete sign of this closeness to God, this sharing in the condition of frailty and sin and the wounds of man in our time."

"The Gospel also tells us that 'the child's father and mother marvelled at what was said about Him." Joseph and Mary wondered at this encounter full of light and hope for all peoples. And we too, as Christians and as consecrated persons, are guardians of wonder. A wonder that always asks to be renewed; woe to those who settle into habit in spiritual life; woe to those whose charisms are crystallized in abstract doctrine. The charisms of the founders, as I have said many times, must not be sealed up in bottles - they are not museum pieces. Our founders were moved by the Holy Spirit, and were not afraid of getting their hands dirty in everyday life, getting involved in the problems of the people and reaching out courageously to the geographical and existential peripheries."

"Finally, from today's feast we learn to live with gratitude for the encounter with Jesus and for the gift of the vocation to consecrated life. Giving thanks: the Eucharist. How beautiful it is when we encounter the happy face of consecrated persons, perhaps of advanced age like Simeon or Anna, content and full of gratitude for their vocation. This is a word that can summarize all that we have lived during this Year of Consecrated Life: gratitude for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that always inspires the Church through the various charisms."

Following Mass in the Basilica, the Pope went out into St. Peter's Square to greet the many consecrated men and women who had not been able to enter the Vatican Basilica. He addressed the following words to them:

"Thank you for ending here, all together, this Year of Consecrated Life. And keep going! Each one of us has a place, a job to do in the Church. Please, do not forget your first vocation, your first call. Remember this. And with that love with which you were called, today the Lord continues to call to you. Do not let that beauty, that wonder of the first call, diminish. Keep working. ... There is always something to do. The main thing is to pray. The center of consecrated life is prayer. And so we age, but we age like good wine!"

"Let me say something to you. I like it when I find elderly men and women religious, with shining eyes, because the fire of spiritual life is alight in them. That flame has not been extinguished. ... Continue to work and to look to tomorrow with hope, always asking the Lord to send us new vocations, so that our work of consecrated may keep going ahead. And memory: do not forget the first call! Work, day by day, and then the hope to go ahead and to sow. May the others who follow us receive the legacy we leave to them."

Prison To Praise

"And I Choose Dismas"

by Bob R. Williams, Jr.

(Editor's note: Mr. Williams writes from California. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)

I am condemned to die on the cross from which I hang. Oh God, My God, how it hurts! Yet, beside me hangs a man, no this man is so much more than a mere man.

This man slowly dying next to me is innocent! He is the Promised One, the Savior, the Christ sent to save the world, sent by God. Why? Why would they so callously crucify Him? Why would He allow it?

I vividly recall a time only a few years ago, this guy ... John, I think his name was ... odd fellow too. He wore camel hair clothes and ate honey and locusts of all things. It's odd that the dude John declared the man besides me to be the Lord, God made flesh. Come to think of it ... man, they killed John too ... another innocent!

As I struggle to breathe, suffering in agony, ... Oh Lord the pain ... each breath hurts me ... yet I breathe my sorrows to God Almighty.

Though I sweat in pain, I look down and through my stinging, sweat-blurred, tear-filled vision, I see a familiar face. The living face of an angel ... a face shining with divine light. I recall 20 or 30 years ago trying to steal from the same woman and her husband ... that's His Mom! Man, I almost robbed ... God! Christ's mother!! I even paid Gestas, my partner in crime, not to harm them because something told me that they were good people. Oh God, I'm sorry!

Through my crisis of anguish and painful sorrows I can hear the crowd and soldiers mock this innocent man suffering beside me ... why? Even my so-called friend Gestas, who hangs on the other side of Jesus ... yeah, that's his name - Jesus - mocks him. "Can't you see?" I painfully yell over, "We justly belong here, but this man has done no wrong." I continue, "He doesn't belong here, He doesn't deserve the death they've forced upon Him."

With that I feel my pain ease, my breath comes a little easier. Light shines all around me reaching down deep into the very depths of my troubled soul. I feel ... I feel ... love, peace. I feel God within and around me. I feel a deep yearning, an overwhelming desire to give myself to God. I believe! I repent!

The pain of my crucifixion returns and I smile, embracing the excruciating beauty of it. "Jesus," I call, turning my head. I see Him. I see HIM! "Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your everlasting Kingdom."

The great Man turns His head to me. Through His own agony, with blood drolling down His ... wow, peaceful shining face, He smiles. "Truly, I say to you," He says in a voice filled with pain and compassion, mercy, even love, "today you will be with me in paradise.

Tears of joy mingle with tears of pain. I believe Him and I fight to stay alive a little bit longer. I want to share in His suffering, I want to console Him in His agony, comfort this innocent Man whom I know is God made flesh ... who is God!

I struggle to live in His earthly presence just a little longer, desiring to ease His suffering, to take His pain upon me and bear it because I, unlike Him, deserve this pain, this death. Seeing His angelic Mother and brothers, I want to take their pain too. Yet, strangely, I can sense Jesus taking my pain, my life's long suffering and sins upon Himself. I think to myself, "I will happily follow this Man, even to hell and back," and I resolve to let go, to only die when He dies, to journey into death with Him, to hold Him all the way into paradise.

As I transit into death, Jesus is right there with me. I grab onto Him, clinging to Him in fear yet full of faith, as we meet death together. He comforts me as we descend into the depths of hell. I see and experience the true depravity of man. I see what could've been me.

I cling to my faith in Christ, to His promise. I can't let go. I want to shield Him from the terrible horrors surrounding us. I am so scared, yet I feel the calm, peaceful, loving touch of my Savior. His comfort envelops me even here in the darkest reaches of hell.

I realize that as I hold onto God, I will never let for, forever if I must, even as death's darkness and my own past demons seek to pull, to yank me, to rip me away and jerk me into their realm.

Jesus takes my hand in His, He takes all my life's sins from me. He cleanses me! By my trembling hand He guides me, as I stand clean of all sin, and together we walk through the halls of hell and out of the doors into paradise. We were crucified together, brothers in death. I truly saw Him. I saw Christ covered in the sins of all humanity. I saw my own sins on His shoulders, sins He carried and took upon Himself so that I might live.

I still try to console Him, even here in paradise, wishing I could share in the burden that only Jesus can bear. I try to console even His great and most perfect Mother. I'm saddened that Christ must carry so heavy a burden in heaven, and I stand in awe that He maintains His love for all, He comforts all as He did me, realizing that it is never too late to turn to God, to Jesus. For I am "The Good Thief," patron saint of those condemned to death, Dismas.

Christian Prosperity: Good vs Bad

by Leiann Spontaneo

Wikipedia defines "prosperity theology" as a religious belief among some Christians that financial blessing is the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations (possibly to Christian ministries) will increase one's material wealth.

Seeds of Prosperity has listed many of the "prosperity scriptures." I will name a few for you:

Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Isaiah 58:10-11 - If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will gude you continually and satisfy your soul in drought and strengthen your bones. You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Proverbs 10:22 - the blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.

Sometimes, the prosperity gospel can be confusing though. In an article on Enrichment Journal by Frank D. Macchia, he states, "The poor person asking for 'prosperity' might not desire much more than what most middle-class Christians in the U.S. take for granted as a blessing from God. Eighty percent of humanity lives on less than $10.00 a day. Many within that range live on much less. For prosperity preachers, the idea that God can will for someone to live in poverty or even mediocrity rather than success and blessing seems to contradict the nature of God."

Next, on, I took much from an article formerly in "The Washington Post," December 2009, by Cathleen Falsani, on the same discussion of prosperity teachings and poverty, she states that there is no mistake that poverty is not what God wants for us. To state the obvious, being poor is not a good thing and the poor want no part of it. It limits your freedom, stifles opportunities, breeds anger and fear. The poor are powerless which leads to their being oppressed by those who have power. They keep hearing those with advantages chant at them the mantra that it's their own fault that they are poor. For millions of people, poverty's relentless frustrations and disappointments have caused them to give up on themselves. And in most places and situations, the children of the poor also become poor and the gruesome cycle goes on. Poverty as an overall situation is caused more by greed, racism, and distorted economics for rich and powerful people then by action or inaction by poor persons.

Furthermore and finally, Falsani goes on to say that the New Testament answer to poverty was not to name it and claim it. God's answer was the community of Christian believers acting as friends, guides, cheerleaders, mentors, teachers, advocates, and trainers. Such believers are entrusted with the duty to help you find your gifts from the Spirit, so you can most effectively be a full part of this community not a dependent on it. They should be there to help you develop the inner strength, insight, knowledge, networks, and skills to make a living and to spend according to a budget. They cheer you on with your hard efforts to no longer be poor ... Instead prosperity preachers siphon away what little their flock owns to pay for the preacher's ranch or private jet or the new church campus/empire or the church-corporation's stock portfolio.

Author Shares Tips On Evangelization

by Michael Halm

Steve Dawson met his wife in pro-life work but says that it was Fr. Robert's "Catholicism" series that inspired him to found St. Paul Street Evangelism (SPSE). He and his fellow Catholic evangelists offered miraculous medals, like those of Maximilian Kolbe. Within the year the new apostolate had expanded to twenty-five cities. Since their humble beginning in 2012 they have added many teachings explaining Catholicism in pamphlets and on-line.

After reading Evengeli nuntiandi he says, "I saw more clearly that abortion, monstrous as it is, is just a symptom. It is a symptom of the disease of Godlessness."

In his new book, Catholic Street Evangelization: Stories of Conversion and Witness, he shares tips on how Catholics can evangelize. He also shares encouraging stories from other evangelists and those they have evangelized. Many are lapsed Catholics who, like Dawson, have now taken their call to evangelize seriously after being evangelized themselves.

At first Dawson simply told inquirers, "Find like-minded Catholics and a public place, take a few sacramentals, and go to it." Their Basic Evangelization Training and Teen Encounter Workshop now include how to talk enthusiastically about the Faith, how to identify where people are at, how to share your own journey, how to pray with other, how to point people to more information.

Dawson concludes the book by quoting Pope Francis, "When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment."

Prisoner Karl Strunk was overwhelmed by the information from St. Paul Street Evangelization when he posted a comment on-line. He says, "I am now able to provide a small library for any and all who wish to become more intimate with our Lord, as well as for those who wish to become more intimate with our Lord, as well as those who desire to learn more about our doctrine and theology."

Fellow prisoner Gordon asked questions of Strunk after watching EWTN. Together they studied "Praying to the Saints" and "Confession" and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

George Fisher prayed with and gave contact information to a man, who had been shaken up by crashing into a guard railing. A week later he called to say he wanted to come back into the Catholic Church.

Former Baptist Father Ed Graveline says, "By far the greatest work we can do on the street is simply to listen, to pray with people who stop, and to tell them about God's love and mercy." This is especially true in this Jubilee year of Mercy. "Being a street evangelist has been both humbling and rewarding," Fr. Graveline says. "Every day we reach hundreds of people. Many walk right by us, yet even they might be touched simply by our presence. I know that our evangelists and the evangelized alike are pleased with the non-confrontational approach that SPSE promotes."

Fr. Michael Mayer learned the differences of evangelizing in the inner city and the suburbs. In this he and his new parishioners were helped by SPSE. "Most people welcome our interactions," he says, "and some even give their own witnesses. This helps team members to see how important their presence is in facilitating and encouraging people to look at their faith and their walk with the Lord."

Edwin "Uzi" Mendez, formerly a Chicago gang leader says, "Like St. Ignatius Loyola, I had a near-death experience followed by a long recovery which brought me back to God." Now he says, "The most powerful tools of evangelization for any Catholic wherever they may be are prayer and the sacraments."

Lucy Stamm was away from confession for just months rather than decades like Mendez. ow as an evangelist she concurs, "I, too, have found that commitment to prayer and spiritual growth are keys to evangelization. Whether you are a 'natural' like [my partner] Val, or a 'not God's first choice' like me, God is calling you by name and can work wonders through you."

David the Jehovah Witness came into the Church, sponsored by his Catholic uncle, who was also praying for him. Tanya, a Subway sandwich maker, received a miraculous medal. Later she shared that her father was healing extraordinarily after his operation.

Pete was dying. A non-Catholic friend of his received a rosary from one of the Catholic evangelists at the farmers market, where Pete had worked. The friend's son prayed the rosary and Pete's daughter wore the rosary at the funeral. Pete's friend attributed the family's peace to it.

Pope Benedict's Encyclical Remains Timely

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

Vatican City (VIS) - "The message of the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est remains timely, indicating the ever relevant prospect for the Church's journey. The more we live in this spirit, the more authentic we all are as Christians", said Pope Francis this morning (February 26) as he received in audience in the Clementine Hall the participants in the two-day international congress "Love will never end: Prospects ten years on from the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est", organized by the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", which analysed the theological and pastoral repercussions and prospects opened by Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical.

The text, said Francis, "concerns a theme that allows us to retrace the entire history of the Church, which is also a history of charity. It is a story of the love received from God, to be carried to the world: this charity received and given is the fulcrum of the history of the Church and of the history of each one of us. ... Both for individual members of the faithful and for the Christian community as a whole, the words of Jesus hold true: that charity is the first and greatest of the commandments: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength... You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "

The present Jubilee Year, continued the Holy Father, "is also an opportunity to return to this beating heart of our life and our witness, to the center of the proclamation of faith: 'God is love.' God does not simply have the desire or capacity to love; God is love: charity is His essence, it is His nature. He is unique, but not solitary; ... He cannot be closed in on Himself because He is communion, He is charity; and charity by its nature is communicated and shared. In this way, God associates man to His life of love, and even if man turns away from Him, God does not remain distant but goes out to meet him. This going out to meet us, culminating in the Incarnation of His Son, is His mercy. It is His way of expressing Himself to us sinners, His face that looks at us and cares for us. The encyclical reads: 'Jesus' program is a heart which sees. This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly.' Charity and mercy are in this way closely related, because they are God's way of being and acting: His identity and His name."

The first aspect which the Encyclical recalls for us is the face of God: "who is the God we can encounter in Christ? How faithful and unsurpassable is His love? ... All our expressions of love, of solidarity, of sharing are but a reflection of that love which is God. He, without ever tiring, pours out His love on us, and we are called to become witnesses to this love in the world. Therefore, we should look to divine charity as to the compass which orients our lives, before embarking on any activity: there we find direction; from charity we learn how to see our brothers and sisters and the world."

Pope Francis also referred to a second aspect of the Encyclical - the need for charity to be increasingly reflected in the life of the Church. "How I wish that everyone in the Church, every institution, every activity would show that God loves man!" he exclaimed. "The mission that our charitable organizations carry out is important, because they provide so many poor people with a more dignified and human life, which is needed more than ever. But this mission is of utmost importance because, not with words, but with concrete love it can make every person feel loved by the Father, loved as His son or daughter and destined for eternal life with Him."

"I would like to thank all those who daily are committing themselves to this mission which challenges every Christian," he concluded. "In this Jubilee Year, my intention has been to emphasize that we can all experience the grace of the Jubilee by putting into practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy: to live the works of mercy means to conjugate the verb 'to love' according to Jesus. In this way then, all of us together can contribute concretely to the great mission of the Church: to communicate the love of God which is meant to be spread."

Light to the Nations

(A Christian Perspective on World News)

Francis Asks No Capital Punishment For Year

Vatican City (VIS) -After February 22's Angelus prayer, Pope Francis spoke about the international conference "For a World Without the Death Penalty," organized by the Sant'Egidio Community, which begins in Rome tomorrow, and expressed his hope that it may inspire fresh efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty.

The Pope observed that the increasingly strong public opposition to the death penalty, even as an instrument of legitimate social defense, is a sign of hope. "Indeed, modern societies are able to effectively control crime without definitively removing from the criminal the possibility of redeeming himself. The issue lies in the context of a perspective on penal justice that increasingly conforms to the dignity of man and God's design for man and for society. And also penal justice open to the hope of being reintegrated in society. The command "thou shalt not kill" has absolute value and refers to the guilty as well as the innocent.

"The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is a good opportunity to promote in the world an increasingly mature respect for life and the dignity of each person. Because even a criminal has the inviolable right to life, a gift of God. I appeal to the consciences of those who govern, so that an international consensus may be reached for the abolition of the death penalty. I propose to those among them who are Catholic to make an exemplary gesture of courage: that the death penalty not be applied in this Holy Year of Mercy."

"All Christians and men and women of good will are called today to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also to improve conditions in prisons, in respect for human dignity and the dignity of those deprived of freedom."

The Pope also mentioned next Thursday's Via Crucis through the streets of Rome, organized by the Pope Juan XXIII Foundation, founded by the priest Oreste Benzi, in support of women who are victims of human trafficking, and to pray for them.

Before concluding the Pope reiterated that Lent is a good time to undertake a path of conversion, based on mercy. "For this, I have decided to give to you here in the Square a 'spiritual medicine' called 'Misericordina.' We did this once before, but this one is better, it is 'Misericordina-Plus': a box with a rosary and an image of the Merciful Jesus. Volunteers, including the poor, the homeless, refugees, and also religious, will now distribute them. Receive this gift as a spiritual aid to help spread forgiveness and fraternity, especially in this year of mercy."

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

pope visits rehab community

Vatican City (VIS) - Yesterday (February 26) the Pope paid a surprise visit to the San Carlo rehabilitation center, near Castel Gandolfo, which belongs to the Italian Solidarity Center, founded by Fr. Mario Picchi to prevent and combat exclusion, especially of those affected by drug abuse. The visit forms part of the Holy Father's "Friday of mercy" program, in which he performs one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy every Friday throughout the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The San Carlo Community houses 55 people, mostly young, following a rehabilitation program to free themselves from drug dependency. Francis' visit was unannounced and was a great surprise to all present. He spoke to the guests and staff, listened to their stories and expressed his closeness, urging them not to let themselves be devoured by the "metastasis" of drugs. He embraced them and explained that the path they have undertaken in the center will offer them a real possibility of starting a new life worthy of a human being. Francis emphasized the need always to trust in the strength of mercy that continues to sustain our pilgrimage and, accompanying us even in our darkest hours, lets us feel the warmth of His presence and clothes man in dignity.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, linked this "Friday of Mercy" to the Pope's recent trip to Mexico, characterized by his strong and unequivocal condemnation of drug trafficking. "It worries me greatly that, seduced by the empty power of the world, they exalt chimeras and don their macabre symbols to trade in death. ... I implore you not to underestimate the ethical and anti-civic challenge that drug trafficking represents for young people and for society as a whole, including the Church," said Francis during the trip.

Just a few days after his return to Rome, added Archbishop Fisichella, the Pope has given a visible and concrete sign of the affirmation he made in the Cathedral of Mexico City regarding the need for pastors of the Church not to seek refuge in generic condemnations, but rather to reach out to the human and existential peripheries of the cities and to involve families, schools, institutions, the political community, and the forces of order in a serious pastoral project aiming at the prevention of a phenomenon that destroys many lives.

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

perspectives on migration shared

Vatican City (VIS) - The international conference "The religious and migrations in the 21st century: perspectives, response, and challenges," organized by the representation before the United Nations of the Passionists International, the Congregation of St. Joseph, Augustinians International and the Vincentians, concluded two days of intense work on February 25.

The aim of the meeting, attended by around a hundred men and women religious, as well as laypersons and experts in the sector, was to understand more fully the phenomenon of migration and its repercussions in today's world, especially in the context of the current European situation. It also considered the identification of more effective and shared forms of solidarity. A strong appeal was launched for intensified network-building among congregations, associations, and other organizations in countries of origin, transit, and destination. The network represents one of the most efficient ways of using energy, skills, and resources, to give greater impetus to the already extraordinary work that these entities carry out. In Italy alone, some 23 million people (almost a quarter of the refugees present in the country) are received by parishes, religious communities, monasteries, and sanctuaries.

The participants expressed major concerns regarding the large number of often unaccompanied minors involved in migratory flows, as well as the many young women, especially from Nigeria (more than four thousand in 2015) who risk falling into the trap of exploitation and prostitution.

Fr. Emela Xris Obiezu, representative of Augustinians International before the United Nations, emphasized that "In this complex world, and faced with the challenge of migration, it is increasingly necessary to think globally and act locally, also in terms of lobbying and advocacy, to take the voice of the victims and those who work alongside them to every level of attention, from local administrations to the United Nations, so as to influence working decisions, always placing at the center of attention the person and respect for his or her freedom and dignity."

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

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 for many vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
  • We pray that each person will discover and follow God's plan for their life and will treasure their vocation.
  • 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 that we will immerse ourselves in the Year of Mercy.
  • We pray for all prisoners to grow in faith.
  • We pray in Thanksgiving for the "Martyrs of Charity" and for strength and courage for persecuted Christians throughout the world.
  • We pray for peace in Syria and throughout the Middle East.
  • We pray for refugees to receive hospitality and help.
  • We pray that we will share God's love and mercy with others.

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