Saturday, 30 May 2009
ROME, MAY 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Scandals that arise when priests fail to live celibacy are not just about priestly discipline, but rather about a failed understanding of human love, says the cardinal archbishop of Lima, Peru.
ZENIT spoke with Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani about two recent scandals regarding priestly celibacy that have attracted the attention of the American continent -- Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo who admitted he fathered a child while still a bishop, and Miami Father Alberto Cutié who converted to the Episcopalian church this week after photos of him with a woman were circulated."I think that we shouldn't speak just of these two cases, of celibacy, but of human love in general," Cardinal Cipriani suggested, affirming that "Deus Caritas Est" explains it well. "The Pope explains to us with great detail how this love, which begins in this movement of 'eros' becomes 'agape.'"Noting how God defines love clearly, not just with words, but also with the sacrifice of his Son, the cardinal added that today, "in not wanting to accept suffering, the sacrifice that life brings, love is killed and what remains?
The capacity of suffering has been amputated because of fear, cowardice, mediocrity, because only success and pleasure are sought. "We have killed the plant that arises from suffering, which is love, and therefore in many human relationships, family relationships, a totally material relationship arises, in which practically, the integrity of the person is not involved. When this materialism takes over human relationships, then the man and the woman become objects of a sexual experience […], this experience loses its stability, comes and goes, doesn't produce that joy of surrender because it does not come from suffering or sacrifice, and when a sickness comes or an economic problem or a fight … marriages break in the same way as these cases, like Lugo or Father Cutié, who in the moment of feeling a sacrifice greater than their strengths, break the promise they've made."The cardinal affirmed that priests, as well as married people, are asked to live chastity."There is a conjugal chastity and there is chastity in celibacy," he said. "One who knows how to love and who has the experience of a healthy and stable matrimonial love knows what I'm talking about. It is the same that the Church offers to those of us who give up everything for the love of God.
It is not more or less difficult, but this product of this love today is hard to find, and therefore, in a materialistic and slightly hedonistic world, it is difficult to explain celibacy, which is a treasure of the Church."
ZENIT also asked Cardinal Cipriani what he thought of this month's turmoil over the decision by Notre Dame University to bestow an honorary doctorate on the U.S. president, despite Barack Obama's staunch support of abortion rights and other anti-life issues.The cardinal answered that Catholic identity is not a decision of a particular university or a rector or education official, but rather is something given by the Church itself.He explained: "What cannot be done and what is not done in any institution is to say 'this automobile is a Toyota,' if the Toyota manufacturer does not put his brand on it."I think there is a need for a little more clarity and authority. Clarity from those who are responsible for being able to say: 'If you don't want to be Catholic, then don't be.' But what we can't do is sell a ruined product. To think that parents and their kids go to a university that has the title of 'Catholic' and then it turns out that it teaches what is contrary to the faith. This is a confusion or an abuse. I think the Church has the duty to call things by their name."Cardinal Cipriani said it seems a "provocation to give Catholic homage to a president who in the first 100 days has boosted abortion, gay marriage, investigations with embryonic cells, and an entire anti-life agenda.
It does not seem to me that he is the most adequate person to receive recognition from the University of Notre Dame, which, by the way, has been greatly confused for some years now."The prelate suggested that this type of controversy has been around since the beginning of the Church, with the difference that before, "those who dissented left the Church; today they stay within, and this seems to me that it requires of us, for love of the Church, a bit more firmness."He offered the Holy Father as an example: "We see with what clarity and love for the truth Benedict XVI has returned from the Holy Land. With what joy, with what clarity he has taken up the themes that seemed difficult, from the political point of view, but he has handled them from the point of view of what a pilgrimage of peace wants, a vicar of Christ. They love him more and more. He is more and more a leader who illuminates more this world that is in darkness."
Posted: 29 May 2009 09:00 PM PDT
Acts 2:1-11 / 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 / Jn 20:19-23
The story of Pentecost is a real stunner! Jesus’ disciples, who’d been such wimps — fearful, aimless, hanging out in the upper room since Jesus’ Ascension — are suddenly transformed into fearless leaders, for whom nothing seems impossible.
In the past, as we’ve talked about this stunning event, we’ve described it in terms of the arrival, the coming, or the descent of the Spirit, upon the apostles. That language is really quite unhelpful and deceptive, for it suggests that the Holy Spirit somehow arrived at some place the Spirit hadn’t been before. And that isn’t true.
Our faith says the Holy Spirit of God is everywhere at all times. So what did happen? The Spirit of God didn’t change. The apostles did. These men whose hearts were frozen shut for a variety of reasons, finally were able to trust God enough to open their hearts to receive within, the Spirit who had always been there — held somewhat at bay outside. It was that accepting and receiving and taking in of the Spirit that made all the difference. And how hard that is to do, in part because we’re not so sure we want that transformation to happen just yet.
Remember how St. Augustine prayed for the grace of conversion during his wild and sinful youth? "Give me your grace, Lord. But not yet!"
We celebrate Pentecost because we need to do what the apostles did — and do it now: accept and receive within us the Spirit who has been present to us from the moment of birth.
May God help us to pray "Come Holy Spirit" with hearts that are truly open! Amen.
Friday, 29 May 2009
NAIROBI, Kenya, MAY 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The world-record-breaking oldest primary school student, a Kenyan great-grandfather, was baptized after he learned to read the Bible.Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge, the Guinness World Record holder for being the oldest person to enter primary school at age 84, was baptized Sunday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Kariobangi, east of Nairobi, Ecumenical News International reported Monday.
Now 90 years old, Maruge chose the baptismal name "Stephen" as he stated, "I commit my life to God, from now until the end.""I decided to be baptized after reading the Bible," he explained. In a wheelchair due to stomach cancer, the new Catholic added: "I read the Bible and came across the name Stephen. This is a name for those who have endured hardships like me."Father Paulino Mondo, Holy Trinity pastor, affirmed that the schooling helped Maruge to read and understand the Bible, and pass all his catechism tests.
Maruge enrolled in school due to the government's introduction of free primary education in 2003. Two of his 30 grandchildren attend the same school.He addressed the U.N. Millennium Development Summit in Sep. 2005 in New York on the importance of free primary education.
Maruge continued schooling despite being forced to a refugee camp due to post-election violence in 2008, and later relocation to a senior citizen retirement home.The Kenyan's story will be told in a Hollywood-produced film, titled "The First Grader," which is currently being produced.
Posted: 27 May 2009 09:00 PM PDT
Acts 22:30; 23:6-10 / Jn 17:20-26
Several interesting patterns have shown themselves as we’ve read through the Acts of the Apostles these past seven weeks. On the one hand, there’s the joy that so many people experience as they come to know the Good News of Jesus, and on the other, there’s the anger and violence with which so many react to the preaching of this same Good News.
Why are the reactions so very different from people of similar backgrounds? The answer lies inside, in the fear-driven rigidity and brittleness of the one group and in the hope-driven confidence and openness of the other.
Long ago, Cardinal Newman said that to grow is to change and to become perfect is to have changed often. True enough, but wholesome growth and change are possible only for those who have solid roots in God, the ground of our being. Fear stifles growth and allows only one kind of action, and that is attack.
Don’t waste your life being angry and defending the indefensible. Let faith open your inner doors to the Spirit who brings growth, change, and joy.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
By Carmen Elena VillaFLORENCE, Italy, MAY 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- There is a fundamental dialogue between faith and reason, and an international conference on Galileo can serve to prove it, according to the archbishop of Florence.Archbishop Giuseppe Betori affirmed this in speaking of the conference under way in his archdiocese on "The Galileo Affair: A Historical, Philosophical and Theological Re-examination."The event was inaugurated today at the Basilica of the Holy Cross, where Galileo is buried. It is an initiative of the Jesuits' Niels Stensen Foundation, and is part of the celebrations for the International Year of Astronomy sponsored by UNESCO.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was at the inauguration. The conference will feature 33 speakers and has brought together 18 institutions, including the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Academy of Science, and the Vatican Observatory.Archbishop Betori spoke about Galileo and the Church. He asserted that the case has been read for centuries as a "tragic and reciprocal lack of understanding," reported L'Osservatore Romano.
The prelate said he wants the Year of Astronomy to "re-establish and present again in a creative way the fundamental dialogue that exists between faith and reason, from the perspective of a permanent collaboration between the Church and institutions of scientific investigation, economic development and social promotion.""Faith does not grow with the rejection of rationality but rather integrates itself in a more ample horizon of rationality," Archbishop Betori added.
When reason is separated from faith, he continued, the risk arises "of being reduced to a calculation and an exclusive evaluation of conflicting interests." In this way, it "often is unaware of or remains blind to the vital questions, fundamental values and dramatic human situations."According to the archbishop, the Galileo conference has "not only a high cultural and symbolic value, but also shows that there are conditions for a constructive sharing of responsibilities, in the awareness of respective roles and tasks."The event ends May 30 in Florence, in the last home where Galileo lived.
"Real beauty isn't about symmetry or weight or makeup;
it's about looking life right in the face and seeing all its magnificence reflected in your own."
-- Valerie Monroe
Posted: 26 May 2009 09:00 PM PDT
Acts 20:28-38/Jn 17:11-19
Saying goodbye, especially when it’s for the last time, can wrench the heart unbearably. It brings back memories of countless past joys and presses them together so they’re all felt at once. It brings back regrets too, and renders them all the more poignant, because now they’re beyond reach. Saying goodbye closes many doors, but it opens new ones as well. And so it was with St. Paul as he bade his last farewell and went off to Rome to die.
Closing doors are easier to see than those that are just opening. This seems always to be the case. But the new doors are there, waiting for us to walk through them and to carry on where another has left off. It is always so, generation after generation, as it was with Paul, who left to us his mission of sharing Jesus’ Good News.
And that brings us to today’s question: How are you doing at sharing the Good News? Does your life look like good news? Are you a compelling advertisement for Jesus? If not, you’re not just betraying your mission, you’re missing life’s best joys.
Maybe it’s time to rethink your life’s mission and what you are bringing to it. Every moment you delay is a moment of joy lost forever.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
"If you see failure as a monster stalking you,
or one that has already ruined your life,
take another look. That monster can become a benevolent teacher,
opening your mind to successes you cannot now imagine."
-- Martha Beck
Urges Spiritual Strength in Dialogue with Modern World
VATICAN CITY, MAY 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Vatican diplomats should have spiritual strength in order to dialogue with the modern world while safeguarding their Christian and priestly identity, Benedict XVI told members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.
The Pope stated this Saturday in an audience with students of the academy, led by its president, Archbishop Beniamino Stella, a Vatican communiqué reported. The academy is responsible for training candidates for the Holy See diplomatic service.The Pontiff affirmed that the students' upcoming service in various apostolic nunciatures may "be considered as a specific priestly vocation, a pastoral ministry that involves a particular approach to the world and to its often highly complex social and political problems."He continued, "The dialogue with the modern world that is asked of you, as well as your contact with people and the institutions they represent, require an inner strength and a spiritual firmness capable of safeguarding -- indeed of giving ever more prominence to -- your Christian and priestly identity."
The Holy Father explained that this is necessary so as to avoid "the negative effects of the worldly mentality" and to keep from being "attracted or contaminated by an overly earthly logic.""In moments of darkness and inner difficulty," he said, "turn your gaze to Christ." Benedict XVI added, "Always remember that it is vital and fundamental for the priestly ministry, however practiced, to maintain a personal bond with Christ; he wants us as his 'friends,' friends who seek intimacy with him, who follow his teaching and who undertake to make him known and loved by everyone.""The Lord wants us to be saints," he affirmed, "in other words, entirely his, not concerned with building a career that is interesting and comfortable in human terms, not seeking success and the praise of others, but entirely dedicated to the good of souls, ready to do our duty unto the end, aware of being 'useful servants' and happy to offer our poor contribution to the spreading of the Gospel."
The Pope urged the priests to be "men of intense prayer who cultivate a communion of love and life with the Lord."He continued: "Without this solid spiritual base, how would it be possible to continue our ministry? Those who work in the Lord's vineyard in this way know that what is achieved with dedication, with sacrifice and for love, is never lost."The Pontiff spoke about the Year for Priests, which will begin June 19, as a "valuable occasion to renew and strengthen your generous response to the Lord's call, in order to intensify your relationship with him.""Use this opportunity to the utmost," he said, "so as to be priests in accordance with the dictates of Christ's heart, like St. Jean Marie Vianney, Cure of Ars," whose 150th anniversary of death we are preparing to celebrate.
The diplomats fulfill various roles for the Holy See, including the fostering of relationships with the various heads of states.They also assist in the process of naming bishops, participating in the selection of candidates to be proposed to the Holy Father.
Acts 20:17-27 / Jn 17:1-11
If St. Paul had been an artist, he wouldn’t have been a painter of miniatures. He would have been a big picture man, painting heroic scenes on vast canvases, beckoning all to take heed and pay attention. That is surely how he lived his life, constantly asking new questions, thinking beyond the edges of his prior experience, and moving courageously into places and circumstances he’d never seen before.
Paul had a powerful sense of mission: to share the Good News with all peoples. And he not only started well, but finished well, remaining faithful to the very end to the vision that Jesus had given him.
For those of us somewhere in the middle of our life’s course, Paul is both an inspiration and a reassurance. His life tells us that, even in the face of weariness or mid-course ennui, we can make it to the finish line, we can be faithful to the life’s work that God has given us. As Paul said, “I can do all things in God who strengthens me.”
Trust that, relax in the Lord, and enjoy the remarkable journey that is your life.
Monday, 25 May 2009
Discusses Pope's Message for World Day of Social Communication
VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Church's challenge in the era of Facebook and Twitter consists in presenting the profound message of Jesus without being sidetracked by technology's superficial aspects, says the Vatican spokesperson.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, affirmed this today on the most recent episode of his weekly television program "Octava Dies."
In his remarks the priest referred to the "very beautiful message of the Pope for the World Day of Social Communications this year" that "touches a strategic and crucial point in the reality of the world of communication in rapid development: 'New technologies, new relations; Promoting a culture of respect, of dialogue, of friendship.'"
"Benedict XVI -- or better, BXVI, as he is often called in this particular world -- is first of all addressing young people, the so-called 'digital generation,'" Father Lombardi explained, "challenging them to live their human and spiritual growth and commitment also in the communicative dimension of the new technologies, which has such a big place in the course of their days."
He added, "Here too, in fact, the Christian faith must be 'inculturated,' present as a proclamation and lifestyle and style of relationships."
"But it is not easy," the spokesperson added. "The dangers of limiting oneself to play, of wasting time, of flight from reality and remaining on the surface of things, are there."
He continued: "For his part BXVI, when he speaks to young people, for example at the World Youth Days, insists on wanting to communicate solid, consistent and articulated content to them, which demands a commitment to be assimilated before it can be translated into life.
"So transmitting the substantial through the virtual is a wonderful challenge. Will we succeed with our young people? Will we succeed in accompanying them in this adventure?"
"Let us hope so," the priest affirmed.
He added, "But we must not be victims of the fascination with the extraordinary technological successes, we must continue to distinguish possibilities and limits, and at the same time continue to seek in profundity that solid soil of the vital relationship with God and others, [a place] to really build a culture of respect, of dialogue and of friendship."
"You have to see every potential roadblock
as an opportunity and a benefit."
-- Suze Orman
Acts 19:1-8 / Jn 16:29-33
One of the greatest fears that a human being can experience is the fear of being abandoned by family and friends and being left to live one’s life all alone. Prison guards know this when they place recalcitrant inmates in solitary confinement and torturers know it too when they need their victims to confess to fictitious crimes.
To be cut off from human contact is immensely painful, but it pales when compared to being cut off from God. And yet that is the daily experience of too many of God’s children, wandering about this earth with no sense of any larger purpose or destiny and no vision beyond the blank wall of death. What a tragedy, and how unnecessary it is!
Jesus long ago spoke for us all when he said, "I can never be alone; the Father is with me." He is with us, within us, always — healing, comforting, strengthening, enlightening, encouraging, and guiding. He is with us always, and we’ll never be alone — not in the deepest cell or on the darkest night.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
"Happiness is the true beauty weapon."
-- Susan Sarandon
Posted: 22 May 2009 09:00 PM PDT
Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26 / 1 Jn 4:11-16 / Jn 17:11b-19
This weekend’s Gospel is an extension from last weekend’s exhortation from Jesus to remain in my love. He said in last weekend’s Gospel: As the Father loves me, so I also have loved you. This weekend Jesus turns to the Father asking that all this be accomplished. All what be accomplished?
Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Him. The Love between them is the Holy Spirit, and from Them and the Eternal Love comes all creation.
This weekend, Jesus prays that they may be one just as we are one. What is that one-ness of God, and how do we participate in it? It is all about love.
Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love God with all we are, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. He is calling us into a relationship that is an icon of the Trinity! When we, out of love for God, love our neighbor we become one with our neighbor.
Our love for God mirrors the love between the Father and the Son. From that love “spirates” (breathes) the love of our neighbor (you do get from “spirate” to Spirit, right?).
Thus, as the Father and the Son Love and from them proceeds the Holy Spirit (as our creed states), so to we — in response to Jesus’ prayer that we be one — unite ourselves in Love with God and from us (God and us) proceeds the love of our neighbor.
As God’s Love created the universe (His Kingdom), so our love with God is called to create His Kingdom on earth. We can join in God’s creative Love in more ways than just husbands and wives with their children. Every time we love our neighbor — wherever he or she is found — we help create the one-ness Jesus prayed for in today’s Gospel.
Let’s go create His Kingdom — in His Love.
Cardinal Bertone Affirms Church's Desire to Strengthen Relations
ROME, MAY 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The executive representatives of the World Jewish Congress visited the Vatican today to thank Benedict XVI for his Holy Land pilgrimage last week.
Ronald Lauder, president of the international organization, which represents 100 Jewish communities worldwide, expressed his appreciation for the Pope's May 8-15 trip in an audience with the Pontiff's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
A statement from the congress explained, "Despite being a complicated trip, its outcome had been positive and was a milestone for strengthening mutual understanding between Christians and Jews."
In the face of criticism that the Holy Father did not adequately denounce the Shoah during his trip, Lauder affirmed that any statement "touching upon the sensitive issue of the Holocaust had to be made with great care."
The communiqué reported Cardinal Bertone's response to the Jewish leaders, affirming that the Church recognizes the "unique nature" of the Holocaust.
He also stated clearly that there is "no place in the institutions of the church for Holocaust deniers such as Bishop Williamson," the congress noted.
Benedict XVI was criticized last January after the lifting of excommunication of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, including Bishop Richard Williamson, who was seen in an interview for Swedish television denying the gassing of 6 million Jews at about the same time that his excommunication was lifted.The cardinal invited the congress leaders to cooperate in examining the archives of Pope Pius XII, and he assured them that the Vatican is progressing in the aim to make Pontiff's papers from 1939-1945 available to historians. The Vatican is cataloguing the documents from the pontificate, which number about 16 million.
Cardinal Bertone assured congress members of the Holy See's desire to strengthen ties with Judaism, while Lauder affirmed the need for interfaith dialogue.
The president stated, "We must strive together to ensure that freedom of religion is respected everywhere in the world and religion not used to justify extremism and terror."
The World Jewish Congress was founded in 1936 to unite the Jewish people and address their needs, and represents communities in more than 80 countries.
Friday, 22 May 2009
"You have to start by changing the story you tell yourselfabout getting older... The minute you say to yourself, 'Time is everything, and I'm going to make sure that time is usedthe way I dream it should be used,' then you've got a whole different story."
-- Diane Sawyer
Acts 18:9-18 / Jn 16:20-23
Government statistics tell us that the majority of violent crimes, including murder, are committed by friends or family members of the victims. Sometimes, of course, the crime is for gain: I want what you’ve got, so I take it by force. But more often, there is no such gain in sight, just anger, a desire for revenge, or some desperate form of escape.
In most families and church communities disputes don’t ordinarily reach the level of physical violence, but they do quite often reach a level where real violence is done to people’s spirits. It seems that we are far too willing to cross the threshold of spiritual violence, even when the matters in question are trivial. If you doubt it, look at the hatefulness that is sometimes so visible within church communities about matters of taste or preference which ultimately have nothing to do with morality or the real core of life.
Our vocation as Christians is to help one another thrive, each in our own way. There’s a simple habit that can help you do that more consistently and effectively. Before you act or speak, ask the simple question: Will this help my neighbor to thrive or not? The answer is almost always obvious, and the very habit of asking the question with a sincere heart will lay you open to receive the grace to speak or remain silent, to act or be still. And your heart will be glad!
"The marvelous richness of human experience would lose
something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to
overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if
there were no dark valleys to traverse."
-- Helen Keller
SOUTH BEND, Indiana, MAY 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Bishop John D'Arcy intended to stay away from Notre Dame last Sunday, but he says he belonged on campus to accompany a group of Notre Dame students in prayerful protest.
The bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese informed Notre Dame in March that he wouldn't attend this year's commencement ceremony after the university announced its decision to invite President Barack Obama as the speaker and bestow on him an honorary law degree.
Eighty-two other prelates soon joined Bishop D'Arcy in voicing disagreement with the university's gesture toward Obama, saying it went against the guidelines set by the U.S. bishops' conference for Catholic institutions of higher education.
The 2004 statement says schools should not bestow honors on individuals who "act in defiance" of the Church's fundamental teachings.
But the activity of a coalition of 12 Notre Dame student groups, formed to protest the administration's plans for graduation day, and to organize a parallel event in support of life and Catholic values, caught Bishop D'Arcy's eye.
The coalition, called ND Response, organized a prayer vigil the night before the commencement ceremony, including a directed meditation by Father John Corapi of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
The vigil launched an all-night Eucharistic adoration, which concluded on Sunday -- graduation day.
Sunday Mass was held outside on one of the campus quads to accommodate the 3,000 people who had traveled from as far away as Mexico, New York, California and Florida to support the Catholic identity of the university and its pro-life mission.
The outdoor Mass, concelebrated by eight priests and presided over by Holy Cross Father Kevin Russeau, was followed by a rally featuring speakers with ties to Notre Dame.
Bishop D'Arcy made a surprise appearance, and after being invited to take the podium, he admitted, "It was not my intention to come today."
He explained, however, that he had visited the Marian grotto on campus and had observed students praying, and later visited the chapel where Eucharistic adoration was being held.
These moments of prayer, he said, "showed me the place for the bishop to be is here."
"The office of bishop is very important," the prelate added. He echoed the words of Pope John Paul II, and affirmed the importance of standing up "for life, all the time, everywhere, without exception."
Bishop D'Arcy told the crowd: "I found myself saying in recent weeks that this is a sad time, that there are no winners. But I was wrong."
He affirmed that the "heroes" are "the young people on campus, the students" who followed in "the great tradition of Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict."
The bishop continued: "Their protest was carried out with love, and with prayer, and with dignity and with respect. But with a firmness, also, as to what is right."
The diocesan newspaper reported that outside groups protested the college's decision at the university entrance with demonstrations that "grabbed national headlines," while ND Response chose to "prayerfully, respectfully and faithfully make their opposition known in a different way."
Bishop D'Arcy concluded, "So there are heroes; all of you here today are heroes, and I'm proud to stand with you."
After the rally, Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, led a rosary at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, in a prayer vigil dedicated to the 40 graduates present there as a boycott to the official commencement ceremony.
Father Russeau gave tribute to these students in his homily, stating that despite all the media's coverage of the controversy, "one story that I don't hear enough about […] is the response of the student body."
He continued: "In the face of this controversy, I have witnessed countless students who have given me inspiration.
"Students who instinctively know to approach God in prayer about their trials, students who reach out to others in attempts to offer care, students who have demonstrated to me an ability to listen and obey the scripture we proclaim this day."
In these past months, the priest said, it has been inspiring to see the student body's "instinct to come to the altar of the Lord to ask for guidance and strength."
He added: "I can't tell you the number of rosaries and Masses and prayer meetings that have been intentional responses to what many feel is a concession to the culture of death.
"Students, family, friends, alumni, and many of you, have spent hours in adoration looking for the proper response.
"The students that I have come to know here on campus have reminded me that in all things we must respond with love. And to respond with love in hard times, we must ask our Lord for grace. We are here today to bear witness and to love."
A press statement from ND Response affirmed, "Sunday's events not only provided powerful witness to the sanctity of human life but also expressed constructive disappointment at the University of Notre Dame's decision to honor President Barack Obama, who has publicly supported abortion and embryo-destructive stem cell research during his tenure in office."
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be
and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming."
-- J.W Von Goethe
Commemorates Father Matteo Ricci's Missionary Efforts
MACERATA, Italy, MAY 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is highlighting the example of a Jesuit missionary, Father Matteo Ricci, who worked to root the Gospel in Chinese society and promote dialogue between eastern and western cultures.The Pope affirmed this in a letter sent to Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia in Italy, where Ricci was born in 1522, on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the missionary's death.
The Vatican press office publicized the letter Monday, in which the Pontiff highlighted the pastoral strategy of the Jesuit who lived in China for 28 years and died in Beijing on May 11, 1610. The Holy Father noted the "profound faith and extraordinary cultural and academic genius" of the missionary who "dedicated long years of his life to weaving a profound dialogue between West and East, at the same time working incisively to root the Gospel in the culture of the great people of China.""Even today," Benedict XVI added, "his example remains as a model of fruitful encounter between European and Chinese civilization."The Pope stated: "In considering his intense academic and spiritual activity, we cannot but remain favorably impressed by the innovative and unusual skill with which he, with full respect, approached Chinese cultural and spiritual traditions."It was, in fact, this approach that characterized his mission, which aimed to seek possible harmony between the noble and millennial Chinese civilization and the novelty of Christianity, which is for all societies a yeast of liberation and of true renewal from within, because the Gospel, universal message of salvation, is destined for all men and women whatever the cultural and religious context to which they belong."
The Pontiff noted that the missionary's apostolate was "original" and "prophetic" due to the "profound sympathy he nourished for the Chinese, for their cultures and religious traditions."He called Father Ricci a "model of dialogue and respect for the beliefs of others" who "made friendship the style of his apostolate."The Holy Father explained that the Jesuit's evangelization employed a "scientific methodology and a pastoral strategy based, on the one hand, on respect for the wholesome customs of the place, which Chinese neophytes did not have to abandon when they embraced the Christian faith and, on the other, on his awareness that revelation could enhance and complete" those customs.
He sought "constant understanding with the wise men of that country," Benedict XVI added."Following his example," the Pope concluded, "may our own communities, which accommodate people from different cultures and religions, grow in a spirit of acceptance and of reciprocal respect."
Posted: 18 May 2009 09:00 PM PDT (Catholic Exchanged)
Acts 16:22-34/Jn 16:5-11
“Do no harm to yourself, we are all here.”
How many of us would have stayed where we were if we were in the same situation as Paul was? Furthermore, how many of us would have used the opportunity in the prison to speak to all those prisoners?
Just above this, our reading says that all the prisoners were listening to Paul and Silas as they prayed and sang hymns. Then it says, remarkably, that all the prisoners were still there after the earthquake.
Is it alright to be envious of Paul’s success? Oh, I know, I have not faced a crowd so unknowing of Jesus as Paul did. Does that make it easier or harder for me? Or for you?
How hard would it be for us to make every moment a moment of evangelization? Paul did not pass up his opportunity with the prisoners nor with the prison guard.
There are so many people in our society today who have some nominal knowledge of Jesus, that it makes it hard for us to speak to them of Who He is.
My simple prayer for today is that God will fill someone with the wisdom to speak to our culture in a way that will bring them back to Christ. And may the Lord then pass that wisdom on to all of us that we may speak and bring true conversion back to our land.
Are there any Pauls out there?
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
"When you are through changing,
you are through."
-- Bruce Barton
VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s remarks to the reporters that accompanied him on his return flight from the Holy Land to Rome on Friday.
* * *
Thank you for your work. I imagine that it was difficult, with all the problems, traveling, etc., and I would like to thank you for having accepted all these difficulties to inform the world about this pilgrimage, inviting others on the pilgrimage in this way.
I already gave a brief summary of this trip in the speech at the airport; I do not want to add much. I could give many, many details: the moving descent to the lowest place in the region in Jordan, which for us is also a symbol of God’s descent, the descent of Christ into the deepest points of human existence.
The Cenacle, where the Lord gave us the Eucharist, where the Pentecost occurred, the descent of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Sepulcher, so many other impressions, but I do not think that this is the moment to [go into these details].
Perhaps there are three fundamental impressions: The first is that I found everywhere, in all the environments -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish -- a decisive will for interreligious dialogue, to meeting and cooperation between the religions.
And it is important that everyone see this not only as an action -- let us say -- with political motivations in the given situation, but as a fruit of the nucleus of faith itself, because believing in one God who created all of us, Father of all of us, believing in this God that created humanity as one family, believing that this God is love and wants love to the be dominating force in the world, implies this coming together, this necessity of meeting, of dialogue, of cooperation as a requirement of the faith itself.
Second point: I also found a very encouraging ecumenical climate. We had many very cordial meetings with the Orthodox world; I was also able to speak with a representative of the Anglican Church and two Lutheran representatives, and to see that precisely this climate of the Holy Land also encourages ecumenism.
And the third point: There are very great difficulties -- we know it, we saw and felt it. The difficulties are more visible and we must not hide the difficulties: They exist, they must be cleared up. But the common desire for peace, of fraternity, is not as visible, and it seems to me that we must also speak about this, encourage everyone in this desire to find the certainly not so easy solutions to these difficulties.
I came as a pilgrim of peace. Pilgrimages are an essential element in many religions, so much a part of Islam, of the Jewish religion and of Christianity. It is also an image of our existence, which is a journey forward, toward God and thus toward the communion of humanity.
I came as a pilgrim and I hope that many will follow these paths and in this way encourage the unity of the peoples of this Holy Land and become messengers of peace. Thank you!
Sunday, 17 May 2009
"You are what you repeatedly do.
Excellence is not an event --it is a habit."
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 / 1 Jn 4:7-10 / Jn 15:9-17
When all else fails, threaten. “Just wait until your father gets home!” is a mother’s familiar threat. It’s a threat that a child properly formed in filial piety finds difficult to ignore. If anyone insists that he is “never motivated by threats,” ask him if he is more attentive on the interstate when a state patrol vehicle is near. Though we lament the need for threats in motivating good behavior, for better or for worse, we respond to threats.
The Lord occasionally uses threatening language. He warns the Pharisees, “a brood of vipers” who presume to know more than Christ, that they ought to fear “the wrath to come” (Mt. 3:7). He warns that one who scandalizes children risks a punishment so severe that it would be better that “a great millstone [be] fastened round his neck” and he would be “drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt. 18:6). In language which seems similarly threatening, he warns that “whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” (Mt. 5:22).
But there is something pathological within us if we are motivated only by threats. A driver who is habitually reckless except when police are nearby should be stopped before he kills or is killed. A child who responds only to the threat of punishment is being prepared for a prison cell. If we are motivated by threats, our motivations to good behavior must be perfected by love.
Mature people avoid reckless driving not only because they fear arrest; they recognize the self-centeredness of recklessness as well as the danger to others. It is a mark of maturity when a child is motivated to good behavior more by his love for his parents than fear of punishment.
Love defines the relationship between mother and child. Love is expressed by obedience in friendship.
Obedience to Christ is not the obedience of a slave. Shortly before his Crucifixion, the Lord redefines his relationship with his disciples. He tells them, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15:15).
Christ equates love with obedience: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments” (Jn 15:10). To those who are mature enough to see the fullness of God’s revelation, there is no longer a need for threats. On the contrary, the Lord says to his disciples, who have matured under his guidance, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete” (Jn 15:11).
Our Lord also taught us by example about the relationship between love and obedience. Though he is God, he obeys Mary and Joseph (Lk 2:51) because he loves them. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ begs that the chalice of suffering be removed, but he concludes his prayer in loving obedience to the Father: “not my will, but Thine, be done” (Lk 22:44).
The law of Christ as we know it through the teaching of the Church must not be understood as a mere collection of rules and regulations demanding servile obedience under the threat of punishment. The law of Christ is the law of sacrificial love and the way to true happiness in freedom.
It’s hard to be threatened by the promise of Christian joy — unless, of course, we are threatened with its loss by our indifference, presumption or neglect.
Saturday, 16 May 2009
President Peres Notes Papal Statement on Holocaust
TEL AVIV, Israel, MAY 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- As Benedict XVI bid farewell to the Holy Land, he affirmed his friendship with the Israelis and Palestinians, calling for a cessation of all bloodshed and fighting.The Pope said this today at the farewell address that concluded his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, before boarding a plane at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion international airport to return to Rome.
He recalled the olive tree that he planted at the residence of Israeli President Shimon Peres, an image used by St. Paul to signify "the very close relations between Christians and Jews."The Pontiff continued: "We are nourished from the same spiritual roots. We meet as brothers, brothers who at times in our history have had a tense relationship, but now are firmly committed to building bridges of lasting friendship."He affirmed, "I came to visit this country as a friend of the Israelis just as I am a friend of the Palestinian people," and friends "find it deeply distressing to see one another suffer."The Pontiff issued an appeal: "No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war!"He continued: "Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders."Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely."Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream."The Pope's concluding word, "Shalom!" was echoed by the president, who gave the same farewell to the Holy Father.
President Peres, a Nobel Peace Prizewinner, described Benedict XVI's pilgrimage as an example of "spiritual values" that made a "significant contribution to the new relations between the Vatican and Jerusalem."He called the visit a "profound demonstration of the enduring dialogue" between Jewish people and Christian believers.The president affirmed that the Papal statements of the past week "carried a substantive weight." He noted in particular the Holy Father's declarations "that the Holocaust, the Shoah, must not be forgotten nor denied" and that "anti-Semitism and discrimination, in any form, and in any place, must be fought intensively."Peres added, "It touched our hearts and minds."He spoke about the "profound challenge" faced by political and spiritual leaders of today: "how to divorce religion from terror" and "how to prevent terrorists from hijacking the religious conscience by cloaking an act of terrorism in the false guise of a religious mission.""I believe that your great spiritual leadership can influence a spirit of godliness in man, can help people to recognize that God is not in the hearts of terrorists," the president told the Pope.
He expressed the confidence that the visit is a "historic mission" stemming from the Pontiff's "great ability to inspire others.""We are deeply appreciative of your visit," Peres added, "knowing and valuing your efforts to build bridges of mutual respect between people and nations."He concluded, "You came in peace you go in peace, and to you we say Shalom."The Pope affirmed, "And let peace spread outwards from these lands, let them serve as a light to the nations, bringing hope to the many other regions that are affected by conflict."The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was also at the farewell ceremony, an unusual gesture of esteem that stepped outside ordinary protocol.
"Every path hath a puddle."
-- George Herbert
Acts 15:22-31 / Jn 15:12-17
By the time of Jesus’ coming, the rule book for practicing Jews was exceedingly long and complicated, so much so that most ordinary folk just gave up trying to figure it all out. The scribes and pharisees battled endlessly about fine points of the law, and the whole enterprise moved further and further from real life and deeper into irrelevance.
Unlike the scribes, Jesus knew that the law should be a liberator, freeing people from what is hurtful and what is void of purpose, and focusing their efforts on what really counts. Jesus saw that that wasn’t happening, so he cut through the life-threatening tangle that the lawyers had made. He declared that there is really only one commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
And how exactly did he love us? Wholeheartedly, absolutely, and unconditionally! His love had no limits, not even death. That’s the norm he’s given us to measure up to. We’ll fail miserably if we try to do it on our own, but we’ll have a chance of succeeding if we let his love fill us and do its work within us.
The Spirit of Jesus is powerful and can overcome anything. Let his Spirit do his work in you.
NAZARETH, Israel, MAY 14, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is suggesting that peace in the Middle East could be delivered by the hands of children, noting that youngsters following the example of the Child Jesus could teach their parents about love.
The Pope offered this idea today when he celebrated his largest Mass yet during his weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He returns to Rome on Friday. An estimated 50,000 faithful turned out for the event at the Mount of the Precipice, traditionally held to be the site where angry Nazarenes wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff (cf. Luke 4:29).As the local Church in the Holy Land is marking a year of the family, the Pontiff focused his message on families and the key role they play in society.He began the homily reminding that the family in "God's plan is based on the lifelong fidelity of a man and a woman consecrated by the marriage covenant and accepting of God's gift of new life."
"How much the men and women of our time need to reappropriate this fundamental truth, which stands at the foundation of society, and how important is the witness of married couples for the formation of sound consciences and the building of a civilization of love," the Holy Father reflected.
Referring to the Child Jesus and citing "Gaudium et Spes," Benedict XVI went on to consider the particular mission faced by children in the Middle East, suggesting that they could have a key role in helping the region."The Second Vatican Council teaches that children have a special role to play in the growth of their parents in holiness," the Pope recalled, "I urge you to reflect on this, and to let the example of Jesus guide you, not only in showing respect for your parents, but also helping them to discover more fully the love which gives our lives their deepest meaning. "In the Holy Family of Nazareth, it was Jesus who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God his heavenly Father, the ultimate source of all love, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name."Dear friends, in the Opening Prayer of today's Mass we asked the Father to 'help us to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love.' Let us reaffirm here our commitment to be a leaven of respect and love in the world around us."
And for the second time during his pilgrimage in the Middle East, Benedict XVI dedicated a central theme of his discourse to the defense of women. (On Sunday in Jordan at the open-air Mass in Amman International Stadium, he picked up the same theme.)Mentioning Mary, the mother of the Holy Family, the Pope said: "Nazareth reminds us of our need to acknowledge and respect the God-given dignity and proper role of women, as well as their particular charisms and talents. "Whether as mothers in families, as a vital presence in the work force and the institutions of society, or in the particular vocation of following our Lord by the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, women have an indispensable role in creating that 'human ecology' which our world, and this land, so urgently needs: a milieu in which children learn to love and to cherish others, to be honest and respectful to all, to practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness."But the Holy Father had a particular message for men as well."Here too," he said, "we think of St. Joseph, the just man whom God wished to place over his household.
From Joseph's strong and fatherly example Jesus learned the virtues of a manly piety, fidelity to one's word, integrity and hard work. In the carpenter of Nazareth he saw how authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate. How much our world needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph!"
Benedict XVI offered a commentary on the Mass reading from Sirach, saying it presents the family as a school -- one that "trains its members in the practice of those virtues which make for authentic happiness and lasting fulfillment."He added, "In the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end."Thus, the Bishop of Rome noted the "essential role" of the family for society. And in this regard, he affirmed, there is a "duty of the state to support families in their mission of education, to protect the institution of the family and its inherent rights, and to ensure that all families can live and flourish in conditions of dignity."
Friday, 15 May 2009
By Mercedes de la Torre
BETHLEHEM, West Bank, MAY 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's visit today to Bethlehem had one principal objective: to give hope to this sorely tried population, says the delegate administrator of the Holy See's pilgrimage agency.
Father Caesar Atuire, of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican institution whose mission is to evangelize through pastoral tourism and the ministry of pilgrimage, spoke with ZENIT about the Pope's stop at Bethlehem on the fifth day of his Holy Land pilgrimage.
The city where Jesus was born "has lived this day as if it were Christmas," he said. And in fact, during the Mass the Holy Father celebrated in Manger Square, one could hear carols being sung.
"Seeing the people here, hearing their songs, we realize that today the Pope has brought to this land a message of peace, a message of joy, to encourage this population that lives with so many conflicts," Father Atuire said. "The Pope has recalled what the Gospel of Luke says, that is, that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction.
"Today as well the reality of Bethlehem is a sign of contradiction, but it cannot be a sign of contradiction without hope. Thus what the Pope said today is that the message of Jesus can be hope for peace and for the future of this people."
Hope for Gaza too
Father Atuire, who is accompanying the Pontiff on his weeklong pilgrimage, said he was particularly touched by the words Benedict XVI offered to the victims of the latest conflict in Gaza.
"The Holy Father offered his solidarity with all those who were victims of this conflict and, because of this, after Mass the Holy Father paused to greet a delegation that came from Gaza to participate in this Eucharistic celebration," he explained.
The Pontiff's visit to the Aida refugee camp was a similar gesture, the priest suggested.
"The refugee camps are a reminder of the suffering of this population," he remarked, adding that those who have been forced to these camps by the Jewish-Palestinian conflict live there "with no hope and no land."
"Truly a people without land is a disinherited people," the priest said. "In going to visit this population, the Pope is giving them a message of hope."
This hope, Father Atuire clarified, implies the recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people, rights which include a homeland, Benedict XVI affirmed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
With this, Father Atuire contended, "the Palestinian people could reach this sovereignty that is necessary to be able to fulfill projects of development, justice and peace for the whole population of this territory."
Posted: 13 May 2009 09:00 PM PDT(Catholic Exchanged)
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 / Jn 15:9-17
Being chosen by God, what an awesome experience. Yet, it is not just the Apostles that God has selected. Each one of us has been chosen by God in a very unique and powerful way. That way began with our baptism.
Jesus said: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” God’s choice of us is irrevocable.
We are talking about the replacement of Judas today by the Apostle Mathias. While the Apostles were eye-witnesses to Jesus, the replacement of Judas was also a call to all of us to — in some ways – fill the same role.
The Apostles are: irreplaceable – have been replaced by the Bishops – and, in a small way, continue anytime we reach out to spread the message of Jesus.
They are irreplaceable in that they are the witnesses, the original witnesses, to the ministry of Jesus.
They have been replaced by the Bishops in leadership for the Church today.
They continue as we spread the message of Jesus and fulfill His command to love one another.
Are we willing to allow what it cost the Apostles to be paid by us? Only one of the Apostles did not die by martyrdom.
Can we dare to allow ourselves to be spent in the service of the gospel? Can we dare to respond to Jesus’ love as He loved us? “This is My commandment: love one another as I love you.”
God has chosen us. He has chosen to love us. What choice is left to us?
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
"You can't base your life on other people's expectations."
-- Stevie Wonder
JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says he wants Christian-Muslim dialogue to explore how the oneness of God is tied to the unity of the human family.
The Pope reflected today on how fidelity to God leads to a recognition that humans are interrelated when he addressed Muslim leaders during his visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The Holy Father is on the fourth full day of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He returns to Rome on Friday.
Reflecting on the spiritual significance of the site, the Pontiff said: "Here the paths of the world's three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common. Each believes in One God, creator and ruler of all. Each recognizes Abraham as a forefather, a man of faith upon whom God bestowed a special blessing. Each has gained a large following throughout the centuries and inspired a rich spiritual, intellectual and cultural patrimony."
The area of the Temple Mount is important for Christianity, Judaism and Islam. There, Solomon built the temple and Herod rebuilt it. It is the site of two mosques, and Muslims consider it the third pilgrimage site, after Mecca and Medina, and the place where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. Christians recognize it as the place where Christ spoke of the destruction of the Temple.
The golden-domed, octagonal-shaped Dome of the Rock is the oldest extant Muslim monument in the Holy Land. The Pope was greeted there by the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein.
Benedict XVI said the site "challenges men and women of goodwill to work to overcome misunderstandings and conflicts of the past and to set out on the path of a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace for coming generations."
The Holy Father acknowledged the temptation to be ambivalent about a possibility of success in interreligious dialogue.
"Yet," he said, "we can begin with the belief that the One God is the infinite source of justice and mercy, since in him the two exist in perfect unity. Those who confess his name are entrusted with the task of striving tirelessly for righteousness while imitating his forgiveness, for both are intrinsically oriented to the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of the human family."
The Pope said it is for this reason that those "who adore the One God should show themselves to be both grounded in and directed towards the unity of the entire human family."
He explained: "In other words, fidelity to the One God, the Creator, the Most High, leads to the recognition that human beings are fundamentally interrelated, since all owe their very existence to a single source and are pointed towards a common goal. Imprinted with the indelible image of the divine, they are called to play an active role in mending divisions and promoting human solidarity."
The Pontiff asserted that "love for the One God and charity towards ones neighbor thus become the fulcrum around which all else turns."
"As Muslims and Christians further the respectful dialogue they have already begun, I pray that they will explore how the Oneness of God is inextricably tied to the unity of the human family," he proposed. "In submitting to his loving plan for creation, in studying the law inscribed in the cosmos and implanted in the human heart, in reflecting upon the mysterious gift of God's self-revelation, may all his followers continue to keep their gaze fixed on his absolute goodness, never losing sight of the way it is reflected in the faces of others."
Posted: 12 May 2009 09:00 PM PDT (Catholic Exchanged)
Acts 15:1-6 / Jn 15:1-8
Not everyone has a “green thumb” and most of us can’t even keep a house plant alive and happy for more than a few months. But there is something wonderful about watching a talented gardener at work, snipping, pruning, watering, fertilizing — nurturing something alive and helping it to thrive. “I wish someone could do that for me,” we may hear ourselves sigh.
Jesus answers that silent wish in today’s gospel. He tells us that God our Father is the one who wants to do precisely that for all of us. What better mentor could we have than the Loving One who sees all and knows all and who dwells permanently at the center of our being? He speaks to us through the silence, from deep within. And for those who have learned to listen and to trust him, wisdom, peace, and joy await. At every juncture, he will guide our hand to the good, and will show us the way to draw forth the good even from evil.
Let him tend your garden. Let him be your mentor. It will change your life.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
President Affirms Pope's Peacemaking Actions and Stances
TEL AVIV, Israel, MAY 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- In Benedict XVI's first moments on Israeli soil, he issued a condemnation of anti-Semitism as "totally unacceptable," calling on all people to fight it by promoting respect for others.
The Pope stated this today in the welcoming ceremony upon his arrival from Jordan's Queen Alia airport to the Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv.
He was received by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the civil authorities and bishops of the Holy Land. Netanyahu's presence at the ceremony, a gesture traditionally reserved for heads of states, was a significant sign of respect for the Pontiff.
The Holy Father, along with the authorities of the country, received military honors while the Vatican and Israeli anthems were played.
In his speech in English, Benedict XVI affirmed that "the Holy See and the state of Israel have many shared values, above all a commitment to give religion its rightful place in the life of society."
He continued: "The just ordering of social relationships presupposes and requires a respect for the freedom and dignity of every human being, whom Christians, Muslims and Jews alike believe to be created by a loving God and destined for eternal life.
"When the religious dimension of the human person is denied or marginalized, the very foundation for a proper understanding of inalienable human rights is placed in jeopardy."
"Tragically," the Holy Father said, "the Jewish people have experienced the terrible consequences of ideologies that deny the fundamental dignity of every human person."
He added, "It is right and fitting that, during my stay in Israel, I will have the opportunity to honor the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah, and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude."
Benedict XVI noted, "Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world."
"This is totally unacceptable," he asserted. "Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found, and to promote respect and esteem for the members of every people, tribe, language and nation across the globe."
"During my stay in Jerusalem," the Pope said, "I will have the pleasure of meeting many of this country's distinguished religious leaders."
"May the words of Isaiah's prophecy be fulfilled," he said, "that many nations shall flow to the mountain of the house of the Lord, that he may teach them his ways, that they may walk in his paths -- paths of peace and justice, paths that lead to reconciliation and harmony."
Mission of peace
President Shimon Peres addressed the Pontiff, saying, "I see your visit here, to the Holy Land, as an important spiritual mission of the highest order: a mission of peace."
He continued: "I appreciate your stances and your actions to bring down the level of violence and hatred in the world. I am certain that this will be a continuation of the dialogue between Judaism and Christianity in the spirit of the prophets."
"I honor your efforts to feed the hungry and to quench man's thirst for faith in man and in the Creator of the universe," the president stated.
He added: "Our country is poor in resources, but rich in faith. Our country is half-desert, but we have built flourishing commerce on the strength of human capital, and a society seeking justice for every child born."
Peres told the Holy Father: "Your visit here brings a blessed understanding between religions and spreads peace near and far. Historic Israel and the renewed Israel together welcome your arrival as paving the great road to peace from city to city."
After the ceremony, the Pope traveled by helicopter to Jerusalem, where he was welcomed by the mayor, Nir Barkat. He then went to the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem by car, where he had a private lunch.
Benedict XVI later visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, rekindling the memorial flame and laying a wreath of yellow and white flowers at the site.
He expressed compassion for the victims, stating that they will be remembered by "all those determined never to allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again."
The Pontiff met with Holocaust survivors in a solemn ceremony attended by President Peres and Parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin.
The Holy Father stated: "May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten! And may all people of goodwill remain vigilant in rooting out from the heart of man anything that could lead to tragedies such as this."
Acts 14:19-28 / Jn 14:27-31
There’s an ancient Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” The curse seems to have come true in our day. There’s no era in history that can match the speed and the complexity with which growth and change are occurring at this very moment. It’s fascinating and exciting, but it also has an impact on our daily lives, injecting a level of uncertainty and stress that we’d just as soon live without.
And so, Jesus’ words in today’s gospel are especially relevant and comforting. ”Peace is My gift to you,” he says. What exactly is the peace that Jesus promises to those who walk with Him? It’s not a freedom from having to pay close attention to our finances or our retirement fund, or to who our kids are hanging out with. It’s not an immunity from having to watch our diets, monitor our health, and give our rose bushes just the right combination of care.
The peace that Jesus gives is the peace of perspective, of seeing all things in the light of our profound conviction that the Lord loves us, walks with us, and will always give us what we need. It’s the inner quiet that comes from knowing that “for those who love God, all things work for the good.”
Trust that, and you will know His peace.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
Papal Pilgrimage Begins Overlooking the Promised Land
AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is affirming the continued unity of Christians and Jews in the ancient practice of pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The Pope visited the Basilica of the Moses Memorial at Mount Nebo today, commencing his weeklong Holy Land pilgrimage. Tradition holds that it was here that God showed Moses the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the desert.
"It is appropriate that my pilgrimage should begin on this mountain, where Moses contemplated the Promised Land from afar," the Pontiff said. "Moses gazed upon the Promised Land from afar, at the end of his earthly pilgrimage. His example reminds us that we too are part of the ageless pilgrimage of God's people through history."
"From the earliest times," the Holy Father continued, "Christians have come on pilgrimage to the sites linked to the history of the Chosen People, the events of Christ's life and the nascent Church."
"This great tradition," he added, "which my present pilgrimage is meant to continue and confirm, is grounded in the desire to see, to touch, and to savor in prayer and contemplation the places blessed by the physical presence of our Savior, his Blessed Mother, the apostles and the first disciples who saw him risen from the dead."
"The ancient tradition of pilgrimage to the holy places also reminds us of the inseparable bond between the Church and the Jewish people," the Pontiff explained. "From the beginning, the Church in these lands has commemorated in her liturgy the great figures of the Patriarchs and Prophets, as a sign of her profound appreciation of the unity of the two Testaments."
"May our encounter today," the Pope concluded, "inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of sacred Scripture and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation in the service of that peace to which the word of God calls us!"
Father José Rodrígez Carballo, General Minister of the Franciscans living in the Holy Land, who welcomed the Holy Father, said, "You are not alone on this journey. We want to accompany you, or rather follow you, just as once the people of Israel followed Moses and were led by him."
"Today," he continued, "we still feel as though we are in the desert and we need someone who leads us to the Lord, someone who helps us get to know him as a provident and compassionate Father, as Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed him to us."
"Your Holiness, we entrust ourselves to you on this pilgrimage," the Franciscan priest declared. "Take our pleas to the Lord and address us again with that Word, which is the only one that can give us salvation."
In his remarks, the Holy Father thanked in particular Father Carballo and the Franciscan friars who minister to the Holy Land pilgrims for "their age-old presence in these lands, their joyful fidelity to the charism of St. Francis, and their generous concern for the spiritual and material welfare of the local Christian communities and the countless pilgrims who visit the Holy Land each year."
Saturday, 9 May 2009
"To teach is to learn twice."
-- Joseph Joubert
NEW YORK, MAY 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- More than half of all Americans oppose the University of Notre Dame's decision to honor President Barack Obama with an honorary degree, according to a Rasmussen poll.
The telephone survey, released Tuesday, asked 1,000 adults if the university should be giving the president an honorary degree, given the 2004 guidelines established by U.S. bishops stating that Catholic institutions should not honor people whose actions conflict with the Church's moral principles. Fifty-two percent of those polled said no, and among Catholics, 60% said no.
The statement of the U.S. bishops says: "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."
Only 25% of those polled agreed with the university's decision, and 19% said they were unsure.
When asked if it's important that commencement speakers for universities with a religious affiliation share the religious views of that university, nearly two-thirds (63%) said yes. Of Catholics, 56% said yes, while 87% of evangelicals answered in the affirmative, along with 63% of other Protestants.
While the majority disagrees with the university's decision to honor the president, only 30% of American adults believe the president should cancel his appearance at Notre Dame. Among Catholics, just 34% think Obama should cancel.
Of those polled, 15% say they are following the story "very closely," and another 23% are following it "somewhat closely."
Among Catholics, 25% are following the story "very closely," and another 27% are following it "somewhat closely."
Acts 13:26-33 / Jn 14:1-6
It’s natural to wonder what heaven will be like, and it’s fascinating to hear the phantasms that some of us have conjured up, with no basis whatever in fact or scripture except that this is the way we think it ought to be. Will it be like a Giotto painting with everyone in fancy dress and all neatly arranged like the court of a renaissance king? Or will it perhaps be an idyllic scene of saints clad in flowing white gowns, luxuriating serenely on puffy clouds and languidly plucking their harps? I seriously doubt it. But who knows? For the fact is that heaven is as inscrutable as God himself.
Yet we do know something about God: He is our eternally loving Father. And good fathers know how take good care of their children. St. Paul said that he didn’t have a clue as to the specifics: “Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love him.” And in the end, who needs specifics? What we do need is trust “trust in the full extent of God’s love for us. And from that trust in his love will come love in return” love that takes care and helps our neighbors to thrive.
Trust and love. The rest will take care of itself!
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Acts 13:13-25 / Jn 13:16-20
It’s interesting sometimes to watch people projecting their own foul motives onto other people. In doing so, they not only miss the truth, but they also reveal more than they intend to about themselves. And that probably contains the answer to a question that occurs to priests very often: Where do we get so many strange and unhappy ideas about God? The answer is that it probably comes about by our projecting some of our more miserable qualities onto him, most especially our desires for revenge and getting even.
St. Paul knew that about us human beings, and throughout his career he repeatedly reminded his listeners of what their own history made so clear: how consistent God was in loving them, guiding them, forgiving them, and giving them life.
If we are paying attention, our own personal history is telling us the same thing. The perfect counterpoint to our endless ups and down, God is eternally constant, eternally committed to all of us without exception. Take into your heart the comfort and joy that God’s unshakeable commitment is offering. It will give you the strength and courage to finish your journey well.
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican spokesman is calling Benedict XVI's upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land "decidedly courageous," as the region is enduring more tension than usual after the January conflict in Gaza.
The Pope is set to leave Friday for a weeklong trip to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, gave a briefing on the trip today, calling it the most complicated of the 12 international journeys undertaken by this Pontiff.
The spokesman echoed the affirmation made by the Holy Father himself on Sunday, saying the pilgrimage will give the Pope the chance to "confirm and encourage the Christians of the Holy Land who daily have to confront many difficulties."
Nevertheless, the political situation of the region is anything but tranquil, Father Lombardi noted, pointing to new governments in Israel and the United States, divisions among the Palestinians that are delaying elections, and tensions provoked by Iran.
"It is a set of situations in flux, and also of tensions, in which the Pope's trip presents itself as an act of hope and trust, so as to be able to make a contribution to peace and reconciliation," he said. "It seems to me that it is a decidedly courageous act and a beautiful testimony of a commitment to be able to bring a message of peace and reconciliation in difficult situations."
The spokesman recalled that many suspected the conflict in Gaza that closed 2008 and opened 2009 would force Benedict XVI to cancel the trip. Nevertheless, he said, the Holy Father wanted his pilgrimage to be a bid for peace.
This desire of the Pope sets the context for the appeal he made Sunday, speaking in English after praying the midday Regina Caeli with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square: "This Friday I leave for my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where men and women first heard the voice of the Good Shepherd.
"I ask you all to join me in praying for the afflicted peoples of that region. In a special way I ask that you remember the Palestinian people who have endured great hardship and suffering. May the Lord bless them and all those who live in the Holy Land with the gifts of unity and peace."
Acts 11:19-26 / Jn 10:22-30
As their persecution by the Jews became more widespread and virulent, vast numbers of Jewish Christians fled their homeland and became refugees in distant lands. But even in that circumstance of total rejection by their own people, it was a mental struggle for them to leap the hurdle of their own lifelong prejudice against non-Jews. But they did it. Slowly at first, they began to talk "even to the Greeks" about the Good News of Jesus. And large numbers were added to the Lord.
It’s interesting to speculate whether that change of heart, that willingness to welcome people they had always rejected, would have happened if those first Christians had not had the experience of being rejected themselves. What great good God can bring out of great pain and sadness, if we are willing to listen to Him and take His guidance!
Old habits die hard, sometimes only in the fire of suffering. When those times of sadness or suffering do make their inevitable appearance, don’t run away and don’t despair. There is growth and good hidden somewhere in every pain and in every tragedy. Let the Lord help you find it.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
Acts 4:8-12 / 1 John 3:1-2 / John 10:11-18
A man in Germany went to confession after many years. “Forgive me, Father,” he said, “during World War II, I hid a refugee in my attic.”
“That’s not a sin,” replied the priest.
“But you see, I charged him rent.”
“Well, that is fairly tacky, but it’s still no sin.”
“Father, I have just one more question,” said the man.
“And what would that be?”
“Do I have to tell him the war’s over?”
+ + +
Truly rotten! But before we cast too many stones, a quick look inward might be in order. No doubt we do all sorts of noble and even heroic deeds. But there’s another side of us, the dark side that’s sometimes truly appalling. And the worst part is that much of the time we don’t even notice the harm we do.
Most people who crush the spirits of others, or break their hearts, or rob them of hope or joy, or who squander their own gifts, don’t notice what they’re doing — not at the time and sometimes not ever! There’s plenty of darkness amongst the best of us, and quite enough “rotten” to go around.
That’s what makes Jesus’ words to us Sunday’s Gospel so astonishing. “I am your shepherd,” he says, even though he sees our dark side and all our failures with crystal clarity. Yet he doesn’t turn away. Instead, he calls us each by name, softly, with no hint of anger or disgust, and he says, “I know you very well, and I want you to come with me. You have wonderful things inside you, and I can help to make them grow.
“Your fears bring out the darkest side of you and trap you in the dark. I want you to let them go. Give them to me. I’ll carry them for you,” he says.
“God our Father sent me to take care of you and to bring you home. I can do that, if you’ll trust me and not hold back. I can show you a new road, where it never gets dark, and where fear, blindness, and despair never come. I can lead you there, if you’ll trust me. Hold my hand tightly, and the darkness will never swallow you up.”
That’s what our brother Jesus is really saying to us in the Gospel. Listen to him. Let him take your hand. And walk with him out of the darkness of fear and blindness and into the light.
Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You better slow down.
Don't dance so fast
Time is short.
The music won't last.
Do you run through each day
On the fly?
When you ask
How are you?
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?
You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.
Ever told your child,We'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste,Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost his touch,
Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time
To call and say,'Hi'
You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,I
t is like an unopened gift..Thrown away.
Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.
Friday, 1 May 2009
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, APRIL 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- As Gaza's lone Catholic priest retires, he is noting the drastic decline of the city's situation and the need to support the Christian community there.
Aid to the Church in Need reported the statements of Monsignor Manuel Musallam, 71, today, hours before he leaves Gaza after serving 14 years as a parish priest for the approximately 5,000 Catholics.He underlined the need to stop the "Christian exodus" from the Middle East, stating that the Church members are "increasingly desperate to leave the region in search of a better future abroad."The priest reported: "The destruction has become deeper and deeper. Things are getting worse and worse. Many, many families are suffering."People cannot receive electricity all the time because there is a lack of fuel to run the generators. There is a shortage of clean water, sanity is poor. Education and medical care is also not good."Monsignor Musallam spoke about the impact of the recent Israeli military campaign against Gaza, which claimed over 1,100 lives, destroyed homes and left 400,000 people without running water. He added that this conflict was "just part of a cycle of decline" during his term as pastor.The priest reported: "The people are more aggressive. There is a lot more hate towards the situation they are in -- especially among the young."He continued: "Our precious trees have been uprooted.
Our buildings have been destroyed. Our streets have been destroyed."Our land has been burnt by bombs and so we cannot produce anything. We are just consumers now. The machines and cars are old. Everything needs to be renewed."
The monsignor expressed gratitude for the aid agency's help, noting that the community "felt strengthened by the support from outside" and saw in it "another way toward hope."He continued: "We admire very much the solidarity shown towards the people of this land. The friendship between Christians elsewhere in the world and here is very strong. We hope this link will continue for a long time. "The support and love shown to the people of Palestine will continue to encourage them to bear witness to Christ. We hope this will encourage them not to emigrate."Monsignor Musallam will retire in the West Bank town of Ramallah, close to family and friends. He will be succeeded by Argentine Father George Hermandes.The monsignor said: "I am leaving this place for ever. I am not anxious or sad. I have completed my job and my successor is in place."
Acts 9:1-20 / Jn 6:52-59
In virtually all cultures, there are few ideas more repugnant and few taboos more inviolable than those regarding cannibalism. Most people would rather die than eat the flesh of a fellow human being. Hence, we can understand the consternation that Jesus’ followers felt when he told them that unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood they would have no life in them. What a jolt that must have been! He hadn’t given them the class on the Eucharist yet.
There’s a saying in our culture that gives a good insight as to where Jesus was leading them. It says, “You are what you eat.” In a spiritual sense, that’s exactly what Jesus wants for us, to become a part of him and to replicate in each part of our life and character his goodness.
Our bonding with him, especially by sharing the Eucharist, will give us the strength and energy to grow into his goodness. That strength and energy is what we call “grace.”
What a remarkable destiny we have: To become brothers and sisters to the Lord Jesus, in the truest and fullest sense. How loved we are! Let us give thanks and love in return.
The Pope made this invitation today, feast of St. Catherine, at the end of the general audience in St. Peter's Square.
St. Catherine (1347-1380) is a doctor of the Church whom the Holy Father presented as a model for youth, the ill and for newlyweds in his traditional greetings at the end of the audience.
"Fall in love with Christ, as Catherine did, so as to follow him with verve and fidelity," the Pope told the young people in the square.
And he invited the ill to "submerge your sufferings in the mystery of love of the blood of the Redeemer, contemplated with special devotion by the great saint of Siena."
"Everybody has to look at his or her own footprint and do the
best they can. It's not about being perfect, it's about doing
something. If we're looking for perfection, we'll never, ever
-- Laurie David
Posted: 29 Apr 2009 09:00 PM PDT
Acts 8:26-40 / Jn 6:44-51
Trying to comprehend who and what God is is a project doomed in advance to failure, and the process of trying can make our heads hurt. The idea of an infinite, utterly transcendent being is just too big to wrap our minds around. And at the other end of the spectrum, the idea of an immanent God who actually dwells within us feels almost too good to be true. But true it is, as Jesus told us. The Holy Spirit of God dwells within each one of us at all times. Even when we sin, the Spirit does not abandon us, but whispers to us and guides us back to Jesus’ way.
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us an instance of the indwelling Spirit’s active guidance of Philip the Apostle. What’s important to note is not just that the Spirit spoke to Philip’s need for guidance at a specific moment, but that Philip heard and acted upon the Spirit’s guidance. That’s the real marvel! And it’s also our challenge. Few things are more vital to our lives as followers of Jesus than developing the habit of listening to the Spirit and the skill of discerning whether it’s the Spirit speaking or just our own wishes and desires trying to make themselves heard.
The Spirit is offering us wisdom and insight — all for free. Listen carefully and watch your life gain a whole new dimension.