Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Benedict XVI: God Wants Us to Be Happy Always

Tells Mexican Children on Saturday of Their Special Place in His Heart

LEON, Mexico, MARCH 25, 2012 ( On Saturday thousands of young people gathered to hear the words of Pope Benedict XVI in Leon’s Plaza de la Paz.
“You have a very special place in the Pope’s heart,” he told them, speaking from the balcony of the house of Count Rul.
The Pope’s address to the young people came towards the end of the day, following a private meeting he had held with Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón. He had also received the keys of the city of Leon from the mayor, Ricardo Sheffield.
Benedict XVI expressed his closeness to all the children of Mexico, especially those who suffer, or who have been victims of violence, or are lacking food.
“I am grateful for this encounter of faith, and for the festive and joyful presence expressed in song,” the Pope said as he thanked them for the songs they had previously sung for him, Caminos de Guanajuato and Cielito lindo.
“Today we are full of jubilation, and this is important. God wants us to be happy always. He knows us and he loves us. If we allow the love of Christ to change our heart, then we can change the world. This is the secret of authentic happiness.”
“This place where we stand today has a name which expresses the yearning present in the heart of each and every person: ‘la paz’, (Peace),” he said.
The gift of peace
“This is a gift which comes from on high. ‘Peace be with you’ (Jn 20:21),” the Pope explained. “These are the words of the Risen Lord. We hear them during each Mass, and today they resound anew in this place, with the hope that each one of you will be transformed, becoming a sower and messenger of that peace for which Christ offered his life.”
He urged them to be close to Jesus, “as the best of friends.”
“He will never tire of speaking to those who always love and who do good,” the Pontiff told the young people gathered in the plaza.
The Pope told them that each one present was a gift of God to Mexico. “Your family, the Church, your school and those who have responsibility in society must work together to ensure that you receive a better world as your inheritance, without jealousies and divisions,” he said.
The Holy Father then invited everyone to protect and care for children, “so that nothing may extinguish their smile, but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence.”
Benedict XVI concluded by saying he wished he had more time to spend with them, but that while he now had to leave they could remain united in prayer. “So I invite you to pray continually, even in your homes; in this way, you will experience the happiness of speaking about God with your families."
“Pray for everyone, and also for me,” he asked. “I will pray for all of you, so that Mexico may be a place in which everyone can live in serenity and harmony.”

Saturday, 24 March 2012

In 3 Decades, 1,000 Missionaries Slain

ROME, MARCH 22, 2012 ( According to a report published Wednesday by the Rome-based Fides news agency, at least 1,000 missionaries were killed in the period from 1980 to 2011.
In the years 1980-89 there are 115 deaths among missionaries recorded. This number is below the true total, Fides said, as it only refers to confirmed cases.
In the following decade there was a sharp increase in deaths, for a total of 604. Among the causes for the much higher number was a widening of the criteria for counting deaths. Instead of just being deaths due to direct religious persecution the number now includes all those killed in a violent manner in the course of their pastoral duties.
As well, the Rwanda conflict in 1994 caused at least 248 victims among missionary workers. Fides also mentioned improvements in the mass media, with news being spread from even isolated places, as another reason for the higher total.
In the period 2001-11 there were 255 recorded deaths among missionaries. In the most recent year, 2011 there were 26 missionaries killed: 18 priests, 4 women religious, and 4 laypeople.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Pope Blesses Eucharistic Congress Bell

Symbol of a Call to the Eucharist

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2012 ( During Wednesday’s general audience Benedict XVI blessed the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) bell. The IEC will take place June 10-17 in Dublin.
The bell was presented to the Pope by an Irish delegation, led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin. The bell has been touring Ireland and up to around a quarter of a million people have rung it, according to a press release published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Since commencing the first phase of its pilgrimage on St Patrick’s Day last year, the bell has visited the 26 dioceses of Ireland, more than 1,000 parishes, more than 100 schools, and a dozen hospitals and nursing homes, calling people to "Come to the Congress."
After being blessed the bell was taken into St. Peter’s Basilica to remain for a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses.
“We are truly delighted that with this visit the Bell has brought parishes, schools and hospitals all over Ireland into a closer Communion with the Pope as we enter the final phase of preparation for the Eucharistic Congress,” said Father Kevin Doran, secretary-general of the IEC.
Along with the Bell are the four Eucharistic Congress Icons which represent the four parts of the Mass, and correspond to each of the four stages of the pastoral preparation program for the Congress.
According to a long-standing tradition, it is said that St. Patrick left a bell in each Church he consecrated as a way to call people to the Eucharist.
Organizers expect up to 25,000 pilgrims will attend the IEC each day, including 12,000 international pilgrims representing 99 different countries.

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Family Presented as Antidote to Economic Crisis

The Family Presented as Antidote to Economic Crisis
Meeting at Italian Parliament Considers Prospects for Development

By Salvatore Cernuzio

ROME, JAN. 19, 2012 ( A rabbi who spoke of the family, an economist who spoke of morality, a priest who spoke of conjugal love.

All this took place during the meeting "The Family as an Engine of Economic Growth: Values and Prospects," which took place Tuesday afternoon in the Regina Room of the lower house of the Italian Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies.

The meeting, organized by AISES, the International Academy for Economic and Social Development, examined what is one of the most debated topics in this new year: the family. The symposium was introduced by Maurizio Lupi, vice president of the Chamber of Deputies, who described the family as the "first social shock absorber of the economic crisis."

"The family must become not an element but the element of economic development, and on this we have found more agreement than opposition," said Lupi. This is reflected in the recent government budget package that for the first time includes an increase in exemptions for families.

"Judaism and Christianity are the only two religions that put the person, the family and children at the center," said the director of ZENIT, Antonio Gaspari, moderator of the symposium, before introducing Valerio De Luca, president of AISES.

"A united family leads to a more cohesive and supportive society and the economy and politics must protect this fundamental cell," De Luca said.

"In face of the crisis that breaks up the family, what role do we entrust to the man/woman, parents/children relationship," wondered the president of AISES, adding that "children, who are the real hope for the future, are now seen only as a threat and limitation of the present. This leads persons to favor abortion, sterilization, in vitro fertilization and all those other techniques that render him an experiment of himself and impoverish life."

"[O]openness to life is the principal way for the development of a more human and cohesive society," concluded De Luca.

Edith Arbib Anav, the AISES director of interreligious dialogue, referred to an "individualism" which has made us entrust to others the services that before were useful for the family and the needs of the community, limiting us to a "cold coordination that leads to a not very lasting economic development."


Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Rome, described the family as a "failed institution," given what is presented in the first pages of the Bible.

"It is a paradox, but right from the Book of Genesis we are shown negative family situations: Cain and Abel, Joseph sold by his brothers; Esau and Jacob, and so on. This shows, however, that the family is the place of life, where mistakes are made, there are errors on the part of parents, but without it one cannot live," he said.

He continued on, addressing the current family crisis, which according to Di Segni, in reality is nothing other than "transformation" of a "system that from the start was based on the family" to another "modern" system according to which "the patriarchal family has become the mononuclear family; the rate of feminine fertility has been reduced to 1.3%; women give birth after 30 years of age and there are no longer marriages, but in the best of cases cohabitation."

A crisis of the family that has led to an economic crisis, hence, it is an economic crisis that "has put the couple and conjugal love itself under pressure," observed Monsignor Lorenzo Leuzzi, chaplain of the Chamber of Deputies.

"Economic law has taken the upper hand over the whole of the life of society and has become its 'soul,' neglecting its identity of 'body,' of something, that is, instrumental."

"If they wish to give back to the economy its true role, if they wish to overcome the idea that society does not grow just by producing more, we must recover conjugal love, the first community where people learn not only to produce, but to build," said Monsignor Leuzzi in conclusion to the conference.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Theology of the Body for the Parish

"I Went to 12 Years of Catholic School and I Never Heard This Before"

ROME, NOV. 14, 2011 ( Here are excerpts from an address given by Katrina J. Zeno at a symposium held in Rome last week on theology of the body.

Zeno's talk was titled "Theology of the Body for Parish Catechesis: From Womb to Tomb.

Zeno is the coordinator of the John Paul II Resource Center for Theology of the Body and Culture for the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona, and the co-founder of Women of the Third Millennium.

* * *

A couple of weeks ago as I was taking a long walk, I passed a man and woman who were roller blading. Actually the man was roller blading and the woman was roller skating, and I thought, "Wow, that's interesting. I haven't seen anyone on roller skates for years." And then it struck me that the difference between roller skates and roller blades is simply a matter of alignment. Some brilliant person took the classic components of the skate and redesigned them so that all the wheels are in a line instead of a square, thus allowing for new ways of moving and navigating that weren't possible before.

I think we can say that the theology of the body is something like my skating example. In the theology of the body, some brilliant person, in this case Blessed John Paul II, took what has been present in the classic tradition of the Church and aligned it in a bit different way, thus giving us a new way of navigating within Catholic thought and experience, and especially within Catholic catechesis. That is why my presentation is titled, "Theology of the Body for Parish Catechesis: From Womb to Tomb." And to begin, I'd like to recount a true story I heard on a Christian radio program in the United States.

Several years ago, two parents had a daughter who was deaf. When she was about five years old, they had to make a difficult decision -- whether to keep their daughter home or send her to a school for the deaf where she would spend the week and come home only on weekends.

Finally, they decided to send her to the school and the reason the father gave was fascinating: He said he wanted her to have a language. He realized that if she didn't have language, then she wouldn't be able to think, and if she couldn't think, then she couldn't choose, and if she couldn't choose, then she couldn't love.

After the daughter had been at the school for a number of months and was home one weekend, the father happened to walk by her room while she was sleeping. He peeked in, and he saw her lying in her bed dreaming. How did he know she was dreaming? Because in her sleep, he saw her spontaneously doing sign language, and he was ecstatic. He knew now that she had language, and because she had language, she could think, and because she could think, she could choose, and because she could choose, she could love.

Blessed John Paul II's "theology of the body" provides a new way of navigating within parish catechesis precisely because it provides a new language, a rich, sacramental language expressed through a sacramental anthropology, that can inform all of our catechesis from womb to tomb and thus be an effective tool for passing on the deposit of the faith to modern-day man immersed in a post-modern culture. Without this rich sacramental language, we can't think sacramentally. And if we can't think sacramentally, then we can't choose sacramentally; and if we can't choose sacramentally then we really can't love because human love, in its deepest essence is sacramental: it makes visible the invisible mystery hidden from eternity in God.

While I already mentioned that Blessed John Paul II's anthropology is a sacramental anthropology, it's actually quite more. It could be described as a Christocentric-Trinitarian-sacramental anthropology -- and in this sense it is indeed an "adequate anthropology." Catechesi Tredendae ("On Catechesis in Our Time"), No. 6, underscores the Christocentric nature of all catechesis: "We must say that in catechesis it is Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God, who is taught -- and everything else is taught with reference to him…"

This central catechetical principle is inscribed in the very structure of the theology of the body. John Paul II's heading for the first half of the theology of the body (Audiences 1-86) is "The Words of Christ." And in each of the three panels that comprises this half, John Paul II begins with the words of Christ.

John Paul II briefly summarizes these three panels in Audience 64, section 1: "Next to the two other important dialogues, namely, the one in which Christ appeals to the 'beginning" (see Mt. 19:3-9; Mk 10:2-12) and the other in which he appeals to man's innermost [being] (to the "heart") while indicating the [reductive] desire and concupiscence of the flesh as a source of sin (see Mt. 5:27-32), the dialogue we propose to analyze now is, I would say, the third component of the triptych of Christ's own statements, the triptych of words that are essential and constitutive for the theology of the body. In this dialogue, Jesus appeals to the resurrection, thereby revealing a completely new dimension of the mystery of man."

What a marvelous and concise picture John Paul II provides of his catechetical framework, of his "alignment" of the truths of the faith! His catechetical triptych addresses life before original sin, life after original sin, and life in its eternal, glorified state. This salvation-history structure provides an extensive, catechetical goldmine for RCIA and adult faith formation as well as for grade school and high school programs, all with reference to Christ.

From this Christocentric viewpoint, we could easily assume that the work of teaching the faith, whether through parish religious education programs, parenting, or preaching, is simply to proclaim Jesus Christ, to reiterate, as John Paul II did so frequently, Gaudium et spes 22: "Jesus Christ…fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear."

And yet, if we stopped there in our catechetical labors, our work would be incomplete. In our parish catechesis, the Catholic of the new millennium can awaken and deepen his or her knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith through a salvation-history approach, but eventually he or she must go further -- and this is where the theology of the body is indispensable, especially as it pertains to four central aspects of the faith: the Trinity, gift, the body, and sacramentality. We could think of these as the four wheels of the skate, realigned in a more linear manner.

The first, and therefore most visible "wheel," is the Trinity. Clearly, Jesus' mission is always to lead us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. While we are indeed Christians, we must also be good Trinitarians. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 234 declares: "The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them."

Catechesis Tredendae, no 5, echoes this same idea: "…the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity."

This, then, is precisely John Paul II's approach in the theology of the body -- to present not just a Christocentric anthropology, but a Christocentric-Trinitarian anthropology. And this is why our catechetical language is so important: If we don't have the Trinitarian language of God then we can't think in a Trinitarian manner, and we can't choose in a Trinitarian manner, and we can't love in a Trinitarian manner.


As many of us are aware, GS 24:3 is John Paul II's basic hardware for what he calls the "hermeneutic of the gift," which is the second wheel in our realigned skate.

While the hermeneutic of the gift is a very scholarly and complicated sounding term, it can be broken down into a very simple visual image: You are a gift! Each person images God, reflects the inner life of the Trinity on earth, by being a gift to God and to others. John Paul II makes this gift character of the body explicit in his apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatum, no. 7, where he wrote: "To say that man is created in the image and likeness of God means that man is called to exist 'for' others, to become a gift."

To convey this idea to both young and old audiences, I often use the photo image of a majestic, snow-covered mountain whose reflection is evident in the lake at its base. I will cover the mountains and ask: "Can you still see the mountains?" The answer, of course, is yes -- in the reflection. Analogously, the same is true of God and our bodies. We can't see God directly, but we can "see" him through each other, through our bodies. God gave us a body so that we can reflect him by being a gift.

Is it possible, or even desirable, to teach our children about human sexuality, about being made in God's image and likeness as male and female, from a very young age? Could there be such a thing as the theology of the body for toddlers? Absolutely. The key word is gift: You are a gift. Your body is a gift. God makes a gift of himself to us. We make a gift of ourselves to God and others. You reflect God's image and likeness in the world by being a gift.


John Paul II's adequate anthropology, however, is not only solidly Trinitarian emphasizing the gift, it also accentuates the body as central to the Catholic faith. This is our third wheel, one that has been fairly easy to gloss over or even consider as unimportant until John Paul II's theology of the body.

One of my favorite statements to emphasize when speaking about eschatological man is: "Get used to your body because it will be with you for all eternity!" And sometimes, especially if I am speaking only to women, there are audible groans and spontaneous negative reactions to the thought of having their same body in eternity. Men, too, are often caught off-guard by this statement. One time, after I spoke to over 100 men in Louisiana, a distinguished-looking man came up to me afterwards and said to me: "Did I miss something? I went to 12 years of Catholic school and I never heard this before." He had never heard of the resurrection of his body.


In addition to new language about the Trinity, gift, and the body that the theology of the body provides, the fourth wheel, which anchors it all together from womb to tomb, is sacramentality.

One of the most exhilarating aspects of sacramentality is that it can be accessed from almost any point in the theology of the body -- whether that is marriage, original nakedness, celibacy for the kingdom, concupiscence, eschatological man, etc.

While using John Paul II's audiences on eschatological man may seem an odd entry point for sacramentality, similar to putting the cart before the horse, it can be a very effective place to start, especially with well-catechized groups or audiences. For instance, when addressing pro-life groups with my presentation titled, "Heavenly Pro-Life: Our Ultimate Destiny and Why It Matters," I begin with our heavenly destiny so as to illustrate the sacramentality of the body from an eternal perspective. My central point is this: your body has an eternal relationship with your soul that will be perfected in heaven not discarded.

This truth gives monumental significance to pro-life work by highlighting the eternal sacramental character of the body. Every life, and indeed every body, is sacred from womb to tomb -- from the moment that the soul is infused into physical matter until natural death -- because every person has a unique relationship with his or her bodily being, and this relationship culminates in eternity.

While the sacramental character of the body is perfected in heaven, it is first revealed in Genesis 2 where God creates 'adam from the clay of the ground and the breath of life. From the beginning, the human person is created as a body-spirit unity, as an embodied person. John Paul II alludes to the sacramental character of our embodied personhood numerous times in the theology of the body. In Audience 32, section 1, he expresses it this way: "In this, its own distinctive character, the body is the expression of the spirit and is called, in the very mystery of creation, to exist in the communion of persons 'in the image of God.'"

In fact, one could say that the human body is doubly sacramental: my body, which you can see, makes visible my spirit, which you can't see; and I, as an embodied person reveal God.

To integrate the sacramentality of the body into our broader catechetical work, I would like to recommend three approaches: First, refer to Mary regularly, especially her Assumption, to make the abstract concrete and to extend our understanding of the body into eternity.

Second, acknowledge the way our spiritual language sometimes minimizes or discounts the body. For instance, a common saying among English-speaking Catholics is: "Jesus came to save souls." The truth is, he didn't. Jesus came to save persons, and as human persons our salvation will not be complete until body and soul are united perfectly forever in heaven.

Finally, bring out the big guns by quoting Pope Benedict XVI, who, in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est, wrote: "It is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul who loves." (no. 5)

Why am I repeatedly stressing this fourth point about the sacramentality of the body? Because sacramentality is the polar opposite of post-modern, western culture. Many of us live in a culture permeated by, among other things, materialism -- a system of belief that says physical matter, what we can see and measure, is the sum total of reality. And if we go back even a little further, we discover that the roots of materialism draw significant nourishment from a philosophical system called nominalism.

While nominalism may seem like an archaic phenomenon that has no tangible effect on us today, quite the opposite is true. It has caused a train wreck in western culture and, sadly, even in the Church. In brief, nominalism declared that the name of something is arbitrary; it is simply a convenient way of labeling this or that item. The name does not express or point to any deeper reality nor does it indicate the nature of something.

This is quite serious. If I have no nature, then my existence does not have an inherent meaning or purpose. There is no end, no telos, toward which my life and my actions are ordered. All that remains is to make up the meaning and purpose of life at every moment (how exhausting and potentially wounding!) according to what each individual can acquire and benefit from, whether that be pleasure, money, power, material goods, using another person, etc. This has resulted in, among other things, the birth of "rights" language, which attempts to enshrine personal desires as absolute rights. Materialism, along with relativism and radical individualism, are the logical outcomes of nominalism, of dispensing with nature.

John Paul II's explicit emphasis on the sacramentality of the body is a direct response to nominalism and the absolutizing of individual rights. As human persons we do indeed have a very specific nature, an embodied rational nature, which perhaps could even be called a sacramental nature. At all times and in all places our embodied human nature is created by God to point to something beyond just the material. We are not relative only to ourselves and to our acquired goods and pleasures. On the contrary, "the body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine" to cite one of the most frequently quoted passages from the theology of the body (Audience 19, section 4). Our bodies are created by God to be living sacraments, to make God physically present in the world through our words and deeds.

This is why before we can catechize adequately and fully on marriage or the morality of the marital act, which are the final two panels of the theology of the body, we must first enter through the door of the sacramentality of the body. Indeed, we must be steeped in John Paul II's adequate Christocentric anthropology that is infused with the language of Trinity, gift, body, and sacramentality.

When we align our catechetical work with the language of sacramentality, then we can think sacramentally, and we can choose sacramentally, and we can love sacramentally -- and Catholics in the third millennium will become living sacraments of a Trinitarian communion of Persons, from womb to tomb.