Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Glorious Day by Casting Crowns

Fr. Robert Barron on Pope John Paul II and John XXIII: Two Radical, Converted Disciples

Thomas Merton on Pope John XXIII

"Pope John died yesterday. A holy and good man, and he was both because he was first of all a man — that is to say, human. This is the great meaning of his papacy, of the Council, of Pacem in Terris. Not humanism, “but the bare statement of the fundamental value of humanity.” Pacem in Terris is not theological. It simply says war is unhuman, and therefore a sin — (not war is a sin and therefore you must not use the bomb). Certainly everyone loved him, and statements to this effect, despite the fact that language is too exhausted to convey it, are probably sincere. May he rest in peace, this great and good Father, whom I certainly loved, and who had been good to me, sending me the stole and many blessings. And I don’t think he has stopped being a father to us, to me. He will one day be canonized, I think (if we last that long), and I do not hesitate to ask his intercession now." 

Turning Toward the World: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Four, 1960-1963

Pope's Morning Homily: 3 Marks of a People Reborn

The following comes from Zenit:

During the homily of his morning Mass at his residence today, Pope Francis proposed three marks of a "people reborn," which characterized the early Christian community.

At Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father said the Christian community should be characterized by interior unity, witness of Christ, and care of its members.

He spoke of the "rebirth from on high" in the Holy Spirit, who gave life to the first group of "new Christians" when "they still didn’t have that name."

"They had one heart and mind," the Pope said. "Peace. A community in peace. This means that in this community there was no room for gossip, envy, calumnies, defamation. Peace. Forgiveness: 'Love covered everything.'"

Francis stressed the importance of Christians' attitudes: "Are they meek, humble? Do they vie for power between each other in that community? Are there envious quarrels? Is there gossip? [Then] they are not on the path of Jesus Christ. This feature is so important, so important, because the devil always tries to divide us. He is the father of division."

Pope Francis recognized that problems existed even for the first Christians.

He recalled "the infighting, the doctrinal struggles, power struggles."

As an example of this he pointed to the widows who complained of a lack of assistance so that the Apostles "had to create deacons."

Pope Francis proposed a reflection for today's Christian communities: "Does this community give witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does this parish, this community, this diocese really believe that Jesus Christ is Risen?"

The Bishop of Rome said the third characteristic from which we can measure the life of a Christian community is "the poor."

"First, what's your attitude or the attitude of this community toward the poor?" he asked. "Second, is this community poor? Poor in heart, poor in spirit? Or does it place its trust in riches? In power?"

"Harmony, witness, poverty and care for the poor. This is what Jesus explained to Nicodemus: This comes from above. Because the only one who can do this is the Holy Spirit," the Pope concluded. "This is the work of the Spirit. The Church is built up by the Spirit. The Spirit creates unity. The Spirit leads us to witness. The Spirit makes us poor, because He is our wealth and leads us to care for the poor."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Perspectives Daily: Canonization of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II

Fr. Robert Barron on the Golden Age of the Papacy

The following comes from Zenit:

On Divine Mercy Sunday, in the presence of Pope Francis, his living predecessor Benedict XVI, and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world, the Church celebrated the canonization of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II.

In the weeks leading up to Sunday's event, the faithful were invited to recall the examples of holiness demonstrated by these 20th century leaders of the Church, as well as their significant historical legacies.
Fr. Robert Barron is the rector of the Chicago Archdiocese's Mundelein Seminary, and the founder of the online initiative Word On Fire Catholic Ministries. While he was in Rome for the canonizations, he sat down with ZENIT to speak about these two newly-declared saints.
ZENIT: What can we learn from John XXIII and John Paul II about sainthood? Obviously, they had extraordinary lives insofar that they were both popes. At the same time, not all popes are saints…
Fr. Barron: …and not all saints are popes. To be a saint is to be a person of heroic virtue. These are world historical figures, but if that was the qualification for sainthood, then the Little Flower [St. Therese] wouldn’t be a saint, for example.
That’s a good point of meditation. What makes them saints is that they are people of heroic virtue. You’re looking at the cardinal virtues of justice, and prudence, and temperance and courage. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. The Church says these men exemplify those virtues in a heroic way.
A couple of examples: think of John XXIII saving upwards of, they think, 24,000 or 25,000 Jews during the Nazi period, all at great risk to himself. Justice and courage are both on pretty strong display there.
[Look at] John Paul’s commitment to justice: he’s one of the great spokespersons of the 20th century. He displayed extraordinary courage: as a young kid dealing with the Nazi occupation, as a young priest, dealing with the communists, going to Poland as Pope and speaking truth in the midst of this oppression.

Fr. Robert Barron reflects on the Canonization

Monday, April 28, 2014

Catholic Focus: John Paul II, We Love You

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pope Francis: John Paul II and John XXIII were brave and hopeful

Pope Francis: Christ’s wounds are sign of God’s love

The following comes from EWTN:

At the canonization mass for Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of Christ’s suffering as a visible sign of divine love.

“The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us,” the pontiff said in his homily on April 27.

500,000 pilgrims packed into St. Peter’s square on the cloudy Sunday morning while 300,000 filled the surrounding neighborhood. They had travelled from all over the world to attend the Divine Mercy Sunday mass at which John Paul II and John XXIII were declared saints.

Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s gospel passage recounting the story of “doubting Thomas” who refused to believe in the risen Christ’s appearance to the disciples, noting that only after Thomas was able to touch the wounds of Christ did he have faith.

Jesus’ wounds “are essential for believing in God,” stressed Pope Francis. “Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness.”

“John XXIII and John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother, because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles.”

The two newest saints of the Church “were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them,” said Pope Francis.

“These were two men of courage, filled with the ‘boldness’ of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.”

John XXIII and John Paul II's faithfulness to Christ was an acknowledgement of their belief that “God was more powerful” than any of the evils they faced,adding that "the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds (of Christ) was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother."

Such faith was tied to “a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy” which “Christ bestows on his disciples.”

The “hope and joy of Easter” are won precisely through suffering, Pope Francis explained. They are “ forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice.”

“These two holy Popes” received the gifts of hope and joy “from the risen Lord.”

“They in turn bestowed (these gifts) in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude,” acknowledged the Holy Father.

John XXIII “showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit,” in convening the Second Vatican Council, said Pope Francis. “He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader.”

John Paul II “was the Pope of the family,” reflected the pontiff. “I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family,” he said, referencing the meeting of bishops which will take place in October to discuss matters related to family life.

“May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so thatduring this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family.”

“May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.”

At the close of Mass, Pope Francis led the crowds in the traditional Marian prayer of the Easter season, the Regina Coeli.

He thanked the many organizers of the event and all the pilgrims present in Rome, as well as those following on various forms of media.

Why Silencing Christians will Continue

The following comes from Fr. James Schall, SJ at Crisis:

The number of subjects we cannot talk about in public discourse are rapidly multiplying. The older notion of “free speech” as a search for the truth through reasonable argument is being replaced. We no longer want to hear speech if it “offends” someone’s feelings or self-defined identity. We would rather “just get along” than to have to decide about the truth of any issue or confront the consequences of its violation.

We thus have become infinitely “tolerant” of anything but truth itself. Speech is not directed to truth or falsity of an issue but to the “sensitivity” and “compassion” of those who hear it. “Objective” standards are subject to the listener’s “right” to hear only what he wants to hear. Thus, whatever is “permitted” in positive or civil law becomes a “right” for those who follow it. Furthermore, we cannot criticize the law as if there were some “standard” by which to judge its worth. There are no standards as there is no nature on which to base them. “Hate speech” laws become effective tools to suppress any objective judgment about the rightness or wrongness of what is legislated or practiced.

Academia and the press were once considered places where delicate and sensitive topics could be more freely discussed without being compromised by human passions. This presumption is no longer the case. Universities and the media are more likely to participate in the suppression of truth or objective reasoning than their advocates. The phrase “political correctness” accurately describes a culture that seeks to silence challenges to ruling orthodoxies. Arguments become unwelcome because they might challenge our way of life.


Read the rest here.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Fr. Robert Barron: Impressions from St. Peter's Square

Benedict XVI to concelebrate with Pope Francis at Canonization Mass

 The Holy See’s press office has announced that retired pontiff Benedict XVI will be a concelebrant at Sunday’s mass and canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII.

“Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has accepted the invitation of Pope Francis to attend the canonization. He will concelebrate the mass, but not at the altar,” announced Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi at a press conference on April 26.

The head of the Holy See’s press office went on to explain that due to his advanced age, the retired pontiff will be seated with the other cardinals under a special tent in case of inclement weather, rather than directly at the altar with Pope Francis.

The elderly former Pope resigned the papacy in February 2013 due to his age and deteriorating strength. He resides in a monastic setting behind St. Peter’s Basilica.

Sunday’s mass of canonization will be held in St. Peter’s square. Fr. Lombardi announced today that St. Peter’s basilica will be open after the mass until about 10 p.m.

Pilgrims will have the opportunity to visit the relics of the two saints in the basilica, and will see that the title written on altar where John Paul II is buried has been changed from “Blessed John Paul II” to “Saint John Paul II” in Latin.

During the mass, the reliquary of John XXIII will be carried by four of his nieces and nephews, while those carrying that of John Paul II include Floribeth Mora, a Costa Rican woman who was healed from a brain aneurysm through the intercession of the late Pope.
French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, whose healing from Parkinson’s was acknowledged as miracle in the cause for John Paul II’s beatification, will read the prayers of intercession during the liturgy.

On Monday morning, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who is in charge of St. Peter’s Basilica, will celebrate a mass of thanksgiving particularly for the sainthood of John Paul II. The mass is especially for Polish pilgrims, and the choir of Krakow will sing.

Another mass of thanksgiving, for John XXIII, will be held Monday at the church of San Carlo in central Rome. Pilgrims from Bergamo, Italy, the late Pontiff’s home town, will be in attendance.

Why Pope John XXIII is a Saint

Can non-Catholics receive grace without the sacraments?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fr. James Martin, S.J. on Pope John XXIII

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Paths John XXIII and John Paul II Took Toward Sainthood

The following comes from Edward Pentin at Newsmax:

What personal qualities make Popes John XXIII and John Paul II saints?

The two 20th-century popes, who will be canonized in Rome on Sunday, lived in such close profound communion with Jesus that they developed auras of holiness.

Such are the testimonies not only of those who knew the two men well, but also of two church officials who have overseen their journeys toward canonization.

Speaking to reporters at the Vatican on Tuesday, the Rev. Giovangiuseppe Califano and Monsignor Slawomir Oder, "postulators" for the respective causes of John XXIII and John Paul II, explained how these two pontiffs manifested Christian qualities to such an extent that they will now be "elevated to the altars" as prime examples of saintliness.

People who knew Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli – later "Good Pope" John XXIII – "immediately recognized" the Pope’s "aura of holiness," Califano said, stressing that his reputation for sanctity derived from his "spiritual way of living."

From his earliest days in the seminary, Roncalli committed himself to becoming a saint, he said. According to his diaries, Roncalli set about achieving it through unity with Jesus, praying the rosary and always keeping an eye on his actions.

At 21, he even said: "God, I truly desire that I be a saint, and therefore I should be a saint."

Later, as pope, he once remarked: "They call me the Holy Father. I should be so: Holy."

But Califano said he also achieved such a high level of sanctity through simple humility, obedience to his superiors, and his way of being. "We can recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi: 'God is everything, and I am nothing, and this is enough for me.'"

"This is what consoled the heart of John XXIII," the postulator said, recalling the late pope’s dependence on the providence of God after growing up poor.

"He entrusted himself completely to the heart of God," the Italian priest said. "We know that, and we see it through his decisions: how he always abandoned himself to his heart."

John XXIII had "humility, generosity and joy" – qualities seen through his actions, from giving gifts to sick children and reaching out to those on margins of society, to opening the doors of the church and convening the Second Vatican Council, which "updated" the church to better engage with the modern world. He was both a "shepherd and a father," or even synonymous with the word "love," as his successor, Paul VI, once remarked.

Read the rest here.

Benedict XVI reflects on the Canonization of John Paul II

 In a rare interview, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recalled his close friendship with Blessed John Paul II, saying that the pontiff’s sanctity and deep spirituality were apparent during his life.

“In the years in which I collaborated with him, it was ever clearer to me that John Paul II was a saint,” said Benedict XVI during an interview with Polish journalist Wlodzimierz Redzioch, which was published April 20 in the Spanish newspaper “La Razon.”

“Naturally, his intense relationship with God, being immersed in communion with the Lord, needs to be taken into account above all,” the former Pope said of his predecessor.

Benedict XVI, who served under Pope John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the Polish pontiff courageously “embraced his task in a truly difficult time.”

“John Paul II did not ask for applause nor did he look around worried about how his decisions were going to be received. He acted based on his faith and his convictions, and he was also willing to take hits,” Benedict recounted. “The courage for truth is, in my view, a primary measure of holiness. Only by looking first at his relationship with God is it possible to also understand his unfailing pastoral determination.”

In this sense, he recalled the decision of the future saint to confront head on the spread of liberation theology in Latin America.

“Both in Europe and in North America, the common view was that it was about supporting the poor and that therefore it was a cause that ought to be approved outright. But that was an error. Poverty and the poor were undoubtedly addressed by Liberation Theology but from a very specific perspective,” Benedict XVI explained.

Liberation Theology used the Christian faith and transformed it “into a kind of political force. The religious traditions of the faith were placed at the service of political action. In this way, the faith was profoundly alienated from itself and true love for the poor was thus weakened as well. It was necessary to oppose such a falsification of the Christian faith precisely out of love for the poor and service to them,” he continued.

The situation in John Paul II’s native Poland – ruled at that time by Communism – “had showed him that the Church should truly act for freedom and liberation not in a political way but by awakening in men, through the faith, the forces of authentic liberation,” Benedict XVI said.

During the interview, the Pope Emeritus underscored that his collaboration with John Paul II “was always marked by friendship and affection,” on both an official and personal level. “The Pope was very versed in contemporary German literature and it was very beautiful (for both of us) to seek out the right decision together on these things,” he said.
 
Benedict XVI recalled that each Tuesday, the two would discuss the catechesis for the Wednesday audience. “Through the catechesis, the Pope decided to offer over time a catechism. He chose the themes and had us prepare brief preliminary considerations to be developed later (…). Here also the theological competence of the Pope became apparent. But at the same time I admired his willingness to learn.”

The retired pontiff also noted “three encyclicals of particular importance” issued by John Paul II. The first is “Redemptor hominis,” in which he offered his personal synthesis of the Christian faith. The second is “Redemptoris mission,” in which he examined “the relationship between inter-religious dialogue and the missionary task.” The third is “Veritatis splendor,” in which he addressed moral problems in a way that continues to be relevant today.

“The encyclical ‘Fides et ratio’ was also very significant, in which the Pope strived to offer a new vision of the relationship between the Christian faith and philosophical reason. And lastly, it is absolutely necessary to mention ‘Evangelium vitae,’ which developed one of the most fundamental themes of the entire pontificate of John Paul II: the intangible dignity of human life, from the moment of conception,” Benedict XVI added.

The retired Pope also said the spirituality of his predecessor was characterized “by the intensity of his prayer, which was profoundly rooted in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.”  

“All of us were aware of his great love for the Mother of God. To give everything to Mary meant being, with her, totally for the Lord. Just as Mary did not live for herself but for Him, so also he learned from her and from being with her a complete and rapid devotion to Christ.”

“My memory of John Paul II is filled with gratitude. I couldn’t and shouldn’t try to imitate him, but I have tried to carry forward his legacy and his work the best that I could,” Benedict XVI said.

Pope Francis: There are “bat-like Christians” who prefer the shadows to the light of the Lord

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said there are Christians who are afraid of the joy of Christ’s resurrection and who instead prefer sadness and staying in the shadows just like bats. The importance of Christians being joyful, rather than sad or fearful, was the focus of the Pope's reflections during his homily at Thursday's Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta residence.

Taking his cue from the gospel reading of the risen Christ appearing before his disciples, Pope Francis began by noting how instead of rejoicing over his resurrection, the disciples were struck by fear instead of joy.

“This is a Christian’s disease. We’re afraid of joy. It’s better to think: Yes, yes, God exists, but He is there. Jesus has risen and He is there. Somewhat distant. We’re afraid of being close to Jesus because this gives us joy. And this is why there are so many ‘funeral’ (mournful) Christians, isn’t it? Those whose lives seem to be a perpetual funeral. They prefer sadness to joy. They move about better in the shadows, not in the light of joy, like those animals who only come out at night, not in the light of day, who can’t see anything. Like bats. And with a little sense of humour we can say that there are Christian bats who prefer the shadows to the light of the presence of the Lord.”
But, the Pope continued, Jesus through his resurrection, gives us joy, the joy of being Christians and following him closely, the joy of travelling on the path of the Beatitudes.

“So often, we are either upset by this joy or fearful or we think we have seen a ghost or believe that Jesus is just a way of behaving. ‘We are Christians and so we must behave like this.’ But where is Jesus? ‘No, Jesus is in Heaven.’ Do you talk with Jesus? Do you say to Jesus: ‘I believe that You are alive, that You are risen, that You’re near me. That You will never abandon me’? A Christian life should be this: a dialogue with Jesus, because – this is true – Jesus is always with us, always there alongside us with our problems and our difficulties, with our good works.”
Pope Francis concluded by noting how many times we Christians are not joyful because we are afraid! We’re Christians who have been defeated by the cross.

“In my country there is a saying that goes like this: ‘When you get burnt by boiling milk, later when you see a cow you start crying.’ These people were burnt by the drama of the Cross and said, ‘No, let’s stop here. He’s in Heaven: that’s all well and good. He is Risen but it’s better that he doesn’t come again because we couldn’t handle it.’ We ask the Lord to do for all of us what he did for the disciples who were afraid of joy: to open our minds: ‘He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures;’ Let him open our minds and help us understand that He is a living reality, that He has a body, that He is with us,that he accompanies us and that He has won. We ask the Lord for the grace to not be afraid of joy.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Call to Prayer for China

The following comes from the AsiaNews:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In May 2007, Pope Benedict XVI released a Letter to Chinese Catholics, in which he asked that May 24 each year be celebrated as a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. He chose May 24 because it is the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Sheshan (佘山) in Shanghai.

The local Church, in response to His Holiness' exhortation, will be holding a Mass on Friday 23 May at 7.45 pm at St. Bernadette's Church to pray for this intention.

However, such a day of prayer for China is more than just a single event to be celebrated and then forgotten. Rather, it is to spur us on to show concern for the spiritual well-being of the mainland Chinese.

Indeed, it is our duty as Catholics who have received the gift of faith in Jesus who is the Light in the world, the Way, the Truth and the Life to share Him with those who are seeking for the fullness of truth, life and love.  

What else can the Catholic Church in Singapore do in response to the Pope's call? We must reach out to migrant Chinese particularly, by showing them our genuine love and concern. We could also support and participate in charitable projects for the poorer parts of China, and bring the Gospel of Christ to those who have not yet heard of Him.

However, after all that is said and done, the gift of faith in Jesus as the Saviour of humanity is brought about not just by witnessing in word and deed, but faith is the work of the grace given by the Holy Spirit.   Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten and convict the hearts of people and move them to faith in Christ. So besides evangelisation through proclamation and good works, we must pray fervently for their conversion as well.

I invite you to pray individually and as a family, so that you are conscious of the great number of souls in China that need to receive the Good News of our Lord. I encourage you as a community, whichever organisation or ministry you are actively participating in, to pray constantly for the Church in China. In a special way, you can use the following prayer which Pope Benedict VI has composed.
Together with you in prayer,

Archbishop William Goh


Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians",  the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection. 
We come before you today to implore your protection. 
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide themalong the paths of truth and love, so that they may always bea leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens. 
When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womband thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. 
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,standing beside your Son, who died that we might live. 
From that moment, you became, in a new way,the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faithand choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross. 
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyedwith unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.  
Grant that your children may discern at all times,even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence. 
Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love. 
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,and of the world to Jesus. 
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love. 
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built. 
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and forever. Amen!* Archbishop of Singapore

A Prayer for Peace by Pope John XXIII


Lord Jesus Christ, who are called the Prince of Peace, who are yourself our peace and reconciliation, who so often said, "Peace to you," grant us peace. Make all men and women witnesses of truth, justice, and brotherly love. Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace. Enlighten our rulers that they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace. May all peoples of the earth becomes as brothers and sisters. May longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always over us all.

A Biblical Walk Through the Mass

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pope Francis on Pope John XXIII


Fr. Tom Rosica on the Canonization of John XXIII & John Paul II

The following comes from Fr. Rosica at Salt and Light:
Theories abound as to why Pope Francis decided to canonize both John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27. Some imagine that this was a politically strategic move on the part of Francis to unify a divided Church and to reconcile the divisions that exist among the Roncalli fans and bearers of the “spirit of Vatican II” and the Wojtyla disciples of a robust, doctrinaire Pope. They reduce the lives of these two great men to be the adventures of a progressive pope who dreamed up the Council and a conservative pope who put the brakes on the speed of its implementation. Nothing could be further from the truth, and such thoughts usually reflect the machinations of those who have yet to understand the Petrine Ministry of unity and the Call to Holiness that lies at the foundation of our existence as Catholic Christians.

The church doesn’t beatify or canonize people and use them as banners or standards under which groups can assemble and march, nor does she ever raise up for us role models who are arrows or weapons to attack others for ignorance, error and sin. Rather, the church offers the lives of outstanding women and men such as Angelo Roncalli and Karol Wojtyla to present to us models of holiness.

Yes, John will be forever linked to the dream and convocation of the Ecumenical Council we now know as Vatican II, and John Paul II will be forever linked to a new era of a truly global Church that took its message from the home office on the Tiber to the ends of the earth.

But even more than those historical factors, John XXIII and John Paul II modeled for us the call to holiness and reminded us, by the simplicity and joy of their Gospel-rooted lives, that we, too, are called to be saints. The Church is the “home of holiness,” and holiness is our most accurate image, our authentic calling card and our greatest gift to the world. It describes best who and what we are and strive to be.

That a person is declared “Blessed” or “Saint” is not a statement about perfection. It does not mean that the person was without imperfection, blindness, deafness or sin. Nor is it a 360-degree evaluation of a particular pontificate or of the Vatican. Beatification and canonization mean that a person lived his or her life with God, relying totally on God’s infinite mercy, going forward with God’s strength and power, believing in the impossible, loving enemies and persecutors, forgiving in the midst of evil and violence, hoping beyond all hope, and leaving the world a better place. That person lets those around him or her know that there is a force or spirit animating his or her life that is not of this world, but of the next. Such a person lets us catch a glimpse of the greatness and holiness to which we are all called, and shows us the face of God as we journey on our pilgrim way on earth.

Angelo Roncalli was a man of international reach before he was pope. His preparation for the papacy was international in scope. He worked at the peripheries of Roman Catholicism, meeting with grace and peace the hostile challenges of both Orthodox Christianity and Islam, long before the buzz words of ecumenism or interreligious dialogue were the order of the day. Roncalli’s mission was personal, human; he excelled in using his own, innate common sense, understanding, and warmth so mightily evident to all and his priestly ministry flowed from his deep humanity.

From the very beginning of his priestly, episcopal and Petrine ministry, Roncalli taught us to see goodness in others, to love people and to hope beyond all hope when situations indicated otherwise. He won over the world, in many similar ways that Pope Francis is doing now because of his unabashed simplicity and genuine goodness and humor. He showed us that far more than realizing every project and program, we must dream bold dreams, nurture them, and hand them on to future generations.

In the life of Karol Wojtyla, holiness was contagious. Pope John Paul II was not only our Holy Father, but a Father who was and is holy. On April 2, 2005, he died a public death that stopped the world for several days. When the throngs of people began chanting “Santo Subito!” at the end of Pope John Paul II’s funeral mass on April 8, 2005, what were they really saying? They were crying out that in Karol Wojtyla, they saw someone who lived with God and lived with us. He was a sinner who experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness. He was the prophetic teacher who preached the Word in season and out of season. He looked at us, loved us, touched us, healed us and gave us hope. He taught us not to be afraid. He showed us how to live, how to love, how to forgive and how to die. He taught us how to embrace the cross in the most excruciating moments of life, knowing that the cross was not God’s final answer.

Why pray to the saints?

C.S. Lewis and Catholic Converts

The following comes from the Catholic World Report:

On November 22, 1963, at 2:30 pm central time, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. An hour earlier, across the Atlantic, C.S. Lewis had died at his home in Oxford. A few short hours later, in Los Angeles, the English writer Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian classic Brave New World, would also die. This strange and somewhat morbid coincidence would later inspire Peter Kreeft to write Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley. 

The media coverage of Kennedy’s assassination totally eclipsed the deaths of Lewis and Huxley, whose passing went almost entirely unnoticed at the time, much as, many years later, the passing of Mother Teresa would go largely unnoticed in the wake of the death of Princess Diana.
Today, 50 years on, as the dust of time settles on the memory of that momentous day, it is intriguing to see how the inexorable passage of time has affected the respective reputations of Kennedy, Lewis, and Huxley.

There is no doubt, of course, that the anniversary of the assassination will once again overshadow the lesser-known anniversaries of Huxley’s and Lewis’ deaths. It is, however, ironic that Kennedy is best known to posterity for his death as opposed to his life, the tragic and violent nature of the former eclipsing the achievements of the latter. Although the more educated will no doubt be aware of JFK’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis or perhaps his symbolically charged visit to West Berlin, and the more sordidly-minded will be reminded of his alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe, it’s a sobering fact that he is probably associated in the public consciousness more with Lee Harvey Oswald than with Nikita Khrushchev. As for Huxley, there is no doubt that his authorship of Brave New World has earned him a place in the literary canon, but he has written precious little else that has survived the test of time. Lewis, on the other hand, seems to go from strength to strength. Today, fifty years after his death, his global readership dwarfs the readership that he enjoyed in his own lifetime. His classic children’s story, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is one of the top ten bestselling books of all time, and it would be no exaggeration to say that there is now a whole C.S. Lewis industry generating millions of dollars in sales of his books and in the merchandising of ephemera connected to the film and television adaptations of his life (Shadowlands) and his work (The Chronicles of Narnia).

A lesser known but nonetheless powerful part of C.S. Lewis’ legacy is the impact that he has had on the conversion of countless numbers of people to the Catholic Church. This is indeed an astonishing phenomenon considering that Lewis never became a Catholic himself, unlike many other literary converts, such as John Henry Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene, to name but an illustrious few. Although the reading of Catholic authors, such as Chesterton, and the friendship with Catholics, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, played a crucial role in Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity, he was never seriously tempted to cross the Tiber into the welcoming arms of Mother Church. And yet, in spite of the residual anti-papist prejudice that he inherited as a Belfast Protestant, many of the core beliefs he embraced as a “mere Christian” placed him decidedly on the Catholic end of the theological spectrum. He believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which he referred to as the Blessed Sacrament; he practiced auricular confession; he vehemently opposed female ordination, condemning in forthright terms the danger of having “priestesses in the Church”; he declared his belief in purgatory and in the efficacy of praying for the dead; and, last but not least, he crusaded against the errors and heresies of theological modernism. It is perhaps, therefore, not so surprising that C.S. Lewis has ushered so many people into the Catholic Church.

The great American literary convert Walker Percy, commenting on the numerous converts who had come to Catholicism through the writings of Lewis, remarked that “writers one might expect, from Aquinas to Merton,” are mentioned frequently as influences, “but guess who turns up most often? C.S. Lewis! – who, if he didn’t make it all the way, certainly handed over a goodly crew.”(1) Here is an overview of some of the “goodly crew” to whom Percy alludes, those who have been influenced on their paths to Rome by C.S. Lewis. As the present author owes his own conversion, in part, to the works and wisdom of Lewis, it is gratifying to know that he is but one of many whom Lewis led Romewards.

Beginning with prominent British converts, the most famous is Leonard Cheshire, who attained position number 31 in a BBC poll in 2002 to find the 100 Greatest Britons of all time. He was also listed in 1993 as one of “the 20 outstanding Christians of the 20th century”, alongside John Paul II, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Simone Weil, Oscar Romero, Edith Stein, Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Padre Pio, Albert Schweitzer, Desmond Tutu, John XXIII, Teilhard de Chardin, Jackie Pullinger, Charles de Foucauld, Malcolm Muggeridge, Mother Teresa, and, last but not least, C.S. Lewis.(2)

Cheshire, who was received into the Catholic Church on Christmas Eve in 1948, was the official British observer of the dropping of the atom bomb on Nagasaki in 1945, an event which led him to a deep skepticism about the future of modern civilization. It was in this frame of mind and heart that he found himself receptive to the works of Lewis, whose broadcast talks for the BBC were being published at this time. Grappling with the problem of evil and sin, Cheshire had been particularly impressed by The Screwtape Letters, which he described as “a rather good introduction to the Faith” and as “very compelling.”(3)

Dr. Scott Hahn: Liturgical Worship as Spiritual Warfare

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pope John Paul II Inspired a Generation of Priests


In his 27 years as Pope, there was a spike in the number of religious vocations.  There is an entire generation that grew up with John Paul II...seeing his trips and listening to his speeches from afar or even up close. But for many priests, seminarians and religious, John Paul II was much more than the head of the Church. He was the one person who personally sparked their vocation.

Pope John XXIII: A Reflection of Fr. Thomas Rosica


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi blessing


Easter Sunday: Pope prays for peace in Ukraine, Venezuela and Syria. He asked the for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Archbishop Fulton Sheen: His Last Words


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pope Francis to Priests: If you don't go out from yourselves, the holy oils become rancid


The following comes from the Catholic World Report:

This morning in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated the traditional Chrism Mass with the priests of the Diocese of Rome as well as bishops and cardinals residing in the Eternal City. The Chrism Mass, which is celebrated by the diocesan bishop during Holy Week and includes diocesan priests renewing the vows first made at their ordination, also features the blessing of the holy oils that will be used for the sacraments throughout the rest of the year.

Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ homily from this morning’s Chrism Mass, addressed to his “brother priests” (English translation via Vatican Radio).

***
Dear Brother Priests,
In the eternal “today” of Holy Thursday, when Christ showed his love for us to the end (cf. Jn 13:1), we recall the happy day of the institution of the priesthood, as well as the day of our own priestly ordination. The Lord anointed us in Christ with the oil of gladness, and this anointing invites us to accept and appreciate this great gift: the gladness, the joy of being a priest. Priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God: that faithful people from which he is called to be anointed and which he, in turn, is sent to anoint.

Anointed with the oil of gladness so as to anoint others with the oil of gladness. Priestly joy has its source in the Father’s love, and the Lord wishes the joy of this Love to be “ours” and to be “complete” (Jn 15:11). I like to reflect on joy by contemplating Our Lady, for Mary, the “Mother of the living Gospel, is a wellspring of joy for God’s little ones” (Evangelii Gaudium, 288). I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that priest is very little indeed: the incomparable grandeur of the gift granted us for the ministry sets us among the least of men. The priest is the poorest of men unless Jesus enriches him by his poverty, the most useless of servants unless Jesus calls him his friend, the most ignorant of men unless Jesus patiently teaches him as he did Peter, the frailest of Christians unless the Good Shepherd strengthens him in the midst of the flock. No one is more “little” than a priest left to his own devices; and so our prayer of protection against every snare of the Evil One is the prayer of our Mother: I am a priest because he has regarded my littleness (cf. Lk 1:48). And in that littleness we find our joy.

For me, there are three significant features of our priestly joy. It is a joy which anoints us (not one which “greases” us, making us unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous), it is a joy which is imperishable and it is a missionary joy which spreads and attracts, starting backwards – with those farthest away from us.

A joy which anoints us. In a word: it has penetrated deep within our hearts, it has shaped them and strengthened them sacramentally. The signs of the ordination liturgy speak to us of the Church’s maternal desire to pass on and share with others all that the Lord has given us: the laying on of hands, the anointing with sacred chrism, the clothing with sacred vestments, the first consecration which immediately follows… Grace fills us to the brim and overflows, fully, abundantly and entirely in each priest. We are anointed down to our very bones… and our joy, which wells up from deep within, is the echo of this anointing.

An imperishable joy. The fullness of the Gift, which no one can take away or increase, is an unfailing source of joy: an imperishable joy which the Lord has promised no one can take from us (Jn 16:22). It can lie dormant, or be clogged by sin or by life’s troubles, yet deep down it remains intact, like the embers of a burnt log beneath the ashes, and it can always be renewed. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy remains ever timely: I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6).

A missionary joy. I would like especially to share with you and to stress this third feature: priestly joy is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy. Our anointing is meant for anointing God’s holy and faithful people: for baptizing and confirming them, healing and sanctifying them, blessing, comforting and evangelizing them.

And since this joy is one which only springs up when the shepherd is in the midst of his flock (for even in the silence of his prayer, the shepherd who worships the Father is with his sheep), it is a “guarded joy”, watched over by the flock itself. Even in those gloomy moments when everything looks dark and a feeling of isolation takes hold of us, in those moments of listlessness and boredom which at times overcome us in our priestly life (and which I too have experienced), even in those moments God’s people are able to “guard” that joy; they are able to protect you, to embrace you and to help you open your heart to find renewed joy.

A “guarded joy”: one guarded by the flock but also guarded by three sisters who surround it, tend it and defend it: sister poverty, sister fidelity and sister obedience.

Gethsemane by Ted Neeley

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fr. Robert Barron comments on Hell

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mysticism, Monasticism, and the New Evangelization

The following comes from the Catholic World Report:

“If God exists, He must be felt. If He is Love, it must be experienced and become the fact of one's inmost life. Without spiritual enlightenment, all is an idle talk, like a bubble which vanishes under the least pressure. Without the awakening of the religious sense or faculty, God is a shadow, the soul a ghost, and life a dream.” — Soyen Shaku, Zen For Americans
“Put out into deep water, and lower your nets for a catch.” — Luke 5:4

The first two topics of this article are not often associated with the third. Many people think of Christian mysticism and monasticism as strictly “in-house” matters, too remote and esoteric to have any bearing on the Church’s re-evangelization of the post-Christian West.

While Catholics generally respect the contemplative vocation, they may see it as peripheral to supposedly more urgent concerns, such as improving catechesis and the liturgy, or bearing witness to faith and morality in public life.

Those concerns are critical. But we believe the New Evangelization of historically Christian countries also requires a rediscovery of Christian mysticism, and a revival of the monastic setting which is its natural home.


Let us pray!

These days need to be days of prayer for us. This might be easier said than done as it is hard to form this practice amidst the busyness of our lives. Yet we know that we are called to it and we need it. Let's pray for one another these days that we make the best of this most holy time of year to pray and spend time with the God who loves us! The following comes from Fr. Dwight Longenecker on prayer:

Here are ten random thoughts on prayer:

*If prayer is a conversation how can we listen to God if we don't keep silence?
*Obedience comes from the root 'obedere' which means 'to listen'
*The first words of the Rule of St Benedict are, "Listen My Son"
*Prayer is not just asking for things but asking questions. Be inquisitive with God.
*As a child asks questions to learn about life, so we ask questions in prayer to learn about
the spiritual life
*Prayer opens our life to God's life and our will to God's will
*Prayer is the hardest work
*Prayer is the most intimate act
*To pray is to be fully human. Not homo sapiens but homo orans
*To pray is to understand

George Herbert's poem Prayer

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;
Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pope Francis on Palm Sunday: "Has my life fallen asleep?"

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday in a packed St. Peter's Square calling on the faithful to look into their own hearts to see how they are living their lives.

With the some 100,000 people present to be with the Pope and mark the beginning of Holy Week, the Pope listened to the Gospel account of how Jesus’s disciples fell asleep just before he was betrayed byJudas before his crucifixion and then said: “Has my life fallen asleep?'' “Am I like Pontius Pilate, who, when he sees the situation is difficult, washes my hands?''

And speaking off the cuff instead of following his prepared homily, Pope Francis asked: “Where is my heart?'' pinpointing it as the “question which accompanies us'' throughout Holy Week.

After the ceremony Pope Francis disrobed of his red vestments, chatted to those close to him, and posed for “selfies”' with young people from Rio de Janeiro who had carried a large cross in the square. 

For the occasion the Pope used a wooden pastoral staff carved by Italian prison inmates.

Word Among Us: Lenten Bible Study (Part 6)

Lent Bible Study Session 6 from The Word Among Us on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Worthy is the Lamb!


Have a blessed Holy Week...

Holy Week Through Art


Holy Week through Art from Catholic Westminster on Vimeo.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflects on the meaning of Easter as portrayed in four paintings at The National Gallery, London.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Archbishop Chaput: Holy Week and the gift of priesthood

The following comes from Archbishop Chaput at Catholic Philly:
Holy Week is the most sacred time of the Christian year. And on every Holy Thursday, priests of the archdiocese gather at the annual Chrism Mass to renew their fraternal bonds and the meaning of their vocation.
The readings of the Chrism Mass have a special beauty and power, and they deserve the attention of all the faithful, not just our priests:
First reading: Is 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9
Second reading: Rev 1:5-8
Gospel: Lk 4:16-21
The Bible has dozens of dramatic moments, but the one that arguably matters most is the last line of the Chrism Mass Gospel: “Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” If human history has a center, this is it. If Scripture has a direction and meaning, this is it. All of God’s contact with humanity either leads up to this point, or flows from it. As C.S. Lewis once famously observed, in speaking these Gospel words Jesus is either stating a fact, or he’s blaspheming, or he’s mentally ill. There’s no middle ground. And the people in the synagogue who heard him say the words, understood this very well — which is why they tried to assault him.
Christ’s radical claim requires a radical response. The apostles who followed him reconfigured their lives and risked or gave away all that they owned. Joy and fruitfulness come from this kind of discipleship, but very little comfort. Faith is not a leisure activity. And it may become even less so in the years ahead as many people forget their religious roots and drift away from the Church as their home.
Living the Catholic faith, for every committed Christian, is a life of conscious focus and sacrifice. But for priests, whom Christ configures to himself through ordination, this is especially true. The priesthood is a “helping profession” only in the sense that it “helps” to have someone around who’s willing to live, serve, intercede, suffer and die on our behalf. Jesus lived and died for all of us. In like manner, priests are called to live and die for their people in his name. Otherwise the priesthood means nothing.
The lives of our priests have a purpose that no one else can fulfill. As Isaiah reminds priests in the Chrism Mass readings, “God has anointed” them. Anointing is the outward physical mark of a permanent, interior covenant. Priests have a mission to which they must conform their lives; a mission to heal the wounded; offer real and enduring freedom to their people; to comfort the suffering, to restore gladness and glory to those who mourn.
The people who carried the Catholic faith forward in history, who made the culture of beauty, music, art and architecture rooted in the Christian understanding of God and humanity – these generations were taught, spiritually fed, and shaped by priests exactly like the men who minister to us in our local Church. Where there is Catholic faith anywhere in the world, it exists because priests offered their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ and the people God called them to serve.
The crisis of our time is not finally a crisis of resources or personnel or intelligence or talent. God has given us enough of all these things, if we steward them with prudence.
Rather, what too many people lack today is faith. Unbelief is easy, like adultery in a marriage where the spouses have stopped cultivating their love out of indifference or resentment. But it leads nowhere, because faith is the only firm foundation for human hope.
Fidelity can be difficult. But it leads in the opposite direction – to meaning, hope and life. And priests play an irreplaceable role in strengthening the faith of the Christian people.
This Holy Week, as we remember Christ’s suffering on the cross and ready ourselves for the joy of the Resurrection, please also remember our priests. They need our love and support as brothers in the Lord’s work. Thank God for them. Pray for them in a special way. The bond of Christian people and their priests is the strength of the Church in a skeptical world that has never needed the Word of God more urgently.