Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Jennifer Fulwiler: Scientific Atheism to Christ

Michael Coren on Media Coverage of Pope Francis

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Missionary Pope: Francis in Brazil

Michael Coren: A God-centred Future

The following comes from Michael Coren at the Toronto Sun:
When the conclave to elect the pope was held earlier this year, more than 6,000 journalists gathered in Rome to discuss why nobody was interested in the Catholic Church anymore. Irony, it seems, isn’t big with contemporary media.
Whether you like it or not, religion is not of the past but is the key ingredient on the menu of modern and future politics and public life. And if you doubt me, observe the staggeringly large crowds in Brazil gathered for World Youth Day.
The North American and European chattering classes may swoon over the late Christopher Hitchens and pretend to have read Richard Dawkins, but nobody is going to die, or live in the real sense, for secular humanism and atheistic materialism. The dynamic, the driving force of, in particular, younger people is religion.
Shocked, incredulous, even angry at what I just said? Fine, be happy in your denial. But if you think, for example, that people are fighting in Egypt, Syria and Iraq for relativism or liberalism, you have no understanding of the greater world.
In Brazil this week, millions are swarming around Pope Francis for World Youth Day, not because they embrace either the free market or state socialism and not because they are liberal or conservative. No, it’s because they acknowledge him as the direct successor to St. Peter, given the keys of the kingdom by Jesus Christ, the son of God, while the messiah was here on Earth among us.
You might reject this — and thank goodness you have that right in the west — but you’re naive if you assume that because you don’t go to church anymore because you’d rather watch Big Brother than listen to Big God, it means you represent the majority.
What characterizes establishment thinking in Toronto, Ottawa or Calgary is not what symbolizes mass opinion in Moscow, Cairo, Lagos and Rio. This is sloppy solipsism. In other words, the self-obsessed notion that because you and your friends think something, everybody else does as well.
Population and power are changing the world, and the future is with those areas where religion is more influential than ever. World Youth Day is huge almost beyond imagination. Even when it was in Toronto, we saw crowds of an unprecedented size. Ignore the soiled propaganda issued each year around the gay pride parade; if you want to see a million and more people, look not to pride but to humility. World Youth Day in the Philippines assembled 5 million people for the papal mass!
Feel smug about laughing at evangelicals if it makes you happy, smirk at Catholic moral beliefs if it gets you through the day, pretend you’re not afraid of Muslim triumphalism, even imagine that Russian Orthodoxy is less vibrant than American cynicism.
But whether you like it or not, religion is not going away and the world of the future will be a lot more God-centred than you might like.
I would advise you to pray, but that would defeat the purpose of course. Maybe just sit back, hold tight and enjoy the journey, and hope the religious are more forgiving than the faithless.

The Human Person: Such Value, Dignity, Beauty

The following comes from Bishop Paul Etienne:

Recently I was speaking with someone who was having a difficult moment. The basic issue at hand was a proper understanding of her own beauty, which means being able to see herself as God sees her.
Life can be difficult, and our many experiences, particularly as young people, begin to form the way we think about our self.  When enough bad experiences add up, depending upon our personality and chemistry, we can begin to think very negatively of our self, and even of others, God, and the world.

One of the critical challenges of our time is to recover a proper understanding of the human person, namely as being created by God and for God.  Today’s feast of St. Peter Chrysologus provides one of his many beautiful writings which speaks to this particular need.  I offer portions of his thought here:

Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God?  Why render yourself such dishonor when you are honored by him?  Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made?  Was not this entire visible universe made for your dwelling?  It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars.

The earth was adorned with flowers, groves and fruit; and the constant marvelous variety of lovely living things was created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, lest sad solitude destroy the joy of God’s new creation.  And the Creator still works to devise things that can add to your glory.  He has made you in his image that you might in your person make the invisible Creator present on earth; he has mad you his legate, so that the vast empire of the world might have the Lord’s representative.  Then in his mercy God assumed what he made in you; he wanted now to be truly manifest in man, just as he had wished to be revealed in man as in an image.  Now he would be in reality what he had submitted to be in symbol. 

And so Christ is born that by his birth he might restore our nature.  He became a child, was fed, and grew that he might inaugurate the one perfect age to remain for ever as he had created it.  He supports man that man may no longer fall.  And the creature he had formed of earth he now makes heavenly; and what he had endowed with a human soul he now vivifies to become a heavenly spirit.

Let us pray that those most in need of a proper awareness of God’s love for them come to such understanding.  Let us pray that our culture and time come to a renewed understanding and appreciation for the dignity and sanctity of the human person.
Let us strive today to treat self and others with proper respect, compassion and love.

Chapel Built on a Rock in Allenspark, Colorado

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pope Francis to volunteers: Marriage, Vocational life or still undecided? Ask God for guidance

Pope Francis Wants YOU To Be An Intentional Disciple

The following comes from Frank Weathers:
Shouldn’t comes as a shock really, as Jesus Christ wants the same thing from us too.
Here’s a little snippet of Andrea Tornielli’s report on Pope Francis’s message to the leadership in South America, and to the episcopate everywhere.
Francis concluded his trip to Brazil with another wide-ranging speech to the coordinating committee of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM). But Francis’ words will most certainly resonate beyond the Latin American continent.
The Pope asked bishops to give a missionary slant to the daily activities of local Churches, explaining that the “change of structures” (from obsolete ones to new ones) will not be the result of reviewing an organizational flow chart” but will “result from the very dynamics of mission.” Francis recalled that the general assembly of Latin American bishops at Aparecida in 2007 had presented “pastoral conversion” as a “necessity”. The Pope then asked bishops to reflect on some questions with regard to the current state of the Church: “Do we see to it that our work, and that of our priests, is more pastoral than administrative? Who primarily benefits from our efforts, the Church as an organization or the People of God as a whole?”
The questions then focused specifically on the laity and their role in the Church: “In practice, do we make the lay faithful sharers in the Mission?” As pastors, bishops and priests are we conscious and convinced of the mission of the lay faithful and do we give them the freedom to continue discerning, in a way befitting their growth as disciples, the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them? Do we support them and accompany them, overcoming the temptation to manipulate them or infantilize them?” His words portray the picture of the Church’s current situation in a number of countries, European ones too.
Speaking of the importance of the Church engaging in dialogue with the world around it, Francis referred to what was said at the Second Vatican Council to explain the basis of dialogue with contemporary society: “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.” The Church needs to be aware of the varied “scenarios and the areopagi involved.” “If we remain within the parameters of our “traditional culture” which was essentially rural, we will end up nullifying the power of the Holy Spirit. God is everywhere: we have to know how to find him in order to be able to proclaim him in the language of each and every culture; every reality, every language, has its own rhythm.”
Not sure what I mean by the term intentional disciple? Sherry Weddell can help you out there, as can the group of bloggers at Catholic Mom, with their series called theLawn Chair Catechism. Afterall,
"The harvest is great but laborers are few!"

A Pope who likes to shake things up

The following comes from John Thavis:
What to make of a pope who tells young Catholics to go back to their dioceses and “make a mess!”
Or, allowing for ambiguity in translation, “stir up trouble!” or “shake things up!”
However the words were rendered into English, one thing was clear: Pope Francis believes that the old ways of the church are not enough in today’s world, that it needs new approaches, a shake-up – which of course is what the pope is trying to do at the Vatican, as well.
Here’s how the Vatican officially translated the pope’s remarks, delivered off-the-cuff to Argentinian pilgrims at World Youth Day in Brazil:
“I want you to make yourselves heard in your dioceses, I want the noise to go out, I want the church to go out onto the streets, I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, the institutions are made for going out ... if they don’t, they become an NGO, and the church cannot be an NGO. May the bishops and priests forgive me if some of you create a bit of confusion afterward. That’s my advice. Thanks for whatever you can do.”
That’s a radical message from a pope, and yet it was perfectly in line with Francis’ effort to move the church out of the sacristy and into the street, away from theological debates and toward real-life encounters with the suffering and marginalized.
Throughout his seven days in Brazil, the pope tried to do just that. He lunched with young people and heard their confessions, prayed with inmates and visited recovering drug addicts, embraced the sick at a local hospital, chatted with a poor family in a Rio de Janeiro slum and challenged the world’s powerful to end social and economic inequality.
The pope communicated solidarity in small ways that caught people’s attention, too: asking trash pickers to join him on the papal platform for the Stations of the Cross, for example, or arriving in a simple grey sedan instead of an armored limousine.
His meetings and gestures humanized the church’s social teaching, making it less abstract. In one pastoral setting after another, the pope himself came across more as a figure from the Gospel than an official from Rome.
For those and other reasons, Pope Francis can look at his first foreign trip as a success on many fronts.
-- He critiqued what he called a “culture of selfishness and individualism,” saying that an economic model based on material gain has been unable to feed the hungry or make people truly happy. That’s a message that seemed to resonate with young people, especially when the pope took aim at the corruption and economic injustice that’s helped spawn recent protests in Brazil.
-- The pope implicitly addressed the challenge raised by Pentecostal and evangelical communities, which have attracted many Brazilian Catholics over the last 30 years. He did so primarily by showing attention to spiritual needs of the suffering – the kind of attention many say they have not found in the Catholic Church.
On another level, Francis’ insistence on the Gospel of the poor stood in marked contrast with the “prosperity theology” espoused by some Brazilian Christian preachers.
And while he spoke of an “exodus” of Catholics in recent decades, the pope made clear that his evangelization strategy is not so much about restoring the Catholic Church’s numbers, but revitalizing its energy throughout Latin America and the world. As he told young people at the closing Mass, “The church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you.”
-- He gave some strong marching orders to Catholic ministers and pastoral workers, telling them to promote a “culture of encounter” with those outside the church: “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel! It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people!”
And taking a page from his own playbook, the pope encouraged ministers to reject intellectualism and speak the language of simplicity. He spelled it out bluntly: “At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying.”
-- Francis connected with the young – but reminded them to keep in mind the elderly. It was clear that the pope sees young people in the church as part of a larger community, not as an isolated subset that needs a special “marketing” approach by the hierarchy.
He emphasized that young people need to appreciate the experience and wisdom of elders, who are often forgotten by society. In this way, he introduced a new theme into World Youth Day: that the young and the old are sometimes victims of our modern economy, which treats both categories as disposable. "We do the elderly an injustice. We set them aside as if they had nothing to offer us," he said.
-- In his speeches, the pope had little or nothing to say about hot button issues like abortion, birth control, gay marriage or sexual permissiveness. But at the closing Mass, he asked to personally bless a baby girl born with anencephaly, a condition in which a large part of the brain is missing. Most children with the condition do not survive or are aborted. The pope’s gesture, in the view of Vatican officials, spoke much louder than a speech about abortion.
-- The 76-year-old pope’s high energy level during the trip, especially his enthusiasm in crowd settings, put to rest any concerns about his age or health.
As he heads back to Rome, the success of this trip is going to segue into tough challenges. When September rolls around, he’ll go from a long honeymoon into a season of expected results on a wide variety of issues, including Curia reform, the Vatican bank, collegiality and governance.
At some point, he’ll be expected to spell out some details behind the popular phrases like “going to the outskirts” to evangelize. Does that mean building bridges to disaffected Catholics? Opening up the sacraments for those who are divorced and remarried? Bringing more lay men and women in to decision-making positions at the highest church levels? Asking bishops and priests to give up some of the material privileges they enjoy?
We’ll see in coming months if he takes his own advice and shakes things up at the Vatican. And we’ll see if he makes a bit of a “mess” along the way.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

“Silence!” he said. “Let’s listen to the Holy Spirit!”

The young Brazilian Felipe Passos moved the hearts of three million World Youth Day participants, including Pope Francis himself, when he told the story of how he became bound to a wheelchair and discovered “the Cross.”

Felipe, 23, spoke at the World Youth Day prayer vigil July 27 at Copacabana Beach.

He told how at the end of the past World Youth Day, held in Madrid in 2011, he made two spiritual promises. He promised to stay chaste until marriage and to work hard so his prayer group of Ponta Grossa, in Brazil’s southern state of Paraná, could participate in this year’s World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

With few resources, Felipe and his friends began saving money by working several hard jobs at the same time that they prepared themselves spiritually: praying, adoring the Blessed Sacrament, fasting and doing works of solidarity.

Then a horrible thing happened.

“In January of this year, two days before turning 23, two youths entered my house, armed, to rob the money we had gathered with so much sacrifice,” said Felipe.

“I thought of the months of great efforts, of my family’s sacrificing, of my friends and colleagues… in what would have been snatched from us and I decided I would not give it,” he added July 27.

Felipe saved the savings of the group, but received a gunshot wound that almost ended his life.

“I was clinically dead, I had several cardiac arrests, and the doctor told my parents in the hospital ‘this boy has no hope,’ but I’m here and my community is here because of God’s mercy,” remarked Felipe.
In front of a shocked crowd and in front of Pope Francis, who looked at him attentively, the Brazilian told how he was in coma, breathing through a tube, while his community offered prayer intentions and sacrifices so he would heal.

Finally, when he became conscience, the first thing he did was ask for the Eucharist and after receiving it, he recovered rapidly.

But Felipe, who was then bound to a wheelchair, stated “this is my cross, the cross the Lord sent me to come closer to him, to live more openly his grace and love.”

When the three million youths broke out clapping, Felipe interrupted them.
“Silence!” he said. “Let’s listen to the Holy Spirit!”

The 23-year-old then asked each of the youths present to take the cross they had hung around their neck, to hold it and look at it.

Felipe invited them to meditate in silence on the questions: “What is the cross that the Lord has given me? What is the cross that he wants me to carry for his love?”

Everyone present, including bishops and cardinals, contemplated their own cross around their neck. The wheelchair-bound young man’s words created a unique moment of profound silence along the entire Copacabana beach.

Felipe finished his testimony asking for prayers as well as for Pope Francis’ blessing.

Krakow, Poland to host World Youth Day 2016

Pope’s triple marching orders to young people: "Go, do not be afraid, serve”

The following comes from the Vatican Insider:

Pope Francis set on fire the hearts of 3 million young people from 195 countries at World Youth Day (WYD) in Rio on Sunday, when he told them, with inspiring words, to bring Christ’s Gospel to all nations. By doing so, he said, “you are bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world”

He gave them these final marching orders at the closing WYD mass on Rio’s breathtaking Copacabana beach, July 28.  It was the biggest mass ever celebrated on Latin American soil, and the second largest in WYD history.  It was memorable not only for the joyful Latin American music and the singing of Charismatic and other groups, but also for the emotional moment when a young Brazilian couple brought their newborn anacephalic (without a brain) daughter to the Pope at the offertory, as a gift to God.

As Francis spoke he could see, stretching before him along the waterfront, young people from all continents, cultures, languages, waving the flags of their nations.  400,000 had come from around the world, the rest were from Brazil.  Most had slept overnight in sleeping bags on the beachfront or on the street parallel to it. They had given him a rapturous, emotional welcome when he arrived in his partially covered jeep; they jumped up and down, danced and roared with joy as he passed among them blessing them and, at one point, even drinking mate offered by a pilgrim.

Speaking to them with passion, the humble Jesuit pope summarized his message in three points:  “Go! Do not be Afraid! Serve!”

“Go and make disciples of all nations”, he told them   This WYD had been “a wonderful experience”, he declared; they had “met Jesus” and “sensed the joy of the faith” with other young people, but now “you must go and pass on this experience to others”, because “Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission!”

They must not keep this experience “locked up” in their own life, small parish group or movement, he said, “Because that would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly. Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history.” 

They must share the Gospel with others, he said, because that is the command Jesus gives to the whole Church, “and that includes you”.  It is a command “that is born not from a desire for domination or power but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God.”

He reminded them that “Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as free men, as friends, as brothers and sisters” and “he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love”.    

Jesus “sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some”, he declared, as he urged them, “Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent” because Jesus “wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love”.

Pope Francis repeated, “Do not be afraid” to proclaim the Gospel even if they felt they had “no particular preparation”, because “when we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us” .Moreover, the whole Church and the saints in heaven will accompany them.  

Finally, he told said, they are called “to serve” people because “the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.” He reminded them that “Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, and it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did.”

He promised that if they followed his three key ideas - Go, do not be afraid, and serve, “you will experience that the one who transmits the joy of faith receives joy.” As he bade them farewell, he told them, “Jesus counts on you, the Church counts on you, the Pope counts on you”, and he said he looked forward to meeting them again at the next WYD in Krakow, in 2016.

Pope Francis to youths: 'The Church needs your enthusiasm!"

Pope Francis to Youth: “Go and make disciples of all nations”

The following comes from the Catholic Herald:
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Young Friends,
“Go and make disciples of all nations”. With these words,Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.
1. Go. During these days here in Rio, you have been able to enjoy the wonderful experience of meeting Jesus, meeting him together with others, and you have sensed the joy of faith. But the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community. That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly. Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history (cf. Rom10:9).
Careful, though! Jesus did not say: “if you would like to, if you have the time”, but: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination or power but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of himself, but the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as free men, as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.
Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.
In particular, I would like Christ’s command: “Go” to resonate in you young people from the Church in Latin America, engaged in the continental mission promoted by the Bishops. Brazil, Latin America, the whole world needs Christ! Saint Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This continent has received the proclamation of the Gospel which has marked its history and borne much fruit. Now this proclamation is entrusted also to you, that it may resound with fresh power. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you. A great Apostle of Brazil, Blessed José de Anchieta, set off on the mission whenhe was only nineteen years old. Do you know what the best tool is for evangelising the young? Another young person. This is the path to follow!
2. Do not be afraid. Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, a young man like you, when he was called by God to be a prophet. We have just heard his words: “Ah,Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid … for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us! “Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus does not leave us alone, he never leaves you alone! He always accompanies you.
And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community. I would like to address you, dear priests concelebrating with me at this Eucharist: you have come to accompany your young people, and this is wonderful, to share this experience of faith with them! But it is a stage on the journey. Continue to accompany them with generosity and joy, help them to become actively engaged in the Church; never let them feel alone!
3. The final word: serve. The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service. In our Second Reading today, Saint Paul says: “I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (1 Cor9:19). In order to proclaim Jesus, Paul made himself “a slaveto all”. Evangelising means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving bybending down to wash the feetof our brethren, as Jesus did.
Go, do not be afraid, and serve. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives joy. Dear young friends, as you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel. In the first Reading, when God sends the prophet Jeremiah, he gives him the power to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world.
Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Amen.

The field of faith is your own heart, Pope Francis tells WYD pilgrims

Pope Francis told the crowd of pilgrims at World Youth Day's Saturday night prayer vigil that the “field of faith” is found in their own hearts, which Christ wishes to till.

“This, dear young people, means that the real ‘Campus Fidei,’ the field of faith, is your own heart, it is your life,” the Pope told the pilgrims gathered in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of a vigil July 27. The prayer vigil was held on Copacabana beach rather than “Campus Fidei” in Guaratiba, which was rained out.

He stressed that the deepest meaning of “Campus Fidei” is not a geographical place, like the massive plain east of Rio that was closed to pilgrims after heavy rains. Rather, the field of faith is, most profoundly, the human heart.

“It is your life that Jesus wants to enter with his word, with his presence. Please, let Christ and his word enter your life, blossom and grow.”

Pope Francis examined his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, as a model of Christian life. The saint was called to rebuild Christ's house, and realized that his call was not merely “a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church.”
Just as St. Francis was called to “make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly” in the Church, so “today too,” he told the young people, God is “calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries.”

Taking the intended site of his speech as an inspiration, the Pope used the image of a field in three ways: a place for sowing seeds; a training ground; and a construction site.

The human heart is the field where Christ sows the seed of God's word, Pope Francis taught, using the imagery of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. “What kind of ground are we? What kind of terrain do we want to be?”

At times, he said, “we are like the path,” not allowing the word of God to change our lives because we have “let ourselves be numbed by all the superficial voices competing for our attention” instead of resting in calmness and slowness with the Lord.

We can also fail to bear fruit by faltering in the face of difficulties when “we don't have the courage to swim against the tide;” or at times “negative feelings” choke God's word in us.
Pope Francis encouraged the pilgrims, saying that “today I am sure that the seed is falling on good soil, that you want to be good soil.”

He contrasted “good soil” with a desire to be Christian “part-time,” “superficially,” or “for show.”

“Do not be Christians of the facade, be Christians who are authentic!” he said. “Ask for the Lord to sow his seed in your heart.”

“I am sure that you don’t want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads,” he added.

Pope Francis encouraged them to be “aiming high,” resolving to maintain the lofty standards of truth, goodness, and beauty.

The Bishop of Rome's next image considered the field of faith as an athletic training ground, saying that being a disciple of Christ is much like joining a soccer team. Both require discipline and training.

He referred to St. Paul's writing that “athletes deny themselves all sorts of things” in order to “win a crown of leaves that withers,” and then added that “Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup,” soccer's international tournament which is to be held next summer in Brazil.

Christ offers “the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life,” Pope Francis preached.

“But he asks us to train, 'to get in shape,' so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith.”

Such spiritual exercises, the Pope said, include talking with him in prayer, “our daily conversation with God." Do we really seek time in conversation with God, he asked, calling prayer also a "dialogue" with God.

Other spiritual exercises Pope Francis mentioned were the sacraments and loving one another, “yearning to listen, to understand, to forgive, to be accepting and to help others, everybody, with no one excluded or ostracized.”

Finally, Pope Francis spoke of a field as a construction site, saying God constructs the Church of “living stones,” and that “we are never alone” as we journey “on the same path.”

“Jesus is asking us to build up his Church, but not as a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. He asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone!”

Christ says “to me, to you, to each of us,” Pope Francis reflected: “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

“Tonight, let us answer him: Yes, I too want to be a living stone; together we want to build up the Church of Jesus!”

The desire, so characteristic of young people, to build up a more just, fraternal society, Pope Francis said, must begin with each person becoming more just and fraternal.

Dear friends, never forget that you are the field of faith! You are Christ’s athletes! You are called to build a more beautiful Church and a better world.”

Mary is the model for building a beautiful Church and better world, he assured the pilgrims as he concluded.

“All together, let us join Mary in saying to God: let it be done to me as you say. Amen!”

Pope Francis to Brazilian Bishops: Are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?

The following comes from

Pope Francis had a joyful but challenging message for the Bishops of Brazil today.

As part of World Youth Day festivities, the Holy Father took the opportunity to meet with the world’s largest episcopate. Pope Francis thanked the Bishops for allowing him to speak as “one among friends”. For that reason, he said
, he spoke in his native Spanish, in order “to better express what I carry in my heart.”

Pope Francis spoke first about the miracle of Aparecida, the miracle at the heart of Brazil’s religious history. “Aparecida offers us a perennial teaching about God and about the Church.” Recalling the events of the miraculous discovery of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary by a group of poor fisherman, he noted that God always enters clothed in poverty, in littleness.”

He noted, too, that, from the beginning, “God’s message was one of restoring what was broken, reuniting what had been divided.”

But Aparecida also reminds us about the need to embrace mystery. Too often, he said, we reduce mystery to rational explanations; we must wait for God to reveal the mystery for us.

There is much we can learn from Aparecida, the Pope said, “about a Church which makes room for God’s mystery; a Church which harbours that mystery in such a way that it can entice people, attract them.”

“Dear Brothers,” he reminded the Bishops, “the results of our pastoral work do not depend on a wealth of resources, but on the creativity of love.”

The Holy Father went on to speak about the great love the Bishops of Rome have always had for Brazil, recalling especially the care of Blessed John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II for their nation. He went on to speak about the Gospel story of Emmaus, and the two disciples who left Jerusalem after the Crucifixion, only to encounter Jesus on their way. “We need a Church,” he said, unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation.” And he asked, “Are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?”

Pope Francis concluded his remarks by emphasizing several challenges facing “the beloved Church of Brazil.” He highlighted the need for formation, of Bishops, priests, religious, and laity. He called, too, for collegiality and solidarity within the Episcopal Conference, calling for a true unity in diversity. And the Holy Father noted that the Church has a permanent missionary aspect, joined to the need for pastoral conversion.

He spoke, too, about the role of the Church in society. “In the context of society, there is only one thing the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”

Finally, Pope Francis spoke about the Amazon Basin as a litmus test for Church and society in Brazil. “I would like to invite everyone to reflect on what Aparecida said about the Amazon Basin, its forceful appeal for respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it can be indiscriminately exploited, but rather made into a garden.”

The Pope concluded his remarks: “Dear brother Bishops, I have attempted to offer you in a fraternal spirit some reflections and approaches for a Church like that of Brazil, which is a great mosaic made up of different pieces, images, forms, problems and challenges, but which for this very reason is an enormous treasure. The Church is never uniformity, but diversities harmonized in unity, and this is true for every ecclesial reality.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pope Francis ventures on foot into Rio favela during Brazil trip

They are some of the most dangerous, most crime-ridden places in the world, where even the police and army fear to tread.

Pope Francis among the urban poor

Setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience: A Consideration of the Church’s Role in the Public Square

The following comes from Msgr. Charles Pope:
In the Office of Readings today we read from 2 Corinthians 4 where St. Paul well describes the work of the Church in the Public square: Setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor 4:2). Not a bad description of our posture and practice toward the secular world.
Yet, that is not often the impression many take from our posture. In what I would called a misplaced fear, many think of the Church as trying impose her power and views on others. In much of the heated public debate on the HHS mandate (that the Catholic Church pay for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization) and over gay “marriage,” there is a strain to the conversation, that somehow, the Catholic Church is trying to “force” people to follow what she teaches.
To think that we have such power is fanciful, but the charge comes up a lot and in different forms. Consider the following comments I gleaned from various sources, mainly from the comboxes of several secular papers. These comments are not made up by me. I cut and pasted them into a reference file over the last two years, they are actual quotes of readers. All of them see us as trying to use power to force others to do what we want:
  1. Inasmuch as we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, everyone should be free to follow their own path as individuals. You are. The Church doesn’t have the power to force you to do anything. But you are going further than “following your own path.” You are asking for legal recognition of something that has never been recognized before (i.e. Same-sex unions). Expect a little push back. Further, the Catholic Church does not only appeal to God and the Bible but also to Natural Law, because we recognize that not everyone sees the Scriptures with the kind of reverence we do.
  2. When it comes to owning a business that accepts public funds and which will employ believers of every stripe as well as non-believers, the owners have no right dictating the choice of others -Actually it is the Government that is dictating choice. In the HHS mandate, only the government has the power here to compel and punish non-compliance, and they are saying that we must give contraceptivesfree to anyone who asks for them. The “mandate” says that Catholics, and anyone who objects to sterilization, to abortifacients and contraceptives, (for it is not only Catholics), must pay for them whether they like it or not. As for Gay “marriage,” it is once again the Government that is requiring everyone to recognize what has never been recognized before, that same-sex couples are “married.” And, by gosh, if we don’t recognize them and treat them as married then we will be decertified from adoption services and have to stop providing marital health benefits for our married employees (as happened with Catholic Charities). So there IS a lot of forcing going on here, but it isn’t the Church. We don’t have that power, the State does. And frankly that should make everyone sober, even those who don’t agree with us on these specific issues. EVERYONE ought to be mighty concerned when the State seeks to compel people to act against their conscience.
  3. Just one more example why one should never vote for a Roman Catholic politician who would more likely march in lockstep to the dictates of the Church than follow constitution. Whew! Dream on, we have the opposite problem. Very FEW Catholic politicians live their faith when it comes to political agendas. And if they do, they, like anyone else, they have to face the voters every few years. Further, why is it wrong for politicians to follow, say, environmental agendas, or homosexual agendas, or social justice agendas, but it is WRONG for them to follow religiously inspired agendas?Since when do people of faith have no voice or seat at the table in the world of politics? Are we not citizens who have the right to petition the government for redress etc?
  4. This is about the Catholic church (sic) demanding that people who do not have any allegiance to that church or its dogma live by its rules. We don’t have this power. It is the State (and you?) who are instituting that we pay for what we consider wrong. Why should I have to pay for your contraceptives? Why should you simply demand to get them free?
  5. Today, they are gunning for the gays. Next will be your birth control. We don’t have this power. What we are asking is that we not be compelled to pay for things we consider wrong and sinful.
  6. In pushing your definition of marriage on to all other people and churches, you are in fact trying to ensure that Catholic law remains state law. We don’t have this power. As citizens, and for principled reasons rooted in Scripture and Natural Law, we argue that the law that Has ALWAYS been the law in this land, remain unchanged. We have a right, as citizens, to be part of the political process. One side is going to win, right now it looks like the pro-gay -pseudo marriage folks. How would you feel if I said, “You are pushing your definition of marriage and trying to make it State law?” Why don’t we just admit that we both have a right to be in the public square and advocate for what we think is right? I think you’re wrong headed and confused about marriage and your type loves to call me intolerant and bigoted. I’ll see you at the ballot box. Oh! but wait a minute! Here in DC your advocates on the DC Council would not allow a referendum, you try NOT to allow votes on such matters, but use the legal system to impose your views. And, gee, when we do win at the ballot box as we have in several states, your side runs to a judge and tries to overturn the will of the voters. Hmm….who is throwing power around here? Who’s pushing whose definition on whom? Hmm…?
  7. the church will be better off the more that it gives up its hold on political power. What power? If we’re so powerful, why is the moral meltdown so advanced? Again, are you simply striving to say we should have no voice in the political process? We have a right as citizens to try and influence outcomes, just like you. Frankly we haven’t been very successful lately. I’d love to find out where all this political power we theoretically have is hidden.
OK, well you get the point. A LOT of people think we have a lot more power than we do. Frankly it’s laughable to think think the Catholic Church has all this power. We can’t even unify our own believers. I have written before (with love) that unifying Catholics is like herding cats! I would to God that we could really unify around anything. Then we might be a political force to be reckoned with. And as citizens we would have every right to be such a force. But as it is, we are (sadly) a rather divided lot, even on abortion. I can assure you , most Catholic politicians do NOT have a hotline to the Vatican or take even a scintilla of advice from the Pope or Bishops. And even if they accidentally agree with the Pope or the bishops, for most of them, it is because the politics make sense, not that the faith has “compelled” them. No, don’t worry too much about the “power” of the Church.
That said, I have already commented above (in the red remarks) that Catholics, as citizens of the Untied States of America have the same rights as any other citizen to petition the government, to seek to enact laws that reflect our values and concerns. But we have no more or less power or voice than any other citizen of this Land. We, like others, often band together with coalitions. But again, if this is somehow wrong, then why is it not wrong for feminists, or environmentalists, or unions, or advocates of any number of hundred of other causes to do the same? We are Americans with rights. And people of faith have just as much right to be in the public square and the public conversation as any one else.
Some of the commenters in Comboxes, I survey like to recite grievances from the Middle Agesabout Church power then etc. Why not leave the 14th Century politics in the 14th Century, and let’s stay in the 21st Century. There was a LOT of bad stuff in the old days. It wasn’t just the Church, governments too were different then. Modern democratic republics were unknown in those days. Today the political landscape is different. And if the Church ever did have all the power (and some of the claims are exaggerated and the Inquisition is often cartoonishly portrayed) that is not the case today. For our purposes we are in the 21st Century West.
Finally, I return to the quote from St. Paul in today’s office that rather well distills what we, as a Church, and as believers, seek to do in the public square of America. More than acquire power (which is not easy in a wide and pluralistic culture), we seek to commend ourselves, and our message to everyone’s conscience. St. Paul says in context,
Rather, renouncing secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor 4:2)
Yes, frankly we do have vigorous disagreement with secret (and not so secret), and shameful practices. And we will not, in order to be popular or conformed to these times, distort or misrepresent the Word of God. Abortion is wrong. Fornication, adultery, and homosexual acts are wrong. Divorce, and chosen single parenthood, and so called gay “marriage” are wrong. Contraception, sterilization, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, wrong, wrong wrong.
But I cannot force you to obey me. Rather I commend myself to your conscience. And even if Scripture will not be acceptable to you, I will have recourse to Natural Law. I, indeed the whole Church, will continue to commend ourselves to your conscience. And even though the gospel is currently “out of season” (cf2 Tim 4:2) and you laugh at me and call me names like intolerant, bigoted etc., I will continue to commend myself to your conscience.
As long as I live I will speak the truth in love. And however you choose to understand me I will continue to speak. You may wish to call me hateful. I am not. I invite you to conscientiously consider what I say. I cannot command you, so do not fear me. But I do commend myself to your conscience.
I will meet you in the public square, for that is my right as much as yours. But in the end, mandates and forced adherence are not in my power. I commend myself to your conscience, I do not, I cannot, command you.
Those of this world may choose on their own to be pleased or displeased by what we say. As for me, my prayer is and must remain: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you my God(Psalm 19:14).