Sunday, January 31, 2010

Love, sweet, love


How many of you remember the old Dionne Warwick song, “What the world needs now, is love sweet love. It’s the only thing, that there’s just too little of.” That song was running through my head as I reflected on our second reading today and it’s great statement on Love. It is most definitely one of the most well known verses of Scripture. And for good reason – if you want to know what true love is, read that chapter over and over again. Many times in church we speak about the importance of love. In the Christian life, it is all about love. Even God, Scripture tells us, is love.

Today, however, I want us to do more than just talk about love. We talk about love all the time. But, as Jesus – and Dionne – remind us, we need more love in our world. This reading causes us to ask in our own lives, how much of a loving person am I? An exercise based on this reading helps us to find that out easily. The reading we heard proclaimed said, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

What if we changed the passage and put “JESUS” and “HE” wherever we find “LOVE” and “IT.” “Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He is not jealous, He is not pompous, He is not inflated, He is not rude, He does not seek His own interests, He is not quick-tempered, He does not brood over injury, He does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That still sounds pretty good. We can easily agree with every line. But, what now if we replaced the same words with our own name? Say it with me in your own heart. “I am patient, I am kind. I am not jealous, I am not pompous, I am not inflated, I am not rude, I do not seek my own interests, I am not quick-tempered, I do not brood over injury, I do not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.” Placing our own names there, do we still agree with every line in the passage? Is each line still true for us? How do we score ourselves on a scale of 1 to 10? This is the measure of loving that God gives us; this is they way He wants us to love. “What the world needs now, is love sweet love.”

There is a story about a teacher who gave his class an assignment to go and tell someone that they loved them before the next week's class. It had to be someone to whom they had never said those words before, or at least not for a very long time. At the next class, one man stood up and recounted his story to the class. He said to the teacher, “I was angry with you last week when you gave us this assignment. I felt, ‘who were you to tell us to do something so personal?’ But as I was driving home, my conscience started talking to me. It was telling me that I knew exactly who I needed to say “I love you” to. Five years ago, my father and I had a terrible argument which we have never resolved. We have avoided seeing each other since and hardly speak to each other. So last week by the time I had gotten home after class, I had convinced myself to tell my father that I loved him. It’s strange, but just making the decision seemed to lift a heavy load off my chest. When I told my wife, she jumped out of bed, gave me a big hug and for the first time in our married life saw me cry. We sat up half of the night talking.

The next day I was up bright and early. At 9AM, I called my father to tell him I wanted to come over after work and talk to him. He reluctantly agreed. By 5:30, I was at the house. When my father answered the door, I didn't waste any time. I took one step inside and blurted out “Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.” Well, it was as if a transformation had come over him. Before my eyes, his face softened, the wrinkles seemed to disappear and he too began to cry. He reached out and hugged me, saying “I love you too, son, but I’ve never been able to say it.” My mother walked by just then with tears in her eyes. I had not felt that wonderful, happy and peaceful in a very long time. Two days after my visit, my dad, who had heart problems but hadn’t told us, had an attack and died. So my message is this: don’t wait to do the things you know need to be done, to express the love that is in your heart.”

My friends, we know that True Love transforms us and transforms our world. There is no greater antidote to the greed, power, individualism, cruelty, and evil that exists in our world than the Love that God gives us and calls forth from us. And it should be obvious to all of us that our world truly needs more love. And so, I offer to each of you, my brothers and sisters, and myself, the same opportunity as our story. Go home and tell someone you love them before next Sunday. Tell someone you really love, but to whom you have never said those words before, or at least not for a very long time.

My friends, “Love never fails.” You can trust God on that one.

May God give you peace.

A Prayer After the Earthquake in Haiti

We prayed this at Mass this morning here in Ireland and I thought it was beautiful. Perhaps you will pray it where you are:

Lord, at times such as this,
when we realize that the ground beneath our feet
is not as solid as we had imagined,
we plead for your mercy.

As the things we have built crumble about us,
we know too well how small we truly are
on this ever-changing, ever-moving,
fragile planet we call home.
Yet you have promised never to forget us.
Do not forget us now.

Today, so many people are afraid.
They wait in fear of the next tremor.
They hear the cries of the injured amid the rubble.
They roam the streets in shock at what they see.
And they fill the dusty air with wails of grief
and the names of missing dead.

Comfort them, Lord, in this disaster.
Be their rock when the earth refuses to stand still,
and shelter them under your wings
when homes no longer exist.

Embrace in your arms those who died so suddenly.
Console the hearts of those who mourn,
and ease the pain of bodies on the brink of death.

Pierce, too, our hearts with compassion,
we who watch from afar,
as the poorest on this side of the earth
find only misery upon misery.
Move us to act swiftly this day,
to give generously every day,
to work for justice always,
and to pray unceasingly for those without hope.

And once the shaking has ceased,
the images of destruction have stopped filling the news,
and our thoughts return to life’s daily rumblings,
let us not forget that we are all your children
and they, our brothers and sisters.
We are all the work of your hands.

For though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be tossed to the ground,
your love shall never leave us,
and your promise of peace will never be shaken.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and forever.

We ask the intercession of Our Mother of Perpetual Help,
the Patroness of Haiti,
as we make our prayer through Christ, our Lord.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pope Benedict on St. Francis of Assisi - "True Happiness: To Become Saints"

"The Secret of True Happiness: To Become Saints"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

In a recent catechesis, I already illustrated the providential role that the Order of Friars Minor and the Order of Preachers, founded respectively by St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic Guzmán, had in the renewal of the Church of their time. Today I would like to present to you the figure of Francis, an authentic "giant" of holiness, who continues to fascinate very many people of every age and every religion.

"A son is born to the world." With these words, in the Divine Comedy (Paradiso, Canto XI), the greatest Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, alludes to Francis' birth, which occurred at the end of 1181 or the beginning of 1182, in Assisi. Belonging to a wealthy family -- his father was a textile merchant -- Francis enjoyed a carefree adolescence and youth, cultivating the chivalrous ideals of the time. When he was 20 he took part in a military campaign, and was taken prisoner. He became ill and was released. After his return to Assisi, a slow process of spiritual conversion began in him, which led him to abandon gradually the worldly lifestyle he had practiced until then.

Striking at this time are the famous episodes of the meeting with the leper -- to whom Francis, getting off his horse, gave the kiss of peace; and the message of the Crucifix in the little church of San Damiano. Three times the crucified Christ came to life and said to him: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church in ruins." This simple event of the Word of the Lord heard in the church of San Damiano hides a profound symbolism. Immediately, St. Francis is called to repair this little church, but the ruinous state of this building is a symbol of the tragic and disturbing situation of the Church itself at that time, with a superficial faith that does not form and transform life, with a clergy lacking in zeal, with the cooling off of love; an interior destruction of the Church that also implied a decomposition of unity, with the birth of heretical movements.

However, at the center of this Church in ruins is the Crucified and he speaks: he calls to renewal, he calls Francis to manual labor to repair concretely the little church of San Damiano, symbol of the more profound call to renew the Church of Christ itself, with his radical faith and his enthusiastic love for Christ.

This event, which probably occurred in 1205, makes one think of another similar event that happened in 1207: the dream of Pope Innocent III. He saw in a dream that the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of all churches, was collapsing and a small and insignificant religious supported the church with his shoulders so that it would not collapse. It is interesting to note, on one hand, that it is not the Pope who helps so that the church will not collapse, but a small and insignificant religious, whom the Pope recognizes in Francis who visited him. Innocent III was a powerful Pope, of great theological learning, as well as of great political power, yet it was not for him to renew the Church, but for the small and insignificant religious: It is St. Francis, called by God.

On the other hand, however, it is important to note that St. Francis does not renew the Church without or against the Pope, but only in communion with him. The two realities go together: the Successor of Peter, the bishops, the Church founded on the succession of the Apostles and the new charism that the Holy Spirit created at this moment to renew the Church. True renewal grows together.

Let us return to St. Francis' life. Because his father Bernardone reproved him for excessive generosity to the poor, Francis, with a symbolic gesture, and before the bishop of Assisi, stripped himself of his clothes, thus intending to renounce his paternal inheritance: As at the moment of creation, Francis had nothing, but only the life that God gave him, and into whose hands he entrusted himself. Then he lived as a hermit until, in 1208, another fundamental event took place in the journey of his conversion. Hearing a passage of the Gospel of Matthew -- Jesus' discourse to the Apostles sent on mission -- Francis feels he is called to live in poverty and to dedicate himself to preaching. Other companions associated themselves to him and, in 1209, he went to Rome, to submit to the Pope the project of a new form of Christian life. He was given a paternal reception by the great Pontiff who, enlightened by the Lord, intuited the divine origin of the movement awakened by Francis. The Poverello of Assisi had understood that every charism given by the Holy Spirit is placed at the service of the Body of Christ, which is the Church; hence, he always acted in full communion with the ecclesiastical authority. In the life of saints there is no opposition between a prophetic charism and the charism of government and, if some tension is created, they must wait patiently for the times of the Holy Spirit.

In reality, some historians in the 19th century and also in the last century tried to create behind the Francis of tradition, a so-called historical Francis, just as there is a desire to create behind the Jesus of the Gospels, a so-called historical Jesus. Such a historical Francis would not have been a man of the Church, but a man linked immediately only to Christ, a man who wished to create a renewal of the people of God, without canonical forms and without the hierarchy. The truth is that St. Francis really had a very immediate relationship with Jesus and with the Word of God, which he wished to follow sine glossa, exactly as it is, in all its radicalism and truth. It is also true that initially he did not have the intention of creating an order with the necessary canonical forms, but, simply, with the Word of God and the presence of the Lord, he wished to renew the people of God, to call them again to listening to the Word and to literal obedience to Christ. Moreover, he knew that Christ never is "mine" but always is "ours," that "I" cannot have Christ and "I" cannot reconstruct against the Church, his will and his teaching -- but only in communion with the Church, built on the succession of the Apostles, is obedience to the Word of God also renewed.

It is also true that he did not intend to create a new order, but only to renew the people of God for the Lord who comes. But he understood with suffering and pain that everything must have its order, that even the law of the Church is necessary to give shape to renewal and thus he really inserted himself totally, with the heart, in the communion of the Church, with the Pope and the bishops. He knew always that the center of the Church is the Eucharist, where the Body and Blood of Christ are made present. Through the priesthood, the Eucharist is the Church. Where priesthood, and Christ and communion of the Church go together, only there does the Word of God also dwell. The true historical Francis and the Francis of the Church speaks precisely in this way also to non-believers, to believers of other confessions and religions.

Francis and his friars, ever more numerous, established themselves in the Porziuncola, or church of Saint Mary of the Angels, sacred place par excellence of Franciscan spirituality. Also Clare, a young lady of Assisi of a noble family, placed herself in Francis' school. Thus the Second Franciscan Order originated, that of the Poor Clares, another experience destined to bear outstanding fruits of sanctity in the Church.

The successor of Innocent III, Pope Honorius III, with his bull "Cum dilecti" of 1218, also upheld the singular development of the first Friars Minor, who were opening their missions in several countries of Europe, and even in Morocco. In 1219 Francis obtained permission to go to speak with the Muslim Sultan Melek-el-Kamel in Egypt, and also to preach the Gospel of Jesus there. I want to underline this episode of the life of St. Francis, which is very timely. At a time in which there was under way a clash between Christianity and Islam, Francis, armed deliberately only with his faith and his personal meekness, pursued with efficacy the way of dialogue. The chronicles tell us of a benevolent and cordial reception by the Muslim Sultan. It is a model that also today should inspire relations between Christians and Muslims: to promote a dialogue in truth, in reciprocal respect and in mutual understanding (cf. "Nostra Aetate," 3).

It seems, then, that in 1220 Francis visited the Holy Land, thus sowing a seed that was to bear much fruit: his spiritual sons, in fact, made of the places in which Jesus lived a privileged realm of their mission. With gratitude I think today of the great merits of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

Returning to Italy, Francis entrusted the government of the order to his vicar, Friar Pietro Cattani, while the Pope entrusted the order, which continued gathering more followers, to the protection of Cardinal Ugolino, the future Supreme Pontiff Gregory IX. For his part the founder, totally dedicated to preaching, which he carried out with great success, wrote a Rule, later approved by the Pope.

In 1224, in the hermitage of La Verna, Francis saw the Crucified in the form of a seraphim and from the encounter with the crucified seraphim, he received the stigmata; he thus became one with the crucified Christ: a gift, hence, which expresses his profound identification with the Lord.

Francis' death -- his transitus -- occurred on the evening of Oct. 3, 1226, at the Porziuncola. After blessing his spiritual sons, he died, lying on the naked earth. Two years later Pope Gregory IX inscribed him in the register of saints. A short time later, a large basilica was raised in Assisi in his honor, still today a destination for very many pilgrims, who can venerate the tomb of the saint and enjoy Giotto's frescoes, a painter who illustrated in a magnificent way the life of Francis.

It has been said that Francis represents an alter Christus, he was truly a living icon of Christ. He was even called "Jesus' brother." Indeed, this was his ideal: to be like Jesus; to contemplate the Christ of the Gospel, to love him intensely and to imitate his virtues. In particular, he wished to give a fundamental value to interior and exterior poverty, teaching it also to his spiritual sons. The first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount -- blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3) -- found a luminous fulfillment in the life and in the words of St. Francis.

Truly, dear friends, the saints are the best interpreters of the Bible; they, incarnating in their lives the Word of God, render it more than attractive, so that it really speaks to us. Francis' witness, who loved poverty to follow Christ with dedication and total liberty, continues to be also for us an invitation to cultivate interior poverty to grow in trust of God, uniting also a sober lifestyle and detachment from material goods.

In Francis, love for Christ is expressed in a special way in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. In Franciscan sources one reads moving expressions, such as this: "The whole of humanity fears, the whole universe trembles and heaven exults, when on the altar, in the hand of the priest, there is Christ, the Son of the living God. O wonderful favor! O sublime humility, that the Lord of the universe, God and Son of God, so humbles himself as to hide himself for our salvation, under the low form of bread" (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, Editrici Francescane, Padua, 2002, 401).

In this Year for Priests, it pleases me also to recall a recommendation addressed by Francis to priests: "When you wish to celebrate Mass, certainly in a pure way, carry out with reverence the true sacrifice of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, 399).

Francis always showed great deference to priests, and recommended that they always be respected, even in the case when, at the personal level, they are not very worthy. He cherished, as motivation for this profound respect, the fact that they have received the gift of consecrating the Eucharist. Dear brothers in the priesthood, let us never forget this teaching: the holiness of the Eucharist asks us to be pure, to live in a consistent way with the mystery we celebrate.

From the love of Christ is born love of people and also of all God's creatures. Here is another characteristic trait of Francis' spirituality: the sense of universal fraternity and love for Creation, which inspired his famous Canticle of Creatures. It is a very timely message. As I reminded in my recent encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," the only sustainable development is one that respects Creation and does not damage the environment (cf. No. 48-52), and in the Message for the World Day of Peace of this year I underlined that also the building of a solid peace is linked to respect for creation. Francis reminds us that in creation is displayed the wisdom and benevolence of the Creator. In fact, nature is understood by him as a language in which God speaks with us, in which reality becomes transparent and we can speak of God and with God.

Dear friends, Francis was a great saint and a joyful man. His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love of Christ, his kindness to every man and woman made him happy in every situation. In fact, between sanctity and joy there subsists a profound and indissoluble relation. A French writer said that there is only one sadness in the world: that of not being saints, that is, of not being close to God. Looking at St. Francis' witness, we understand that this is the secret of true happiness: to become saints, close to God!

May the Virgin, tenderly loved by Francis, obtain this gift for us. We entrust ourselves to her with the same words of the Poverello of Assisi: "Holy Virgin Mary, there is no one like you born in the world among women, daughter and handmaid of the Most High King and heavenly Father, Mother of our Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ, spouse of the Holy Spirit: pray for us ... to your most holy favorite Son, Lord and Master" (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, 163).

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we now turn to Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the greatest figures of the Church's history.The story of Saint Francis' life and conversion, and his complete devotion to Christ, poor and suffering, is well known. After gathering a small group of companions and followers, including Saint Clare, Francis sought the approval of Pope Innocent III for his movement, which was completely committed to the renewal of the Church in holiness and to the preaching of the Gospel. Near the end of his life, Francis' configuration to the Crucified Lord culminated in his reception of the stigmata at La Verna. His deep piety found expression in a great devotion to the Eucharist, as the sacrament of Christ's real presence, and his love for creation as God's handiwork. The life and teaching of Saint Francis has inspired countless people to the imitation of Christ through the embrace of inward and outward poverty. May his example teach us ever greater love for the Lord and his Church, and help us to know the immense spiritual joy born of the imitation of Christ and the pursuit of holiness.

A warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's audience! I particularly greet high school students from Jordan and Israel, members of the initiative Aqabat Eilat: "one more step towards peace," students and faculty from the Bossey Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies, as well as pilgrims from England, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and the United States. God bless you all!

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

IC News, January 26, 2010

Click here for the latest edition of IC News, the news of the Immaculate Conception Province: IC News, January 26, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Make the dream of Jesus, our dream too


For what seems like an eternity, we here in Boston have been deluged by an endless barrage of political commercials leading up to Tuesday’s special election for U.S. Senator from: Scott Brown’s “Bold New Leadership” vs. Martha Coakley’s “A different kind of leadership.” And now, just when we thought it was over, we’ve had non-stop coverage of the results and the pundits have turned their focus on the President recalling that just a year ago this week Barack Obama was inaugurated and now the question is about what he has or has not accomplished in this year.

But, this reminder of a year ago got me thinking about inaugural addresses. Every four years as a president begins their new term, we engage in one of our regular national celebrations, full of pomp and circumstance – the inauguration. An inauguration is no small affair – it costs in the tens of millions of dollars, there are countless parties, dinners and dances. But, the highlight of every inauguration is the inaugural address, which is almost always a truly memorable speech.

Last year’s speech was no exception as the President said many powerful things including, “The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” Of course, this is just one in a long line of memorable speeches. Remember the powerful words spoken by President Ford as he assumed office in a very difficult and challenging time in our nation’s history. He said, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.”

Or, who can forget the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 when he said to a nation in the midst of a terrible depression, “This great nation will endure…The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Or some of the most famous inaugural words spoken by John F. Kennedy in 1961, when he said, “And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. As what you can do for your country.”

I mention these inaugurals today, not because of the interesting political atmosphere that has gripped us this week in our beloved state, but because our Gospel passage from Luke describes another inaugural address of a new leader. As we are still early in Ordinary Time, we have presented to us the Gospel of Luke. In our three-year cycle of readings, this is the year of Luke. We will hear from this Gospel most of the time this year. In the opening paragraph that we heard today, Luke tells us why he wrote the Gospel. He is writing to Theophilus (a name that means in Greek, “one who loves God), probably a Roman official, to tell him what Christianity was all about. For Luke, Christianity is focused on God's love and mercy reaching out to everyone, but especially to those in need. That’s why, in telling Theophilus about the Christian faith, Luke finds the incident in the synagogue in Nazareth very important. In this incident, Jesus makes a solemn declaration of his mission in the world. It is, in fact, His inaugural address that He gives at the beginning of His mission as Messiah and Savior. And, it too, is filled with exciting and memorable phrases – as every inaugural address is.

Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”
The words of this inaugural address of Jesus are filled with hope – for the poor, for the helpless, for the captives, for the sick and for the oppressed. In this respect, they are like the words of just about every inaugural. They are words that outline a vision that cannot be carried out by one person working alone. They can, and must, be carried out by everyone working together. As St. Paul says in our passage from First Corinthians, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” In other words, we all must work together and share the responsibility of making the dreams of our Leader, Jesus Christ, come true. We must be the ones to carry on His agenda if it is to be made a reality.

The dream that Jesus sets forth is a dream that can be realized only if we, His followers, make it our dream as well. If the victims of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in today’s world are to hear the Good News of Jesus, then we must be the ones to tell them about it. If the victims of blindness, AIDS, cancer or other illnesses are to recover their hope, then we are the ones who bring that hope to them. If the victims of oppression throughout the world are to be set free, then we are the ones who must raise our voices in their support. If the darkness of our world is to be lit up with the Light of Christ, then we are the ones that have shine that light and help make it happen.

An old man was walking along the beach after a big storm one day. Fifty yards ahead of him was a young woman. She was picking up starfish that the storm had stranded on the beach, and was throwing them back into the sea. When the old man caught up with her, he asked her what she was doing. She replied that the starfish would die unless they were returned to the sea before the sun began beating down on them. The old man said, “But the beach goes on for miles and miles, and there are thousands of stranded starfish. How can your small effort make a difference?” Picking up a starfish and holding it lovingly in her hands, she said, “It makes a big difference to this one.” And with that, she returned it to the sea.

The spirit of that young woman is the type of spirit that every Christian must strive to imitate. When someone asks us, “How can your small effort make a difference in a world filled with billions of people crying out for help,” our answer must be the same as the young woman’s. “It makes a big difference to the ones we are able to help.” And if we give generously of our own loaves and fishes, Jesus will find a way to multiply them and feed the hungry multitude.

My brothers and sisters, this is the inaugural message of our Leader, Jesus Christ, and He invites us to help Him accomplish His mission. The Lord has anointed us “to bring glad tidings to the poor…to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”

This is the kind of faith that will inspire others to join us and indeed shine the Light of Christ to dispel the darkness of our world. May we make the dream of Jesus, our dream as well.

May God give you peace.

Pope tells priests: For God's sake, blog!

Who knew I was so far ahead of the curve?  - FT

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2010 / 10:24 am (CNA).- In his message for the 44th World Day for Social Communications, Pope Benedict calls for priests to "make astute use" of available technology in becoming a presence as community leaders on the web. However, he urges them to remain "less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart."

The 2010 World Day for Social Communications will take place on May 16 under the theme "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word." The Holy Father’s message was released today.

The aim of this year's message is to draw attention to the possibilities for priestly ministry offered within the "important and sensitive pastoral area of digital communications."

Read the full story here: Holy Father encourages online priestly ministry :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hearing God's Call


Today we hear the familiar story of Jesus and Mary at the wedding feast at Cana. This is a powerful story because it is generally considered to be the start of Jesus ministry; and the first recorded miracle performed by Jesus. And, in a way, it continues our theme from the Christmas season as it is another manifestation of the Divinity of God. Jesus shows his Divine nature by performing the miracle.

It is interesting to note that Mary, the mother of Jesus, only makes two appearances in St. John’s Gospel: in the passage we heard today at Cana, the beginning of Jesus public ministry; and then again at the crucifixion, the end of it. John shows us that Mary had two tremendously important roles in the ministry of Jesus. At Cana, as the wedding feast went on, the wine ran out. Mary went out of her way to intercede with Jesus, she encouraged Jesus, and Jesus performed what John tells us was his very first miracle.

If this was Jesus' very first miracle, how then did Mary know that Jesus could do it? Well, very simply, good mothers know their children. They know the hidden talents and gifts of their children. There are many young men and women who have gone on to accomplish great things in life because their mothers and fathers believed in them and encouraged them.

You know, we often talk about the need in the Church for more men and women to follow the call of God and accept a vocation to ministry in the Church. We know that there are fewer and fewer priests and religious, and more and more Catholics in our parishes. But, I want to challenge the notion of a so-called Vocation Crisis. As you know, I am the Vocation Director for our Franciscan community and personally, I don’t believe there is a Vocation Crisis. I believe that what we have is a Vocation Awareness Crisis. I know that God continues to call men and women into service, but I think we have created a point in our Catholic culture where people no longer have the ears to hear that call; and the courage and willingness to follow.

This week, we commemorate National Vocation Awareness Week, a special time where the Church asks us to pray for more young men and women to consider living a consecrated or vowed life or becoming ordained as a priest. But, vocations are simply something we no longer encourage among our young people. When someone mentions that they may be considering a vocation today, the regular response is not one of support, but the typical response is, a question, “Why would you want to do that?” Our culture unfortunately values materialism, wealth, status, position, celebrity and power, above a call to poverty, chastity, obedience and service and so the natural outcome is fewer deacons, priests and religious. God always calls more than enough workers for harvest, but too often we question that call and to fail to support it.

We need to encourage our youth to consider this way of life just as they consider the myriad other ways of life presented to them every day. Ultimately it is about doing what God wants you to do. It isn’t that religious and priests never wanted a relationship or marriage or children or a nice big house and a fancy car; rather, it is that we are called to something different. Each way of life is full of challenges – as any married person can attest to. But, when it is what you are called to, you cannot imagine doing anything else. We have to encourage people to be open to the possibility. To open their hearts to listen to Jesus.

The simple thing that we are all called to do is encourage young people to be open to whatever God has planned for them – whether religious, married, single, or priest. When we make Jesus, manifested in our world, manifested in the Eucharist, Reconciliation and all the sacraments, the center of our life, we look at life differently. You see, it is a domino effect. When we are open to the presence of Jesus, we become the presence of Jesus in the world. We leave this church each and every week as walking Tabernacles containing the presence of Jesus for our world.

So, what can we do for vocations in our own limited way? First and foremost, we can talk about them, we can talk about a life given fully to God, we can stop being afraid of raising the subject with someone. In all of my work with young people, I encounter many young men and women who I believe are being touched by God for a special role of service. I always, always tell them that. I always encourage discussion about that. Ask them to at least consider the possibility. In fact, someone here today could be sensing God’s call. Does this mean that they will pursue a vocation? Perhaps, but at the very least, it means that if we encourage them, they will not go through life wondering, “was I called.” And, we can only talk about the issue when we value this way of life. It is the responsibility of every Catholic.

I’d like to ask you all today – have you ever ad the thought about someone that they might make a good priest, a good religious sister or brother? If you’ve had that thought, did you tell them?

In Mary today we are given a great example of how we can all support vocation awareness. Mary saw something in her Son, she encouraged it, prayed for it, supported it all through His ministry, from the very beginning to the very end. Mary is the model for us all. We all have to do the same. Mary encouraged Jesus and he reached out to the people at the wedding, and a miracle literally took place.

Today, then, is a good day to ask ourselves: Who among us might God be calling? What can I do to support that call? How can I be a Vocation Director in my own family, church, community? How will there continue to be this manifestation of Jesus in our world if no one is encouraged to take up the call. Let me end with a vocation prayer that was written by Pope John Paul II:

Lord Jesus, as You once called the first disciples to make them fishers of men,
let your sweet invitation continue to resound: Come, follow Me!
Give young men and women the grace of responding quickly to Your voice.
Support your bishops, priests and consecrated people in their apostolic labor.
Grant perseverance to our seminarians and to all those
who are carrying out the ideal of a life totally consecrated to Your service.
Awaken in our community a missionary eagerness.
Lord, send workers to your harvest and do not allow humanity to be lost
for the lack of pastors, missionaries
and people dedicated to the cause of the Gospel.
Mary, Mother of the Church, the model of every vocation,
help us to say "yes" to the Lord Who calls us to cooperate
in the divine plan of salvation.

May God give you peace.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

10 Things That Promote Vocations

This week is National Vocation Awareness Week.  Here are some good tips for the promotion of vocations.  Take a moment to take a look, and as always, pray for vocations!

By Father David Toups

For all Catholics:

  1. Pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Jesus says in Matthew 9:38 “to beg the master of the harvest to send laborers into the vineyard.” If we want more priests, sisters and brothers, we all need to ask.
  2. Teach young people how to pray. Pope Benedict XVI said that unless we teach our youth how to pray, they will never hear God calling them into a deeper relationship with Him and into the discipleship of the Church.
  3. Invite active young adults and teens to consider a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life. A simple, sincere comment should not be underestimated. An easy way to do this can be remembered by four letters: ICNU. “John, I see in you (ICNU) the qualities that would make a good priest, and I want to encourage you to pray about it.” It is a non-invasive way to encourage openness to a religious vocation.
  4. Make it attractive. Show the priesthood for what it truly is – a call to be a spiritual father to the whole family of faith. Similarly, the consecrated life for a young woman is a call to be united to Christ in a unique way, and to be a spiritual mother to those she encounters in her life and service. The challenge for priests and religious is to be joyful models of their vocations.
  5. Preach it, brother! Vocations must be talked about regularly if a “vocation culture” is to take root in parishes and homes. This means, first and foremost, the people need to hear about vocations from priests through homilies, prayers of the faithful, and discussions in the classroom. Vocations kept out of sight are out of mind.
For those considering a vocation:
  1. Practice the faith. We all need to be reminded that the whole point of our lives is to grow in a deep, intimate and loving relationship with God. This is the first step for any young person desiring to discern any call in life.
  2. Enter into the Silence. Silence is key to sanity and wholeness. We can only “hear” the voice of God if we are quiet. Take out the ear buds of your iPhone, iPod, and iTunes and listen to God, the great I AM. Young people should try to spend 15 minutes of quiet prayer each day – this is where you can begin to receive clear direction in your lives.
  3. Be a good disciple. Some bishops say, “We do not have a vocation crisis; we have a discipleship crisis.” Young people can become true followers of Jesus Christ by serving those around them. By discovering your call to discipleship, you also discover your particular call within the Church.
  4. Ask God. Ask God what He wants for your life and know He only wants what is good for you. If, in fact, you are called to the priesthood or consecrated life, it will be the path to great joy and contentment.
  5. In the immortal words of a famous sneaker manufacturer: “Just do it!” If you feel that God is inviting you to “try it out,” apply to the seminary or religious order. Remember, the seminary or convent is a place of discernment. You will not be ordained or asked to profess vows for many years, providing ample opportunity to explore the possibility of a call to priesthood or religious life.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Funnies

Thanks to a friend for sending these - they are funny!! - FT

I have kleptomania,but when it gets bad,I take something for it.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS! Except that one where you're naked in church.

Heaven is Where:

The Police are British,
The Chefs are Italian,
The Mechanics are German,
The Lovers are French and
It's all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is Where:
The Police are German,
The Chefs are British,
The Mechanics are French,
The Lovers are Swiss and
It's all organized by the Italians.
Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!
My short-term memory is not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my short-term memory's not as sharp as it used to be.

In just two days from now, tomorrow will be yesterday.

A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.
The statement below is true.
The statement above is false.
I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.
I am a Nobody. Nobody is Perfect. Therefore I am Perfect.
Dyslexics Have More Nuf.
In Memoriam: With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey", died peacefully at age 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.
I LOVE COOKING WITH WINE. Sometimes I even put it in the food.
When you work here, you can name your own salary. I named mine, "Fred".
Money isn't everything, but it sure keeps the kids in touch.
I like cats too. Let's exchange recipes.
Red meat is not bad for you. Fuzzy green meat is bad for you.
As a senior citizen was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on 280 Interstate. Please be careful!" "It's not just one car," said Herman. "It's hundreds of them!"
I want to die while asleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stepping into the place of sinners


With today’s solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, we bring to an end our Christmas season. We have spent the last few weeks reflecting upon Jesus’ private life – from His birth through the finding in the Temple and last week’s visit of the Magi. Today’s celebration marks the beginning of His public ministry, a sort of passing of the torch, to Him from John the Baptist as He seeks out baptism in the Jordan.

Even though we hear such beautiful words in today’s Gospel, the voice of God Himself from Heaven proclaiming, “You are my beloved Son,” it begs a very curious question – why is Jesus being baptized? Have you ever stopped to think about this? Baptism, as we know, is for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus didn’t need baptism. We know this. He was untouched by sin – “like us in all things, but sin.” After all, He is the Son of God. You and I, born in a state of Original Sin, are born in desperate need of this sacrament of grace. We need these saving waters to wash over us and restore in us what was taken away by Adam and Eve. But, Jesus? Why would He need baptism?

This is a perplexing theological question and there are many decent answers. But, I came across the best response I have heard a few years ago when the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, released his book, Jesus of Nazareth in 2007. This book, the Pope tells us, is not meant to be a theological technicality, it is meant to be spiritual, to give the answers that our heart needs to hear. So, let me share a bit of what the Pope says about the question of Jesus baptism.

First, the problem. He writes, “The real novelty is the fact that he - Jesus - wants to be baptized, that he blends into the gray mass of sinners waiting on the banks of the Jordan. We have just heard that the confession of sins is a component of Baptism. Baptism itself was a confession of sins and the attempt to put off an old, failed life and to receive a new one. Is that something Jesus could do? How could he confess sins? How could he separate himself from his previous life in order to start a new one?”

The Pope notes that Jesus doesn’t require the newness of life that we all need because of our sin. So, if the baptism of Jesus isn’t about His own sin, since He has none, who’s sin is it about? Of course, it is about our sin. Again, the Pope writes, “The act of descending into the waters of this Baptism implies a confession of guilt and a plea for forgiveness in order to make a new beginning. In a world marked by sin, then, this Yes to the entire will of God also expresses solidarity with men [and women], who have incurred guilt but yearn for righteousness…Looking at the events in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all [humanity’s] guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross…The Baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out ‘This is my beloved Son’ over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection.”

So, as Jesus begins His public ministry – a ministry that will take Him to the Cross, the grave and to resurrection all for us – He does so by taking on our sins. It is not on the Cross that Jesus takes on the sins of humanity – it is there that He frees us from them. It is in the waters of the Jordan that Jesus steps into the place of sinners, into our place. In the Jordan, Jesus united Himself with us; and in our own personal baptism, we are united again with Him – so that we can be forgiven, we can be healed, we can be saved. Again, the Pope writes, “To accept the invitation to be baptized now means to go to the place of Jesus' Baptism. It is to go where he identifies himself with us and to receive there our identification with him. The point where he anticipates death has now become the point where we anticipate rising again with him. The Baptism that Jesus' disciples have been administering since he spoke those words is an entrance into the Master's own Baptism… That is the way to become a Christian.”

And so baptism is a branding of sort; it is an identification, an initiation, a welcoming. In Jesus’ baptism and in our own, we have been united, one with the other; welcomed into the Family of God as a brother or sister of Christ. When we are baptized, the priest or deacon says these words, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ.” In the Jordan, Jesus was clothed in us, taking our sins onto Himself so that He could redeem us on the Cross. In the baptismal fonts of our Churches, we are clothed in Him – in the hopes that we will live lives worthy of the call; worthy of the name we bear – sons and daughters of God.

In the Jordan, Jesus stepped into our place. Today, through the grace of our own baptism, He asks us to do the same. We must now be the ones to step into the place of Christ and be His presence in our world, so that the Father may say of us as He said of Him, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

May God give you peace.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Four essential human freedoms

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb."

- US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt - State of the Union Address - January 6, 1941

Monday, January 4, 2010

Benedict XVI tells youth not to fear a religious vocation

Vatican City, Dec 31, 2009 / 05:10 pm (CNA).- On the last day of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI led first vespers at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. In addition to singing the Te Deum hymn, he exhorted young people to have the courage to pursue their vocation.

The Te Deum is sung in thanksgiving to the Lord in the Catholic churches of the world on December 31 of each year. In his remarks, the Holy Father noted that this is a time to "put the various events of our lives – major and minor…under the sign of salvation and accept the call God makes to guide us toward a goal beyond time itself: eternity."

"We are called to say with our voices, hearts and lives our ‘thanks’ to God for the gift of his son, …for family, for community, the church and the world," he continued.

Pope Benedict gave special thanks for those who live and work within the Diocese of Rome, of which he is bishop. He praised efforts within the city to follow in the footsteps of Christ and encouraged further participation of the faithful "to be able to offer a valid contribution to the edification of the Church."

READ THE FULL STORY HERE: Benedict XVI tells youth not to fear a religious vocation :: Catholic News Agency

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Become an epiphany


In the stories of Jesus’ birth, we see two special groups of people came to visit the new-born baby: the shepherds and the Magi. Now, the church has no special feast to commemorate the visit of the shepherds but we do have today’s special feast of Epiphany to celebrate the visit of the Magi. Why is that? It is because the visit of the Magi is a real eye-opener; it is a true epiphany. The word “epiphany” means to manifest or to show; it is a recognition or a revelation. When you have an epiphany, you recognize something or something is revealed to you. You truly see it for the first time. That's Epiphany.

The shepherds did not have to discover the presence of the Baby Jesus; instead they were told directly. They received a direct revelation of Christ’s birth from God through the message of the angels. The Magi on the other hand, were not even looking for the Messiah, they were not even Jewish. Instead they had a truly eye-opening experience discovering the presence of this God in their world. Such is the nature of epiphanies. A manifestation in the midst of the unexpected.

The Magi followed a star that appeared in the sky and that star lead them to the child Jesus. This image of the star is so important to our Christmas celebrations. Christmas is after all a great celebration of the triumph of the Light of the World over the darkness. Jesus is that Light. And the image of light plays such a prominent role in so many of these Christmas stories. And so it makes sense that the Magi follow a light in the sky to find the Light of the World. We are a lot like these Magi. We too follow the Bright Light that is Jesus. And our following of this Light should lead us to an epiphany as well.

Early Church fathers said of the Eucharist that “we become what we receive.” We receive the Body of Christ so we can become the Presence of Christ in our world. So too can be said of the Epiphany. We are recipients of Epiphany, of the manifestation of God in our lives, and the hope is that we will become an Epiphany to the world. We are meant to be manifestations of God’s presence in the world.

There is a story of the Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor. She lived in the South at a time when there was great prejudice against Catholics. An excellent writer, she had been repeatedly denied the National Book Award. As a matter of fact, she never received the award until after her death. One year she went to a convention of Southern Gothic writers. There were some great American writers there like Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Eudora Welty. Of course, she was the only Catholic in the bunch. During the meeting, one of the writers, said to Flannery, “You know you might be the best writer in the room. But, Flannery Honey, you're Roman Catholic, right?” Flannery responded, “Yes.” The writer continued, “Well, Honey, I went to the little Catholic Church right by the hotel. I went to one of your morning masses. And, Honey, I saw the priest come out and do his Mass, and I don't think he was terribly intellectual. And he held up the little white wafer of bread and you Catholics, you think it's Jesus. Well, Flannery Honey, with your brains, you must know it's not Jesus. It's a little symbol of Jesus. It's a reminder of Jesus.”

Flannery looked at him and everyone else in the room and said with tremendous conviction, “If it were just a symbol, the heck with it! But, it is not just a symbol. It is in fact the Real and True Presence of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said it was. The Church says it is. Now, I can't explain it. It's a mystery of Faith. And I'm not ashamed to say that it is a fact. This is no symbol. It is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.” A few weeks after this interchange, Tennessee Williams knocked on the door of a church in New York City and said, “I want to become a Catholic.” And he did! Flannery took an epiphany in her own life – the manifestation of God’s presence in the Eucharist – and turned it into an epiphany in the life of others, notably Tennessee Williams.

This is exactly what today’s feast calls us to. We become what we receive. God has been made manifest to us; and now we must become an Epiphany in our world. We must radiate God’s true and abiding presence to everyone we meet. God showers us with His presence each and every day in so many ways – here at our Mass, God manifests Himself in each one of us gathered in His name, and in His word proclaimed, and we’ll share the same experience that Flannery O’Connor did – God will be manifested in that little white wafer of bread that becomes the Body of His Son. What will we do with the experience of Epiphany that God gives us today? Will we leave the church and just go on, business as usual? Or will we allow ourselves to be touched and transformed by it? Will we be moved like the Magi were to the point where we must do something? Will we be people of our faith convictions proclaiming what we believe? Will we become Epiphany for the world?

O come, let us adore Him!

May God give you peace.

Changing the impossible

HOMILY FOR THE 2nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, January 20, 2019: When my parents got married more than 50 years ago, my Mom came from a pract...