Saturday, March 31, 2012

To clothe the naked

The second commandment is similar to the first (cf. Mt 22:39) and cannot be separated from it. We love others with that selfsame love which God puts into our hearts and with which he loves them. Here too, how many obstacles in the way of making others our neighbour: we do not love God and our neighbour enough. Why do we still have so many difficulties in leaving the important but insufficient stage of thought, declarations or protestations, in order to become truly immigrants with the immigrants, refugees with the refugees, and poor alongside those who lack everything?

The liturgical period of Lent is given us in and through the Church in order to purify us of that remainder of selfishness and excessive attachment to things – material or otherwise – which keep us apart from those who have a right to our help: principally those who, whether physically near of far, are unable to live their lives with dignity as men and women created by God in his image and likeness.

Allow yourselves, then, to be imbued by the spirit of penance and conversion, which is the spirit of love and sharing. Imitating Christ, draw close to those who have been left naked and wounded, those whom the world ignores or rejects.
-Blessed John Paul II, Message for Lent (1982)
Blessed John Paul II, through your intercession may we live like Christ as we approach the time of His passion and death.

Friday, March 30, 2012

To give drink to the thirsty

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you during this Lent to meditate upon the word of life which Christ left to his Church in order to enlighten the journey of each of her members. Recognize the voice of Jesus who speaks to you, especially during this Lenten season, in the Gospel, in the liturgical celebrations, in the exhortations of your pastors. Listen to the voice of Jesus who, tired and thirsty, says to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well: “Give me a drink” (Jn 4:7). Look upon Jesus nailed to the Cross, dying, and listen to his faint voice: “I thirst” (Jn 19:28). Today, Christ repeats his request and relives the torments of his Passion in the poorest of our brothers and sisters.
By inviting us through the discipline of Lent to tread the paths of love and hope marked out by Christ, the Church makes us realize that the Christian life involves detachment from superfluous goods, and the acceptance of a poverty which sets us free, and enables us to discover God’s presence and to welcome our brothers and sisters with an ever more active solidarity and in an ever wider fellowship.
Call to mind, then, the Lord’s words: “Whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mt 10:42). Take to heart and find hope in these other words: “Come blessed of my Father,… for I was thirsty and you gave me to drink” (Mt 25:34-35).
During Lent of 1993, in order to practise in a concrete way the solidarity and fraternal charity associated with the spiritual quest of this special season of the year, I ask the members of the Church to remember particularly the men and women suffering the tragic desertification of their lands, and those who in too many parts of the world are lacking that basic yet vital good which is water…
...May the active generosity of the sons and daughters of the Church, and of all men and women of good will, hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water” (Is 35:6-7)!
-Blessed John Paul II, Message for Lent (1993)

Blessed John Paul II, through your intercession may we live like Christ as we approach the time of His passion and death.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

To feed the hungry

How many times have we read and listened to the awesome text from Chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: “When the Son of man comes in his glory…, he will say… ‘Come O blessed of my Father… for I was hungry and you gave me food…’”!

Yes, the Redeemer of the world experiences the hungers of all his hungry brothers and sisters. He suffers with those who cannot feed their bodies: all those peoples that are victims of drought or unfavourable economic conditions, all those families affected by unemployment or scarcity of work. And yet our earth can and must feed all its inhabitants, from the youngest children to the aged, and including all the categories of those who work.

Christ also suffers with those who rightly hunger for justice and for respect for their human dignity; he suffers with those who are deprived of their fundamental liberties, with those who are neglected or, worse still, exploited in their state of poverty…

Giving from our surplus and even from what we need for ourselves is not always a spontaneous reaction of our nature. It is precisely for this reason that we must constantly cast a fraternal glance at our fellow human beings and their lives; it is precisely for this reason that we stimulate within ourselves this hunger and thirst for sharing, for justice and for peace, so that we shall really undertake deeds that will help to assist individuals and peoples that are hard pressed…

“Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. This exhortation of Saint Paul to the Corinthians is extremely relevant today (2 Cor 9:7). May you be enabled to feel the deep joy that comes from sharing food, from giving a welcome to a stranger, from assisting in the human advancement of the poor, from obtaining work for the unemployed, from the honest and courageous exercise of your civic, social and professional responsibilities, from the peace experienced in your homes and in all your relationships with others! All of this reflects the Love of God, to which we must be converted. Love inseparable from the so often urgent service of our neighbour. Let us desire, and let us deserve, to hear Christ tell us at the last day that inasmuch as we did good to one of the least of his brethren we did it to him!

-Blessed John Paul II, Messagefor Lent (1984)

Blessed John Paul II, through your intercession may we live like Christ as we approach the time of His passion and death.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Corporal Works of Mercy, as we approach the Triduum

Throughout his pontificate, Blessed John Paul II spoke often of charity and our responsibility to lift up the dignity of every human person. He placed a special focus on charity in his Lenten Messages, where he reminded the Church to live out the Corporal Works of Mercy.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the corporal works of mercy:

… consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God (2447).

Holy Week is fast approaching, but it’s never too late to recommit to a Christ-like life of giving. Each day leading up to the Triduum, we will post short pieces from Blessed John Paul II’s Lenten reflections on each of the corporal works of mercy—to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead.

Blessed John Paul II, through your intercession may we live like Christ as we approach the time of His passion and death.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Latin America

Pope Benedict XVI spent time in Mexico and Cuba this past week, following in the footsteps of Blessed John Paul II. In his Welcoming Ceremony address at Cuba’s Antonio Maceo International Airport, Pope Benedict said:
Standing here among you, I cannot but recall the historic visit to Cuba of my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, who left an indelible mark on the soul of all Cubans. For many, whether believers or not, his example and his teachings are a luminous guide for their personal lives and their public activity in the service of the common good of the nation. His visit to this island was like a gentle breath of fresh air which gave new strength to the Church in Cuba, awakening in many a renewed awareness of the importance of faith and inspiring them to open their hearts to Christ, while at the same time kindling their hope and encouraging their desire to work fearlessly for a better future.
Pope Benedict spoke of his own visit as well, and he subtly referenced the economic troubles in Cuba as well as their human rights issues:
I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen them in the hope which is born of the presence of God’s love in our lives. I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be, their sufferings and their joys, their concerns and their noblest desires, those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need.

Many parts of the world today are experiencing a time of particular economic difficulty, that not a few people regard as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with noble and strong values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person.
Hopefully Pope Benedict’s visit will be another “gentle breath of fresh air” for the people of Cuba and her Church.
Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Pray for Us.

Archbishop-designate Lori will focus on New Evangelization

Archbishop-designate William Lori, who served for 11 years as bishop of Bridgeport and currently serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty, said he will focus particularly on the New Evangelization with his new flock in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“Evangelization is at the heart of the mission of the Church,” he said in a press conference last week. “Evangelization is not something the Church does, alongside other things. Really, everything the Church does — whether it’s proclaiming and teaching the word, celebrating the sacraments or engaging in works of charity and education — everything is a proclamation of Christ.”
Let us pray for Archbishop-designate Lori as he prepares for his new position in the Church.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!

Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, intercede that we may have courage like you, to follow the will of God.
"...Mary must walk through darkness, in which she must simply trust the One who called her. Yet even her question, “How can this come about?”, suggests that Mary is ready to say yes, despite her fears and uncertainties. Mary asks not whether the promise is possible, but only how it will be fulfilled. It comes as no surprise, therefore, when finally she utters her fiat: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me” (Lk 1:38). With these words, Mary shows herself the true daughter of Abraham, and she becomes the Mother of Christ and Mother of all believers.
-Blessed John Paul II, Homily at Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation, March 25, 2000

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Evangelization in Latin America

The New Evangelization is moving in Latin America! The Pontifical Commission for Latin America recently published a 130 page book, “Reflections on New Evangelisation in Latin America: Challenges and Priorities.” Check out the Vatican Information Service for more…

Remember the Suffering Servant

In his Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, Blessed John Paul II reminds us of the messianic texts in the Old Testament which foreshadowed the Passion of Jesus Christ. He includes the Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant, from the Book of Isaiah:
"He had no form or comeliness that we should look
at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all"(41).
As we approach Holy Week, let us reflect on Christ’s suffering and death. Let it help us to endure the rest of this penitential season and prepare our hearts for the joyous Resurrection. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The contribution of women

The general papal intention for March is: “That the whole world may recognise the contribution of women to the development of society.”
This intention is a powerful one, because through the centuries people have questioned the role of women in the Catholic Church. Are women worth less because they can’t be priests, people have asked, and are they born only to serve lesser roles in society?
Blessed John Paul II’s “Letter to Women” addresses these issues and makes it quite clear that the Catholic Church values women and what they give to the world.
Women have had their dignity questioned for centuries, Blessed John Paul II wrote, and this is a shame. If one simply looks back to the “attitude of Jesus Christ himself,” they will see that He transcended “the established norms of his own culture,” and “Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance and tenderness.” This message should be heard and acted upon in Third Millennium, Blessed John Paul II said. Women deserve affirmation because they are children of God, he wrote, and society greatly benefits when they participate:

St. Katharine Drexel

The patient and humble endurance of the cross – whatever nature it may be – is the highest work we have to do. 
-St. Katharine Drexel

St. Katharine Drexel, whose feast we celebrated at the beginning of March, gave her whole life to this “highest work.”  She is an American saint, and she was one of the 482 canonized by Blessed John Paul II.

Born in 1858 to a wealthy family, St. Katharine learned at an early age that wealth is meant to be shared with others.  Her parents were known to be generous philanthropists, and they were both devout witnesses to the Catholic faith.

St. Katharine found her lifelong mission on a trip to the Western part of the United States. She was so unsettled by the destitution of Native Americans, that after the trip she dedicated much of her time and inheritance to supporting Native American missions. She thought access to education would help the impoverished Indian communities, so in 1887 she established St. Catherine Indian School in New Mexico.

On a later visit to Rome, St. Katharine met with Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to the Indian missions she had been supporting. She didn’t expect the response he gave her: Pope Leo suggested she become a missionary herself.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

May St. Joseph become for all of us an exceptional teacher in the service of Christ's saving mission, a mission which is the responsibility of each and every member of the Church: husbands and wives, parents, those who live by the work of their hands or by any other kind of work, those called to the contemplative life and those called to the apostolate.

This just man, who bore within himself the entire heritage of the Old Covenant, was also brought into the "beginning" of the New and Eternal Covenant in Jesus Christ. May he show us the paths of this saving Covenant as we stand at the threshold of the next millennium, in which there must be a continuation and further development of the "fullness of time" that belongs the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word.

      -Blessed John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos (1989)
St. Joseph, Father of the New Evangelization, Pray for Us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let us be concerned for each other

In his Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, Blessed John Paul II wrote that the whole life of the Christian community must lead to a “high standard of ordinary Christian living.” He said:
…since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity.
We are called to live as saints, Blessed John Paul II would say, and we are called to encourage our brothers and sisters to do the same. “Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves,” he said.
Pope Benedict XVI echoes this in his 2012 Message for Lent, which was inspired by a verse in the Letter to the Hebrews:

Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works (Heb  10:24).
During this Lenten time of prayer, sharing, fasting and silence the Holy Father urges us to have concern for others. We should desire what is good for our brothers and sisters—physically, morally, and spiritually. Contemporary culture has lost a sense of what is good and evil, so spiritual poverty is especially important this Lent. He said:
…I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in the view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters.

World Youth Day update

Last week Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said that preparations for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro are going very well.
World Youth Day has “proved to be an instrument of evangelization of extraordinary power,” he said. “I’m sure that Rio will give a strong confirmation of this fact.”
For more check out this article on World Youth Day 2013’s official site.

The sound of silence and penance

This past week, Pope Benedict XVI gave the Church two important messages to remember during Lent.
In his Wednesday catechesis, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the importance of interior and exterior silence and how it allows us to hear the Word and let it dwell within us. In order to pray, the Pope said we must turn off the noise of the modern world. We must find the silence that Jesus sought in His daily life and on the Cross.
Spending quiet time in prayer every day is important for those who want to take part in the New Evangelization. Confession also helps, Pope Benedict said. In an address last Friday, he connected the fruits of evangelization with the holiness of the Church’s body. God’s children are sanctified by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and a conversion of heart directly impacts one’s ability to spread the Gospel. He said:
Thus each confession, from which each Christian will emerge renewed, will represent a step forward for new evangelization.
Although Catholics are just asked to confess their sins once a year, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful (1458).    
According to Pope Benedict, time in silent prayer and confession of our sins will not only set us on the path to holiness this Lent, but they will also help us to be better purveyors of the Gospel. Let us be sanctified so that we can fully participate in the New Evangelization.
Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, Pray for Us.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More on the New Evangelization

Two new additions have been made to the New Evangelization pages on the Blessed John Paul II Shrine website.
In last month’s edition of Columbia Magazine, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson wrote a piece about the New Evangelization and how we are called to be missionaries in our families and communities.
Cardinal Dolan also gave an address during the Day of Prayer and Reflection of the College of Cardinals. In it he shares a seven step strategy of evangelization that will help defeat the “towering challenge” of secularism in our world.

Looking for some Lenten inspiration?

Then follow the Pope on Twitter! The Pontifical Council for Social Communications is bringing the New Evangelization to social media this Lent, and their hope is to engage the hearts and minds of young people with important themes from Pope Benedict’s Lenten message for 2012. Check out Pope to You for more information on accessing Vatican messages via Twitter, Facebook, and iPhone applications.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Witness to Suffering

In his keynote address at “The Boundaries of the Human” conference in Rome two weeks ago, Cardinal Raymond Burke spoke about Blessed John Paul II and how his life and teachings provide a model for Christian suffering.

Blessed John Paul II lost his mother at a young age, and her passing was followed by the deaths of both his father and his dearest brother. He lost the people who were closest to him, and he also experienced the degradation of Polish culture and freedom during periods of Nazi occupation and Communism.
Blessed John Paul II is extraordinary…His own life is a testimony to suffering embraced in order to love more.
Despite experiencing such darkness early in his life, Blessed John Paul II emerged as a joyful disciple of Christ, full of a deep love for all of humanity. This carried him through his pontificate, which held its own burdens. As he recovered from an attempt on his life, Blessed John Paul II responded with a smiling forgiveness.  And when he reached old age, he courageously faced the world even though sickness and death were upon him.
Blessed John Paul II fully embraced his afflictions, and he gave the Church a beautiful gift through his witness to suffering.

In an Apostolic Letter written after his recovery from the 1981 assassination attempt, Blessed John Paul II addressed the Christian meaning of human suffering. He wrote that through suffering, man shares in the redemptive power of the Passion and death of Christ. Suffering is love, and in it man finds his vocation: 
Suffering as it were contains a special call to the virtue which man must exercise on his own part. And this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintains in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, that it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity linked to awareness of the meaning of life.
Suffering works to “unleash love in the human person,” Blessed John Paul II wrote, and when Christians suffer, they do so in union with the Church. They are united with the Blessed Mother, and saints like Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and all of those who have been sanctified through their suffering.
Let’s follow Blessed John Paul II’s example and embrace our crosses during this penitential season of Lent, as we meditate upon Christ’s Passion and anticipate His resurrection.