Monday, April 30, 2012

The Church welcomes a new Blessed

Mother Maria Inés Teresa of the Most Blessed Sacrament was beatified in Mexico City a little over a week ago. Cardinal Angelo Amato, who represented Pope Benedict XVI at the beatification, said Blessed Maria Inés Teresa was “generous in work, fervent in prayer, humble, self-sacrificing and always ready to help.” The nun was founder of the Claretian Missionaries of the Most Holy Sacrament (1945) and of the Missionaries of Christ for the Universal Church (1979). Her work left 36 missionary houses in 14 different countries throughout the world. Blessed Maria Inés Teresa departed from this world on July 22, 1981 in Rome, a few months after being received by Blessed John Paul II.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

St. Gianna, the woman who did it all

The role of women in the Catholic Church is something we’ve discussed here before. There have been a number of criticisms over the years, but Blessed John Paul II helped us to see that the Church truly needs and appreciates the contribution of women. 

There is still unrest among women, though, especially those who are called to the married life. Some worry about holding a career while raising children, while others wonder if the challenges of their vocation can be sanctified.

In Him, it is always Yes—a woman can hold career, can be a good mother, and can also be a saint! Just look to St. Gianna Molla, who died on this day in 1962.

St. Gianna is often remembered as the mother who gave up her life to save her child. When she was pregnant with her third daughter, doctors discovered that Gianna had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before undergoing surgery, Gianna begged the surgeon to save her child’s life. After the surgery and throughout her pregnancy, she turned these pleadings to God. She insisted that He choose the child’s life over hers. And He did—Gianna Emanuela was born on the morning of April 21, and her mother died one week later, despite all efforts to save her. In the pain of death, St. Gianna repeated over and over, “Jesus, I love you.”

St. Gianna was 39 when she died, and she had been preparing for that moment of sacrifice her whole entire life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist

Today is the feast of St. Mark—fellow missionary to St. Paul, disciple of St. Peter, and founder of the church of Alexandria. Without his commitment to spreading the Word of God, we wouldn’t have the second book of the New Testament: The Gospel According to Mark.

St. Mark, who allowed the Holy Spirit to work through you and bring the story of Jesus’ life and resurrection to light for future generations, pray for us.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Religious Liberty at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

The theme for the 8th Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast this year was “Religious Liberty: Threatened at Home & Abroad.” The breakfast, held just a stone’s throw away from the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington D.C., featured an excellent lineup of speakers—Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations; Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; and Mother Agnes, Superior General of the Sisters of Life.

Mr. Anderson gave an especially powerful speech in which he encouraged American Catholics to stand together for religious liberty. “If we do so,” Anderson said, “then we will make possible the next great awakening in America that will bring us closer to building that culture of life and that civilization of love about which John Paul II so often spoke.”

Pope Benedict XVI spoke of another response to persecution last week during his Wednesday catechesis:
After the arrest and release of Peter and John, the community joined in prayer and “the place where they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (v. 31). This prayer shows the unity of the early community, which asks only to proclaim the word of God fearlessly in the face of persecution. It seeks to discern present events in the light of God’s saving plan and the fulfilment of prophecy in the mystery of Christ. It also begs God to accompany by his power the preaching of the Gospel. May this prayer of the early Church inspire our own prayer.
Let Catholics today unify, then, and pray for the strength and courage to proclaim God’s Word in the public square and truly build a culture of life and love.

What is the New Evangelization?

With all of this talk about the New Evangelization, you might find yourself asking, “What exactly is this New Evangelization about, anyway?” For an informative explanation and some solid resources to go along with it, check out the updated “New Evangelization” section of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine website.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Famous nuns make the news

This week The Washington Post profiled "a few famous nuns" on their website. Their list includes pictures and descriptions of inspiring religious women of our time, like Blessed Teresa of Kolkata and St. Katharine Drexel

It is affirming to see that even the secular media can recognize the incredible witness of these women who gave their lives over to Christ. 

Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, we ask for your intercession—so that we may be like these holy women who were and who are selfless witnesses for the world.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

We must obey God rather than men

Peter and the Apostles stood before the Sanhedrin. They again faced the jealous high priest who had thrown them into prison the night before. 
“We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name,” the high priest said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
The Apostles were not afraid. They replied: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5: 17-29).

We encounter these words in the first reading today, and they hold profound meaning for each and every one of us—we must obey God rather than men.

In this “world of men”—this culture—the option to obey God rather than men is often hidden behind a wall of distractions.

Just picture it: A young woman wakes up in the morning and immediately turns on the news to fill her mind as she drinks her coffee and prepares for the day. She puts her headphones in after locking the door, blasting music throughout the entire commute. She gets to work and immerses herself in it, filling up any breaks with texting and YouTube videos. At the end of the day she walks home to the same soundtrack, planning to spend the evening with her favorite shows.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The U.S. Bishops on Religious Freedom

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently came out with a strong statement on the Church in America and her commitment to religious liberty. Recent threats to religious liberty, such as the HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, call for serious concern and action from all American Catholics. Even Pope Benedict XVI commented on the American government’s violations of religious freedom, the “most cherished of American freedoms.”

The USCCB statement begins:
We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.
In the end, the bishops ask that all religious and lay faithful stand up for religious freedom and be bold in the face of unjust laws. They also call for “A Fortnight for Freedom,” a special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action from June 21 to July 4 “emphasizing both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.”

Please join the bishops in this urgent prayer for religious liberty:
Almighty God, Father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).
We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good.
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith documents now online

Last month the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith opened a new web domain ( The site still lies within the official website of the Holy See, which grants all of the faithful access to important documents the congregation has published since Vatican II. According to a communiqué by the congregation, the documents “deal with significant questions for the life and mission of the Church and give important doctrinal responses to the challenges of our times.” The hope is that easy access to these documents will help communicate Church teachings to people throughout the world.

This initiative fits right in with the upcoming Year of Faith and the Church’s commitment to the New Evangelization.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Viva La Papa!

We here at the Blessed John Paul II Shrine would like to wish Pope Benedict XVI a most happy and blessed 85th birthday. Viva La Papa!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jesus, I Trust in You

The Heart of Christ! His "Sacred Heart" has given men everything:  redemption, salvation, sanctification. St Faustina Kowalska saw coming from this Heart that was overflowing with generous love, two rays of light which illuminated the world. "The two rays", according to what Jesus himself told her, "represent the blood and the water" (Diary, p. 132). The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water, according to the rich symbolism of the Evangelist John, makes us think of Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3: 5; 4: 14).

Through the mystery of this wounded heart, the restorative tide of God's merciful love continues to spread over the men and women of our time. Here alone can those who long for true and lasting happiness find its secret.

"Jesus, I trust in you". This prayer, dear to so many of the devout, clearly expresses the attitude with which we too would like to abandon ourselves trustfully in your hands, O Lord, our only Saviour.

You are burning with the desire to be loved and those in tune with the sentiments of your heart learn how to build the new civilization of love. A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow, of doubt and desperation. The rays of your divine mercy restore hope, in a special way, to those who feel overwhelmed by the burden of sin.

-Blessed John Paul II, Homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2002
St. Faustina and Blessed John Paul II, Pray for Us!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jesus, Love and Mercy Personified

This coming weekend the Church celebrates “Divine Mercy Sunday.” On this special day, we will contemplate God's mysterious love in sending His only Son to die for us. We will contemplate the redemptive power of Jesus’ words and actions as He dwelt among us on Earth. And we will contemplate the message Jesus left with his faithful servant, St. Faustina Kowalska: “My daughter say that I am love and mercy personified” (Diary, p. 374).

Jesus called for the Divine Mercy devotion and feast through St. Faustina. During her canonization Mass in 2000, Blessed John Paul II announced that “Divine Mercy Sunday” will be celebrated throughout the Church each year on the Second Sunday of Easter. In its readings, “the liturgy seems to indicate the path of mercy which, while re-establishing the relationship of each person with God, also creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings,” the Holy Father said.

Blessed John Paul II had a beautifully powerful devotion to St. Faustina and to the Divine Mercy that Jesus chose to reveal through her. It may have been providential, then, that he passed away during the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter. The last gift the Holy Father left was the Regina Caeli message for Divine Mercy Sunday:

As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the Risen Lord offers his love that pardons, reconciles and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!
Blessed John Paul II was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday, only just a year ago.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blessed Calungsod and Blessed John Paul II

During Holy Week we passed a special day. April 2nd marks the death of two men who committed their whole lives to the Church and her mission on Earth.

The first is Blessed Pedro Calungsod, the 18-year-old Filipino martyr who was beatified by Blessed John Paul II in March 2000. Calungsod was about 15 when he left home for a foreign mission to Guam, and he died with Jesuit missionary Blessed Diego San Luis Vitores when opposition to missionary activities became increasingly violent there. Pope Benedict XVI recently announced that Blessed Calungsod will be canonized on October 21st of this year with six other new saints. He will be the Church’s second Filipino saint.

April 2nd also marked the 7th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s death. Listen here for stories about his life, and continue to follow his path to sainthood. We pray for his intercession every day here at the Blessed John Paul II Shrine, and we look forward to that time when the universal Church will celebrate the feast of his sainthood.

Blessed Pedro Calungsod and Blessed John Paul II, Pray for Us!

World Youth Days Everywhere in 2012

On Palm Sunday, the Church celebrated a diocesan-level World Youth Day. The WYD theme for 2012 was inspired by St. Paul’s words in his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4).  In his message for the occasion Pope Benedict XVI defined what it means to rejoice, to experience Christian joy:
Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in his hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to him. Show the world that this is true! 
Be enthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are suffering and those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow. Bring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplaces and your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious.
One way to experience this contagious joy is to attend World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. See here for an update on WYD Rio and how its co-patron, Blessed John Paul II, is inspiring those who are planning for the special event.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

We are an Easter people

I come to you as a servant of Jesus Christ, and I want to speak to you about him. Christ came to bring joy: joy to children, joy to parents, joy to families and to friends, joy to workers and to scholars, joy to the sick and to the elderly, joy to all humanity. In a true sense, joy is the keynote of the Christian message and the recurring motif of the Gospels. Recall the first words of the angel to Mary : "Rejoice, O full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Lk 1: 28). And at the birth of Jesus, the angels announced to the shepherds: "Listen, I bring you news of great joy, joy to be shared by all people" (Lk 2: 10). Years later as Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt, "the whole group of disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices. 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord' !" (Lk 19: 37-38) . We are told that some Pharisees in the crowd complained, saying : "Master, stop your disciples". But Jesus answered: "I tell you, if they were silent, the very stones would cry out" (Lk 19 :39-40).

Are not those words of Jesus still true today? If we are silent about the joy that comes from knowing Jesus, the very stones of our cities will cry out ! For we are an Easter people and "Alleluia" is our song. With Saint Paul I exhort you: "Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice" (Phil 4: 4).

-Blessed John Paul II, Address in Harlem, New York (1979)
Let us live out this Easter season with joy! We are an Easter people. Like Blessed John Paul II, let us live it and share the joy of Jesus Christ with the world.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Way of the Cross

They compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his Cross. (Mark 15:21)

Let us help Jesus carry His cross today. Take time to meditate upon Blessed John Paul II’s Way of the Cross.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Triduum Begins

Today we celebrate Holy Thursday, and we remember the beautiful moment when Jesus gave us the sustaining gift of Himself. We were given the Eucharist, the life of the Church. We were given a taste of Christ, a way to unite with Him in his suffering and death. Blessed John Paul II wrote of the Last Supper in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia:
The Upper Room was where this most holy Sacrament was instituted. It is there that Christ took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: “Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you” (cf. Mk 26:26; Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24). Then he took the cup of wine and said to them: “Take this, all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven” (cf. Mt 14:24; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25). I am grateful to the Lord Jesus for allowing me to repeat in that same place, in obedience to his command: “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), the words which he spoke two thousand years ago.

Did the Apostles who took part in the Last Supper understand the meaning of the words spoken by Christ? Perhaps not. Those words would only be fully clear at the end of the Triduum sacrum, the time from Thursday evening to Sunday morning. Those days embrace the myste- rium paschale; they also embrace the mysterium eucharisticum.

The Church was born of the paschal mystery. For this very reason the Eucharist, which is in an outstanding way the sacrament of the paschal mystery, stands at the centre of the Church's life. This is already clear from the earliest images of the Church found in the Acts of the Apostles: “They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42). The “breaking of the bread” refers to the Eucharist. Two thousand years later, we continue to relive that primordial image of the Church. At every celebration of the Eucharist, we are spiritually brought back to the paschal Triduum: to the events of the evening of Holy Thursday, to the Last Supper and to what followed it.
Let us draw life from the Eucharist this Holy Thursday, and remember Christ as he prepares for his passion and death.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To bury the dead

From the moment when man, as a result of sin, was driven away from the Tree of Life (cf. Gen 3:23-24), the earth became a burial ground. With as many burial places as there are men. A great planet of tombs.

Close to Calvary there was a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (cf. Mt 27:60). In it, with Joseph's consent, the body of Jesus was placed after being taken down from the Cross (cf. Mk 15:42-46 ff.). They laid it there in haste, so that the burial might be completed before the feast of Passover (cf. Jn 19:31), which began at sunset.

In one of the countless tombs scattered all over the continents of this planet of ours the Son of God, the man Jesus Christ, conquered death with death. O mors! Ero mors tua! (First Antiphon of Morning Prayer for Holy Saturday). The Tree of Life from which man was banished as a result of sin is set before mankind anew in the body of Christ. "If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever, and the bread which I shall give for the life of the word is my flesh" (Jn 6:51).

Though our planet is constantly being filled with fresh tombs, though the cemetery in which man, who comes from dust and returns to dust (cf. Gen 3:19), is always growing, nonetheless all who gaze upon the tomb of Jesus Christ live in the hope of the Resurrection.

-Meditation from Blessed John Paul II’s Way of the Cross at the Colosseum (2003)
Blessed John Paul II, through your intercession may we live like Christ as we approach the time of His passion and death.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

To visit the imprisoned

Are you perhaps still standing idle in the market place because no one has called you to work? The vineyard of Christian Charity is short of workers; the Church is calling you to it. Do not wait until it is too late to help Christ in prison or without clothing, Christ persecuted or a refugee, Christ who is hungry or without a roof. Help our brothers and sisters who lack the bare necessities to escape from inhuman conditions and to reach true human advancement.
-Blessed John Paul II, Message for Lent (1979)
Blessed John Paul II, through your intercession may we live like Christ as we approach the time of His passion and death.

Monday, April 2, 2012

To visit the sick

Thanks to the contribution of science and medicine, one sees in society today a lengthening of the human life span and a subsequent increase in the number of elderly. This demands a more specific attention to the world of so-called "old" age, in order to help its members to live their full potential by placing them at the service of the entire community. The care of the elderly, above all when they pass through difficult moments, must be of great concern to all the faithful, especially in the ecclesial communities of Western societies, where the problem is particularly present.

Human life is a precious gift to be loved and defended in each of its stages. The Commandment, "You shall not kill!", always requires respecting and promoting human life, from its beginning to its natural end. It is a command that applies even in the presence of illness and when physical weakness reduces the person's ability to be self-reliant. If growing old, with its inevitable conditions, is accepted serenely in the light of faith, it can become an invaluable opportunity for better comprehending the Mystery of the Cross, which gives full sense to human existence.

The elderly need to be understood and helped in this perspective. I wish, here, to express my appreciation to those who dedicate themselves to fulfilling these needs, and I also call upon other people of good will to take advantage of Lent for making their own personal contribution. This will allow many elderly not to think of themselves as a burden to the community, and sometimes even to their own families, living in a situation of loneliness that leads to the temptation of isolating themselves or becoming discouraged.

-Blessed John Paul II, Message for Lent (2005)
Blessed John Paul II, through your intercession may we live like Christ as we approach the time of His passion and death.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

To shelter the homeless

Many passages in the Bible highlight the duty to help the homeless.
In the Old Testament, the Torah teaches that strangers and the homeless in general, inasmuch as they are exposed to all sorts of dangers, deserve special concern from the believer. Indeed, God clearly and repeatedly recommends hospitality and generosity towards the stranger (cf. Dt 24:17-18, 10:18-19; Num 15:15; etc.), reminding Israel of how precarious its own existence had once been. Later, Jesus identified himself with the homeless: "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Mt 25:35), and taught that charity towards those in this situation will be rewarded in heaven. The Lord's Apostles urge the various communities which they had founded to show hospitality to one another, as a sign of communion and the newness of their life in Christ.
It is from God's own love that Christians learn to help the needy and to share with them their own material and spiritual goods. Such concern not only provides those experiencing hardship with material help but also represents an opportunity for the spiritual growth of the giver, who finds in it an incentive to detachment from worldly goods. But there is a higher motivation which Christ indicated to us by his own example when he said: "The Son of man has no where to lay his head" (Mt 8:20). By these words the Lord wished to show his total openness to his Heavenly Father, whose will he was determined to carry out without letting himself be hindered by the possession of worldly goods: for there is always a danger that earthly realities will take the place of God in the human heart…
…The Gospel call to be close to Christ who is "homeless" is an invitation to all the baptized to examine their own lives and to treat their brothers and sisters with practical solidarity by sharing their hardships. By openness and generosity, as a community and as individuals, Christians can serve Christ present in the poor, and bear witness to the Father's love. In this journey Christ goes before us. His presence is a source of strength and encouragement: he sets us free and makes us witnesses of Love.
-Blessed John Paul II, Message for Lent (1997)

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