Friday, June 29, 2012

Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul, Apostles

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Ps 116:15).
With these words of Psalm 116 allow me to begin today's meditation, which I wish to dedicate to the memory of the Holy Founders and Patrons of the Roman Church. In fact the solemn day of 29 June is approaching, in which the whole Church, but especially Rome, will remember the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. This day has been consolidated in the memory of the Roman Church as the day of their death. The day that united them with the Lord, whose Coming they awaited, whose Law they observed, and from whom they received "the crown of life" (cf. 2 Tim 4:7-8; Gal 1:12).
The day of death was for them the beginning of the New Life. The Lord himself revealed this beginning to them with his own resurrection, to which they became witnesses by means of their words and their works, and also by means of their death. Everything together: the words, the works, and the death of Simon of Bethsaida, whom the Lord called Peter, and of Saul of Tarsus, who after his conversion was called Paul, is, as it were, the complement of Christ's Gospel, its penetration into the history of mankind, into the history of the world, and also into the history of this City. And really there is matter for meditation in these days, which the Lord, by means of the death of his Apostles, permits us to fill with a special memory of their lives.
"Felix per omnes festum mundi cardines / apostolorum praepollet alacriter, / Petri beati, Pauli sacratissimi, Quos Christus almo consecravit sanguine, / ecclesiarum deputavit principes" (Hymnus ad officium lectionis).
"There shines forth in all places of the world / the happy solemnity of the Apostles, / of blessed Peter and holy Paul, / whom Christ consecrated with fruitful blood / and assigned as heads of the churches" (Hymn at the Office of Readings).
-Blessed John Paul II, General Audience June 27, 1979
As we celebrate the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, let us pray for the courage to live the Gospel and present its message to the world.
SS. Peter and Paul, pray for us and our Church!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Working towards the October Synod

On this day in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI renewed the Church’s call to the New Evangelization. In his homily for the first vespers Mass on the solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul, he recounted:
Pope John Paul II represented the Church's missionary nature "in the flesh" with his Apostolic Journeys and with the insistence of his Magisterium on the urgent need for a "new evangelization": "new" not in its content but in its inner thrust, open to the grace of the Holy Spirit which constitutes the force of the new law of the Gospel that always renews the Church; "new" in ways that correspond with the power of the Holy Spirit and which are suited to the times and situations; "new" because of being necessary even in countries that have already received the proclamation of the Gospel.
…There are regions of the world that are still awaiting a first evangelization; others that have received it, but need a deeper intervention; yet others in which the Gospel put down roots a long time ago, giving rise to a true Christian tradition but in which, in recent centuries with complex dynamics the secularization process has produced a serious crisis of the meaning of the Christian faith and of belonging to the Church.
…Dear Brothers and Sisters, the challenge of the new evangelization calls into question the universal Church and asks us to continue with commitment our search for full Christian unity.
This commitment to the new evangelization has become one of the highlights of Pope Benedict’s pontificate. He established the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization in 2010, and he set the theme for the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops—“The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

St. Josemaría Escrivá, Pray for Us!

St Josemaría was chosen by the Lord to announce the universal call to holiness and to point out that daily life and ordinary activities are a path to holiness. One could say that he was the saint of ordinary life. In fact, he was convinced that for those who live with a perspective of faith, everything is an opportunity to meet God, everything can be an incentive for prayer. Seen in this light, daily life reveals an unexpected greatness. Holiness is truly within everyone’s reach.
-Blessed John Paul II, Address in Praise of St. Josemaría Escrivá Founder of Opus Dei
St. Josemaría Escrivá, canonized by Blessed John Paul II, on this day of your feast we ask you to intercede for us, that we may live with a perspective of faith and meet God in everything that we do.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI calls for an end to violence

Last week Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to violence in both Nigeria and Syria. Let us send up prayers for our brothers and sisters in those countries, especially for Archbishop Abdo Arbach, who was recently elected Archbishop of the Greek Melkite Metropolitan Archdiocese of Homs, Hama, and Yabroud in Syria.
As Pope Benedict said during his general audience last week, prayer is the surest guide for life’s troubles. Let us remember this as we pray for those suffering around the world, and let us remember that God is always good, always listening, and always merciful.

US Bishops look to New Media for New Evangelization

Bishop John Wester, Chair of the Communications Committee for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gave an address at the General Assembly two weeks ago about the importance of keeping up with new media in the age of a new evangelization.
Truth and Tradition have not changed, but the Catholic Church is behind the times when it comes to technology. Many Church documents are difficult to find on the internet, Bishop Wester said, and people struggle to make online donations and search for Church communities. He continued:
We cannot meet these challenges—and the ones around the corner—without embracing a culture of innovation and experimentation in communications. This can not be overemphasized. The new platforms of communications are continually shifting. Who knew, just two years ago, that "iPad" would become such a common household term?
Historically, the church has patiently waited for new technologies to settle in to people's normal rhythms. We do not have that luxury today.
Bishop Wester identified three paths the USCCB is taking to best facilitate the new evangelization using the new world of communications:
·         Identifying and sharing the overall best communication practices
·         Developing digital content that meets the needs of different audiences
·         Striving to build a culture of innovation with digital communications

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Happy Birthday to John the Baptist!

“And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High." (Lk 1:17.)
These words speak of today's Saint. With these words the priest Zechariah greeted his own son, after having regained the power of speech. With these words he greeted his son, to whom, by his will and to the surprise of the whole family, he gave the name John. Today the Church recalls these events, celebrating the solemnity of the birth of St John the Baptist.
It could also be called the day of the call of John, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth of Ain-Karim, to be the last prophet of the Old Covenant; to be the Messenger and immediate Forerunner of the Messiah: Jesus Christ.
For he, who comes into the world in such unusual circumstances, already brings the divine call with him. This call comes from the plan of God himself, from his salvific love, and it is written in the man's history right from the first moment of conception in his mother's womb. All the circumstances of this conception, as well as the circumstances of John's birth at Ain-Karim, indicate an unusual call.
…We know that John the Baptist answered this call with his whole life. We know that he remained faithful to it until his last breath. And he breathed his last in prison by order of Herod, as a result of the wish of Salome who acted on the instigation of her revengeful mother Herodias.
…God has written the mystery of this call in the heart of each of you. We can repeat with the Prophet: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." (Jer 31:3.)
-Blessed John Paul II, homily at 1979 priestly ordination in St. Peter’s Basilica
As we celebrate the solemnity of the birth of St. John the Baptist, let us pray for the courage to follow the call written in each of our own hearts.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

Friday, June 22, 2012

SS. John Fisher and Thomas More, Pray for Us!

In 1982, Blessed John Paul II went on an apostolic journey to Great Britain. This was the first time in history that a Bishop of Rome had ever set foot on English soil. In a homily given during his visit, John Paul II said that he was deeply moved by this thought and that he was happy to finally celebrate Mass in this country with “a tradition embedded in the history of Christian civilization.”
This history was built by outstanding members of the Church, two of whom John Paul II recognized specifically:
John Fisher, the Cambridge scholar of Renaissance learning, became Bishop of Rochester. He is an example to all Bishops in his loyalty to the faith and in his devoted attention to the people of his diocese, especially the poor and the sick. Thomas More was a model layman living the Gospel to the full. He was a fine scholar and an ornament to his profession, a loving husband and father, humble in prosperity, courageous in adversity, humorous and godly. Together they served God and their country - Bishop and layman. Together they died, victims of an unhappy age. Today we have the grace, all of us, to proclaim their greatness and to thank God for giving such men to England.
Both St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More were “victims of an unhappy age,” indeed. In 1535, both were beheaded because they resisted in the matter of King Henry’s VIII’s divorce. We should be inspired by their courage, especially during a time when Americans can no longer take their right to religious liberty for granted.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Springtime in the Church

It‘s hot out! Things around the Blessed John Paul II Shrine are steaming, and the Washington DC community is preparing for 100 degree weather today. Summer is officially here.
As we sadly say goodbye to spring, it is heartening to remember that the Church’s springtime is still with us, and that it gets more beautiful every day. Blessed John Paul II was the first to notice this “promising” and “hope-filled” springtime. During his pontificate, he observed increased parish activity and bustling religious communities. He joyfully noted that this newfound energy revealed “the power of God’s love which in overcoming divisions and barriers of every kind, renews the face of the earth to build the civilization of love.”
In his 1998 message for the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, Blessed John Paul II said:
From the beginning of my Pontificate, I have given special importance to the progress of ecclesial movements, and I have had the opportunity to appreciate the results of their widespread and growing presence during my pastoral visits to parishes and my apostolic journeys…They represent one of the most significant fruits of that springtime in the Church which was foretold by the Second Vatican Council, but unfortunately has often been hampered by the spread of secularization. Their presence is encouraging because it shows that this springtime is advancing and revealing the freshness of the Christian experience based on personal encounter with Christ. Even in the diversity of their forms, these movements are marked by a common awareness of the "newness" which baptismal grace brings to life, through a remarkable longing to reflect on the mystery of communion with Christ and with their brethren, through sound fidelity to the patrimony of the faith passed on by the living stream of Tradition. This gives rise to a renewed missionary zeal which reaches out to the men and women of our era in the concrete situations where they find themselves, and turns its loving attention to the dignity, needs and destiny of each individual.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Communion of Marriage and Family

Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, gave an incredible address at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland last week. As a husband and a father, he spoke on the theme of Exploring and Celebrating the Communion of Marriage and Family.
“It is easy to see that the Eucharist is central to the life of a priest,” Anderson said. “But it is no less central and vital to the life of a lay person. Without the Eucharist, our communion with others is cut off from what sanctifies it, for ‘it is through the Eucharist that Christ guides our lives and builds our communities of love, understanding and mercy.’”
For more on how the Eucharist sanctifies the family and helps build a “civilization of love,” read the full testimony here.

Pope Benedict comments on airports and soccer

We are called to live out our Christian faith in every aspect of our lives—no matter where we are or what we’re doing. Pope Benedict XVI solidified this point last week, as he commented on two unique topics.
…team sport, such as football, is an important school for teaching a sense of respect for others including opponents, the spirit of personal sacrifice with a view to the good of the whole group, the enhancement of gifts of each person, who is a member of the team; in a word, how to overcome the logic of individualism and selfishness which often characterizes human relationships, in order to make room for the logic of brotherhood and love, which alone can enable the promotion — at all levels — of the true common good.
Dear friends, always be conscious that you are called to embody in the world’s airports the Church’s mission of bringing God to man and leading man to the encounter with God…Be assured that even in chance encounters, people are able to recognize a man of God, and that often a small seed falling on good soil can bring forth abundant fruit.
All that we do with our time, even in sport, has the power to sanctify us. Pope Benedict beautifully makes this point, reminding us to live out Christ’s witness, recognizing man’s dignity in every encounter that we have.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Mother of Christ, let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption: the power of merciful Love! May it put a stop to evil! May it transform consciences! May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of hope!

-Blessed John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 2 April 1984, p. 10

Blessed John Paul II often entrusted members of the Church and their needs to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us do the same today on her feast!

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Friday, June 15, 2012

May Thy priests be faithful guardians of Thy Church

May Thy priests be faithful guardians of Thy Church, as John was of Mary, whom he received into his house. Taught by this loving Mother who suffered so much on Calvary, may they display a mother’s care and thoughtfulness towards Thy children. May they teach souls to enter into close union with Thee through Mary who, as the Gate of Heaven, is specially the guardian of the treasures of Thy Divine Heart.

-St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which means it is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of the Clergy. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who was proclaimed a Doctor of the Universal Church by Blessed John Paul II in 1997, prayed especially for priests during her brief time here on Earth. All members of the Church are encouraged to do the same—to pray especially for the sanctity of our priests, our shepherds in the faith.

In a letter to priests from the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza stresses that priests must be “ministers of sanctification.” He writes:

This is our wonderful destiny: we cannot be sanctified without working on the holiness of our brothers, and we cannot work on the holiness of our brothers unless we have first worked on and continue to work on our own holiness.

We are greatly affected by the holiness of our priests—we go to them for the Sacraments, for guidance, and for help in times of need. Unfortunately, the faults of just one priest can drive people away from the Church and bring shame upon the entire priesthood. In his 2002 Letter to Priests, Blessed John Paul II addressed this issue in light of recent scandals amongst the clergy:

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us

Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Blessed John Paul II was particularly fascinated by the Mystery of the Divine Heart—the gentle and lowly heart of Jesus which poured forth blood and water as a fountain of mercy for us.
One way to meditate upon the “riches of the Heart of Christ,” is by praying the beautiful litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pray it here today. And perhaps make this prayer a part of your daily devotion, especially during the month of June, which is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 
                                                 Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

St. Anthony of Padua, Pray for Us!

Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you may look at the Cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal. If you look closely, you will be able to realize how great your human dignity and your value are.... Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the Cross can man better understand how much he is worth.

-St. Anthony of Padua, Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, pp. 213-214.

St. Anthony of Padua, on this feast day of yours, please intercede for us, that we may see Christ as you do and that we may understand our own worth.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to be a leader in the Church

Fr. Gregory Gresko, Chaplain of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine, gave a fantastic homily for the opening Mass of the Knights of Columbus State Deputies meeting last week. He said:

Both now and during the upcoming Year of Faith, it is vital that Christian leaders strengthen the brethren in the truths of our Faith, through prayerful sacrifice of time and effort in service to God and neighbor, while embracing a joyful, hope-filled spirit of faithful love…If we respond with fully open hearts to the Lord’s calling us to be holy, we will become authentic Christian leaders who, grounded first in ever deepening communion with God, will become new members of the great Communion of Saints by the end of the race that is life, having brought the presence of God to each person we encounter in spirit and in Truth.

The whole homily is worth the read, especially for lay men and fathers looking to become better leaders in the Church.

Adoring our King

In his homily for Corpus Christi, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the topic of Adoration—a practice which has been discredited by some Catholics as ritualistic and a distraction from the importance of the Mass.

Spending time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is “one of the most authentic experiences of our being in church,” he said. And in order to enter into true communion with our King, we must exchange glances with Him and give Him “intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration.” Adoring the Blessed Sacrament gives the celebration of the Mass a fuller meaning, and that is why giving Him time in silence and in processions is so important–we better understand Who and What we are receiving when we approach the table. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes Blessed John Paul II’s words on this topic:

The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.

Let us make a commitment, then, to adore our King in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us also pray for the success and fruitfulness of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. Ireland needs the healing power of the Eucharist.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Church draws her life from the Eucharist

"As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (I Cor 11: 26).
With these words St Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth that the "Lord's Supper" is not only a convivial meeting but also, and above all, the memorial of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. Those who take part in it, the Apostle explains, are united with the mystery of the death of the Lord, and indeed, "proclaim" him.
Thus, there is a very close relationship between "building the Eucharist" and proclaiming Christ. At the same time, entering into communion with him in the memorial of Easter also means becoming missionaries of the event which that rite actualizes; in a certain sense, it means making it contemporary with every epoch, until the Lord comes again.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are reliving this wonderful reality in today's Solemnity of Corpus Christi, during which the Church does not only celebrate the Eucharist but solemnly bears it in procession, publicly proclaiming that the Sacrifice of Christ is for the salvation of the whole world.
Grateful for this immense gift, her members gather round the Blessed Sacrament, for that is the source and summit of her being and action. Ecclesia de Eucharistia vivit! The Church draws her life from the Eucharist and knows that this truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery in which she consists (cf. Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucaristia, n. 1).
-Homily of Blessed John Paul II, Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ 2004
On this solemnity of Corpus Christi, let us join Pope Benedict XVI in praying for his general intention, “that believers may recognize in the Eucharist the living presence of the Risen One who accompanies them in daily life.”

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our First and Most Precious Freedom

Shouldn’t a widow be allowed to hold a Christian burial for her veteran husband? Shouldn’t a man be able to choose a health care plan that doesn’t violate his religious beliefs? And shouldn’t timeless religious memorials be allowed to stand?
One would think. But in a country founded on religious liberty, the government now says “no” in every single one of those situations.
This is why our U.S. Bishops have called upon American Catholics to use our voices, our votes, and our prayers to fight for our first and most cherished freedom.
Two weeks ago, 43 Catholic institutions filed 12 separate lawsuits challenging the federal government’s healthcare rule. The Archdiocese of Washington is one of those institutions, and the Archbishop of Washington, His Eminence, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, gave a clear and powerful explanation of why they are suing:
[The] mandate, issued in February by the Department of Health and Human Services… requires religious organizations to provide health-care coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, even if their faith teaches that those drugs and procedures are wrong. That is what has prompted the Archdiocese of Washington to go to court to protect our First Amendment right to practice our religion without government interference.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pope’s Missionary Intention for June

Pope Benedict’s missionary intention for the month if June is “that Christians in Europe may rediscover their true identity and participate with greater enthusiasm in the proclamation of the Gospel.”

Now more than ever, Europe is in need of new saints. In 1985, Blessed John Paul II expressed this to the European bishops. He said:
…heralds of the Gospel are needed who are expert in humanity, profoundly knowing the heart of contemporary man, who share his joys and hopes, his fears and sorrows, and, at the same time, who are contemplatives in love with God…the saints were the great evangelizers of Europe. We must pray the Lord to increase the spirit of holiness in the Church and to send saints to evangelize the contemporary world.
Let us join the Pope, then, in praying for European Christians. We pray especially for the intercession of Mary, Star of the New Evangelization.

Drum roll please…

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Church will be welcoming in two new Doctors this fall. St. John of Avila, a young diocesan priest of the Spanish Renaissance, and St. Hildegard of Bingen, a Benedictine nun of the German Middle Ages, will be proclaimed Doctors of the Universal Church this October—just in time for the Year of Faith!

During his announcement, the Holy Father said:

The grace of the Holy Spirit enabled them to experience profound understanding of divine revelation and intelligent dialogue with the world, two factors which represent the perennial goal of the life and activity of the Church.
 St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen, pray for us.

Pope Benedict XVI addresses the importance of families

Thousands of families from throughout the world came together for the seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan last week. Pope Benedict XVI delivered a beautiful homily at the closing Mass yesterday—it’s definitely worth checking out. The Holy Father said:
Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the world.
The family is the foundation of the Christian culture, Pope Benedict said, and the self-giving love between husbands, wives, and their children emanates throughout our broken society. The healing, transformative power of the Christian family is an important part of the New Evangelization.

One of the most exciting pieces of news from the World Meeting of Families is that the next meeting will take place in Philadelphia. Mark your calendars for 2015!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Holy Trinity Sunday - so much to celebrate!

Some years it’s difficult to transition from Easter to ordinary time. Our hearts get so used to celebrating, that it’s hard for them to slow down the pace and find excitement in normalcy. It’s nice, then, that the Church gives us some feast days after Pentecost, so we can ease our way back into ordinary liturgies with ordinary vestments and ordinary altar flowers.

We are blessed to celebrate one of those feast days today—Holy Trinity Sunday. Blessed John Paul II explained its significance during his Angelus for the solemnity in 2003:
This Sunday which follows Pentecost we celebrate the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity. The Triune nature of God is the principal mystery of the Catholic faith. With it, we come to the end of the journey of revelation which Jesus fulfilled through his Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection. From the summit of the "holy mountain" which is Christ, we contemplate the first and last horizon of the universe and of history: the Love of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
God is not solitude, but perfect communion. From God being communion derives the vocation of all humanity to form the one great family in which the various races and cultures meet one another and are reciprocally enriched (cf. Acts 17: 26).
Today we celebrate this “perfect communion,” this union of the Trinity which is ceaselessly praised in our liturgy and in our prayers. When we make the sign of the Cross, when we repeat the Glory Be, and when we profess the Apostles’ Creed—we glorify the Trinity, the central mystery of the Catholic faith. As Blessed John Paul II once exclaimed: