Friday, January 31, 2014

The Patron Saint Of Young People

Today is a special feast day for those like Blessed John Paul II, who had a special place for young people in his heart. St. John Bosco, the saint we celebrate today, died in 1888 and was canonized in 1934 as the patron saint of young people. Blessed John Paul II especially admired the saint’s tireless efforts to educate and form young men, and he also repeated his words: “Young people should not only be loved, but should also know that they are loved.”

St. John Bosco, pray for us today on your feast, that our young people might know that they are loved.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Step Out Fearlessly

Have no fear of moving into the unknown.
Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you,
therefore no harm can befall you;
all is very, very well.
Do this in complete faith and confidence.

-Blessed John Paul II

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Digital Highway

In his message for World Communications Day released last week, Pope Francis challenged the faithful to “boldly become citizens of the digital world.”

The technological world of communications is making our world smaller, Pope Francis writes. Amidst the many divisions that exist in the human family, media can help us to feel closer and to embrace solidarity with one another. The internet enhances the “culture of encounter,” and so, according to the Holy Father, it is a gift from God.

Modern methods of communication do not come without their problems. Speed leaves little time for reflection, he writes. People can also be more selective of what media they subscribe to, and their desire for connectivity can isolate them from their neighbors.

This does not mean that all forms of media should be rejected, Pope Francis writes. If we approach the digital world with virtue, with a commitment to times for silence and times for listening, then we can grow in our communicating and use media tools for the good.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Proclaim The Gospel To Every Creature

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Inestimable Value of Human Life

Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage and an integral part of the entire unified process of human existence. It is a process which, unexpectedly and undeservedly, is enlightened by the promise and renewed by the gift of divine life, which will reach its full realization in eternity (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2). At the same time, it is precisely this supernatural calling which highlights the relative character of each individual's earthly life. After all, life on earth is not an "ultimate" but a "penultimate" reality; even so, it remains a sacred reality entrusted to us, to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.

-Blessed John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

Our hearts and prayers are with all of those at the March for Life today. May Blessed John Paul II pray for them, and that the “sacred reality” of life may be upheld and respected in our world today.

For pilgrims visiting Washington, D.C., see our special liturgical schedule for the week. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Unbreakable Alliance

In a marriage a man and a woman pledge themselves to one another in an unbreakable alliance of total mutual self-giving. A total union of love. Love that is not a passing emotion or temporary infatuation, but a responsible and free decision to bind oneself completely, “in good times and in bad,” to one’s partner. It is the gift of oneself to the other. It is a love to be proclaimed before the eyes of the whole world. It is unconditional.

Blessed John Paul II preached these words during his Apostolic Journey to Great Britain in 1982. The sanctity of marriage is something that the late Holy Father often promoted and communicated, due to modern cultural attacks on the family as well as the family’s importance in society and to the Church as a whole.

In that same homily, John Paul II said that, to be capable of married love “calls for careful preparation from early childhood to wedding day. It requires the constant support of Church and society throughout its development.” When he was Archbishop of Kraków, he responded to the Polish regime’s efforts to undermine marriage and family life by organizing intensive courses on marriage preparation and family life issues and spreading them throughout the Archdiocese. These courses were for clergy members and lay people alike. Even before that, Blessed John Paul II dedicated much of his time during his years as a priest working with young people in order to prepare them for marriage and family life.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Source

The undulating wood slopes down
to the rhythm of mountain streams....
If you want to find the source,
you have to go up, against the current,
tear through, seek, don't give up,
you know it must be somewhere here.
Where are you, source? Where are you, source?!

Stream, stream in the wood,
tell me the secret of your beginning!

(Silence—why are you silent?
How carefully you have hidden the secret of your beginning).

Allow me to wet my lips
in spring water,
to feel its freshness,
reviving freshness.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Plunged In God

Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, Archbishop of Kraków and former secretary to Blessed John Paul II, was recently interviewed about the late Holy Father and what it was like to work closely with him. He shared incredible stories about the Pope’s prayer life:

…the Holy Father never celebrated the Holy Mass without earlier morning preparation. He did this meditation for at least 15 minutes. And he never left after the Holy Mass without his thanksgiving. Besides – he did not talk with people before the Holy Mass. When we were going with visits or for celebrations, silence had to be before the Holy Mass, ‘silentium,’ concentration, he was getting prepared for a meeting with Lord during the Holy Mass. After the Holy Mass it was similar…

Indeed, as I said, the Holy Father used to look for secluded places for contact with God. From time to time we tried to give him an occasion to go away to spend time with nature. In the beginning he did not talk with people accompanying him, but he was plunged in God, admiring the Creator through creations. He was an artist, a man sensitive to beauty. The beauty of nature helped him to meet with God. Everybody who looked from a distance, not to disturb him, were under impression of his prayer and unity with God. 

When he was younger – because later his older age and illnesses came – [he] prayed a lot when lying in the form of the cross either on the floor of the chapel on Franciszkańska Street in Kraków or in Rome. We used to leave him discreetly, but we heard him speaking to God quietly – it was a dialogue with Eucharistic Christ. We heard him praying in the intention of problems, countries where he travelled, their inhabitants. After all he often repeated that the prayer, hands raised upwards are the most important action for the Pope.

Cardinal Dziwisz shares more about Blessed John Paul II’s prayer life and other activities in the interview. These stories speak to the humility and holiness of our beloved Holy Father, and they confirm that he truly lived as a member of the Communion of Saints. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Great Gift and Responsibility

                "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near" (Is 55,6).

These words from the second part of the Book of Isaiah…are an invitation to go more deeply into the meaning for us of today's Feast, the Baptism of the Lord.

In spirit let us return to the banks of the Jordan where John the Baptist administered a Baptism of repentance, exhorting to conversion. Coming up to the Precursor is Jesus, and with his presence he transformed that gesture of repentance into a solemn manifestation of his divinity. A voice suddenly comes from heaven:  "You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased" (Mk 1: 11) and, in the form of a dove, the Spirit descends upon Jesus.

In that extraordinary event, John saw realized what had been said about the Messiah born in Bethlehem, adored by the shepherds and the Magi. He was the very One foretold by the prophets, the beloved Son of the Father; we must seek him while he can be found and call upon him while he is at hand.

In Baptism every Christian personally meets him; he is inserted into the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection and receives a new life, which is the life of God. What a great gift and what a great responsibility!

                 -Homily of Blessed John Paul II for The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 2003

Saturday, January 11, 2014

These Young Friends

As we begin to wrap up Christmas decorations, finish those leftover cookies, and write the final thank you notes, many of us are grateful that the normal routine of Ordinary Time is here. Celebrating the Incarnation is something joyous that we all look forward to, but our celebrations carry with them much traveling, cooking, and work around the house. The adults are ready to move on.

Children, on the other hand, are less willing to wave goodbye to their favorite time of year. It’s not just going back to school that saddens them. Nor is it the fact that no gifts remain under the tree. There is something about the mystery, the comfort, and the joy of Christmas that they will miss singing in their hearts.

In his 1994 “Letter to Children,” Blessed John Paul II recognizes how special Christ’s birth is to young ones. It is “the feast day of a Child,” and so children know that it is their feast day too. He wrote:

In what happened to the Child of Bethlehem you can recognize what happens to children throughout the world. It is true that a child represents the joy not only of its parents but also the joy of the Church and the whole of society.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

And This Love Seeks You

…On God’s part, what is it that attracts Him? It is His love for us: we are His children, He loves us and He wants to free us from evil, from sicknesses, from death and take us to His House, in His Kingdom. “Out of pure grace, God attracts us, to unite us to Himself” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 112). And there is also love on our part, a desire: good always attracts us; truth attracts us; life, happiness, beauty attract us. Jesus is the meeting point of this reciprocal attraction, of this twofold movement. Jesus: He is God and man. God and man. But, who takes the initiative? It is always God! God’s love always comes before ours! He always takes the initiative. He waits for us, He invites us, the initiative is always His. Jesus is God who became man. He was incarnated and born for us. The new star that appeared to the Magi was the sign of the birth of Christ. If they had not seen the star, those men would not have set out. Light precedes us, truth precedes us, beauty precedes us. God precedes us. The prophet Isaiah said that God is like the flower of the almond tree. Why? Because the almond tree is the first to flower in that land. And God always precedes, He always seeks us first. He takes the first step. God precedes us always. His grace precedes us and this grace appeared in Jesus. He is the epiphany. He, Jesus Christ, is the manifestation of the love of God. He is with us.

The Church is altogether within this movement of God towards the world: her joy is the Gospel, it is to reflect the light of Christ. The Church is the people who have experienced this attraction and carry it within, in the heart and in life. “I would like -- sincerely -- to say to those who feel far from God and from the Church -- to say respectfully -- to say to those who are fearful and indifferent: the Lord calls you also, He calls you to be part of His people, and He does so with great respect and love!” (Ibid., 113). The Lord calls you. The Lord seeks you. The Lord waits for you. The Lord does not engage in proselytism, He gives love, and this love seeks you, waits for you, you who at this moment do not believe or are far away. And this is the love of God.

                -Pope Francis, Angelus Address, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

You Want To Be The Stone Floor

During the Second Vatican Council, young Bishop Karol Wojtyła learned much about the Church and her role in the world. During his time in Rome working with both Blessed John XXIII and Paul VI, he also reflected on the importance of the Office of Peter (the Office he would occupy shorty thereafter). Through poetry he expressed the fruits of these reflections:

In this place our feet meet the ground, on which were raised
so many walls and colonnades…if you don’t get lost in them but
                                    go on finding
unity and sense—
it is because She is leading you. She connects not only the
spaces of a
renaissance building, but also spaces In Us, 
who go ahead so very conscious of our weakness and disaster.
It is You, Peter. You want to be the Stone Floor, so that they will
pass over you
(going ahead, not knowing where), that they should go where you
                  lead their feet,
so that they should connect into one the spaces which through
                                    sight help the
thought to be born.
You want to be Him who serves the feet—like rock the hooves of
The rock is also the stone floor of the gigantic temple. The Pasture
is the cross.

Wojtyła would soon go on to “serve the feet” as Pope for nearly twenty-seven years.

As part of our countdown to the canonization of Blessed John Paul II, the Blessed John Paul II Shrine is spending the month reflecting on the late Holy Father’s time serving as bishop in Poland. Keep following us here and on our Facebook page for more stories about his life and legacy.

Poem is entitled “Stone Floor,” translated by George Weigel, Sister Emilia Ehrlich, OSU, and Marek Skwarnicki. From Wojtyła, Poezje i dramaty, p. 63. As presented in George Weigel's Witness to Hope, p. 157.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Papal Intentions For January

Pope Francis’s intention this month is for economic development, that “all may promote authentic economic development that respects the dignity of all peoples.” He also prays for Christian unity, that “Christians of diverse denominations may walk toward the unity desired by Christ.”

Let us pray with the Holy Father this month, that all may live in dignity and unity.