Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Your Sins Are Forgiven

The photograph on the left wall shows Saint John Paul II speaking with Mehmet
Ali Agca in his prison cell. The late Holy Father was convinced that
Mary's intercession saved his life after the assassination attempt in 1981.

Saint John Paul II was a man of great holiness. Our new permanent exhibit, A Gift of Love: The Life of Saint John Paul II, is filled with evidence of this. Like Christ, the late Holy Father inspired hope in others, he lead them, and he preached the Good News.

He also forgave. One of the most moving parts of our exhibit calls pilgrims to reflect upon the moment in which John Paul visited Mehmet Ali Ağca, the man who made an attempt on his life. During the Christmas octave 31 years ago, John Paul II reconciled with Ali Ağca, treating him as a person worthy of love and respect.

Let us ask the Christ child to give us the grace to be like Saint John Paul II this Christmastide, in reconciling ourselves with God and with others. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Prototype For All Families

Through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families—indeed, all the families in the world—to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.

On this solemnity of the Holy Family, please join us in saying this prayer as we prepare for the eighth World Meeting of Families.

Friday, December 26, 2014

St. Stephen, Pray for Us

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. His martyrdom is described in the first reading for today, and while it is a sad account, it is also appropriate to the joy of Christmastide. For Stephen’s death was actually a new birth, one made possible by the birth of Christ. As Saint John Paul II said on this day in 2003:

The Church calls the day of martyrdom a dies natalis (birthday). Indeed, by virtue of Christ's death and Resurrection, the death of the martyr is a birth in Heaven. This is why it is so meaningful to celebrate the First Martyr the day after Christmas: Jesus who was born in Bethlehem gave his life for us so that we too, reborn “from on high” through faith and Baptism, might be willing to give up our own lives for love of our brothers and sisters.

St. Stephen, please pray for us, that we may receive whatever grace we need to offer the gift of ourselves to God and others during this season of giving.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Good News Of Great Joy

Descendit de caelis Salvator mundi. Gaudeamus!

The Saviour of the world has come down from heaven. Let us rejoice!
This proclamation, filled with deep rejoicing,
echoed in the night of Bethlehem.
Today the Church renews it with unchanged joy:
the Saviour is born for us!
A wave of tenderness and hope fills our hearts,
together with an overpowering need for closeness and peace.
In the crib we contemplate the One
who stripped himself of divine glory
in order to become poor, driven by love for mankind.
Beside the crib the Christmas tree,
with its twinkling lights,
reminds us that with the birth of Jesus
the tree of life has blossomed anew in the desert of humanity.
The crib and the tree: precious symbols,
which hand down in time the true meaning of Christmas!

In the heavens there echoes the proclamation of the angels:
"To you is born in the city of David
a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11).
What wonder!
By being born in Bethlehem, the Eternal Son of God
has entered into the history of each person
living on the face of the earth.
He is now present in the world
as the one Saviour of humanity
For this reason we pray to him:
Saviour of the world, save us!

Save us from the great evils which rend humanity
in these first years of the third millennium.
Save us from the wars and armed conflicts
which lay waste whole areas of the world,
from the scourge of terrorism
and from the many forms of violence
which assail the weak and the vulnerable.
Save us from discouragement
as we face the paths to peace,
difficult paths indeed, yet possible and therefore necessary;
paths which are always and everywhere urgent,
especially in the Land where You were born,
the Prince of Peace.

And you, Mary, the Virgin of expectation and fulfillment,
who hold the secret of Christmas,
make us able to recognize in the Child
whom you hold in your arms the heralded Savior,
who brings hope and peace to all.
With you we worship him and trustingly say:
we need You, Redeemer of man,
You who know the hopes and fears of our hearts.
Come and stay with us, Lord!
May the joy of your Nativity reach
to the farthest ends of the universe!

The staff of the Saint John Paul II National Shrine wishes you and your families a blessed Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The One Who Comes

God is the “One who comes”: he came among us in the person of Jesus Christ; he comes again in the Church's sacraments and in every human being who asks our help; he will come in glory at the end of time. This is why Advent is marked by watchful and active expectation, nourished by love and hope, which expands into praise and supplication and is expressed in concrete works of fraternal charity.

Friday, December 19, 2014

According To His Promise

               My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant,
and from this day all generations will call me blessed.

The Almighty has done great things for me:
holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and has sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

The Church knows this prayer as the Canticle of Mary, the Magnificat. With these words, the Blessed Mother gives thanks to God for His gift of love to her and to all of Israel. For the child in her womb is the mercy, the strength, the fulfillment, and the help they had been waiting for.  

The Magnifcat is the perfect Advent prayer. As Saint John Paul II said, Mary’s “words convey the hope-filled expectation of the ‘poor of the Lord’ and at the same time an awareness that God has fulfilled his promises, for he ‘has remembered his mercy.’

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Take Time To Breathe

This past Sunday, Pope Francis reminded children gathered for the traditional “Bambinelli Blessing” to pray unceasingly. He said:

Prayer is the breath of the soul...It is important to find moments throughout the day to open the heart to God, even with the short and simple prayers of the Christian people.

The Church gives us Advent as a time to catch our breath, so that we may open ourselves to the God who is always coming for us. Let us heed Pope Francis’s advice then, and give moments to prayer each day as we prepare for Christmas.