Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Liberating Road Of Conversion

Do you feel closer to God now than you did at the beginning of Lent? If not, there’s still time during this Holy Week. There is still time to allow His grace to draw you closer to Him.

Why should this be done? Well, as Saint John Paul II said in his 1982 Message for Lent:

If there is still some distance between God and ourselves, that can only be due to us and to the obstacles we place in the way of this coming close: the sin which is in our heart, the injustices that we commit, the hatred and divisions that we foster, everything that still prevents us from loving God with all our heart and our strength. The time of Lent is the special time for purification and penance, so as to allow our Savior to make us his neighbor and save us by his love.

The Church celebrates the Resurrection in six days, and in order to feel the joy of Easter we must realize how much we need a Savior. We must realize how empty we are without the risen Christ. In order to share in the overwhelming happiness experienced by the Apostles, we must undergo a conversion that leads our hearts to the Messiah!

“Penance, conversion: this is the road to follow; not a sad one, but a liberating one suggested by the Lenten period,” John Paul II wrote. Let us experience the freedom of conversion this Holy Week, as we travel with Christ from Calvary to the Resurrection.

St. John Paul II, Pray for Us!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pray For Consecrated Religious Today

Living “in obedience, with nothing of one's own and in chastity,” consecrated persons profess that Jesus is the model in whom every virtue comes to perfection. His way of living in chastity, poverty and obedience appears as the most radical way of living the Gospel on this earth, a way which may be called divine, for it was embraced by him, God and man, as the expression of his relationship as the Only-Begotten Son with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. This is why Christian tradition has always spoken of the objective superiority of the consecrated life. Nor can it be denied that the practice of the evangelical counsels is also a particularly profound and fruitful way of sharing in Christ's mission, in imitation of the example of Mary of Nazareth, the first disciple, who willingly put herself at the service of God's plan by the total gift of self. Every mission begins with the attitude expressed by Mary at the Annunciation: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

-Saint John Paul II, Vita Consecrata

During this Year of Consecrated Life, let us pray for all of those men and women living the evangelical counsels, that they might continue to share in the “Yes” of Mary that we celebrate today.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Love Is Not Resentful

Saint John Paul II forgives Mehmet Ali Ağca, the man who made an attempt on his life.
(CNS photo / Arturo Mari, L'Osservatore Romano)

As we’ve said here before, Lent is a time for conversion. It is therefore an “appropriate time for a profound re-examination of life,” Saint John Paul II wrote in his 2001 Message for Lent. The Lord gives us this opportunity to draw closer to Him, and so we must look closely at ourselves in order to see what’s holding us back.

One of those things that might be inhibiting us from reconciliation with Christ is our own refusal to reconcile our differences with others. Yet, forgiveness is the only path to peace in our relationships. And so it is the only path to peace in our relationship with God. Saint John Paul II wrote:

Forgiveness given and received enables a new kind of relationship among people, breaking the spiral of hatred and revenge and shattering the chains of evil, which bind the hearts of those in conflict with one another.

Now reconciling with others is no easy feat. This step towards conversion cannot be taken unless that conversion has already begun, with the grace of God as its guide. As the sainted pontiff wrote, one must trust in God as the Lord’s disciples did:

Brothers and sisters! In commenting upon the Lord’s teaching as he journeys to Jerusalem, Saint John Chrysostom recalls that Christ does not leave the disciples ignorant of the struggles and sacrifices that await them. Jesus stresses that it is hard but not impossible to renounce oneself when one can count on God’s help bestowed on us “through communion with the person of Christ.”

With God’s help and with a “fresh experience of his mercy,” giving and receiving forgiveness is possible, no matter how much hurt there is. God’s grace makes it easier to apologize, to accept an apology, to confess, and to accept forgiveness. And in these moments of reconciliation, there is so much peace. There is so much love!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

St. Joseph, Most Just, Pray for Us!

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.

May St. Joseph obtain for the Church and for the world, as well as for each of us, the blessing of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Jubilee Of Mercy

Last Friday, Pope Francis announced an extraordinary Jubilee dedicated to Divine Mercy. This Holy Year will begin on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception this coming December, and it will end on November 20, 2016—the Sunday we celebrate Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

The theme for this Jubilee Year comes from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, in which St. Paul names God as “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). Pope Francis challenges us to believe that this mercy is for us. He also challenges us to share it with others:

The call of Jesus pushes each of us never to stop at the surface of things, especially when we are dealing with a person. We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house that welcomes all and refuses no one. Its doors remain wide open, so that those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness. The greater the sin, so much the greater must be the love that the Church expresses toward those who convert.

Saint John Paul II led the Church through two Jubilee Years, in 1983 and 2000. Let us ask him and the Mother of Mercy to pray for the Church as she prepares to embark on this Holy Year.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sharing Your Lenten Hope

Saint John Paul II reaches out to an ailing man as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta looks on during the pontiff's 1986 visit  to Calcutta.
(CNS photo / Artuo Mari)

Lent is a time of hope. It may not seem like it, but hope has actually been a part of those moments of denial you’ve experienced so far. Remember when you said “no” to that meatball sub last Friday? Or when you spent that extra five minutes with a friend in need? Or perhaps when you prayed a Rosary before going to sleep, even though you were dead tired? In all of those moments, you joined the Lord in the desert, denying yourself of something convenient and comfortable. You instead relied on God for your comfort, allowing Him to draw closer to you and fill you with hope.

In his 1998 Message for Lent, Saint John Paul II challenged the faithful to share this Lenten hope with others. Not only do we come to hope more profoundly in the Lord during this sparser time, but we also become more capable of sharing this hope with those in need. John Paul II wrote: “For a Christian the desert journey represents a personal experience of inadequacy before God, thereby becoming more sensitive to the presence of the poor.”

Jesus Himself became poor so that we might become rich (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). We too can live in solidarity with the poor this Lent, and so come to understand their plight. We can come to understand both their material and spiritual needs. We can see Christ in them! And through serving these poor, St. John Paul II writes, “the light of hope will again be ignited for many people. When with Christ the Church serves the person in need, she opens hearts to a new hope going beyond evil and suffering, beyond sin and death.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Hours Of Operation And Liturgical Schedule

Did you see our new schedule? The Saint John Paul II National Shrine is opening its doors more often throughout the week and is inviting pilgrims to an increasing number of liturgical and devotional events. The most notable change includes the expanded weekend operations, which allows us to serve the large number of weekend pilgrimages organized by parishes, councils, and dioceses.

Check out the new schedule on our site, and please pray about making a pilgrimage in the near future!

Saint John Paul II, Pray for Us!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Pleasing Sacrifice To God

This morning we remember Blessed Elías del Socorro Nieves, who was martyred on this day in 1928 and beatified by Saint John Paul II in 1997. Padre Nieves defied an order from the Mexican government to leave his town of ministry. After spending 14 months living in a cave and ministering by night, he was arrested and shot. 

Before Padre Nieves died, his murderer said, “Let’s see if dying is anything like saying Mass.” To this, the martyr answered, “You are speaking the truth. To die for our religion is a pleasing sacrifice to God.”

In his homily for the beatification of this holy man, St. John Paul II said:

The life and martyrdom of Fr. Nieves, who did not want to abandon his faithful despite the risks he was taking, are in themselves an invitation to renew faith in God who can do everything. He faced death with fortitude, blessing his executioners and witnessing to his faith in Christ. The Church in Mexico today has a new and a powerful intercessor who will help her to renew her Christian life; his Augustinian brothers have one more example to imitate in their constant search for God in fraternity and in service to the People of God; for the whole Church he is an eloquent example of the fruits of holiness which the power of God’s grace produced in him.

Blessed Elías del Socorro Nieves, you were a man filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and these gifts prepared you for martyrdom. Please pray for us today, that we might be like you in imitating God’s perfect sacrifice.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Give Without Pay

In his 2002 Message for Lent, Saint John Paul II challenged the Church with the Lord’s words: “‘You received without paying, give without pay’” (Mt 10:8). “The heavenly Father’s saving plan was completed in the free and total gift to us of the only begotten Son,” the late Holy Father wrote. Man did not deserve such a gift, but out of love, God freely chose to give His own life in order to draw us “back into communion with himself.”

This free and total gift was the perfect sacrifice, and it stands forever as the model of sacrificial love. The Lenten season is a fitting time to recall “the mystery of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection,” as Saint John Paul II wrote, and it is a time when all Christians should “marvel in their heart of hearts at the greatness of such a gift.” 

In recognizing the price of his own redemption, man cannot help but feel profound gratitude for God’s sacrifice. We express this gratitude through prayer, celebration of the Sacraments, and as the late Holy Father reminded the Church, a free and total gift of ourselves:

Since we have received this life freely, we must in turn offer it freely to our brothers and sisters. This is what Jesus asked of the disciples when he sent them out as his witnesses in the world: “You received without paying, give without pay.” And the first gift to be given is the gift of a holy life, bearing witness to the freely given love of God. May the Lenten journey be for all believers an unceasing summons to enter more deeply into this special vocation of ours. As believers, we must be open to a life marked by “gratuitousness,” by the giving of ourselves unreservedly to God and neighbor.

As we accept the gift of grace, given to us through the sacrificial love of God Himself, we cannot help but give it back to Him through lives of holiness and gratuitousness. We cannot help but fall more deeply into our unique vocations and, like Jesus, give our very selves to others without asking anything in return.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Majority of Americans Admire St. John Paul II

Saint John Paul II at the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York, 1995.

We are obviously big fans of Saint John Paul II here at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. But we aren’t the only Americans who admire the sainted pontiff.

A month before his beatification, the Knights of Columbus conducted a poll to see what Americans really thought of the late Holy Father. Some of the key findings were:

78% of Americans – along with 95 percent of Catholics and 98 percent of practicing Catholics – admire Pope John Paul II at least somewhat, with strong majorities of each demographic admiring him a great deal or a good amount (55 percent, 82 percent and 89 percent, respectively).

About six in 10 Americans (59 percent) believe that Pope John Paul II was one of the best or the best Pope in Church history. Among Catholics this view grows to more than 8 in 10 (82 percent of Catholics and 87 percent of practicing Catholics).

A large number of Americans (40 percent) – along with 65 percent of Catholics and 71 percent of practicing Catholics – remember watching one of John Paul II’s televised Masses or events.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans remember his trips to the United States, and almost half (46 percent) watched his funeral in 2005 – a number that includes more than two-thirds of Catholics (68 percent) and almost three-quarters of practicing Catholics (73 percent).

More than four in 10 Americans report that Pope John Paul II made at least some difference in their life spiritually. Among Catholics nearly three-quarters felt he had some spiritual impact on their lives (73 percent), as did nearly 9 in 10 practicing Catholics (87 percent).

In sum, Saint John Paul II is overwhelmingly admired by Americans. We hope that this fondness for the sainted pontiff will draw these people to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, so that they can venerate this great man, learn more about his life, and be inspired to pursue lives of holiness. 

Saint John Paul II, Pray for Us!