From the Carolinas up the Atlantic Coast into Canada, the trail of Hurricane Irene was one of dramatic floods, wind damage and other disruptions. More than 40 people in various states were reported to have been killed by floodwaters, falling trees, car accidents and powerful waves. Irene hit the Carolina coast Aug. 27 and skirted the coastline, causing destruction in a dozen states before dumping inches of rain and causing at least two deaths in Canada. A survey of some of the dioceses where the worst effects were felt found few significant problems at church properties, though the communities around them suffered serious losses. In Vermont, where raging floodwaters from what was by then Tropical Storm Irene damaged or destroyed hundreds of roads, JoAnne Prouty, bookkeeper at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington said the rushing water and the damage it caused were amazing. The main highway connecting Bennington to the east, Route 9, is cut off. “The road looks like it’s broken in half,” Prouty said. “It looks more like an earthquake hit it than floodwater.” All bridges in the area are at least temporarily off limits, some only until they can be inspected for serious damage, but others have been destroyed or have obvious damage, she said. The parish served as an overnight emergency shelter to residents and staff of a small nursing home, Prouty said. But they were able to return home Aug. 29 after the danger of flooding at the nursing home was over. And the parish’s food pantry, normally only open a couple of days a week, has been hit up by several families who lost all their food in the floods or because they lost power to refrigerators, she said. “Lots of places were wiped away,” said Prouty. “There was an amazing amount of water everywhere.” ©CNS
The Aug. 23 earthquake that caused significant damage to the Episcopal National Cathedral in Washington led to a change in venue for a planned interfaith prayer service four days later to commemorate the opening of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial. With Hurricane Irene approaching Washington, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception opened its doors for the Aug. 27 interfaith prayer service, which drew nearly 1,000 people from across the country who prayerfully remembered the life and legacy of Rev. King. Bernice King, his youngest daughter, was among the dignitaries who spoke at the prayer service. Now a Baptist church minister and elder, she was 5 when her father was assassinated in 1968, and said as an adult “I began a quest to try to find my daddy.” Ultimately, she said she found her father, as an obedient servant of God who once said, “I just want to do God’s will.” Bernice King then said, “As we dedicate this memorial, as we remember my daddy’s legacy, let it not be about us. Let it be about being obedient to the will of God.” Msgr. Walter Rossi, the basilica’s rector, welcomed the congregation and expressed sorrow at the damage to the Episcopal cathedral. “Together we join hand, hearts and prayers to honor a great American, a champion of the civil rights movement and a man of unwavering faith,” the priest said. Bp. John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington offered the invocation, noting that “there is still work to do, a promised land to be discovered, and hearts and minds to be changed.” The dedication of the King memorial, which had been planned for Aug. 28, was postponed until September or October due to the approaching hurricane. ©CNS
Sept. 11, 2001, was a routine Tuesday morning at the Miller Funeral Home in Somerset. Wallace “Wally” Miller, Somerset County coroner, was in his office and his father, Wilbur, who lived with him, was in his customary place on the couch, watching television. “Come and look at this,” he yelled to his son. “A pilot must have had a heart attack and crashed his plane into the World Trade Center. How would you like to be the coroner in New York?” he asked rhetorically. Miller watched for a bit and retreated to his office. A little later, he received a call from Denny Kwiatkowski, Cambria County coroner, asking him about a plane crash near Shanksville. “I hadn’t heard anything about it and I immediately called the 911 response center and I couldn’t get through,” recalled Miller of that day when his life and the lives of people around the globe would be changed forever. “Luckily, I was able to contact them with a two-way radio, and they told me there was an unconfirmed report of a large plane down near Shanksville.” He would soon discover that four terrorists had hijacked a United Airlines plane en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco. A total of 44 people died, including the passengers, crew members and the terrorists. The entire country and international community watched in horror as another plane hit the second of the twin towers, and still another crashed into the Pentagon near Washington. Miller, who also operates a funeral home in Rockwood, was about to be thrust onto the world stage and “no” was not an option. “As a coroner, I’m the last man to get to the scene of a death. When I got to Shanksville there were state policemen, firemen, FBI, ATF and emergency personnel already at the site,” Miller recalls, “and they all looked to me to orchestrate the disaster recovery.” ©CNS
Cradle Catholics haven’t done enough to show people that God exists and can bring true fulfillment to everyone, Pope Benedict XVI told a group of his former students. “We, who have been able to know (Christ) since our youth, may we ask forgiveness because we bring so little of the light of his face to people; so little certainty comes from us that he exists, he’s present and he is the greatness that everyone is waiting for,” the pope said. The pope presided at a Mass Aug. 28 in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, during his annual meeting with students who did their doctorates with him when he was a professor in Germany. Austrian Card. Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, a regular participant in the Ratzinger Schulerkreis (Ratzinger student circle), gave the homily at the Mass, but the pope made remarks at the beginning of the liturgy. The Vatican released the text of the pope’s remarks Aug. 29. Pope Benedict highlighted the day’s reading in Psalm 63 in which the soul thirsts for God “in a land parched, lifeless and without water. He asked God to show himself to today’s world, which is marked by God’s absence and where “the land of souls is arid and dry, and people still don’t know where the living water comes from.” ©CNS
Just four days after arriving in Rome, the new seminarians at the Pontifical North American College had their first glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI. The 76 new men from 52 different dioceses–four Australian dioceses, one Canadian and 47 US dioceses–joined 2,000 other pilgrims in the courtyard of the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo for the recitation of the Angelus Aug. 28. The North American College is sponsored by the US bishops. Students live at the college and receive spiritual and pastoral training there while attending one of the pontifical universities in Rome. After reciting the Marian prayer, the pope singled out the students for a special greeting. “Dear seminarians, do not be afraid to take up the challenge in today’s Gospel to give your lives completely to Christ. Indeed, may all of us be generous in our commitment to him, carrying our cross with faith and courage,” he said. In his main audience talk, the pope spoke about the Gospel story of Peter insisting that Jesus should not have to suffer and die, and Jesus rebuking him, “Get behind me, Satan.” Jesus told Peter, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do,” and he told him that being a disciple means taking up the cross and following him. ©CNS
On Aug. 28, the Catholic Church celebrated the life of St. Augustine of Hippo, the North African educator who became one of history’s greatest teachers of the faith after his dramatic conversion.
The story of Augustine’s upbringing and conversion is well-known to many through his autobiographical “Confessions.” In that work, Augustine recounts his birth in 354 to his pagan father, Patricius, and Catholic mother, Monica–later St. Monica–in the city of Tagaste. His parents’ difficult marriage included a dispute over whether to baptize their children.
Augustine was nearly baptized during a childhood illness, but his father withdrew permission when he recovered. During his adolescence, Monica’s Christian influence over her son’s life began to wane, giving way to the self-interested pursuit of a secular education and career as well as social acceptance and romantic love.
At age 16, Augustine traveled to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. There, the young student indulged the desires of his heart and flesh, though he later admitted that this way of life brought him pain and torment along with its pleasure and satisfaction. He was, as he later wrote, “scourged with the burning iron rods of jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and strife.”
In 371, Augustine’s father became a Catholic and received baptism. In his search for stability and meaning, however, Augustine became an adherent of the Manichaean religion. His entry into this sect, which regarded matter as evil and promoted “liberation” from the physical world, caused his mother intense grief. So, too, did Augustine’s fathering of an illegitimate child.
Haunted by questions about the nature of good and evil, Augustine became disillusioned with Manichaeism. He turned to the later followers of Plato, whose concept of God agreed in some areas with Catholic doctrine. Augustine also turned his ear to the preaching of St. Ambrose of Milan, whose sermons removed some of his difficulties in believing the Bible.
As a professor of the liberal arts, Augustine appreciated these intellectual arguments for God’s existence and Church teaching. Ultimately, however, his decision to be baptized would require a deeper conversion of his heart and will. This occurred in 386 when, at age 33, he tearfully agreed to abandon his personal vices and enter the Church.
Bishop of Hippo
The intellectually restless convert received baptism from St. Ambrose on Easter of 387, shortly before the death of his holy and beloved mother Monica. Having abandoned his academic career and sold his possessions, Augustine soon began his work as a Catholic apologist and theologian. Not long after, a group of local believers persuaded him to enter the priesthood, which he did in 391.
From 396 until his death, Augustine served as the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. He led a religious order of men who lived in apostolic poverty without personal possessions. He also led the local Church through challenging times that included the breakdown of Roman imperial authority and widespread confusion about basic Catholic beliefs.
As a bishop, Augustine presented the faith in a compelling and intelligent manner, while warning his flock–both verbally and in writing–about the danger of different heresies. These errors included Arianism, the denial that Jesus is God; Donatism, the belief that corrupt clergy have no authority; and Pelagianism, which denied original sin and taught that humans could achieve their own salvation.
In the last years of his life, Augustine saw the old Roman imperial order undergo a violent and chaotic transition with an uncertain outcome. The Church, too, continued to struggle despite his and other bishops’ efforts. In the Vandal-besieged city of Hippo, St. Augustine died on Aug. 28, 430.
After his death, through the legacy of his writings, St. Augustine became the most influential theologian in the history of Western Christianity. Pope Benedict XVI, who once described the saint as his “traveling companion” in life and ministry, has devoted six general audiences to St. Augustine’s life and thought since his election.
In August 2010, the pope spoke of “an important aspect of [Augustine’s] human and Christian experience, which is also timely in our day.”
“All too often,” Pope Benedict said, “people prefer to live only the fleeting moment, deceiving themselves that it will bring lasting happiness; they prefer to live superficially, without thinking, because it seems easier; they are afraid to seek the truth or perhaps afraid that the truth will find us, will take hold of us, and change our life, as happened to St Augustine.”
St. Augustine’s life, the pope observed, teaches all people–even those weak or challenged in their faith–“not to be afraid of the truth, never to interrupt the journey toward it and never to stop searching for the profound truth about yourselves and other things with the inner eye of the heart. God will not fail to provide light to see by, and warmth to make the heart feel that he loves us and wants to be loved.”
Copyright © 2011 Catholic News Agency
“Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith”(cf. Col 2:7)
I often think back on the World Youth Day held in Sydney in 2008. There we had an experience of a great festival of faith in which the Spirit of God was actively at work, building deep communion among the participants who had come from all over the world. That gathering, like those on previous occasions, bore rich fruit in the lives of many young people and in the life of the whole Church. Now we are looking forward to the next World Youth Day, to be held in Madrid in August 2011. Back in 1989, several months before the historic fall of the Berlin Wall, this pilgrimage of young people halted in Spain, in Santiago de Compostela. Now, at a time when Europe greatly needs to rediscover its Christian roots, our meeting will take place in Madrid with the theme: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). I encourage you to take part in this event, which is so important for the Church in Europe and for the universal Church. I would like all young people–those who share our faith in Jesus Christ, but also those who are wavering or uncertain, or who do not believe in him–to share this experience, which can prove decisive for their lives. It is an experience of the Lord Jesus, risen and alive, and of his love for each of us.
1. At the source of your deepest aspirations
In every period of history, including our own, many young people experience a deep desire for personal relationships marked by truth and solidarity. Many of them yearn to build authentic friendships, to know true love, to start a family that will remain united, to achieve personal fulfilment and real security, all of which are the guarantee of a serene and happy future. In thinking of my own youth, I realize that stability and security are not the questions that most occupy the minds of young people. True enough, it is important to have a job and thus to have firm ground beneath our feet, yet the years of our youth are also a time when we are seeking to get the most out of life. When I think back on that time, I remember above all that we were not willing to settle for a conventional middle-class life. We wanted something great, something new. We wanted to discover life itself, in all its grandeur and beauty. Naturally, part of that was due to the times we lived in. During the Nazi dictatorship and the war, we were, so to speak, “hemmed in” by the dominant power structure. So we wanted to break out into the open, to experience the whole range of human possibilities. I think that, to some extent, this urge to break out of the ordinary is present in every generation. Part of being young is desiring something beyond everyday life and a secure job, a yearning for something really truly greater. Is this simply an empty dream that fades away as we become older? No! Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough. Saint Augustine was right when he said “our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you”. The desire for a more meaningful life is a sign that God created us and that we bear his “imprint”. God is life, and that is why every creature reaches out towards life. Because human beings are made in the image of God, we do this in a unique and special way. We reach out for love, joy and peace. So we can see how absurd it is to think that we can truly live by removing God from the picture! God is the source of life. To set God aside is to separate ourselves from that source and, inevitably, to deprive ourselves of fulfilment and joy: “without the Creator, the creature fades into nothingness” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 36). In some parts of the world, particularly in the West, today’s culture tends to exclude God, and to consider faith a purely private issue with no relevance for the life of society. Even though the set of values underpinning society comes from the Gospel–values like the sense of the dignity of the person, of solidarity, of work and of the family, we see a certain “eclipse of God” taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity.
For this reason, dear friends, I encourage you to strengthen your faith in God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are the future of society and of the Church! As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Colossae, it is vital to have roots, a solid foundation! This is particularly true today. Many people have no stable points of reference on which to build their lives, and so they end up deeply insecure. There is a growing mentality of relativism, which holds that everything is equally valid, that truth and absolute points of reference do not exist. But this way of thinking does not lead to true freedom, but rather to instability, confusion and blind conformity to the fads of the moment. As young people, you are entitled to receive from previous generations solid points of reference to help you to make choices and on which to build your lives: like a young plant which needs solid support until it can sink deep roots and become a sturdy tree capable of bearing fruit.
2 Planted and built up in Jesus Christ
In order to highlight the importance of faith in the lives of believers, I would like to reflect with you on each of the three terms used by Saint Paul in the expression: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). We can distinguish three images: “planted” calls to mind a tree and the roots that feed it; “built up” refers to the construction of a house; “firm” indicates growth in physical or moral strength. These images are very eloquent. Before commenting on them, I would like to point out that grammatically all three terms in the original text are in the passive voice. This means that it is Christ himself who takes the initiative to plant, build up and confirm the faithful.
The first image is that of a tree which is firmly planted thanks to its roots, which keep it upright and give it nourishment. Without those roots, it would be blown away by the wind and would die. What are our roots? Naturally our parents, our families and the culture of our country are very important elements of our personal identity. But the Bible reveals a further element. The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer 17:7-8). For the prophet, to send out roots means to put one’s trust in God. From him we draw our life. Without him, we cannot truly live. “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 Jn 5:11). Jesus himself tells us that he is our life (cf. Jn 14:6). Consequently, Christian faith is not only a matter of believing that certain things are true, but above all a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is an encounter with the Son of God that gives new energy to the whole of our existence. When we enter into a personal relationship with him, Christ reveals our true identity and, in friendship with him, our life grows towards complete fulfilment. There is a moment, when we are young, when each of us wonders: what meaning does my life have? What purpose and direction should I give to it? This is a very important moment, and it can worry us, perhaps for some time. We start wondering about the kind of work we should take up, the kind of relationships we should establish, the friendships we should cultivate… Here, once more, I think of my own youth. I was somehow aware quite early on that the Lord wanted me to be a priest. Then later, after the war, when I was in the seminary and at university on the way towards that goal, I had to recapture that certainty. I had to ask myself: is this really the path I was meant to take? Is this really God’s will for me? Will I be able to remain faithful to him and completely at his service? A decision like this demands a certain struggle. It cannot be otherwise. But then came the certainty: this is the right thing! Yes, the Lord wants me, and he will give me strength. If I listen to him and walk with him, I become truly myself. What counts is not the fulfilment of my desires, but of his will. In this way life becomes authentic.
Just as the roots of a tree keep it firmly planted in the soil, so the foundations of a house give it long-lasting stability. Through faith, we have been built up in Jesus Christ (cfr Col 2:7), even as a house is built on its foundations. Sacred history provides many examples of saints who built their lives on the word of God. The first is Abraham, our father in faith, who obeyed God when he was asked to leave his ancestral home and to set out for an unknown land. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God” (Jas 2:23). Being built up in Jesus Christ means responding positively to God’s call, trusting in him and putting his word into practice. Jesus himself reprimanded his disciples: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I tell you?” (Lk 6:46). He went on to use the image of building a house: “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built” (Lk 6:47-48).
Dear friends, build your own house on rock, just like the person who “dug deeply”. Try each day to follow Christ’s word. Listen to him as a true friend with whom you can share your path in life. With him at your side, you will find courage and hope to face difficulties and problems, and even to overcome disappointments and set-backs. You are constantly being offered easier choices, but you yourselves know that these are ultimately deceptive and cannot bring you serenity and joy. Only the word of God can show us the authentic way, and only the faith we have received is the light which shines on our path. Gratefully accept this spiritual gift which you have received from your families; strive to respond responsibly to God’s call, and to grow in your faith. Do not believe those who tell you that you don’t need others to build up your life! Find support in the faith of those who are dear to you, in the faith of the Church, and thank the Lord that you have received it and have made it your own!
3. Firm in the faith
You are “planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). The letter from which these words are taken was written by Saint Paul in order to respond to a specific need of the Christians in the city of Colossae. That community was threatened by the influence of certain cultural trends that were turning the faithful away from the Gospel. Our own cultural context, dear young people, is not unlike that of the ancient Colossians. Indeed, there is a strong current of secularist thought that aims to make God marginal in the lives of people and society by proposing and attempting to create a “paradise” without him. Yet experience tells us that a world without God becomes a “hell”: filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope. On the other hand, wherever individuals and nations accept God’s presence, worship him in truth and listen to his voice, then the civilization of love is being built, a civilization in which the dignity of all is respected, and communion increases, with all its benefits. Yet some Christians allow themselves to be seduced by secularism or attracted by religious currents that draw them away from faith in Jesus Christ. There are others who, while not yielding to these enticements, have simply allowed their faith to grow cold, with inevitable negative effects on their moral lives.
To those Christians influenced by ideas alien to the Gospel the Apostle Paul spoke of the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. This mystery is the foundation of our lives and the centre of Christian faith. All philosophies that disregard it and consider it “foolishness” (1 Cor 1:23) reveal their limitations with respect to the great questions deep in the hearts of human beings. As the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I too want to confirm you in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32). We firmly believe that Jesus Christ offered himself on the Cross in order to give us his love. In his passion, he bore our sufferings, took upon himself our sins, obtained forgiveness for us and reconciled us with God the Father, opening for us the way to eternal life. Thus we were freed from the thing that most encumbers our lives: the slavery of sin. We can love everyone, even our enemies, and we can share this love with the poorest of our brothers and sisters and all those in difficulty. Dear friends, the Cross often frightens us because it seems to be a denial of life. In fact, the opposite is true! It is God’s “yes” to mankind, the supreme expression of his love and the source from which eternal life flows. Indeed, it is from Jesus’ heart, pierced on the Cross, that this divine life streamed forth, ever accessible to those who raise their eyes towards the Crucified One. I can only urge you, then, to embrace the Cross of Jesus, the sign of God’s love, as the source of new life. Apart from Jesus Christ risen from the dead, there can be no salvation! He alone can free the world from evil and bring about the growth of the Kingdom of justice, peace and love to which we all aspire.
4. Believing in Jesus Christ without having seen him
In the Gospel we find a description of the Apostle Thomas’s experience of faith when he accepted the mystery of the Cross and resurrection of Christ. Thomas was one of the twelve Apostles. He followed Jesus and was an eyewitness of his healings and miracles. He listened to his words, and he experienced dismay at Jesus’ death. That Easter evening when the Lord appeared to the disciples, Thomas was not present. When he was told that Jesus was alive and had shown himself, Thomas stated: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25).
We too want to be able to see Jesus, to speak with him and to feel his presence even more powerfully. For many people today, it has become difficult to approach Jesus. There are so many images of Jesus in circulation which, while claiming to be scientific, detract from his greatness and the uniqueness of his person. That is why, after many years of study and reflection, I thought of sharing something of my own personal encounter with Jesus by writing a book. It was a way to help others see, hear and touch the Lord in whom God came to us in order to make himself known. Jesus himself, when he appeared again to his disciples a week later, said to Thomas: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” (Jn 20:27). We too can have tangible contact with Jesus and put our hand, so to speak, upon the signs of his Passion, the signs of his love. It is in the sacraments that he draws particularly near to us and gives himself to us. Dear young people, learn to “see” and to “meet” Jesus in the Eucharist, where he is present and close to us, and even becomes food for our journey. In the sacrament of Penance the Lord reveals his mercy and always grants us his forgiveness. Recognize and serve Jesus in the poor, the sick, and in our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and in need of help.
Enter into a personal dialogue with Jesus Christ and cultivate it in faith. Get to know him better by reading the Gospels and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Converse with him in prayer, and place your trust in him. He will never betray that trust! “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 150). Thus you will acquire a mature and solid faith, one which will not be based simply on religious sentiment or on a vague memory of the catechism you studied as a child. You will come to know God and to live authentically in union with him, like the Apostle Thomas who showed his firm faith in Jesus in the words: “My Lord and my God!”.
5. Sustained by the faith of the Church, in order to be witnesses
Jesus said to Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). He was thinking of the path the Church was to follow, based on the faith of eyewitnesses: the Apostles. Thus we come to see that our personal faith in Christ, which comes into being through dialogue with him, is bound to the faith of the Church. We do not believe as isolated individuals, but rather, through Baptism, we are members of this great family; it is the faith professed by the Church which reinforces our personal faith. The Creed that we proclaim at Sunday Mass protects us from the danger of believing in a God other than the one revealed by Christ: “Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 166). Let us always thank the Lord for the gift of the Church, for the Church helps us to advance securely in the faith that gives us true life (cf. Jn 20:31).
In the history of the Church, the saints and the martyrs have always drawn from the glorious Cross of Christ the strength to be faithful to God even to the point of offering their own lives. In faith they found the strength to overcome their weaknesses and to prevail over every adversity. Indeed, as the Apostle John says, “Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn 5:5). The victory born of faith is that of love. There have been, and still are, many Christians who are living witnesses of the power of faith that is expressed in charity. They have been peacemakers, promoters of justice and workers for a more humane world, a world in accordance with God’s plan. With competence and professionalism, they have been committed in different sectors of the life of society, contributing effectively to the welfare of all. The charity that comes from faith led them to offer concrete witness by their actions and words. Christ is not a treasure meant for us alone; he is the most precious treasure we have, one that is meant to be shared with others. In our age of globalization, be witnesses of Christian hope all over the world. How many people long to receive this hope! Standing before the tomb of his friend Lazarus, who had died four days earlier, as he was about to call the dead man back to life, Jesus said to Lazarus’ sister Martha: “If you believe, you will see the glory of God” (cf. Jn 11:40). In the same way, if you believe, and if you are able to live out your faith and bear witness to it every day, you will become a means of helping other young people like yourselves to find the meaning and joy of life, which is born of an encounter with Christ!
6. On the way to World Youth Day in Madrid
Dear friends, once again I invite you to attend World Youth Day in Madrid. I await each of you with great joy. Jesus Christ wishes to make you firm in faith through the Church. The decision to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow him is not an easy one. It is hindered by our personal failures and by the many voices that point us towards easier paths. Do not be discouraged. Rather, look for the support of the Christian community, the support of the Church! Throughout this year, carefully prepare for the meeting in Madrid with the bishops, priests and youth leaders in your dioceses, parish communities, associations and movements. The quality of our meeting will depend above all on our spiritual preparation, our prayer, our common hearing of the word of God and our mutual support.
Dear young people, the Church depends on you! She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church. That is why World Youth Days are a grace, not only for you, but for the entire People of God. The Church in Spain is actively preparing to welcome you and to share this joyful experience of faith with you. I thank the dioceses, parishes, shrines, religious communities, ecclesial associations and movements, and all who are hard at work in preparing for this event. The Lord will not fail to grant them his blessings. May the Virgin Mary accompany you along this path of preparation. At the message of the angel, she received God’s word with faith. It was in faith that she consented to what God was accomplishing in her. By proclaiming her “fiat”, her “yes”, she received the gift of immense charity which led her to give herself entirely to God. May she intercede for each one of you so that, in the coming World Youth Day you may grow in faith and love. I assure you of a paternal remembrance in my prayers and I give you my heartfelt blessing.
From the Vatican, 6 August 2010, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
Pope Benedict XVI told over a million young pilgrims to World Youth Day that the best way to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is through the Catholic Church.
“Following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own,” he said in his homily at the event’s closing Mass at Cuarto Vientos airbase on the outskirts of Madrid.
“Anyone who would be tempted to do so ‘on his own,’ or to approach the life of faith with the kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.”
The pope delivered his sermon in the searing heat of the morning, a contrast to the thunderstorm he’d endured during a prayer vigil at the same venue the night before.
“I hope you were able to sleep a bit,” said the Pope to the young people just before Mass. He encouraged them to leave Madrid “firm in the faith,” in keeping with the event’s theme of becoming strongly rooted in Christ.
Remarkably, the young pilgrims seemed unfazed by both extremes of weather, greeting the Pope’s arrival with a sea of world flags and cheers of “El Papa! Viva!”
The pope drew his message from the day’s Gospel reading, in which St. Peter responds to Jesus’s question “Who do you say that I am?” with the answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Christ, in turn, proclaims: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”
“The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God,” said the Pope.
“Christ himself speaks of her as ‘his’ Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body. The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.”
In the presence of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, the pope said the Catholic Church is the answer to a question that often arises today.
“There are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better,” realizing that “he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?”
The answer, said the pope, was Christ’s presence continuing through history in the Catholic Church.
The universality of that Church showed throughout the Mass, with readings and prayers delivered in an array of languages including Spanish, Italian, Polish, Arabic, Chinese, and the Church’s traditional Latin. In fact, like many World Youth Day events, the Papal liturgy combined traditional and more modern Catholic elements.
The pope told young people that they, like Peter, “have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ”–in their case, missionaries to their peers who “are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.”
“The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God,” said the pope, “I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation.’”
The only disappointment for many pilgrims was that most were unable to receive Communion during Mass. This was due to the fact that many of the 17 Eucharistic chapels around the venue had blown down in last night’s storm while others had to be dismantled due to safety fears.
Pope Benedict ended by telling the young people that he prayed for them “with heartfelt affection,” that they would “grow in holiness of life” and “be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the savior of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.”
Copyright © 2011 Catholic News Agency
Labor Day is always on the first Monday of September. This year, Sept. 5 is the Monday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time. Civil holidays are not part of the liturgical year, but as a religious people, we live in a civil reality.
On Labor Day, the last of the civil holidays of the summer, we give thanks to God for blessing our work, and we pray for ourselves and the work-force of our country. We pray as well for workers throughout the world, remembering especially those who labor for unjust wages and those who toil in unjust conditions.
Feast: Nativity of the Virgin Mary
The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is Sept. 8. God, in his kindness, chose Mary and redeemed us through her son. From her very conception, Mary was prepared to be the mother of God. Nine months ago, on Dec. 8 we celebrated Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Today, we rejoice in her birth. She is joined to the family tree of Abraham (Mt 1:1-16, 18-23). God blessed Mary and called her to share a special part in the work of salvation (Rom 8:28-30).
Memorial: Peter Claver
The Memorial of Peter Claver is Sept. 9. Claver lived in the 17th century and died in 1654. He devoted his life to the care of slaves and is the patron of the missions to black people.
23rd Week of Ordinary Time
The readings for Mass on Mon. of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time may either be chosen from the readings given for that day or other readings for the Mass of Labor Day. The readings for Ordinary Time remind us that we are servants of the Lord; we share in his word, and have received his call to follow in his way. (Mon.: Col 1:24-2:3 ; Lk 6:6-11). The Lord has granted us forgiveness of sin (Tue.: Col 2:6-15; Lk 6:12-19). Christ’s servants become one with him, dying to their old life and are blessed to rise and share in his life (Wed.: Col 3:1-11; Lk 6:20-26). (Thu. is the Feast of the Birth of Mary. The readings at Mass for that day are listed above with Sept. 8.) God shows mercy to his people and leads us from darkness into his light (Fri.: 1 Tm 1:1-2,12-14; Lk 6:39-42). The Lord God has sent Jesus, the divine son, to save sinners. We are called to hear his word and live it in faith (Sat.: 1 Tm 1:15-17; Lk 6:43-49).
24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
In the evening of May 1, the President of the United States announced that Osama bin Ladin had been killed by troops from the US. In the days that followed, many citizens from our country gleefully announced that revenge had been exacted. Others, from another part of the world, promised revenge upon the US for killing their leader. Vengeance seems to come easily to we poor mortals. Many of us justify our vengeful attitudes by quoting the words of the Hebrew scripture, “’Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord.” We think that if the Lord can have vengeance, all of us can.
The message of the Lord Jesus Christ that we hear on the 24th Sun. in Ordinary Time is a radical departure from vengeful feelings. Jesus taught his followers that, rather than being vengeful, be his disciples. Disciples were to be forgiving as he himself was forgiving. We are called to forgive not only in small matters, but in all matters. We are called to forgive time and again, always and ever (Mt 18:21-35). Disciples will share in God’s forgiveness in the measure that we ourselves are forgiving (Sir 27:30-28: 7). Christ Jesus has come that we might be his people (Rom 14:7-9). He calls his people to be loving and forgiving, even as our God and Father is loving and forgiving.