A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Spirit of Truth

Sometimes you can hear a speech or a lecture that is full of many things worth remembering, but too many to remember or even to write down.

It was something like that for the Apostles in the short time that our Lord was with them on this earth.

But, blessed be His holy Name, in today's Gospel (John 16:12-15), we are reminded in a loving and beautiful way that our Lord understands, offers comfort, and much, much more:

I have much more to tell you,
but you cannot bear it now.

But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.

He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you
the things that are coming.

He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.

These words speak to the unity and perfection of Christ’s revelation, as he walked on this earth and as the Spirit has guided the Church through the millennia.

These words also speak directly to us.

We may not be able to remember instantly all that has been taught to us of Christ and truth in our faithful education and reading, but our Lord offers us the gist of the Holy Spirit: to remind us of all that comes from Christ and lead us into all truth.

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of Thy faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray:
Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise,
and ever rejoice in His consolation.
Through Christ our Lord.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus
reple tuorum corda fidelium,
et tui amoris in eis accende.

V. Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.


qui corda fidelium
Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti.
Da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere,
et de eius semper consolatione gaudere.
Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Curriculum vitae

He was a brilliant professor of theology during the time of the Council.

He was made a bishop, then a Cardinal, and finally the chief enforcer of the faith, showing a great zeal against heresy.

And then he was elected Pope.

During his pontificate, his personal holiness shone brightly even as he was involved in great and sometimes controversial endeavors to help build up the Church and its people in an age that was violently opposed to it.

Pope Pius V died early in the seventh year of his pontificate 436 years ago tomorrow. He was canonized in 1712.

(from an earlier post)

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at Book Reviews and More.

Gallup Bishop resigns

The Vatican announced this morning that Holy Father has accepted the resignation of Bishop Donald E. Pelotte, S.S.S., as Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico, for reasons other than age. Bishop Pelotte had been on medical leave.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stopping a suicide

In today’s first reading (Acts 16:22-34), Saint Paul stops a Roman jailer from committing suicide.

He does this first by showing that the immediate reasons for the man’s despair were not the whole story.

And then, Saint Paul gives the perfect answer to the truest needs of the man’s heart.

When the jailer woke up
and saw the prison doors wide open,
he drew his sword and was about to kill himself,
thinking that the prisoners had escaped.

But Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
“Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.”

He asked for a light and rushed in and,
trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas.
Then he brought them out and said,
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus...”

Not everything in our lives may feel wonderful all the time and sometimes it may be difficult to see any good in the future, but despair, depression and other things blind us to the good that is and the good that will be.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer, for he gives us the example of enduring great pain and heartache and also the grace for us to hope and to endure.

May we pray for all who are tempted with thoughts of suicide: that the Lord Jesus may touch their hearts with hope and open their eyes to the good and the truth that he gives us in this life – no matter what.

Her parents had made plans for her...

...plans for a "normal" life, but the little girl had something else in mind.

She had already been seeing someone.


She became a Dominican tertiary while still a teenager. Word of her spiritual experiences would spread.

When she was still in her twenties, even Popes would pay heed to her and not only for pious inspiration.

Her words would thwart the plans of princes and would stir people of faith to dramatic action for the causes of truth, peace, and the freedom of God’s word.

Catherine, the pious little girl from Siena, died in Rome shortly after her 33rd birthday on this very day in 1380. She was canonized in 1461 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Lord opened her heart to pay attention

Today’s readings remind us of the pluses and minuses we face in sharing our faith with others.

In the Gospel (John 15:26-16:4a), our Lord warns of extreme, even deadly opposition.

In fact, the hour is coming
when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.

They will do this
because they have not known

either the Father or me.

I have told you this
so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.

This persecution of Christians comes not only from practitioners of other religions but also from those for whom man is god and who mistakenly think that humanity can flourish only if everyone thinks God is dead (the truth is that God not only exists, of course, but that he opens humanity’s horizons to infinity).

But no matter what persecution or opposition we may face, the Lord promises to be with us.

We also hear this in today’s first reading (Acts 16:11-15), when the Lord opens someone’s heart to what Saint Paul is saying, converts wholeheartedly to the Lord, and gives support to the ministry.

We may have opposition, but we also have all-powerful resources.

May we be faithful to Christ in what we say and do, no matter what.

"If I were to look at these setbacks...

...from a human standpoint,
I would be tempted,
like the foolish people of this corrupt world,
to complain and be anxious and worried,
but that is not how I look at things.
Let me tell you that I expect more serious setbacks,
more painful ones to test your faith and confidence."

Very soon after he wrote these words, this devout and hardworking priest died.

But the religious communities he had barely begun would flourish and his devotional works become widely read, benefiting the humble and the great alike. One of the Great, for example, would later write this:

“At one point I began to question any devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed Christ. At that time, I was greatly helped by a book by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort entitled 'Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.' There I found the answers to my questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ.”

Pope John Paul II, “Gift and Mystery”

Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort died on this very day in 1716 and was canonized in 1947.

(from an earlier post)

The foreigner

was an educated young man who spoke gently and showed great care for people. Everyone who knew him said he had a kind heart.

Nonetheless, the government saw him as a threat and the Prime Minister decided to take dramatic action. Early one morning, they swept through the compound where the young man was, catching him and his associates off guard.

The Prime Minister came to the scene and personally split open the skull of the kind young man.

St. Peter Chanel, French-born missionary and parish priest, was thus martyred on this very day 167 years ago in an island kingdom of Oceania. He was canonized in 1954.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

While we’re in the neighborhood

The Lectionary is a wonderful resource: it exposes the congregation to a greater variety of Scriptural passages than what might be the personal favorites of their preacher, pastor, or Liturgy Committee Chairperson.

The two and three year cycles also give congregations the opportunity to journey systematically through the entire Bible.

That is not to say that the Lectionary covers every verse of every book of the Bible. Few congregations may get tremendous spiritual uplift from hearing day after day all the details of how to sacrifice goats and other animals, for example. Also, an effort is usually made to start and end a selection of verses so that the selection is able to stand as a unit on its own literarily and thematically. Moreover, on Sundays, the cycle of Gospel readings is the focus and the first reading is usually chosen to link to the Gospel (the second reading generally follows its own cycle).

All of this is very good, of course, but it does mean sometimes that the selected readings skip over or stop short of Scripture verses with special significance.

Thus it is also today: for both the first reading and the second.

So, while today's readings have brought us into the neighborhood of these verses, it might be good to take a quick look.


Today’s first reading (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17) links to the mention of the gift of the Spirit in the Gospel, telling of the Apostles travelling to impose hands on those already baptized so that they may receive the Holy Spirit (one might say that this is the first recorded instance of Confirmation as a standalone celebration).

But there is another thread to the narrative in this passage, which today’s selection omits (so as to keep the focus on the special giving of the Spirit to those already baptized): the complex story of a man who will forever be identified with the sin of simony – trying to purchase that which is holy with money.

Here is the full passage (vv. 5-24):

Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.

But there was a certain man, called Simon,
which beforetime in the same city used sorcery,
and bewitched the people of Samaria,
giving out that himself was some great one:
To whom they all gave heed,
from the least to the greatest, saying,
This man is the great power of God.
And to him they had regard,
because that of long time
he had bewitched them with sorceries.

But when they believed Philip
preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God,
and the name of Jesus Christ,
they were baptized, both men and women.

Then Simon himself believed also:
and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip,
and wondered,
beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

And when Simon saw
that through laying on of the apostles' hands
the Holy Ghost was given,
he offered them money,
Saying, Give me also this power,
that on whomsoever I lay hands,
he may receive the Holy Ghost.

But Peter said unto him,
Thy money perish with thee,
because thou hast thought that the gift of God
may be purchased with money.
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter:
for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness,
and pray God,
if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness,
and in the bond of iniquity.
Then answered Simon, and said,
Pray ye to the Lord for me,
that none of these things which ye have spoken
come upon me.

Simony is a perennial temptation in all human cultures. In a sense, it is a form of bribery (trying to buy an advantage that is not to be bought) but compounded with sacrilege.

For the Christian, simony is even more stupid, because we know that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace – it cannot be earned, let alone bought.

In the complexities of the human heart, of course, the matter is usually not as obvious as in the case of Simon. Money is needed by churches for many good works – to help those in need, to build up communities of faith, and to give glory to God - and there are people with money who are generous in helping to provide the resources needed.

Oftentimes, we are not generous enough, but we should always give out of love for God and desire for what is truly good: not for prominence and honor, and never ever thinking we can “buy” our way into heaven.


Today’s second reading (1 Peter 3:15-18) was the focus of my reflection earlier today. It encourages us to be ready to explain our reason for hope and links our suffering for righteousness to the sufferings of Christ who rose from the dead.

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.

But the very next verse after this selection is unique, mysterious, and important.

In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison...

This short verse is generally linked to what is confessed in the Apostles’ Creed: He descended into Hell.

Traditionally in English this is referred to as the "Harrowing of Hell", which sounds much worse than it is, for it is the belief that when Christ died, he preached to the souls of the virtuous dead – not just from the time of Noah (which St. Peter focuses on to make a baptismal analogy) but even Adam and Eve themselves – and then liberated them from Hell by the power of his Resurrection.

We see this represented particularly in popular icons of the Resurrection in Eastern Churches such the one given earlier or the one below.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just an isolated event about one man – it is the power of God directed at bringing all of Christ’s faithful from death to life.

Christ is risen.

Indeed he is risen.

And by his grace, so shall all of his faithful people be.

Christos anesti!

Alithos anesti!

Christ is risen!

Indeed he is risen!

(Today our Orthodox brothers and sisters celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.)

A reason for your hope

One week ago today, Pope Benedict XVI, the Successor of Saint Peter, prayed at Ground Zero and celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium before returning to Rome, completing a historic Pastoral Visit to the United States that had the theme “Christ our hope.”

It was in many ways a very successful visit: Pope Benedict touched the minds and hearts of millions who now saw him and the Church in a better light and he spoke words of deep insight and faith that may be read and reread with spiritual benefits for a long time to come.

But there is more yet to be done in continuation of the mission of “Christ our hope”.

Pope Benedict’s predecessor, Saint Peter himself, gives us important advice in today’s second reading (1 Peter 3:15-18):

Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.

To begin with, we need to speak and act as the people of hope we are, for the hope we have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is unassailable and its fulfillment unstoppable.

If we do that, people will notice and sooner or later they will ask.

Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence...

Do it with gentleness and reverence” is a critically important three-fold guideline for how we should share our faith with others.

We need to be gentle: not flippant, arrogant, impatient, or defensive.

We need to be reverent: reverent for the other human being, who has been created in God’s image and who is in some way responding to God’s call, and also reverence for the Truth revealed perfectly by Christ and communicated through Christ’s Church.

But we should not just think of being gentle and reverent: we must do it – we must gently and reverently share our faith and give others an explanation of the reason for our hope in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

When Paul met Timothy

In these weeks after Easter, the first readings for weekday Masses have been stepping through the book of the Acts of the Apostles and the spreading of the news of Christ’s resurrection.

On one level, today’s selection from the book of Acts (16:1-10) is something of a travelogue: Saint Paul goes to this place and that place and this other place and so forth and so on.

But in these ten verses we find much more than just a checklist of place names, just as the book of Acts is more than just a series of miracle stories and apostolic sermons: it tells of real people in real places struggling with real issues.

A very special thing about these ten verses are two personal relationships that we see begin here.

In the very first verse of this passage, Paul meets Timothy: the young man who would be his most famous protégé (and also one of his closest collaborators and friends).

In the very last verse of this passage, the narration suddenly and without explanation starts using a very simple but important word: “we” instead of “they”.

...they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.
During the night Paul had a vision....
When he had seen the vision,
we sought passage to Macedonia at once,
concluding that God had called us
to proclaim the Good News to them.

The explanation for this sudden use of the word “we” is that it was at this point that Paul met Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, and that Luke began working and travelling with Paul and Timothy (and possibly others).

Luke is too humble to draw any attention to himself by saying something like “and it was there that Paul met me,” but he is also too honest to write about what happened as if he were not a part of it.

Yet Saint Luke would prove to be one of Saint Paul’s most important collaborators, if only because Luke would be the one to set down so many of Saint Paul’s deeds and words in this very book and because he would also bring together elements of Saint Paul’s preaching with other sources to write the Gospel that bears Saint Luke’s name: one of the four canonical Gospels of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Indeed, so many wonderful things followed after the two personal encounters in these ten verses.

We should keep this in mind as you and I go through all of our activities and errands this weekend: keeping ourselves open to the discernment and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, because we never know when a particular personal encounter may be a powerful occasion for the work of God.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The one who prowls... is toast

The words are ominous:

Your opponent the Devil
is prowling around
like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.

We find these terrifying words echoed in the English translation of Pope Leo XIII’s Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel:

...Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.

But of course, the terrifying words of the prayer are simply identifying Satan and the evil spirits who by the power of God are getting cast into Hell.

Also, before and following the terrifying words in today’s first reading (1 Peter 5:5b-14), Saint Peter encourages us to “be sober and vigilant” and

Resist him, steadfast in faith,
knowing that your brothers and sisters
throughout the world
undergo the same sufferings.

The God of all grace
who called you to his eternal glory
through Christ Jesus
will himself restore, confirm,
strengthen, and establish you
after you have suffered a little.

To him be dominion forever.

The terrifying words in today’s first reading and in the Prayer to Saint Michael are not superstitious fearmongering.

Read the paper, watch the news, and you see that there are many evil predators looking for victims: crooked and greedy capitalists, con artists, terrorists, sexual predators, conspiracy theorists, cult leaders, hateful purveyors of doubt and cynicism, and many others.

Also, if we look into our own hearts and minds, we see the many temptations that so often afflict us.

Some of these evils are clearly human in nature, but it is easy to see much more than simply the “bad choices” people make.

There are good things in the world and good things in humanity but there is also evil on the prowl.

Yet, no matter what we may suffer, by the grace of God we overcome evil and its terrors in the name of Jesus.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection
against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, thrust into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli
esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum
pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.

Administrative Professionals Day

was celebrated earlier this week.

We remember today one particular Assistant who was proficient in state-of-the-art word processing and thus a valuable asset to the CEO.

The CEO was under tremendous pressure, trying to stay at least one step ahead of the law (sometimes, they said, the way the CEO escaped the clutches of the authorities was a miracle).

The Assistant facilitated some of the CEO's most critical correspondence as well as supporting him (and sometimes the number two guy) on travels.

No mere cog in the great corporate machine, the Assistant aspired to write a book.

The book turned out to be a best seller: the first of a famous genre of very specialized biographies.

The Assistant eventually was promoted to head a major branch and would be well thought of by the people there.

In the end, however, the Assistant was probably caught in the same government sweep that finally destroyed the CEO, the number two, and many others.

The Feast of Saint Mark - assistant and traveling companion to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, author of the earliest Gospel, and Bishop of Alexandria - is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Want love?

Jesus Christ gives the answer in today’s Gospel (John 15:9-11):

As the Father loves me,
so I also love you.

Remain in my love.

If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

I have told you this
so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.

Ashamed to be a lawyer

Mark's fellow lawyers disgusted him: they were interested in money, not justice.

So Mark left the practice of law behind and focused on the practice of the faith.

He gave away his money and became a Capuchin, taking the name Brother Fidelis.

He would be a powerful advocate for the faith and was soon famous for his preaching.

He was sent to preach missions in places where nearly all the people had left the Church to follow a different direction.

He would be very successful – too successful.

One day he was preaching in a church when a mob stormed in, killing several guards and striking Fidelis.

A friendly man in the crowd offered to take Fidelis to safety. Fidelis thanked him but said he was in God's hands.

When he walked outside the church, the mob's leaders gave Fidelis one last chance to give up the faith.

Fidelis refused and was beaten to death right then and there - 386 years ago today in Seewis, Switzerland.

The memory of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Unless it remains on the vine

Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel (John 15:1-8) are beautiful.

Remain in me, as I remain in you.

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you
unless you remain in me.

Our Lord’s words are simple and deeply comforting.

I am the vine, you are the branches.

Whoever remains in me
and I in him
will bear much fruit,
because without me
you can do nothing.

Our Lord’s words may also be terrifying.

Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch
and wither;
people will gather them
and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.

(Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.)

Sad to say, we know of many people who have cut themselves off from the vine which is Christ and from his Church: famous and controversial figures (on the left and on the right) as well as people in our own lives – even people we love.

May God have mercy on us all and draw us all to himself in the name of Jesus.

Yet we should ask ourselves the question, how firmly are we rooted in the vine which is Christ?

Are we in some ways detached? Wanting a little distance in some things? Not quite complete in our commitment to Christ, His Truth and His Church?

If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want
and it will be done for you.

Do we want what we want or do we want what God wants?

By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit
and become my disciples.

May we be true disciples.

May we cling fully and firmly to the Vine which is Christ.

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at We Belong to the Lord.

A bishop before he was 30

He was intelligent, pious, and an energetic young priest.

He also had connections and the diocese needed a bishop very badly.

So, while still in his mid-twenties, he was made bishop.

It was not an easy diocese: polygamy, idolatry, and even slavery were popular in some circles.

The young bishop, on the other hand, was not popular: especially not among the powerful.

After several years, he escaped to Rome and became a Benedictine hermit.

Four years later, the Pope sent him back. He accomplished some things, but the enmity of the powerful proved deadly: his brothers were murdered and the young bishop fled again to Rome.

He then turned to evangelizing neighboring countries, meeting with considerable success in two of them, but once again running afoul of violent men in a third.

He cut down a tree sacred to pagans.

The pagans cut him down one thousand and eleven years ago today near the Baltic sea, but the ministry of Saint Adalbert, who had been born with the name of Vojtěch and was for a time bishop of Prague, would bear abundant fruit and the Christian faith would be embraced by all the lands in which he had preached the Gospel.

(adapted from an earlier post)

The unknown soldier

We know his name was George.

We know he was a soldier.

We know that he believed in Christ and that they killed him for it.

That’s really all we know.

But people remembered the name of George, the warrior who died for Christ, and long after the details of his life were forgotten, tales about him were told... and retold... and grew in the telling (the most famous of which – in which he slays a dragon - was encompassed in a collection known as “The Golden Legend”).

Thus, Saint George is famous, and yet also unknown.

But we know that he was a soldier who died for Christ and that is a more wonderful accomplishment than anything.

The feast of Saint George, patron of England et al, is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The path of salvation

In today’s first reading (Acts 14:19-28), Saint Paul is apparently beaten to death by a crowd that had previously been praising him as if he were a god.

He goes on to live and to proclaim the Gospel to many people in many places.

"... and (he) exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying,
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the Kingdom of God."

In today’s Gospel (John 14:27-31a), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speaks of “the ruler of this world” in an apparent reference to what motivates the men who are on their way to bring about his death. Our Lord, says, however, that

He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.

Sometimes we may be lucky and sometimes we may be blessed, but things will not always go well for us in this world, especially if we stand up for Christ.

But the path of salvation is one of perseverance, as Saint Paul reminds us, and of obedience and love, as our Lord shows us.

By the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may you and I be faithful, may you and I be obedient, may you and I be loving, may you and I persevere – no matter what.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A confused world

In today’s first reading (Acts 14:5-18), pagans confuse the Apostles Paul and Barnabas with the mythological gods Hermes and Zeus.

On one level, it was a natural mistake: when in doubt, the people applied concepts that were familiar. A natural, easy mistake – but a very bad mistake all the same.

The people in the United States saw something similar in the time leading up to the Holy Father’s visit last week: some people mistakenly applied political categories to him (does he help the Republicans or the Democrats?), others applied corporate categories to him (he’s a CEO), and some applied deceptive half-truths and outright lies (he’s a Nazi).

People may likewise try to categorize or pigeonhole us, especially when we try to share or demonstrate our faith.

Although we should make appropriate efforts to correct people’s misunderstanding, we must above all remain faithful to the Truth, regardless of the categorizations and distortions applied to us.

As we do this, we must pray for the Holy Spirit, whom our Lord promises to us in today’s Gospel (John 14:21-26), so that in the midst of a confused world we may remain faithful to Christ in everything we say and everything we do.

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit
whom the Father will send in my name
he will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.

Young wanderer becomes mighty defender

When he was a young boy, he loved God and before he was fifteen tried (unsuccessfully) to become a monk.

Then the temptations of life caught his attention and he wandered.

Years later, he found himself again at the doors of a monastery and he committed his life to God.

However, it was not yet clear what God wanted to do with him.

He felt called to the contemplative life of a hermit. On the other hand, his father had left him an estate with which might do great good for the poor. In the end, he submitted to the will of his superiors and committed himself to the monastic life.

Now committed to the service of God, the young man blossomed. He was blessed with a pious spirit, abundant energy, and a phenomenal intellect. He would quickly be called to greater and greater levels of responsibility (within three years he would be the number two man in the monastery), but his mind and his spirit soared further and in between his daily administrative tasks he wrote philosophical and theological works of great skill and insight.

He continued to write even after he was almost literally dragged into becoming a Bishop.

It was not just humility that made him reluctant to accept that office. Powerful political forces sought to dominate the Church and make it a tool of the State. He would rise to the challenge and defended the autonomy of the Church and the Gospel, sometimes with bold action, sometimes with careful nuance.

Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, died on this very day in 1109. His truly classic theological works include the Proslogium and Cur Deus Homo. His thought would be admired by diverse philosophers such as Descartes and Hegel.

St. Anselm of Canterbury was canonized in 1492.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pope Benedict bids America farewell

"Mr. Vice-President,
Distinguished Civil Authorities,
My Brother Bishops,

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"The time has come for me to bid farewell to your country.

"These days that I have spent in the United States have been blessed with many memorable experiences of American hospitality, and I wish to express my deep appreciation to all of you for your kind welcome.

"It has been a joy for me to witness the faith and devotion of the Catholic community here.

"It was heart-warming to spend time with leaders and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions, and I renew my assurances of respect and esteem to all of you.

"I am grateful to President Bush for kindly coming to greet me at the start of my visit, and I thank Vice-President Cheney for his presence here as I depart. The civic authorities, workers and volunteers in Washington and New York have given generously of their time and resources in order to ensure the smooth progress of my visit at every stage, and for this I express my profound thanks and appreciation to Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York.

"Once again I offer prayerful good wishes to the representatives of the see of Baltimore, the first Archdiocese, and those of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville, in this jubilee year. May the Lord continue to bless you in the years ahead. To all my Brother Bishops, to Bishop DiMarzio of this Diocese of Brooklyn, and to the officers and staff of the Episcopal Conference who have contributed in so many ways to the preparation of this visit, I extend my renewed gratitude for their hard work and dedication.

"With great affection I greet once more the priests and religious, the deacons, the seminarians and young people, and all the faithful in the United States, and I encourage you to continue bearing joyful witness to Christ our Hope, our Risen Lord and Savior, who makes all things new and gives us life in abundance.

"One of the high-points of my visit was the opportunity to address the General Assembly of the United Nations, and I thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his kind invitation and welcome.

"Looking back over the sixty years that have passed since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I give thanks for all that the Organization has been able to achieve in defending and promoting the fundamental rights of every man, woman and child throughout the world, and I encourage people of good will everywhere to continue working tirelessly to promote justice and peaceful co-existence between peoples and nations.

"My visit this morning to Ground Zero will remain firmly etched in my memory, as I continue to pray for those who died and for all who suffer in consequence of the tragedy that occurred there in 2001.

"For all the people of America, and indeed throughout the world, I pray that the future will bring increased fraternity and solidarity, a growth in mutual respect, and a renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father.

"With these words, I take my leave, I ask you to remember me in your prayers, and I assure you of my affection and friendship in the Lord.

"May God bless America!"

(Pope Benedict XVI this evening at JFK airport, before boarding his return flight to Rome)

The Pope's Mass at Yankee Stadium

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus tells his Apostles to put their faith in him, for he is 'the way, and the truth and the life' (Jn 14:6).

"Christ is the way that leads to the Father, the truth which gives meaning to human existence, and the source of that life which is eternal joy with all the saints in his heavenly Kingdom.

"Let us take the Lord at his word! Let us renew our faith in him and put all our hope in his promises!

"With this encouragement to persevere in the faith of Peter (cf. Lk 22:32; Mt 16:17), I greet all of you with great affection. I thank Cardinal Egan for his cordial words of welcome in your name.

"At this Mass, the Church in the United States celebrates the two hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville from the mother See of Baltimore.

"The presence around this altar of the Successor of Peter, his brother bishops and priests, and deacons, men and women religious, and lay faithful from throughout the fifty states of the Union, eloquently manifests our communion in the Catholic faith which comes to us from the Apostles.

"Our celebration today is also a sign of the impressive growth which God has given to the Church in your country in the past two hundred years.

"From a small flock like that described in the first reading, the Church in America has been built up in fidelity to the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor.

"In this land of freedom and opportunity, the Church has united a widely diverse flock in the profession of the faith and, through her many educational, charitable and social works, has also contributed significantly to the growth of American society as a whole.

"This great accomplishment was not without its challenges.

"Today's first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of linguistic and cultural tensions already present within the earliest Church community.

"At the same time, it shows the power of the word of God, authoritatively proclaimed by the Apostles and received in faith, to create a unity which transcends the divisions arising from human limitations and weakness.

"Here we are reminded of a fundamental truth: that the Church's unity has no other basis than the Word of God, made flesh in Christ Jesus our Lord.

"All external signs of identity, all structures, associations and programs, valuable or even essential as they may be, ultimately exist only to support and foster the deeper unity which, in Christ, is God's indefectible gift to his Church.

"The first reading also makes clear, as we see from the imposition of hands on the first deacons, that the Church's unity is 'apostolic'.

"It is a visible unity, grounded in the Apostles whom Christ chose and appointed as witnesses to his resurrection, and it is born of what the Scriptures call 'the obedience of faith' (Rom 1:5; cf. Acts 6:7).

"'Authority' …


"To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays.

"Words like these represent a 'stumbling stone' for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom.

"Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ - 'the way and the truth and the life' - we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words.

"The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love.

"Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33).

"True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life.

"'In his will is our peace'.

"Real freedom, then, is God's gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32).

"And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality.

"When we put on 'the mind of Christ' (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us!

"In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world.

"We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the 'apostolate' of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God's saving plan.

"This magnificent vision of a world being transformed by the liberating truth of the Gospel is reflected in the description of the Church found in today's second reading.

"The Apostle tells us that Christ, risen from the dead, is the keystone of a great temple which is even now rising in the Spirit.

"And we, the members of his body, through Baptism have become 'living stones' in that temple, sharing in the life of God by grace, blessed with the freedom of the sons of God, and empowered to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to him (cf. 1 Pet 2:5).

"And what is this offering which we are called to make, if not to direct our every thought, word and action to the truth of the Gospel and to harness all our energies in the service of God's Kingdom?

"Only in this way can we build with God, on the one foundation which is Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:11).

"Only in this way can we build something that will truly endure.

"Only in this way can our lives find ultimate meaning and bear lasting fruit.

"Today we recall the bicentennial of a watershed in the history of the Church in the United States: its first great chapter of growth.

"In these two hundred years, the face of the Catholic community in your country has changed greatly.

"We think of the successive waves of immigrants whose traditions have so enriched the Church in America.

"We think of the strong faith which built up the network of churches, educational, healthcare and social institutions which have long been the hallmark of the Church in this land.

"We think also of those countless fathers and mothers who passed on the faith to their children, the steady ministry of the many priests who devoted their lives to the care of souls, and the incalculable contribution made by so many men and women religious, who not only taught generations of children how to read and write, but also inspired in them a lifelong desire to know God, to love him and to serve him.

"How many 'spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God' have been offered up in these two centuries!

"In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society.

"Today's celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received.

"It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.

"'You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own, to proclaim his glorious works' (1 Pet 2:9).

"These words of the Apostle Peter do not simply remind us of the dignity which is ours by God's grace; they also challenge us to an ever greater fidelity to the glorious inheritance which we have received in Christ (cf. Eph 1:18).

"They challenge us to examine our consciences, to purify our hearts, to renew our baptismal commitment to reject Satan and all his empty promises.

"They challenge us to be a people of joy, heralds of the unfailing hope (cf. Rom 5:5) born of faith in God's word, and trust in his promises.

"Each day, throughout this land, you and so many of your neighbors pray to the Father in the Lord's own words: 'Thy Kingdom come'.

"This prayer needs to shape the mind and heart of every Christian in this nation.

"It needs to bear fruit in the way you lead your lives and in the way you build up your families and your communities.

"It needs to create new 'settings of hope' (cf. Spe Salvi, 32ff.) where God's Kingdom becomes present in all its saving power.

"Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means being constantly alert for the signs of its presence, and working for its growth in every sector of society.

"It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in Christ's victory and a commitment to extending his reign.

"It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal.

"It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness.

"It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, 'there is no human activity - even in secular affairs - which can be withdrawn from God's dominion' (Lumen Gentium, 36).

"It means working to enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.

"And this, dear friends, is the particular challenge which the Successor of Saint Peter sets before you today.

"As 'a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation', follow faithfully in the footsteps of those who have gone before you!

"Hasten the coming of God's Kingdom in this land!

"Past generations have left you an impressive legacy.

"In our day too, the Catholic community in this nation has been outstanding in its prophetic witness in the defense of life, in the education of the young, in care for the poor, the sick and the stranger in your midst.

"On these solid foundations, the future of the Church in America must even now begin to rise!

"Yesterday, not far from here, I was moved by the joy, the hope and the generous love of Christ which I saw on the faces of the many young people assembled in Dunwoodie.

"They are the Church's future, and they deserve all the prayer and support that you can give them.

"And so I wish to close by adding a special word of encouragement to them.

"My dear young friends, like the seven men, "filled with the Spirit and wisdom" whom the Apostles charged with care for the young Church, may you step forward and take up the responsibility which your faith in Christ sets before you!

"May you find the courage to proclaim Christ, 'the same, yesterday, and today and for ever' and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10; Heb 13:8).

"These are the truths that set us free!

"They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world - including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother's womb.

"In a world where, as Pope John Paul II, speaking in this very place, reminded us, Lazarus continues to stand at our door (Homily at Yankee Stadium, October 2, 1979, No. 7), let your faith and love bear rich fruit in outreach to the poor, the needy and those without a voice.

"Young men and women of America, I urge you: open your hearts to the Lord's call to follow him in the priesthood and the religious life.

"Can there be any greater mark of love than this: to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who was willing to lay down his life for his friends (cf. Jn 15:13)?

"In today's Gospel, the Lord promises his disciples that they will perform works even greater than his (cf. Jn 14:12).

"Dear friends, only God in his providence knows what works his grace has yet to bring forth in your lives and in the life of the Church in the United States.

"Yet Christ's promise fills us with sure hope.

"Let us now join our prayers to his, as living stones in that spiritual temple which is his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

"Let us lift our eyes to him, for even now he is preparing for us a place in his Father's house.

"And empowered by his Holy Spirit, let us work with renewed zeal for the spread of his Kingdom.

"'Happy are you who believe!'" (cf. 1 Pet 2:7).

"Let us turn to Jesus!

"He alone is the way that leads to eternal happiness, the truth who satisfies the deepest longings of every heart, and the life who brings ever new joy and hope, to us and to our world. Amen."

* * *

"Queridos hermanos y hermanas en el Señor:

"Les saludo con afecto y me alegro de celebrar esta Santa Misa para dar gracias a Dios por el bicentenario del momento en que empezó a desarrollarse la Iglesia Católica en esta Nación. Al mirar el camino de fe recorrido en estos años, no exento también de dificultades, alabamos al Señor por los frutos que la Palabra de Dios ha dado en estas tierras y le manifestamos nuestro deseo de que Cristo, Camino, Verdad y Vida, sea cada vez más conocido y amado.

"Aquí, en este País de libertad, quiero proclamar con fuerza que la Palabra de Cristo no elimina nuestras aspiraciones a una vida plena y libre, sino que nos descubre nuestra verdadera dignidad de hijos de Dios y nos alienta a luchar contra todo aquello que nos esclaviza, empezando por nuestro propio egoísmo y caprichos. Al mismo tiempo, nos anima a manifestar nuestra fe a través de nuestra vida de caridad y a hacer que nuestras comunidades eclesiales sean cada día más acogedoras y fraternas.

"Sobre todo a los jóvenes les confío asumir el gran reto que entraña creer en Cristo y lograr que esa fe se manifieste en una cercanía efectiva hacia los pobres. También en una respuesta generosa a las llamadas que Él sigue formulando para dejarlo todo y emprender una vida de total consagración a Dios y a la Iglesia, en la vida sacerdotal o religiosa.

"Queridos hermanos y hermanas, les invito a mirar el futuro con esperanza, permitiendo que Jesús entre en sus vidas. Solamente Él es el camino que conduce a la felicidad que no acaba, la verdad que satisface las más nobles expectativas humanas y la vida colmada de gozo para bien de la Iglesia y el mundo. Que Dios les bendiga."

The Pope prays at Ground Zero

"O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us,
people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

"We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here-
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers,
and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

"We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those who,
because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.

"Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.

"We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon
and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces
their pain and suffering.

"God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

"God of understanding,
by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all."

(Pope Benedict's prayer today
in the pit where the World Trade Center once stood)

Requiescant in pace

"You're welcome to join us."

Rocco Palmo writes of something wonderful he encountered last night in New York:

Later in the evening, while waiting to do a radio interview, I sat by the big fountain behind 30 Rock -- the GE Building, NBC Studios, etc. -- to kill time and just soak up being back here again.

It was a picture-perfect night, with just enough haze/smog in the air to give the lights of Times Square a brilliant shade of a "halo" effect. And then... from the distance... music could be heard. Voices and guitar. Joyous song.

"Holy! Holy! Holy!"

Over and over again.

"Holy! Holy! Holy!"

With each iteration, it came closer.

"Holy! Holy! Holy!"

Repetitive, exuberant chants are no surprise to anyone used to this place -- but from the sound, it became clear that these weren't the Hare Krishnas everyone's used to seeing roam the downtown streets.

And then they appeared: Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Sisters of Life, a host of other orders male and female, cassocked sems and, more than any other, layfolk. Fifty, maybe 70 of 'em. All young. All together. All one. All looking just like me.

"Holy! Holy! Holy!"

Each bore candles, turned heads and kept the singing up, making it a bit louder as the horns and engine-noises of 6th Ave. right by Radio City on a Friday night sought to drown them out.

I couldn't help but smile, simply to find that, in the midst of the city some have sought to portray as the global seat of the secularist behemoth, I wasn't alone.

"Holy! Holy! Holy!"

Seeing a beaming onlooker, one perceptive Sister of Life jumped out of the crowd and handed me a prayer-card.

"We're heading down to where he's staying to sing 'Happy Birthday,'" she said. Clearly, no further explanation was necessary.

"You're welcome to join us."

It’s not you, it’s me

The pictures have been dramatic: thousands and tens of thousands of people, of all ages and from all walks of life, cheering, grinning, shouting, crying, laughing, and singing at the sight of a small, old man dressed in white.

This was not something he had sought. Years ago, when he was known as Cardinal Ratzinger, he had sought retirement to a quiet life with his books, his cats, his music, his brother, and his prayers.

But God said, It’s not you, it’s me – I have plans for you.

I am sure that as Pope Benedict sees all the smiles and hears all the cheering, he also hears the voice of the Lord saying, It’s not you, it’s me – they cheer you because you represent me.

Likewise, when the Holy Father thinks of what he might say to all of these people, he hears the voice of God saying, It’s not you, it’s me – it’s not your wisdom that comes from a lifetime of study, it’s my wisdom that comes from eternity.

Pope Benedict knows that what we say must be the truth that comes from God and what we do must also manifest that truth as well as make God’s love present and concrete.

So when we considering what we should say and what we should do, you and I need to listen for the voice of God saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Christ himself sets the example for us in today’s Gospel (John 14:1-12) – an example that is unapproachable in its perfection but mandatory for all who call themselves Christian:

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Do you not believe that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me?

The words that I speak to you
I do not speak on my own.

The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s works took place physically in a relatively small area of the Middle East.

We are called to perform the works of God in the name of Jesus everywhere we are in the world.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pope Benedict speaks to young people

"Your Eminence,

"Dear Brother Bishops,

"Dear Young Friends,

"'Proclaim the Lord Christ ... and always have your answer ready for people who ask the reason for the hope that is within you' (1 Pet 3:15).

"With these words from the First Letter of Peter I greet each of you with heartfelt affection. I thank Cardinal Egan for his kind words of welcome and I also thank the representatives chosen from among you for their gestures of welcome. To Bishop Walsh, Rector of Saint Joseph Seminary, staff and seminarians, I offer my special greetings and gratitude.

"Young friends, I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak with you. Please pass on my warm greetings to your family members and relatives, and to the teachers and staff of the various schools, colleges and universities you attend. I know that many people have worked hard to ensure that our gathering could take place. I am most grateful to them all.

"Also, I wish to acknowledge your singing to me Happy Birthday! Thank you for this moving gesture; I give you all an 'A plus' for your German pronunciation!

"This evening I wish to share with you some thoughts about being disciples of Jesus Christ ─ walking in the Lord’s footsteps, our own lives become a journey of hope.

"In front of you are the images of six ordinary men and women who grew up to lead extraordinary lives.

"The Church honors them as Venerable, Blessed, or Saint: each responded to the Lord’s call to a life of charity and each served him here, in the alleys, streets and suburbs of New York.

"I am struck by what a remarkably diverse group they are: poor and rich, lay men and women - one a wealthy wife and mother - priests and sisters, immigrants from afar, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior father and Algonquin mother, another a Haitian slave, and a Cuban intellectual.

"Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Padre Felix Varela: any one of us could be among them, for there is no stereotype to this group, no single mold.

"Yet a closer look reveals that there are common elements.

"Inflamed with the love of Jesus, their lives became remarkable journeys of hope. For some, that meant leaving home and embarking on a pilgrim journey of thousands of miles.

"For each there was an act of abandonment to God, in the confidence that he is the final destination of every pilgrim.

"And all offered an outstretched hand of hope to those they encountered along the way, often awakening in them a life of faith.

"Through orphanages, schools and hospitals, by befriending the poor, the sick and the marginalized, and through the compelling witness that comes from walking humbly in the footsteps of Jesus, these six people laid open the way of faith, hope and charity to countless individuals, including perhaps your own ancestors.

"And what of today?

"Who bears witness to the Good News of Jesus on the streets of New York, in the troubled neighborhoods of large cities, in the places where the young gather, seeking someone in whom they can trust?

"God is our origin and our destination, and Jesus the way.

"The path of that journey twists and turns ─ just as it did for our saints ─ through the joys and the trials of ordinary, everyday life: within your families, at school or college, during your recreation activities, and in your parish communities.

"All these places are marked by the culture in which you are growing up.

"As young Americans you are offered many opportunities for personal development, and you are brought up with a sense of generosity, service and fairness.

"Yet you do not need me to tell you that there are also difficulties: activities and mindsets which stifle hope, pathways which seem to lead to happiness and fulfillment but in fact end only in confusion and fear.

"My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers;

"its influence grew – infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion – before it was fully recognized for the monster it was.

"It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good.

"Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.

"Let us thank God that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights.

"Let us thank God for all those who strive to ensure that you can grow up in an environment that nurtures what is beautiful, good, and true: your parents and grandparents, your teachers and priests, those civic leaders who seek what is right and just.

"The power to destroy does, however, remain. To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves.

"Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated.

"This is the essence of the hope that defines us as Christians; and the Church recalls this most dramatically during the Easter Triduum and celebrates it with great joy in the season of Easter!

"The One who shows us the way beyond death is the One who shows us how to overcome destruction and fear: thus it is Jesus who is the true teacher of life (cf. Spe Salvi, 6).

"His death and resurrection mean that we can say to the Father 'you have restored us to life!' (Prayer after Communion, Good Friday).

"And so, just a few weeks ago, during the beautiful Easter Vigil liturgy, it was not from despair or fear that we cried out to God for our world, but with hope-filled confidence: dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds! (cf. Prayer at the Lighting of the Easter Candle).

"What might that darkness be?

"What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope?

"A first group of examples pertains to the heart.

"Here, the dreams and longings that young people pursue can so easily be shattered or destroyed.

"I am thinking of those affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation – especially of girls and women.

"While the causes of these problems are complex, all have in common a poisoned attitude of mind which results in people being treated as mere objects ─ a callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being.

"Such tragedies also point to what might have been and what could be, were there other hands – your hands – reaching out.

"I encourage you to invite others, especially the vulnerable and the innocent, to join you along the way of goodness and hope.

"The second area of darkness – that which affects the mind – often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister.

"The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations.

"I have already mentioned the many liberties which you are fortunate enough to enjoy.

"The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded.

"It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum.

"Yet freedom is a delicate value.

"It can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.

"Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person?

"Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good.

"In some circles to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere.

"And in truth’s place – or better said its absence – an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience.

"This we call relativism.

"But what purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong?

"How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life?

"Dear friends, truth is not an imposition.

"Nor is it simply a set of rules.

"It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust.

"In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ.

"That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others (cf. Spe Salvi, 28).

"How then can we as believers help others to walk the path of freedom which brings fulfillment and lasting happiness?

"Let us again turn to the saints. How did their witness truly free others from the darkness of heart and mind?

"The answer is found in the kernel of their faith; the kernel of our faith.

"The Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, tells us that God does indeed find a place among us.

"Though the inn is full, he enters through the stable, and there are people who see his light.

"They recognize Herod’s dark closed world for what it is, and instead follow the bright guiding star of the night sky.

"And what shines forth? Here you might recall the prayer uttered on the most holy night of Easter: 'Father we share in the light of your glory through your Son the light of the world … inflame us with your hope!' (Blessing of the Fire).

"And so, in solemn procession with our lighted candles we pass the light of Christ among us.

"It is 'the light which dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride' (Exsultet).

"This is Christ’s light at work. This is the way of the saints.

"It is a magnificent vision of hope – Christ’s light beckons you to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ’s way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace.

"At times, however, we are tempted to close in on ourselves, to doubt the strength of Christ’s radiance, to limit the horizon of hope.

"Take courage! Fix your gaze on our saints.

"The diversity of their experience of God’s presence prompts us to discover anew the breadth and depth of Christianity.

"Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship.

"Sometimes we are looked upon as people who speak only of prohibitions.

"Nothing could be further from the truth!

"Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder.

"We stand before the God we know and love as a friend, the vastness of his creation, and the beauty of our Christian faith.

"Dear friends, the example of the saints invites us, then, to consider four essential aspects of the treasure of our faith: personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, charity in action, and vocations.

"What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God.

"That relationship is expressed in prayer.

"God by his very nature speaks, hears, and replies.

"Indeed, Saint Paul reminds us: we can and should “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17).

"Far from turning in on ourselves or withdrawing from the ups and downs of life, by praying we turn towards God and through him to each other, including the marginalized and those following ways other than God’s path (cf. Spe Salvi, 33).

"As the saints teach us so vividly, prayer becomes hope in action. Christ was their constant companion, with whom they conversed at every step of their journey for others.

"There is another aspect of prayer which we need to remember: silent contemplation.

"Saint John, for example, tells us that to embrace God’s revelation we must first listen, then respond by proclaiming what we have heard and seen (cf. 1 Jn 1:2-3; Dei Verbum, 1).

"Have we perhaps lost something of the art of listening?

"Do you leave space to hear God’s whisper, calling you forth into goodness?

"Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen to God, adore him in the Eucharist.

"Let his word shape your journey as an unfolding of holiness.

"In the liturgy we find the whole Church at prayer.

"The word liturgy means the participation of God’s people in 'the work of Christ the Priest and of His Body which is the Church' (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7).

"What is that work?

"First of all it refers to Christ’s Passion, his Death and Resurrection, and his Ascension – what we call the Paschal Mystery.

"It also refers to the celebration of the liturgy itself.

"The two meanings are in fact inseparably linked because this 'work of Jesus' is the real content of the liturgy.

"Through the liturgy, the 'work of Jesus' is continually brought into contact with history; with our lives in order to shape them.

"Here we catch another glimpse of the grandeur of our Christian faith.

"Whenever you gather for Mass, when you go to Confession, whenever you celebrate any of the sacraments, Jesus is at work.

"Through the Holy Spirit, he draws you to himself, into his sacrificial love of the Father which becomes love for all.

"We see then that the Church’s liturgy is a ministry of hope for humanity.

"Your faithful participation, is an active hope which helps to keep the world – saints and sinners alike – open to God; this is the truly human hope we offer everyone (cf. Spe Salvi, 34).

"Your personal prayer, your times of silent contemplation, and your participation in the Church’s liturgy, bring you closer to God and also prepare you to serve others.

"The saints accompanying us this evening show us that the life of faith and hope is also a life of charity.

"Contemplating Jesus on the Cross we see love in its most radical form.

"We can begin to imagine the path of love along which we must move (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 12).

"The opportunities to make this journey are abundant.

"Look about you with Christ’s eyes, listen with his ears, feel and think with his heart and mind.

"Are you ready to give all as he did for truth and justice?

"Many of the examples of the suffering which our saints responded to with compassion are still found here in this city and beyond.

"And new injustices have arisen: some are complex and stem from the exploitation of the heart and manipulation of the mind; even our common habitat, the earth itself, groans under the weight of consumerist greed and irresponsible exploitation.

"We must listen deeply.

"We must respond with a renewed social action that stems from the universal love that knows no bounds.

"In this way, we ensure that our works of mercy and justice become hope in action for others.

"Dear young people, finally I wish to share a word about vocations.

"First of all my thoughts go to your parents, grandparents and godparents. They have been your primary educators in the faith.

"By presenting you for baptism, they made it possible for you to receive the greatest gift of your life.

"On that day you entered into the holiness of God himself. You became adoptive sons and daughters of the Father. You were incorporated into Christ. You were made a dwelling place of his Spirit.

"Let us pray for mothers and fathers throughout the world, particularly those who may be struggling in any way – socially, materially, spiritually. Let us honor the vocation of matrimony and the dignity of family life. Let us always appreciate that it is in families that vocations are given life.

"Gathered here at Saint Joseph Seminary, I greet the seminarians present and indeed encourage all seminarians throughout America.

"I am glad to know that your numbers are increasing!

"The People of God look to you to be holy priests, on a daily journey of conversion, inspiring in others the desire to enter more deeply into the ecclesial life of believers.

"I urge you to deepen your friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd.

"Talk heart to heart with him.

"Reject any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or conceit.

"Strive for a pattern of life truly marked by charity, chastity and humility, in imitation of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, of whom you are to become living icons (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 33).

"Dear seminarians, I pray for you daily. Remember that what counts before the Lord is to dwell in his love and to make his love shine forth for others.

"Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests contribute greatly to the mission of the Church.

"Their prophetic witness is marked by a profound conviction of the primacy with which the Gospel shapes Christian life and transforms society.

"Today, I wish to draw your attention to the positive spiritual renewal which Congregations are undertaking in relation to their charism.

"The word charism means a gift freely and graciously given. Charisms are bestowed by the Holy Spirit, who inspires founders and foundresses, and shapes Congregations with a subsequent spiritual heritage.

"The wondrous array of charisms proper to each Religious Institute is an extraordinary spiritual treasury.

"Indeed, the history of the Church is perhaps most beautifully portrayed through the history of her schools of spirituality, most of which stem from the saintly lives of founders and foundresses.

"Through the discovery of charisms, which yield such a breadth of spiritual wisdom, I am sure that some of you young people will be drawn to a life of apostolic or contemplative service.

"Do not be shy to speak with Religious Brothers, Sisters or Priests about the charism and spirituality of their Congregation.

"No perfect community exists, but it is fidelity to a founding charism, not to particular individuals, that the Lord calls you to discern.

"Have courage!

"You too can make your life a gift of self for the love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family (cf. Vita Consecrata, 3).

"Friends, again I ask you, what about today?

"What are you seeking?

"What is God whispering to you?

"The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ.

" The saints show us the selfless love of his way. As disciples of Christ, their extraordinary journeys unfolded within the community of hope, which is the Church.

"It is from within the Church that you too will find the courage and support to walk the way of the Lord.

"Nourished by personal prayer, prompted in silence, shaped by the Church’s liturgy you will discover the particular vocation God has for you.

"Embrace it with joy.

"You are Christ’s disciples today.

"Shine his light upon this great city and beyond.

"Show the world the reason for the hope that resonates within you.

"Tell others about the truth that sets you free.

"With these sentiments of great hope in you I bid you farewell, until we meet again in Sydney this July for World Youth Day!

"And as a pledge of my love for you and your families, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing."

* * *

"Queridos Seminaristas, queridos jóvenes:

"Es para mí una gran alegría poder encontrarme con todos ustedes en este día de mi cumpleaños. Gracias por su acogida y por el cariño que me han demostrado.

"Les animo a abrirle al Señor su corazón para que Él lo llene por completo y con el fuego de su amor lleven su Evangelio a todos los barrios de Nueva York.

"La luz de la fe les impulsará a responder al mal con el bien y la santidad de vida, como lo hicieron los grandes testigos del Evangelio a lo largo de los siglos.

"Ustedes están llamados a continuar esa cadena de amigos de Jesús, que encontraron en su amor el gran tesoro de sus vidas.

"Cultiven esta amistad a través de la oración, tanto personal como litúrgica, y por medio de las obras de caridad y del compromiso por ayudar a los más necesitados.

"Si no lo han hecho, plantéense seriamente si el Señor les pide seguirlo de un modo radical en el ministerio sacerdotal o en la vida consagrada.

"No basta una relación esporádica con Cristo. Una amistad así no es tal. Cristo les quiere amigos suyos íntimos, fieles y perseverantes.

"A la vez que les renuevo mi invitación a participar en la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud en Sidney, les aseguro mi recuerdo en la oración, en la que suplico a Dios que los haga auténticos discípulos de Cristo Resucitado. Muchas gracias."

(given today at a rally for young people on the grounds of St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York)

Pope addresses youth with disabilities

"Your Eminence,
Bishop Walsh,
Dear Friends,

"I am very happy to have this opportunity to spend a brief moment with you.

"I thank Cardinal Egan for his welcome and especially thank your representatives for their kind words and for the gift of the drawing.

"Know that it is a special joy for me to be with you. Please give my greetings to your parents and family members, and your teachers and caregivers.

"God has blessed you with life, and with differing talents and gifts. Through these you are able to serve him and society in various ways. While some people's contributions seem great and others' more modest, the witness value of our efforts is always a sign of hope for everyone.

"Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured.

"Yet our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does.

"God's unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life.

"Through his Cross, Jesus in fact draws us into his saving love (cf. Jn 12:32) and in so doing shows us the way ahead - the way of hope which transfigures us all, so that we too, become bearers of that hope and charity for others.

"Dear friends, I encourage you all to pray every day for our world. There are so many intentions and people you can pray for, including those who have yet to come to know Jesus. And please do continue to pray for me. As you know I have just had another birthday. Time passes!

"Thank you all again, including the Cathedral of Saint Patrick Young Singers and the members of the Archdiocesan Deaf Choir. As a sign of strength and peace and with great affection in our Lord, I impart to you and your families, teachers and caregivers my Apostolic Blessing."

(Given today at St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York)