Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has a way of succinctly expressing profound truths that really resonate with me. On October 15, a film entitled Bells of Europe (Campane d’Europa) was shown in a special screening for the Synod of Bishops. In it, Pope Benedict expresses the 3 reasons why he is hopeful about the Christian future of Europe:
- The first reason for my hope consists in the fact that the desire for God, the search for God, is profoundly inscribed into each human soul and cannot disappear.
- The second reason for my hope lies in the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, faith in Jesus Christ, is quite simply true; and the truth never ages.
- A third reason is evident in the fact that this sense of restlessness today exists among the young who are beginning their journey making new discoveries of the beauty of Christianity; not a cut-price or watered-down version, but Christianity in all its radicalism and profundity.
He goes on to say that Christianity in Europe has deep foundations. That is Christianity; it is true and the truth always has a future.
In his regular column in our local Catholic Newspaper the Catholic New World, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., told us about his recurrence of cancer and his thoughts about what is to come. He reflects that people like to be in control or at least think they are in control but in actual fact, “we are never in control….Eventually, it is this immediately tangible world that becomes the ‘strange land’ and it is the next that beckons us as our true home.'”
On the Feast of the Assumption as he was undergoing tests the Cardinal read the homily preached by the Holy Father on that day. Here is an excerpt:
One thing, one hope is certain: God awaits us, He attends to us, we are not headed for a void, we are expected. God awaits us and, passing to the other world, we will find the Mother’s goodness, we will find our loved ones, we will find Eternal Love. God awaits us: this is our great joy and our great hope that is born precisely on this feast.”
The Cardinal prays that “I and all those God has given me to know and love here might live in such a way that God’s will for the salvation of the world might be realized. God bless you.”
On June 3, 2012, in case you missed it, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in Milan in front of one million people!! As a You Tube audio put it- WOW!
At the conclusion of his address, the Holy Father said, Family, work, celebration: three of God’s gifts, three dimensions of our lives that must be brought into a harmonious balance. Harmonizing work schedules with family demands, professional life with fatherhood and motherhood, work with celebration, is important for building up a society with a human face. In this regard, always give priority to the logic of being over that of having: the first builds up, the second ends up destroying. We must learn to believe first of all in the family, in authentic love, the kind that comes from God and unites us to him, the kind that therefore “makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28)” (Deus Caritas Est, 18). Amen.
In September, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI paid a special visit to a Pietà located in the shrine at Etzelsbach (Thuringia), Germany. Every year there is a traditional equestrian pilgrimage, which is held on the second Sunday after the feast of the Visitation. This commemorates the healing of horses who were cured when taken to the shrine during an equine epidemic.
The Holy Father obviously loves the pilgrimage site and has pondered deeply the miraculous image contained within. Located in East Germany, it survived most recently the Nazi reign of terror and the Communist takeover of the region. Here are excerpts of his relfections:
“In most representations of the Pietà, the dead Jesus is lying with his head facing left, so that the observer can see the wounded side of the Crucified Lord,” explained the Pontiff. “Here in Etzelsbach, however, the wounded side is concealed, because the body is facing the other way.”
It seems to the Holy Father that “the hearts of Jesus and his mother are turned to one another; they come close to each other. They exchange their love.”
“It is not self-fulfilment that truly enables people to flourish…. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary and hence also towards the heart of the Redeemer.”
For a detailed history of the statue from a Zenit article, click here. Or go to Fr. Z’s blog for an analysis of the Holy Father’s talk at the shrine.
Happy Feast of the Visitation!
On May 18, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI expressed to US Bishops during an Ad Limina visit his “deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country, and to join them in praying that this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church, as well as to their founding charisms.”
As the Year of Faith approaches (October), the Holy Father added that he hopes that all people will rediscover and “re-appropriate with joy and gratitude the priceless treasure of our faith.” Furthermore, “With the progressive weakening of traditional Christian values, and the threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly, the truth of Christ needs not only to be understood, articulated and defended, but to be proposed joyfully and confidently as the key to authentic human fulfillment and to the welfare of society as a whole.”
As we approach Pentecost, may we, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, have the courage of the Apostles to be bearers of the Good News in a world hostile to Christian values.
On April 29, Pope Benedict XVI ordained nine men to the priesthood. In his Regina Caeli address following the Eucharistic celebration, he provided us with a beautiful image of a vocation:
Dear friends, let us pray for the Church, for every local community, that it may be like a watered garden in which all the seeds of vocation that God scatters in abundance sprout and ripen. Let us pray that this garden may be cultivated everywhere, with the joy of feeling that we are all called, in the variety of our gifts.
Let us pray for all men and women to prayerfully discern their vocation from the Lord. If we do this, we will have strong families, vibrant religious life and a holy nation.
When Pope Benedict XVI visited Great Britain in 2010, the Press had their pens poised to write stories about the dismal failure of his trip. You didn’t read any stores of the kind because guess what, it was a big success. The crowds were big (even in Protestant Scotland over 100,000 people lined the streets to wish him well) and the critics seemed to disappear in light of the outpouring of love for the Holy Father.
Now comes an article in The Times of London which indicates that the number of women entering religious orders has almost tripled since the Holy Father’s visit.
Laura Adshead, the former girlfriend of the current Prime Minister David Cameron, entered Regina Laudis Abbey in the USA. A congregation in York, after years of no activity, has six solid inquiries. In another order, three women are entering their novitiate in the fall. Still another has had no novices for twelve years but now has one with two more coming.
Father Christopher Jamison, National Office for Vocation, said, “In the last few years, the number of people applying to seminaries has been gradually increasing and, in more recent years, just in the last couple of years, ever since the Papal visit, the number of women approaching women’s congregations has also been increasing.”
Also, 1 in 5 new vocations are converts. The Lord calls. And women are responding.
How beautiful our faith is and how visual are its signs in our cathedrals and in the relics that we treasure.
Here is one that I knew nothing about: the “Heiliger Rock,” now on display in the Cathedral of Trier, Germany, from April 13 – May 13, 2012.
According to tradition, the Heiliger Rock is the robe worn by Jesus for which the Roman soldiers cast lots (Jn 19:24). Found by St. Helena c.327 it is rarely on display.
Pope Benedict XVI, in a message to the Bishop of Trier, said that the robe (or tunic) made with a single piece of cloth, that is, with no seams, is a sign of “the unity of the Church, founded as one indivisible community by the love of Christ.” His love, the Holy Father says, “brings together that which has been divided.” The jubilee pilgrimage (it was first viewed in 1512) in keeping with this theme, has the motto: “Lead to unity that which is divided.”
“We ask the Lord,” says the Holy Father, “to guide us on the shared path of faith, to make it live again for us….growing together as Christians in faith, prayer and witness.”
The Holy Father’s prayer intention for the month of April as announced by the Apostleship of Prayer is:
“that many young people may hear the call of Christ and follow him in the priesthood and religious life.”
Amen to that! And the Pontiff’s mission intention is “that the risen Christ may be a sign of certain hope for the men and women of the African continent.”
The Apostleship of Prayer promotes among other things the offering of each person’s daily prayers, works, joys and sufferings to the Lord. Begun in France in 1844 by a group of Jesuit seminarians, the Apostleship of Prayer is truly the Pope’s own “prayer group.” It is, as Pope John Paul II wrote in 1985, “a precious treasure from the Pope’s heart and the Heart of Christ.”
The US National Director is Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., an IRL Board Member. Visit their website for morning offering prayers, the monthly intentions, reflections and much more.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will visit Mexico and Cuba from March 23-29, 2012. In an interesting article in the National Catholic Register, Mary Hansen describes some of the lesser known but incredibly beautiful Catholic images that the Holy Father will see in Mexico.
Included on the itinerary is a visit to site of the huge statue, Cristo Rey (Christ the King), described by their former President as a “rebuke to the repressors of religious freedom.” Another one of his stops will be the city of Guanajuato where he will see a statue of Our Lady that is believed to date from the 7th century.
The Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre said, “I think the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in Mexico is seen by the great majority of people in this country as a profound sign of hope,” he told Vatican Radio. “The Mexican people are a very religious people, with a deep experience of God, a deep experience of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, a deep experience also of what it means to be members of the Church.”
Let us pray for a safe journey for our Holy Father and for all who will pray with him, in person and in spirit. May he strengthen the faith of the people and encourage young men and women to heed the call of the Lord to: “Follow me!”