Thursday, December 04, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Dear Young People,
What a delight it is to greet you here at Barangaroo, on the shores of the magnificent Sydney harbour, with its famous bridge and Opera House. Many of you are local, from the outback or the dynamic multicultural communities of Australian cities. Others of you have come from the scattered islands of Oceania, and others still from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. Some of you, indeed, have come from as far as I have, Europe! Wherever we are from, we are here at last in Sydney. And together we stand in our world as God’s family, disciples of Christ, empowered by his Spirit to be witnesses of his love and truth for everyone!
I wish firstly to thank the Aboriginal Elders who welcomed me prior to my boarding the boat at Rose Bay. I am deeply moved to stand on your land, knowing the suffering and injustices it has borne, but aware too of the healing and hope that are now at work, rightly bringing pride to all Australian citizens. To the young indigenous - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders - and the Tokelauans, I express my thanks for your stirring welcome. Through you, I send heartfelt greetings to your peoples.
Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Wilson, I thank you for your warm words of welcome. I know that your sentiments resonate in the hearts of the young gathered here this evening, and so I thank you all. Standing before me I see a vibrant image of the universal Church. The variety of nations and cultures from which you hail shows that indeed Christ’s Good News is for everyone; it has reached the ends of the earth. Yet I know too that a good number of you are still seeking a spiritual homeland. Some of you, most welcome among us, are not Catholic or Christian. Others of you perhaps hover at the edge of parish and Church life. To you I wish to offer encouragement: step forward into Christ’s loving embrace; recognize the Church as your home. No one need remain on the outside, for from the day of Pentecost the Church has been one and universal.
This evening I wish also to include those who are not present among us. I am thinking especially of the sick or mentally ill, young people in prison, those struggling on the margins of our societies, and those who for whatever reason feel alienated from the Church. To them I say: Jesus is close to you! Feel his healing embrace, his compassion and mercy!
Almost two thousand years ago, the Apostles, gathered in the upper room together with Mary and some faithful women, were filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:4). At that extraordinary moment, which gave birth to the Church, the confusion and fear that had gripped Christ’s disciples were transformed into a vigorous conviction and sense of purpose. They felt impelled to speak of their encounter with the risen Jesus whom they had come to call affectionately, the Lord. In many ways, the Apostles were ordinary. None could claim to be the perfect disciple. They failed to recognize Christ (cf. Lk 24:13-32), felt ashamed of their own ambition (cf. Lk 22:24-27), and had even denied him (cf. Lk 22:54-62). Yet, when empowered by the Holy Spirit, they were transfixed by the truth of Christ’s Gospel and inspired to proclaim it fearlessly. Emboldened, they exclaimed: repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:37-38)! Grounded in the Apostles’ teaching, in fellowship, and in the breaking of the bread and prayer (cf. Acts 2:42), the young Christian community moved forward to oppose the perversity in the culture around them (cf. Acts 2:40), to care for one another (cf. Acts 2:44-47), to defend their belief in Jesus in the face of hostility (cf Acts 4:33), and to heal the sick (cf. Acts 5:12-16). And in obedience to Christ’s own command, they set forth, bearing witness to the greatest story ever: that God has become one of us, that the divine has entered human history in order to transform it, and that we are called to immerse ourselves in Christ’s saving love which triumphs over evil and death. Saint Paul, in his famous speech to the Areopagus, introduced the message in this way: "God gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone … so that all nations might seek God and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him. In fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17: 25-28).
And ever since, men and women have set out to tell the same story, witnessing to Christ’s truth and love, and contributing to the Church’s mission. Today, we think of those pioneering Priests, Sisters and Brothers who came to these shores, and to other parts of the Pacific, from Ireland, France, Britain and elsewhere in Europe. The great majority were young - some still in their late teens - and when they bade farewell to their parents, brothers and sisters, and friends, they knew they were unlikely ever to return home. Their whole lives were a selfless Christian witness. They became the humble but tenacious builders of so much of the social and spiritual heritage which still today brings goodness, compassion and purpose to these nations. And they went on to inspire another generation. We think immediately of the faith which sustained Blessed Mary MacKillop in her sheer determination to educate especially the poor, and Blessed Peter To Rot in his steadfast resolution that community leadership must always include the Gospel. Think also of your own grandparents and parents, your first teachers in faith. They too have made countless sacrifices of time and energy, out of love for you. Supported by your parish priests and teachers, they have the task, not always easy but greatly satisfying, of guiding you towards all that is good and true, through their own witness - their teaching and living of our Christian faith.
Today, it is my turn. For some of us, it might seem like we have come to the end of the world! For people of your age, however, any flight is an exciting prospect. But for me, this one was somewhat daunting! Yet the views afforded of our planet from the air were truly wondrous. The sparkle of the Mediterranean, the grandeur of the north African desert, the lushness of Asia’s forestation, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, the horizon upon which the sun rose and set, and the majestic splendour of Australia’s natural beauty which I have been able to enjoy these last couple of days; these all evoke a profound sense of awe. It is as though one catches glimpses of the Genesis creation story - light and darkness, the sun and the moon, the waters, the earth, and living creatures; all of which are "good" in God’s eyes (cf. Gen 1:1 - 2:4). Immersed in such beauty, who could not echo the words of the Psalmist in praise of the Creator: "how majestic is your name in all the earth?" (Ps 8:1).
And there is more – something hardly perceivable from the sky – men and women, made in nothing less than God’s own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26). At the heart of the marvel of creation are you and I, the human family "crowned with glory and honour" (Ps 8:5). How astounding! With the Psalmist we whisper: "what is man that you are mindful of him?" (Ps 8:4). And drawn into silence, into a spirit of thanksgiving, into the power of holiness, we ponder.
What do we discover? Perhaps reluctantly we come to acknowledge that there are also scars which mark the surface of our earth: erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world’s mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption. Some of you come from island nations whose very existence is threatened by rising water levels; others from nations suffering the effects of devastating drought. God’s wondrous creation is sometimes experienced as almost hostile to its stewards, even something dangerous. How can what is "good" appear so threatening?
And there is more. What of man, the apex of God’s creation? Every day we encounter the genius of human achievement. From advances in medical sciences and the wise application of technology, to the creativity reflected in the arts, the quality and enjoyment of people’s lives in many ways are steadily rising. Among yourselves there is a readiness to take up the plentiful opportunities offered to you. Some of you excel in studies, sport, music, or dance and drama, others of you have a keen sense of social justice and ethics, and many of you take up service and voluntary work. All of us, young and old, have those moments when the innate goodness of the human person - perhaps glimpsed in the gesture of a little child or an adult’s readiness to forgive - fills us with profound joy and gratitude.
Yet such moments do not last. So again, we ponder. And we discover that not only the natural but also the social environment – the habitat we fashion for ourselves – has its scars; wounds indicating that something is amiss. Here too, in our personal lives and in our communities, we can encounter a hostility, something dangerous; a poison which threatens to corrode what is good, reshape who we are, and distort the purpose for which we have been created. Examples abound, as you yourselves know. Among the more prevalent are alcohol and drug abuse, and the exaltation of violence and sexual degradation, often presented through television and the internet as entertainment. I ask myself, could anyone standing face to face with people who actually do suffer violence and sexual exploitation "explain" that these tragedies, portrayed in virtual form, are considered merely "entertainment"?
There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fuelled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives. Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made "experience" all-important. Yet, experiences, detached from any consideration of what is good or true, can lead, not to genuine freedom, but to moral or intellectual confusion, to a lowering of standards, to a loss of self-respect, and even to despair.
Dear friends, life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf. Gen 1:28)! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.
Christ offers more! Indeed he offers everything! Only he who is the Truth can be the Way and hence also the Life. Thus the "way" which the Apostles brought to the ends of the earth is life in Christ. This is the life of the Church. And the entrance to this life, to the Christian way, is Baptism.
This evening I wish therefore to recall briefly something of our understanding of Baptism before tomorrow considering the Holy Spirit. On the day of your Baptism, God drew you into his holiness (cf. 2 Pet 1:4). You were adopted as a son or daughter of the Father. You were incorporated into Christ. You were made a dwelling place of his Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 6:19). Baptism is neither an achievement, nor a reward. It is a grace; it is God’s work. Indeed, towards the conclusion of your Baptism, the priest turned to your parents and those gathered and, calling you by your name said: "you have become a new creation" (Rite of Baptism, 99).
Dear friends, in your homes, schools and universities, in your places of work and recreation, remember that you are a new creation! Not only do you stand before the Creator in awe, rejoicing at his works, you also realize that the sure foundation of humanity’s solidarity lies in the common origin of every person, the high-point of God’s creative design for the world. As Christians you stand in this world knowing that God has a human face - Jesus Christ - the "way" who satisfies all human yearning, and the "life" to which we are called to bear witness, walking always in his light (cf. ibid., 100).
The task of witness is not easy. There are many today who claim that God should be left on the sidelines, and that religion and faith, while fine for individuals, should either be excluded from the public forum altogether or included only in the pursuit of limited pragmatic goals. This secularist vision seeks to explain human life and shape society with little or no reference to the Creator. It presents itself as neutral, impartial and inclusive of everyone. But in reality, like every ideology, secularism imposes a world-view. If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image, and debate and policy concerning the public good will be driven more by consequences than by principles grounded in truth.
Yet experience shows that turning our back on the Creator’s plan provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order (cf. 1990 World Day of Peace Message, 5). When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the "good" begins to wane. What was ostensibly promoted as human ingenuity soon manifests itself as folly, greed and selfish exploitation. And so we have become more and more aware of our need for humility before the delicate complexity of God’s world.
But what of our social environment? Are we equally alert to the signs of turning our back on the moral structure with which God has endowed humanity (cf. 2007 World Day of Peace Message, 8)? Do we recognize that the innate dignity of every individual rests on his or her deepest identity - as image of the Creator - and therefore that human rights are universal, based on the natural law, and not something dependent upon negotiation or patronage, let alone compromise? And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space – the womb – has become a place of unutterable violence?
My dear friends, God’s creation is one and it is good. The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable. Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises. Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit! This is the hope held out by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to bear witness to this reality that you were created anew at Baptism and strengthened through the gifts of the Spirit at Confirmation. Let this be the message that you bring from Sydney to the world!
In Our Lord and Our Lady,
Thursday, July 17, 2008
World Youth Day 2008: Theology on Tap
"Mission Possible: This double-life will self-destruct"
P.J. Gallagher's Irish Pub, Sydney, Australia, July 16, 2008
You hear a lot of stories when you're in a pub having a pint. So I thought I'd start our time together tonight with a story. Now, some of the tales you hear when you're sitting with friends over a beer might stretch the truth a little. But I promise: the one I'm about to tell you is true.
It's about a young man named Franz who lived about 60 years ago in a small village in Austria. Franz was the illegitimate son of a farmer who later died in World War I. He was a wild kid. Everyone recalls he was the first one in the village to drive a motorcycle. And I don't think that's because he drove safely or kept to the posted speed limits.
Franz was the leader of a gang that used to fight rival gangs in neighboring villages with knives and chains. He was something of a cad, too, and a womanizer. He got a girl pregnant and was forced to leave town. People said he went to work for a while in an iron mine. For reasons nobody knows, Franz came back a changed man. He had always gone to church, even during his wildest days. But when he returned, he was a serious Catholic, not just a Sunday-Catholic. He started making payments to support the child he had fathered out of wedlock. He married a good Catholic woman and settled down to become a good farmer, husband and father, raising three children and serving as a lay leader in his local parish.
I'll tell you the rest of the story later. But I want to quote something Franz wrote in a letter to his godson. He wrote: "I can say from my own experience how painful life often is when one lives as a halfway Christian. It is more like vegetating than living."
I remembered Franz and those words when I started thinking about tonight's topic: "Mission Possible: This Double-Life Will Self-Destruct." Most of you aren't Americans, and you're all too young to remember the original "Mission Impossible" TV series that aired in the States in the '60s and '70s. But I suppose the organizers of my talk figured you'd all seen the Tom Cruise movies that came out a few years back.
In any event, it's a clever image. Believers today are relentlessly tempted to lead a "double life" – to be one person when we're in church or at prayer and somebody different when we're with our friends or family, or at work, or when we talk about politics.
Part of this temptation comes from normal peer pressure. We don't want to stand out. We don't want to appear different, so we keep our religious beliefs to ourselves. It's as if we've internalized the old adage: "Never talk about religion or politics in polite company." I've never bought that line of thinking, myself. Religion, politics, social justice - these are precisely the things we should be talking about. Nothing else really matters. What could be more important than religious faith, which deals with the ultimate meaning of life, and politics, which deals with how we should organize our lives together for the common good?
So those are the things we want to talk about tonight. I think it's important, though, that we start with a kind of "diagnosis" of the culture we're living in. The reason is simple. We're living in the first age in human history where entire societies are organized according to this principle of "the double life."
Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor calls our period the "secular age." How we got to this moment is far too big a subject for us tonight. The point is that in just a few centuries we've gone from living in a world where it was virtually impossible not to believe in God, to living in a world where belief in God doesn't seem to be necessary or to make any difference.
Most men and women today can live their whole lives as if God didn't exist. Of course in the West – and by "the West" I mean developed, Western-style democracies like Australia -- we're allowed to believe in God, and even to pray and worship together. But we're constantly lectured by the mass media to never "impose" our religious viewpoints on our neighbors. This curious idea is always framed as a very reasonable and enlightened way to live. You're free to believe what you want to believe; I'm free to believe what I want to believe; and the government agrees not to tell either of us what to believe or not to believe.
But things aren't as reasonable and enlightened as they seem. For example, the last time I was in Australia, your parliament was considering legislation to allow the cloning of embryonic stem-cells. This cloning would translate into an attack on the fundamental dignity of human life. And Cardinal Pell and your bishops had the courage to stand up and say so. What astounded me was the backlash their statements provoked. There was talk of charging Church leaders with intimidating MPs and tampering with the legislative process. All because they had the audacity to voice a political opinion that was based on their religious convictions.
Cases like this are cropping up more and more in the developed world. Just last month a court in Belgium dismissed charges filed against a Catholic bishop. The allegation was that this bishop was fomenting hatred of homosexuals. Of course he did nothing of the sort. All he did was articulate the Church's ancient teaching that homosexual activity is a sin and that it's detrimental to an individual's spiritual health and well-being.
In a secular age, however, this kind of opinion becomes grounds for prosecution. And these cases have a very calculated "chilling effect." They reinforce, with the threat of jail and fines, the pressures that we Catholics already feel to keep our mouths shut. To obey the "double life" rule. To define our faith as simply private prayer and personal piety.
But we know we can't do that. We can't live a half-way Christianity. The organizers of tonight's event were right. Every double life will inevitably self-destruct. The question then becomes: How are we going to live in this world? How can we lead a Christian life in a secular age?
We can't really answer that question until we get some things straight about what it means to be a Christian. And that means first getting some things straight about Jesus Christ. This is another one of the by-products of our secular age: we don't really quite know what to think about Jesus anymore. A few years before he became Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote something that is unfortunately very true. He wrote: "Today in broad circles, even among believers, an image has prevailed of a Jesus who demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us. . . . The figure is transformed from the 'Lord' (a word that is avoided) into a man who is nothing more than the advocate of all men."
We all know people -- friends or family members or both -- who think about Jesus in these terms. It's hard to avoid. Our culture has given Jesus a make-over. We've remade him in the image and likeness of secular compassion. Today he's not the Lord, the Son of God, but more like an enlightened humanist nice guy.
The problem is this: If Jesus isn't Lord, if he isn't the Son of God, then he can't do anything for us. Then the Gospel is just one more or less interesting philosophy of life. And that's my first point about how we need to live in a secular age: We have to trust the Gospels and we have to trust the Church that gives us the Gospels. We have to truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the son of Mary. True God and true man. The One who holds the words of eternal life. If we aren't committed to that truth, then nothing else I say tonight can make any sense.
Second point: Jesus didn't come down from heaven to tell us to go to church on Sunday. He didn't die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we would pray more at home and be a little nicer to our next-door neighbors. The fact that you smile when I say these things means we know intuitively how absurd it is to imagine a privatized, part-time Christianity.
The one thing even non-believers can see is that the Gospels aren't compromise documents. Jesus wants all of us. And not just on Sundays. He wants us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind. He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is, with a love that's total.
We need to take Christ at his word. We need to love him like our lives depend on it. Right now. And without excuses. Remember that man who told Jesus: I'm ready to be your disciple, but first I need to plan my father's funeral? The way Jesus responds is so blunt, so disturbing: "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. Follow me and proclaim the kingdom of God." Of course, he's not commanding disrespect for our parents. What he's saying is that there can be no more urgent priority in our lives than following him and proclaiming his kingdom.
My third point flows from the first two: Being a follower of Christ is not just one among many aspects of your daily life. Being a Christian is who you are. Period. And being a Christian means your life has a mission. It means striving every day to be a better follower, to become more like Jesus in your thoughts and actions.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld once said that, "God calls all the souls he has created to love him with their whole being. . . . But he does not ask all souls to show their love by the same works, to climb to heaven by the same ladder, to achieve goodness in the same way. What sort of work, then must I do? Which is my road to heaven?"
God expects big things from each of you. That's why he made us. To love him and to serve one another, and to play our personal part in bringing about the kingdom of love. So you have to ask yourselves the same questions that Blessed Charles asked himself. What does God want you to be doing? How does he want you to follow Christ?
Now, how do you go about finding the answers to these questions? By talking to God, humbly and honestly, in prayer. By getting to know Christ better through daily reading and praying over the Gospels. By opening yourself up to the graces he gives us in the sacraments. "Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you." It's not about you choosing what you want to do with your life. It's about discovering how God wants to use your life to spread the good news of his love and his kingdom.
Blessed Charles, by the way, is one of the great stories of the 20th century. He was a Frenchman who lived most of his life like the prodigal son, squandering his inheritance on alcohol, women, and dead-end pleasures. But when he came to know Jesus Christ, his life changed forever. He felt called to follow Christ literally, setting off on foot to Nazareth to devote himself to a humble life of manual labor, prayer, and charity. Some years later, his imitation of Christ led him to the Sahara Desert, where he lived as a hermit and eventually died a martyr's death.
I want to suggest tonight that most of you will find your road to heaven starting a little closer to home. To illustrate that point, let's recall a story about another holy person of the 20th century, Blessed Mother Teresa.
Maybe you've heard of Celestial Seasonings, the herbal tea company. The company was founded by a man named "Mo" Siegel in the 1960s. "Mo" was very much a child of his age -- idealistic, with a generous heart. "Mo" made millions with his brand of herbal teas. And he gave a lot of his money to worthy causes. Yet he still wasn't satisfied. So he went to India to volunteer with Mother Teresa among the poor and dying. But when she met him, she told him to go home. The little nun poked this multi-millionaire entrepreneur in the chest and told him: "Grow where you're planted."
That's my advice to you, too. Grow where you're planted. Preach the gospel with your lives no matter where you are or whatever you find yourself doing -- going to school, working, making a home. St. John of the Cross said: "Where there is no love, put love and you will draw out love." Those are good words to live by. Put real love into everything you do. Not a vague, sentimental warm feeling. That kind of love doesn't mean anything because it doesn't cost you anything. No. Jesus wants a love that comes from the heart, a love that sacrifices for others as he sacrificed for us.
One final point before we begin our questions and discussion tonight. And it's this: Love the Church; love her as your mother and teacher. Help to build her up, to purify her life and work. We all get angry when we see human weakness and sin in the Church. But we have to remember always that the Church is much, much more than the sum of her human parts.
The Church is the Bride of Christ. The Spirit that worked in Jesus Christ and in his apostles is still at work in the Church. Jesus promised his apostles that when they teach, it will be he who is teaching. That when they forgive sins, it will be he who forgives. That when they say his words, "This is my body," the bread and wine will become his body and blood. Jesus doesn't forget his promises. Where the Church is, Jesus Christ is. Until the end of the age. And we always want to be where Christ is, because there is no way home to God except through him.
So love the Church. And this is crucial: Know what the Church teaches. What the Church teaches is what Christ wants you and everyone else to know -- for our own good and for our salvation. Know what the Church teaches so you can live those teachings and share those teachings with others.
The leaders of today's secularized societies like to fancy themselves as true humanists and humanitarians. But these same societies justify killing millions of babies in the womb and dismembering embryos in the laboratory. We dispatch the handicapped and the elderly and call it "death with dignity." Our very language has become distorted. The family is no longer the covenant communion of man and woman that leads to new life and hence the future of society. In fact, there are so few babies being born now in developed, Western-style countries that we have to wonder whether our civilization has lost its will to survive.
Only the Church stands up against these inhuman trends in our societies. It's your mission, as lay men and lay women, to ensure that Christ's teaching is preached and explained and defended at every level of our society -- in politics, in the workplace, in the culture. This takes real courage. There are all sorts of pressures, subtle and not so subtle, to sell out Jesus. To water down or diminish his Gospel. To pick and choose among his teachings. But we can't do that. Make a promise to Jesus Christ never to contradict the Church's teachings by your words or actions.
The Gospel is not just rules and "thou-shalt nots." It's the path to leading a heavenly life on earth. The way of life that alone brings true happiness and lasting joy. This age encourages us to seek a fool's paradise. To imagine that happiness is found in doing whatever we want to do. That's a snare. And many of our brothers and sisters are caught in that trap.
Only the truth can set people free. That truth is Jesus Christ. So if we truly love our neighbors we will want them to know the truth. The whole truth. Not just the parts of it that make them feel good, the parts that don't challenge them to change.
It's not possible for real Christians to lead a double life. We'll self-destruct. Or worse still, we'll just waste away. It will be like what Franz said. Being a half-way Christian is like being a vegetable. It's not a life. It's barely an existence.
I guess it's time for me to tell you the rest of the story about Franz.
The Nazis invaded Austria in 1938. Unlike most of his neighbors, Franz refused to cooperate in any way with the regime because he considered Hitler to be an enemy of Christ and the Church. For five years he waged a lonely campaign of resistance. Finally, he was arrested for refusing an order to enlist in the Nazi army.
While awaiting his sentence, many people, including his family and his local priest, urged him to pay lip-service to the regime and thereby spare his life. Franz wouldn't do it.
So 65 years ago, on August 9, 1943, Franz died on a Nazi guillotine. Today we remember him as Blessed Franz Jägerstätter -- a martyr for the truth that a Catholic can never lead a double-life. That there can be no such thing as a half-way Christian.
Blessed Franz wrote beautiful letters to his wife from prison. In one of them he talked about the great martyrs of the Church. He wrote: "If we hope to reach our goal some day, then we, too, must become heroes of the faith. For as long as we fear men more than God, we will never make the grade." Another time he wrote: "The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity."
Let me leave you with those thoughts. May you all strive to be heroes of the faith. And may you put every day to good use for eternity. Thank you.
In Our Lord and Our Lady,
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
In Our Lord and Our Lady,
Monday, July 14, 2008
"If You Wish to Remain Young, Seek Christ" - Saint Augustine
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses" (Act 1:8). This is the theme of the Twenty-Third World Youth Day. How much our world needs a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit! There are still many who have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, while many others, for whatever reason, have not recognized in this Good News the saving truth that alone can satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts. The Psalmist prays: "when you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth" (Ps 104:30). It is my firm belief that young people are called to be instruments of that renewal, communicating to their peers the joy they have experienced through knowing and following Christ, and sharing with others the love that the Spirit pours into their hearts, so that they too will be filled with hope and with thanksgiving for all the good things they have received from our heavenly Father.
Many young people today lack hope. They are perplexed by the questions that present themselves ever more urgently in a confusing world, and they are often uncertain which way to turn for answers. They see poverty and injustice and they long to find solutions. They are challenged by the arguments of those who deny the existence of God and they wonder how to respond. They see great damage done to the natural environment through human greed and they struggle to find ways to live in greater harmony with nature and with one another.
Where can we look for answers? The Spirit points us towards the way that leads to life, to love and to truth. The Spirit points us towards Jesus Christ. There is a saying attributed to Saint Augustine: "If you wish to remain young, seek Christ". In him we find the answers that we are seeking, we find the goals that are truly worth living for, we find the strength to pursue the path that will bring about a better world. Our hearts find no rest until they rest in the Lord, as Saint Augustine says at the beginning of the Confessions, the famous account of his own youth. My prayer is that the hearts of the young people who gather in Sydney for the celebration of World Youth Day will truly find rest in the Lord, and that they will be filled with joy and fervour for spreading the Good News among their friends, their families, and all whom they meet.
Again the full content can be found HERE.
In Our Lord and Our Lady,
Friday, July 11, 2008
Father Corapi writes a compelling letter about the plight of America and what
we have lost. He calls us to a challenge to return our nations status to that on
which it was founded. Below are a few excerpts. The full article can be found
HERE (Acrobat Reader Required).
A large number of endangered, unwanted, and unborn children held a town hall meeting on the 4th of July--alarmed at the brutal and untimely killing of millions of their brothers and sisters in recent years.
Their complaint was humble and it was simple.
They had become an endangered species, and little had been done to answer their terrified and silent screams from the womb...They cried out to their Creator for inspiration and protection, and then unanimously they put forth a declaration. It began as follows:
“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT, THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, THAT THEY ARE ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS, THAT AMONG THESE ARE LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS….”
THAT AMONG THESE IS LIFE; THAT AMONG THESE IS LIFE; THAT AMONG THESE IS LIFE!
The first and pre-eminent right is the right to life...
The United States of America seems to have a death wish, and we have traveled far down the road to having that wish realized...
The judges and politicians that support such barbaric practices are truly guilty of genocide: genocide—the deliberate and systematic destruction of an ethnic, racial, religious, national, or social group. “What is the group so targeted?” you might ask. The group is unwanted, unborn children--tens of millions of them...
The words of the prophet thunder through the ages, “ Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20)...
In the end it is likely that President Abraham Lincoln had it right: “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” Thus forgetting that we are one nation under God, we become a nation gone under (President Ronald Reagan)...
Again, the full article can be found HERE (Acrobat Reader Required).
In Our Lord and Our Lady,
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
I want to touch on this matter before we get too close to the November madness. As human beings, as citizens of a “first world country,” as Americans, and as Catholics, most importantly, we have to take count of the circumstances in which we live. We know that the only creatures of God that outlast time are those created having intellect and will. All other things, with the passage of time, break up or break down.
Many of the issues that confront us are serious, and we know by now that the political parties in our country are at loggerheads as to how to solve them. We know, for instance, that adherents of one political party would place us squarely on the road to suicide as a people. The seven “sacraments” of their secular culture are abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type, and genetic experimentation and mutilation. These things they unabashedly espouse, profess and promote. Their continuance in public office is a clear and present danger to our survival as a nation.
Since the mid-1940s we have been accustomed to look askance at Germans. They were protagonists of the Second World War and so responsible for fifty million deaths. We say, “How awful,” and yet in our country we have, for the most part, allowed the party of death and the court system it has produced to eliminate, since 1973, upwards of forty million of our fellow citizens without allowing them to see the light of day. They have done their best to make ours a true culture of death. No doubt, we shall soon outstrip the Nazis in doing human beings to death.
¬I do not think that we should spend a great deal of time in lamentation over the children whose lives have been snuffed out by the barbaric practice of therapeutic abortion. They passed from their lives quickly in this world and have gone into the hands of the Lord of Life and Mercy for all eternity. We must make it clear too, that many who have sought to have practiced on themselves therapeutic abortion are in many instances driven to it by persons heedless of their welfare, or by well- meaning but inept parents or guardians who regard abortion as a solution and not as what it is — an immense problem. There are some, I think few, largely given over to immoral lives who regard abortion as a good, but their number is not great.
What we have to remember is that violence breeds violence. When we tolerate unjust attacks upon the tiniest innocents among us, we habituate ourselves to violence. And so we have allowed these barbaric practices to corrupt our laws, our medical practice, and even our ordinary lives. How accustomed we have become to the immense loss of life in our wars throughout the world! Those who have killed millions under their mother’s hearts cannot be expected to balk at a mere few thousand killed in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Somalia, in Darfur, in Bosnia, in Madrid, in London, in Baghdad, in Beirut, in Washington, in New York. The violence of abortion coarsens the lives of all of us.
Once it was said, “... for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) So we see the rise in the number of predations among youth, even among the youngest, the rise of domestic violence. We speak of road rage as a common thing. It is true what the theologians have said, that sin darkens the intellect, and weakens the will. Having sown the wind of abortion we now reap the whirlwind. This appears in every quarter of our culture and on every day. And that just from the first of the “sacraments of death” of our secular human culture.
The toleration of sexual perversions among inverts, widespread contraception, easy access to “no fault” divorce, the killing of the elderly, radical feminism, embryonic stem cell research — all of these things defile and debase our human nature and our human destiny. Should we cry out with the prophet “To the mountains, ‘Cover us,’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us’” (Hosea: 10:8), lest other peoples see and, God forbid, imitate us?
I ran across, in one parish, prayers of the faithful with the intention that “we pray for those who work and demonstrate for the cause of life and the unborn, the aged and the defected, that they may persevere in spite of the ridicule they receive sometimes, even from pastors and priests.” I shudder to think that might be true. We know from the sad experience of recent years that some Catholics (even among priests) are so warped and perverted from their Catholic vocation, that they are capable of enormities. But, they should know that it was no prelate or bishop or pope that said, “Suffer the little children to come to me and do not hinder them” (Matthew 19:14). The Invisible Head of the Church will one day come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire, particularly those who have either by acts of omission or commission, destroyed innocent human life.
It is the duty of every Catholic to support the work of the parish Pro-Life directors and commissions and to work for the extirpation from our society of all those who in any way foster or promote these things. I wholeheartedly endorse the activities of our Pro-Life Office in the sure and certain knowledge that divine justice will not allow those who act against human life to prosper. These unholy sacraments of our secular culture are the seeds of the destruction of our nation. Think for yourself: what nation that kills its young, perverts marriage, prevents new life, and destroys the family, kills those deemed useless, makes the war of the sexes into a real war, and manipulates the genetic basis of human nature, can long endure?
August 10, 2006
In Our Lord and Our Lady,