Saturday, July 20, 2019

Saint July 21 : St. Lawrence of Brindisi Franciscan Capuchin and Doctor of the Church


 Born at Brindisi in 1559; died at Lisbon on 22 July, 1619. In baptism he received the names of Julius Caesar. Guglielmo de Rossi — or Guglielmo Russi, according to a contemporary writer — was his father's name; his mother was Elisabetta Masella. Both were excellent Christians. Of a precocious piety, Lorenzo gave early evidence of a religious vocation. The Conventuals of Brindisi were entrusted with his education. His progress in his studies was very rapid, and, when barely six, he had already given indication of his future success in oratory. Consequently, he was always the one chosen to address, in accordance with the Italian custom, a short sermon to his compatriots on the Infant Jesus during the Christmas festivities. When he was twelve years of age his father died. He then pursued his studies at Venice with the clerics of St. Mark's and under the supervision of one of his uncles. In 1575 he was received into the Order of Capuchins under the name of Brother Lorenzo, and, after his profession, made his philosophical and theological studies at the University of Padua. Owing to his wonderful memory he mastered not only the principal European languages, but also most of the Semitic tongues. It was said he knew the entire original text of the Bible. Such a knowledge, in the eyes of many, could be accounted for only by supernatural assistance, and, during the process of beatification, the examiners of the saint's writings rendered the following judgment: "Vere inter sanctos Ecclesiae doctores adnumerari potest." Such unusual talents, added to a rare virtue, fitted Brother Lorenzo for the most diverse missions. When still a deacon he preached the Lenten sermons in Venice, and his success was so great that he was called successively to all the principal cities of the peninsula. Subsequently, thanks to his numerous journeys, he was enabled to evangelize at different periods most of the countries of Europe. The sermons he left fill no less than eight folio volumes.

He adopted the method of preaching in favour with the great Franciscan missionaries, or rather with apostolic workers of all times, who, aiming primarily to reach men's hearts and convert them, always adapt their style of discourse to the spiritual needs of their hearers. Brother Lorenzo held successively all the offices of his order. From 1596 to 1602 he had, as general definitor, to fix his residence in Rome. Clement VIII assigned him the task of instructing the Jews; thanks to his knowledge of Hebrew and his powerful reasoning, he brought a great number of them to recognize the truth of the Christian religion. His saintliness, combined with his great kindliness, completed the preparing of the way for the grace of conversion. His success in Rome caused him to be called to several other cities, where he also baptized numerous Jews. At the same time he was commissioned to establish houses of his order in Germany and Austria. Amid the great difficulties created by the heretics he founded the convents of Vienna, Prague, and Graz, the nuclei of three provinces.
At the chapter of 1602 he was elected vicar-general. (At that time the Order of Capuchins, which had broken away from the Observants in 1528 and had an independent constitution, gave its first superior the title of vicar-general only. It was not until 1618 that Pope Paul V changed it to that of minister general). The very year of his election the new superior began the visitation of the provinces. Milan, Paris, Marseilles, Spain, received him in turn. As his coming was preceded by a great reputation for holiness, the people flocked to hear him preach and to receive his blessing. His administration characterized by wise firmness and fatherly tenderness, was of great benefit to the order. At the Chapter of 1605 he refused to undertake for a second term the government of his brethren, but until his death he was the best adviser of his successors. It was on the occasion of the foundation of the convent of Prague (1601) that St. Lorenzo was named chaplain of the Imperial army, then about to march against the Turks. The victory of Lepanto (1571) had only temporarily checked the Moslem invasion, and several battles were still necessary to secure the final triumph of the Christian armies. Mohammed III had, since his accession (1595), conquered a large part of Hungary. The emperor, determined to prevent a further advance, sent Lorenzo of Brindisi as deputy to the German princes to obtain their cooperation. They responded to his appeal, and moreover the Duke of Mercœur, Governor of Brittany, joined the imperial army, of which he received the effective command. The attack on Albe-Royal (now Stulweissenburg) was then contemplated. To pit 18,000 men against 80,000 Turks was a daring undertaking and the generals, hesitating to attempt it, appealed to Lorenzo for advice. Holding himself responsible for victory, he communicated to the entire army in a glowing speech the ardour and confidence with which he was himself animated. As his feebleness prevented him from marching, he mounted on horseback and, crucifix in hand, took the lead of the army, which he drew irresistibly after him. Three other Capuchins were also in the ranks of the army. Although the most exposed to danger, Lorenzo was not wounded, which was universally regarded as due to a miraculous protection. The city was finally taken, and the Turks lost 30,000 men. As however they still exceeded in numbers the Christian army, they formed their lines anew, and a few days later another battle was fought. It always the chaplain who was at the head of the army. "Forward!" he cried, showing them the crucifix, "Victory is ours." The Turks were again defeated, and the honour of this double victory was attributed by the general and the entire army to Lorenzo. Having resigned his office of vicar-general in 1605, he was sent by the pope to evangelize Germany. He here confirmed the faith of the Catholics, brought back a great number to the practice of virtue, and converted many heretics. In controversies his vast learning always gave him the advantage, and, once he had won the minds of his hearers, his saintliness and numerous miracles completed their conversion. To protect the Faith more efficaciously in their states, the Catholic princes of Germany formed the alliance called the "Catholic League". Emperor Rudolph sent Lorenzo to Philip III of Spain to persuade him to join the League. Having discharged this mission successfully, the saintly ambassador received a double mandate by virtue of which he was to represent the interests of the pope and of Madrid at the court of Maximilian of Bavaria, head of the League. He was thus, much against his wishes, compelled to settle in Munich near Maximilian. Besides being nuncio and ambassador, Lorenzo was also commissary general of his order for the provinces of Tyrol and Bavaria, and spiritual director of the Bavarian army. He was also chosen as arbitrator in the dispute which arose between the princes, and it was in fulfillment of this role that, at the request of the emperor, he restored harmony between the Duke of Mantua and a German nobleman. In addition to all these occupations he undertook, with the assistance of several Capuchins, a missionary campaign throughout Germany, and for eight months travelled in Bavaria, Saxony, and the Palatinate.
 Amid so many various undertakings Lorenzo found time for the practices of personal sanctification. And it is perhaps the greatest marvel of his life to have combined with duties so manifold an unusually intense inner life. In the practice of the religious virtues St. Lorenzo equals the greatest saints. He had to a high degree the gift of contemplation, and very rarely celebrated Holy Mass without falling into ecstasies. After the Holy Sacrifice, his great devotion was the Rosary and the Office of the Blessed Virgin. As in the case of St. Francis of Assisi, there was something poetical about his piety, which often burst forth into canticles to the Blessed Virgin. It was in Mary's name that he worked his miracles, and his favourite blessing was: "Nos cum prole pia benedicat Virgo Maria." Having withdrawn to the monastery of Caserta in 1618, Lorenzo was hoping to enjoy a few days of seclusion, when he was requested by the leading men of Naples to go to Spain and apprise Philip III of the conduct of Viceroy Ossuna. In spite of many obstacles raised by the latter, the saint sailed from Genoa and carried out his mission successfully. But the fatigues of the journey exhausted his feeble strength. He was unable to travel homeward, and after a few days of great suffering died at Lisbon in the native land of St. Anthony (22 July, 1619), as he had predicted when he set out on his journey. He was buried in the cemetery of the Poor Clares of Villafranca. The process of beatification, several times interrupted by various circumstances, was concluded in 1783. The canonization took place on 8 December, 1881. With St. Anthony, St. Bonaventure, and Blessed John Duns Scotus, he is a Doctor of the Franciscan Order. The known writings of St. Lorenzo of Brindisi comprise eight volumes of sermons, two didactic treatises on oratory, a commentary on Genesis, another on Ezechiel, and three volumes of religious polemics. Most of his sermons are written in Italian, the other works being in Latin. The three volumes of controversies have notes in Greek and Hebrew. Note: In 1959 Pope John XXIII proclaimed St. Lorenzo da Brindisi a Doctor of the Universal Church. His feast is kept on 6 July. Text from the Catholic Encyclopedia

Historic Moment : Pope Paul VI 1st Blessings to Men on the Moon in 1969 and Receives a Piece of the Moon as a Gift!



20 July 1969: Pope Paul VI sends blessings to first men on the moon
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 historic moon landing, Vatican Radio brings you the voice of Pope Paul VI sending his blessings to the astronauts who "conquered the moon."
By Veronica Scarisbrick and Linda Bordoni

As millions of men, women and children did across the world on the night of 20 July 1969, Pope Paul VI spent his time glued to the television to watch Neil Armstrong as he became the first man ever to land, and then to walk, on the moon.

50 years after that historic event, scientists agree humanity will have to take another giant step forward to try to equal the achievement and legacy of Apollo 11 and its crew.
The powerful significance of the event was not lost on the Pope of the time who became the first Roman Pontiff to send a message hurtling through space in which he blessed the three astronauts who had just landed on the moon, before sending a congratulatory telegramme to then US President, Richard Nixon.
But as Veronica Scarisbrick notes in this picture in sound, for Pope Paul VI, the moonwalk was a recognition of the “greatness of God's handiwork”, and the moon “the poetic pale lamp of our nights and dreams”.

“Pope Paul VI is speaking to you astronauts: Honor, greetings and blessings to you, conquerors of the moon.”

For Pope Paul VI,the moonwalk was a recognition of the greatness of God’s handiwork.

The moon itself, he personified poetically as the pale lamp of our nights:

“Pale lamp of our nights and our dreams bring to her with your living presence the voice of the Spirit”.

As the tiny lunar module neared the surface of the moon, scouring the landscape for a safe stretch to touch down on, all over the world people scoured the fuzzy images from space on their television screens, anxious to see what would happen.

Pope Paul was no exception. He too watched the landing from his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo which housed the Vatican Observatory.

And as Neil Armstrong stepped down on the powdery surface of the moon, Pope Paul VI clapped his hands and said: “We are close to you with our good wishes and with our prayers, together the whole Catholic Church”.

Often caught peering at lunar landscapes through the telescope at the Vatican Observatory, Paul VI had always shown a special interest in space travel.

In the very first speech of his pontificate, he said that with the blessing of God, it had opened up new era for humanity, and on a later occasion he had given an astronaut a specially engraved bronze plaque to be laid on the surface of the moon, with the words from a Psalm: “O Lord our God, how great your name throughout the earth”.

In return, he got a piece of the moon, which today is still kept at Castel Gandolfo.
FULL TEXT Release from VaticanNews.va - Image source: Google Images

Bishops of the Philippines Issue Letter on Climate Emergency quoting Pope Benedict XVI - Full Text


An urgent call for ecological conversion, hope in the face of climate emergency
“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that … we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies”

(Romans 8:22-23).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

In 1988, we issued a groundbreaking Pastoral Letter on Ecology entitled, “What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?”  In its opening paragraph, we noted, “Our small farmers tell us that their fields are less productive and are becoming sterile.  Our fishermen are finding it increasingly difficult to catch fish.  Our lands, forests and rivers cry out that they are being eroded, denuded and polluted.  As bishops we have tried to listen and respond to their cry.  There is an urgency about this issue which calls for widespread education and immediate action…”

Three Decades of Commitment to Ecological Concerns

Since 1988, we have sustained this concern about ecology that runs through our subsequent pastoral teachings. We may recall that in 1998 we collectively expressed in A Statement of Concern on the Mining Act of 1995, highlighting the ill effects of mining operations both on the environment and on the people, particularly indigenous communities. In 2000, we issued Water is Life calling for a concerted effort to address the problem of water insecurity and the urgency to protect our remaining watersheds. In 2003, we issued Celebrating Creation Day and Creation Time to introduce the celebration of Creation Day on September 1st of every year and the observance of Creation Time between September 1 and October 4. In 2008, we issued Upholding the Sanctity of Life (20 years after the CBCP Pastoral Letter ‘What is Happening to our Beautiful Land?’) not only to reaffirm our rejection of irresponsible mining and illegal logging operations but also to crucially include the challenges of global warming and climate change among “the new threats to our environment”. In 2013, we issued a Pastoral Statement on the Recent Earthquake and Typhoon that Devastated the Central Region of the Philippines to express our solidarity with the victims of calamities and to preempt their future recurrence. We also remember that in 2015, we clearly manifested that climate action is an issue of life and justice through the statement entitled Stewards, Not Owners: “Climate change has brought about suffering for nations, communities and peoples. It is that kind of suffering that, in the words of Benedict XVI’s ‘Deus Caritas Est’, ‘cries out for consolation and help’.” (n. 28). When they who are in need cry out, it is not an option to respond. It is an obligation.” In all these statements, we have taken for granted that concern for our environment is an essential dimension of our pastoral ministry.

The Continuing Destruction of Our Common Home

Given the high rate of poverty in the Philippines, the need to manage the environment is paramount. Poverty and environmental degradation mutually reinforce each other. ‘In today’s world, hunger, violence and poverty cannot be understood apart from the changes and degradation affecting the environment.’ Pope Francis’ recognition of this led him to introduce an eighth work of mercy in 2016: ‘care for our common home’.  He expressed this in his message for the 2016 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.  This new work of mercy, he insisted, should be both corporal and spiritual.

Biodiversity is also a concern that has a direct connection to poverty and development. The poor in the rural areas are directly dependent on biodiverse resources for food, fuel, shelter, medicine and livelihood. This variety of living organisms together with its environment provide critical services that are necessary for survival such as air and water purification, soil conservation, disease control, and reduced vulnerability to disasters such as floods, droughts and landslides. When these resources or their environment are subjected to pressures that exceed their capacity to be resilient or to bounce back to their original state, imbalance in the ecosystem is created, leading to degradation. When situations like these arise, they make lives, especially in the rural areas, more difficult; they also make development efforts more challenging.

Our remaining forests and biodiversity are continually being threatened by extractive mining operations and the building of dams. Respect for God’s creation is disregarded when irresponsible mining practices are allowed to continue. Land and life is desecrated when almost two-thirds of the ancestral domains of indigenous peoples and more than half of protected and key biodiversity areas are directly threatened by mining applications and operations. Despite evidences against 26 mining operations ordered closed or suspended last February 2017, not one mine has stopped extracting because of technical administrative loopholes. Social justice is not served when only the few mining companies, many of which are also owned by political leaders, reap the benefits from mineral extraction. The rural poor remain poor as mining only contributes less than one percent to our GDP, employs less than 0.4% of our labor force and directly threatens agriculture, forestry, watersheds and fisheries resources that are essential for the survival of the rural poor.

Another problem related with mining is the phenomenon of our country’s growing dependence on fossil fuel-based energy, such as coal. There are at least 23 existing coal-fired power plants operating across the country; 28 more may be operational by the year 2020. To support and sustain this dependence, a huge number of coal power plants involved in extensive coal extraction has to be put in place. Thus, coal mining projects have been allowed to increase to 186, including small-scale ones. Worse is, most of these coal projects are located within the vicinity of communities of indigenous Filipinos and are supported by rich ecosystems and biodiversities.

Centuries of emissions from coal have been scientifically proven to be among the lead causes of the current climate degradation. Coal projects also further exacerbate the vulnerability of impoverished host communities in the Philippines already struggling to cope with the effects of the worsening climate. Many coastal and agriculture-reliant communities face the loss of their livelihood because of land conversion and the pollution of resources caused by coal. Health problems also plague such communities due to the toxic substances and heavy metals released into the air and water resources by the mining, transporting, and burning of coal.

The burning of coal and other fossil fuels and the destruction of nature are natural consequences of extractive mining. Needless to say, these industries are pursued primarily for profit accumulation and rarely, if at all, in response to peoples’ needs. This is the root cause of the continuous escalation of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere which, in turn, is causing the climate crisis. The climate crisis has thus far claimed tens of thousands of lives, displaced millions of people, and brought about tragic devastation in many parts of the world. This climate crisis is bound to get much worse in the years ahead.

We affirm the prevailing science of climate change that the present global warming is due to the abnormal buildup of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere which traps the heat and makes the earth dangerously warm. The IPCC scientists have a very solid consensus that global warming is not caused by natural factors (e.g., volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, or the solar cycle) but by GHGs coming mainly from two unsustainable human activities. One is the reliance on fossil fuels (e.g., oil, natural gas, coal) and other non-renewable energy sources since the advent of western industrialization in 1750. Another is the massive deforestation that deprived the earth of the sufficient forest cover needed to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs.

The Philippines, being an archipelago, is prone to climate-induced disasters brought about by sea level rise, storm surges, prolonged droughts, and flash floods, among others. We are known to be the second among the countries with the greatest exposure to disaster risks worldwide.  We are at the doorstep of all the major threats of climate change which cause irreversible damage to agriculture, marine resources and the entire bio-networks.  Moreover, extreme weather events are occurring more frequently in our country. The catastrophic super typhoons like Yolanda, Ondoy, Sendong, and Pablo, that have devastated several of our regions, attest to this level of climate vulnerability. On record, Yolanda (Haiyan) is the strongest tropical cyclone ever to make a landfall on our country. The damage from Yolanda was catastrophic, resulting to an estimated 8,000 casualties, affecting 16 million people in 10 provinces, while over 1.1 million homes were damaged, about half of them completely destroyed. The sources of livelihood of an estimated 5.6 million poor people were severely affected.

Climate-related disasters threaten us all. The reality of the climate crisis, proven by the catastrophic impact of typhoons and other human induced-disasters, has made us aware that the time to act is now, not tomorrow. We must activate climate action on behalf of the voiceless people and the planet.

Laudato Si’ and the Care for Our Common Home

On June 18, 2015, as the global leaders were preparing for the climate summit in Paris, Pope Francis issued Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. The encyclical highlights the adverse impacts of the climate change on the poor and most vulnerable. Pope Francis aptly articulated the scale of the climate crisis: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.” (LS, 25)

Laudato Si emphasizes the underlying moral and ethical context of our ecological problems and the call for meaningful commitment, not just for the Church, but for all people, because what is at stake is our common home!  Pope Francis calls for a re-evaluation of the prevailing models of global development and a redefinition of our notion of progress so that it can truly serve the common good. For the Church, climate change is an urgent issue that is clearly related to our Christian responsibility to care for the earth and to care for the poor and vulnerable in our midst.

In December 2015, at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in France, the Paris Agreement was also adopted calling all nations to act on the climate crisis by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.[1] The Holy Father, then, said that “its implementation will require unanimous commitment and generous dedication by everyone” and nations “pay special attention to the most vulnerable population . . . to carefully follow the road ahead, and with an ever-growing sense of solidarity.”[2]

In 2018, however, three years after the Paris Conference, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that we have only 12 years left before reaching “the tipping point” of 1.5°C above the pre-industrial temperature.  This means, starting 2019, we have only 11 years remaining to act. Moreover, the UN report on 4 May 2019 warns us that failure to limit global warming to 1.5°C would lead not only to human suffering but also to the extinction of one million flora and fauna species.

During his meeting with oil industry executives and some of their biggest investors on 14 June 2019, Pope Francis prophetically declared “Time is running out!” He also insisted that “a radical energy transition is needed to save our common home.” With a sense of urgency, he declared that we are facing a “climate emergency” that impels us to “take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and the future generations.” His urgent call deserves a decisive response.

Pope Francis also expressed his unequivocal critique of dirty energy, because “most of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases released mainly as a result of human activity” (LS, 23). The encyclical also strongly advocated for a clear policy direction: “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay.” (LS, 165)

The Theological/Moral Basis of Our Response to Climate Emergency

The foregoing ecological analysis strongly calls all human beings to urgently respond to the climate crisis. As Christians, however, we have a deeper reason to be concerned with climate because it is “a common good” (LS 23) and to cause its undesirable change is “a moral issue” (St. John Paul II, Peace with God the Creator, no. 15). Along this line, Laudato Si’ cites Patriarch Bartholomew who “has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for ‘inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage’, we are called to acknowledge ‘our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation’.” This challenges us “to acknowledge our sins against creation.” Foremost among them is our tendency “to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate” (LS 8).

In this light, our efforts to mitigate global warming and our collective moves aimed at helping others adapt to the new normal brought about by climate change may be meaningfully viewed both as acts of reparation for our ecological sins. We need to go beyond the prevailing meaning of reparation in a manner that includes restitution for the ecological damages we have done to nature.

Societal indifference to climate change is immoral as it affects even the innocent, especially “the poor who live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and [whose] means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry” (LS 25). Our preferential option for the poor pushes us to prioritize the most affected “poorest of the poor” who cry out to God for justice. It is our moral obligation to respond to their suffering.

Moreover, the evils of climate change are evident in the destruction of biodiversity as other living species of the planet face the risk of becoming extinct due to their inability to adapt quickly to the changes that we have caused. Pope Francis laments, “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right” (LS 33). Creatures “have a value of their own in God’s eyes” (LS 69, 221) and they have the inherent right not only to exist but also to fulfill their particular function in the community of life (i.e., ecosystem) and to reach the fullness of life as far as their nature would allow. If we recognize that all created realities originate from the Creator, we must also see to it (Psalm 24:1) that they are respected and valued.

Biblical Basis of Our Effort to Care for All Creatures

The Book of Genesis tells us that when God looked at all that he had created, he “saw that it was good.” He “blessed them, saying, ‘Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth’” (Gen 1:21-22). God placed Adam in the garden he had planted in order “to till it and to keep it” (Gen 2:15). He also assigned humans to exercise stewardship over all the creatures that inhabit sea, air and land (Gen 1:26-28). After the flood, God made a covenant with Noah and his descendants “and with every living creature … that never again shall all creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood” (Gen 9:9-11).

We likewise believe that because “the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14), the whole cosmos has been renewed. As St. John Paul II concisely explained, “the incarnation of God the Son signifies the taking up into unity with God not only of human nature, but in this human nature, in a sense, of everything that is ‘flesh’: the whole of humanity, the entire visible and material world” (Dominus et Vivificantem, 50). Thus, with St. Paul, we hope that “creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21).

Did not the Lord often exhort his disciples against greed and lifestyle excess (Lk 12:16-21)?  Did he not teach us to trust in Divine Providence and learn from the birds of the air and the wild flowers of the field? (Mat 6:25-34)

Intergenerational Responsibility and Solidarity

 In An Open Letter of the Filipino Youth to the Catholic Church in the Philippines, the Filipino youth verbalized some sentiments related to ecology while drawing a roadmap for the celebration of the Year of the Youth (YOTY) in 2019. They expressed their dream “of a safe and sustainable world to live in” as they “value Mother Earth and all of God’s creation.” They also emphasized “the importance of caring for our common home,” stressing in particular the “need to realize that our seemingly small actions can either have a greatly positive or negative impact.

In response, through our Pastoral Letter for the 2019 Year of the Youth, we recognized their “being vital members of the Body of Christ, the Church” and assured them that they are “”beloved, gifted, and empowered. We challenged them to participate in the Church’s mission as “we all long for a better world and society, and for a renewed Church.”   We exhorted on them to boldly carry out their important role as “protagonists of this change, as the dynamic force of the Church now,” and to “reach out to the peripheries to bring Jesus and His message of salvation to the lost, the least and the last, including other young people… who yearn to be loved, gifted and empowered.”[3]

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis is asking: what kind of world are we leaving to the next generation? For him, “intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic issue of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us . . . An integral ecology is marked by this broader vision.”

While many “young people have a new ecological sensitivity and a generous spirit, and some of them are making admirable efforts to protect the environment,” they are also aware that “they have grown up in a milieu of extreme consumerism and affluence which makes it difficult to develop other habits” (LS, 209). The encyclical likewise points out that today’s “young people demand change” and they “wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded” (LS 13).

We also owe it to the next generation of Filipinos to ensure ecological integrity and biodiversity conservation for their own benefit in their own time.  We must reject the current ways of excessive production and consumption, which get us habituated to wasteful living.  Ignoring the political and developmental constraints in the current initiatives towards amending the 1987 Constitution could pave the way towards the deletion of the people’s right to a safe and sound ecology, and remove the legal barriers to an all-out foreign exploitation of our national resources.

Rights of Nature and Integral Ecology

Believing in “integral ecology” in all aspects of life is a necessary response to the global crisis, says Pope Francis.  “Since everything is closely interrelated, and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis,” he suggests that we now consider “some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions.” (LS, 137)

The recognition of the Rights of Nature is at the core of the call for ecological conversion, as Pope Francis emphasized in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015.There he suggested that a “true ‘right of the environment’ does exist because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.”

The prevalent anthropocentric and utilitarian perspectives tend to negate our traditional role of responsible stewardship and deny the reality that humans are part of nature. Both the book of Genesis and our own indigenous folklore about the origin of humankind manifest strongly that we were created out of nature’s very elements—earth, water, wind and fire.

We need a paradigm shift in order to reestablish our sacred relationship with nature: “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.” (LS, 139). Indeed, we are all part of nature.

A paradigm on ecological conversion needs to usher in a new awareness: that mother earth cries for justice and not just for a token of environmental protection and care.  The cry of mother earth is as equally urgent as the cry of the poor for social justice.

Call to Action and Ecological Conversion

In his message for the World Day of Peace in 1990, St. John Paul II insisted that the environment should be our common concern, and that this concern has an essential moral and religious dimension. There he also pointed out that care for the earth and the call to ecological conversion should be treated as an urgent issue in the Church. We are to take the advocacy for a sustainable ecology seriously because it is an integral aspect of our responsibility as Christians.  He said, “Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith.”

Today, guided by Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, we again call on everyone to care for the earth and for the poor and embrace ‘integral ecology’ for the sake of our common home. We have to act in order to be able to stop the deterioration of our planet. United in our commitment to the Universal Church, and truly convinced that integral ecology is inseparable from an integral society, we make a definitive pledge to respond to the climate crisis—securing a sustainable future for our people and our planet.

We recall again the message of our Pastoral Letter in 1988: “Our faith tells us that Christ is the center point of human history and creation.  All the rich unfolding of the universe and the emergence and flowering of life on Earth are centered on him.  (Eph. 1:9-10; Col 1:16-17).  The destruction of any part of creation, especially, the extinction of species defaces the image of Christ which is etched in creation”.

For our continuing reflection, we also commit to celebrate the Season of Creation as a way of integrating our ecological advocacy to our prayer and liturgical life as urged by the Pastoral Statement of the CBCP Permanent Council in 2003.

 As your pastors, we call for a continuing ecological conversion in all our Metropolitan Provinces, Dioceses, Parishes and Basic Ecclesial Communities — to discern the issues and actively care for the earth in personal, communitarian and institutional levels. The voices of faith must be an indispensable part of our continuing efforts at framing the agenda for collaborative ethical action.

Therefore, we in the Church, consistently caring for our common home, commit to abide by the following ecological convictions:

The Earth is our home. We are to care for our common home. We are to act in order to protect all life forms on Earth, from ridge to reef.
Even while we dream of fullness of life in the hereafter, our Lord teaches us to let His kingdom come and His will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven” – meaning, already in the here and now. We are therefore duty bound to act and resist all forms of destruction damaging our people and our planet.
We are connected to the Earth, just as our lives and the life of all other beings are interconnected with each other.
We hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the Poor. We are to respond and act together in order to mitigate the ill effects of climate change on our planet and our communities; and in the spirit of accountability, we demand climate justice.
Concretely, we call upon the dioceses to implement that decree in the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, which categorically calls for the setting up “an ecology desk in social action centers” that would make ecology their special concern.[4] And spearheaded by our revitalized ecology programs in our diocesan and parish ministries, we commit to live the spirit and principles of Laudato Si through the following concrete ecological actions:

Integrate the care of creation as our common home in our teaching and practice of Christian discipleship. (Psalm 8:4-9)
Live simply, minimize consumption and actively promote ecological awareness and action through integral waste segregation and by minimizing the use of plastic and paper, by eliminating single-use plastics, polystyrene and the like, from our homes and institutions.
Prevent and reduce biodiversity loss by growing indigenous plants and trees, expanding forests through rain forestation, resisting destructive mining, dirty energy, the unbridled construction of roads and dams, as well as projects that cut into forested and protected areas. Implement programs that will allow the growth and recovery of forests, ecosystems and biodiversity.
Promote diversified and sustainable agriculture. Avoid the genetically modified agricultural products propagated in plantations and monoculture production, which destroy biodiversity and threaten indigenous lands.
Participate in efforts to protect and preserve our seas, oceans and fishery resources.
Protect our watersheds while at the same time using fresh water wisely, promoting and establishing massive rainwater collection, and putting a stop to infrastructures that can be detrimental to the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity.
Push for an immediate transition to safe, clean, and affordable energy. Ensure just and fair transition to renewable energy sources and reject false solutions; support the use of solar power in our homes and institutions (dioceses, churches, schools, seminaries); promote, advocate and invest in renewable energy (solar, hydro, wind and geothermal power); join the campaign to immediately phase out coal-fired power plants and all other plants dependent on fossil-fuel, including coal mining.
Do not allow the financial resources of our Catholic institutions to be invested in favor of coal-fired power plants, mining companies and other destructive extractive projects. Divestment from such investment portfolios must be encouraged.
Integrate Laudato Si in the curriculum and strategic plans of Catholic educational institutions including seminaries and religious formations. Popularize and integrate the understanding of climate change and its mitigation in our formation programs.
Organize and educate people into a well-informed and empowered citizenry using all means available including mainstream and social media platforms for the passage of into law of bills aimed at protecting our common home, such as the Rights of Nature Bill, Forest Resources Bill and Alternative Minerals Mining Bill, and National Land Use Bill, as well as the implementation of environmental laws, such as, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. In the initiatives to amend the 1987 Constitution, any move that poses a threat to the integrity of creation, justice and peace, should be opposed.
Network with international bodies to create a groundswell of worldwide pressure powerful enough to convince multinational institutions to lower emissions and to actively engage in environmental actions for the protection of our common home and on behalf of the poor who are most threatened by aggressive but irresponsible industries.
Respect, recognize, and support the rights of indigenous peoples in protecting their ancestral domains and promoting sustainable development.
Strengthen adaptation measures and disaster risk management and reduction for our vulnerable communities. Advocate the prioritization of government budget allocation for climate resilient adaptation programs.
We, in the Philippine Church, are one with the Holy Father in pursuing common agenda to protect our fragile ecosystem from the threat of the continuing ecological crisis. We have the moral imperative to act together decisively in order to save our common home. This is our Christian duty and responsibility.

For the Church, the faith-based organizations (FBOs), our partners in the government and civil society organizations, living Laudato Si is an urgent challenge and invitation. We conclude by sharing the optimism of Pope Francis:  “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home…. All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start” (LS, 13, 205).  Indeed, “Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home!” (From the ‘New Beatitudes of Pope Francis’)

Let us be one in prayer, confident that “God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and strength needed to continue on our way.” (LS 245)

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

+ ROMULO G. VALLES, DD
Archbishop of Davao
CBCP President
16 July 2019



[1] https://unfccc.int/resource/bigpicture/#content-the-paris-agreement

[2] Pope Francis, Angelus Prayer, Vatican City, December 13, 2015

[3] CBCP Pastoral Letter for the 2019 Year of the Youth, “Filipino Youth in Mission: Beloved, Gifted, Empowered,” Manila, December 2, 2018

[4] Acts and Decrees of the 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines, Part IV, Title VI, Section 4, Article 31

Vatican Disciplines Bishop Michael J Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston


Pope Francis imposes sanctions on US bishop
Pope Francis has imposed disciplinary measures against Bishop Michael Bransfield, following an investigation into accusations of sexual harassment and financial mismanagement.
By Vatican News

On Friday, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, in the US state of West Virginia, released a communique from the Apostolic Nunciature in the United States, detailing “disciplinary measures” for Bishop Michael J Bransfield.

Bishop Bransfield served as Ordinary for Wheeling-Charleston from 2005 until 2018, when his resignation was accepted by Pope Francis immediately following his 75th birthday. At that time, the Holy Father appointed Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, and instructed him to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults and financial improprieties made against Bishop Bransfield.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is a suffragen of the Metropolitan See of Baltimore.

Earlier this year, Archbishop Lori wrote a letter to the priests and faithful of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, explaining the findings of his investigation. He revealed that his “investigative team determined that the accounts of those who accused Bishop Bransfield of sexual harassment are credible.” The investigation further determined that “Bishop Bransfield engaged in a pattern of excessive and inappropriate spending.”

Friday’s communique from the Nunciature stated that, “based on the findings of the investigation,” Pope Francis has decided on a number of disciplinary measures for Bishop Bransfield. Specifically, he is prohibited from residing in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston; he is prohibited from presiding or participating anywhere in any public celebration of the Liturgy; and he is obligated to make personal amends for some of the harm he has caused. “The nature and extent of the amends” will be decided “in consultation with the future Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston.”

The Nunciature’s statement concludes: “In taking these concrete actions, the Holy See expresses its sincere concern for the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.”
FULL TEXT Release from VaticanNews va

Today's Mass Readings and Video : Saturday, July 20, 2019 - #Eucharist


Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 394

Reading 1EX 12:37-42

The children of Israel set out from Rameses for Succoth,
about six hundred thousand men on foot,
not counting the little ones.
A crowd of mixed ancestry also went up with them,
besides their livestock, very numerous flocks and herds.
Since the dough they had brought out of Egypt was not leavened,
they baked it into unleavened loaves.
They had rushed out of Egypt and had no opportunity
even to prepare food for the journey.

The time the children of Israel had stayed in Egypt
was four hundred and thirty years.
At the end of four hundred and thirty years,
all the hosts of the LORD left the land of Egypt on this very date.
This was a night of vigil for the LORD,
as he led them out of the land of Egypt;
so on this same night
all the children of Israel must keep a vigil for the LORD
throughout their generations.

Responsorial PsalmPS 136:1 AND 23-24, 10-12, 13-15

R. His mercy endures forever. 
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever;
Who remembered us in our abjection,
for his mercy endures forever;
And freed us from our foes,
for his mercy endures forever.
R. His mercy endures forever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Who smote the Egyptians in their first-born,
for his mercy endures forever;
And brought out Israel from their midst,
for his mercy endures forever;
With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,
for his mercy endures forever.
R. His mercy endures forever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Who split the Red Sea in twain,
for his mercy endures forever;
And led Israel through its midst,
for his mercy endures forever;
But swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea,
for his mercy endures forever.
R. His mercy endures forever.    
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia2 COR 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMT 12:14-21

The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus
to put him to death.

When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place.
Many people followed him, and he cured them all,
but he warned them not to make him known.
This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I shall place my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.

Saint July 20 : St. Apollinaris of Ravenna a Bishop and Miracle Worker

One of the first great martyrs of the church. He was made Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter himself. The miracles he wrought there soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the Faith, while at the same time bringing upon him the fury of the idolaters, who beat him cruelly and drove him from the city. He was found half dead on the seashore, and kept in concealment by the Christians, but was captured again and compelled to walk on burning coals and a second time expelled. But he remained in the vicinity, and continued his work of evangelization. We find him then journeying in the province of Aemilia. A third time he returned to Ravenna. Again he was captured, hacked with knives, had scalding water poured over his wounds, was beaten in the mouth with stones because he persisted in preaching, and then, loaded with chains, was flung into a horrible dungeon to starve to death; but after four days he was put on board ship and sent to Greece. There the same course of preachings, and miracles, and sufferings continued; and when his very presence caused the oracles to be silent, he was, after a cruel beating, sent back to Italy. All this continued for three years, and a fourth time he returned to Ravenna. By this time Vespasian was Emperor, and he, in answer to the complaints of the pagans, issued a decree of banishment against the Christians. Apollinaris was kept concealed for some time, but as he was passing out of the gates of the city, was set upon and savagely beaten, probably at Classis, a suburb, but he lived for seven days, foretelling meantime that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph. It is not certain what was his native place, though it was probably Antioch. Nor is it sure that he was one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, as has been suggested. The precise date of his consecration cannot be ascertained, but he was Bishop of Ravenna for twenty-six years. Text shared from the Catholic Encyclopedia 

Saint July 20 : St. Margaret of Antioch the Patron of Pregnant , Child Birth and Nurses

Born:
Antioch (in Pisidia)
Died:
304
Patron of:
childbirth, pregnant women, dying people, kidney disease, peasants, exiles, falsely accused people; nurses
Virgin and martyr; also called MARINA; belonged to Pisidian Antioch in Asia Minor, where her father was a pagan priest. Her mother dying soon after her birth, Margaret was nursed by a pious woman five or six leagues from Antioch. Having embraced Christianity and consecrated her virginity to God, she was disowned by her father and adopted by her nurse.
 While she was one day engaged in watching the flocks of her mistress, a lustful Roman prefect named Olybrius caught sight of her, and attracted by her great beauty sought to make her his concubine or wife. When neither cajolery nor threats of punishment could succeed in moving her to yield to his desires, he had her brought before him in public trial at Antioch. Threatened with death unless she renounced the Christian faith, the holy virgin refused to adore the gods of the empire and an attempt was made to burn her, but the flames, we are told in her Acts, left her unhurt. She was then bound hand and foot and thrown into a cauldron of boiling water, but at her prayer her bonds were broken and she stood up uninjured. Finally the prefect ordered her to be beheaded. The Greek Church honors her under the name Marine on 13 July; the Latin, as Margaret on 20 July. Her Acts place her death in the persecution of Diocletian (A.D. 303-5), but in fact even the century to which she belonged is uncertain. St. Margaret is represented in art sometimes as a shepherdess, or as leading a chained dragon, again carrying a little cross or a girdle in her hand, or standing by a large vessel which recalls the cauldron into which she was plunged. Relics said to belong to the saint are venerated in very many parts of Europe; at Rome, Montefiascone, Brusels, Bruges, Paris, Froidmont, Troyes, and various other places. Curiously enough this virgin has been widely venerated for many centuries as a special patron of women who are pregnant.