Friday, November 10, 2017

Saint November 11 : St. Martin of Tours : Patron of #Poor, #Alcoholics, #Beggars and Wine makers

Feast: November 11
Feast Day:
November 11
316, Savaria, Hungary
November 8, 397, Candes, France
Patron of:
gainst poverty; against alcoholism; beggars; Beli Manastir; Buenos Aires; Burgenland; cavalry; Dieburg; Edingen equestrians; Foiano della Chiana; France; geese; horses; hotel-keepers; innkeepers; Kortrijk; diocese of Mainz; Olpe; Pietrasanta; Pontifical Swiss Guards; quartermasters; reformed alcoholics; riders; diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart; soldiers; tailors; Utrecht; vintners; Virje; wine growers; wine makers; Wissmannsdorf
Today, November 11, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours (also known as “Martin the Merciful” and the “Glory of Gaul,” 316-397), bishop, and theologian. Saint Martin saw himself as a member of the “Army of God,” not the army of man. Zealous in his love for the Lord, he served (sometimes reluctantly, but ever obediently) those in need, and those who sought him out, for his eight-one years on the earth. Remembered for his great charity, Saint Martin inspires us still today to help those in need, as Christ would have helped them.
Martin was born to pagan parents in Sabaria (modern-day Hungary). The family soon moved to Italy, where Martin discovered Christianity and entered himself into the catechumenate at age 10. Of course, his parents were greatly opposed to his conversion, and attempted to dissuade him, but by age 12, his love for the Lord was so strong, he wished to live as a hermit and devote himself completely to prayer and contemplation. His father, an officer in the Roman army, conscripted Martin against his will into the army when he was just 15, in accordance with a Roman law forcing the sons of veterans to enlist. Martin, convinced that his belief in Christ was in direct opposition to military service, refused to present when required, and was taken by force, in chains, to make his oath. Out of obedience, once his oath was administered, he felt bound to obey. Due to his reluctance to fight, he was assigned to a ceremonial duty, designed to accompany the emperor, and rarely saw combat. Martin became a member of the Roman army prior to his baptism, as preparation for baptism at that time took several years. However, by his active duty, he was basically living the life of a monk, rather than a soldier, much to the irritation of his fellow soldiers and officers in the legion. He was promoted to officer, and because of this was entitled to a servant. However, he insisted on switching roles with his servant, cleaning the servant's boots instead of the other way around!
 The event that is most often cited as changing the life of Martin occurred one cold day in France, where Martin had been stationed on garrison duty. As he was making his patrol, he noticed a nearly naked beggar, freezing, and ignored by those whom he implored for help. Martin did not have a penny to give him, but he remembered the text of the Gospel: “I was naked, and you clothed Me.”
“My friend,” he said, “I have nothing but my weapons and my garments.”
And taking up his sword, he divided his cloak into two parts and gave one to the beggar. slicing the heavy and luxurious fabric with his sword. That night, Martin received the Lord in a dream. Jesus appeared to him, wrapped in the cloak Martin had given away, and said to him, “Martin, yet a catechumen, has covered me with this garment.” Following his dream, Martin proceeded with haste to be baptized, officially entering the Church at age 18. Martin’s military career proceeded without incident for several years, and at age 20, after five years of service, he was summoned before Caesar to receive a gift of money reserved for soldiers of outstanding service. Martin refused the gift, saying to Caesar, “I have served you as a soldier. Let me now serve Christ. Give the bounty to these others who are going to fight, but I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” The emperor, of course, was irritated by this lack of gratitude and respect, and accused Martin of cowardice. For his part, Martin replied that he was willing to go into battle unarmed and stand between the opposing parties in the name of Christ. He was immediately thrown into prison for refusing to fight, but received his discharge soon after, as truce was declared and the war was over. Upon discharge, Martin was drawn again to life as a hermit, wishing to lead a quiet life of prayer and contemplation. Saint Hilary recognized in Martin a man of extraordinary virtue, and took him as a disciple, repeatedly attempting to ordain him as a deacon. Martin, however, continually refused ordination, preferring to live a solitary life on some land given to him in Liguge. There, he was joined by other hermits, and together, they founded the first monastic community in Gaul. Saint Martin codified the model of monastic lives of the hermits—models used by other saints since that time. He performed miracles and exorcisms, and confronted demons not with threats, but through subduing them by prayer. On a trip over the Alps to visit his parents, Saint Martin was attacked by robbers who not only wanted to steal what he owned but threatened to take his life. Calm and unperturbed, the saintly man spoke to the robbers about God. One was so impressed he converted and became a law-abiding citizen. But Martin was to find even more trouble in his own home town. Though his mother converted to Christianity, his father stubbornly refused. When Martin began to denounce publicly the Arian heretics that were then in power throughout the empire -- even within the Church at that time -- he was whipped and driven out of his own hometown! When the second bishop of Tours died, the congregation there, knowing of Martin’s piety, demanded that he take his place. He refused, but was taken by force by a mob of townspeople to the church, where the bishops had gathered to consecrate him. Dirty, ragged, and disheveled, the bishops were appalled, and refused to consecrate him, thinking him unworthy of such an important office. However, the people demanded his consecration, stating that they didn’t chose him based upon his outward appearance, but because of his holiness, poverty, charity, and grace. Their minds changed by the acclamations of the people, Martin was consecrated the third bishop of Tours. As a bishop, Saint Martin continued to live his austere life, taking up a modest cell near the church, but soon retreating to an isolated place which would eventually become the famed monastic abbey at Marmoutiers. There, he was joined by eighty monks, living in wooden cells or caves in a nearby cliff. The monks spent their days in prayer and writing, rather than art or business as was the custom in the day. Martin personally instructed each of them, leading them in the faith, and creating an army of God. Many of the monks went on to hold important positions in the Church, having been firmly grounded in doctrine and faith by Saint Martin. Saint Martin became a model bishop, traveling from house to house through his mainly rural community and preaching to individuals and families (rather than limiting his efforts to the cities, or expecting rural Christians to travel into town for Mass). Once converted, he organized these rural communities under the direction of a priest or monk, and would visit each of his communities throughout his diocese at least once per year. He traveled on foot, or by donkey, exchanging the fine robes of a bishop for the simple cloak of a pilgrim monk. This system of rural communities became the model for modern-day rural dioceses, and his practice of visiting every community each year is still practiced by bishops today. Saint Martin was also a champion of social justice, and insisted on the freedom of prisoners who were mistreated, wrongly accused, or held for periods of time that did not befit their crimes. Many leaders began refusing to see him, knowing he would request freedom for prisoners, and they would feel obliged to acquiesce. One day a general named Avitianus arrived at Tours with ranks of prisoners he intended to torture and execute the next day. As soon as Martin heard of this cruel plan, he left his monastery for the city. Although he arrived well after midnight, he went straight to the house where the general was staying and threw himself on the threshold crying out in a loud voice. Avitianus was awakened by an angel who told him Martin was outside. Avitianus went to the door and told Martin, "Don't even say a word. I know what your request is. Every prisoner shall be spared.” Martin served the Lord until his eighty-first year. As death approached, his followers begged him not to leave them. He prayed, "Lord, if your people still need me, I do not refuse the work. Your will be done." When about to die: He saw the devil standing near and cried out, 'Blood stained beast, what are you doing here? You will find nothing of yours in me, you living death. I go to the arms of Abraham.' These were his last words. Then he surrendered his soul to God. From a letter by Sulpicius Severus, his hagiographer: “Martin knew long in advance the time of his death and he told his brethren that it was near. Meanwhile, he found himself obliged to make a visitation of the parish of Candes. The clergy of that church were quarreling, and he wished to reconcile them. Although he knew that his days on earth were few, he did not refuse to undertake the journey for such a purpose, for he believed that he would bring his virtuous life to a good end if by his efforts peace was restored in the church. He spent some time in Candes, or rather in its church, where he stayed. Peace was restored, and he was planning to return to his monastery when suddenly he began to lose his strength. He summoned his brethren and told them he was dying. All who heard this were overcome with grief. In their sorrow they cried to him with one voice: “Father, why are you deserting us? Who will care for us when you are gone? Savage wolves will attack your flock, and who will save us from their bite when our shepherd is struck down? We know you long to be with Christ, but your reward is certain and will not be any less for being delayed. You will do better to show pity for us, rather than forsake us.”
Thereupon he broke into tears, for he was a man in whom the compassion of our Lord was continually revealed. Turning to our Lord, he made this reply to their pleading: “Lord, if your people still need me, I am ready for the task; your will be done.”
Here was a man words cannot describe. Death could not defeat him nor toil dismay him. He was quite without a preference of his own; he neither feared to die nor refused to live. With eyes and hands always raised to heaven he never withdrew his unconquered spirit from prayer. It happened that some priests who had gathered at his bedside suggested that he should give his poor body some relief by lying on his other side. He answered: “Allow me, brothers, to look toward heaven rather than at the earth, so that my spirit may set on the right course when the time comes for me to go on my journey to the Lord.” At his request, he was buried in the Cemetery of the Poor.
Saint Martin was prone to lengthy fasts, many of which were accompanied by ecstatic visions of the Lord. Today, beginning the day after his feast day, and continuing until Christmas, some Christian communities continue to practice “Saint Martin’s Fast.” During this fast, the penitents engage in acts of penance and charity, as well as limit their food intake (of particular loved items, for example). The Fast of Saint Martin is meant to prepare the penitent to celebrate the Solemnity of Christmas. The fast reminds the penitent of several truths:
1. Our lives must be centered on God, not on self.
2. Our self denial is a prayer of the body to Our Lord Who came as an Infant to teach us and to redeem us.
3. Martin's act of cutting his cloak in two was both penitential and loving. All penances, if they are to have any merit spiritually, must be done in love.
4. We must be willing to give up anything and everything which keeps us from full union with God.
5. As soldiers of Christ, our struggle is to be against evil, not against others. We are always to be peacemakers as Martin was.
Saint Martin, a member of the “Army of God,” is also known as the patron saint of soldiers. On this, veterans day, we turn to him with a prayer of intercession for the protection of all those serving in armed forces around the world.
Prayer to Saint Martin of Tours for our soldiers
St. Martin, you were first a soldier like your father. Converted to the Church, you became a soldier of Christ, a priest and then a Bishop of Tours. Lover of the poor, and model for pagans and Christians alike, protect our soldiers at all times. Make them strong, just, and charitable, always aiming at establishing peace on earth. Amen.
Prayer to Continue to Fight for God (written by Saint Martin of Tours)
Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner. Amen
Lord God of hosts, who clothed your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Almighty God our Heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Story of St. Martin by 365RosariesBlog

Pope Francis explains that Christians have a treasure within - the Holy Spirit – which we have to safeguard - Homily

Pope Francis on Friday once more hit out against the powerful networks of corruption, reminding those involved they are dealing with the goods of others, not theirs.   Delivering a homily during his Mass at the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, the Pope commented on the Gospel of Luke where Jesus recounts the parable of the dishonest steward who later strikes deals with his master’s debtors.
Describing the dealing as “a true ring of corruption” the Pope said this true even in our days.   “Those involved in these corruption rings are so powerful they are like the mafia.”   This, the Pope said, is fact and not a fairy tale or something from ancient history.  We find them daily in newspapers, especially those who administer public goods, which is not theirs.  There is no question about corruption with one’s own goods because they are always defended.
The Holy Father said that the lesson that Jesus wishes to draw from the parable is the greater craftiness of the “children of this world” compared to the children of light.  Their greater corruption and cunning is carried forward in “style” and “silk gloves”. 
“Christian craftiness”
‎The Pope pointed out that there are many among Christians who are corrupt. If they are more crafty than those faithful to Jesus, the Pope wondered whether there exists something like “Christian craftiness”, something for those who want to follow Jesus without ending up badly.  What is this “Christian craftiness” that is not sin but helps me to go ahead in the service of the Lord, including with the help of others, the Pope asked. 
Three attitudes 
If there is a Gospel path and “Christian ‘track’ to follow without falling into the ring of corruption”, the Pope said, Jesus points it out with some contrasts, such as when he speaks about Christians as “lambs among wolves” or “prudent as serpents and simple as doves.”   In this regard the Pope pointed to 3 attitudes of Christian craftiness.   The first is a “healthy mistrust”, which means to be careful of someone who “promises too much” and “talks much” like those who ask you to invest in his bank for a “double interest”.   The second attitude is reflection when faced with the seductions of the devil who knows our weaknesses; and lastly, prayer
Pope Francis invited the faithful to pray to the Lord to grant them this grace to be cunning Christians, to have this Christian craftiness and Christian “track”.   If there is one thing that a Christian cannot allow himself, it is being naive.  The Pope said that Christians have a treasure within -  the Holy Spirit – which we have to safeguard; and being naive would rob one of the Spirit. 
Speaking about what he described as the “smog of corruption” that pollutes society, the Holy Father also urged for prayers for the corrupt so that they “find a way out of the prison in which they wanted to enter.”  

Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer receives Founders' Award from Catholic Distance University

Catholic Distance University, located in Virginia, USA presented its Founders Award to Jesuit Father Robert J. Spitzer. He is the president of the Magis Center for Science, Reason and Faith. This occurred at its annual gala at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel Nov. 4. Father Spitzer, who served as Gonzaga University president from 1998 to 2009, is president of the Spitzer Center for Visionary Leadership. He is the author of 10 books, he hosts a weekly show, “Father Spitzer’s Universe,” on EWTN. He said he is looking forward to a partnership between CDU and the Magis Center. “CDU is going to be a very instrumental part” of our work, he said. In his remarks, he talked about the reasons why people leave the church. He said there is a misconception that one reason is because faith and science are contradictory. “We have truth on our side,” he said. “Faith and science are in no way contradictory.” The Bishop Thomas J. Welsh Parish Award went to both St. Veronica Church in Chantilly and St. James the Greater Church in Charles Town, W.Va. CDU moved its headquarters to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., in 2015 after being in the Arlington Diocese for more than 30 years. Father Dennis W. Kleinmann, pastor of St. Veronica Church, accepted the award from Susan Malone, gala chairwoman. Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge offered opening remarks, and Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde introduced the Founders Award and presented it to Father Spitzer with Marianne Evans Mount, CDU founder and president; Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Military Archdiocese; and Dr. Charles R. Wasaff, chairman of the CDU board. (Edited from the Arlington Catholic Herald - Photo CDU Website)

RIP Father Gaetano Nicosia the Angel of the Lepers in Hong Kong - Hero Priest dies at 102

Fr. Gaetano Nicosia, the angel of the lepers, has died

Gianni Criveller

ASIA NEWS REPORT: The Salesian priest died on November 6 in Hong Kong at 102 years of age. He lived for 48 years in a village of Coloane with a hundred lepers. He offered them care, dignity and Christian faith. A friend of Fr. Allegra and other missionaries, he inspired commitment to leprosy treatment in China. A life given to the Lord for the poor.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Father Gaetano Nicosia, a much loved Salesian missionary, died last November 6 in Hong Kong. He was 102 years old. In the late morning of that day, Fr. Gaetano, who was still lucid, asked a Little Sister of the Poor, with whom he was staying, to seek a priest for the anointment of the sick. He understood that his time had come. The confreres came to his bedside and Cardinal Joseph Zen celebrated Holy Mass, allowing Fr. Gaetano to receive his last Eucharist just before his death. He will be buried at St. Michael’s cemetery in Macau on November 14, after funeral ceremonies in the cathedral.
A few years ago he was able to meet Pope Francis, brought in a wheelchair by his fellow Salesian, Card. Joseph Zen (see photo 1 and 2).
Nicosia was known as the angel of the lepers, and his story reads like a Gospel passage on altruism, goodness, and imitation of Christ. All who met him, even for a few moments, were struck by his goodness, joy and sincere enthusiasm.
In a remote corner of Coloane Island (Macau), there was a leper colony abandoned by everyone. The despair was such that some, among the hundreds of lepers present there, killed themselves. In August 1963, Fr. Gaetano Nicosia asked to be allowed to move right there, transforming the colony in a very short space of time. The houses were refurbished, drinking water and electricity supplied and medical care offered. A farm and workshop for various trades were also built. Work was paid. A village council was established to reach consensus on decisions. Father Gaetano lived with them, bringing dignity, well-being and health. And the Christian faith. "It was hell," said a leper, "it is now a heaven; Fr. Gaetano is our angel.”
In 2012 and 2013, in view of a book and documentary film, I conducted a long interview with Fr. Gaetano. The following quotes refer to that interview. His story moved me, and for that I want to honour him with this tribute. He had first-hand experience of the dramas of the twentieth century. Gaetano Nicosia was born in San Giovanni La Punta (Catania) on April 3, 1915. He lost his father in war when he was three years old. "My mother was 27 and she never married again. She went to Mass every morning and she dedicated herself to her two little ones. “His brother Salvatore died just a few months ago at the age of 105!
Gabriele Maria Allegra, the famous Franciscan, now blessed, who translated the Bible into Chinese was also born in San Giovanni La Punta. Gaetano and Gabriele Maria were childhood friends. They met each other again as missionaries in Hong Kong and Macao. Fraternal friends for a lifetime.
Fr. Nicosia arrived in Hong Kong in 1935: some of his novice companions, a few years later, laid down their lives in Chinese communist prisons. Gaetano's physical constitution was delicate and the novice master wanted to repatriate him. Gaetano entrusted himself to the superior, Carlo Braga of Valtellina: "I went to him in tears to stop my repatriation. He looked at me, listened to me, and trusted me." Braga, the "Don Bosco of China", whose cause for beatification is ongoing, was the father of generations of Salesians.
In 1939 Nicosia was destined for the orphanage of Macao. Those were years of war. Thousands of refugees arrived in Macau from China and Hong Kong. People died of hunger. "In our school we had 800 students. The governor granted us some of the rice that came from Thailand every Friday. And so we saved the children's lives. "
Nicosia was ordained to the priesthood in 1946 in the beautiful church of St. Joseph in Macau. He followed Bishop Michele Arduino of Shaozhou (now Shaoguan, Guangdong Province) to China. That Christian community dated back to Matteo Ricci, who lived there from 1589 to 1595.
Those were years of civil war, of disorder and of danger. Nicosia was expelled in 1950, after the rise to power of the communists. He was welcomed to Hong Kong's "bridge of freedom" by Ambrose Poletti of PIME, the "Gatekeeper to China".
After serving for 11 years at the Saint Louis school in Hong Kong, Nicosia was dissatisfied. He wanted a mission among the poorest, indeed with the lepers, as he had promised to Jesus as a boy. The superior wanted to send him to a leper colony in Colombia when the bishop of Macau asked the Salesians to do something for the Coloane leper colony.
It was a sign of Providence for Gaetano. For 48 years, from 1963 to 2011, he lived with lepers. In 1970, 40 people were discharged. Nicosia had found them a job, but people even avoided the relatives of the former lepers. And so, rejected by their own families, many returned to the village.
At the time of Nicosia's arrival only a dozen were Catholics. Nicosia brought them all to the faith, through the Salesian devotions proposed with enthusiasm and love. But above all with his life shared with them. "The City of Joy" of Coloane moved all those who visited it. Many important people, including Fr. Allegra, spent lengthy periods in the leprosy colony. The Jesuits Luis Ruiz and Lancelot Rodrigues, two famous Macau priests’ friends of lepers, inspired by Nicosia, began working in favour of lepers in China.
The architect Oseo Acconci built a beautiful church dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. The great sculptor Francesco Messina made a splendid bronze crucifix that still dominates the front of the sacred building. For his work, Nicosia received honours from the Macau government and the president of the Italian Republic.
In 2011, all inhabitants of the colony were declared cured and many returned to society as teachers, employees and professionals. The leper colony was closed and their "angel" at 96, retired to Hong Kong.
In 2015, in a memorable event, Angelo Paratico and Ciriaco Offedu’s documentary film Father Nicosia, the Angel of Lepers, was presented, to raise awareness of the life of this extraordinary man. It was then presented in Taranto and in several Italian cities. The previous year, at the PIME House in Hong Kong, with the presence of the Italian consul Alessandra Schiavo and Card. John Tong, Fr. Nicosia was celebrated with great affection by many friends. His moving speech, inspired by an extraordinary faith and sympathy, remains etched in the memory of those who were present as a unique and unforgettable event.

#PopeFrancis "May their prophetic voice serve as a warning, above all for coming generations!" against Nuclear Weapons FULL TEXT + Video

Pope Francis spoke at an international symposium on Friday. Sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The conference on "Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament" involved experts, activists, politicians, pastors and leaders  for disarmament. 
Radio Vatican Release: 
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
to Participants in the International Symposium
“Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament”
sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

10 November 2017

Dear Friends,
I offer a cordial welcome to each of you and I express my deep gratitude for your presence here and your work in the service of the common good. I thank Cardinal Turkson for his greeting and introduction.
In this Symposium, you have met to discuss issues that are critical both in themselves and in the light of the complex political challenges of the current international scene, marked as it is by a climate of instability and conflict. A certain pessimism might make us think that “prospects for a world free from nuclear arms and for integral disarmament”, the theme of your meeting, appear increasingly remote. Indeed, the escalation of the arms race continues unabated and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations. As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and healthcare projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place (cf. Message to the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 7 December 2014).

Nor can we fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices. If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned. For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race. International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity (cf. Message to the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, 27 March 2017). Essential in this regard is the witness given by the Hibakusha, the survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with other victims of nuclear arms testing. May their prophetic voice serve as a warning, above all for coming generations!
Furthermore, weapons that result in the destruction of the human race are senseless even from a tactical standpoint. For that matter, while true science is always at the service of humanity, in our time we are increasingly troubled by the misuse of certain projects originally conceived for a good cause. Suffice it to note that nuclear technologies are now spreading, also through digital communications, and that the instruments of international law have not prevented new states from joining those already in possession of nuclear weapons. The resulting scenarios are deeply disturbing if we consider the challenges of contemporary geopolitics, like terrorism or asymmetric warfare.
At the same time, a healthy realism continues to shine a light of hope on our unruly world. Recently, for example, in a historic vote at the United Nations, the majority of the members of the international community determined that nuclear weapons are not only immoral, but must also be considered an illegal means of warfare. This decision filled a significant juridical lacuna, inasmuch as chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-human mines and cluster bombs are all expressly prohibited by international conventions. Even more important is the fact that it was mainly the result of a “humanitarian initiative” sponsored by a significant alliance between civil society, states, international organizations, churches, academies and groups of experts. The document that you, distinguished recipients of the Nobel Prize, have consigned to me is a part of this, and I express my gratitude and appreciation for it.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio of Pope Paul VI. That Encyclical, in developing the Christian concept of the person, set forth the notion of integral human development and proposed it as “the new name of peace”. In this memorable and still timely document, the Pope stated succinctly that “development cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be integral; it must foster the development of each man and of the whole man” (No. 14).
We need, then, to reject the culture of waste and to care for individuals and peoples labouring under painful disparities through patient efforts to favour processes of solidarity over selfish and contingent interests. This also entails integrating the individual and the social dimensions through the application of the principle of subsidiarity, encouraging the contribution of all, as individuals and as groups. Lastly, there is a need to promote human beings in the indissoluble unity of soul and body, of contemplation and action.
In this way, progress that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia of a world free of deadly instruments of aggression, contrary to the criticism of those who consider idealistic any process of dismantling arsenals. The teaching of John XXIII remains ever valid. In pointing to the goal of an integral disarmament, he stated: “Unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete, and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop the arms race, or to reduce armaments, or – and this is the main thing – ultimately to abolish them entirely” (Pacem in Terris, 11 April 1963).
The Church does not tire of offering the world this wisdom and the actions it inspires, conscious that integral development is the beneficial path that the human family is called to travel. I encourage you to carry forward this activity with patience and constancy, in the trust that the Lord is ever at our side. May he bless each of you and your efforts in the service of justice and peace.

Archbishop Chaput explains Amoris Laetitia "we need to engage the text with open hearts and the discipline of clear thinking."

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.National Assembly of Filipino Priests USAHouston, Texas
Nov. 8, 2017
Last month the Wall Street Journal covered the fighting around the Philippine city of MarawiThe story wasriveting, and I was struck by the violence of the Muslim militants who had seized the cityIt reminded me of how many hardships Filipinos have faced over the 73 years of my lifetimeJapanese occupation, the Huk insurgency, the NPA insurgency, dictatorship, corruption, martial law, and now Islamic extremism. The list of sufferings is a long one.
But as I read about Marawi, I also recalled the 4 million people who jammed the streets of Manila for John Paul II at World Youth Day 1995. Despite their hardships, Filipinos have always been a people of joy, enthusiasm for life, and deep Catholic faith. Those same qualities have always marked Filipinos in the United States. The Filipino community in Philadelphia is a great blessing for our local Church. So it’s a particular pleasure to be here.
My job today is to talk about Amoris LaetitiaPapal documents are always important. But — if we can be candid for a moment — some have the energy of a lead brick. Amoris Laetitia is very different. It has passages of great wisdom and beauty on marriage and on family lifeAnd it has other passages that have caused some obvious controversy. The controversy has obscured much of the good in the document. So we need to engage the text with open hearts and the discipline of clear thinking.
The specific issues I want to deal with today are three: the pastoral challenges Amoris Laetitia seeks to address; the pastoral challenges the text itself may seem to create; and how we as priests need to respond as “missionaries of mercy.”
But let me start first with some background.
Some of you probably took part in the World Meeting of Families two years ago in Philadelphia. It was a great success and a wonderful gift for our peopleI think Pope Francis was surprised by the faith and enthusiasm ofthe Philadelphia crowds. I’m sure he was pleased.
Three days later, I left for Rome as a delegate to the 2015 Synod on the Family. I served as secretary to one of the Anglophone working groups. I shared my thoughts on the synod floor. And I worked with other bishops in suggesting improvements to the synod’s final document. I was also elected to the synod’s permanent council.
My point is this. took part directly in the synod discussions on marriage, sexuality, conscience and the familyas a synod father myself. And back at home in Philadelphia, that experience helped us to draft our local guidelines for applying Amoris Laetitia promptly and accurately once it appeared.
We developed our guidelines in consultation with pastors, lay couples, our Marriage Tribunal, and many others in the processAnd we based our work on paragraph No. 2 from Amoris Laetitia which reads, in part, with these words:
“The thinking of pastors and theologians, if faithful to the Church, honest, realistic and creative, will help us achieve greater clarity in addressing the issues that face today’s families.
The key words there are “if faithful to the Church.” Fidelity to the received and constant wisdom of Catholic teaching is paramount. So the spirit behind our Philadelphia guidelines, grounded in Amoris Laetitia, is the following.
As a Church we need to meet people where they are. We need to listen to their sufferings and hopes. We need to accompany them along the path of their lives. That demands from us as priests a spirit of patience and mercy. We need to have a bias toward welcoming, and a resistance to seeing individual persons merely as parts of alien or alienated groups. The divorced and civilly remarried are not exiles from Church life. They need to be invited back. The same applies to persons with same-sex attraction. Jesus Christ died for all of us, and we need to behave in a manner that embodies his love.
At the same time, “accompanying” people also means that we need to guide them in the right direction – gently but also honestly, speaking the truth with love. It does no one any good if we accompany someone over a cliff, or even worse, to a fatalseparation from God. We can’t simply confirm people in their mistakes. Scripture is very clear about right and wrong sexual relationships and behavior. We’re very poor disciples if we lack the courage to speak the truth as the Church has always understood it.
We live in an age of studied ambiguity — at times, even within the Church — and in such an age, clarity about the truth, made gentle by patience and understanding, is a treasure without price.
So let’s turn to the problems Amoris Laetitia seeks to address. Much of this you already know. American culture is rapidly becoming less religious. One of the big reasons is a steady diet of distractions offered every day by a mass-media driven consumer economy. The average adult is exposed to about 5,000 commercial messages a day. The average child sees 40,000 ads a year, and that’s just on television. There’s no way to compete with that kind of catechesis in materialism except by turning it off. And most families don’t. The results are no surprise.
Jean Twenge’s new book, iGenis a study of young people born between 1995 and 2012. They’ve never known a world without iPhones and iPads. And statistically they’re the least religious generation in American history. This isn’t really news. Researchers like Christian Smith have been tracking the behavior and beliefs of young people for years. And they come to the same conclusion: The implications for marriage, family life and religious institutions are not good.
Philadelphia is seen as a fairly traditional diocese. So consider these facts as evidence.
In the year 2000, the Philadelphia Archdiocese had 441,000 registered Catholic households. By 2015, that had dropped to 389,000. In 2000, we had 283 parishes. In 2015 we had 219. In 2000 we had 6,000 marriages and 15,400 infant baptisms. In 2015 we had about 3,200 marriages and 9,100 infant baptisms. Our parish schools had 81,300 students in 2000. They had 43,000 in 2015. And so on.
Now, the picture I just drew can be misleading. Demographics are always changing. Other dioceses, especially in the south and west of the country, are growing. Overall though, American religious faith is weakening. Andplenty of social research tells us that people who practice their faith and attend religious services regularly have more stable marriages and families than people who don’t.
But a paradox of our national personality is this: Even at our most religious, Americans have always had a deep streak of individualism, a distrust of authority, and a big appetite for self-invention and personal happiness unencumbered by obligations to others. As religion loses its hold on people’s behavior, all of these instincts accelerate. And that leads to exactly the kind of personal and social suffering that Amoris Laetitia seeks to heal.
One of the main messages in the Holy Father’s text is that life, marriage, children and family are joys to betreasured — not problems to be solved. This seems obvious, and in normal times, it would be. But we don’t live in a “normal” time. For 50 years since Vatican II, the Church has been locked in disputes over doctrine and practice. And these have been compounded by deep and rapid changes in the world around us.
Conflict can become a habit. Every issue can become a nail that needs a hammer. We can get comfortable in our angerAnd that’dangerous, especially within the Church, because frustration and resentment can start to feel normal, and then to feel good. C.S. Lewis would describe the pleasure we take in an unhealthy taste for argument as a pretty clear mark of the demonic. There’s nothing more poisonously delicious than trashing an enemy in the name of the Gospel of love.
So for me, at the heart of Amoris Laetitia, and a key to the whole document, is paragraph No. 28, where Franciswrites:
“Against [the] backdrop of love so central to the Christian experience of marriage and the family, another virtue stands out, one often overlooked in our world of frenetic and superficial relationships. It is tenderness.”
Tenderness, personal contact, listening instead of just hearing, and intimate attention to the needs of the other – these are the priorities Francis weaves throughout his text. It explains why he stresses in paragraph No. 22 that “the word of God is not a series of abstract ideas but rather a source of comfort and companionship for every family that experiences difficulties or suffering.” And it gives a context to his paragraphs Nos. 36 and 37, where he warns against “a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families.” Francis urges us again and again to deal lovingly with people and situations as they really are.
In my reading, that leads to one of the central ironies in communicating the message of Amoris Laetitia. We live in an age of the laity. The text deals very heavily with marriage and the familymajor features of Christian lay life. But to succeed, Amoris Laetitia depends profoundly on the zeal and sensitivity of the priest. The priest has the freedom of action, the pastoral experience and the overview of human relationships to be the presence of Jesus Christ in so many of the complex situations Francis describes. In other words, the vocation you have, brothers, has never been more vital for family life than it is right now.
That might sound curious because I’ve never had more priests voice uncertainty about their value to the Church than I’ve heard in recent years. I’ve had many priests approach me feeling confused or hurt by something the Pope has said about priestly indifference or harshness. And these are good, solid men – not whiners or crazies — experienced in their parishes and committed to their people.
How can we make sense of that? Part of their priestly frustration comes from the constant beating the priesthood has taken in this country since 2002. The clergy abuse crisis has caused a lot of innocent priests to suffer. And some of the Pope’s more painful comments surely come from his own pastoral experiences in Latin America, which seem to have been very different from the realities in the United States. In my own experience, cruel confessors and harsh doctors of the law have been rare, and a very long way from the American norm.
But I do think Francis is right in pushing all of us as priests to engage our people more directly, personally, with an open heart and a patient spirit. And we need to really listen to the truth in the Holy Father’s words. There’s a great temptation in ecclesial life, including parish life, to hide behind staff and offices and committees and programs and schedules. Jesus was captured by none of those things. He was always present to his people. And while we can’t escape our material duties as priests, we can find ways to keep them from dominating our pastoral service.
To put it another way: We can’t be missionaries of mercy if our main focus is running the machinery of an institution. I know very well that hitting the right balance in priestly life can be very difficultI deal with it myself every day. But it’s possible, and Francis is urging us to put mission and people first.
It’s not my purpose today to go through Amoris Laetitia paragraph by paragraphBut the text has some beautiful passages on the needs of the elderly, the poor, migrants, persons with special needsthe importance of children and openness to new life. It’s important for all of us to read the text with an attentive mind and study its strengths. Chapter Four on “Love in Marriage” is especially rich. And his reflection on St. Paul’s thoughts on the nature of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is perfect material and easily adapted for parish study groups of four or six sessions.
I want to spend my remaining time on the pastoral challenges the text itself may seem to create; some general comments on the state of our Church; and how we as priests need to respond as “missionaries of mercy.”
Ground Zero is this: For Christians, sexual intimacy outside a valid marriage can never be morally legitimate.And it’s the Church that determines what a valid marriage is.
Scripture’s clearest words about the indissolubility of marriage come from Jesus himself in Matthew 19. They can’t be softened, or reinterpreted, or contextualized. Christian marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman. When valid, it endures until the death of one or the other spouse. And our task as priests is to uphold and advance that truth as a message of liberation, even when it’s difficult.
The most widespread concerns voiced about the content of Amoris Laetitia – in public, but even more urgently and commonly in private — focus on Chapter 8, including footnote 351. Critics see in the text a preference for ambiguity over clear teaching and resentment toward defenders of traditional Church teaching that seem out of sync with the rest of the document.
Since at least some of the people raising these issues are persons of fidelity and substance, their concerns can’t — in justice — be dismissed. And the resulting confusion is regrettable, because the whole purpose of Chapter 8 is to provide a merciful outreach to decent persons entangled in irregular marital situations.
So how should we proceed?
First, as with all papal documents regarding faith and morals, if any confusion exists in a text, it must be interpreted consistent with the magisterium of previous popes.
Second, I’ve been a priest for 47 years and a bishop for nearly 30. In all that time, I’ve met very few priests who like punishing anyone, kicking anyone out of their parish, or keeping anyone from taking part in the sacraments. But I’ve met hundreds of priests who worry that their people, while loving God, don’t really know their faith, don’t understand the sacraments, don’t catechize their children, and don’t know what a properly formed Catholic conscience is. Poorly formed, immature consciences are among the biggest pastoral challenges facing the Church. This is what makes delegating decisions about the nullity or validity of a first marriage to the internal forum a matter of real concern.
The Christian virtue of mercy flows out of charity and depends on the existence of justice and truth. Romano Guardini argued that mercy is a greater virtue than justice. And rightly so. But he also stressed that truth undergirds and is essential to both virtues. In other wordsreal mercy is always more than mere sentiment. Itcan never exclude careful moral reasoning about right and wrong. It can never be set against, or elevated above, the other virtues that are key to life-giving human behavior. Otherwise it becomes just another source of confusionPermanent truths exist about human nature, sexuality, behavior and relationships. Those truths apply to all of us, in all circumstances, and justice involves living according to those truths.
But of course, all of us fail many times every dayThus, mercy is God’s outreach through the Church to offer a way back to grace. It’s a living expression of his tenderness. But mercy does not abolish God’s justice any more than it can soften or adjust the demands of truth in order to be more congenial to our weaknesses, to our culture, or to our times.
Christian marriage is never simply an “ideal.” Describing it as an “ideal” tends to open the door to excusing and then normalizing failure. Clearly many married couples do fail, especially in today’s world of institutionalized selfishness. They need our understanding and support, especially in cases of domestic violence.
But if grace is real, and God’s word is true, then the joy of a permanent marriage is possible for anyone called to the vocation. This is why better preparation and support for couples considering marriage are so vital. It’s also why we need to defend the permanence of the marriage bond wherever and whenever we reasonably can. The permanent, loving bond between a man and a woman open to new life is the glue of a culture and the guarantee of its future. We need to fight for it, and not collapse – like so many other Christian communities — into the confusion of a society based on compromises, caveats and alibis. That’s the message we need to preach and teach.
More than 70 years ago the economic historian Karl Polanyi wrote a book called The Great Transformation. It’s one of the seminal works of the last century. It chronicles the deep changes that took place during the Industrial Revolution – not just in economics but in politics, law, patterns of thought, and all kinds of human relationships. We’re living in that same kind of moment right now. So much of life can seem out of our control and beyond our influence. As Joseph Ratzinger saw five decades ago, the Church of the future will very likely be smaller, poorer, and empty of prestige – not everywhere, but certainly in the nations that like to posture themselves “advanced.”
We might mitigate that outcome with smart thinking and good Church leadership. But we probably can’t prevent it. The reason is simple. We can’t quick-fix ourselves out of moral and social problems we behaved ourselves into. And knowing that can easily lead to frustration and despair.
But God doesn’t ask us to save the Church or fix the world. That’s in his hands. What he asks is much simpler and more important. He asks each of us as priests to be faithful, and to be his healing presence to his – and to our – people.
In the midst of confusion, he asks us to speak and live the truth. In the midst of conflict, he asks us to be peacemakers. In the midst of distress, he asks us to be sources of hopeThe curse of our age is lonelinessa loneliness wrapped in relentless noise to muffle the worry that our lives and sufferings have no meaning. No matter how intractable or unfixable the problems of a marriage or family might be, the priest who listens and counsels with a spirit of mercy guided by truth is doing what God called him to do: to be the presence of God’s love in the world.
There’s no greater mission of mercy than that, and no greater joy in the life of a priest.