Thursday, January 24, 2019

Saint January 25 : Conversion of St. Paul - #Apostle of the Gentiles

In the Acts of the Apostles there are three accounts of the conversion of St. Paul (9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:9-23) presenting some slight differences. Jesus spoke to Paul : “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with the group of people Saul had been killing like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all.
Acts 9: 1-19 1And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: [it is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord [said] unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought [him] into Damascus. 9And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. Ananias Baptizes Saul 10And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I [am here], Lord. 11And the Lord [said] unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for [one] called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting [his] hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. 17And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, [even] Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. 19And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. 
Paul's faith in Christ which engendered the vision, whereas according to the concordant testimony of the Acts and the Epistles it was the actual vision of Christ which engendered faith. After his conversion, his baptism, and his miraculous cure Paul set about preaching to the Jews (Acts 9:19-20). He afterwards withdrew to Arabia — probably to the region south of Damascus (Galatians 1:17), doubtless less to preach than to meditate on the Scriptures. On his return to Damascus the intrigues of the Jews forced him to flee by night (2 Corinthians 11:32-33; Acts 9:23-25). He went to Jerusalem to see Peter (Galatians 1:18), but remained only fifteen days, for the snares of the Greeks threatened his life. He then left for Tarsus and is lost to sight for five or six years (Acts 9:29-30; Galatians 1:21). Barnabas went in search of him and brought him to Antioch where for a year they worked together and their apostolate was most fruitful (Acts 11:25-26). Together also they were sent to Jerusalem to carry alms to the brethren on the occasion of the famine predicted by Agabus (Acts 11:27-30). They do not seem to have found the Apostles there; these had been scattered by the persecution of Herod. Apostolic career of Paul This period of twelve years (45-57) was the most active and fruitful of his life. It comprises three great Apostolic expeditions of which Antioch was in each instance the starting-point and which invariably ended in a visit to Jerusalem.
SEE ALSO : 

Novena to St. Paul for Conversion - Powerful Prayers to SHARE - http://www.catholicnewsworld.com/2019/01/novena-to-st-paul-for-conversion.html

Pope Francis at World Youth Day Opening Ceremony in Panama - 2019 - Full Text + Video




Pope Francis "Lord teach me to love as you have loved us.' Will you repeat those words with me?" Full Text at World Youth Day + Video
Please find below the full text of the Pope's prepared remarks at the Opening Ceremony for World Youth Day:

Dear Young People, good evening!

How good it is to get together again, this time in a land that receives us with such radiance and warmth! As we gather in Panama, World Youth Day is once more a celebration of joy and hope for the whole Church and, for the world, a witness of faith.

I remember that in Krakow several people asked me if I was going to be in Panama, and I told them: “I don’t know, but certainly Peter will be there. Peter is going to be there”. Today I am happy to say to you: Peter is with you, to celebrate and renew you in faith and hope. Peter and the Church walk with you, and we want to tell you not to be afraid, to go forward with the same fresh energy and restlessness that helps make us happier and more available, better witnesses to the Gospel. To go forward, not to create a parallel Church that would be more “fun” or “cool” thanks to a fancy youth event, as if that were all you needed or wanted. That way of thinking would not respect either you or everything that the Spirit is saying through you.

Not at all! With you, we want to rediscover and reawaken the Church’s constant freshness and youth, opening ourselves to a new Pentecost (cf. SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, Final Document, 60). As we experienced at the Synod, this can only happen if, by our listening and sharing, we encourage each other to keep walking and to bear witness by proclaiming the Lord through service to our brothers and sisters, and concrete service at that.

I know getting here was not easy. I know how much effort and sacrifice was required for you to participate in this Day. Many weeks of work and commitment, and encounters of reflection and prayer, have made the journey itself largely its own reward. A disciple is not merely someone who arrives at a certain place, but one who sets out decisively, who is not afraid to take risks and keeps walking. This is the great joy: to keep walking. You have not been afraid to take risks and to keep journeying. Today we were all able to “get here” because for some time now, in our various communities, we have all been “on the road” together.

We come from different cultures and peoples, we speak different languages and we wear different clothes. Each of our peoples has had a different history and lived through different situations. We are different in so many ways! But none of it has stopped us from meeting one another and rejoicing to be together. The reason for this, we know, is that something unites us. Someone is a brother to us. You, dear friends, have made many sacrifices to be able to meet one another and in this way you have become true teachers and builders of the culture of encounter. By your actions and your approach, your way of looking at things, your desires and above all your sensitivity, you discredit and defuse the kind of talk that is intent on sowing division, on excluding or rejecting those who are not “like us”. It is because you have that instinct which knows intuitively that “true love does not eliminate legitimate differences, but harmonizes them in a superior unity” (BENEDICT XVI, Homily, 25 January 2006). On the other hand, we know that the father of lies prefers people who are divided and quarrelling to people who have learned to work together.

You teach us that encountering one another does not mean having to look alike, or think the same way or do the same things, listening to the same music or wearing the same football jersey. No, not at all… The culture of encounter is a call inviting us to dare to keep alive a shared dream. Yes, a great dream, a dream that has a place for everyone. The dream for which Jesus gave his life on the cross, for which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost and brought fire to the heart of every man and woman, in your hearts and mine, in the hope of finding room to grow and flourish. A dream named Jesus, sown by the Father in the confidence that it would grow and live in every heart. A dream running through our veins, thrilling our hearts and making them dance whenever we hear the command: “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).

A saint from these lands liked to say that, “Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed, of rules to be followed, or of prohibitions. Seen that way it puts us off. Christianity is a person who loved me immensely, who demands and asks for my love. Christianity is Christ” (cf. Saint Oscar Romero, Homily, 6 November 1977). It means pursuing the dream for which he gave his life: loving with the same love with which he loved us.

We can ask: What keeps us united? Why are we united? What prompts us to encounter each other? The certainty of knowing that we have been loved with a profound love that we neither can nor want to keep quiet about a love that challenges us to respond in the same way: with love. It is the love of Christ that urges us on (cf. 2 Cor 5:14).

A love that does not overwhelm or oppress, cast aside or reduce to silence, humiliate or domineer. It is the love of the Lord, a daily, discreet and respectful love; a love that is free and freeing, a love that heals and raises up. The love of the Lord has to do more with raising up than knocking down, with reconciling than forbidding, with offering new changes than condemning, with the future than the past. It is the quiet love of a hand outstretched to serve, a commitment that draws no attention to itself.
Do you believe in this love? Is it a love that makes sense?

This is the same question and invitation that was addressed to Mary. The angel asked her if she wanted to bear this dream in her womb and give it life, to make it take flesh. She answered: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Mary found the courage to say “yes”. She found the strength to give life to God’s dream. The angel is asking the same thing of each of you, and of me. Do you want this dream to come alive? Do you want to make it take flesh with your hands, with your feet, with your gaze, with your heart? Do you want the Father’s love to open new horizons for you and bring you along paths never imagined or hoped for, dreamt or expected, making our hearts rejoice, sing and dance?

Do we have the courage to say to the angel, as Mary did: Behold the servants of the Lord; let it be done?

Dear young friends, the most hope-filled result of this Day will not be a final document, a joint letter or a programme to be carried out. The most hope-filled result of this meeting will be your faces and a prayer. Each of you will return home with the new strength born of every encounter with others and with the Lord. You will return home filled with the Holy Spirit, so that you can cherish and keep alive the dream that makes us brothers and sisters, and that we must not let grow cold in the heart of our world. Wherever we may be and whatever we may do, we can always look up and say, “Lord, teach me to love as you have loved us”. Will you repeat those words with me? “Lord, teach me to love as you have loved us”.

We cannot conclude this first encounter without giving thanks. Thank you to all those who have prepared this World Youth Day with so much enthusiasm. Thank you for encouraging one another to build up and to welcome, and for saying “yes” to God’s dream of seeing his sons and daughters gathered. Thank you to Archbishop Ulloa and his team who have helped Panama to be today not only a channel that joins oceans, but also a channel where God’s dream continues to find new streams that enable it to grow, to multiply and to spread to every corner of the earth.

Dear friends, may Jesus bless you and Santa Maria Antigua ever accompany you, so that we can say without fear, as she does: “I am here. Let it be done”.


Pope Francis "The Church is naturally a Mother, and as such, she engenders life, bears it in her womb and protects it..." FULL TEXT + Video to Bishops in Panama


Pope Francis  addressed the Bishops of Central America (SEDAC) in the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Panama City. This visit occurred during his apostolic visit to Panama to celebrate World Youth Day 2019.
Pope Francis has addressed members of the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America.


Please find below the full official text of Pope Francis' speech:

Dear Brothers,
I thank Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador for his words of welcome in the name of all. I am happy to be able to be with you and to share in a closer and more direct way your hopes, projects and dreams as pastors to whom the Lord has entrusted the care of his holy people. Thank you for your fraternal welcome.
Meeting with you also gives me the opportunity to embrace your peoples and feel closer to them, to make my own their aspirations, but also their disappointments, and above all the unshakable faith that restores hope and encourages charity. Thank you for letting me be close to that tested yet simple faith seen on the faces of your people, who, though poor, know that “God is here; he is not sleeping, he is active, he watches and helps” (SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, Homily, 16 December 1979).

This meeting reminds us of an important ecclesial event. The bishops of this region were the first in America to create a means of communion and participation that continues to bear rich fruit: the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America (SEDAC). It has provided a forum for sharing, discernment and agreement that nurtures, revitalizes and enriches your Churches. Farsighted bishops gave a sign that, far from being merely programmatic, showed that the future of Central America – or of any area of the world – necessarily depends on clear thinking and the ability to broaden horizons and to join in a patient and generous effort to listen, understand, engage and involve. And, as a result, to discern the new horizons to which the Spirit is leading us (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 235).
In the seventy-five years since its establishment, SEDAC has sought to share in the joys and sorrows, the struggles and the dreams of the peoples of Central America, whose history has been interwoven with and forged by the history of your own faithful. Many men and women, priests, consecrated and lay, have devoted their lives and even shed their blood to keep the Church’s prophetic voice alive in the face of injustice, the spread of poverty, and the abuse of power. They remind us that “those who really wish to give glory to God by their lives, who truly long to grow in holiness, are called to be single-minded and tenacious in their practice of the works of mercy” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 107). And this, not simply as almsgiving, but as a true vocation.
Among these prophetic fruits of the Church in Central America, I am happy to mention Saint Oscar Romero, whom I recently had the privilege of canonizing during the Synod on Young People. His life and his teachings remain a constant source of inspiration for our Churches and, in a special way, for us as bishops. His episcopal motto, inscribed on his tombstone, clearly expresses the principle that guided his life as a pastor: to think with the Church. It was the compass for his life and fidelity, even in times of great turmoil.
His legacy can become an active and life-giving witness for us, who are likewise called to the daily martyrdom of serving our people, and on it, I would like to base the reflection I am about to share with you. I know that some among us knew Archbishop Romero personally, like Cardinal Rosa Chávez. Your Eminence, if you think that I am mistaken in any of my assessments, you can correct me! To appeal to the figure of Romero is to appeal to the holiness and prophetic character present in the DNA of your particular Churches.
Thinking with the Church
1. Recognition and gratitude
When Saint Ignatius sets out the rules for thinking with the Church, he tries to help the retreatant overcome any type of false dichotomy or antagonism that would reduce the life of the Spirit to the habitual temptation to make God’s word serve our own interest. This can give the retreatant the grace to recognize that he is part of an apostolic body greater than himself, while at the same time being aware of his own strengths and abilities: an awareness that is neither feeble nor selective or rash. To feel part of a whole that is always more than the sum of its parts (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 235), and is linked to a Presence that will always transcend him (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 8).
So I would like to focus this preliminary thinking with the Church, along with Saint Oscar, on thanksgiving and gratitude for all the unmerited blessings we have received. Romero instinctively knew how to understand and appreciate the Church, because he loved her deeply as the wellspring of his faith. Without this deep love, it would be difficult to understand the story of his conversion. It was that same love that led him to martyrdom: a love born of receiving an utterly free gift, one that does not belong to us but instead frees us from any pretension or temptation to think that we are its proprietors or its sole interpreters. We did not invent the Church; she was not born with us and she will carry on without us. This attitude, far from encouraging sloth, awakens and sustains boundless and unimaginable gratitude. Martyrdom has nothing to do with faintheartedness or the attitude of those who do not love life and cannot recognize its value. On the contrary, the martyr is one who is capable of incarnating and living fully this act of thanksgiving.
Romero “thought with the Church”, because before all else he loved the Church as a mother who had brought him to birth in the faith. He felt a member and a part of her.
2. A love flavoured by people
This love, loyalty and gratitude brought him to embrace passionately but also with hard work and study, the currents of renewal authoritatively proposed by the Second Vatican Council. There he found a firm guide for Christian discipleship. He was neither an ideologue nor ideological; his actions were born of a thorough familiarity with the Council documents. Against this ecclesial horizon, thinking with the Church meant, for Romero, contemplating her as the People of God. For the Lord did not want to save us alone and apart from others, but to establish a people who would profess him in truth and serve him in sanctity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 9). A people that as a whole possesses, guards and celebrates the “anointing of the Holy One” (ibid., 12), and to whom Romero carefully listened, so as not to be deprived of the Spirit’s inspiration (cf. SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, Homily, 16 July 1978). In this way, Romero showed us that the pastor, in order to seek and discover the Lord, must learn to listen to the heartbeat of his people. He must smell the “odour” of the sheep, the men and women of today, until he is steeped in their joys and hopes, their sorrows and their anxieties (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 1), and in so doing ponder the word of God (cf. Dei Verbum, 13). His must be an approach that listens to the people entrusted to his care, to the point of identifying with them and discovering from them the will of God who calls us (cf. Address at the Meeting on the Family, 4 October 2014). An approach free of dichotomies or false antagonisms, for only the love of God is capable of integrating all our loves in a single feeling and gaze.
For Romero, in a word, to think with the Church means to take part in the Church’s glory, which is to live, heart and soul, the kenosis of Christ. In the Church, Christ lives among us, and so she must be humble and poor, since an aloof, prideful and self-sufficient Church is not the Church of kenosis (cf. SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, Homily, 1 October 1978).
3. Living, heart and soul, the kenosis of Christ
This is not only the Church’s glory, but also a vocation, a summons to make it our personal glory and our path of holiness. Christ’s kenosis is not a thing of the past, but a present pledge that we can sense and discover his presence at work in history. A presence that we neither can nor want to silence, since we know from experience that he alone is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Christ’s kenosis reminds us that God saves in history, in the life of each person, and that this is also his own history, from which he comes forth to meet us (cf. SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, Homily, 7 December 1978). It is important, brothers, that we not be afraid to draw near and touch the wounds of our people, which are our wounds too, and to do this in the same way that the Lord himself does. A pastor cannot stand aloof from the sufferings of his people; we can even say that the heart of a pastor is measured by his ability to be moved by the many lives that are hurting or threatened. To do this as the Lord does, means allowing this suffering to have an impact on our priorities and our preferences, on the use of our time and money, and even on our way of praying. In this way, we will be able to anoint everything and everyone with the consoling friendship of Jesus Christ within a community of faith that contains and opens a constantly new horizon that gives meaning and hope to life (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 49). Christ’s kenosis involves giving up “virtual” ways of living and speaking, in order to listen to the sounds and repeated cries of real people who challenge us to build relationships. Allow me to say this: networks help to build relationships, but not roots; they are incapable of giving us a sense of belonging, of making us feel part of a single people. Without this sense, all our words, meetings, gatherings and writings will be the sign of a faith that failed to accompany the Lord’s kenosis, a faith that stopped halfway along the road.
Christ’s kenosis is young
This World Youth Day is a unique opportunity to go out to encounter and draw even closer to the experiences of our young people, so full of hope and desires, but also many hurts and scars. With them, we can interpret our world in a new way and recognize the signs of the times. For as the Synod Fathers affirmed, young people are one of the “theological sources” in which the Lord makes us know some of his expectations and challenges for the shaping of the future (cf. SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, Final Document, 64). With them, we will be able to envision how to make the Gospel more visible and credible in the world in which we live. They are like a barometer for knowing where we stand as a community and as a society.
Young people bring with them a restlessness that we need to appreciate, respect and accompany. This is good for us, because it unsettles us and reminds us that a pastor never stops being a disciple and a wayfarer. This healthy restlessness both prods and precedes us. The Synod Fathers recognized this: “Young people, in certain aspects, go ahead of their pastors” (ibid., 66). We should rejoice to see how the seed sown has not fallen on deaf ears. Many of their concerns and insights took root in the family, encouraged by a grandmother or a catechist, or in the parish, in educational or youth programmes. They then grew through hearing the Gospel within lively and fervent faith communities that provided rich soil in which they could flourish. How can we not be grateful to have young people concerned with the Gospel! It whets our desire to help them grow by providing them with more and better opportunities to be part of God’s dream. The Church is naturally a Mother, and as such, she engenders life, bears it in her womb and protects it from all that threatens its growth: a “gestation” that takes place in freedom and for freedom. So I urge you to promote programmes and educational centres that can accompany, support and empower your young people. Snatch them from the streets before the culture of death can entice their young minds and sell them its smoke and mirrors, or offer its chimerical “solutions” to all their problems. Do so not paternalistically, looking down from on high, because that is not what the Lord asks of us, but as true fathers and brothers to all. Young people are the face of Christ for us, and we cannot reach Christ by descending from above, but by rising up from below (cf. SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, Homily, 2 September 1979).
Sadly, many young people have been taken in by easy answers that end up costing dearly. As the Synod Fathers noted, they find themselves boxed in and lacking opportunities, amid highly conflictual situations with no quick solution: domestic violence, the killing of women – our continent is experiencing a plague in this regard – armed gangs and criminals, drug trafficking, the sexual exploitation of minors and young people, and so on. It is painful to observe that at the root of many of these situations is the experience of being “orphaned”, the fruit of a culture and a society run amok. Often families have been broken by an economic system that did not prioritize persons and the common good, but made speculation its “paradise”, without worrying about who would end up paying the price. And so we see our young people without a home, without a family, without a community, without a sense of belonging, easy prey to the first charlatan who comes along.
Let us not forget that “man’s true pain belongs first to God” (George Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest). Let us not separate what he wanted to unite in his Son.
The future demands that we respect the present, by ennobling it and working to value and preserve the cultures of your peoples. Here too, dignity is at stake: in cultural self-esteem. Your peoples are not the “backyard” of society or of anyone. They have a rich history that needs to be appropriated, valued and encouraged. The seeds of the Kingdom were sown in these lands. We must recognize them, care for them and watch over them, so that none of the good that God has planted will languish, prey to spurious interests that sow corruption and grow rich by plundering the poor. Caring for these roots means caring for the rich historical, cultural and spiritual heritage that this land has for centuries been able to harmonize. Continue to speak out against the cultural and spiritual desertification of your towns that causes a radical poverty, since it weakens their power of resistance, the necessary and vital immunity that preserves their dignity at times of great difficulty.
In your most recent Pastoral Letter, you pointed out that, “our region has recently been affected by a new kind of migration, massive and organized. This has called attention to the reasons for forced migration and to the dangers it entails for the dignity of the human person” (SEDAC, Message to the People of God and All Persons of Good Will, 30 November 2018).
Many migrants have young faces; they are seeking a better life for their families. Nor are they afraid to take risks and to leave everything behind in order to offer them the minimum conditions for a better future. Realizing this is not enough; we need to clearly proclaim a message that is “good news”. The Church, by virtue of her universality, can provide the fraternal hospitality and acceptance that can enable the communities of origin and of destination to dialogue and to help overcome fears and suspicions, and thus to consolidate the very bonds that migrations – in the collective imagination – threaten to break. “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” can be the four words with which the Church, in this situation of mass migration, expresses her motherhood in the history of our time (cf. SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, Final Document, 147).
Every effort made to build bridges between ecclesial, parish and diocesan communities, and between your episcopal conferences, will be a prophetic gesture on the part of the Church, which is, in Christ, “a sign and instrument both of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1). This will help eliminate the temptation simply to call attention to the problem, and become instead a proclamation of the new life that the Lord gives us.
Let us recall the words of Saint John: “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:17-18).
All of these situations raise questions; they are situations summoning us to conversion, solidarity and decisive efforts to educate our communities. We cannot remain indifferent (cf. SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, Final Document, 41-44). Whereas the world discards people, as we are painfully aware, Christ’s kenosis does not. We have experienced this, and we continue to experience it in our own flesh through forgiveness and conversion. This tension requires that we constantly ask ourselves, “Where do we wish to stand?”
The kenosis of Christ is priestly
We all know about Archbishop Romero’s friendship with Father Rutilio Grande, and how much he was affected by his assassination. It seared his heart as a man, a priest and a pastor. Romero was no human resources manager; that was not how he dealt with individuals or organizations, but as a father, a friend and a brother. He can serve as a yardstick, however daunting, to help us measure our own hearts as bishops and ask, “How much does the life of my priests affect me? How much do I let myself be impacted by what they experience, grieving when they suffer and celebrating their joys? The extent of ecclesial functionalism and clericalism – which represent a caricature and perversion of ministry – can start to be measured by these questions. This has to do not with changes in style, habits or language – all of which are certainly important – but above all with the time we bishops make to receive, accompany and sustain our priests, “real time” to care for them. That is what makes us good fathers.
Our priests are normally the ones responsible for making their flock the people of God. They are on the front lines. They shoulder the burden and the heat of the day (cf. Mt 20:12), exposed to an endless number of daily situations that can wear them down. So they need our closeness, our understanding and encouragement, our fatherhood. The outcome of our pastoral work, evangelization and mission does not depend on the material means and resources at our disposal, or on the number of our events and activities, but on the centrality of compassion: this is one of the unique things that we as Church can offer our brothers and sisters. Christ’s kenosis is the supreme expression of the Father’s compassion. Christ’s Church is the Church of compassion, and that begins at home. It is always good to ask ourselves as pastors, “How much does the life of my priests affect me?” Am I able to be a father, or am I content to be a mere executive? Do I let myself be bothered? I think back on what Benedict XVI told his compatriots at the beginning of his pontificate: “Christ did not promise us an easy life. Those looking for comfort have dialed the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, to goodness, to an authentic human life” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to German Pilgrims, 25 April 2005).
We know that our work, our visits and meetings – especially in parishes – have a necessarily administrative component. This is part of our responsibility, but it does not mean that we should spend all our limited time on administrative tasks. When visiting, the most important thing – the one thing we cannot delegate – is “listening”. Many of our everyday tasks we ought to entrust to others. What we cannot delegate, however, is the ability to listen, the ability to keep track of the good health and the lives of our priests. We cannot delegate to others the door that must be open to them. An open door that invites trust rather than fear, sincerity rather than hypocrisy, a frank and respectful exchange rather than a stern monologue.
I recall the words of Rosmini: “There is no doubt that only great men can form other great men… In the early centuries, the bishop’s house was the seminary of priests and deacons. The presence and saintly life of their prelate turned out to be a radiant, constant and sublime lesson, in which one learned theory from his learned words and practice from his diligent pastoral outreach. So the young Athanasius learned from Alexander, and so many others in like manner” (ANTONIO ROSMINI, The Five Wounds of the Holy Church).
It is important that the parish priest encounter a father, a shepherd in whom he can see a reflection of himself, not an administrator concerned about “reviewing the troops”. It is essential that, despite differing viewpoints and even eventual disagreements and arguments (which are normal and to be expected), priests should perceive their bishop as someone who is unafraid to get involved, to confront them, to encourage them and be an outstretched hand when they are bogged down. A man of discernment able to guide and to find practical and possible ways to move forward during the difficult times in each person’s life.
The word “authority” is derived from the Latin root augere: “to increase, promote, advance”. The authority of a pastor is based on his ability to help others to grow, to give priority to his priests rather than himself (for that would simply make him a confirmed bachelor). The joy of a father and pastor lies in seeing his children grow and become fruitful. Brothers, let this be our authority and the sign of our fruitfulness.
The kenosis of Christ is poor
Brothers, thinking with the Church means thinking with our faithful people, the suffering and hope-filled people of God. It means realizing that our ministerial identity is born and understood in the light of this unique and constitutive sense of our identity. Here I would repeat to you the words Saint Ignatius wrote to the Jesuits: “Poverty is a mother and a wall”; it gives birth and it encloses. A mother, because it asks us to be fruitful, to give life, to be able to give of ourselves in a way impossible for hearts that are selfish or avaricious. A wall because it shields us from one of the most subtle temptations we can face as consecrated persons. That is spiritual worldliness, which puts a religious and “pious” veneer over the desire for power and influence, over vanity and even pride and arrogance. A wall and a mother that can help us be a Church that is increasingly free because centred in the kenosis of her Lord.

A Church that does not want her strength to be – as Archbishop Romero used to say – in the backing of the powerful or political leaders – but advances with noble detachment, relying only on the true strength born of the embrace of the crucified Jesus. This translates into clear and practical signs, it challenges us and calls us to examine our consciences about our decisions and priorities in the use of our resources, influence and position. Poverty is a mother and a wall because it keeps our hearts from slipping into concessions and compromises that sap the freedom and courage that the Lord demands of us.
Brothers, as we now conclude, let us place ourselves beneath the mantle of the Blessed Virgin. Together let us ask her to keep watch over our hearts as shepherds. May she help us to be ever better servants of the body of her Son, the holy and faithful people of God that journeys, lives and prays here in Central America.
May Jesus bless you and may Our Lady protect you. And please, do not forget to pray for me.
Thank you very much.

Pope Francis "beginning with those of us who call ourselves Christians – have the audacity to build “an authentically human politics” in Panama - FULL TEXT + Video to Authorities

Please find below the Full Official Text of the Pope’s speech from his 1st official day in Panama and the meeting with Authorities and Diplomats:

Mr President,

Distinguished Authorities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

            I thank you, Mr President, for your words of welcome and your kind invitation to visit this nation.  In addressing you, I would like to greet and thank all the people of Panama who, from Darién to Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro, have made a marvellous effort to welcome the many young people arriving from all over the world.  Thank you for having opened to us the doors of your home.

            I begin my pilgrimage in this historical precinct where Simón Bolívar, who stated that “if the world had to choose its capital, the Isthmus of Panama would be marked out for this great destiny”, convoked the leaders of his time to forge the dream of the unification of the Great Fatherland.  A convocation that helps us realize that our peoples are able to create, to forge and, above all, to dream of a great fatherland that can include, respect and embrace the multicultural richness of each people and culture.  Taking up this inspiration, we can look upon Panama as a land of convocation and of dreams.

1.         A land of convocation

            This was seen in the Congress of Panama and is seen today too in the arrival of thousands of young people who bring with them the hope and desire to meet and celebrate with one another.

            Thanks to its privileged location, your country is a strategic enclave not only for the region but also for the entire world.  A bridge between oceans and a natural land of encounter , Panama, the narrowest country of the entire American continent, is the symbol of the sustainability born of the ability to create bonds and alliances.  This capacity shapes the heart of the Panamanian people.

            Each of you has a special place in the building of the nation, and is called to ensure that this land can live up to its vocation to be a land of convocation and encounter.  This involves decision , commitment and daily effort to ensure that all have the opportunity to feel that they are agents of their own destiny and that of their families and the entire nation.  It is impossible to think of the future of a society without the active – and not merely nominal – participation of each of its members, in such a way that his or her dignity is acknowledged and guaranteed through access to quality education and the promotion of dignified jobs.  These two realities help make it possible to recognize and appreciate the genius and the creative dynamism of this people .  Similarly, they are the best antidote to any type of “guardianship” that would restrict your freedom and subordinate or ignore the dignity of citizens, especially that of the most poor .

            The genius of these lands is marked by the richness of its indigenous peoples: the bribri , bugle, emberá, kuna, nasoteribe , ngäbe and waunana , who have so much to relate and recall from their culture and vision of the world.  I greet them and I thank them.  To be a land of convocation means celebrating, acknowledging and listening to what is specific about each of these peoples and of all those men and women who make up the face of Panama and work to build a future of hope.  For it is possible to defend the common good above the interests of a few or for few only when there is a firm decision to share with justice one’s goods.

            The younger generation, with its joy and enthusiasm, with its freedom, sensitivity and critical capacity, demands that adults, and especially all those who exercise roles of leadership in public life, lead a life consonant with the dignity and authority that they possess and that has been entrusted to them.  They call upon them to live in simplicity and transparency, with a clear sense of responsibility for others and for our world.  To lead a life that demonstrates that public service is a synonym of honesty and justice, and opposed to all forms of corruption.  Young people demand a commitment in which all – beginning with those of us who call ourselves Christians – have the audacity to build “an authentically human politics” (Gaudium et Spes, 73) that makes the person the centre and heart of everything.  A politics that works to build a culture of greater transparency between governments, the private sector and the entire population, in the words of your prayer for your country: “Give us our daily bread: may we eat it in our own homes and in a state of health worthy of human beings”.

2.         A land of dreams

            In these days, Panama will not only be spoken of as a regional centre or strategic site for commerce or the transit of persons: it will turn into a hub of hope.  A meeting-point where young people coming from the five continents, brimming with dreams and hopes, will celebrate, meet one another, pray and kindle their desire and commitment to building a more humane world.  In this way, they will defy the shortsighted and short-term views that, seduced by resignation or greed, or prey to the technocratic paradigm, believe that the only way forward is to obey the “laws of competition, [speculation] and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless” (Evangelii Gaudium, 53).  To believe that would be to close the future to a new imagination of humanity.  By welcoming the dreams of these young people, Panama becomes once more a land of dreams that challenges so many certainties of our time and opens up vital horizons that can enrich the path ahead through a respectful and compassionate gaze upon others.  In these days, we will witness the opening of new channels of communication and understanding, of solidarity, creativity and mutual assistance; channels of humanity that foster commitment and break through anonymity and isolation, for the sake of a new way of building history.

            Another world is possible!  We know this and young people urge us to take our part in building it, so that our dreams do not remain ephemeral or ethereal, but can promote a social contract in which everyone has the chance to dream of a tomorrow.  The right to the future is also a human right.

            Against this horizon, the words of Ricardo Miró seem to come alive.  In singing to his beloved homeland, he said: “When they see you, my native land, they might say that you were shaped by God’s will, so that beneath the sun shining down upon you, all humanity can come together in you” (Patria de mis amores ).

            Once more I thank you for everything you have done to make this meeting possible, and I express to you, Mr President, to all those here present, and all those who join us through the communications media, my best wishes for renewed hope and joy in the service of the common good.

European Parliament Concludes 'All religions in China are persecuted' - Details from latest Conference


European Parliament: 'All religions in China are persecuted'. The case of Catholics
by Bernardo Cervellera - Asia News IT
In a meeting on religious freedom in China in the Brussels office of the European Parliament, the testimonies of Protestant Christians, Uighurs, Catholics. The voices of Tibetan Buddhists, Taoists and sects. The intervention offered by the editor of AsiaNews.
Brussels (AsiaNews) - "All religions in China are persecuted": This is the conclusion of Austrian Member of Parliament, Dr. Josef Weidenholzer, at a conference held yesterday afternoon at the European Parliament in Brussels on the theme "Religious Freedom in China". The meeting organised by representatives of the People's Party and the socialists, had several guest speakers who offered their witness to a packed hall. After a brief introduction by parliamentarians Bas Belder (Dutch) and Christian Dan Preda (Romanian), the following spoke: Bob Fu, founder and director of China Aid; Kuzzat Altay, Uighur exile in the United States; Marco Respinti, director of Bitter Winter; Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights without Frontiers; Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews. From the audience emerged testimonies of Tibetan Buddhists, Taoists, sects, branded by the regime as "evil cults". Below we publish the intervention of the editor of AsiaNews.
On January 14, AsiaNews published a "Christmas diary" written by a Chinese priest, Fr. Stanislaus, who recounts the difficulties experienced by Chinese Catholics in a province of the Northeast. For "security" reasons Christmas Masses must be controlled by the police; young people under the age of 18 cannot take part; the New Year banners of good wishes, which the Chinese hang on their doorstep and with which Christians wish peace and blessings from God, cannot be sold.
On the same day, the foreign ministry spokesperson, Ms. Hua [Chunying], said: "You do not understand China. Do not you know how many Buddhist and Taoist temples and Christian churches in China operate legally? According to the law, Chinese citizens enjoy full religious freedom! We have taken preventive measures against terrorists and extremists, to allow so many ordinary people to fully enjoy normal religious freedom! "
Perhaps in China all young Catholics under 18 are considered "terrorists", forbidding them to attend Christmas Mass, Sunday Mass, and catechesis. To allow them to "fully enjoy religious freedom", in primary and secondary schools of various provinces of China (Anhui, Henan, Inner Mongolia), representatives of the Ministry of Education have forbidden pupils and students to celebrate Christmas ( and the Lunar New Year), to exchange gifts or to participate in religious ceremonies; in several provinces (Hebei, Shaanxi, Yunnan) Christmas celebrations and decorations were forbidden in the cities, seen as "an attack on Chinese culture", a submission to Western "spiritual pollution".
Apart from the historical error of considering Christianity as a "religion of the West" (given that Jesus was born in Asia and that Christianity arrived in China in the 7th century from Iraq), it is clear that the Chinese Communist Party is conducting a veritable "religious war" on Christianity and Catholics, all in the name of "security" and "nationalist patriotism".
 In the name of security
 In the name of security, religious activities are divided into "normal" and "illegal", although there are no differences in rite or execution between the two. What makes a religious activity "normal" is its submission to the control of political authorities: bishops, priests, places of worship registered with the Ministry of Religious Affairs; registered publications; registered pastoral plans; registered times; registered participants. Added to this are the ubiquitous cameras in the parish offices; the permits to ask to meet Chinese or foreign Catholic personnel; the continued presence of the police around or inside the places of worship. "Illegal" religious activities are those carried out with personnel or in places that are not under control. The Catholics who carry out these activities, defined as "criminals", claim their freedom as guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, but risk arrests, fines, expropriation of buildings, or their destruction. In 1994, the UN envoy for religious freedom, Abdelfattah Amor, asked China to eliminate this difference between "normal" and "illegal" activities, but this request went unheard. It should be noted that this division - inserted by the government - creates the so-called official Church (of "normal" activities) and the underground (or unofficial) Church.
 The instrument of this division is the Patriotic Association, guarantor of "normality", whose statutes violate the integrity of the Catholic faith because it wants to build a Church "independent" from the universal Church and the Holy See. Official Church members agree to register as the "lesser evil"; those of the underground Church categorically refuse to register. But both communities suffer violations of religious freedom and risk elimination: the former from a suffocating control; the latter from arrests, disappearances, killings, destruction.
 The situation has become even more radical with the launch of the New Regulations on Religious Activities on February 1, 2018. Under the new regulations the official communities must submit to the control of the dimensions, colors and position of crosses; the height and position of statues; texts posted online, with a ban on the live streaming of all ceremonies. The underground communities do not even have the right to exist. Activities carried out in unregistered places and with unregistered personnel are subject to heavy fines: between 100 and 300 thousand yuan for "unauthorized" activities (Article 64). In addition to incurring fines, sites that host "illegal" activities will be closed down, seized and subject to forfeiture in state assets. For several months police and representatives of the Religious Affairs Bureau have been systematically meeting bishops, priests and lay faithful of the underground communities for "a cup of tea" and "to advise" them to register in the official communities.] This explains the various "forced vacations" of Wenzhou bishop Peter Shao Zhumin, or the indoctrination classes of priests in Hebei, Henan, Inner Mongolia, ... Underground bishops and priests are “advised” to register in the official communities, taking them to "forced vacations" or to “indoctrination classes”. It is our duty to at least name the victims of this persecution: Msgr. James Su Zhimin, undergournd bishop of Baoding (Hebei), who has been missing in police custody since 1997; Fr. Liu Honggeng of Baoding, missing since 2015; Fr. Wei Heping (also known as Yu Heping), who died in 2015 in mysterious and suspicious circumstances. There are also victims in the official Church: Msgr. Thaddeus Ma Daqin, bishop of Shanghai, since 2012 in isolation and under house arrest for having dared to leave the Patriotic Association; Fr. Liu Jiangdong, of Zhengzhou (Henan), expelled from his parish in October 2018 and forbidden to live as a priest, for having dared to organize meetings with young people even under the age of 18. For all of this, since February 2018 many communities have been forcibly closed, convents and places of worship destroyed with bulldozers, including some shrines in Shanxi and Guizhou. It is estimated that in 2018 at least 30 Catholic churches have been closed and destroyed.
But there are also churches (official) that are destroyed in the name of urban expansion - as in Qianwang and Liangwang (Shandong) - and whose land is seized for building development without any compensation.
In the name of nationalist patriotism
Another method of submission and elimination of Catholics is nationalist patriotism, or "sinicization". According to the dictates of Xi Jinping, the Church must not only assimilate Chinese culture, and express its creed with Chinese categories, but must create theologies, history, works of art according to the dictates of Chinese culture. Again it falls to the Patriotic Association to verify this is being done. But the race for inculturation has also become iconoclasm with the destruction of works of art from the past ("too Western") and that of external and internal church decoration, the demolition of crosses from bell towers, the destruction of domes and facades considered "not Chinese in style". Patriotism obliges communities to hoist the Chinese flag on every religious building, to sing patriotic hymns before services, to hang a portrait of Xi Jinping even on the altars. The provisional agreement between China and the Holy See, signed on September 22nd 2018, has not changed this situation. It is true that in some ways, the agreement is a conquest because for the first time in modern China history the Pope is recognized as head of the Catholic Church in China.
However, last December, Wang Zuoan, deputy chief of the United Front and former director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, once again stressed that the principles of independence and self-management will not be eliminated "at any time and under any circumstances”.
In words reportedly shared with one [of these] underground bishop [s], the Pope is said to have referred that if the agreement was not signed, China threatened to illegally ordain 45 bishops "independent" from the Holy See, creating the basis for a real schism. The agreement was therefore blackmail.
In addition, immediately after the signing of the agreement, in many regions of China the United Front and the Patriotic Association held rallies for priests and bishops explaining to them that "despite the agreement", they had to work for the implementation of an independent Church. The destruction of crosses, churches, indoctrination sessions, arrests continued just as before the agreement, if not worse.
Four conclusions
1. It is clear that the government and the Chinese Communist Party are engaged in a real religious war to oust the God of Christians and replace Him with the god-Xi Jinping, which implies a total submission to the Communist Party, a condition included in the New Regulations to nurture religion in China. In the name of the sinicization and subjugation religions are distorted until they become simple instruments of collateral support to the Party.
2. What happens to Catholics, also happens to civil society and the business world. In recent years, control of media, social networks, the population, NGOs has grown ... and even in the business world, submission to the Party is required, on fear of kidnappings, arrests and convictions.
3. China ploughs ahead undisturbed trampling on religious rights, civil society and commerce thanks to the indifference of the international community or the servility of many states which in view of possible, rapid economic gains with the Chinese market, turn a blind eye to these violations.
4. The international community and the Chinese government suffer from myopia: they do not realize that religions - not only Catholicism and Protestantism - are spreading ever more rapidly just as esteem for Party politics is diminishing. The result is an erosion of Chinese society and a greater need for political and economic reforms. Ensuring religious freedom for Christian communities and other faiths could help China to achieve greater cohesion by saving it from chaos.
FULL TEXT Release from Asia News IT

Sad Day as Abortion Legalized up to Day of Baby's Birth in New York - Bishop says this will Hurt Women

'A Sad and Evil Day': New York Legalizes Abortion Up to Baby's Birth Day on Anniversary of Roe v. Wade


New York legislators cheered and applauded Tuesday night after the state Senate removed restrictions on late-term abortions, allowing unborn babies to be aborted on the day of birth - they even lit the One World Trade Centre pink.

The Reproductive Health Act passed with a 38-28 vote and was signed into law by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
"Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born experienced the rejection of the world."
Pope Francis


"Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman's right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion," Gov. Cuomo said.

The law removes New York's previous limitations on abortion which restricted the fatal procedure past 24 weeks.


The Reproductive Health Act states, "every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry the pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion."

The law also removes abortion from the definition of homicide and New York's criminal code altogether. Previously, New York law treated the murder of an unborn child in its the third trimester as a felony offense punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The Reproductive Health Act changes that. Instead, abortion will be regulated under public health law and a variety of medical professionals, not just licensed physicians, will be allowed to perform abortions without penalty.


New York Republicans and conservatives fought against the law but the measure sailed through the state Senate after Democrats won a majority in the Senate last November.

Advocates say the new law will protect abortion even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.


"With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body," Cuomo said.

Pro-life activists are very upset by the legislation.

"New York Senate cheers today for legalization of killing a baby old enough to born - poisoning a 6 month old to death in the womb & delivering her in pieces. This is the legacy of #Roe. It's time to end this barbarism," said Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action.
Lila Rose

@LilaGraceRose


Outspoken Christian and New Orleans Saints tight end Ben Watson also strongly condemned the law.

"It is a sad and evil day when the murder of our most innocent and vulnerable is celebrated with such overwhelming exuberance. We SHOULD be supporting and encouraging the building of families which are fundamental to any society. By not doing so, we invite consequences untold," he tweeted shortly after the law was passed. (with information from CBN news)

#BreakingNews 700 People locked in Catholic Cathedral for fear of Violent Demonstrators in Venezuela - Please Pray


Caracas (Agenzia Fides) -
In Maturin, about 700 people are still locked inside the Nuestra Señora del Carmen Cathedral, for fear of violent actions against the demonstrators. Maturín is a city in the eastern part of Venezuela, capital of the state of Monagas, considered the oil capital of eastern Venezuela. Precisely in that area, the National Guard and the police have launched a harsh repression.
This is what the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela reports to Agenzia Fides, and has sent written testimonies, audio and video, of the violence that broke out in the country. 14 people have died, according to an initial assessment of the harsh repression which took place yesterday during a massive popular demonstration in many cities of Venezuela, culminating with the proclamation of Juan Guaidó as the new head of State, in opposition to President Maduro. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) has activated its Emergency Commission to monitor complaints of human rights violations.
Due to the clashes, explosions and a brutal repression, the citizens of the popular areas locked themselves up in their homes in terror", said the municipal councilor of Caracas, Rogelio Diaz. On social media, images and videos of the demonstrations have multiplied, squares in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities such as Barquisimeto, Maracaibo, Barinas and San Cristóbal are full of people. In Petare, one of the largest favelas on the continent, people with bandanas who were trying to close the city's entrance routes were dispersed by the National Guard, who used bullets and tear gas. If President Maduro does not seem to have support among the population and in the popular neighborhoods, at an international level the United States has legitimized Guaidò, followed by Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Mexico. (CE) (FULL TEXT Source: Agenzia Fides, 24/01/2019 )

FULL TEXT of Pope Francis' Message for World Day of Social Communications 2019

Below find the Official English text of the Pope Francis' Message for World Day of Social Communications 2019
«We are members one of another» (Eph 4:25) From social network communities to the human community

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Ever since the internet first became available, the Church has always sought to promote its use in the service of the encounter between persons, and of solidarity among all. With this Message, I would like to invite you once again to reflect on the foundation and importance of our being-in-relation and to rediscover, in the vast array of challenges of the current communications context, the desire of the human person who does not want to be left isolated and alone.

The metaphors of the net and community
Today’s media environment is so pervasive as to be indistinguishable from the sphere of everyday life. The Net is a resource of our time. It is a source of knowledge and relationships that were once unthinkable. However, in terms of the profound transformations technology has brought to bear on the process of production, distribution and use of content, many experts also highlight the risks that threaten the search for, and sharing of, authentic information on a global scale. If the Internet represents an extraordinary possibility of access to knowledge, it is also true that it has proven to be one of the areas most exposed to disinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts and interpersonal relationships, which are often used to discredit.

We need to recognize how social networks, on the one hand, help us to better connect, rediscover, and assist one another, but on the other, lend themselves to the manipulation of personal data, aimed at obtaining political or economic advantages, without due respect for the person and his or her rights. Statistics show that among young people one in four is involved in episodes of cyberbullying. [1]

In this complex scenario, it may be useful to reflect again on the metaphor of the net, which was the basis of the Internet to begin with, to rediscover its positive potential. The image of the net invites us to reflect on the multiplicity of lines and intersections that ensure its stability in the absence of a centre, a hierarchical structure, a form of vertical organization. The networks because all its elements share responsibility.

From an anthropological point of view, the metaphor of the net recalls another meaningful image: the community. A community is that much stronger if it is cohesive and supportive, if it is animated by feelings of trust, and pursues common objectives.  The community as a network of solidarity requires mutual listening and dialogue, based on the responsible use of language.

Everyone can see how, in the present scenario, social network communities are not automatically synonymous with community. In the best cases, these virtual communities are able to demonstrate cohesion and solidarity, but often they remain simply groups of individuals who recognize one another through common interests or concerns characterized by weak bonds. Moreover, in the social web identity is too often based on opposition to the other, the person outside the group: we define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than with what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice (ethnic, sexual, religious and other).  This tendency encourages groups that exclude diversity, that even in the digital environment nourish unbridled individualism which sometimes ends up fomenting spirals of hatred. In this way, what ought to be a window on the world becomes a showcase for exhibiting personal narcissism.

The Net is an opportunity to promote encounter with others, but it can also increase our self-isolation, like a web that can entrap us. Young people are the ones most exposed to the illusion that the social web can completely satisfy them on a relational level.  There is the dangerous phenomenon of young people becoming “social hermits” who risk alienating themselves completely from society. This dramatic situation reveals a serious rupture in the relational fabric of society, one we cannot ignore.

This multiform and dangerous reality raises various questions of an ethical, social, juridical, political and economic nature, and challenges the Church as well.  While governments seek legal ways to regulate the web and to protect the original vision of a free, open and secure network, we all have the possibility and the responsibility to promote its positive use.

Clearly, it is not enough to multiply connections in order to increase mutual understanding. How, then, can we find our true communitarian identity, aware of the responsibility we have towards one another in the online network as well?

“We are members one of another”
A possible answer can be drawn from a third metaphor: that of the body and the members, which Saint Paul uses to describe the reciprocal relationship among people, based on the organism that unites them. “Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each to his neighbour, for we are members one of another” (Eph 4:25).  Being members one of another is the profound motivation with which the Apostle invites us to put away falsehood and speak the truth: the duty to guard the truth springs from the need not to belie the mutual relationship of communion. Truth is revealed in communion.  Lies, on the other hand, are a selfish refusal to recognize that we are members of one body; they are a refusal to give ourselves to others, thus losing the only way to find ourselves.

The metaphor of the body and the members leads us to reflect on our identity, which is based on communion and on “otherness”. As Christians, we all recognize ourselves as members of the one body whose head is Christ. This helps us not to see people as potential competitors, but to consider even our enemies as persons. We no longer need an adversary in order to define ourselves, because the all-encompassing gaze we learn from Christ leads us to discover otherness in a new way, as an integral part and condition of relationship and closeness.

Such a capacity for understanding and communication among human persons is based on the communion of love among the divine Persons. God is not Solitude, but Communion; he is Love, and therefore communication, because love always communicates; indeed, it communicates itself in order to encounter the other.  In order to communicate with us and to communicate himself to us, God adapts himself to our language, establishing a real dialogue with humanity throughout history (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 2).

By virtue of our being created in the image and likeness of God who is communion and communication-of-Self, we carry forever in our hearts the longing for living in communion, for belonging to a community. “Nothing, in fact, is as specific to our nature as entering into a relationship one with another, having need of one another,” says Saint Basil.[2]

The present context calls on all of us to invest in relationships, and to affirm the interpersonal nature of our humanity, including in and through the network. All the more so, we Christians are called to manifest that communion which marks our identity as believers. Faith itself, in fact, is a relationship, an encounter; and under the impetus of God’s love, we can communicate, welcome and understand the gift of the other and respond to it.

Communion in the image of the Trinity is precisely what distinguishes the person from the individual. From faith in God who is Trinity, it follows that in order to be myself I need others.  I am truly human, truly personal, only if I relate to others.  In fact, the word “person” signifies the human being as a “face”, whose face is turned towards the other, who is engaged with others.  Our life becomes more human insofar as its nature becomes less individual and more personal; we see this authentic path of becoming more human in one who moves from being an individual who perceives the other as a rival, to a person who recognizes others as travelling companions.

From a “like” to an “amen”
The image of the body and the members reminds us that the use of the social web is complementary to an encounter in the flesh that comes alive through the body, heart, eyes, gaze, breath of the other. If the Net is used as an extension or expectation of such an encounter, then the network concept is not betrayed and remains a resource for communion.  If a family uses the Net to be more connected, to then meet at table and look into each other’s eyes, then it is a resource.  If a Church community coordinates its activity through the network, and then celebrates the Eucharist together, then it is a resource. If the Net becomes an opportunity to share stories and experiences of beauty or suffering that are physically distant from us, in order to pray together and together seek out the good to rediscover what unites us, then it is a resource.

We can, in this way, move from diagnosis to treatment: opening the way for dialogue, for encounter, for “smiles” and expressions of tenderness... This is the network we want, a network created not to entrap, but to liberate, to protect a communion of people who are free.  The Church herself is a network woven together by Eucharistic communion, where unity is based not on “likes”, but on the truth, on the “Amen”, by which each one clings to the Body of Christ, and welcomes others.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2019

The Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales

FRANCISCUS
SOURCE: Vatican News va

Novena to St. Francis de Sales - Litany and #Prayers


NOVENA TO SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES


O Blessed Francis de Sales, 
who in your mortal life did excel in all virtues, 
especially in love of God and of neighbor, 
I earnestly entreat you to take me under your immediate protection, 
to obtain from God my perfect conversion, 
and that of all sinners, especially of 

(the names of persons for whom you wish to pray should be mentioned here). 

Teach me, O Father, 
to fix my eyes on heaven, 
that I may generously trample under foot 
every obstacle that presents itself in my way, 
and attain that degree of glory 
which You in Your mercy hold out to me. 
Obtain also that particular favor for which I now pray. 

(mention intention)

Assist us, O Lord, we beseech You, 
through the merits of St. Francis de Sales. 
That what our endeavors cannot obtain may be given us by his intercession. 

Let us pray: 

O God, who for the salvation of souls, 
did will that St. Francis de Sales, 
Your confessor and bishop, 
should become all things to all men and women, 
mercifully grant that we, 
infused with the gentleness of his charity, 
guided by his teachings, 
and sharing in his merits, 
may obtain eternal happiness. 
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.
Litany of St. Francis de Sales

Lord, have mercy on us.  Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us. O God, the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us. O God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us. O God, the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us O Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us. * St. Francis de Sales, * St. Francis, miracle of the most august Trinity, * St. Francis, faithful imitator of Jesus Christ, * St. Francis, attached to the the service of the Blessed Virgin, * St. Francis, practicing the virtues of the Saints, * St. Francis, most devote to Jesus crucified, * St. Francis, august tabernacle of true religion, * St. Francis, most humble in prosperity, * St. Francis, most patient in adversity, * St. Francis, true portrait of the meekness of Christ, * St. Francis, simple as the dove, * St. Francis, example of angelic modesty, * St. Francis, exact observer of evangelic poverty, * St. Francis, excellent example of the purity of angels, * St. Francis, ever obedient to the Apostolic See, * St. Francis, generously despising the world, * St. Francis, powerful vanquisher of demons, * St. Francis, invincible triumpher over the flesh, * St. Francis, inflamed with the love of God, * St. Francis, abounding in virtues, * St. Francis, all to all for the salvation of souls, * St. Francis, most dear to God, and beloved by men, * St. Francis, unwearied apostle of Geneva and its territory, * which thou didst so laboriously reunite to the one true Church of God, * St. Francis, most fervent pastor, ever careful to lead thy flock to the fold of Jesus the Good Shepherd, * St. Francis, most renowned for thy miracles, * St. Francis, greatest of all thy miracles, * St. Francis, patriarch of the Visitation, * St. Francis, continual martyr to thy love of God, * St. Francis, father of many Saints, by the holy rules which thou hast left for every state, * St. Francis, powerful protector to obtain of God that mildness which preserves the peace of the heart, * St. Francis, amiable patron of those who invoke thee, * Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,  Spare us, O Lord. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,  Hear us, O Lord. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,  Have mercy on us, O Lord. O Blessed Francis, like the fruitful olive-tree in the house of God, radiant in miracles, make us partakers of thy sanctity and of the light which thou enjoyest. V. Pray for us, Blessed Francis of Sales. R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Let us pray:
O God, by whose gracious will the Blessed Francis, thy confessor and bishop, became all things unto all men, for the saving of their souls, mercifully grant that, being filled with the sweetness of thy love, we may, through the guidance of his counsels, and by the aid of his merits, attain unto the joys of life everlasting. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
Prayer in Special Need to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Say not, merciful Virgin, that you cannot help me; for your beloved Son has given you all power in heaven and on earth. Say not that you ought not assist me, for you are the mother of all the poor children of Adam, and mine in particular. Since then, merciful Virgin, you are my mother and you are all-powerful, what excuse can you offer if you do not lend your assistance? See. my mother, see, you are obliged to grant me what I ask, and to yield to my entreaties. 
(St. Francis De Sales)

Today's Mass Readings and Video : Thursday January 24, 2019 - #Eucharist


Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 314

Reading 1HEB 7:25—8:6

Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him,
since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:
holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,
higher than the heavens.
He has no need, as did the high priests,
to offer sacrifice day after day,
first for his own sins and then for those of the people;
he did that once for all when he offered himself.
For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests,
but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law,
appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

The main point of what has been said is this:
we have such a high priest,
who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne
of the Majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary
and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up.
Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices;
thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer.
If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest,
since there are those who offer gifts according to the law.
They worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary,
as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle.
For God says, "See that you make everything
according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry
as he is mediator of a better covenant,
enacted on better promises.

Responsorial PsalmPS 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 17

R. (8a and 9a)  Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, "Behold I come."
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
"In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!"
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
May all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, "The LORD be glorified."
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

AlleluiaSEE 2 TM 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.
A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.
Hearing what he was doing,
a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem,
from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan,
and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd,
so that they would not crush him.
He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases
were pressing upon him to touch him.
And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him
and shout, "You are the Son of God."
He warned them sternly not to make him known.