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Christ at the Heart of the Family: Chapter Three of Amoris Laetitia

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Reflecting on the Third Chapter of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family

Jesus Christ is at the heart of the family. Only in the light of his love can the love of the family be fully illuminated. This is the message of Pope Francis in the third chapter of Amoris Laetitia. He uses the chapter to “summarize the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family.” Beginning with “the gaze of Jesus,” Pope Francis calls the Church to see and follow the way of the Lord, who “looked upon the women and men whom he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps in truth, patience and mercy as he proclaimed the demands of the Kingdom of God” (Amoris Laetitia, 60).

Jesus in Marriage and the Family

Jesus is the key to understanding family life because, “The mystery of the Christian family can be fully understood only in the light of the Father’s infinite love revealed in Christ, who gave himself up for our sake and who continues to dwell in our midst” (59). From this Christ-centered perspective, the Pope examines the beauty of married life and the family that is born of its fruitfulness. In the person of Jesus Christ, God has entered the human reality and human drama. Human love and divine love have met like never before. God descends to transform human love and enables it to reach divine heights. God has taken on flesh. Love itself has become incarnate. We thus realize that, “The sacrament of marriage flows from the incarnation and the paschal mystery, whereby God showed the fullness of his love for humanity by becoming one of us. Neither of the spouses will be alone in facing whatever challenges may come their way” (74). For in the midst of Christian marriage God is always present, strengthening the love of each spouse for one another by the power of His love for each of them.

Because of God’s grace at work in the sacrament of marriage, the sexual union of man and woman becomes a path of sanctity for the spouses (74). This is because through the sacrament, Christ sanctifies the loving union of woman and man. “Only in contemplating Christ does a person come to know the deepest truth about human relationships. ‘Only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light…’” (77). Christian marriage thus consists of “mutual support on the path towards complete friendship with the Lord” (77).

The Approach of the Pastor

In the midst of this beautifully Christocentric vision, Pope Francis remains ever aware of the “imperfect” realities of modern families and marriages, Christian and non-Christian alike. Since “the light of Christ enlightens every person,” the Pope stresses that “seeing things with the eyes of Christ” means not only caring for those in good, happy, healthy family situations, but is also the basis of the Church’s pastoral care for those “who are living together, or are only married civilly, or are divorced and remarried” (78). In their pastoral care of those in “difficult situations and wounded families,” Pope Francis tells priests and bishops that “while clearly stating the Church’s teachings,” they are to “avoid judgments that do not take into account the complexity of various situations.” Moreover, pastors are “to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition” (79).

Pastors are not to be turned off by the smell of their sheep! Rather, they are to care for their lambs as they are, seeking especially those most lost and in danger. To help them in this effort, Pope Francis reasserts the principle that Saint John Paul II outlined by in Familiaris Consortio: “Pastors must know that, for the sake of the truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations” (79; cf. FC 84). The typically Ignatian principle of discernment thus emerges as a key to Francis’ pastoral approach to the family.

The Unity of Life and Love

The Holy Father likewise addresses the questions of life that arise from love in the family, specifically contraception and artificial means of procreation. Affirming that “sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman,” the Pope underlines the reality that this conjugal union is ordered “by its very nature” to procreation (80). “The child who is born ‘does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving as its fruit and fulfilment’” (80). Here the Pope beautifully states that, “From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself” (80). Pope Francis concludes that the sexual embrace of husband and wife must always remain open to the possibility of life, “even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life” (80).

Accordingly, new life finds its proper birthplace in the context of love between a man and a woman. “A child deserves to be born of that love, and not by any other means, for ‘he or she is not something owed to one, but is a gift,’ which is ‘the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of the parents” through which “man and woman share in the work of [God’s] creation” (81). Closedness to life robs the sexual union of its profound meaning. Removing the origin of life from the cradle of human love estranges it from its truest identity. The love of man and woman is meant to mirror the love of God, which is never closed in on itself, but springs forth from its very heart the beauty of new life.

In this way, love – and especially love between a man and woman – can be compared to water that overflows from a cup. The very nature of love is to overflow. If it ceases to overflow, no matter how much water is in the cup, the water will stagnate and gradually evaporate, and the cup will become dry. It no longer teems with fresh, life-giving water that flows outward beyond itself. So it is even in the spiritual life: God’s love is poured into us in order to flow out of us.

God has intended the married couple to be a fount where love overflows and gives life. God Himself is the Source of this love and the Giver of the life that flows from it. With Jesus Christ, Love incarnate, at its centre, the family is the place where, despite many difficulties, love and life overflow in abundance.

(Image: CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Proposing the Positive and the Pastoral: Chapter Two of Amoris Laetitia

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Reflecting on the Second Chapter of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family

“We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life. We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfillment than as a lifelong burden… We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them… Yet we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness” (Amoris Laetitia 37-38).

With these powerful sentences, Pope Francis sets out an approach to the modern family that is at once positive and pastoral. In the second chapter of Amoris Laetitia, “The Experiences and Challenges of Families,” Pope Francis begins by noting that, “the welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church” (31). He thus considers the concrete realities and current problems facing families, and exhorts the Church to contribute constructively to solutions rather than simply calling out shortcomings.

Pope Francis courageously admits that, “Many people feel that the Church’s message on marriage and the family does not clearly reflect the preaching and attitudes of Jesus, who sets forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery” (38). The modern technological age provides further challenges to the formation of families, proposing a “culture of the ephemeral” where we move rapidly from relationship to relationship, connecting and disconnecting in a way that “blocks,” “disposes,” and “uses” others, and rendering ourselves “incapable of looking beyond themselves” (39). Loneliness is also an obstacle to family life, “arising from the absence of God in a person’s life and the fragility of relationships” (43), exacerbating a culture of promiscuity and preventing people from the sense of encounter that leads to meaningful relationships. In such a cultural context, “We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage” (40).

The Pope is not blind to very real problems facing families across the globe. Unemployment and obsession with work, poverty and lack of affordable housing, polygamy and the mistreatment of women, addictions and substance abuse, migration caused by political conflicts and economic instability – all threaten the flourishing of the family, and can even lead families to break up through divorce or separation. “In such difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned to offer understanding, comfort and acceptance, rather than imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy. Rather than offering the healing power of grace and the light of the Gospel message, some would ‘indoctrinate’ that message, turning it into ‘dead stones to be hurled at others’” (49).

Here Pope Francis manifests his desire for a Church that is a field hospital in the middle of a battlefield, not an elite enclave of the pious and perfect. Healing wounds. Prescribing the medicine of mercy. Meeting people where they’re at and not simply pointing to where they “should be.” Leading people to God instead of lamenting a presumed godlessness. In a way, Pope Francis is proposing the approach that Jesus provides by giving us the Beatitudes: transcending commandments of negation (“Thou shall not…”) to provide a positive call to holiness and happiness that blesses without judging. With him, let us “seek new forms of missionary creativity” and “offer a word of truth and hope” (57). In so doing, may we transform with charity of Christ and the grace of the Gospel a world challenged in so many ways.


Julian Paparella is an intern with Salt and Light, currently working in the Montreal office.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Holy Door opens at Midland – Perspectives Daily

Tonight on Perspectives: Pope Francis speaks of missionaries; the Holy Door opens at Midland; and a special report on the Prayer Vigil to Dry Tears.

Between Two Trinities: Chapter One of Amoris Laetitia

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Reflecting on the First Chapter of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family

Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation on love in the family, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), is a treasure trove reflecting the beauty of family life. In his introductory paragraphs the Holy Father uses the image of a “multifaceted gem” (4) to describe the two Synods of Bishops on the Family that preceded his exhortation, given the many dimensions, questions, and concerns raised by the Synod Fathers. Indeed, the Pope has given us a veritable gem in his most recent document! Over the coming weeks, let us take one chapter at a time and discover the beauty within, beginning with Chapter One.

Titled “In the Light of the Word,” Pope Francis begins Amoris Laetitia with “an opening chapter inspired by the Scriptures, to set a proper tone” (6). Pope Francis unearths the biblical wisdom that provides the roots for the Church’s understanding of the family. He reveals the profound connection between family life and the life of the Trinity. While God is utterly transcendent – beyond us in every respect – He has nevertheless created us to share in His life and work, indeed to reflect his very nature (10). As Saint John Paul II beautifully proclaimed in his Theology of the Body, we are not only created in the image and likeness of God individually, but in our communion with one another, and especially in the union of man and woman.

“The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon… capable of revealing God the Creator and Saviour. For this reason, fruitful love becomes a symbol of God’s inner life” (11). Love cannot be experienced alone; we cannot love or be loved in a vacuum! Love is always shared among persons, in the case of the Trinity and in every human family. As Pope Francis writes, “the triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living icon.” God is revealed in the love of man and woman, and His life as a Trinity of three Persons is reflected in the community the couple forms around them: the family. The family is thus related to “God’s very being” (11).

What a revelatory understanding! We are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore made to share our lives with one another, just as His life is a life shared between the Father, Son, and Hoy Spirit. To be made in the image and likeness of God is to be made to be together and to live with one another. And this sharing of life reflects the shared life of God Himself!

Pope Francis contrasts this belonging for which we are made with the solitude experienced by Adam before the creation of Eve (12). He points to the “sombre” causes of this solitude in our world today – notably family problems and disputes, tragedies and violence, rivalries between siblings and between parents, and divorce (19, 20). Jesus is not blind to these very real struggles and challenges of family life, he “knows the anxieties and tensions experienced by families and he weaves them into his parables” (21). The solution offered by the Pope is a virtue so characteristic of the ministry and teaching of Christ, “one often overlooked in our world of frenetic and superficial relationships. It is tenderness” (28).

Holy FamilyHow evident this tenderness is in the family in which God himself dwelt. Here we see another “trinity” that each family is called to model: the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Father could have sent the Son by many different means. God could have entered humanity in many ways. Yet as Pope Francis powerfully said during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, “And where did He send His Son – to a palace? To a city? No. He sent Him to a family. God sent Him amid a family.” The family is thus a place where the love of God can dwell. Where God Himself can dwell. Indeed, the family mirrors that communion of love that is God Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

By this first chapter of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis is calling all families to be places where God can dwell, because the family images God. In the joy of loving and being loved by one another, we come to know the joy of loving and being loved by God.


Julian Paparella is an intern with Salt and Light, currently working in the Montreal office.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

St. Bernard of Clairvaux: Mellifluous Monasticism

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Memorial: August 20

Considered the last of the Fathers of the Church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux has been celebrated for centuries as a man of great intellect and greater holiness. As is evident in his prolific writings, Bernard was one for whom the Word of God impregnated every aspect of the human experience. He knew the Bible by heart and was said to speak and write scripturally.

Relying solely on the pages of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Early Church Fathers in the development of his theology, Bernard rejected philosophical traditions that detracted from the integrity of the faith, and dismissed those who sought knowledge for the sake of curiosity, personal profit, or their own renown. In his seminal collection of sermons on the Song of Songs, he wrote: “There are also those who seek knowledge in order to edify, and this is charity. And there are those who seek knowledge in order to be edified, and this is prudence.”

Bernard’s theology was mirrored in his spirituality, which was grounded in his love of Sacred Scripture and his special devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He was a champion of Lectio Divina — the prayerful reading of Bible passages, and a leading figure in the explosion of Marian devotion that dominated Catholic piety in the twelfth century. For Bernard, life was a radical experience with the love of God; his was a life of fraternity, asceticism, and a daily encounter with the humanity of Christ. Love for Christ, he said, is the first step to genuine prayer.

Born in 1090 to a Burgundian family of great wealth and prestige, in 1113, he entered the premier Cistercian monastery at Cîteaux accompanied by thirty noblemen he had convinced to join him. His life’s work would be the renewal of the Cistercian order and monastic life in general, in addition to the refinement of Marian devotion and theology. Within three years of his arrival at Cîteaux, he was sent to establish a Cistercian house at Vallée d’Absinthe, which as abbot he renamed Claire Vallée, or Clairvaux. From Clairvaux, the “Valley of Lights,” he would reignite the vigour and vibrancy of Western monasticism, and return it to its roots through strict adherence to the austere Rule of St. Benedict. After overcoming its initial growing pains, under Bernard’s guidance the abbey would attract a flurry of postulants, including the saint’s widower father and five brothers.

Before long three more Cistercian monasteries would spring up to accommodate the overflow of vocations flocking to Clairvaux. All in all, Bernard’s work resulted in the foundation of 163 Cistercian monasteries across Europe. At the time of his death on this day in 1153, Clarivaux boasted 700 religious and 363 monasteries attributed their establishment to his influence. The adept abbot was known for his affection for his brother monks, and his reintegration of manual labour into the daily life of the monk, following the model and motto of St. Benedict: Ora et labora, “work and prayer.”

In addition to his pastoral duties as abbot, Bernard played an key role in the suppression of numerous heresies that arose in his day, and was charged with preaching the Second Crusade, which under his spiritual direction was wildly successful in attracting recruits: common-folk and nobility alike. In his day, he was among the most influential figures in all of Christendom, admired as the “conscience of all Europe.” He secured the election of Pope Innocent II over the antipope Analectus III, and in 1145 his disciple and confrere, Bernardo of Pisa, became Eugenius III. The example and influence of St. Bernard’s austerity revolutionized the practice of Western monasticism, and prompted Pope Alexander III’s formulation of the Code of Canon Law. His canonization in 1174 made him the first Cistercian monk to be raised to the glory of the altar, and his eloquence as a preacher gained him the title Doctor Mellifluus, which means “Honey-Sweet” or “Honey-tongued” Doctor. For ages untold, the great abbot of Clairvaux will be extolled for what Pius XII termed the “brilliance of [his] doctrine and splendor of [his] holiness” (Doctor Mellifluus 2).

May we look to his life as an example of the beauty of our faith and the simplicity with which we are to live it out. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, today and always, pray for us!

An excerpt from Sermon 83 of St. Bernard’s Sermons on the Song of Songs

“Love is sufficient of itself; it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love; I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.
The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return.”

Memorare of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thy intercession was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother, to thee I come, before thee I stand sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate! Despise not my petitions, but, in thy mercy, hear and answer me.
Amen.

Transformed from Misery by Mercy

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On the Feast of Mary Magdalene – July 22

“Love the sinner, hate the sin.” The famous maxim first appeared in the letters of St. Augustine, when he wrote, “With love for humanity and hatred of sins.” Mohandas Ghandi later used it in his autobiography when he wrote: “Hate the sin and not the sinner.” But I can’t think of any figure who better exemplifies the essence of this phrase than Saint Mary Magdalene, whose feast the Church celebrate today.

What lessons can we learn from the life of Mary Magdalene? The Gospels reveal a woman marked by a past of demons, who encountered the forgiveness of Jesus and was forever changed. For Mary Magdalene, Jesus changed everything. Jesus was everything. His healing power in her life meant that she could no longer remain her old self, she was transformed, made new in the love of her Saviour. He set her free of the demons that possessed her so that she could pursue a path of discipleship, closely following Jesus and being part of the community of His friends.

What does this mean for us? I think each of us has experienced how easy it can be to become discouraged, disappointed, ashamed, and despairing when we see our own weakness. We can become mired in guilt, anger, and regret when we look at our own frailty and inadequacies. We spin a cocoon of negative emotion that has the power to paralyze us in our own selves. But Jesus never discourages us. He alone is perfect, and calls us to that same perfection. His power propels us onwards to the destiny for which we were created: an eternity of beholding His face, as Mary Magdalene did that bright Easter morning. Mary Magdalene shows us that there is something greater than our sinfulness, our shortcomings and the strife they cause. It is the Man she mistook for the Gardener, and His power to forgive and save us. We are miserable, but He is merciful, and His heart goes out to us. This is the very meaning of Mercy.

Mary Magdalene could have fixated on her demons and remained in the cycle of sin that was dominating her life. Instead, she reached out to Jesus, and allowed Him to reach out to her. She allowed his love to be more powerful than her sins, and her debilitating demons gave way to exemplary discipleship. She heard His call to: “Come, follow me.” And when you do, “Do not be afraid.”

For the Christian, our life-changing encounter with the merciful love of God through Jesus Christ is not just a one-time experience but a constant renewal brought about by the transformative power of Christ at work in our lives. This love is offered to us each day of our lives, and especially when we fail, fall, and flounder. Do we receive it? Do we accept it? Are we open to it? Do we trust in it? Do we allow it to renew us and urge us on? Does it leave us forever changed?

Mary Magdalene had not one demon but seven. Her story is relevant for us no matter what our demons may be. She was a sinner but more than that, she was loved. She allowed her life to become a response of love to the one who loved her first. Weeping she would remain with him at the foot of the the Cross, despairing as he hung dying for the world. “While it was still dark” on the first day of the week, burdened with tears and spices for burial she would venture early to His empty tomb, astonished to encounter Him anew. Especially as we approach the Jubilee Year for Mercy called by Pope Francis, let us encounter Him anew with her, trusting again in His mercy and proclaiming with her: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18) By Him may we be forever changed.

St. Alphonsus Liguori: Doctor Most Zealous

Founding an influential religious order, championing devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Blessed Mother, and the Sacred Heart, and mastering Catholic Moral Theology: these are but a few of the achievements that make the life and ministry of St. Alphonsus Liguori a true gift to the Church, both for his time and ours. St. Alphonsus was born on September 27, 1696, and died two hundred and twenty five years ago today, August 1, in 1787. In the intervening years, his life was spent as a prolific spiritual writer, a renowned philosopher and theologian of the Scholastic tradition, a zealous pastor, and a man of deep personal holiness and prayer.

Born to a wealthy Neapolitan family, St. Alphonsus’s brilliant mind earned him degrees in both canon and civil law by the age of sixteen. To the satisfaction of his affluent family, he practiced law as a respected lawyer until the age of twenty seven, when he suffered a disappointing loss in court. His disappointment prompted him to seek the meaning he longed elsewhere, and so he entered the seminary and after three years of formation was ordained a priest at the age of thirty. [Read more…]

Mercy Transformed into Mission

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On the Feast of Mary Magdalene – July 22

“Love the sinner, hate the sin.” The famous catchphrase first appeared in the letters of St. Augustine, when he wrote, “With love for humanity and hatred of sins.” It was later included in the autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi as “Hate the sin and not the sinner.” But I can’t think of any figure who better exemplifies the essence of this phrase than Mary Magdalene, whose feast we celebrate today.

What can we learn from the life of Mary Magdalene? The Gospels reveal a woman marked by a past of “demons” who encountered the forgiveness of Jesus and was forever changed. For Mary Magdalene, Jesus changed everything. His healing power in her life meant that she could no longer remain who she was, she was transformed: she became new in the love of Jesus. Set free of the seven demons that had possessed her – whatever their nature – she pursued a path of loving devotion, of closely following Jesus, of being part of the community of disciples, of putting Christ before all things, and of moving forward in the mercy he brought her.

What does this mean for us? I think we all know how easy it can be to become discouraged, disappointed, ashamed, and despairing, mired in the guilt, anger, regret, and frustration produced by our own faults and the faults those around us. We spin a cocoon of negative emotion that paralyzes us in our own selves. But Mary Magdalene shows us that there is something greater than our sinfulness, our shortcomings and the strife they cause; rather, that there is some One greater.

Mary Magdalene could have fixated on her demons – whether they were bad choices she’d made or misfortunes she’d experienced through no fault of her own. Instead, she reached out to Jesus and allowed herself to be made new. She allowed his love to be more powerful than her sins, and her demons gave way to discipleship. For the Christian, this life-changing encounter with the merciful love of God through Jesus Christ is not just a one-time experience but a constant renewal brought about by the transformative power of Christ at work in our lives. This love is offered to us each day of our lives, especially when we fail, fall, and flounder. Do we receive it? Do we accept it? Are we open to it? Do we allow it to renew us and urge us on? Does it leave us forever changed?

Mary Magdalene had not one demon but seven. Her story is relevant for us no matter what our demons may be. She was a sinner but more than that, she was loved. She allowed her life to become a response of love to the one who loved her first. Weeping she would remain with him at the foot of the the Cross, despairing as he hung dying for the world. “While it was still dark” on that Easter morning, burdened with tears and spices for burial she would venture early to his empty tomb, astonished to encounter him anew and sent forth to exclaim: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18) The Mercy she encountered sends her forth on mission, not caught up in her own past but urged on by the love of her Lord: transformed to share his transformative love with all the world.

Evangelizing our Elizabeths, Propelled to the Peripheries

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“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’” (Lk. 1:39-45)

The story of the Visitation, celebrated each year on May 31st, presents us with awesome insight into the life and mission of the Christian. Mary, having received in her womb the mystery of the Word made flesh, does not contain this incredible mystery, she does not withdraw for nine months of quiet solitude and private contemplation — rather she sets off “with haste,” propelled by the Holy Spirit to radiate the reality of Jesus present in our midst! Her encounter with God leads her to encounter with others, so that everyone may experience the joy of knowing God in Jesus Christ. The Visitation springs forth as Mary’s response to receiving Jesus in the Incarnation: it is a response that calls her outwards, to the outskirts, to the hill country, to bear “good news” and go out in joyful love and service.

Mary and ElizabethThis is the essence of evangelization: being transformed so that God can use us to transform others. It means sharing the Gospel — “good news” — with those around us, and especially those most in need. Like Mary, our experience of Jesus cannot be lived in isolation, it must overflow and be contagious! Our relationship with God is meant to be lived joyfully in the concrete circumstances of our daily lives and everyday encounters.

In the days prior to the conclave in which he was elected pope, Pope Francis — then Cardinal Bergoglio — spoke the following words about the nature of evangelization:

“Evangelizing pre-supposes a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery.”

This desire is not just for the “Church” in some vague or general sense, but for all of us! We are called to have this desire to come out of ourselves, go to the peripheries and follow the spectacular example Pope Francis has given us since speaking these powerful words. As we celebrate the Visitation, let us ask ourselves: What are the peripheries and hill countries in our own lives? Who are our Elizabeths and what are we doing to bring them the joy of Jesus and his Good News? Our family, relatives, and friends certainly; but also the strangers sit beside on the subway, the panhandler asking for change on the street, the annoying neighbour, the difficult coworker. All of these are the Elizabeths of our day, what are we doing to bring them the joy we have encountered in Christ?

As the Church marks this great moment in the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Elizabeth, may our fears, reticence, and desire for convenience depart, and may we instead embark on a mission of living our Christian joy contagiously. We know that it is the Lord who inspires us to this mission, who accompanies us always, and who will lead us where we are to go. And so today may we too “set out and go with haste” to the hill countries, to bring Christ, to bring the Good News of the Gospel, to live it with joy. In short, may we evangelize.

(Texts courtesy of Oremus Bible Browser and Vatican Radio; Photos courtesy of life.remixed and capfrans.blogspot)

The Adventures of an Intern: From Salt + Light to Peace and Security

Security Council

At the end of September, I reached the end of my second summer working at Salt + Light.  It had been another enriching and exciting several months spent with wonderful, warm, and dedicated people in a close-knit and faith-filled working environment.  But this time, instead of heading back to McGill University to continue my studies, the end of my time at Salt + Light was the beginning of a journey southbound, the start of something new, something exciting: an adventure.  Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Fr. Tom Rosica, our CEO, I was off to New York to serve as an intern with the diplomatic mission of the Holy See to the United Nations!

Two months into the internship, it’s still as exciting as it sounds!  Living in New York, working at the UN, and serving the Church in such a unique way, each day brings fresh excitement and a new reason to be thankful and rejoice.

Path to Peace Interns 1There are seven interns in total: two from Canada, two from the United States, and one each from Spain, Kenya, and Syria.  They’re all wonderful and gifted people and it’s been a blessing to experience these months together.  (Pictured left are the seven of us with our boss, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, and his predecessor Cardinal Renato Martino, who established the internship program together with Fr. Rosica.  I, Julian, am second from the left, next to Guy-Anthony Gagliano, the other Canadian intern, whose grandfather founded Salt + Light.)

Each of the interns is assigned to a different committee or council of the UN, follows the meetings of that body, and writes daily reports on their proceedings.  My assignment is to the Security Council (pictured at right), which is the body entrusted with the maintenance of international peace and security on behalf of the nations of the world.  Thus, the matters addressed by the Council cover a wide range of peace and security issues, which range from eliminating chemical weapons in Syria to fighting piracy off the Somali coast to resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. SC Floor As the most powerful organ of the UN system, the Council generates a high degree of interest and draws an impressive array of guests.  This past week alone, the it heard briefings from the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, and one of its committees was addressed by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the importance of fighting religious extremism through education.  Needless to say, it’s an incredible place to be and work and every day brings the urge to pinch oneself to make sure you’re not dreaming.  To put it one way, it’s UN-believable!

Our day begins at 9:00 in the chapel of the Holy See Mission, where the entire staff gathers to pray Midmorning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. From there, we have a morning meeting to review the UN Journal of the day’s meetings and events before heading to UN headquarters for the first sessions of the day, which begin at 10:00.  Between morning and afternoon meetings, we all return to the Holy See Mission to come together and share a meal.  Together with Midmorning Prayer, this is a crucial mainstay to remaining united as a community of disciples at the service of the Church.

In the same vein, during the course of our internship, we live together at Ss Peter and Paul, a vibrant and active parish in Hoboken, New Jersey—right across the river from Manhattan.  The view is spectacular and the experience of living in community is superb!

In a setting as secular but significant as the UN, how essential it is to remain focused on our true mission of serving the Lord.  Living the call to discipleship in the midst of all the prestige, power, and politics, but also the crises, the suffering, the tragedy and injustice.  In a place where debate too often outweighs decisive action, we are present not to be swept up in political division and partisan vitriol but to be a leaven: to bring hope, to see with faith, and to plant seeds of unity and peace.

Amid such a formative and exciting experience, I want to express my profound gratitude to Fr. Rosica, without whom none of this would have come about or been possible.  His strong support has been a great gift to so many young people, and I consider myself blessed to be among them.

Until next time, peace and blessings from the Big Apple! The adventure continues!

Julian Paparella is a third-year Biology student at McGill University in Montreal. He has worked as a production intern at Salt + Light for the past two summers, and is currently interning with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York City.