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Deacon-structing Love: The Joy of the Gospel


“Tres cosas tiene el amor que no se pueden olvidar:
Que Dios nos amó primero, que hay que darse por entero y ponerse a caminar.”
(Tres Cosas Tiene el Amor, Fernando Leiva)

This reflection on love is taking many turns depending on what is happening in my life. I guess that’s what love does: it affects every aspect of our lives. Last time, I was moved by how much everything Pope Francis said during his trip to Cuba and the U.S. had to do with love. This week I am having a similar, yet slightly different experience.

I am in Puerto Rico at a missionary symposium in preparation for the 5th Missionary Congress of the Americas, which will take place in Bolivia in 2018. There are over 100 delegates from 23 different countries representing all of Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada and the U.S. I love these universal Church experiences.

At the closing Mass, the presider (and wonderful) Most Rev. Ruben Gonzalez Medina, CMF, bishop of the diocese of Cagua in Puerto Rico, reminded us of a popular song by Fernando Leiva that says that love has three things that we cannot forget.

Three things, has love; that cannot be forgotten:
That God loved us first,
that we must give of ourselves totally,
and begin to walk

And then and there I realized the (obvious) link between love and the call to mission.


It’s no surprise that Pope Francis has been constantly reminding us that the Gospel is joy. It’s no surpirse that his first Apostolic Exhortation is titled, The Joy of the Gospel (if you haven’t read it, you must). It begins, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” The Gospel must bring joy, otherwise it is not Gospel, it is not Good News. And if we are truly missionaries, if we are truly evangelisors, it’s because we are joyful. We should be able to tell Christians, by their joy! (If you want to experience the joy of the Gospel, go to Mass in Puerto Rico!)

We are joyful because we are in love. (And therefore, in the words of the old hymn, they will know we are Christians by our love.)

Think of first learning of that new an amazing cure for (insert whatever affliction best applies to your experience). Imagine how you’d feel when you find out that it worked. Imagine how excited you’d be to tell others about it. I have friends who upon acquiring their first car – that cool car they always wanted and worked hard to acquire – couldn’t wait to show it to everyone.

Think of your first love, or when you first met your husband or wife. Didn’t you want to share the news with everyone? Didn’t you want everyone to meet him or her? You were excited and in love.

That is why we share the Good News: because we are in love. In fact, that is the Good News: That God loves us!

And that is the first thing about love that we must not forget.

Pope Francis made up a word (he does this occasionally, although this could be Argentinean slang, I’m not sure. I apologize to our non-Spanish speakers who will lose something in the translation. Read more here): “Primerear.” It is a verb and it means “to first”. You could say that it means to “make first” or to “do first”. When you conjugate the verb in the present participle form, it becomes, “primerear” or “firsting”. It implies that we are the first to do something. This is what God does: He “firsts” us. He puts us first. He makes us first. In Spanish: “Dios nos primerea.”

God loved us first. God loves us first. We are loved first by God. This, we must never forget.

And how does God love us? He loves us totally. He gives himself totally for and to us. He hands himself over totally to us. And therefore we too must give of ourselves totally.

I’ve spoken about this in terms of married love. In Marriage, we must strive to give of ourselves totally. It’s absolutely necessary for married love to be total. However, in terms of our call to love as Christians, in the context of sacrifice, we must also think of giving of ourselves without reserve. The difference is that in Marriage we give all of ourselves, emotionally, sexually, intellectually, physically, all our dreams, our fertility, our fears, insecurities, all our baggage; we give it all and in turn, we receive our spouse totally as well.

In Christian loving we don’t have to give all of ourselves as we do in Marriage, but what we give of ourselves, we give totally. And this is easy to do when we are in love with the God who loved us first. It’s easy to do when we are full of joy. In fact, it’s impossible not to do if we are in love and full of joy!

And so we have to give ourselves totally to the other; this we must not forget.

The third flows naturally from the second: we must begin to walk.

Love is not stagnant. Love is movement. Love is growth (more on this next week). The minute you stop loving, you stop growing. This is why we refer to revolutions as “movements”. We also refer to those who oppose a movement, “a resistance.” When we are passionate about something we begin a movement. Those who oppose that movement, create a resistance to the movement; they create a resistance to the motion, in essence, to bring it to a stop. We must not resist love.

When we speak about movement, however, we must keep in mind that we don’t just move. We move in a direction. In the case of Christian loving, we move in the direction of God. Love will always move us towards God. If you want to know whether you are living the Christian call to love, reflect on whether you are moving towards God or towards yourself (this is classic Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius refers these as ‘movements of the spirit’ or ‘inner movements’).

This is why we walk. This is why the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), as their hearts were burning within them, were “moved” to go. They left everything on the table, food and all, half-eaten, chairs upturned – they even forgot to close the door – and they went!

We begin to walk (and we do so “in haste” – see how Luke 1:39 describes the movement of the Mother of all missionaries) because love compels us to move. Jesus sends us: Go (Matthew 28:19). But even if we were not sent, the mere fact that we are in love and full of joy because we have been loved first and loved totally, would burn in our hearts and compel us to go.

If we love, we must walk; we must go. This we must never forget.


The final Mass of our missionary gathering at the Parish of St. Joseph in the town of Aibonito in Diocese of Cagua in Puerto Rico, was celebrated on October 1st, Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. The “little flower” St. Therese of the Child Jesus is the Patron Saint of Missions. The prayer after Communion on her feast day reads:

“May the Sacrament we have received, O Lord, kindle in us the force of that love with which St. Therese dedicated herself to you and longed to obtain your mercy for all.”

May the Lord enkindle in our hearts the force of that burning love, that we may go in love, to love, remembering always that God loved us first and gave himself totally to us. Therefore we must give ourselves totally to others and continue to walk. Pope Francis said to the youth in Rio at World Youth Day 2013 that “We go, without fear, to serve”. Today I add: We go, without fear, in love (because love drives out all fear), to serve. We go to share the joy of the Gospel!

Write to me. (pedro@saltandlighttv.org) and tell me about your experiences of missionary love and come back next time so we can continue looking at some myths about love.

Photo credit: Wally Tello

DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Pope Francis’ Message for World Youth Day 2016

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7)

Dear Young People,

We have come to the last stretch of our pilgrimage to Krakow, the place where we will celebrate the 31st World Youth Day next year in the month of July. We are being guided on this long and challenging path by Jesus’ words taken from the Sermon on the Mount. We began this journey in 2014 by meditating together on the first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The theme for 2015 was: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). During the year ahead, let us allow ourselves to be inspired by the words: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).

1. The Jubilee of Mercy

With this theme, the Krakow 2016 WYD forms part of the Holy Year of Mercy and so becomes a Youth Jubilee at world level. It is not the first time that an international youth gathering has coincided with a Jubilee Year. Indeed, it was during the Holy Year of the Redemption (1983/1984) that Saint John Paul II first called on young people from around the world to come together on Palm Sunday. Then, during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, over two million young people from around 165 countries gathered in Rome for the 15th World Youth Day. I am sure that the Youth Jubilee in Krakow will be, as on those two previous occasions, one of the high points of this Holy Year!

Perhaps some of you are asking: what is this Jubilee Year that is celebrated in the Church? The scriptural text of Leviticus 5 can help us to understand the meaning of a “jubilee” for the people of Israel. Every fifty years they heard the sounding of a trumpet (jobel) calling them (jobil) to celebrate a holy year as a time of reconciliation (jobal) for everyone. During that time they had to renew their good relations with God, with their neighbours and with creation, all in a spirit of gratuitousness. This fostered, among other things, debt forgiveness, special help for those who had fallen into poverty, an improvement in interpersonal relations and the freeing of slaves.

Jesus Christ came to proclaim and bring about the Lord’s everlasting time of grace. He brought good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed (cf. Lk 4:18-19). In Jesus, and particularly in his Paschal Mystery, the deeper meaning of the jubilee is fully realized. When the Church proclaims a jubilee in the name of Christ, we are all invited to experience a wonderful time of grace. The Church must offer abundant signs of God’s presence and closeness, and reawaken in people’s hearts the ability to look to the essentials. In particular, this Holy Year of Mercy is “a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy” (Homily at First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, 11 April 2015).

2. Merciful like the Father

The motto for this Extraordinary Jubilee is “Merciful like the Father” (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 13). This fits in with the theme of the next WYD, so let us try to better understand the meaning of divine mercy.

The Old Testament uses various terms when it speaks about mercy. The most meaningful of these are hesed and rahamim. The first, when applied to God, expresses God’s unfailing fidelity to the Covenant with his people whom he loves and forgives for ever. The second, rahamim, which literally means “entrails”, can be translated as “heartfelt mercy”. This particularly brings to mind the maternal womb and helps us understand that God’s love for his people is like that of a mother for her child. That is how it is presented by the prophet Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is 49:15). Love of this kind involves making space for others within ourselves and being able to sympathize, suffer and rejoice with our neighbours.

The biblical concept of mercy also includes the tangible presence of love that is faithful, freely given and able to forgive. In the following passage from Hosea, we have a beautiful example of God’s love, which the prophet compares to that of a father for his child: “When Israel was a child I loved him; out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me… Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks… I stooped to feed my child” (Hos 11:1-4). Despite the child’s wrong attitude that deserves punishment, a father’s love is faithful. He always forgives his repentant children. We see here how forgiveness is always included in mercy. It is “not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child… It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 6).

The New Testament speaks to us of divine mercy (eleos) as a synthesis of the work that Jesus came to accomplish in the world in the name of the Father (cf. Mt 9:13). Our Lord’s mercy can be seen especially when he bends down to human misery and shows his compassion for those in need of understanding, healing and forgiveness. Everything in Jesus speaks of mercy. Indeed, he himself is mercy.

In Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel we find the three parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son. In these three parables we are struck by God’s joy, the joy that God feels when he finds and forgives a sinner. Yes, it is God’s joy to forgive! This sums up the whole of the Gospel. “Each of us, each one of us, is that little lost lamb, the coin that was mislaid; each one of us is that son who has squandered his freedom on false idols, illusions of happiness, and has lost everything. But God does not forget us; the Father never abandons us. He is a patient Father, always waiting for us! He respects our freedom, but he remains faithful forever. And when we come back to him, he welcomes us like children into his house, for he never ceases, not for one instant, to wait for us with love. And his heart rejoices over every child who returns. He is celebrating because he is joy. God has this joy, when one of us sinners goes to him and asks his forgiveness” (Angelus, 15 September 2013).

God’s mercy is very real and we are all called to experience it firsthand. When I was seventeen years old, it happened one day that, as I was about to go out with friends, I decided to stop into a church first. I met a priest there who inspired great confidence, and I felt the desire to open my heart in Confession. That meeting changed my life! I discovered that when we open our hearts with humility and transparency, we can contemplate God’s mercy in a very concrete way. I felt certain that, in the person of that priest, God was already waiting for me even before I took the step of entering that church. We keep looking for God, but God is there before us, always looking for us, and he finds us first. Maybe one of you feels something weighing on your heart.

You are thinking: I did this, I did that…. Do not be afraid! God is waiting for you! God is a Father and he is always waiting for us! It is so wonderful to feel the merciful embrace of the Father in the sacrament of Reconciliation, to discover that the confessional is a place of mercy, and to allow ourselves to be touched by the merciful love of the Lord who always forgives us! You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope? Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love? Saint Paul tells us that “God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Do we really understand the power of these words?

I know how much the WYD cross means to all of you. It was a gift from Saint John Paul II and has been with you at all your World Meetings since 1984. So many changes and real conversions have taken place in the lives of young people who have encountered this simple bare cross! Perhaps you have asked yourselves the question: what is the origin of the extraordinary power of the cross? Here is the answer: the cross is the most eloquent sign of God’s mercy! It tells us that the measure of God’s love for humanity is to love without measure! Through the cross we can touch God’s mercy and be touched by that mercy! Here I would recall the episode of the two thieves crucified beside Jesus. One of them is arrogant and does not admit that he is a sinner. He mocks the Lord. The other acknowledges that he has done wrong; he turns to the Lord saying: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus looks at him with infinite mercy and replies: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (cf. Lk 23:32, 39-43). With which of the two do we identify? Is it with the arrogant one who does not acknowledge his own mistakes? Or is it with the other, who accepts that he is in need of divine mercy and begs for it with all his heart? It is in the Lord, who gave his life for us on the cross, that we will always find that unconditional love which sees our lives as something good and always gives us the chance to start again.

3. The amazing joy of being instruments of God’s mercy

The Word of God teaches us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That is why the fifth Beatitude declares that the merciful are blessed. We know that the Lord loved us first. But we will be truly blessed and happy only when we enter into the divine “logic” of gift and gracious love, when we discover that God has loved us infinitely in order to make us capable of loving like Him, without measure. Saint John says: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love… In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4:7-11).

After this very brief summary of how the Lord bestows his mercy upon us, I would like to give you some suggestions on how we can be instruments of this mercy for others.

I think of the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. He said, “Jesus pays me a visit every morning in Holy Communion, and I return the visit in the meagre way I know how, visiting the poor”. Pier Giorgio was a young man who understood what it means to have a merciful heart that responds to those most in need. He gave them far more than material goods. He gave himself by giving his time, his words and his capacity to listen. He served the poor very quietly and unassumingly. He truly did what the Gospel tells us: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret” (Mt 6:3-4). Imagine that, on the day before his death when he was gravely ill, he was giving directions on how his friends in need should be helped. At his funeral, his family and friends were stunned by the presence of so many poor people unknown to them. They had been befriended and helped by the young Pier Giorgio.

I always like to link the Gospel Beatitudes with Matthew 25, where Jesus presents us with the works of mercy and tells us that we will be judged on them. I ask you, then, to rediscover the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, assist the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. Nor should we overlook the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, teach the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the sorrowful, forgive offences, patiently bear with troublesome people and pray to God for the living and the dead. As you can see, mercy does not just imply being a “good person” nor is it mere sentimentality. It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus, and of our credibility as Christians in today’s world.

If you want me to be very specific, I would suggest that for the first seven months of 2016 you choose a corporal and a spiritual work of mercy to practice each month. Find inspiration in the prayer of Saint Faustina, a humble apostle of Divine Mercy in our times:

“Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I will never be suspicious or judge by appearances, but always look for what is beautiful in my neighbours’ souls and be of help to them;

that my ears may be merciful, so that I will be attentive to my neighbours’ needs, and not indifferent to their pains and complaints;

that my tongue may be merciful, so that I will never speak badly of others, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all;

that my hands may be merciful and full of good deeds; that my feet may be merciful, so that I will hasten to help my neighbour, despite my own fatigue and weariness;

that my heart may be merciful, so that I myself will share in all the sufferings of my neighbour” (Diary, 163).

The Divine Mercy message is a very specific life plan because it involves action. One of the most obvious works of mercy, and perhaps the most difficult to put into practice, is to forgive those who have offended us, who have done us wrong or whom we consider to be enemies. “At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully” (Misericordiae Vultus, 9).

I meet so many young people who say that they are tired of this world being so divided, with clashes between supporters of different factions and so many wars, in some of which religion is being used as justification for violence. We must ask the Lord to give us the grace to be merciful to those who do us wrong. Jesus on the cross prayed for those who had crucified him: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Mercy is the only way to overcome evil. Justice is necessary, very much so, but by itself it is not enough. Justice and mercy must go together. How I wish that we could join together in a chorus of prayer, from the depths of our hearts, to implore the Lord to have mercy on us and on the whole world!

4. Krakow is expecting us!

Only a few months are left before we meet in Poland. Krakow, the city of Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina Kowalska, is waiting for us with open arms and hearts. I believe that Divine Providence led us to the decision to celebrate the Youth Jubilee in that city which was home to those two great apostles of mercy in our times. John Paul II realized that this is the time of mercy. At the start of his pontificate, he wrote the encyclical Dives in Misericordia. In the Holy Year 2000 he canonized Sister Faustina and instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, which now takes place on the Second Sunday of Easter. In 2002 he personally inaugurated the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow and entrusted the world to Divine Mercy, in the desire that this message would reach all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope: “This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness!” (Homily at the Dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, 17 August 2002).

Dear young people, at the Shrine in Krakow dedicated to the merciful Jesus, where he is depicted in the image venerated by the people of God, Jesus is waiting for you. He has confidence in you and is counting on you! He has so many things to say to each of you… Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to Him and do not be afraid! Come to him and say from the depths of your hearts: “Jesus, I trust in You!”. Let yourselves be touched by his boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair.

Carry with you the flame of Christ’s merciful love – as Saint John Paul II said – in every sphere of your daily life and to the very ends of the earth. In this mission, I am with you with my encouragement and prayers. I entrust all of you to Mary, Mother of Mercy, for this last stretch of the journey of spiritual preparation for the next WYD in Krakow. I bless all of you from my heart.

From the Vatican, 15 August 2015 Solemnity of the Assumption of the B.V. Mary 

We Remember – Nous Nous Souvenons: Canadian Bishops Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Closing of Vatican II

Today during the Plenary Meeting of the Canadian Bishops in Cornwall, Ontario, the Bishops of Canada and invited guests viewed this special video produced by Salt and Light Television to commemorate the contribution of the Canadian Church to the Second Vatican Council.

Produced by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, the video features the remaining Canadian “Fathers” of Vatican II as well as contributions by Cardinals Gérald Cyprien Lacroix (Quebec) and Thomas Collins (Toronto) as well as Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher (Gatineau), outgoing President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It was an honor and privilege for us to offer this film to the Bishops of Canada, and to recall with immense gratitude the contributions of Canadian Bishops to Vatican II and its continued implementation in our country.

Deacon-structing Love: part 1


When my wife’s best friend was married, I remember driving her and her new husband to the airport hotel after the wedding reception – they were on their way to Jamaica the next morning. As they got out of the car in the hotel driveway, some guy who’d had too much to drink was stumbling out of the hotel and, in seeing them in their wedding garb, spluttered something about how marriage was a waste of time or something to that effect. I thought “what a nice thing to tell a couple on their wedding night!”

That night, I vowed to always tell young couples how amazing Marriage was. Of course, I wasn’t married at the time so what did I know? Except I couldn’t see how Marriage could be anything but amazing – if you marry the right person, for the right reasons, under the right circumstances and at the right time in your lives. How could it not be amazing?

Well, now, I’ve been married for 20 years and have been in a relationship with the same woman for almost 26 years. I am not a marriage expert; I am not a psychologist or psychotherapist; I’m no Dr. Phil; I come to you with my own personal experience.

Most importantly I am very interested in the concept of LOVE. Because when Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and love one another as He loved us, Jesus commanded me to love God and love others. If I am to follow his command, I better know exactly what He means!.

Let me preface this making a short trip aside. I am very happy that the Church has re-looked at how we review the nullity of marriages. There are so many people who are suffering because they entered into “marriage” without real consent, without knowledge or understanding of what they were consenting to (I’ll tell you some stories another time) and they believe that they are stuck. There are others whose marriages have ended and they believe that they can’t receive Communion. Nothing can be further from the truth.

There are also people whose first marriage is not valid but have not sought the help of a Marriage Tribunal because they don’t know they have that option or because it’s too hard and painful to go through the process. The Church is making it easier for these people to find healing. (to read more about annulments, click here.

Of course, the first option is to enter into a Marriage with full knowledge and understanding of what it is and what you are consenting to. This is why we need to put more effort in preparing couples BEFORE they get married and accompany them as much as possible during their Marriage, especially in the first years.

I believe that the main problem with people entering Marriage for the wrong reasons is a misunderstanding of that word: LOVE.

And there are many reasons why the concept of love has been diluted: our culture; who we are; our individualistic views; our experiences and especially the language we speak. English is generally a very specific language, but when it comes to love it really falls short: I love my wife and I love my children, I love God and my friends, I love my country, I love my dog and I love my car and l love pizza.  Clearly these are not all the same.

In Spanish, it’s a little better. We have 3 ways to say “I love you”

  • Te quiero: Commonly used to say I love you, it’s a friendly, fraternal love);
  • Me gustas: Which is not really love at all but means I like you;) and
  • Te Amo: Reserved to romantic love and God; sometimes used between parents and children.

Even these three fall a bit short. I don’t think I love my wife the same way I love God and certainly not the same way God loves me (although I should try – read my whole “Deacon-structing Marriage” series).

From what I understand, Greek is probably the best language for having different words for different kinds of love. This is what I understand them to be: agape, eros, philia and storge. (Again, here is where I appeal to any of you who know more on this subject than me – I welcome your comments, especially if you speak Greek!)

Agape is the purest form of love. Let’s say it’s the love of God or God’s love.

Eros is passionate love. I am going to call it sexual love.

Philia is brotherly love. The kind you have with a good friend (Think, Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love).

Storge is the kind of love parents have with their children

Now, I would even divide these further.  I can see Eros being split in two:

Sexual love and romantic love: romantic is a bit deeper than sexual. They sometimes go together, but not necessarily always. Platonic love is also a part of this – except I’d say that Platonic is not based on any reality; it is a dream. Platonic love is being in love with the idea of someone.

Storge: I will divide in two: Paternal and Maternal.  Not to be sexist, but there are certain qualities that we associate with Fathers and others with Mothers – for e.g. we may say that providing for a family is a paternal quality and nurturing a family is a maternal quality. Not to say that fathers can’t be nurturing and mothers can’t be providers. So I would say that there are some qualities to love that are “paternal” and others that are “maternal.”

So that leaves us with seven types of love. Come back next week to explore them deeper.

DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Christians in Solidarity with Jews for Jewish High Holy Days

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the Israelites thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts of horns. On the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the Lord your God. It shall be sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practise self denial, from evening to evening you shall observe this sabbath.” (Leviticus 23)

The above biblical citations refer to what have become the Jewish High Holy days, in the seventh month, known as Tishrei. The first day has been expanded over time into a two day holiday which Jews call Rosh HaShanah, the New Year. Being in the seventh month it is obviously not the Jewish New Year, for that is in the first month, Nisan, which contains the Passover freedom festival. In the seventh month Jews celebrate the world’s NewJews Praying in Syn Year, the anniversary of Creation. Often repeated throughout these days is the declaration: “Today is the birthday of the world. Today God will bring to judgement all the world’s creatures.”

Rosh Hashanah 2015 begins in the evening of Sunday, September 13 and ends in the evening of Tuesday, September 15. It begins in a festive mood. “Blessed are you, Lord, Sovereign of the universe, who has sustained and supported us and enabled us to reach this moment.” We are grateful for the gift of life during the past year. However, the mood is both happy and serious at the same time. It is the beginning of a ten day period of judgment and therefore of penitential reflection. One is encouraged to examine one’s life during the past year, express regret for sins and errors, confess before God and resolve to improve conduct during the New Year ahead. We can then ask and expect God’s forgiveness. However, if our sin was against another person, we must first secure their forgiveness before expecting that of God.

Yom Kippur 2015 begins in the evening of Tuesday, September 22 and ends in the evening of Wednesday, September 23. On Yom Kippur, the penitential mood is dominant. The prayers move around a wide range of religious emotions: awe and reverence before God’s majesty; tenderness and love as gifts of God’s love; tears of regret and noble resolve. The congregation, many dressed in white throughout the day, alternately bow and sway, cry and laugh as they move through the liturgy. The final hours are filled with intense spiritual passions and ultimate exaltation. We believe that God has indeed listened to our prayers and will forgive us. Now the New Year can begin in joy.

The prayers throughout this period are heavily dependent upon Psalms as well as other Rabbinic and medieval poetic writings. These reflect a wide range of spiritual moods and theological attitudes and may vary from community to community.

Pope Francis and the Jewish Community


On the eve of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) last year, Pope Francis met at Domus Sanctae Marthae with Jewish leaders to mark Rosh Hashana. Among those attending the event where World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins, WJC Treasurer Chella Safra and a number of Jewish community heads and senior WJC officials.

We want to share with the pope our message of peace and prosperity for the New Year,” said Claudio Epelman, executive director of the LAJC and the WJC official in charge of relations with the Vatican.

As Christians, we remember over two thousand years that comprise the story of the Christian community, from it’s beginnings within the Jewish community in Jerusalem, through the dramatic evolution that occurred as the Church took root in gentile communities of other cultures, to its present situation as the largest faith community in the world. The early Church and Rabbinic Judaism both took shape at about the same time, both rooted in Biblical Judiasm. But very soon in the history of these sibling communities, negative stereotypes of Jews and Judaism dominitated the Church’s relations with the Jewish community. That led to the meaning of Jewish community. That led to the meaning of Jewish faith and the persecution of Jews, culminating in role that role that the Church’s theology played in setting the scene for the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II.

Hymn by Judah HaLevi

Judah HaLevi was one of the great poetic litugists in Jewish history. Here he captures the essence of the Yom Kippur experience, as expressing our yearning for God’s mercy, grace and help in coming closer to God and being the beneficary of God’s blessings.

Lord, today I beseech you, Hear my prayer, Lord!
Lord, reveal Your strong right hand, Show us Your power out of love, Lord!
Lord, my heart so moved, moans within me, The strength of this emotion leaves me faint, Lord!
Lord, when You think of me,Let is be for good that I am remembered, Lord!
Lord, I hope for Your salvation Your grace will comfort me, Lord!
Lord, You are my Creator, my Rock, What, but You, can help me, Lord?
Lord, Turn Your tender mercy towards me, Do not regard my sin, Lord!
Lord, You are all that I desire, My thoughts focus on Your unity, Lord!
Lord, my heart grows weak in this out pouring of emotion, My soul is in misery, Lord!
Lord, in your faithful love, hear me, Hear the urgency of my prayer, Lord!
Lord, all my thoughts are in Your hands, You know my inmost depths, Lord!
Lord, look at me with open eyes, Heal my pain, my agony, Lord!
Lord, before the gathered crowd, I praise You, Sustain me in a prayerful stance, Lord.
Lord, You know how I yearn for Your salvation, Grant my soul rest, Lord!
Lord, incline Your ear to hear my cry, You always show mercy, Lord!
Lord, my God, I hope in You, I pray that my salvation is near, Lord!
Lord, confirm me now as Your servant forever, Does it matter if my sin appears, Lord?
Lord, how long must I remain a prisoner, How long must I be entombed in sin that sears my spirit, Lord?
Lord, I sing in praise of Your unity, Still, tears of grief well up in my heart, Lord!
Lord, in my weakness, I exult You, Redeem me from my fears, Lord!
Lord, I trust in You for good things to come, Your magnificent reign is all encompassing, Lord!
Lord, be patient with me, I worship You, I seek your grace, Lord!
Lord, be attentive to my plea Respond soon to my call, Lord!
Lord, with tenderness bring me your healing, Revive my heavy heart, Lord!
Lord, my soul grows weak from my distress, Day and night I cry to you, Lord!
Lord, out of the depths raise me, reverse my captivity, Lord!


As our Jewish brothers and sisters prepare to observe a day of repentance and reconciliation this year, and come before God with fasting and prayer, we join with them in expressing our fundamental solidarity of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  With them we recall our common trust in God’s grace and mercy, which we have inherited from the Jewish experience of God.  With them we honor the richness of Jewish prayer that is at the core of Christian prayer.  With them we confess our sins, both personal and corporate.  With them we name with sadness and shame the sins of the Christian churches towards the Jewish people, especially our contempt for their spiritual traditions. In solidarity with them we seek forgiveness and reconciliation and pray for peace among all people, cultures and religions.

Coast to Coast: September 6 to September 12


Here is some of what has been making headlines across the country:

In light of the numbers of Syrian refugees trying to find a safe home, the Archdiocese of Toronto has launched “Project Hope” to sponsor 100 refugee families.

Meanwhile the Archdiocese of Vancouver shares some of their experiences sponsoring Iraqi and Syrian refugee families.

In Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, Archbishop James Weisgerber and about 30 other people took part in what they called an Encyclical Walk.


The Miraculous Medal Shrine


James W. Foley, the American journalist and war correspondent that was the first American beheaded by ISIS in August, 2014, once said:

“Drop a pebble in the water:
Just a splash, and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center,
Flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling
Where the end is going to be.”

What ripple effect could a medal made in the image of Mary Immaculate have, either in Paris, or France or even the world?  Yet what was initially called the Medal of Our Lady of Grace became the peoples’ “miraculous medal” by 1836. By 2015, there were 45 national Miraculous Medal Associations and innumerable billions of people wearing this medal. And the ripple of 1830 is still circling!

The Miraculous Medal Shrine of Philadelphia is dedicated to Mary Immaculate, but it is only a piece of the great history of this medal. That history starts with a French sister, a Daughter of Charity, in Paris, France in 1830.

Zoe Laboure was born on May 2, 1806, a French, farm girl. When she was 23 years old, she entered the Catholic group of women called the Daughters of Charity, in January, 1830. Three months later she became a formal member entering their seminary and her first name became Catherine. 

Catherine Laboure received the Miraculous Medal from Mary, the Mother of God, that same year in the summer and fall of 1830 during three apparitions. The first apparition to St. Catherine Laboure happened on the night of July 18th, 1830. 

Sleeping in the roof dormitory with the other young sisters, she was awakened around 11 pm by a young child of about 5 years of age, dressed in white.  “Come, get up” said the child holding a lit candle. “Mary is waiting for you in the Chapel.” Calling Catherine three different times to get up, Catherine noticed that none of the other sisters were awake. Yet the light around the child was bright and vivid. Hurriedly dressing, Catherine, followed the child down the wooden, circular stair case. She saw that all the candles on the walls were aglow with light. When she arrived at the Chapel, it was radiantly lit and reminded her of Midnight Mass.   

The child took her to the priest’s Director’s Chair in the front of the Sanctuary. Catherine knelt there.  Soon she heard the rustling like that of a silk dress in a breeze, and there before her was the Blessed Mother. Sitting in the chair, Mary placed Catherine’s hands on her lap. They spoke for 2 hours. 

This apparition is commemorated at the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia. On the main level, to the left of the altar is the precise replica of that chair where the Blessed Mother sat. In the chair, there is a piece of the cloth from that same chair where the Blessed Mother sat. It is a relic from that apparition. Declared a saint in 1947, St. Catherine Laboure is the only known person to have touched Mary after her Assumption.    

Before we continue on, it is important for you to know why we call it a shrine and not a church. In general a shrine is a place erected or established by people because something very holy and important happened there. 

Shrines of all types are popular today. People place flowers or mementos like stuffed animals or lit candles, at a place where a loved one may have been or may have died. People create shrines on the side of the road. 

People want to remember and venerate that place; it is sacred.  Perhaps a life deeply loved was there and went to heaven. People who go to that place are empowered by the memory and may feel, touch or experience the divine and human life that was there, if only momentarily.

A part of where God has momentarily manifested his love, through his Mother in Paris, has been brought to Philadelphia for the love and veneration of all who go to this shrine, a sacred place. Besides the replica of the chair and piece of cloth denoting this as a place that God has visited, besides the daily Mass and tabernacle of God’s presence, there have been many favors granted to those who pray here. Something very divine and human happens here all the time

People come to this Shrine because the Blessed Mother intercedes with God for people here.  Every public novena prayed in this Shrine, details favors that people prayed for here and were granted or given by Mary Immaculate. Though there are no crutches, etc., I would like to share with you a few of the favors received here. 

One woman wrote to me:  “Dear Father, Please thank the Blessed Mother with me. After praying the novena at the Shrine, my husband received a positive pet scan. He was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in January, and as of present his cancer cells are completely gone.  Thank you Mary for this favor.” 

Or a man wrote to me, “Dear Father, Please Thank Mary for her intercession for my wife. I prayed the novena nightly at the shrine, begging our Blessed Mother to help her. My wife had a nodule on her lung, but after praying to Mary, the second scan showed the nodule was gone.”

More importantly than the cures from Cancer or diseases, people, through prayer here or just walking through, have regained their faith or have been reunited to their family after years of hatred. Experiencing Mary’s open arms of love, many are moved to make a heartfelt confession. It was these “miracles” of everyday life that caused the people in 1836 to proclaim the Medal of Our Lady of Grace as Mary’s Miraculous Medal.  For it seemed to them as it is to us today, that those who put it on, receive many graces of faith and have a change of heart.

Returning to our story that explains the Miraculous Medal, the second and third apparitions of the Blessed Mother to St. Catherine Laboure happened on the evening of November 27, in 1830. That evening, while St. Catherine, was at evening prayer with the other sisters, Mary appeared to her in the Chapel of the Daughters of Charity in Paris, France. The other sisters did not see Mary but knew something was happening from the great light that appeared in the Chapel.

Catherine states that Mary first appeared holding a globe. Mary said that the globe represents the whole world whom she offers to God Almighty. This part of the second apparition is commemorated in the Miraculous Medal Shrine on the lower level with the figure of Mary holding the globe. She is surrounded by many vigil lights. This Shrine is dedicated to Mary under the title of Virgin Most Powerful or in Latin, Virgo Potens. 

St. Catherine explained this vision. Appearing in a white gown and veil and holding the globe, Mary said that this Globe represented the world for whom she constantly pleaded to God for help. Sanctified by His Redemption, the globe represents the Mystical Body of her Son Jesus Christ, whom she gives to God as she gave Jesus Christ to the world. The world still wanting, Mary gives this body to God pleading for his grace and aid to all who ask her for help. 


Mary is considered the most powerful of all human persons because she was chosen by God above all others. Her response to being chosen, her “yes” at the Annunciation, began the redemption of her son Jesus Christ. Through Mary, humanity said “yes” to God entering into their life. 

Mary never said no to God and God never says no to her. Her pleading is always answered. She is our eternal and most perfect model of life in and with God. Thus, many vigil lights, representing hundreds of intentions sent to us at the Miraculous Medal Shrine, are placed in this room for her globe, begging Mary to seek God’s graces for them. 

Vigil lights represent the person because the person owns them before they give them to Mary. They gave something of themselves, such as coins, buying the light for themselves.  They also represent the donor’s intention. They are given to Mary as a gift to her and to keep their intention before her always.

In this shrine also, there are pictures of the events of the apparition and of the life of St. Catherine Laboure. Installed in 1928, they are the sole mosaics in the Shrine.

Returning to our second apparition of November 27, 1830, there was another part of the apparition, sometimes called the third apparition. When St. Catherine looked up, Mary is seen as she is on the medal and in the statue on the main level of the Miraculous Medal Shrine today. 

She stood on the world crushing the head of Satan, the devil, reminding us of the verse in Genesis 3:15 – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between her seed (Jesus Christ) and you. She will crush your head and you will lie in wait for her heal.” 

During this second part of the apparition, Catherine saw around her the words of the famous Miraculous Medal prayer:  “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

The glow around her became streams of light from some of her fingers. “These are the graces that flow to people who have asked for God’s favor,” Mary said. “Those fingers where there is no light, represent graces that no one has asked for from God. Come to the foot of the altar and with confidence ask God, through my intercession, for these graces.”

And as Mary turned, Catherine saw the cross coming up from the large M representing Mary at the foot of the cross. Underneath this were the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Around this were twelve stars representing the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel.

Mary then commanded Catherine, “Have a medal struck in this image. For all who wear this blessed medal around their neck, shall receive special graces eternally from God through me.” 

In 1832, over a thousand medals were struck and promoted by the Congregation of the Mission or Vincentian Fathers and Brothers. They were founded in 1625, by St. Vincent de Paul. They staff the Miraculous Medal Shrine today. 

By 1836 over a million medals were being worn by faithful devotees of Mary. It was around this time that this medal of our Lady of Grace became popularly known as the Miraculous Medal for all the miracles, both physically and spiritually that were reported by its wearers.

Today, Mary commands us to go to this altar too. The use of the word “altar” is also the symbol of the Holy Mass, where Mary’s flesh and blood, her Son, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are celebrated. We too are called to offer ourselves to God at Mass, and there ask God through her, for what we need. This is not a new command for us but the most important command ever given to us. Recall what Mary commanded us to do at the Wedding Feast in Cana, (Jn. 2:5) “Do what he tells you.” 

God worked totally through Mary to give himself to the world in Jesus Christ, and continues to this day, to work through her to give us Divine Life. The open arms of Mary constantly invite us to stand at this altar and see in her, the compassion, the mercy and love of God just for you. 

These great shrines and places of prayer and solitude are all contained in this building that today is called the Miraculous Medal Shrine. It took 4 years to complete, beginning in 1875. The model of the Shrine, first called the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, was very ambitious, imitating on a slightly smaller scale, the great Church of Eastern Christianity, Saint Sophia, in Istanbul, Turkey. Dominated by a large center dome held up by massive archways, the Shrine is a yet a crucifix form with the nave and altar being crossed by a chapel on each side. 

The Shrine seats 400 comfortably and expands with the choir loft to 500+. However, pictures of Novena Services during World War II and later pictures of sermons from the pulpit by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the first TV evangelist, show people sitting on the sanctuary and side steps near the main altar and side shrines. They packed in as many as possible.  As an aside, St. Katherine Drexel, with 5 – 8 African American students, prayed in this Shrine almost every Monday at the Novena Services. She sat in the 3rd pew from the front on right side toward the Marian Shrine. 

The Stations of the Cross on the walls around the Shrine are oil, painted on copper plates with metal frames finished in polished gold. They are imported from France and are unique as the artist never made another set like them. He died before the stations reached this Shrine. 

The Large Rose Window above the choir loft uses a distinct and rare stained glass called Bernardini blue. The window is modeled after the stained glass of Sainte Chappelle, in Paris that was built in 1248 by St. Louis, King of France. The window was installed here in 1935. 

The stained glass windows of the saints that are above and on either side of the pews are presently being evaluated and researched. Initially they were believed to be from the school of the famous New York glass maker, John La Farge. However, recent tests indicate that they may be the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The difficulty stems from the fact that both men trained in the same school of glass-making at the same time.

On a sunlit day, if you go to the side of the window on your right (left side of Shrine as you look at altar) and look up at the window, the cut glass sparkles as if it is a gem. This indicates the Tiffany type and style of inlaid glass.

Most places of worship have one style of stained glass. This Shrine has four different types of stained glass making it very distinct. As we have just said, the Saints are American stained glass; the rose window is French; the Sacred Heart on the left side of the Shrine, is from Germany; and the stain glass that is in the dome above the sanctuary that depicts the seven Christian virtues (faith, hope, love, etc.) is from Italy. 

The Shrine was remodeled from 1979 – 1980, in response to the decrees of the Second Vatican Council that ended in 1964. At this time, the mural painting of Mary, Mother of the Church, the title that the Council gave to Mary, was installed in the great dome in the center of the Shrine. As a tease to viewers Emmanuel F. Utti purposely painted this mural to look like a mosaic which of course, it is not. 

The main altar is the original altar from 1879. It is composed of Italian white Carrara marble from the northern Tuscany region and red marble from the Numidia, Northern African area in Algeria.

The tabernacle, modeled on the onion domes of the Churches of Eastern Christianity, celebrates the unity of Eastern and Western Christianity. It is a reminder to pray for the Eastern Church after the onslaught of Communism.

Finally, the three major mural paintings encircling the sanctuary are nationally registered paintings and are patented. The panels in order from the left depict the Annunciation, the Immaculate Conception the original namesake for the chapel, and the Nativity. They are each 13 feet wide and 18 feet tall. 

The American Italian artist, Virgilio Tojetti (1849 – 1901) was commissioned to paint these three murals. He completed them in the late 1890’s and are some of his last works. 

Tojetti studied with the famed Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins, whose painting of the first surgery, called The Gross Clinic, was bought in 2009 for $68 million by the Walmart Company.

The statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal on the upper level to the right, was sculpted by the Italian artist Georgio di Giovanni Udny. He learned marble sculpting from his famous uncle, Giovanni Strazza. It was sculpted in Pietrazanta, Italy in 1925. It is of first quality Carrara marble.

This Shrine is dedicated to the Mother of God, Mary as depicted by this Statue. It is a depiction of the Blessed Mother as she appeared in the second part of the second apparition on November 27, 1830.  

On the lower level of the Miraculous Medal Shrine are other smaller shrines to the Blessed Mother under her different titles. The first is the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, just to the right of the Virgin Most Powerful Shrine. The first apparition of our Lady of Guadalupe was December 9, 1531, almost 300 years before the apparition of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

This is a precise reproduction of the Tilma, the poncho, of St. Juan Diego in Mexico City. It is painted on the same fabric as was his cloak at that time. This is attested to on the backside of the painting. Of special devotion to the Mexican people, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of all of the Americas.

To the right is the statue of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart is on the backside of the Miraculous Medal and holds an honored place in the Shrine. The Sacred Heart represents the Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ for us. Of course, these Virtues were taught to him by his mother Mary.

To the right of this is the Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni. She is the patroness of India.  This Shrine was a gift of the Indian People who come to the Shrine. Mary is very dear to the people who call her “Ma Ma Mary”. The story of her 3 apparitions as this Madonna and Child in India can be found on the left side as you enter this small Shrine. 

To the right of this is the Miraculous Medal itself. Designed by the Blessed Mother, the medal is detailed in this shrine for everyone’s veneration. This shrine reminds us also that the Miraculous Medal is a type of portable shrine, as you are able to place this shrine around your neck to go with you everywhere. 

Just touching the medal reminds you of the Mother who loves you and waits for you with open arms. Hanging on a chain in front of your heart, it denotes the sacred place where God dwells in you. We hope that no one leaves here without one.

Finally there is the shrine with the unique statue of St. Joseph, spouse of Mary. Seated on a chair, Joseph is holding the implements of Christ’s Crucifixion in one hand and the child Jesus in the other. He lovingly looks at Jesus as Angels at Joseph’s feet hold fast to Jesus.

The Miraculous Medal Shrine is a wonderful gift of prayer and solace to all. Celebrating Mary, it intercedes with God for all who enter.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

Written by Rev. Carl L. Pieber, C.M., Executive Director of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM) in Philadelphia, PA, USA. 

Questions, answers and reflections about Marriage and Pope Francis’ Annulment Reform


Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, gestures at a press conference for the release of Pope Francis’ documents concerning changes to marriage annulments at the Vatican Sept. 8.

In response to numerous questions received regarding the two Motu proprio decrees of Pope Francis and the annulment reform announced this morning,I hope that these reflections may respond to your questions.

Catholic annulments look to many to be a simple Catholic divorce. Divorce says that the reality of marriage was there in the beginning and that now the reality is broken. “Annulment” means a ruling by a Church court that a union between a man and a woman, even if it began with a Church wedding, is not a valid marriage because it fails one of the traditional tests, such as a lack of genuine consent or a psychological incapacity to undertake the obligations, or unwillingness of one of the spouses to have children. Prior to this point, the procedure required annulments to be issued by one court and confirmed by another. Many have rightly said that this process was fraught with unnecessary delays and difficulties and added to the pain and suffering of those involved in separation, divorce and re-marriage outside the Church community.

At this morning’s press conference at the Vatican, Pope Francis issued two Apostolic Letters motu proprio (on his own authority) by which he introduced reforms to the legal structures of the Church dealing with questions of marital nullity. Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus and Mitis et misericors Iesus are the names in Latin of the two decrees respectively. The first one translates to “The Gentle Judge, The Lord Jesus.” The second is translated“The Meek and Merciful Jesus.” These new rulings make it faster, easier, and less expensive to obtain a marriage annulment. Both documents were signed by Pope Francis on August 15, 2015. They will take effect December 8, 2015, the first day of the Holy Year of Mercy.

By today’s Papal decrees, the annulment process will be free of charge because “the Church, showing itself to the faithful as a generous mother, in an matter so closely linked to the salvation of souls manifests the gratuitous love of Christ by which we were saved.” Many dioceses had already eliminated the fees for marriage annulments requested to cover for administrative costs. Also every diocese in the world has the responsibility of naming a judge or a church tribunal to process requests, with the possibility of the bishops acting as judges.

Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and also a member of the Special Commission appointed to study the issue and make the recommendations on which the reform is based, reiterated what the Church has always taught: that the reforms do not touch the nature and purpose either of marriage, or of the Church’s marriage law. Marriage is a sacrament and is by its nature indissoluble; when a marriage is accused of nullity, the Church merely investigates to see whether the parties presumed to be married ever actually executed a valid marriage contract in the eyes of the Church.

Cardinal Palmerio went on to explain that the concern of Pope Francis is in first place for the good of all the faithful, especially those whose situations have been a cause of difficulty in living the Christian life as fully as possible. “The problem,” he said, “is rather of an exquisitely pastoral nature, and consists in rendering marriage nullity trials more swift and speedy, so as the more solicitously to serve the faithful who find themselves in such situations.”

The Cardinal stressed: “We are not strictly talking then, about a legal process that leads to the ‘annulment’ of a marriage,” as though the act of the Church court were one of nullification. …Nullity is different from annulment – declaring the nullity of a marriage is absolutely different from decreeing the annulment of a marriage.”

The specific changes in today’s decrees directly address the question of speed in the process: the removal of the need for a twofold conforming sentence from both the court of first instance and then from the appellate court, which automatically reviewed the acts of the first instance trial. A single trial in the first instance will be considered sufficient for persons whose presumed marriage has been declared null, to enter into new marriages under Church law. Furthermore, there is an introduction of the possibility for a single judge to try and issue rulings on individual cases; the creation of an expedited trial process for certain cases, in which the evidence of nullity is abundant, and both parties accuse the marriage of nullity.

“The power of the keys of Peter remains ever unchanged,” explained the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, SJ, who was also a member of the reform commission and present at today’s Vatican press conference. “In this [nullity] process as well, the appeal to the Apostolic See is open to all, in order that the bond between the See of Peter and the particular Churches be confirmed.” Archbishop Ladaria concluded his remarks saying, “We all hope that this reform of the Code of Canon Law will bring with it the fruit the Holy Father desires, and that many Pastors and faithful desire with him as well.”

The upcoming Synod & Communion for the divorced & re-married

Pope Francis has expressed concern several times that the upcoming Synod on marriage and the family must not become focused on a narrow canon of contentious issues, but should instead consider the broad range of challenges to family life, including the impact of poverty, war, and forced migration, and should also focus on how the Church can support families. This morning’s decrees are a clear indication by the Pope that the upcoming October Synod on the Family will not be embroiled in debating what a hypothetical annulment reform might look like.  It is now a fait accompli.

Today’s decrees did not address the significant question of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried. The Church did not back down from its stand on divorce, but the Church was at least trying to show greater compassion and outreach to those who have experienced a breakup of their marriage. By implementing the compromise in advance, Pope Francis has not resolved the Communion debate; he has put it into a new context. The question must be studied further by the pastors of the Church.

In terms of future directions from this morning’s Press Conference, Cardinal Cocopalmerio also addressed the problem of new civil regulations that exist today relating to marriage and family laws that are incompatible with the doctrine and discipline of the Church. These new civil regulations inevitably have an impact on the Church’s Canon Law. How should the Church react to such new civil legislations in many parts of the world? The Cardinal specifically mentioned laws that allow gay couples to adopt children.  When gay couples wish to have their child baptized, how should the Church proceed? Is this baptism? More study is needed on these questions.

A Biblical Reflection on marriage and divorce

It is not by coincidence that Pope Francis’ reform of laws pertaining to marriage be announced today, on the eve of his visit to the United States, on the eve of the Synod of Bishops, and shortly before the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy that will begin on December 8, 2015, the very same day these changes to marriage law take effect. This morning’s press conference was driven by a pastoral desire to lift the darkness of doubt from people’s hearts about their marital status.

It is important to turn to the Scriptures to look closely at Jesus’ dealings with similar painful, human situations. In Mark’s Gospel (10:2-16) the Pharisees confront Jesus with the divisive issue of divorce and its legitimacy: “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”

“What did Moses command you?” Jesus asked. They replied that Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss the wife. Jesus declares that the law of Moses permitted divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) only because of the hardness of hearts (Mark 10:4-5). In citing Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, Jesus proclaims permanence to be the divine intent from the beginning concerning human marriage (Mark 10:6-8). He reaffirms this with the declaration that what God has joined together no human being must separate (9).

Jesus wisely and prudently responds to the loaded question by appealing to God’s plan of complete unity and equality in drawing men and women together in marriage. He affirms that husband and wife are united so intimately that they actually become one and indivisible. In answering a direct question that was deliberately designed to entrap him, Jesus was speaking of the nature of marriage and of that only. His emphasis is on its holiness and covenant fidelity and not on the illegitimacy of divorce. The goal of marriage is not divorce and annulment.

Jesus did not condemn people who did their best and ended up divorced. He was not judging such people, throwing them out of the community of the Church, or assigning them places in hell. He was only affirming the outlook taken by couples themselves when they stand before the Church’s minister and pronounce their wedding vows.

Some divorced men and women have erroneously been told by well-meaning people that they are excommunicated from the Catholic Church, which is certainly not true. Their pain is often enormous; their need for understanding and acceptance is great. They need unambiguous Catholic teaching to enlighten them and lead them to Christ. They need friends, people to pray for and with them, and they need God in their lives in the midst of rupture and brokenness. They deserve understanding and prayerful care.

A positive teaching on annulments must be offered in every parish community. Though it may be a tedious and painful process for some people, an annulment can be an instrument of grace, healing, closure, and peace of mind and heart. In our pastoral strategies, how do we welcome the sanctifying role of Jesus Christ in the marriage of a man and woman? Are we ready to offer Jesus’ teaching on marriage with the openness to children? What are some of the weaknesses and painful situations that afflict marriages today? Can these marriages be saved and the brokenness in the husband-wife relationships be healed? What is the role of faith in all of this?

We must pray for married people, that they may grow in this awareness of the sacramentality of marriage and its capacity to reflect the love of God to our world. Let us never forget those who have loved and lost, and those who have suffered the pain of separation, divorce and alienation. May they find healing in the community of the Church, and welcome from those whose marriages have been so fruitful.

Pope Francis’ Special Relationship with the Mother of the Lord

A Reflection for Mary’s Birthday – September 8

Anyone who has known former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio understands well that his Marian devotion, far from being a recent manifestation, is a long-established devotion. From the very beginning of his Petrine ministry, he has let us experience his love for Mary, Mother of the Lord. Appearing for the first time to the world, he told us on the night of March 13 “Tomorrow I want to go to pray to the Madonna, that she may protect Rome.” We were moved the following morning by the scenes of the newly elected Pope praying in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.  

This Basilica was built in honor of Mary, Mother of God, which is the first and most important title of Our Lady. It is a living witness to that great moment in the history of the ancient Church, the Council of Ephesus, in which the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary was authoritatively defined. This Church is the first Marian shrine in Rome and in the entire West, in which the image of the Mother of God “Theotokos” (God bearer) is venerated under the title of Salus Populi Romani.

From his very first meeting with his brother cardinals in the Clementine Hall on March 15th, Pope Francis stressed his link with Mary and the role he ascribes to Jesus’ Mother. He said: “I entrust my ministry and your ministry to the powerful intercession of Mary, our Mother, Mother of the Church. Under Her maternal gaze may each one of you walk happy and docile on your path, listening to the voice of Her divine Son, strengthening your unity, persevering in your common prayer and bearing witness to the true faith in the constant presence of the Lord.”

Francis has visited the Roman basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on the eve of every one of his foreign visits, and upon returning to Rome, goes from the airport to the basilica to pray in gratitude for graces and blessings received on the journeys. On the eve of his departure for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for World Youth Day 2013, Pope Francis visited once again the Basilica and entrusted World Youth Day 2013 to Mary’s care. During his unforgettable experience at World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil, he made a side-trip to the famous shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in central Brazil.

Pope Francis in imitation of the Blessed Mother!

Aparecida evokes first of all a major Marian shrine that was the venue of a very important meeting of bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean region back in 2007. During that important continental gathering, in which then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio played a decisive role, bishops were confronted on a daily basis with the traditional piety of Latin America that finds rich, beautiful expressions manifested toward the Mother of the Lord. The Mother of the Lord brings together past, present and future and offers countless opportunities of creativity and fidelity to the millions of people who flock to this shrine.

In a very moving homily in Aparcida during the 2013 Brazilian World Youth Day, he spoke these words about Mary:

“When the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks: “Show us Jesus.” It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary. …Today, looking forward to the World Youth Day which has brought me to Brazil, I too come to knock on the door of the house of Mary – who loved and raised Jesus – that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal. For this reason I would like to speak of three simple attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy.

…Dear friends, we have come to knock at the door of Mary’s house. She has opened it for us, she has let us in and she shows us her Son. Now she asks us to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Yes, dear Mother, we are committed to doing whatever Jesus tells us! And we will do it with hope, trusting in God’s surprises and full of joy.”

During his recent “tour de force” in Latin America, Pope Francis’ first homily in Quito, Ecuador on July 7, 2015 in the Parco Bicentenario offered another opportunity to speak about Mary, Mother of the Lord:

“Mary is attentive, she is attentive in the course of this wedding feast, she is concerned for the needs of the newly-weds. She is not closed in on herself, worried only about her little world. Her love makes her ‘outgoing’ towards others. She does not seek her friends to say what is happening, to criticize the poor organization of the wedding feast. And since she is attentive, she discretely notices that the wine has run out. Wine is a sign of happiness, love and plenty. How many of our adolescents and young people sense that these is no longer any of that wine to be found in their homes? How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives? How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love, from their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren? This lack of this ‘wine’ can also be due to unemployment, illness and difficult situations which our families around the world may experience. Mary is not a ‘demanding’ mother, nor a mother-in-law who revels in our lack of experience, our mistakes and the things we forget to do. Mary, quite simply, is a Mother!”

On July 9 as he bade farewell to the clergy of Ecuador in the Marian shrine of El Quinche, the Bishop of Rome said:

“…Something else that Our Lady’s Presentation makes me think of is perseverance. In the evocative iconography associated with this feast, the Child Mary is shown moving away from her parents as she climbs the steps of the Temple. Mary does not look back and, in a clear reference to the evangelical admonition, she moves forward with determination. We, like the disciples in the Gospel, also need to move forward as we bring to all peoples and places the Good News of Jesus. Perseverance in mission is not about going from house to house, looking for a place where we will be more comfortably welcomed.”

On Saturday July 11 at the Marian shrine of Caacupé, Paraguay, Francis again gave a deeply human, moving reflection about Mary:

 “Being here with you makes me feel at home, at the feet of our Mother, the Virgin of Miracles of Caacupé.  In every shrine we, her children, encounter our Mother and are reminded that we are brothers and sisters.  Shrines are places of festival, of encounter, of family.  We come to present our needs. We come to give thanks, to ask forgiveness and to begin again.   How many baptisms, priestly and religious vocations, engagements and marriages, have been born at the feet of our Mother!   How many tearful farewells!  We come bringing our lives, because here we are at home and it is wonderful to know there is someone waiting for us.

  1.  The birth of Jesus.  There was no room for them.  They had no house, no dwelling to receive her Son.  There was no place where she could give birth.  They had no family close by; they were alone.  The only place available was a stall of animals.  Surely she remembered the words of the angel: “Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you”.   She might well have asked herself: “Where is he now?”. 
  1. The flight to Egypt.  They had to leave, to go into exile.  Not only was there no room for them, no family nearby, but their lives were also in danger.  They had to depart and go to a foreign land.  They were migrants, on account of the envy and greed of the King.  There too she might well have asked: “What happened to all those things promised by the angel?
  1.  Jesus’ death on the cross.  There can be no more difficult experience for a mother than to witness the death of her child.  It is heartrending.  We see Mary there, at the foot of the cross, like every mother, strong, faithful, staying with her child even to his death, death on the cross.    Then she encourages and supports the disciples.

We look at her life, and we feel understood, we feel heard.  We can sit down to pray with her and use a common language in the face of the countless situations we encounter each day.  We can identify with many situations in her own life.  We can tell her what is happening in our lives, because she understands.”

In one of the touching moments of the visit to Asunción, Paraguay on July 12, 2015, Francis visited Bañado Norte di Asunción, an area where many poor people live and where the Church and the State provide various projects of social assistance.  He reflected on the plight of the Holy Family in the time of Jesus and the plight of poor families today:

“I have looked forward to being with you today. I could not come to Paraguay without spending some time with you, here on your land. We are meeting in this Parish named after the Holy Family, and I confess that as I arrived, everything reminded me of the Holy Family. To see your faces, your children, your elderly, and to hear about your experiences and everything you went through to be here, to have a dignified life and a roof over your heads, to endure the bad weather and the flooding of these last few weeks…

All this makes me think of the little family of Bethlehem. Your struggles have not taken away your laughter, your joy and your hope. Struggles which have not lessened your sense of solidarity but if anything, have made it grow.

I would like to think for a moment about Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem. They were forced to leave home, families and friends. They had to leave all that they had and to go somewhere else, to a place where they knew no one, a place where they had no house or family. That was when that young couple had Jesus. That was how they gave us Jesus. They were alone, in a strange land, just the three of them. Then, all of a sudden, shepherds began to arrive. People just like them who had to leave their homes to find better opportunities for their families. Their lives were affected by harsh weather but by other kinds of hardship too.”

05 Mary Undoer of Knots

Mary, Undoer of Knots

Finally, Pope Francis has introduced the world to the little known Marian devotion to “Mary, Undoer of Knots.” He has a very special devotion to Mary under a title that goes all the way back to the second century. When young Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio was completing his graduate studies in Germany, he was captivated by a Bavarian painting of “Holy Mary, Our Lady Undoer of Knots” that he saw in a Church in Augsburg. In the painting the Virgin is shown in the act of untying a knot on a long white ribbon while crushing the serpent, which stands for evil. Bergoglio obtained a copy of the painting and brought it back with him to Argentina where he helped spread the devotion among his people. While this devotion is relatively unknown in our part of the world, it is known and loved in Argentina. While this devotion originated from a painting executed by the German artist Johann Georg Schidtner around 1700, located in St. Peter am Perlach Church in Augsburg, Germany.

The second-century devotion comes from an historic period less than one hundred years after the death of the Apostles. St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote: “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.” The understanding of Mary’s universal mediation and her subordinate role to Christ in human salvation is beautifully summed up in this saying of Saint Irenaeus. The fact that it goes back to the second century reveals that this is not a medieval accretion. It’s a doctrine going back to the Apostolic period. From the earliest Church, the faithful commit themselves to Mary’s intercession when confronted with a difficult situation in their lives.

Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love,

Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need,

Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children

because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy

that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes

upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. ?

You know very well how desperate I am, my pain,

and how I am bound by these knots. ?

Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted

the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children,

I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. ?

No one, not even the Evil One himself,

can take it away from your precious care.

In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. ?

Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power

with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus,

take into your hands today this knot.

Deacon-structing Marriage part 10: The Cross


When my wife and I got married we received many gifts. A group of my mom’s friends gave us what we thought was a pious, if not most unusual gift: a crucifix. With it was a card that read, “every time you gaze on this cross, remember that this is how you must love each other.”

Of course this is a reference to what we spoke about last week. Paul tells the Ephesians that husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the Church. How did Christ love the Church? Totally? He gave his life for her.

Christ wants to abide with us and in us. He wants to give us his life. He wants to be with us forever in eternity. Not just with “all of us” together – but intimately, personally, with each one of us, in a way that only God can be with us intimately – the way that the Holy Trinity is intimate. Our minds can’t fully comprehend that – that’s why Paul says that it is a “great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). But we can partly understand it. The closest analogy of that union is Marriage.

With all the Sacraments, beginning with Baptism, we are being brought more and more into the very life of the Trinity. We are not just being given life, but we are brought into the total-love-give-and-take-dance of the Trinity. God wants to be united to us, in Communion with us, in the same way that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are in Communion with each other. Marriage is an earthly sign of that heavenly union and so is the Eucharist.

Every Mass is a wedding banquet. Every one of us, as we approach the Eucharistic altar should approach as a bride to her wedding. I never really thought of myself as the Bride of Christ, but that is what I am. That is what we are. That is what God wants us to be.

And so all kinds of questions come to mind: How do I approach the Eucharist? How do I prepare for Mass? How much time do I spend in prayer before and after receiving the Eucharist? Am I conscious of taking Jesus with me in my daily life after receiving Him in the Eucharist?

These are all questions that a bride and groom consider as they approach their wedding day: “How are we preparing? What music and flowers will we have? Where will the reception be? Who are we inviting? More importantly, how am I preparing for this Marriage that will last for the rest of my life? And maybe some of those questions that we don’t share out loud: How anxious am I? How much am I looking forward to our wedding night? How excited am I to consummate our marriage?

How many of us teared up while exchanging our vows on our wedding day? I did. (actually, both my wife and I teared up while going through the vows at the rehearsal!) How many of us tear up when receiving Christ in the Eucharist? How many of us tear up when we hear Him say, “Take and eat; this is my body”? Those are his words of consecration. Those are his words of consummation.

The crucifix that was given to us on our wedding hangs proudly in our kitchen. I have the opportunity to gaze upon it many times a day, every day. Every time I do, I am reminded of how much God loves me and I am reminded of that total love and total union to which I am called. Every time I receive the Eucharist I am reminded of Christ’s total sacrifice, his total self-giving on the Cross and I am brought into Communion with Christ.

That’s why I love the Song of the Cross that was written by Susan Hookong-Taylor and Ana Da Costa for World Youth Day 2002: “Love, lifted on the Cross for me; my Lord, my God, my Salvation. Love, lifted high to set me free, my Lord, my God, my Salvation.” The Cross is a symbol of love. The Eucharist is love. In Marriage, we come closest to living that love.

Please, write to me (pedro@saltandlighttv.org) or reach me via twitter (@deaconpedrogm) and let me know your thoughts on all this. Next week, as we begin to prepare for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, let’s look closer at love and what love means.

DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:

pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm