Preparing for Pope Francis’ Visit to Turkey

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On Thursday while Americans feast on turkey on Thanksgiving Day, Pope Francis prepares for his three-day Apostolic Journey to Turkey for another kind of feast: of ecumenical relations, interreligious dialogue and peace. Breaking another record for papal trips, Pope Francis on Friday sets off on his second international journey this week alone, travelling to the Turkish cities of Ankara and Istanbul. Just three days after his trip to Strasbourg for meetings with the European Parliament and Council of Europe, the Pope is responding to the invitation of both the government of Turkey and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world.

Francis is the fourth pope to travel to Turkey, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, while Archbishop Angelo Roncalli is also remembered with great affection by the Turkish people, as he served as apostolic delegate there for nine years before being elected Pope John XXIII.

Let us join Pope Francis in praying that “Peter’s visit to his brother Andrew may bring fruits of peace, sincere dialogue between religions and harmony in the Turkish nation.”

Visits of Ecumenical Patriarchs to Rome and Popes to the Ecumenical Patriarchate

The official meetings of the Primates of the Churches have always been ecclesiastical events of great importance, for the reinforcement, and hopefully, the restoration of the unity of faith in the nexus of love. Such visits are in accordance with the commandment of the Divine Founder of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, with its open and ecumenical spirit, developed a series of ecumenical initiatives of historical importance in the well-known Encyclicals of 1902, 1904 and 1920. These encyclicals aimed at the unity of all Christians in the communion of faith and sacraments. These initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have led to a Theological Dialogue of the Orthodox Church with the sister Roman-Catholic Church “on equal terms.”

It has been the goal that beyond all other fraternal gestures, the mutual visits of Popes to Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarchs to Rome have marked a new era in the relations between the two Churches. It has helped in the understanding of the people of God, that there be effort, from both sides, for the achievement of the unity, so “that all may be one”, according to the words of the Lord in His High Priestly Prayer (John: 17).

The Visits of the Popes of Rome to Constantinople during the First Millennium

During the first millennium, there were no visits of the Primate of Constantinople to Rome, because New Rome had become the capital of the Empire.

In 536, Pope Agapetus of Rome accompanied by five bishops, visited Constantinople on a diplomatic mission for the Ostrogoth King Theodahad of Italy.

Vigilius, who was a Papal representative in Constantinople before his election as Pope, ascended the Papal Throne of Rome with the assistance of the Empress Theodora. Pope Vigilius came to Constantinople in 547 during a period of theological upheaval. He returned again in 552, but died before he could return.

The Papal Throne was not officially invited and did not participate in the Quinisext Ecumenical Council, which was convened for the institution of Canons. Pope Constantine went to Constantinople with an entourage of clergy and laity, where he was welcomed with great honours. He then departed for Nicomedia, where he met with Emperor Justinian II. Pope Constantine recognized under these terms the Quinisext Ecumenical Council and returned to Rome in 711.

The Efforts for Unification of the Two Churches after the Schism (1054)

The journey of Patriarch Joseph of Constantinople to Italy (1438-1439)

The Emperor of Byzantium John VIII Palaiologos headed the mission of the Orthodox that would discuss the issue of the reunification of the Churches in the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439). Among the members of this delegation was Patriarch Joseph who was accompanied by many hierarchs. During his meeting with the Pope in Ferrara the protocol that demanded kissing the foot of the Pontiff was not followed, and so they exchanged the kiss of peace standing. The main goal of the Orthodox delegation in this Council was to accomplish the union of the Churches without surrendering in matters of faith. Nevertheless, even from the preliminary discussions, the Orthodox were divided in two groups: the ones who were in favor of the union and those who were against it. This division grew even more after the transfer of the Council to Florence.

Patriarch Joseph was hesitantly following the unionist policy of the Emperor, who was interested mainly in securing military aid from the West, in order to save the state from the Ottoman threat. The participation of Patriarch Joseph in the work of the Council was limited, because he suffered from dropsy, whereas most of the Orthodox bishops refused to surrender in matters of faith. The Emperor, watching this situation, was worried about the outcome of this Council and he pressured the bishops for a conciliatory signing of the union. In the end, the Synodical members of the Eastern Church, with the exception of Mark of Ephesus, Eugenikos, came together in the residence of the ill Patriarch and signed the document of the unification (3 June 1439). After a few days, but before the Council of Florence came to an end, the ill Patriarch Joseph passed away and was buried in the Church of Santa Maria Novella. The so-called Union of Florence was never accepted in the East.

The first contacts of Patriarch Athenagoras with the Roman-Catholic Church

This Patriarch from Epirus, Greece with his discernment, his diligence, hard work and the spirit of love that distinguished him, gave new inspiration to the ecumenical mission of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Besides his primary interest for the improvement of the relations of all Orthodox Churches, he worked with intense zeal and dedication for the rekindling of the relations of the Orthodox with the other Churches.

From the illness of Pope Pius XII that led to his death on October 9, 1958, and through the entire reign of Pope John XXIII, Patriarch Athenagoras expressed his friendly intentions, his fraternal feelings and his genuine interest for the rapprochement of the two Churches. Alongside the numerous exchanges of letters, there had been frequent mutual visits in Constantinople and Rome of the members of pertinent Committees for the promotion of the issue of unification.

The relations between the two Churches began to make slow but firm steps of progress. When Patriarch Athenagoras was informed about the dire state of the health of Pope John XXIII, he sent a telegram (30 May 1963) wishing for a fast recovery. The passing away of the elder Pope John XXIII of Rome deeply saddened him.

Paul VI, who ascended the Throne of Rome after Pope John XXIII, continued the efforts for better relations between the two Churches.

The Patriarch was informed also officially by a Papal delegate, (9 December 1963) about an upcoming pilgrimage of the Pope to Jerusalem. The Patriarch wrote to the Pope (26 December 1963), telling him of his desire to meet with him in Jerusalem. With a telegram to the Patriarch (30 December 1963), the Pope expressed his joy about their upcoming meeting.

The Meeting of the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras with the Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem (5-6 January 1964)

The Primates of the two Churches met in an atmosphere of joy and excitement on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where they exchanged the kiss of peace. Patriarch Athenagoras in addressing Pope Paul VI during his visit to the Delegation of the Holy See to the Mount of Olives (5 January 1964) described their meeting as historical and blessed, and he added: “the Christian world lived for centuries the night of division. Its eyes have become heavy by looking at the darkness. May our meeting here become the twilight of a shining and holy day, in which the Christian generations to come, will receive the sacred body and blood of our Lord from the same Cup, in love and peace and unity, praising and glorifying the one Lord and Savior of all.”

The historic meeting of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem. (January 5-6, 1964.) 

In his reply, Pope Paul VI during his visit to the Patriarchal residence in the Mount of Olives (6 January 1964) referred to the unrealized wish of the Patriarch for a meeting with his predecessor, Pope John XXIII due to the untimely death of the latter. He highlighted the fact that their present meeting bore witness to the will “that brings us to the very skillful task of overcoming the discords and removing obstacles; for it is this will, to follow steadily the way that is acknowledged by all, that leads towards concord and reconciliation.”

The visit of Pope Paul VI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate (25 July 1967)

After these auspicious ecclesiastical events, Pope Paul VI wrote a letter to Patriarch Athenagoras (13 July 1967) expressing his desire to visit the Phanar “in order to strengthen the bonds of faith, love and friendship.” The Patriarch welcomed with excitement this historical decision, and the Pope went to Constantinople on 25 July 1967. In his address to Patriarch Athenagoras, in the Patriarchal Church, he noted: “In the light of our love to Christ and in our fraternal love to one another we discover even more the deep identity of our faith, and the points in which we still disagree, must not prevent us from comprehending this deep unity.”

In his reply, Patriarch Athenagoras, underlined as their main goal: “to join that which is divided, with mutual ecclesiastical actions, wherever that might be possible, affirming the common points of faith and rule, directing thus the Theological Dialogue to the beginning of a wholesome community, in the most foundational of faith and of the devout and structural freedom of theological thought, that has been inspired by our common Fathers, and of the variety of local traditions, as it has been pleasing to the Church from the very beginning.”

The visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras to the Church of Rome (26-28 October 1967)

Following this historical and successful visit of the Pope to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Patriarch Athenagoras notified the Pope with a letter (6 October 1967) of his desire to visit Rome. This visit took place on 26 October 1967.

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Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras at the Basilica of St. Peter, 1967.

In the common declaration of the two Church leaders that was issued at the end of the Patriarch’s visit to Rome (28 October 1967), it was stressed that “while recognizing that in the journey towards the unity of all Christians there is still a long way to go, and that between the Roman-Catholic and Orthodox Churches there still exist points to be clarified and obstacles to be overcome before arriving at the unity in the profession of faith which is necessary for reestablishment of full communion, they rejoice at the fact that their meeting has played a part in helping their Churches to make a further discovery of themselves as sister Churches.”

On 30 November 1979, the feast day of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Andrew, the First-Called, and also Feast Day of the Throne of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Pope John Paul II of Rome, of blessed memory, together with his entourage, visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate and attended the Divine Liturgy that was celebrated in the Patriarchal Cathedral. The Pope was welcomed by Patriarch Demetrios of blessed memory, together with all the Synodical and local Hierarchs, as well as with other Hierarchs from abroad.

Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios, November 30, 1979.

In the Joint Declaration of the Pope and the Patriarch, which was issued in the Phanar on 30 November, after the end of the discussion of the two Primates and with the participation of memebers of the two Commissions on the Dialogue, they stressed their gratitude to their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. They stated that the Theological Dialogue does not aim only at the restoration of full communion between the two sisters Churches, Roman-Catholic and Orthodox, but also at the unity of the entire Christian world.

The visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios to the Church of Rome (3-7 December 1987)

To reciprocate the visit of Pope John Paul II of Rome to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 29-30 November 1979, Patriarch Demetrios visited the Church of Rome from 3 to 7 December 1987. His stay in Rome affirmed the will of the Patriarch and of the Church in Constantinople to strengthen the relations from both sides and the bonds of love for reconciliation and unity.

This visit was not simply one of etiquette. It was an historic meeting of the Primates of the Churches of the East and West, as well as a message that was addressed to the entire world. It coincided also with the anniversary of 1200 years from the convening of the 7th Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 787 that led to the triumph of the Orthodox faith.

The Pope and the Patriarch, together from the Balcony of Blessings, addressed a greeting to the people who had gathered on St. Peter’s Square.

The First Visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Church of Rome (27-30 June 1995)

After his election and enthronement on the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Church of Rome with his entourage from 27 to 30 June 1995, in order to participate in the festivities of the Feast Day of the Throne of Rome. The Patriarch was welcomed by a numerous delegation of Pope John Paul II of Rome, of blessed memory.

During his stay in the Church of Old Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch visited the Community of Saint Egidio, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Basilica of St. John of the Lateran, as well as the homonymous Pontific University. He visited also the French Seminary, where he stayed during his Post-Graduate studies (1963-1966).

On 29 June, the Feast Day of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the Ecumenical Patriarch attended together with his entourage, the festive Divine Liturgy that was celebrated by the Pope, in the Basilica of St. Peter. After the reading of the biblical passages, the two Primates, recited the Creed in Greek without the addition of the Filioque. In the evening of the same day, in the residence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Tower of St. John, the two Primates signed a Joint Declaration on the end of the visit of His All Holiness to the Pope.

In this Declaration, they commended the initiatives of their Predecessors, of blessed memory, Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI, and their meetings in Jerusalem, and later on in the Phanar and in Rome for the lifting of the old anathemas, the peace of the Churches, and reconciliation; they also referred to the mutual visits of Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Demetrios for the encouragement of the Dialogue of love and truth, which was proven very fruitful. It was therefore possible for this dialogue to continue in an effective way and to proclaim that the two Churches recognize each other as Sisters, jointly responsible for the preservation of the One Church of God, in faith to the divine plan, especially in the matter of unity.

The Second Visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Church of Rome (23-25 January 2002)

On 23 January 2002, His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, together with His entourage, visited Rome once again. The following day, 24 January, he participated in the Day of Prayer for Peace, organized by Pope John Paul II of Rome. This Prayer Day took place in Assisi, and among the participants were His Beatitude, Patriarch Ignatius of Alexandria, and His Beatitude, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, as well as representatives of many other Orthodox Churches and numerous representatives of many denominations and religions. During this event, the Ecumenical Patriarch prayed for peace in the world and gave a speech on “Testimony to Peace.”

On 25 January, the Ecumenical Patriarch had a private meeting with the Pope.

The Third Visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Church of Rome (28 June – 2 July 2004)

The third visit of His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Church of Rome took place after the official invitation from Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, to participate in the Feast Day of the Throne of the Church of Rome, and to celebrate the 40th Anniversary from the historical meeting of their predecessors in the Holy Land. In the evening of 29 June, the Ecumenical Patriarch, together with his entourage, attended the Divine Liturgy that was celebrated by the Pope, in honor of the Firsts among the Apostles, Peter and Paul in the square of the Basilica of St. Peter. The two Primates exchanged the kiss of peace and blessed the faithful who were gathered there.

The Vatican Common Declaration of the two Patriarchs took place on the 40th Anniversary of the meeting of the Primates, of blessed memory, of the two Churches, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope John Paul II sign the Common Declaration at the Vatican. 

In the morning of Wednesday, 30 June, the official bilateral discussions of the Delegations of the two Churches took place. His All-Holiness, expressing a Pan-Orthodox request, asked the Pope for the return of the Holy Relics of the Holy Patriarchs and Great Teachers of the Undivided Church, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom to the Church of Constantinople, a request that was granted during the fourth visit.

The Fourth Visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Church of Rome (26-27 November 2004)

On Friday, 26 November, His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew traveled, together with his entourage, to the Church of Rome in order to receive, by the Primate of the Roman-Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, the Holy Relics of the two Holy Hierarchs, Great Teachers of the Undivided Church, and His Predecessors on the Throne of the Holy and Great Church of Christ in Constantinople, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. The Sacred shrines of the two Holy men were kept in the Venerable Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople until 1204, when they were removed and taken away by the Crusaders and were brought first to Venice, and later on to Rome, to be safeguarded in the Venerable Church of St. Peter.

Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the ceremony returning the relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. 

On the morning of 27 November, during a fitting ceremony in the Basilica of St. Peter, the Pope himself, of blessed memory, handed over the Holy Relics of the two Holy Fathers to His All Holiness for their return to their home, after the passing of eight whole centuries. The Holy Relics, on their journey from Rome to Constantinople, were accompanied by the Ecumenical Patriarch and his entourage, together with an official Pontific Delegation, headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who attended the Feast Day of the Throne of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 30 November.

The Journey of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Church of Rome for the funeral service of Pope John Paul II of Rome (7-8 April 2005)

Late in the evening on Saturday, 2 April 2005, Pope John Paul II of Rome, fell asleep in the Lord, after a long illness.

The same evening the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued an official Statement on the passing away of His Holiness. His All-Holiness, together with His entourage, went to Rome in the evening of Thursday, 7 April, in order to personally attend the following day the funeral service for His Holiness, with whom he had met four times in the last decade and had cooperated closely to promote relations between the two Churches.

The Patriarch, after arriving at the airport, went straight to Saint Peter’s Basilica, where he prayed in front of the deceased, who was lying in state for the people to pay their last respects to the Pope of blessed memory. The Patriarch placed on the body of the Pope a cross of white flowers.

The Visit of Pope Benedict XVI of Rome to the Ecumenical Patriarchate (November 29 – December 1, 2006)

In November of 2006, the official visit of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI of Rome to the Phanar during the Feast-day of the Throne of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, continued this radiant tradition of the past decades.

Pope Benedict XVI continued the work of his predecessors, initiating this visit shortly after his enthronement on the Apostolic Throne of Rome, after the official invitation of His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to attend the festivities on November 30, the Feast Day of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Andrew the First-Called, the Feast Day of the Throne of the Holy and Great Church of Christ in Constantinople.

Pope Benedict and Ecumenical Patriarch at the Phanar, November 30, 2006.

This visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the leading Church in the Orthodox world, of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI of Rome, who is a profound Theologian and a renowned University Professor and who knows well the Orthodox Church and Theology, constituted a point of hope for the reinforcement of the climate of mutual trust between the two Churches, as well as for the successful continuation and outcome of the Theological Dialogue which aims at the unity of the Churches, when the Lord will grant it.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew attends Interfaith Peace Summit hosted by Pope Benedict XVI in Naples (21 October 2007)

His All-Holiness was invited by Pope Benedict XVI to attend the 3rd interfaith peace summit, which was held in Naples. Previous summits were in Assisi by Pope John Paul II (1986 and 2002).

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican (6 March 2008)

On the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Oriental Pontifical Institute, where His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew completed his doctoral studies in canon law, the Ecumenical Patriarch was invited to address the faculty and students of the institute on the subject of “Theology, Liturgy and Silence.” He also visited Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, where he held private conversations and joint prayers in the papal chapel.

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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican (28-30 June 2008)

On the occasion of the official inauguration of the Pauline Year, His All-Holiness attended the vesperal service at the abbey of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew participated in the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Sistine Chapel (18 October 2008)

For the first time in history, at the invitation of the Pope of Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch addressed the Synod of Roman Catholic bishops in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. The subject of the address by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” For the full text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address, click here.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew attends Interfaith Peace Summit hosted by Pope Benedict XVI in Assisi (27 October 2011)

His All-Holiness attended and addressed the 4th interfaith peace summit, which was hosted by Pope Benedict in Assisi.

The Visit of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Church of Rome on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Vatican Council II (10-11 October 2012)

In October of 2012, His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew traveled, together with his entourage, to the Church of Rome on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Vatican Council II. At the invitation of the Pope, His All-Holiness addresses the crowds at St. Peter’s Square.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, 2012.

The Journey of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Church of Rome for the inaugural mass of Pope Francis (19-20 March 2013)

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew becomes the first Ecumenical Patriarch to ever attend the installation of a Pope.

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Vatican after Pope Francis’ installation as Pope. 

The Apostolic Pilgrimage of Pope Francis and His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Jerusalem to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras (25-26 May 2014)

Now once again, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will meet in Jerusalem to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their predecessors’ meeting.  This meeting of the venerable Primates of the leading Sees of Christendom has great significance. On the one hand, because is constitutes the unanimous recognition of the fruitful Dialogue of Charity for the relations of the two Churches, and on the other hand, because it lights, through the validity of their exemplary authority, the way of the official Theological Dialogue for overcoming the traumatic experiences of the past. This common course in the way of unity is a command of the divine Founder of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is the common mission of the venerable Primates of the two Churches.

Information courtesy of Vatican Radio SEDOC.

Recap of Pope Francis’ Visit to European Parliament

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The man who designed the European Union flag, Arsène Heitz, was inspired by scripture and the image of Mary on the Miraculous Medal. While he never hid the fact that the flag he designed is “Our Lady’s flag”, the European Union itself has offered different explanations for the evocative design. The flag, and the EU explanation of it, highlights modern Europe’s relationship with its Christian roots. During his day long visit to the European Parliament and Council of Europe, Pope Francis focused heavily on the Christian values upon which the European community found common ground and founded a union meant to ensure peace on the continent.

Join us Wednesday, November 26 at 1:30 pm ET in English and 5:00 pm ET in French for a recap of Pope Francis’ visit to Strasbourg and his address to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Watch online.

Rehearsal of the Great History of Memories

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First Sunday of Advent, Year B – Sunday, November 30, 2014

This weekend the Church enters into the liturgical season of Advent. Christians proclaim that the Messiah has indeed come and that God’s reign is “at hand.”

Advent does not change God. Advent deepens our longing and anticipation that God will do what prophets and the anointed have promised. We pray that God will yield to our need to see and feel the promise of salvation here and now.

During this time of longing and waiting for the Lord, we are invited to pray and to ponder the Word of God, but most of all, to become a reflection of the light of Christ, indeed of Christ himself. But we all know how difficult it is to mirror the light of Christ, especially when we have become disillusioned with life, accustomed to the shadowy existence of the world, or grown content with mediocrity and emptiness. Advent reminds us that we must be ready to meet the Lord at any and every moment of life. Just like a security alarm wakes up a homeowner, Advent wakes up Christians who are in danger of sleeping through their lives.

For what or for whom are we waiting in life? What virtues or gifts are we praying to receive this year? Do we long for healing and reconciliation in broken relationships? What meaning and understanding do we desire to have in the midst of our own darkness, sadness, and mystery? How are we living out our baptismal promises? What qualities of Jesus are we seeking in our own lives this Advent? Many times, the things, qualities, gifts, or people we await give us great insights into who we really are. Tell me whom you are waiting for and I will tell you who you are!

Advent is a time for opening eyes, focusing views, paying attention, keeping perspective on God’s presence in the world and in our own lives.

In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah on the first Sunday of Advent, the Almighty One breathes hope back into the heart and soul of Israel and shapes Israel and events anew just as a potter shapes his pottery.

In the second Scripture reading, writing to his beloved community at Corinth, Paul looked forward to the “Day of the Lord” when the Lord Jesus will be revealed to rescue those whom He has called. And in Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent this year, Mark’s depiction of the doorkeeper watching out for the Lord whenever he “suddenly” appears is an image of what we are expected to be doing all year long but especially during the season of Advent.

Our own baptism is a share in the royal, messianic mission of Jesus. Anyone who shares this mission also shares royal responsibilities, in particular, care for the afflicted and the hurting. Advent is a wonderful opportunity to “activate” our baptismal promises and commitment.

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once wrote: “The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope. It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us, memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.”

This Advent, allow me to suggest that you mend a quarrel. Build peace. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a kind answer even though you would like to respond harshly. Encourage a young person to believe in him/herself. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Make time. Forego a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. Listen more. Apologize if you were wrong. Be kind even if you weren’t wrong!

Try to understand. Flout envy. Examine the demands you make on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate. Be kind, be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express gratitude. Go to Church. Stay in Church a little while longer than usual. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it once again. Speak it even more loudly. Speak it quietly. Rejoice, for the Lord is near!

[The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37.]

This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2008 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store.

(CNS Photo/Bob Roller)

 

Seeking the heart of Marguerite Bourgeoys

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I am a sister of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame (CND). On April 1, 2013, I left Japan on a one-year assignment to be a member of the International Community located in the Mother House in Montreal.

First, let me briefly introduce the history of the CND in Japan. It was in 1932 that five French Canadian sisters crossed the Pacific Ocean at the request of a Canadian Dominican bishop overseeing the Catholic Church in Tohoku District in Japan. The sisters established a mission in Fukushima City, a small agricultural town located 240 km northeast of Tokyo. Though the French speaking sisters could hardly communicate with the local people, they were warmly welcomed by a small group of Catholics as well as non-Catholics regardless of their religions.

Their missionary work progressed in Fukushima City. They built a new convent building and opened a kindergarten. However, war clouds started hovering over Japan.

In 1941, the Pacific War broke out. The convent was confiscated by the Japanese army and converted to an internment camp for foreign nationals. Some Canadian sisters returned to Canada, while others were put under house arrest and relocated to Aizu, an inland region of Fukushima Prefecture. They had no means of communication with the outside world and were obliged to live in deprivation. What saved them was the help of three Japanese candidates who had refused to leave the Congregation in spite of repeated advice from Japanese priests. They stayed with the Canadian sisters, secretly providing them with food and necessities. They prayed together and waited for peace. The war that started on the feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception finally ended in 1945, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All of the Canadian sisters who were interned in Aizu could now return to Fukushima City. After the war, the sisters took war orphans under their wing. The following year, they opened an elementary school. Among the students were the war orphans.

Since the war, CND schools in Japan have expanded. Now we have a kindergarten, an elementary school, a high school and a two-year college in Fukushima; a kindergarten and a girls’ residence in Tokyo; an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school in Kita-Kyushu. At present, seventy CND sisters including seven Canadian sisters are engaged in educative and apostolic works in Japan

My parents are Catholic and I was baptised as an infant, which is quite unusual in Japan because the majority of Japanese classify themselves as both Shinto and Buddhist. I was educated in a CND school in Kita-Kyushu City for 12 years and studied for 4 years at a university in Tokyo living in the CND student residence in Chofu. It was at the elementary school that I first encountered Marguerite Bourgeoys when I was six years old. What I remember best during my school days is the smile of a Canadian sister of Irish decent. Her bright and kind smile never left her face or my memory.

In the novitiate, I learned the history of the CND and music from one of the five pioneer sisters who came to Japan in 1932. Though she didn’t tell me in so many words about the difficulty and hardship she had experienced when she first arrived and especially during the war, I could sense the reason why she remained in Japan: her strong love for Jesus, Mary and our Foundress. She stayed in Japan because it was God’s will; because Mary was with her; and because Marguerite would have done the same. When I reflect on the sister’s life in the light of Marguerite’s, I seem to better understand Marguerite and her greatness. The sister died one year and 2 months before my first vows and I was given her cross.

After making my perpetual vows, I became a teacher and taught Japanese at high schools in Fukushima and Kita-kyushu. It was a busy time, but interactions with young students were a rewarding experience. Some of our new students were heartbroken because they had failed entrance exams in other schools, but they were warmly welcomed at CND schools, where they learn: you are precious in my sight, and honoured (Isaiah 43:4). Nothing gave me more pleasure than to see them regain their self-confidence and get back on their feet.

However, I sometimes questioned myself. Before entering religious life, I taught at a Protestant school and met many devoted lay teachers. They preach the word of God at morning worship, and then go to the classroom to teach and guide students. What’s the difference between them and a teacher like me, a sister? This question had been bothering me. When I was offered a one-year assignment to go to Montreal, I thought this might be an opportunity to step back from my teaching life, and to reflect on this question.

CNDConvent

After arriving in Canada, I walked around Montreal, map in hand, whenever I had time. I visited museums and churches, starting with Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. I visited Old Montreal where our Foundress opened the first school. I visited the Old Towers of the Grand Seminary where our sisters had taught Amerindian girls. I saw St. Marguerite’s portraits and statues in many churches. Many places were named after our Foundress. Everything I have seen and heard testifies to how dear she is to the people of Montreal.

The historic and archaeological material taught me how hard Marguerite’s life was in her early days in Montreal. I walked around the Old Port of Montreal on November 16, the day when Marguerite landed at the port of Ville Marie almost five centuries ago. The air was already cool. The port looked deserted with most of the trees losing their leaves. Then came an extremely harsh winter!

I re-read Marguerite’s writing and biographies. I could feel between the lines her solitude and fear of the unknown. In her native France, she made a private vow, lived a consecrated life and was involved in volunteer activities. But she chose to leave her comfort zone and had the courage to venture into a new world. Following God’s plan, she devoted herself to the service of the people and to the teaching of the Good News, the Gospel. She founded an extern religious community with companions. Looking back from present-day Montreal to those days in Ville Marie, I was moved more than ever by Marguerite’s courage and extraordinary accomplishment.

There are lots of great people in the world who built a country. The greatness of Marguerite was not only in her contribution to building Ville Marie. It is above all having established a non-cloistered educative religious order for women.

In her Writings, Marguerite writes about the love of a lover. She loved Jesus with this love, and wanted to live always in the presence of God, as a mother who loves her child intensely does not lose him from her sight.[1] Thus, a consecrated life was her natural choice of a way of life. In imitation of the Virgin Mary living with her neighbor, Marguerite lived with women having the same desire, served the people, and spread the Word of God. I think she wanted her community to be a model of human community and a living witness in this world. She desired most deeply that the commandments of love be engraved in her and her sisters’ minds: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mindYou shall love your neighbour as yourself.[2]

Meeting with sisters engaged in various educative and apostolic ministries helped deepen my understanding of our Foundress. I have learned that living her charism is of the utmost importance to the sisters in their process of discerning, finding their vocation and ministry. We have to discern where we are and where we are called, through our dialogues with ourselves, with our superiors, with Jesus, and with Marguerite. What is required of us is to mature as a person and grow spiritually as a religious, as well as to understand the charism and living it passionately.

Because I became too accustomed to a life of teaching in the protective environment of the CND schools, I might have lost sight of “why I was sent to this mission”. My mission is to embrace Jesus and pass along, by words and deeds, the good news that “You are precious in God’s sight. God loves you. You are of utmost importance to God.” As Marguerite wished, my mission is to spread the commandment of love by building warm relationships with my sisters and co-workers. My mission is a total commitment to a consecrated life, and that is what early missionaries tried to pass down to later generations at the risk of their lives.

Missionary sisters have brought many gifts to Japan: the Word of God, the spirituality of Marguerite Bourgeoys, education, religious life… I know I have received many gifts during my stay in Canada. However, when I think of what I have achieved in Canada, I am not sure. But one thing is certain: I talked about Fukushima.

On March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami struck the northeastern coast of Japan. The earthquake completely demolished the convent built by the missionary sisters in 1935.

This unprecedented disaster crippled the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. The radioactive contamination caused by the nuclear reactor meltdown has a devastating long-term health impact on the people of Fukushima. Many families left Fukushima to protect their children from radiation exposure. In fact, the number of students of the CND schools diminished a great deal. In our kindergarten alone, 40 % of children left Fukushima. Facing the dire reality, our sisters asked themselves what Marguerite would have done if she had been there, and launched various projects. First, they set up a scholarship program for afflicted students. They rebuilt a kindergarten, which features a playground enclosed by glass walls so that the children can play indoors without being exposed to contaminated air. Some sisters, with the collaboration of a number of dioceses, have a project to send children away from the radiation exposure to vacation sites during the summer holiday. Some sisters regularly visit victims still living in temporary housing to listen to their problems and concerns, or just to be with them. Recently, a group of volunteers joined this project. They offer emotional support to women facing uncertain futures, especially in regard to raising their children under such circumstances.

Last summer I attended the CND Social Justice Network Meeting on behalf of the Japanese province, and introduced, using a PowerPoint Presentation made by sisters in Fukushima, the current status of Fukushima and how Japanese sisters are dealing with the difficult situations.

The sisters and associates of the American province have set up a support project “the Blessed Sacrament CND Fukushima Solidarity Project. It is a great moral and financial support for our sisters. The American sisters have demonstrated a real sense of compassion, which was so dear to Marguerite. They remind me that I am really a member of the worldwide CND family.

In April, I go back to Japan and will be assigned to Fukushima. I would like to continue to be a liaison between the Fukushima and North American sisters. I am returning to Japan embracing the heart of Marguerite Bourgeoys that I found in Montreal.

[Read more…]

Deacon-structing Vocations: The Single Life

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If there is anything that we learn from reading Scripture is that God calls people. Consistently, every story in the bible, involves a call: Abraham, Moses, Noah, Gideon, Jonah, Samuel, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Paul. Everyone gets called.

God may not ‘call’ us the way He called Moses or St. Paul, or the specific way that Jesus called his disciples, but the bottom line is that no matter what, God will not ask you to do something that you are not capable of doing.

The last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at ‘The Call‘ and ‘Discernment‘; that is, the process of prayerfully making a decision according to God’s plan.

God calls everyone to holiness. That means that all of us are created for Heaven. That’s our final destination. Our Vocation is the best way that each one of us, individually can respond to God’s call to holiness.

Catholics can consider the following vocations: single life, married life, religious life and ordained life. Each one is a special and unique way in which we can know, love and serve God and work towards holiness. God can call us to any job or career, based on the gifts we have, what we are good at doing and what we like to do, but the best way that we can become holy, which is what really matters in life, is by one of these four ways of relating to God and to those around us.

The Single Life

The single life is probably the most misunderstood vocation and the one that gets the least attention. Part of this is due to the fact that all of us are single at some point in our life and so being single feels like a transitional stage. But being single is different than living the ‘Single Life’.  Living the Single Life doesn’t mean you’re waiting to get married or can’t find a girlfriend. It doesn’t mean you’re not sure if you want to be a priest or a sister or brother. The Single Life means that you are committed to a life that’s full of serving others and God, with lots of energy, because there is lots to do.

There is a lot of pressure in our culture to be married, but not everyone is called to be married, nor should everyone be married. Not everyone is called to be a parent and many people who don’t have a desire for marriage or parenting feel that this must mean that they are called to the religious or ordained life. But that may not be the case. If you feel that this is not where you want to be, maybe that is an indication that you are called to the Single Life.

People who live the Single Life have a different disposition towards others. If someone asks me whether I can help them, say on a Friday night, I have to check with my wife. I have to see what my kids are doing. Even people in the Ordained or Religious Lives have specific commitments to their religious communities and are accountable to their superior or their Bishop. But a single person can drop everything and go. They do not have the same family commitments that married people have. This can be a great gift to others. This is why people living the Single Life spend a lot of their time involved in volunteer activities in the Church and in the community.

We learn that in married life we best live out the love that God has for us, a love that is free, faithful, fruitful and total. But this type of Christ-like love is lived in every Vocation. People living the Single Life are able to live a direct reflection of this love in a very specific way with a freedom that is not found in the other three Vocations.

Ultimately it has to do with holiness (read Pope Francis‚ General Audience – Wednesday, November 19). As in all Vocations, if you are called to the Single Life, that means that this is the best way in which God is calling you, personally to respond to his call to holiness. This means that the Single Life is the best way for you to be holy. It is possible that for some, this may be a stage in life and it is possible that you do not choose the Single Life but rather, your circumstances determine that this is your state in life.

Still, even if it is not your first choice to be single, you can have a rich and fulfilling life, serving Christ and others. No matter how you end up there you will find that you are free to do this because you are single. Single people can give all of themselves to God without reserve or distractions.

Next week, let’s look at the Religious Life.


Photo credit: CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com

Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple at Jerusalem

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November 21, 2014

According to the tradition in the Eastern Church, when Mary was three years of age, Joachim and Anne took her to the Temple so that she might be consecrated to the service of the Lord. The legend says that they invited the young girls of the town to walk before her with lighted torches. As soon as they had reached the Temple, Mary, alone and unhesitatingly, went up the steps of the sanctuary where she was to remain, living in the contemplation of God and miraculously fed by the Archangel Gabriel, until the day she was espoused to Joseph, shortly before the Annunciation.

The theme of the feast is that Mary the Immaculate One, the Temple of the Living God, is offered to the Almighty in his holy house in Jerusalem. This day witnesses the bond between the Word and the Virgin predestined in eternity: this day is the fountainhead of all her privileges.

A more historical view is that the feast originates in Jerusalem in 543. In the Latin rite, it took many years for the feast to be widely accepted; it entered the Western calendar in 1585. Today, the feast celebrates the recognition of Mary as a temple in whom God dwells. In a very special way, the Blessed Virgin is herself a holy temple when she conceived the very Son of God in her immaculate womb, she became a true temple of the true God; when she cherished the word of God in her heart (see Luke 2:19, 51), loved Christ so ardently, and faithfully kept his word, the Son and the Father came to her and made their home with her, in accordance with the promise of the Lord (see John 14:23).Basilian

November 21 is the date upon which we celebrate Pro Orantibus Day marking the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Temple. The day is dedicated to those who belong to contemplative religious orders. It’s a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work. Many contemplative communities throughout the world pray for Salt and Light Television.  For our part, we remember with gratitude these religious women of who as St Thérèse of Lisieux wrote choose to abide in the ‘heart’ of the Church.

Marian devotion has always been important for my own religious family, the Congregation of Priests of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers). Their support of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network has been constant over the past 12 years. In his History of the Basilian Fathers, Fr. Charles Roume, CSB, recalls that it was on November 21, 1822, Feast of the Presentation of Mary, that all the French confrères finally agreed to come together for their first ‘Chapter’.  They elected Fr. Joseph LaPierre as the first Superior General of the Basilian Community. For this reason, Basilians chose November 21 as our foundation day.

Here is a link to the documentary on our foundation in France after the French Revolution: http://saltandlighttv.org/whenithinkofannonay/

In remembering the Blessed Virgin Mary’s presentation in the Temple at Jerusalem on this day, we honour one whose hidden life brings light and warmth to the Church in every place. May her example give all consecrated religious, and those with whom we live and work, the courage to seek wisdom, the strength to radiate light and warmth to the Church, and the ability to become dwelling places of God’s consoling and compassionate presence on earth.

Mary_Presentation2Let us pray:

Almighty and ever living God, today we honour the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose hidden life brings light and warmth to the Church in every place. Her presentation in the temple at Jerusalem reveals her as a temple where God truly lives among us. May Mary’s example give us the strength to radiate that light and warmth to the Church, and help us to be dwelling places of God’s joyful presence on earth. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

On a Quest for Genius

 Always vary what you do, as it is better to make a mistake than to repeat yourself.

 Michelangelo

Michelangelo drew incessantly. Throughout his 77 year career he produced thousands of quick sketches and more detailed drawings. His finished works were so highly prized that it often created a buzz in Rome when it was made known he had finished a new piece – even the Popes were known to have sought after new works. However, contrary to what one might think, drawing for Michelangelo was not an end in itself;  it was a simply a “tool of the trade.”

Studies for the head of Leda (small)

Studies for the head of Leda, c. 1630

Michelangelo was first and foremost a sculptor and drawing was how his imagination found creative expression. As one of his contemporaries put it: “It is easier to change things in drawings than in finished works”.  And this was particularly true for Michelangelo whose drawings were often a preliminary study before sculpting in marble – an expensive and delicate process.  As such Michelangelo  guarded his drawings jealously, and shortly before his death tossed many in the fire to prevent others from stealing his ideas. Today only 600 of these precious works exist.

Study for Christ in Limbo

Study for Christ in Limbo, c. 1532-1533

These remnants offer a revealing portrait of the inner workings of Michelangelo’s mind.  As you can virtually see Il Divino (“the Divine One”) attempt to memorize forms, to experiment and to brainstorm. So even though Michelangelo never intended you to see his drawings the Art Galley of Ontario’s latest exhibitMichelangelo: Quest for Genius which features 30 rare drawings on loan from the Casa Buonarroti, offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness genius at work.

You can also watch Part of 1 of our special feature on Michelangelo: Quest for Genius here. View Part 2 of our special feature here.

Pope Francis Addresses Second International Conference on Nutrition

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Early on November 20, 2014, Pope Francis traveled to the headquarters of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome and delivered the following address to the Second International Conference on Nutrition. Full text below:

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased and honoured to speak here today, at this Second International Conference on Nutrition. I wish to thank you, Mr. President, for your warm greeting and the words of welcome. I cordially greet the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, and the Director General of the FAO, Professor José Graziano da Silva, and I rejoice in their decision to convene this conference of representatives of States, international institutions, and organisations of civil society, the world of agriculture and the private sector, with the aim of studying together the forms of intervention necessary in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, as well as the changes that must be made to existing strategies. The overall unity of purpose and of action, and above all the spirit of brotherhood, can be decisive in finding appropriate solutions. The Church, as you know, seeks always to be attentive and watchful regarding the spiritual and material welfare of the people, especially those who are marginalised or excluded, to ensure their safety and dignity.

1. The fates of nations are intertwined, more than ever before; they are like the members of one family who depend upon each other. However, we live in a time in which the relations between nations are too often damaged by mutual suspicion, that at times turns into forms of military and economic aggression, undermining friendship between brothers and rejecting or discarding what is already excluded. He who lacks his daily bread or a decent job is well aware of this. This is a picture of today’s world, in which it is necessary to recognise the limits of approaches based on the sovereignty of each State, intended as absolute, and national interest, frequently conditioned by small power groups. Your working agenda for developing new standards and greater commitments to feed the world shows this well. From this perspective, I hope that, in the formulation of these commitments, the States are inspired by the conviction that the right to food can only be ensured if we care about the actual subject, that is, the person who suffers the effects of hunger and malnutrition.

Nowadays there is much talk of rights, frequently neglecting duties; perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry. It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”, the “primacy of profit”, which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature. And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognised as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity.

2. These criteria cannot remain in the limbo of theory. Persons and peoples ask for justice to be put into practice: not only in a legal sense, but also in terms of contribution and distribution. Therefore, development plans and the work of international organisations must take into consideration the wish, so frequent among ordinary people, for respect for fundamental human rights and, in this case, the rights of the hungry. When this is achieved, then humanitarian intervention, emergency relief and development operations – in their truest, fullest sense – will attain greater momentum and bring the desired results.

3. Interest in the production, availability and accessibility of foodstuffs, climate change and agricultural trade should certainly inspire rules and technical measures, but the first concern must be the individual as a whole, who lacks daily nourishment and has given up thinking about life, family and social relationships, instead fighting for survival. St. John Paul II, in the inauguration in this hall of the First Conference on Nutrition in 1992, warned the international community against the risk of the “paradox of plenty”, in which there is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes. Unfortunately, this “paradox” remains relevant. There are few subjects about which we find as many fallacies as those related to hunger; few topics as likely to be manipulated by data, statistics, the demands of national security, corruption, or futile lamentation about the economic crisis. This is the first challenge to be overcome.

The second challenge to be faced is the lack of solidarity; we suspect that subconsciously we would like to remove this word from the dictionary. Our societies are characterised by growing individualism and division: this ends up depriving the weakest of a decent life, and provokes revolts against institutions. When there is a lack of solidarity in a country, the effects are felt throughout the world. Indeed, solidarity is the attitude that makes people capable of reaching out to others and basing their mutual relations on this sense of brotherhood that overcomes differences and limits, and inspires us to seek the common good together.

Human beings, as they become aware of being partly responsible for the plan of creation, become capable of mutual respect, instead of fighting between themselves, damaging and impoverishing the planet. States, too, understood as a community of persons and peoples, are required to act concertedly, to be willing to help each other through the principles and norms offered by international law. A source of inspiration is natural law, inscribed in the human heart, that speaks a language that everyone can understand: love, justice, peace, elements that are inseparable from each other. Like people, States and international institutions are called to welcome and nurture these values – love, justice, peace – and this must be done with a spirit of dialogue and mutual listening. In this way, the aim of feeding the human family becomes feasible.

4. Every woman, man, child and elderly person everywhere should be able to count on these guarantees. It is the duty of every State that cares for the wellbeing of its citizens to subscribe to them unreservedly, and to take the necessary steps to ensure their implementation. This requires perseverance and support. The Catholic Church also offers her contribution in this field through constant attention to the life of the poor in all parts of the world; along the same lines, the Holy See is actively involved in international organisations and through numerous documents and statements. In this way, it contributes to identifying and assuming the criteria to be met in order to develop an equitable international system. These are criteria that, on the ethical plane, are based on the pillars of truth, freedom, justice and solidarity; at the same time, in the legal field, these same criteria include the relationship between rights and food, and the right to life and a dignified existence, the right to be protected by law, not always close to the reality of those who suffer from hunger, and the moral obligation to share the economic wealth of the world.

If we believe in the principle of the unity of the human family, based on the common paternity of God the Creator, and in the fraternity of human beings, no form of political or economic pressure that exploits the availability of foodstuffs can be considered acceptable. Political and economic pressure: here I think of our sister and mother, Earth, our planet, and of whether we are free of political and economic pressure and able to care for her, to avoid her destruction. We have two conferences ahead of us, in Perù and France, which pose the challenge to us of caring for our planet. I remember a phrase that I heard from an elderly man many years ago: God always forgives … our misdemeanours, our abuse, God always forgives; men forgive at times; but the Earth never forgives. We must care for our sister the Earth, our Mother Earth, so that she does not respond with destruction. But, above all, no system of discrimination, de facto or de jure, linked to the capacity of access to the market of foodstuffs, must be taken as a model for international efforts that aim to eliminate hunger.

By sharing these reflections with you, I ask that the Almighty, God rich in mercy, bless all those who, with different responsibilities, place themselves at the service of those who experience hunger and who assist them with concrete gestures of closeness. I also pray that the international community might hear the call of this Conference and consider it an expression of the common conscience of humanity: feed the hungry, save life on the planet. Thank you.

Pope Francis to Preside Mass of Canonization on Feast of Christ the King

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On November 23, 2014, the Feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis will canonize six blesseds and inscribe them in the roll call of Saints. These blesseds consist of two Indians and four Italians, including one layman and one bishop.

The blesseds who are to be canonized on Sunday are:

  • Kuriakose Elias Chavara: A priest and the founder of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. He is remembered for his solid leadership and is recognized for having saved the Church in Kerala from a schism in 1861.
  • Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal: A member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Mother of Carmel. She was born in 1877 in Kattur and came to be known as the “Praying Nun.”
  • Amato Ronconi: Founder of the hospital known as the “Blessed Amato Ronconi Nursing Home” and a layman member of the Third Order of St. Francis.
  • Giovanni Antonio Farina: Italian bishop of Vicenza and the founder of the Institute of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Heart.
  • Nicola da Longobardi: Professed oblate of the Order of Minims.
  • Ludovico da Casoria: Founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters Elisabettine and professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor.

Salt + Light will broadcast the mass from Rome at 12:00 pm ET / 9:00 am PT. Watch live.

Archbishop Blase Cupich Homily’s During Installation Mass

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Below you find the full text of Archbishop Blase Cupich’s homily during the Installation Mass as Archbishop of Chicago:

Bienvenido, Witam, Mabuhay, Dobro dosli, Welcome

I am delighted and honoured to be your archbishop.

So many of you in this cathedral today have come – from near and so very far – friends and family, brother bishops and priests, religious, lay women and men. Former parishioners and pastors from Omaha, Rapid City, Spokane have joined us as well. Your being here consoles me with the hope that our friendships will continue to endure in the years ahead. Last night, I had a chance to welcome my brother bishops, and now I am pleased to greet our papal nuncio, Archbishop Vigano. We all know how demanding your schedule is, Archbishop, and so we offer our thanks to you, not only for being with us today, but for all you do to so ably represent Pope Francis, our Holy Father, who is well-loved and who makes us proud.

When it came to selecting a date for the installation, November 18 seemed to be a great fit. The Commemoration of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul gives me a chance to recognize all immigrants, as I recall my own immigrant grandparents who helped establish my home parish of Saints Peter and Paul in Omaha. Additionally, the Church’s calendar today celebrates St. Philippine Duchesne, someone the Native People honored with the name Woman Who Prays Always. She reminds us of the extraordinary contribution women religious have made and continue to make to the church and society. I intend to honor and give thanks for all these people today, especially for family and immigrants, Native Americans and religious sisters – all of whom have shaped so much of our faith, our lives and our Church ministries.

But I have to admit, I had a bit of a panic attack when I saw the Gospel provided in the Lectionary for this day, which we have just heard. I realize this new responsibility is going to be demanding, but seriously folks, I don’t do “walking on water.” I can barely swim. So I hope this image in today’s Gospel is not reflective of anyone’s expectations.

In all honesty, what intrigues me about the readings for today, is how the Gospel and the first reading from Acts complement each other in the language and symbolism they share in common. The Gospel recounts Jesus, during his earthly life, walking on water, inviting Peter to join him, and Acts witnesses to how Paul and the Church, animated by the Spirit, following the resurrection, now cross the seas to evangelize and invite the Gentiles, all people, to encounter and to walk with the Risen Christ. That interplay of the two texts is so rich and captures something St. Leo the Great wrote centuries ago (cf., Catechism of the Catholic Church 1114- 1115).

Pope Leo remarked that everything which was visible in Jesus’ words and actions during his hidden life and public ministry has passed over after Christ’s resurrection into the sacraments and the life of the Church. That truth is on full display in the readings today, to the point that the Gospel is more than an account of Jesus walking on water, more than a story of Jesus revealing his divinity to the disciples by a stunning show of power. Read alongside the story of Paul’s missionary journey, this Gospel text becomes a point of reference to understand the meaning of the resurrection, how the Risen Lord is working in our midst today, and how disciples in all ages, how the Church in our time, should view its mission.

Simply put, we are to join Christ in seeking out, inviting, and accompanying, by abiding with those to whom he sends us. Each one of those aspects of our mission, seeking out, inviting and accompanying deserves a closer look.

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Seeking Out

Jesus’ walk across the waters is intentional. He has come to seek out and to save the troubled, those who are lost. But, this scene from Matthew’s Gospel offers us a new insight; it gives us a glimpse into what compels him to take up this mission. Jesus, we are told, has been on the mountain, in the quiet intimacy of prayer with his Father. That experience of sharing life with the Father is what moves him, prompts him to go out and seek others, so that they too may have this life. He is so driven in this mission that nothing stands in his way, not even the obstacle of crossing over water on his own. Sharing his life in the Father with us is the source of his enthusiasm and determination, is his motivation for seeking out the disciples and is the reason why he has come into the world.

We see a similar kind of drive and enthusiasm in people from time to time, where something so transformative and life giving happens to them, leaving them with no alternative but to spend their life sharing their experience with others. I have seen this kind of enthusiasm in great teachers. Their drive and incentive goes way beyond getting through the curriculum or earning a paycheck. What inspires the really good teacher is the transformative experience of insight that comes in learning. Really good teachers delight in seeing the light of discovery go on in their students’ eyes and they never pass up the chance to make that happen.

Marie Walsh was such a person. I brought her communion on First Fridays during my first years as a priest. A retired English teacher, she never passed up a chance to share her knowledge of literature and language. Marie suffered from diverticulitis, and could only take a small part of the host. One day, after giving her the Eucharist and a sip of water, she began to cough and so I said “Marie would you like to lay down.” She sharply muttered something, which I didn’t catch, and so I asked her, “Marie, what did you say?” She held the back of my neck, and with a laugh in her voice scolded me: “I said ‘chickens lay eggs; people lie down.’” She was correcting my grammar! It didn’t matter if she was in great pain or frail, she was going to make sure I spoke proper English.

We face in our day the formidable task of passing on the faith to the next generation, of evangelizing a modern and sometimes skeptical culture, not to mention inspiring young people to serve the Church as priests and religious. It all seems so daunting, as daunting as walking on water. We are at sea, unsteady in our approach faced with these concerns. Catechists and educators are on the front line of this struggle. So, too, parents and grandparents wonder if they are going to be the last Catholics in their family. Likewise bishops and priests find that the Good News is increasingly difficult to proclaim in the midst of great polarization in church and society.

Jesus tells all of us today to go back to where our journey of faith began, to be in touch with the joyful experience of being transformed by the intimacy God offers us, to be willing to share it with the next generation. Young people have always been attracted to authenticity of life, where words match deeds. Let’s not be afraid to let our young people know about our life with God and how it began. Like Marie Walsh, let’s stay close to them, so close that we can hold them by the neck, and tell them what it means for us to believe, and share with them how the Gospel has brought joy and meaning to us and transformed our lives. Such witness of personal faith many times has made the skeptic take a second look, has inspired vocations, and in my experience, animates our advocacy on behalf of human dignity with joy and compassion, purifying it of anger, harshness and fear.

The authenticity that comes in making our own baptismal calling the starting point for all we do is also demanded of me as your archbishop, particularly as I reach out to those who have been sexually abused by Church leaders. That starting point will always be needed for me and my brother bishops to keep fresh the serious duty to honor and keep the promises we made in 2002. Working together to protect children, to bring healing to victim survivors and to rebuild the trust that has been shattered in our communities by our mishandling is our sacred duty, as is holding each other accountable, for that is what we pledge to do.

Inviting

Jesus seeks out, but then he invites. “Come,” he says to Peter, “walk on the stormy waters with me.” Peter’s response is a brave act for an experienced fisherman. But, it is the kind of daring and boldness required today, the courage to leave our comfort zone and take an entirely new step in our faith journey, both personally and as a community. There is resistance in each of us to take that risk. We can be self-satisfied where we are. Pope Francis tells us that the temptation is to think and say “I’m religious enough, I’m Catholic enough, or for Church leaders to resist needed reform by claiming “we haven’t done that before” or “you cannot say that.”

We all have some anxiety and hesitancy to change, and I’ve noticed that many times in life we deal with the tension by joking about our resistance to change, to grow, to become more, beyond the minimum and enter more deeply into life with God. A friend who is a baseball fan tells me that when he thinks about getting into heaven, he is counting on being able “to slide in to home plate on a steal.”

One hot sultry day, I was boarding a plane and was struggling to put my carry-on bag into the overhead bin. The people behind me weren’t happy with me holding up the line as the air- conditioning wasn’t on. Finally, the man next to me, put his bag down, took mine in hand and effortlessly shoved it in the compartment, leaving me somewhat embarrassed. Then, to my surprise he said at the top of his voice for all to hear, “Well Father, will that get me to heaven?” I was so flustered, all I could think to say was, “Gee, I hope not on this flight!”

Jesus invites us, not only to take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change, not dismissively but in a creative way, and to challenge each other to do so. Maybe, we hear that challenge today as a call to leave behind our comforting convictions that episodic Sunday Mass attendance is good enough, that we don’t really have to change our habitual bad behavior, our unhealthy dependencies, our inordinate attachments, because we can get by as we are, because they have not gotten us into any serious trouble yet, or just because we are afraid of the unknown.

Pope Francis is giving voice to this invitation in our day, by inviting the Church to come and walk with Christ, as he is always doing something new. It is an invitation to leave behind the comfort of going the familiar way. He is challenging us to recognize that Christ is always inviting us to more, to greater things. It is the kind of invitation our bishops’ conference is making to our nation to be what it has always promised to be, to protect the vulnerable, poor and weak, to treat immigrants with justice and dignity, to respect life and to be good stewards of creation. It is the invitation of Jesus, “Come, take the risk of being more.”

Accompanying

Finally, Jesus gets into the boat. I have always thought that it took more courage for Jesus to get into that boat with those disciples than for Peter to get out of it to walk on water. There was fear, doubt, jealousy even anger in that boat – a lot of unresolved conflicts as a therapist might say.

But, it is in the incomplete, the in-between and in the brokenness of our lives where Jesus comes to share his life in the Father with us. His coming to be with us, his communion with us is not for the perfect, but is for the salvation of souls, for the lost, the forlorn, and those who are adrift. His communion is not just a quick visit, but he wants to be with us to the point of making our lives the dwelling place, the home where he and the Father abide. After going to the mountain to pray, to be with his Father, he comes into our messy lives with his Father in hand, to share our lives where we are.

It is that grace of the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son, which has always been the source of real, ongoing and sustainable conversion. It is the grace of mercy, totally undeserved and unearned, that brings about real lasting change and transformation and gives life.

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Conclusion

So, we as a Church should not fear leaving the security of familiar shores, the peacefulness of the mountaintop of our self-assuredness and walk into the mess. A military chaplain recently told me that soldiers easily know where to find him in the battle encampment because the chaplain’s tent is most often next to the medical tent.

While Pope Francis is famous for urging the Church to be a field hospital and pastors to know the smell of the sheep, Blessed Pope Paul VI expressed a similar sentiment with an inspiring message to my classmates nearly forty years ago on their day of ordination. This is what he said:

“Know how to accept as an invitation the very reproach which perhaps, and often unjustly, the world hurls against the Messenger of the Gospel. Know how to listen to the groan of the poor, the candid voice of the child, the thoughtful cry of youth, the complaint of the tired worker, the sigh of the suffering and the criticism of the thinker. But, ‘Never be afraid.’ The Lord has repeated it.” (Homily, June 29, 1975)

Of course as our papal nuncio reminded the bishops just last week, St. John Paul II began his pontificate with Christ’s comforting words to the disciples, “Do not fear.” Archbishop Vigano? then added: “we must not be afraid to walk with our Holy Father (Pope Francis) and to trust in the infinite value of following the Holy Spirit as our First Teacher in guiding the Church.”

That is the urging of the Word of God today. Just as Jesus left the peacefulness of his mountain top prayer to embrace the disciples in all their too human and fallible journey, so now the Church in our day is called to be faithful to its mission, the mission taken up by Paul and Peter, by putting aside her fears and the allure of false securities, and leap into the turbulent but creative waters of life in the world with the guidance of God and the charge of the Gospel.

Not being afraid is the gift that separates the disciple before and after the resurrection as we see in the responses of Peter and Paul through the readings today. Yet, it is providential that Peter experienced the terror that stormy night, for he could then uniquely witness for the Church in all ages through his successors, the power of the resurrection to vanquish all fears, disappointments, hesitations and doubts.

Peter could then witness how the resurrection is not just a past event, but an ongoing reality. He could remind us that what Jesus did in crossing the sea, he did again, by crossing from death to life, from eternity to our time, as he continues to make that crossing with us in our day. He could tell us that Jesus came back from the dead for us, to be with us. That is the reason we are not afraid – because we are not alone.

That is why now in our day Peter in his successor, Pope Francis, urges us to take up the task of crossing the seas to seek out, to invite and to accompany others, because the Risen Christ is in the boat with us.

Photo Credit:

(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

(CNS photo/Jeff Haynes, Reuters)

(CNS photo/John Smerciak, Catholic New World)