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Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for August 2015

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Join us in prayer for the intentions entrusted to us by Pope Francis. For June 2015, we join the Holy Father in praying for:

  • Volunteers– That volunteers may give themselves generously to the service of the needy.
  • Outreach to the Marginalized– That setting aside our very selves we may learn to be neighbors to those who find themselves on the margins of human life and society.

Daily Offering Prayer

God, our Father, I offer You my day. I offer You my prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with the Heart of Jesus, who continues to offer Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit, Who guided Jesus, be my guide and my strength today so that I may witness to your love. With Mary, the mother of our Lord and the Church, I pray for all Apostles of Prayer and for the prayer intentions proposed by the Holy Father this month. Amen.

Traditional Daily Offering of the Apostleship of Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. The Apostles of Prayer offer themselves to God each day for the good of the world, the Church, one another, and the Holy Father’s intentions.

Thank you for praying with us!

In a tradition that is centuries old, the Apostleship of Prayer publishes the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions. To become a member of the Apostleship of Prayer, you need only to offer yourself to God for his purposes each day. When you give God all the “prayers, works, joys and sufferings” of your day, you turn your entire day into a prayer for others. You are joining your will to God’s will. If you feel called to this simple, profound way of life, find out more at Apostleship of Prayer.

Behind Vatican Walls: Pope Francis in Cuba and US

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With one papal trip barely over, attention is already turning to the next papal trip: Cuba and the U.S. The official schedule was released at the end of June.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released the theme and logo of that portion of the trip some time ago. The motto is “Love is our Mission” and the logo features a pencil sketch of the pope waving to the skyline of a city.

The Diocese of Holguin just recently released their logo for the papal visit: A stylized mitre feature representations of the sea, the land, and the sky capped off with a stylized cross. The motto for that leg of the pope’s journey: “Missionary of Mercy”.

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Meanwhile, Cuban president Raul Castro told Cuban media preparations are underway to receive the pope with the “affection, respect, and hospitality he deserves.” Castro went on to say that Pope Francis’ analysis of the problems facing humanity are cause for admiration. Castro also said he followed the recent papal visit to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay very closely.

“This economy kills”: anticipation mounts ahead of Pope’s US trip

Bolivia(Pope Francis listens attentively to speakers at the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Bolivia on July 9.  Photo courtesy of CNS)

In two years Pope Francis has said enough about the global economic system to spark both enormous enthusiasm and heavy criticism.  The story is still developing, but after his recent trip to Latin America, the prevailing sense is that it will climax when he sets foot on US soil for the first time in September.

Personally, I’ve never seen Francis so comfortable, at home and in his element as he was during his week-long trip through Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay last week.  Evidently he felt totally free to speak his mind and heart to his native Spanish speaking audience.  And when he spoke about economics, the message was clear.

Of the many and consistent critiques Francis made of the current economic system last week, none was more powerful than the address he gave to the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia—one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

The message simply stated at the beginning was, “land, lodging and labor are sacred rights for everyone.”  The problem is that this is not the reality.  “We want change,” he said, from “an unfettered pursuit of money,” or—as Francis described it—“the dung of the devil.”

Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home [the earth].”

Francis continued by encouraging the Popular Movements and the people of Bolivia to be the change they want to see; to take control of their own lives and lead by example: “The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites,” he said, “It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize.”

It was by no means the first time Pope Francis has blasted the current economic system.  Since the publication of his 2013 exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, the critique has been piercingly clear and consistent.  Because of this, it has drawn criticism from the capitalist faithful—many of whom are in the United States—who deflect the Pope’s criticism by saying he doesn’t fully understand economics and shouldn’t be involved in making policy.

Well, oddly enough, the Pope actually agrees.  In that same address to the Popular Movements the Pope for the first time said that he doesn’t have the specific solutions to the socio-economic problems of the world:

“Don’t expect a recipe from this Pope.  Neither the Pope nor the Church has a monopoly on the interpretation of social reality or the proposal of solutions to contemporary issues. I dare say that no recipe exists.”

A few days later on the return flight to Rome, the Pope was asked about his economics message and the criticism it sparks in the United States.  The Pope, again for the first time, acknowledged that he hasn’t studied the criticisms:

“I heard that there were some criticisms from the United States. I heard about it, but I haven’t read about it, I haven’t had the time to study this well, because every criticism must be received, studied, and then dialogue must be ensue. You ask me what I think. If I have not had a dialogue with those who criticize, I don’t have the right to state an opinion, isolated from dialogue.”

The anticipation is mounting… It appears the showdown will finally happen when the Pope arrives in Washington in September.  What the Pope will say in his address to the American Congress is anybody’s guess, but we can be confident that it will factor in the predominantly American criticisms of his economics message.  That will be something new, a development in the Pope’s expression of his own ideas.

Finally, we might be tempted to think that the Pope’s humble admission of ignorance of his critics is typical of the man whom the world knows as simple, humble and innocent.  But I would call him subtly shrewd.  The Pope essentially outlined the process for the discussion by emphasizing dialogue through encounter.  Ideas and theories—economic or otherwise—can live in the clouds.  The people affected by the implementation of those ideas and theories can only live on the ground.  And that is where the Pope will finally meet his critics face to face.


SebastianGOn Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the Church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.

Why is Pope Francis so Obsessed With The Devil?

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logo-cnn-2 As published on CNN July 20, 2015
(CNN) Pope Francis seems to be obsessed with the devil.

 

His tweets and homilies about the devil, Satan, the Accuser, the Evil One, the Father of Lies, the Ancient Serpent, the Tempter, the Seducer, the Great Dragon, the Enemy and just plain “demon” are now legion.

For Francis, the devil is not a myth, but a real person. Many modern people may greet the Pope’s insistence on the devil with a dismissive, cultural affectation, indifference, or at the most indulgent curiosity.

Yet Francis refers to the devil continually. He does not believe him to be a myth, but a real person, the most insidious enemy of the church. Several of my theologian colleagues have said that he has gone a bit overboard with the devil and hell! We may be tempted to ask, why in the devil is Pope Francis so involved with the prince of demons?

This intelligent Jesuit Pope is diving into deep theological waters, places where very few modern Catholic clerics wish to tread.

Francis’ seeming preoccupation with the devil is not a theological or eschatological question as much as a call to arms, an invitation to immediate action, offering very concrete steps to do combat with the devil and the reign of evil in the world today.

In his homilies, Francis warns people strongly to avoid discouragement, to seize hope, to move on with courage and not to fall prey to negativity or cynicism.

He is drawing on the fundamental insight of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, the Pope’s own religious family. With his continual references to the devil, Pope Francis parts ways with the current preaching in the church, which is far too silent about the devil and his insidious ways or reduces him to a mere metaphor.

During the first months of Francis’ pontificate in 2013, the Evil One appeared frequently in his messages. In his first major address to the cardinals who elected him, the Argentine pontiff reminded them: “Let us never yield to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil offers us every day.”

In several daily homilies in the chapel of the Vatican guest house, the Pope shared devilish stories with the small congregations rapt in attention as he homilized on taboo topics.

He has offered guidelines on how to rout the demon’s strategy: First, it is Jesus who battles the devil.

The second is that “we cannot obtain the victory of Jesus over evil and the devil by halves,” for as Christ said in the Gospel of Matthew, “who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

James Tissot - Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness

James Tissot – Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness

The Pope has stressed that we must not be naive: “The demon is shrewd: he is never cast out forever, this will only happen on the last day.”

Francis has also issued calls to arms in his homilies: “The devil also exists in the 21st century, and we need to learn from the Gospel how to battle against him,” the Pope warned, adding that Christians should not be “naive” about the evil one’s ways. The devil is anything but a relic of the past, the pontiff said.

Acknowledging the devil’s shrewdness, Francis once preached: “The devil is intelligent, he knows more theology than all the theologians together.”

Before a crowd of people on Palm Sunday in 2013, the newly elected Pope even dared to say that when Christians face trials, Jesus is near, but so is “the enemy — the devil,” who “comes, often disguised as an angel and slyly speaks his word to us.”

Most recently, on July 12, in the prepared text he was to deliver (in typical fashion he instead gave a masterful, unscripted address to 600,000 young people at a rally in Paraguay), the Pope presented the job description of the devil:

“Friends: the devil is a con artist. He makes promises after promise, but he never delivers. He’ll never really do anything he says. He doesn’t make good on his promises. He makes you want things which he can’t give, whether you get them or not. He makes you put your hopes in things which will never make you happy.

“… He is a con artist because he tells us that we have to abandon our friends, and never to stand by anyone. Everything is based on appearances. He makes you think that your worth depends on how much you possess.”

Since the beginning of his papacy, Francis has been warning that whoever wants to follow Jesus must be aware of the reality of the devil. The life of every Christian is a constant battle against evil, just as Jesus during his life had to struggle against the devil and his many temptations.

For Francis, the spirit of evil ultimately does not want our holiness, he does not want our Christian witness, he does not want us to be disciples of Christ.

In all of these references to the devil and his many disguises, Pope Francis wishes to call everyone back to reality. The devil is so frequently active in our lives and in the church, drawing us into negativity, cynicism, despair, meanness of spirit, sadness and nostalgia.

We must react to the devil, Francis says, as did Jesus, who replied with the Word of God. With the prince of this world one cannot dialogue.

Dialogue is necessary among us, it is necessary for peace, it is an attitude that we must have among ourselves in order to hear each other, to understand each other. Dialogue is born from charity, from love.

But with the Dark Prince one cannot dialogue; one can only respond with the Word of God that defends us.

The devil has made a comeback in this pontificate and is playing an important role in Francis’ ministry. Francis is dead serious about the devil! And he takes every opportunity he can to tell the devil to get the hell out of our lives and our world.

It’s not that Francis has been focusing on the evil one’s power, nor has he been mesmerized by the Harry Potter movies or by a desire to do sequels to the “Exorcist” movie: This Pope doesn’t watch TV!

All of the temptations Francis speaks about so often are the realistic flip side to the heart of the Argentine Jesuit Pope’s message about the world that is charged with the grandeur, mercy, presence and fidelity of God. Those powers are far greater than the devil’s antics.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Behind Vatican Walls: When in Bolivia…

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Much has been made of the messages Pope Francis delivered during his visit to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. As always, the pope made reference to local saints and historical episodes in his homilies and addresses, thrilling the locals and confusing foreigners following on television. Here’s a rundown of the some of the people and things Pope Francis referenced during his visit.

In Bolivia, during his meeting with the men and women religious of that country, Pope Francis mentioned two women whose names drew instant applause from the audience.

Blessed Nazaria Ignacia Teresa de Jesus

Born in Madrid, Spain, this religious nun worked with the poorest, smallest and weakest in Bolivia. Her work with disenfranchised Bolivians led her to found the first Bolivian religious community for women.

Early in life Nazaria was drawn to Christ. At her first communion she told Jesus “I want to follow you as closely and a human creature can.” However, her parents faith life was lukewarm and they did not understand her fervent faith. As a young woman she tried to enter the community of the Little Sisters of the Defenceless Elderly. Her father refused to give his permission. The mother superior consoled her saying “you will go to America and return with companions.” That same year her family moved to Mexico for economic reasons and Nazaria find a community of the same religious order there. She finally entered the community and after her novitiate was sent to Bolivia. There she worked with the poor elderly in small communities, but still she felt another call in her heart. She had an opportunity to talk to the Papal Nuncio to Bolivia and told him of the call she felt. He encouraged her and helped her get permission to found a new community: The Missionary Sisters of the Pontifical Crusade (today they are known as the Missionary Crusaders of the Church).

Under Nazaria’s guidance this little community worked with miners, indigenous ranch hands, women, children, and all those most oppressed by the social economic conditions in Bolivia. She went so far as to help women form the first union for female labourers. Today the community has houses and centres in Spain, France, Portugal, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea.

Venerable Virginia Blanco Tardia

Pope Francis also mentioned the Venerable Virginia Blanco Tardia, a lay woman known for her untiring work with the Catholic Action movement in Bolivia. Blanco Tardia was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia and joined Catholic Action at age 16. She was studious and cultured and went on to become a teacher and catechist. All accounts of her life say she was an “exemplary catechist” educating the children of farm workers in both Spanish and Quechua.

During her lifetime he founded an “Economic Kitchen” for the poor, a prayer group called the “Prayer & Friendship Group”, and a centre that provided medical services to those who couldn’t afford healthcare anywhere else. Along side this she served as the diocesan president of the Women’s Association of the Catholic Action for many, many years. Blanco Tardio died of a cardiac arrest in 1972 in Cochabamba.

Paraguayan Women

Addressing the diplomatic corps and civil authorities in Paraguay, Pope Francis praised Paraguayan women for saving the country during its most dramatic and disastrous period of history, the Triple Alliance War (or The Great War) that lasted from 1865 to 1870.

The ruler at the time, Francisco Solano Lopez, inherited his position from his father and feels the need to prove himself as a leader. Argentina and Brazil, meanwhile, both believe they have legitimate claims over Uruguay….which is also Paraguay’s only access point to the sea. When Brazil invades Uruguay, Solano Lopez declares war on Brazil and sends troops into Uruguay through Argentine territory. Brazil and Argentina meanwhile reach an agreement regarding Uruguay and join forces against Paraguay.

This leads to a war in which Paraguay is outnumbered and up against Brazil and Argentina’s modern weapons. Solano Lopez conscripts every able bodied Paraguayan male to the front lines. Women have to step in to work the land and provide the support needed to keep the troops fighting. Still, famine and disease set in.

According to some estimates, the war wiped out 60% of Paraguay’s population and 90% of the country’s men.  For each man left alive in the country there are eight women. Even though the country is in ruins the women of Paraguay keep going. They keep working, producing food, producing goods, and tending to the needs of those who have survived the war. More importantly, despite having seen the evil that humanity is capable of, they decide to continue having children. This decision saves Paraguay as a nation, but also saves the culture and language of this fledgling nation. Pope Francis has repeatedly referred to the women of Paraguay as the most glorious women of Latin America.

“Chiquitunga”

During his meeting with the young people of Paraguay Pope Francis heard the testimony of Liz,  a 25 year old woman, a daughter of separated parents, who has become the sole caregiver for her mother and grandmother. Liz’s mother is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and her grandmother is bedridden. Through the generosity of her friends, fellow parishioners, and extended family, Liz was able to become a nurse. While sharing her story and her struggles with Pope Francis she said she found inspiration and strength in the example of “Chiquitunga”, who she learned of while working in a hospital.

Chiquitunga is the nickname for Maria Felicia de Jesus Sacramento (born Maria Felicia Guggiari Echeverria). Chiquitunga was born in Villarrica, Paraguay to a faithful Catholic family. At the age of 16 she joined Catholic Action and consecrated herself to the service of God. She taught catechism, provided pastoral care for young labourers and university students, and helped the poor, elderly and abandoned in the poorest areas of her city. She wrote of the great joy she felt being able to serve these people because she found Christ in their faces.

Despite the joy that she felt serving those in need, she felt called to the contemplative life. At age 30 she entered the Carmel de la Asuncion and took the habit of the Discalced Carmelites. Chiquitunga lived only four years after entering the monastery. She died on Easter Sunday 1959 of hepatitis, which had already killed other sisters in her community. The cause for her beatification was opened in 1997.

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Fr. Rosica on Relevant Radio: Pope Francis is giving us a wonderful simplicity of life

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On Monday, July 13, 2015, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation, was featured on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air with John Harper. Listen to the full interview that covers topics ranging from the Pope’s recent trip to South America to Laudato Si and his upcoming trip to Cuba, the United States and the World Meeting of Families.

 

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CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope in Paraguay: Summary of Impromptu Address to Young People – Costanera

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Below you will find the full text of Pope Francis’ impromptu address to the youth in Paraguay:

Dear Young People, Good Afternoon!

After having read the Gospel, Orlando came up to me and said, “I ask you to pray for the freedom of each one of us, of everyone”. This is the blessing which Orlando asked for each one of us. It is the blessing which all of us together now pray for: freedom. Freedom is a gift that God gives us, but we have to know how to accept it. We have to be able to have a free heart, because we all know that in the world there are so many things that bind our hearts and prevent them from being free. Exploitation, lack of means to survive, drug addiction, sadness, all those things take away our freedom. And so we can all thank Orlando for having asked for this blessing of having a free heart, a heart that can say what it thinks, that can express what it feels, and can act according to how it thinks and feels. That is a free heart! And that is what we are going to ask for together: the blessing which Orlando requested for all. Repeat with me: “Lord Jesus, give me a heart that is free, that I may not be a slave to all the snares in the world. That I may not be a slave to comfort and deception. That I may not be a slave to the good life. That I may not be a slave to vice. That I may not be a slave to a false freedom, which means doing what I want at every moment”. Thank you Orlando, for making us realize that we need to ask God for a heart that is free. Ask him for this everyday!

We heard two testimonies: from Liz and from Manuel. Liz has taught us all something. Just as Orlando taught us how to pray for a heart that is free, Liz, by sharing her experience, teaches us that we must not be like Pontius Pilate and wash our hands of things. Liz could quite easily have put her mother into one home, and her grandmother into another home, and then gone on to enjoy her youth, following the path of studies she desired. But Liz said, “No, there is my mother, and my grandmother”. Liz became a servant, and much more: she became a servant for her mother and her grandmother. And she did it with such love! She did it to the point, as she herself said, that the roles were reversed in her family, and she ended up being a mother to her mother, in the way she cared for her. Her mother, with that cruel illness which confuses everything. She still gives herself fully, even today, at age twenty-five, serving her mother and her grandmother. All by herself? Not at all. She told us two things that can help us. She talked about an angel, an aunt who for her was like an angel; and she talked about getting together with her friends on weekends, with a youth group committed to evangelization, a youth group that strengthened her faith. And those two angels, the aunt who watched out for her and the youth group, gave her the strength to keep going. This is what we call solidarity. What do we call it? [The young people all respond: “Solidarity!”]. This happens when we take interest in other people’s problems. There she found a haven to rest her weary heart. But there’s something still missing here. She didn’t say: “I do this and that is it”. She studied. She is a nurse. And what helps her is the solidarity she received from you, from your youth group, the solidarity she received from that aunt who was like an angel. All these helped her move forward. And today, at age twenty-five, she enjoys the grace that Orlando showed us how to pray for: she has a free heart. Liz is obeying the Fourth Commandment: “Honor your Father and your Mother”. Liz offers her life in service to her mother. It is indeed a high degree of solidarity, the highest degree of love. This is witness. “Father, is it possible to love?” There you have a person who shows us how to love.

So first of all: freedom, a free heart. So all together: [The young people repeat each phrase.] First: a free heart. Second: a solidarity that accompanies. Solidarity. This is the lesson of this testimony. And Manuel was not a spoiled child. He is not “a good kid”. He was never a “kid”, a young person who had it easy in life. He used strong words: “I was taken advantage of, I was mistreated, I risked falling into addiction, and I was alone”. Exploitation, mistreatment, and loneliness. But instead of going out and getting in trouble, instead of going out to steal, he found a job. Instead of wanting to take revenge on life, he looked ahead. And Manuel used a beautiful phrase: “I could move forward because in the situation I was in, it was hard even to talk about a future”. How many young people, how many of you, today have the opportunity to study, to sit at the table with your family every day, not to worry about the essentials. How many of you enjoy this? Altogether, those of you who have these things, let us say, “Thank you Lord!” [The young people repeat the phrase]. We have here a testimony from a young man who from childhood knew what it was to feel pain, sadness, to be exploited, mistreated, not to have food and to be alone. Lord, save all those young people who are in those conditions! And for ourselves let us pray, “Thank you, Lord!”. Everyone: “Thank you, Lord!”.

Freedom of heart. Do you remember? Freedom of heart. That is what Orlando told us. And service and solidarity. That is what Liz told us. Hope, employment, making an effort to live and to move forward. That is what Manuel told us. As you can see, life is not easy for many young people. And I want you to understand this, and I want you to keep it always in mind: “If my life is relatively easy, there are other young men and women whose lives are not relatively easy”. What is more, desperation drives them to crime, drives them to get involved in corruption. To those young people we want to say that we are close to them, we want to lend them a helping hand, we want to support them, with solidarity, love, and hope.

There were two things that Liz and Manuel both said. Two things that are beautiful. Listen to them. Liz said that she began to know Jesus and that this meant opening the door to hope. And Manuel said: “I came to know God as my strength”. To know God is strength. In other words, to know God, to draw closer to Jesus, is hope and strength. And that is what we need from young people today: young people full of hope and strength. We don’t want “namby-pambies”, young people who are just there, lukewarm, unable to say either yes or no. We don’t want young people who tire quickly and who are always weary, with bored faces. We want young people who are strong. We want young people full of hope and strength. Why? Because they know Jesus, because they know God. Because they have a heart that is free. A heart that is free, please repeat this. [The young people repeat each word]. Solidarity, work, hope, effort. To know Jesus. To know God, my strength. Can a young person who lives this way have a bored look on his face? [“No”!]. A sad heart? [“No!”]. This then is the path! But it is a path that requires sacrifice, it requires going against the tide. The plan… The plan is to go against the tide. Jesus said: “Happy are those who are poor in spirit”. He does not say, “Happy are the rich, those who make lots of money”. No. Those who are poor in spirit, those who are capable of approaching and understanding those who are poor. Jesus does not say: “Happy are those who have a good time of it”, but rather: “Happy are those who can suffer for the pain of others”. I would ask you to read at home, later on, the Beatitudes, which are in the fifth chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel. Which chapter? [“The fifth!”] Which Gospel? [“Saint Matthew!”]. Read them and think about them; they will do you a lot of good.

I must thank you Liz; I thank you, Manuel, and I thank you, Orlando. A free heart, which is the way it should be. I have to go now [“No!”] The other day, a priest jokingly said to me: “Yes, keep telling young people to make a ruckus. But afterwards, we are the ones who have to clear it up”. So make a ruckus! But also help in cleaning it up. Two things: make a ruckus, but do a good job of it! A ruckus that brings a free heart, a ruckus that brings solidarity, a ruckus that brings us hope, a ruckus that comes from knowing Jesus and knowing that God, once I know him, is my strength. That is the kind of ruckus which you should make.

I already knew your questions, because I had them beforehand, so I wrote down some words for you, to share with you. But it’s boring to read a speech, so I am leaving it with the bishop in charge of the youth apostolate so that he can publish it. And now, before going [“No!”], I ask you, first of all, to continue to pray for me; second, that you carry on creating a ruckus; and third, that you organize that ruckus without ruining anything. And together now, in silence, let us raise our hearts to God. Each from the heart, in a quiet voice, let us repeat these words:

“Lord Jesus, I thank you for being here, I thank you because you gave me brothers and a sister like Manuel, Orlando, and Liz. I thank you because you have given us many brothers and sisters like them. They found you, Jesus. They know you, Jesus. They know that you, their God, are their strength. Jesus, I pray for all those young boys and girls who do not know that you are their strength and who are afraid to live, afraid to be happy, afraid to have dreams. Jesus, teach them how to dream, to dream big, to dream beautiful things, things which, although they seem ordinary, are things which enlarge the heart. Lord Jesus, give us strength. Give us a free heart. Give us hope. Give us love and teach us how to serve. Amen.”

And now I will give you my blessing and I ask you please, to pray for me and to pray for all the many young people who do not have the grace which you have had: the grace of knowing Jesus, who gives you hope, who gives you a free heart, and who makes you strong.

Note from Fr. Thomas Rosica:

As promised in the previous bulletin, I am sending you a summary of Pope Francis’ unscripted remarks to over 600,000 young people gathered the riverfront near the Presidential Palace for the final event of his Apostolic Journey. The meeting consisted of an allegorical representation of the situation of young people today.  Responding to questions from the testimony of a young woman and man, Liz and Manuel, and a third young man, Orlando, who read the Gospel of the Beatitudes, Pope Francis set aside his prepared remarks saying: “speeches are boring.” He than gave a stirring address to the huge crowd.  

Allow me to speak as one who led a World Youth Day in Canada in 2002, and one who has worked on several World Youth Days and large youth events in several countries.  I have never experienced anything as I did this evening. Pope Francis connected with the crowd, and indeed with young people around the world.  This evening’s meeting with young people was a fitting conclusion to a remarkable homecoming of sorts for a man whom the Cardinals chose from the ends of the earth in 2013. Thanks to the ZENIT International News Service for this report.  A full transcipt of the Pope’s remarks will be forthcoming.

Pope Urges Paraguayan Youth to Pray for a Free Heart
Tells Them They Will Have to Go Against the Current,
Depend on Jesus Who Gives Strength and Hope

Paraguay, July 12, 2015 – On the Riverfront

Pope Francis wrapped up his nine-day, three-nation apostolic trip to South America this evening amid the exuberant enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of Paraguayan young people. The Holy Father spoke to them entirely off-the-cuff, joking that “discourses are boring,” and asking that his prepared text be made available for later reflection.

He spoke briefly, drawing largely from the testimonies of two young people who shared their stories. The first, a young woman named Liz, explained that she is 25 years old and is caring for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s, and her grandmother. Her mother, she said, thinks that their roles are reversed and that she (the mother) is the child of her daughter. She explained how she has to help her to shower, to change her diapers and care for her.

The second person who spoke, a young man named Manuel, explained how when he was a child, he had to leave his parent’s home and go to the capital city to work, because his parents could not support him. There in the capital, he was mistreated and exploited. Now at the age of 18, after meeting God through a youth ministry, he says he is ready to serve others.

When the Pope began speaking, he explained that the young man who read the Gospel after the testimonies, a youth named Orlando, when he came to greet the Pope after the reading, asked him to pray for the grace of liberty for each person present.

“Liberty is a gift that God gives but we have to know how to receive it,” the Holy Father said. He explained that we have to learn how to have a free heart, since in the world, there are so many ties that bind the heart: Exploitation, a lack of things needed to survive, drug addiction, sadness. “All these things take away our liberty.”

He led the youth in a prayer: “Lord Jesus, give me a free heart,” he prayed, “that I might not be a slave to all the traps of the world, that I might not be a slave to comfort, to deception, that I might not be a slave of the good life, … a slave of vice … a slave of a false liberty, which is doing what I like in every moment.”

Francis told the young people to ask for this grace every day.

Solidarity

Then drawing from the testimony of the young woman, he said that she gives the lesson of not being like Pontius Pilate. He noted how easy it would be to put her mom in one care home, her grandma in another, and to live her young life carefree.

Instead, she became as a servant, he said, and serves with affection. “And this is called solidarity. when we take up the burdens of others,” he said. She has the grace that Orlando asked for, the Pontiff said, the grace of a free heart. She has a very high level of solidarity, he said, a very high level of love. “There is someone who teaches us to love.”

Turning then to Manuel’s testimony, he led the crowd in a prayer of gratitude, reminding them that so many youth do not have the opportunity to study, to have their meals provided by their family, to have what they need.

“As you see, life is not easy for many youth. I want you to understand this. I want you to get this in your head,” he said. If for me, life has been relatively easy, there are many youth for whom it hasn’t been easy.

Francis continued, noting how both of those who spoke mentioned knowing Jesus. “I began to get to know Jesus. To know Jesus. And this is to open the door to hope. I got to know Jesus, my strength,” he said, citing the youths. “To know Jesus is fortitude. To know Jesus is hope and fortitude. And this is what we need of young people today.”

He urged the youth to flee from being young people of “neither yes nor no,” who live tired, with a face of boredom. We need young people who are strong, with hope and strength. Who have hope and strength because they know Jesus and know God. Because they have a free heart.

“But for this,” the Pope cautioned, “you need sacrifice. You have to go against the current. The Beatitudes that we read a bit ago are Jesus’ plan for us. And it is a plan against the current.”

He told the young people to go home and read the Beatitudes. “They are in the fifth chapter of Matthew,” he said, and then tested the youth to see if they were listening: “What chapter?” and they responded, “fifth.” “Of which Gospel?” “Of Matthew.”

In this last event of the Pope’s apostolic trip in Paraguay, the Holy Father told the young people, “I have to go.”

“No!” they shouted back.

But the Pontiff brought them to silence as he led them again in prayer: “Everyone now in silence, we are going to lift up our hearts, each one,” he said. Lord Jesus, I thank you because I am here. Thank you because you gave me brothers such as Liz and Manuel. … Jesus I pray for the young people who don’t know that you are their strength and are afraid of living, of being happy, who are afraid of dreaming.”

“Jesus teaches us to dream,” he said, “to dream big, to dream of wonderful things. … Jesus gives us strength, gives us a free heart, gives us hope, gives us love.”

“Pray for me,” he concluded, “and for so many people who don’t have the grace that you have, of having known Jesus.”

Several minutes later, after a farewell ceremony with the president at the airport, just before 7:30 local time, the Pope boarded the plane that is taking him back to Rome. The Alitalia flight is scheduled to arrive after 1:00 p.m.Rome time Monday afternoon.

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope in Paraguay: Address to Young People – Costanera

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On Sunday, July 12, 2015, Pope Francis concluded his visit to South America with a meeting with young people in Asunción, Paraguay. Below you will find the prepared text which the Pope did not read:  

Dear Young People,

I am happy to be with you in this atmosphere of celebration. Happy to listen to your witness and to share your enthusiasm and love for Jesus.

I thank Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela, who is charge of the youth apostolate, for his kind words. I also thank Manuel and Liz for their courage in sharing their lives and their testimony at this meeting. It is not easy to speak about personal things, and even less so in front of so many people. You have shared the greatest treasure which you have: your stories, your lives and how Jesus became a part of them.

To answer your questions, I would like to speak about some of the things you shared.

Manuel, you told us something like this: “Today I really want to serve others, I want to be more generous”. You experienced hard times, and very painful situations, but today you really want to help others, to go out and share your love with others.

Liz, it is not easy to be a mother to your own parents, all the more when you are young, but what great wisdom and maturity your words showed, when you said: “Today I play with her, I change her diapers. These are all things I hand over to God today, but I am barely making up for everything my mother did for me”.

You, young Paraguayans, you certainly show great goodness and courage.

You also shared how you have tried to move forward. Where you found strength. Both of you said it was in your parish. In your friends from the parish and the spiritual retreats organized there. These two things are key: friends and spiritual retreats.

Friends: Friendship is one of the greatest gifts which a person, a young person, can have and can offer. It really is. How hard it is to live without friends! Think about it: isn’t that one of the most beautiful things that Jesus tells us? He says: “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15). One of the most precious things about our being Christians is that we are friends, friends of Jesus. When you love someone, you spend time with them, you watch out for them and you help them, you tell them what you are thinking, but also you never abandon them. That’s how Jesus is with us; he never abandons us. Friends stand by one another, they help one another, they protect another. The Lord is like that with us.  He is patient with us.

Spiritual retreats: Saint Ignatius has a famous meditation on the two standards. He describes the standard of the devil and then the standard of Christ. It would be like the football jerseys of two different teams. And he asks us which team we want to play for.

In this meditation, he has us imagine: What it would be like to belong to one or the other team. As if he was saying to us: “In this life, which team do you want to play for?”

Saint Ignatius says that the devil, in order to recruit players, promises that those who play on his side will receive riches, honor, glory and power. They will be famous. Everyone will worship them.

Then, Ignatius tells us the way Jesus plays. His game is not something fantastic. Jesus doesn’t tell us that we will be stars, celebrities, in this life. Instead, he tells us that playing with him is about humility, love, service to others. Jesus does not lie to us; he takes us seriously.

In the Bible, the devil is called the father of lies. What he promises, or better, what he makes you think, is that, if you do certain things, you will be happy. And later, when you think about it, you realize that you weren’t happy at all. That you were up against something which, far from giving you happiness, made you feel more empty, even sad. Friends: the devil is a con artist. He makes promises after promise, but he never delivers. He’ll never really do anything he says. He doesn’t make good on his promises. He makes you want things which he can’t give, whether you get them or not. He makes you put your hopes in things which will never make you happy. That’s his game, his strategy. He talks a lot, he offers a lot, but he doesn’t deliver. He is a con artist because everything he promises us is divisive, it is about comparing ourselve to others, about stepping over them in order to get what we want. He is a con artist because he tells us that we have to abandon our friends, and never to stand by anyone. Everything is based on appearances. He makes you think that your worth depends on how much you possess.

Then we have Jesus, who asks us to play on his team.  He doesn’t con us, nor does he promise us the world.  He doesn’t tell us that we will find happiness in wealth, power and pride.  Just the opposite.  He shows us a different way.  This coach tells his players: “Blessed, happy are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”.  And he ends up by telling them: “Rejoice on account of all this!”.

Why?  Because Jesus doesn’t lie to us.  He shows us a path which is life and truth.  He is the great proof of this.  His style, his way of living, is friendship, relationship with his Father.  And that is what he offers us.  He makes us realize that we are sons and daughters.  Beloved children.

He does not trick you.  Because he knows that happiness, true happiness, the happiness which can fill our hearts, is not found in designer clothing, or expensive brand-name shoes.  He knows that real happiness is found in drawing near to others, learning how to weep with those who weep, being close to those who are feeling low or in trouble, giving them a shoulder to cry on, a hug.  If we don’t know how to weep, we don’t know how to laugh either, we don’t know how to live.

Jesus knows that in this world filled with competition, envy and aggressivity, true happiness comes from learning to be patient, from respecting others, from refusing to condemn or judge others. As the saying goes: “When you get angry, you lose”. Don’t let your heart give in to anger and resentment. Happy are the merciful. Happy are those who know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, those who are able to embrace, to forgive. We have all experienced this at one time or another. And how beautiful it is! It is like getting our lives back, getting a new chance. Nothing is more beautiful than to have a new chance. It is as if life can start all over again.

Happy too are those who bring new life and new opportunities. Happy those who work and sacrifice to do this. All of us have made mistakes and been caught up in misunderstandings, a thousand of them. Happy, then, are those who can help others when they make mistakes, when they experience misunderstandings. They are true friends, they do not give up on anyone. They are the pure of heart, the ones who can look beyond the little things and overcome difficulties. Happy above all are the ones who can see the good in other people.

Liz, you mentioned Chikitunga, this Paraguayan servant of God.  You told us how she was your sister, your friend, your model.  Like so many others, she shows us that the way of the Beatitudes is a way of fulfilment, a path we can really follow, a path which can make our hearts brim over. The saints are our friends and models. They no longer play on our field, but we continue to look to them in our efforts to play our best game. They show us that Jesus is no con artist; he offers us genuine fulfillment. But above all, he offers us friendship, true friendship, the friendship we all need.

So we need to be friends the way Jesus is. Not to be closed in on ourselves, but to join his team and play his game, to go out and make more and more friends. To bring the excitement of Jesus’ friendship to the world, wherever you find yourselves: at work, at school, on WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter. When you go out dancing, or for a drink of tereré, when you meet in the town square or play a little match on the neighborhood field. That is where Jesus’ friends can be found. Not by conning others, but by standing beside them and being patient with them. With the patience which comes from knowing that we are happy, because we have a Father who is in heaven.

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope in Paraguay: Angelus Address – Ñu Guazú

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Following the conclusion of Holy Mass in Ñu Guazú and the words of Archbishop Edmundo Ponziano Valenzuela Mellid of Asunción, Pope Francis delivered the follow Angelus address:

I thank the Archbishop of Asuncion, the Most Reverend Edmundo Ponziano Valenzuela Mellid, and the Orthodox Archbishop of South America, Tarasios, for their kind words.

At the end of this celebration we look with trust to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. She is the gift that Jesus gives to his people. He gave her to us as our Mother at the hour of his cross and suffering. She is the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice for us. And from that moment, Mary has always been, and will always be, with her children, especially the poor and those most in need.

Mary has become part of the tapestry of human history, of our lands and peoples. As in so many other countries of Latin America, the faith of the Paraguayan people is imbued with love of the Virgin Mary. They approach their mother with confidence, they open their hearts and entrust to her their joys and sorrows, their aspirations and sufferings. Our Lady consoles them and with tender love fills them with hope. They never cease to turn with trust to Mary, mother of mercy for each and every one of her children.

I also ask the Blessed Mother, who persevered in prayer with the Apostles as they waited for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1,13-14), to watch over the Church and strengthen her members in fraternal love. With Mary’s help, may the Church be a home for all, a welcoming home, a mother for all peoples.

Dear brothers and sisters: I ask you please not to forget to pray for me. I know very well how much the Pope is loved in Paraguay. I also keep you in my heart and I pray for you and your country.

Let us now join in praying the Angelus to the Blessed Virgin.

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope in Paraguay: Homily in Asunción – Ñu Guazú

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On Sunday morning, July 12, 2015, during his last day in Paraguay, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass in the military airbase of Ñu Guazú, the same place Saint John Paul II canonized St. Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz and companions during his Apostolic Journey to Paraguay in 1988. Below you will find the full text of his homily:

“The Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. These are the words of the Psalm. We are invited to celebrate this mysterious communion between God and his People, between God and us. The rain is a sign of his presence, in the earth tilled by our hands. It reminds us that our communion with God always brings forth fruit, always gives life. This confidence is born of faith, from knowing that we depend on grace, which will always transform and nourish our land.

It is a confidence which is learned, which is taught. A confidence nurtured within a community, in the life of a family. A confidence which radiates from the faces of all those people who encourage us to follow Jesus, to be disciples of the One who can never deceive. A disciple knows that he or she is called to have this confidence; we feel Jesus’s invitation to be his friend, to share his lot, his very life. “No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”. The disciples are those who learn how to live trusting in the friendship offered by Jesus.

The Gospel speaks to us of this kind of discipleship. It shows us the identity card of the Christian. Our calling card, our credentials.

Jesus calls his disciples and sends them out, giving them clear and precise instructions. He challenges them to take on a whole range of attitudes and ways of acting. Sometimes these can strike us as exaggerated or even absurd. It would be easier to interpret these attitudes symbolically or “spiritually”. But Jesus is quite precise, very clear. He doesn’t tell them simply to do whatever they think they can.

Let us think about some of these attitudes: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money…” “When you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place” (cf. Mk 6:8-11). All this might seem quite unrealistic.

We could concentrate on the words, “bread”, “money”, “bag”, “staff”, “sandals” and “tunic”. And this would be fine. But it strikes me that one key word can easily pass unnoticed among the challenging words I have just listed. It is a word at the heart of Christian spirituality, of our experience of discipleship: “welcome”.

Jesus as the good master, the good teacher, sends them out to be welcomed, to experience hospitality. He says to them: “Where you enter a house, stay there”. He sends them out to learn one of the hallmarks of the community of believers. We might say that a Christian is someone who has learned to welcome others, who has learned to show hospitality. Jesus does not send them out as men of influence, landlords, officials armed with rules and regulations. Instead, he makes them see that the Christian journey is simply about changing hearts. One’s own heart first all, and then helping to transform the hearts of others. It is about learning to live differently, under a different law, with different rules. It is about turning from the path of selfishness, conflict, division and superiority, and taking instead the path of life, generosity and love. It is about passing from a mentality which domineers, stifles and manipulates to a mentality which welcomes, accepts and cares.

These are two contrasting mentalities, two ways of approaching our life and our mission.

How many times do we see mission in terms of plans and programs. How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, maneuvers, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments. Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by simply learning how to welcome them.

 The Church is a mother with an open heart. She knows how to welcome and accept, especially those in need of greater care, those in greater difficulty. The Church, as desired by Jesus, is the home of hospitality. And how much good we can do, if only we try to speak this language of hospitality, this language of receiving and welcoming. How much pain can be soothed, how much despair can be allayed in a place where we feel at home! This requires open doors, especially the doors of our heart.

Welcoming the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner (Mt 25:34- 37), the leper and the paralytic. Welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it. And sometimes, we are to blame. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, of which our earth is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners, because each one of us is also a sinner.

So often we forget that there is an evil underlying our sins, that precedes our sins. There is a bitter root which causes damage, great damage, and silently destroys so many lives. There is an evil which, bit by bit, finds a place in our hearts and eats away at our life: it is isolation. Isolation which can have many roots, many causes. How much it destroys our life and how much harm it does us. It makes us turn our back on others, God, the community. It makes us closed in on ourselves. From here we see that the real work of the Church, our mother, should not be mainly about managing works and projects, but rather about learning to experience fraternity with others. A welcome-filled fraternity is the best witness that God is our Father, for “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

In this way, Jesus teaches us a new way of thinking. He opens before us a horizon brimming with life, beauty, truth and fulfillment. God never closes off horizons; he is never unconcerned about the lives and sufferings of his children.

God never allows himself to be outdone in generosity. So he sends us his Son, he gives him to us, he hands him over, he shares him… so that we can learn the way of fraternity, of selfgiving. In a definitive way, he opens up a new horizon; he is a new word which sheds light on so many situations of exclusion, disintegration, loneliness and isolation. He is a word which breaks the silence of loneliness.

And when we are weary or worn down by our efforts to evangelize, it is good to remember that the life which Jesus holds out to us responds to the deepest needs of people. “We were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters” (Evangelii Gaudium, 265).

One thing is sure: we cannot force anyone to receive us, to welcome us; this is itself part of our poverty and freedom. But neither can anyone force us not to be welcoming, hospitable in the lives of our people. No one can tell us not to accept and embrace the lives of our brothers and sisters, especially those who have lost hope and zest for life. How good it would be to think of our parishes, communities, chapels, wherever there are Christians, with open doors, true centers of encounter between ourselves and God.

The Church is a mother, like Mary. In her, we have a model. We too must provide a home, like Mary, who did not lord it over the word of God, but rather welcomed that word, bore it in her womb and gave it to others.

We too must provide a home, like the earth, which does not choke the seed, but receives it, nourishes it and makes it grow.

That is how we want to be Christians, that is how we want to live the faith on this Paraguayan soil, like Mary, accepting and welcoming God’s life in our brothers and sisters, in confidence and with the certainty that “the Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. May it be so.

CNS Photo/ Paul Haring