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Pope Meets with Pope Emeritus – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis visits Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Holy Father’s full itinerary for Cuba and the United States is released and the US Supreme Court rules against the Church.

Cultivating and Caring for Creation: Do Not Despair

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In preparation for Pope Francis’ new ecological encyclical, Laudato Si, which came out on June 18, 2015, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, led by Bishop Donald Bolen, have released a series of videos and study guides on how Catholics are leading and participating in a new commitment to respect and protect.

The series is based on a recent CCCB document on the environment and it includes 12 programs 10 minutes each, featuring interviews with Bishop Donald Bolen. The segments interweave papal teaching on the environment with interviews or presentations of various environmental initiatives that have integrated a healthy relationship with the environment into their Christian commitment and lifestyle.

See below for the study guide and video for Program Ten: Do Not Despair

Study Guide

Goal

The goal of Program Ten is to introduce to the eighth theme of the CCCB document “Building a New Culture – Central Themes in Recent Church Teaching on the Environment” and to discover that, despite all the “bad news” about the environment, our faith calls us to live in hope and to do whatever we can to bring about positive change.

Steps

1. Show the video “Program Ten: Do Not Despair”

2. Ask students to form small groups to describe the following impressions from the video:

  • What is the eight theme of the document and why is it important?
  • How is St. Gabriel’s Parish a green space?

  • What did you know after viewing the video that you didn’t know before?

  • Which quote from what pope in this episode means the most to you and why?

3. Option for Take-Home Assignment. Using the internet links offered here, find more facts about:

  • Existing Catholic eco justice initiatives
  • The writings of Popes on the environment

4. Write 1.5 pages on the results of your research.

5. Group discussion

In groups, first share your short essays and then, asking one person to represent the discussion, make presentations to the class about any or all of the above.
Include suggestions on how students could start an ongoing eco justice project or become involved with local Catholic eco justice projects already in existence.

Pope Blesses Palliums – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis blesses the Palliums, his weekly Angelus Address, a Canadian is asked to help in Vatican environmental initiatives and a new Secretariat is created for communications.

Cultivating and Caring for Creation: Creation and Spirituality

Ecology9

In preparation for Pope Francis’ new ecological encyclical, Laudato Si, which came out on June 18, 2015, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, led by Bishop Donald Bolen, have released a series of videos and study guides on how Catholics are leading and participating in a new commitment to respect and protect.

The series is based on a recent CCCB document on the environment and it includes 12 programs 10 minutes each, featuring interviews with Bishop Donald Bolen. The segments interweave papal teaching on the environment with interviews or presentations of various environmental initiatives that have integrated a healthy relationship with the environment into their Christian commitment and lifestyle.

See below for the study guide and video for Program Nine: Creation and Spirituality

Study Guide

Goal

The goal of Program Nine is to introduce to the seventh theme of the CCCB document “Building a New Culture – Central Themes in Recent Church Teaching on the Environment” about the created world inviting a sense of mystery and awe.

Steps

1. Show the video “Program Nine: Creation and Spirituality”

2. Ask students to form small groups to describe the following impressions from the video:

  • What is the seventh theme of the document and why is it important?
  • How does the natural environment bring wonder and awe into your life?
  • What did you know after viewing the video that you didn’t know before?
  • Which quote from what pope in this episode means the most to you and why?

3. Option for Take-Home Assignment. Using the internet links offered here, find more facts about:

  • Existing Catholic eco justice initiatives
  • The writings of Popes on the environment

4. Write 1.5 pages on the results of your research.

5. Group discussion

In groups, first share your short essays and then, asking one person to represent the discussion, make presentations to the class about any or all of the above.
Include suggestions on how students could start an ongoing eco justice project or become involved with local Catholic eco justice projects already in existence.

Changes in the Pallium Ceremony on June 29 encourage greater participation of the faithful

 

Pallia tray June 29

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

In the past on June 29, Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, newly appointed Metropolitan Archbishops took part in an ancient liturgical ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and received the pallium directly from the Pope.

Pope Francis has made changes to the public ceremony of investiture of the Pallium on Metropolitan Archbishops emphasizing that the investiture is an ecclesial event of the whole diocese, and not merely a juridical or ceremonial event. Beginning on June 29 of this year, the ceremony of investiture of the Pallium will take place in the Metropolitan Archbishops’ home dioceses and not in the Vatican.

From now on, the ceremony will be celebrated in two significant moments: the first during which the pallium will be blessed by the Pope during the Mass on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in the Vatican; the second when it will be placed on the Metropolitan Archbishop in his own diocese, by his representative, the Apostolic Nuncio in that particular country.

It is the responsibility of the Nuncio to determine with the Metropolitan Archbishops the most opportune date, circumstances and manner to publicly and officially invest him with the pallium by mandate of the Holy Father, and with the participation of the Suffragan Bishops of that particular Province (ecclesiastically geographic area).

The pallium ceremony will continue to symbolize communion between the See of Peter and the Successor of the Apostle and those who are chosen to carry out the episcopal ministry as Metropolitan Archbishop of an Ecclesiastical Province, and it will encourage the participation of the local Church in an important moment of its life and history.

Pallium photo

The pallium is a circle of wool that hangs around the neck and shoulders with two long pieces draping one over the chest and the other along the back. It is decorated with six black crosses and weighed with pieces of lead. The wool for the pallium comes from two lambs offered every year to the Pope on January 21, Feast of St. Agnes. They are first taken to the Church of St. Agnes to be blessed. The lambs arrive wearing floral crowns, one white and one red. These represent the purity of Agnes, which the archbishops should emulate, and the martyrdom of Agnes, which the archbishops should be prepared to follow.

The lambs are then shorn and the pallia (plural of pallium) are made. On the eve of the feast of the great apostles Peter and Paul, (June 28) the pallia are stored overnight in the silver casket above Peter’s tomb in the Vatican crypt.  The following day (June 29) the pallia are given to the newly appointed metropolitan bishops, the only occasion in which more than one bishop can be seen wearing the pallium at the same time.

Symbolically, the Pope is sharing his mission to “Feed my sheep and lambs” with the archbishops. The wool over the shoulders evokes the lamb over the shoulders of the Good Shepherd.  It also reminds the archbishops of the burdens of their office.  By investing each new Archbishop with the pallium, the Holy Father confers some of his own weight and responsibilities upon him.

At his own inauguration of Petrine Ministry as Bishop of Rome on April 24, 2005, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI spoke moving words about the pallium he had received during that ceremony:

“The symbolism of the Pallium is even more concrete: the lamb’s wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life. …Hence the Pallium becomes a symbol of the shepherd’s mission. …The pastor must be inspired by Christ’s holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert.  And there are so many kinds of desert.  There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love.  There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.

Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”

Why going on a pilgrimage is worth every penny

New documentary 'Camino' follows hikers' trek from France to famed pilgrimage site in Spain

I came across an article the other day that indicated there’s research that suggests that experiences, not things, make us happier.

Turns out there are a few reasons for this – the value of experience increases over time, and it’s something that people share, and even bad experiences (apparently) are valued more over the course of time because they become good stories.

Reflecting on this research, what immediately popped into my mind was pilgrimages. Because it really doesn’t matter how terrible the accommodations or the inevitable logistical fiascos may be because, in the end, it is overcoming these trials or bad experiences, like the saints before us, that makes these journeys, these experiences, worthwhile.

To quote St. John Paul II, “For the Church, pilgrimages, in all their multiple aspects, have always been a gift of grace.”

The best part is that you don’t always have to be trekking halfway across the world to go on a good pilgrimage. There are many spots close to home that you can enjoy. One place in particular, which I thought I’d share with you, is a stunning exhibit of the life of St. John Paul II that allows pilgrims to immerse themselves in his life and teachings.

I caught up with Dr. Jem Sullivan, Director of Research and Education for the Saint John Paul II National Shrine to learn more.

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The permanent exhibit is dedicated to preserving the legacy of St John Paul II – why is that important and what are some of the unique features of the exhibit?

Saint John Paul II is the “pope of the family,” as noted by Pope Francis when he canonized him a saint of the Church in 2014. Pope John Paul II’s clear and courageous witness to the gift and sanctity of the family continues to be among his most enduring legacies.

The exhibit is meant to be both an informative and a transformative experience that invites pilgrims to become part of the “spiritual family” of Saint John Paul II by walking in the footsteps of one of the great saints of our time.

Saint John Paul II’s entire life was an embodiment of his fearless preaching of the Gospel. From his early experiences of family, and his personal and physical sufferings, he showed the world that it is possible to live a fully human life through the power of faith in Jesus Christ.

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Many people considered Pope John Paul an important player on the world stage, how does the exhibit explore this?

The permanent exhibit  explores the impact of his teachings and witness to the dignity of the human person through an extraordinary collection of photos, quotes, short films, personal interviews, artifacts, and original works of art.

Pilgrims can view his handwritten notes of his 1979 speech to the United Nations on display in the exhibit, and be inspired by his 1995 address to the United Nations when he said that, “…the answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty.” (John Paul II, Address to the United Nations, October 5, 1995).

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How has John Paul’s life personally had an impact on who you are today?

As a young student of theology and philosophy in the 1980s and 1990s, I had the privilege of reading and reflecting on the writings of Pope John Paul II. The pope’s first encyclical, Redeemer of Man, and his writings on catechesis, evangelization, and art made a deep impression on me and was a guide to the subsequent intellectual paths I would take during my graduate and doctoral studies.

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The pope radiated the love of God in a way that had a strong impact on my faith and life, as a wife and mother, and as a catechist, teacher, and professor. His love for Christ was a powerful example of Christian discipleship that encouraged me to serve the Church over the past twenty years. I took to heart Saint John Paul II’s call and challenge to grow daily in prayer and holiness of life, and to “not be afraid” to give one’s life in service of Christ and His Church. His saintly witness and example of Christian discipleship was among the reasons I was led to serve through catechesis, evangelization, and the renewal of culture and art for the past two decades.

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So this summer consider visiting this stunning exhibit to learn about a hero, live his life and share in something which will inspire you, challenge you and leave you grateful for his witness.

What could make you happier?

Exhibit photos courtesy of: Matthew Barrick, Barrick Photography and CNS.

 

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

Laudato Sì, Signore, for the Story Within the Story

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On Friday, June 26, 2015 Fr. Thomas Rosica gave the keynote address during the Catholic Media Convention held in Buffalo, New York. Read the full text of his address, Laudato Si, Signore, for the Story Within the Story, below:

Keynote Address to the Catholic Media Convention
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

 Hyatt Regency Hotel – Buffalo, New York
June 26, 2015

Thank you for the privilege of addressing this important gathering of Catholic journalists and media colleagues from throughout North America. This afternoon I would like to speak to you about Pope Francis and how he is communicating with the Church and the world over the past two years. To begin, I wish to share a meeting I had earlier this winter as I met with senior journalists at the ABC Television Network in New York City on behalf of the Holy See Press Office. During our conversation about Pope Francis, the senior producer of the ABC evening news who had headed up the network’s coverage of the Papal Transition two years ago remarked: “Look, Fr. Tom, whether one is Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Muslim, left or right, or nothing at all, for many of us for whom the Church was on a distant horizon, we have all been brought into the heart of the Church and the Gospel and find the story incredible, fascinating and inviting.”

Incredible, Fascinating and inviting: three words that sum up well what many of us are experiencing as we try to tell the story of the Church and the current Bishop of Rome to the world around us. I would like to offer you five hermeneutical keys to understanding what is happening in five areas of the Church today: Communication, Christian Unity, the Synod of Bishops, Ecology and Mercy. For each of these areas, it is far too easy to remain on the surface, to be captivated by quick headlines, great photo opportunities and buzz-catching expressions attributed to Pope Francis. For each of these important areas, there is a story within a story. Our work as Catholic media is not to remain on the surface but to go to the deeper level of that story within the story.

  1. Communications

Following Pope Francis’ recent pronouncements on digital and Internet matters, several journalists with whom I deal regularly wrote or called asking me: “So, is this Jesuit Pope a Luddite?” Some people may think so given recent headlines like: “Pope doesn’t use e-mail, doesn’t have a laptop, doesn’t have an i-phone.” Or “Jesuit Pope takes oath to Blessed Mother in 1990 promising never to watch television again.” Or “Pope tells parents not to let children use computers in their bedrooms.”

But as you know well, such headlines often distort the message. To understand what Francis says, context counts and syntax matters. The Pope has issued no magisterial directive on how to organize households. What he offered was common-sense wisdom. In more unscripted remarks during his recent day trip to Sarajevo three weeks ago, Pope Francis spoke both to young people and to journalists about computer usage. Prefacing his remarks to the young people with self-deprecating humility “Obviously, I am from the Stone Age, I’m ancient!”, his admonitions remain sound today: “If you live glued to the computer and become a slave to the computer, you lose your freedom. And if you look for obscene programs on the computer, you lose your dignity.” But he also implored those digital natives to “Watch television, use the computer, but for beautiful reasons, for great things, things which help us to grow.”

The question for us is not whether we use technology, computers, Internet and Social Media for our Catholic media efforts, program promotion, pastoral ministry, parish life, education, worship or congregational solidarity. The real question is whether the Church is going to provide any compelling leadership or counter narrative amidst to how the world uses these powerful instruments to communicate with others.

The new Social Media tools are generating new patterns of behavior that affect not just Christian practice, but also, potentially, patterns of belief. Thinking theologically about living in a socially networked world has become an essential task for the community of faith… especially for those of us in Catholic media.

For years, the big question of our era was: How do I live constantly connected? But we are moving through that experience now and trying to ask a new question: What does it mean to incorporate a sense of presence, awareness, and wisdom within this new media era of connectedness that engages us all? 

Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope is by no means a Luddite! Just because he doesn’t use an i-phone, an i-pad or even watch TV, he understands what authentic communication is all about. Just watch the way he connects with people and with the world. In his major encyclical “Laudato Sì” released last week, he entitled a section: “Decline in the quality of Human Life and the Breakdown of Society.” In that section he wrote:

  1. …Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affection Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.”

“Laudato Sì” Signore, for the wisdom of Pope Francis in helping us to go beyond the surface of communications and understand the real meaning of communications in today’s Church and world.

  1. Christian Unity

Over the past two years, we have all reported in one way or another on some of the great ecumenical gestures of Pope Francis. We are moved by the Bishop of Rome during his historic visit to Phanar in Turkey, bowing before the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and asking for his blessing. We delight in the scenes of Evangelical pastors dining with the Pope at Santa Marta, of Pentecostals blessing the Bishop of Rome at assemblies, or the Pope sending a video via i-phone to Protestant friends. We have witnessed Pope Francis’ grand gestures, bold apologies and warm embraces with leaders of our sister Churches. Earlier this week during his brief pastoral visit to the Italian industrial city of Turin, Pope Francis visited a Waldensian temple in Turin. Although numbering only about 30,000 members, the Waldensian Evangelical Church is an important dialogue partner with the Catholic Church, as it is one of the only non-Catholic Christian communities native to Italy.

Recalling the painful relationship between the Waldensian Evangelical Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, Francis spoke of the new fraternity that “allows us to grasp the profound ties that already unite us. He then referred specifically to the violence and disputes that took place with that ecclesial community “committed in the name of the faith itself.” Pope Francis then asked for forgiveness for “the non-Christian attitudes and behavior” of the Catholic Church against Waldensians.

There are stories within stories within stories behind each of these gestures, actions, apologies and moments of fraternity and solidarity. What are they and how do we report on them? Or do we simply choose to remain on the surface of the events?

Pope Francis has energized the ecumenical movement, not just with the mainline Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant Churches, but especially with the fast-growing movement of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity, that he got to know well during his years as archbishop of Buenos Aires. These movements should challenge the old-established Churches to renewal, especially in the face of common persecution in places where Christians are being martyred for their faith.

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Here is the uniqueness of Pope Francis’ ecumenical efforts: A central image of the Christian life is the movement toward Christian unity – a movement that happens one step at a time. For Francis, it is not about waiting for others to catch up with us. It is about everyone continuing to walk with and toward the Lord, supporting and learning from the brothers and sisters whom God places on the same path. The deeper we all grow in holiness, the closer we will be to one another. While Francis’ gestures are new and even disconcerting to some, the idea of growth in unity being the result of growth in fidelity to Christ is not. The unity we seek requires inner conversion that is both common and personal. It is not merely a matter of cordiality, or good cooperation, it is necessary above all to strengthen our faith in God, in the God of Jesus Christ, who spoke to us and took on our flesh and blood in the incarnation.

“Laudato Sì” Signore for Pope Francis who has the humility to ask for forgiveness for our meanness and violent actions, our lack of charity and hope, and for renewing our ecumenical efforts that ‘all may be one.’

  1. Synod of Bishops

Many of you undoubtedly followed last October’s Extraordinary Synod and you may have received indications or impressions that the Synod was a time of great tension, revealing differing opinions within the Church. I believe that the October 2014 assembly was the first time since Blessed Paul VI established this organ of collegiality that the assembly functioned as a synod and not a staged gathering of pseudo-concord. You may have heard or read, or perhaps incorrectly reported or wrote that the Extraordinary Synod was about changing the teaching of the Church on marriage, family life or sexual morality. This is not true. It was about the pastoral care that the Church strives to people, the ‘motherly love of the Church’, especially when facing difficult moments and experiences in family life.

You may have heard that the Synod represented a ‘defeat for Pope Francis’ or that he was disappointed at its outcome. This is totally false. At the Synod, Pope Francis invited the universal Church to journey together as we reflected on the joys and hopes, dark moments and light moments of what it means to be family today.

At the end of our two intense weeks together, Pope Francis spoke at length about his joy and satisfaction at its work. He told us to look deeply into our hearts to see how God had touched us during the Synod, and to see how we may have been tempted away from the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Synod, he insisted, has been a spiritual journey, not a debating chamber. If you have not read his masterful address of Saturday evening, October 18, 2014, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is a very important text and confirms once again that there is a story within the story of our journey from Synod to Synod.

Blessed Paul VI created the Synod of Bishops in 1965 to give the world’s bishops a voice – a sounding board that would advise the pope on various aspects of the Church’s life. From the beginning, synodal assemblies would be consultative, not legislative. These global gatherings have never produced new dogma or overturned Church teachings. The majority of Synods took place during the long pontificate of St. John Paul II. The final documents of these meetings are called “Apostolic Exhortations” and clearly bear the mark of the reigning Pontiff.

No one can deny that the synodal process and structure had grown tired with the passage of time, and there seemed little opportunity for evaluation or renewal. One of the most important contributions of the recent Synod, and hopefully a constitutive part of future Synods is the rediscovery of the synodal process. Synods are not about taking a poll or voting in a democratic way on Church teaching and practice but they embody a humble openness to the fact that the Lord is leading the pilgrim church through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Across the Western world, the collapse of the cultural narrative of marriage means fewer marrying and more and more children born into families lacking necessary stability. This is a serious challenge, because the family is the “school of humanity” according to Gaudium et Spes, the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (n. 52), and also the “domestic church,” the locus of spiritual life for most ordinary people, as well as the primary vehicle for learning and handing on faith down the generations. How many times did St. John Paul II say that the “future of humanity passes through the family?”

I would like to conclude this section with the words of Pope Francis himself at the closing of the Synod, with which he summarized the synodal experience as a “journey” moving towards the next stage of the Synod to take place in 2015.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you, as I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

“Laudato Sì” Signore, for Pope Francis who has revived the Synodal process and invited the whole Church to speak and act with parresía – Gospel boldness and courage as we discern the Lord’s path for us at this moment in history.

  1. Ecology

Last week’s encyclical, “Laudato Sì” “On the Care of our Common Home” – is addressed to “everyone living on this planet” calls for a new way of looking at things. We face an urgent crisis, when the earth has begun to look more and more like, in Francis’s vivid image, “an immense pile of filth”. Still, the document is hopeful, reminding us that because God is with us, all of us can strive to change course. We can move towards an “ecological conversion” in which we can listen to the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”. To use religious language, what the Pope is calling for is conversion. This is a deeply uncomfortable encyclical because it is not content simply to face up to the institutional and moral issues of climate change and environmental degradation, but addresses the deeper tragedy of humanity itself.

What is the story within the story of “Laudato Sì”? It is an overview of the environmental crisis from a religious point of view. Until now, the dialogue about the environment has been framed mainly using political, scientific and economic language. Now, the language of faith enters the discussion – clearly, decisively and systematically.

Against those who argue that a papal encyclical on the environment has no real authority, Pope Francis explicitly states that “Laudato Sí” is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching”. It continues the church’s reflection on modern-day problems that began with Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, on capital and labor, published in 1891.

More than any other encyclical, “Laudato Sí” draws from the experiences of people around the world, referencing the findings of bishops’ conferences from Brazil, New Zealand, Southern Africa, Bolivia, Portugal, Germany, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Australia, Canada and the United States.

In our presentations of “Laudato Sí” to the world, we have an obligation to present the full picture of this landmark papal document. When the environmental world welcomes the Pope as a powerful ally and the religious Right dismisses him as a disingenuous radical, socialist or a communist, these have missed the essential point. This is the Gospel call, as disconcertingly direct today as was Jesus’s confrontation with the rich young man, the scribes and the Pharisees, or the moneychangers in the Temple. That’s the unique quality of the encyclical. It is not just the declaration of assent to a programme of international environmental action, but also the prophetic voice of the Church. It is therefore far more fundamentally disturbing and uncomfortable, demanding an individual response that will change our lives forever.

“Laudato Sì” Signore for Pope Francis who reminds us that we simply cannot save the world from the consequences of climate change if we continue to consume at a rate which is possible because it is only available to the few. We need to hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.

  1. Mercy

On March 13, Pope Francis surprised the world by a Jubilee of Mercy beginning this coming December. Francis wants this jubilee to go deeper spiritually and to be a far-reaching Christian witness of mercy to the world.

            Mercy is a theme very dear to Pope Francis, as is expressed in the episcopal motto he had chosen: “miserando atque eligendo”, from the homily of Saint Bede the Venerable during which he commented on the Gospel passage of the calling of Saint Matthew: (Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, ‘follow me’). This homily is a tribute to divine mercy.

During the first Angelus after his elections, Pope Francis stated: “Feeling mercy, that this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient” (Angelus, March 17, 2013).

In the English edition of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium the term mercy appears 32 times. In his Angelus on January 11, 2015, he stated: “There is so much need of mercy today, and it is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth! We are living in the age of mercy, this is the age of mercy”.

In his 2015 Lenten Message, the Holy Father expressed: “How greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!”

For Pope Francis, mercy is the interpretative key to the Gospel of Jesus. Francis had his first profound experience of God’s mercy at age 17, when he went to confession and felt the call to the priesthood. Throughout his priestly ministry, he has sought to give concrete expression to God’s mercy by word and deed because he believes, as he wrote recently: “Mercy is not just a pastoral attitude; it is the very substance of the Gospel message.”

What is the story within the story of the Jubilee of Mercy? Pope Francis wants to bring the whole church, starting with the cardinals, bishops, priests and consecrated persons, to open themselves to God’s mercy and to find concrete, creative ways to put mercy into practice in their areas of ministry. As Bishop of Rome, he is blazing the trail by word and deed, showing what mercy means in relation to the poor, the homeless, prisoners, immigrants, the sick and the persecuted. They are for him “the flesh of Christ.” In this same optic of mercy, he recently called for the abolition of the death penalty and life-imprisonment (“the hidden death penalty”).

In his homily to new cardinals on February 15 of this year, Pope Francis recalled that “the church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement.” This means “welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world.”

Pope Francis doesn’t have easy answers to the great issues of our time, let alone answers he seeks to impose. He wants to create a culture and a process in which we can better discern the Holy Spirit’s answers to those questions, not necessarily in an absolute way, but in a way that makes sense in our own time. Pope Francis has written, we cannot “allow our hope to be dimmed by facile answers and solutions which block our progress, ‘fragmenting’ time and changing it into space. Time is always much greater than space. Space hardens processes, whereas time propels toward the future and encourages us to go forward in hope.”

“Laudato Sì” Signore for Pope Francis’ understanding that “The way of the church is not to condemn anyone for eternity”; rather “it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.” This is what the Holy Father wants to happen during the Jubilee of Mercy.

Field Hospitals in today’s world

I leave you with this final image from the first Jesuit Pope – the powerful image of the “field hospital” which he uses often that is drawn from the Spiritual Exercises. It is the opposite image of a fortress under siege. The image of a church as a field hospital is not just a simple, pretty poetic metaphor; from this very image we can derive an understanding of both the church’s mission and the sacraments of salvation.

What and where are the battlefields today? Are some of them not in the very areas of Communication, Christian Unity, the Synod of Bishops, Ecology and Mercy? For precisely in these areas we suffer from miscommunication, deafness, monologue, disunity, misunderstanding and misinterpretation, misuse of the earth, violence, hatred and unforgiveness.

Each of us can name a country or region, a city or a town where blood, terror and violence seem to have the upper hand. One big battlefield before humanity is in the very field of communications – our field – one that requires no passport and travel ticket to enter. It is in this universe that many wars are waged each day and where many wounded souls live, walk or troll. It is an immense battleground that needs many field hospitals set up to bind wounds and reconcile warring parties. They need to learn how to communicate, how to listen, how to discern, how to find the truth of what is happening in the Church. And in this room, there are close to 300 field hospital workers ready for deployment. In the heart and mind of Pope Francis, we need “a church that is again capable of restoring citizenship to so many of its children that walk as if in exodus. Christian citizenship is above all the result of God’s mercy. Each of you has the power to restore that citizenship to so many people who are wandering and lost.

On the late afternoon of March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio received the call to go, rebuild, repair, renew and heal the church. There are those who delight in describing the new Pope as a bold, brazen revolutionary sent to rock the boat. Others think he has come to cause a massive shipwreck. But the only revolution that Pope Francis has inaugurated is a revolution of tenderness, the very words he used in his recent major letter on “The Joy of the Gospel.” [Evangelii Gaudium #88]

And the second revolution he has inaugurated is the revolution of normalcy. What he is doing is normal human, Christian behavior. These are the revolutions at the heart and soul of Pope Francis’ ministry. This Bishop of Rome demands a lot while preaching about a God of mercy, by engaging joyfully with nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and those sitting on the fences of life- many who thought that Christianity has nothing left to add to the equations of life.

I go back to those words of my colleague, Eric, at the ABC network: “We have all been brought into the heart of the Church and the Gospel and find the story incredible, fascinating and inviting.” We need the Francis revolution of tenderness, mercy and normalcy now more than ever before. Be sure to tell that story to the world.

Cultivating and Caring for Creation: Solidarity

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In preparation for Pope Francis’ new ecological encyclical, Laudato Si, which came out on June 18, 2015, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, led by Bishop Donald Bolen, have released a series of videos and study guides on how Catholics are leading and participating in a new commitment to respect and protect.

The series is based on a recent CCCB document on the environment and it includes 12 programs 10 minutes each, featuring interviews with Bishop Donald Bolen. The segments interweave papal teaching on the environment with interviews or presentations of various environmental initiatives that have integrated a healthy relationship with the environment into their Christian commitment and lifestyle.

See below for the study guide and video for Program Eight: Solidarity

Study Guide

Goal

The goal of Program Eight is to introduce to the sixth theme of the CCCB document “Building a New Culture – Central Themes in Recent Church Teaching on the Environment” about addressing the basic needs of those who are systematically oppressed or marginalised.

Steps

1. Show the video “Program Eight: Solidarity”

2. Ask students to form small groups to describe the following impressions from the video:

  • What is the sixth theme of the document and why is it important?

  • What are some things that we can do for the environment to help future generations?
  • What did you know after viewing the video that you didn’t know before?
  • Which quote from what pope in this episode means the most to you and why?

3. Option for Take-Home Assignment. Using the internet links offered here, find more facts about:

  • Existing Catholic eco justice initiatives
  • The writings of Popes on the environment

4. Write 1.5 pages on the results of your research.

5. Group discussion

In groups, first share your short essays and then, asking one person to represent the discussion, make presentations to the class about any or all of the above.
Include suggestions on how students could start an ongoing eco justice project or become involved with local Catholic eco justice projects already in existence.

 

Feast Day of St. Josemaria Escriva: 40th Death Anniversary & The Marian Year of the Family

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Trisha Villarante

Trisha Villarante

This month there will be hundreds of Masses heard around the globe in honour of St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, whose feast day is on June 26th. But, in Vancouver, on Saturday, June 20th, about six hundred faithful gathered at St. Mary’s Ukraine Catholic Church to kick off the celebration a little earlier this year. 2015 marks the 40th death anniversary of St. Josemaria since his passing in 1975 in Rome, Italy.

This was the first time the annual celebratory Mass was held at St. Mary’s Ukraine Catholic Church, which reflected the ecumenical spirit that St. Josemaria emphasized during Vatican II. The Mass began at 11 am with confession available at 10 am. Regular attendees of this celebration were well prepared and began arriving before 10 am to find parking and seats. By 10:30 am the parking lot was completely full and attendees were making their way to the church from the neighboring streets.

At the entrance of the church, an impressive exhibit of panels was on display portraying St. Josemaria’s remarkable life in the form of old photographs and biographical excerpts. Each panel highlighted different events from his childhood in Spain, his ordination to the priesthood, the beginnings of Opus Dei in Madrid and Rome, up to his final years of service to God through Opus Dei and the Catholic Church.

Vicar General, Reverend Joseph Phuong Nguyen, was the principal celebrant with several other concelebrants including Fr. Fernando and newly ordained Father Paul Goo. In his Homily, Father Nguyen emphasized St. Josemaria’s life as an inspiration to practice the virtues of humility and trust in sanctifying one’s ordinary life. In his Homily he paralleled the Gospel of Luke regarding Peter and the miraculous catch and the life of St. Josemaria.

“Faith requires a lot of sacrifice, hardships and moments of doubt like St. Peter, but we must always persevere as St. Josemaria did to always be in unity with our Lord.” – Fr. Nguyen

Anna Eastland, an attendee at Saturday’s Mass shared, “Fr. Nguyen reminded us, (holiness and success) is not for the privileged few, because the Lord expects love from us all. He encouraged everyone to be a disciple of Christ in their chosen profession, and to make their occupation a way to Heaven.”

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Members of Opus Dei and their families and friends attended this year not only in honour of the 40th death anniversary of St. Josemaria, but in celebration of the Marian Year of the Family; convoked by the prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría. The Marian year of the Family is a yearlong intention for 2015, which began on the Feast day of the Holy Family on December 28th, 2014. The special intention was implemented, “to place in our Lady’s hands all the needs of the Church and of mankind, and to follow faithfully the Pope’s intentions.”

This month, Bishop Echevarria released a powerful video about the importance of family and their duty to find Christ in their daily lives. As June marks the halfway point for this Year of the Family, the video acts as reminder that parents have the primary responsibility for educating their children and that the institution of the family is the cell of society. The formation of individuals is dependent on well-formed parents, which is a dire need in today’s world. The video can be viewed here on the Opus Dei website.

St. Josemaria Escriva is coined the Saint of Ordinary Life, and has always put great importance on the institution of the family. In the text, Conversations with Msgr. Escriva (page 91) a brief summary of his emphasis on the family can be found,

“We must strive so that these cells of Christianity may be born and may develop with a desire for holiness… all Christians have a divine mission that each must fulfill in his own walk of life. Christian couples should be aware that they are called to sanctify themselves and to sanctify others… and that their first apostolate is in the home. They should understand that founding a family, educating their children, and exercising a Christian influence in society are supernatural tasks… their happiness depends… on their awareness of their specific mission.”

St. Mary’s church was filled with the spirit of family with newborns, newly weds, parents, grandparents and even great grandparents. It is evident that the teachings of St. Josemaria have been instilled in the hearts of the faithful around the world, and Saturday’s Mass was a humble snippet of what good he has influenced throughout the generations. The Mass was followed by a reception, which flowed from the church basement to the parking lot as everyone gathered to greet one another as one big family.

At the reception, stories were shared about the graces received from the intercession of St. Josemaria and how his influence has helped them and their family and friends. One woman shared that her and her husband’s lives were changed after attending their first retreats run by Opus Dei, thanks to an invitation by her friend. She expressed gratitude for his teachings, which inspired her and her husband to fall in love with their Faith and to connect it with their daily lives in divine filiation.

“The idea that when you open up to (God) in humility and trust he makes you so much more capable of doing things that you would have never imagined. Summed up simply, sanctifying ordinary life and daily work has become essential to us.” – Daniela O

Today, June 26th, thousands of people all around the world will be seeking the intercession of St. Josemaria especially on this feast day.  If you haven’t already, it may be a good idea to take the opportunity to pray for your intentions and those of your family and friends by saying his prayer card.

To learn more about Opus Dei and St. Josemaria Escriva, check out the S+L film Opus Dei: Decoding God’s Work. 

Written by Trisha Villarante

Fr. Thomas Rosica receives Clarion Award from Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals

Gabriel Clarion Award 2015

Clarion Award 2015 TRDuring the awards banquet of the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals taking place during the 2015 International Media Convention in Buffalo, New York, this year’s Clarion Award was presented to Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada and English Language Media Attache to the Holy See Press Office. The Clarion Award recognizes “a timely contribution to Catholic communicators through organizational service; through creativity in a communications effort or product; through service to a diocese, institution or religious order; at a personal or career milestone; through excellence in communications leadership, ecumenical cooperation or industry collaboration.”

Fr. Rosica was honoured as “Broadcaster, Filmmaker and Church Spokesman whose portrayal of the Catholic Church brings the light of the Gospel to millions.”

Fr. Rosica is founding CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network since 2003. Previous winners of the Clarion Award have been Scott Landry, former head of Catholic Voices USA; Fr. Robert Barron, Rector and President of the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, and John Thavis, former head of the Rome bureau of Catholic News Service.

Gabriel Awards Frank Devine 60 Minutes TR