WATCH LIVE   ·  English  ·  Français   ·   中文    

On the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz “A Hand of Peace: Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust”

Pius-XII-Jews

Today on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi Concentration in Poland, let us recall one of the great figures in world history who quietly assisted hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Nazi reign of terror and evil. For decades, the figure of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, has been at the center of some volatile polemics. The controversy has raged over whether the Pope did and said enough in defense of the Jews and other victims of the Nazis. The Roman Pontiff who guided the Church through the terrible years of the Second World War and the Cold War is the victim of a “black legend,” which has proven difficult to combat and is so widespread that many consider it to be more true than the actual historical facts.

Popes do not speak with the idea of pre-constituting a favourable image for future ages. They know that the fate of millions of Christians can at times depend on their every word; they have at heart the fate of men and women of flesh and blood, not the applause or fleeting approval of historians.

Let us remember some key facts about this man’s story and about history. Pope Pius XII led the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958. Immediately before his election, the then-Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was the Vatican Secretary of State. He, more than anyone else in the Vatican, knew what was happening in the world. Pius XII was not only the Pope of the Second World War, but a pastor who, from March 2, 1939, to October 9, 1958, had before him a world at war during very troubled times.

Those who attack Pius XII often do so for ideological reasons. The campaign against him was started in the Soviet Union and was then sustained in various Catholic environments. He took sides against the Communist world in a severe, strong and determined way. In such a way that we had to wait 30 years, until the Polish Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope, for that style to be taken up properly in a way that was fatal for Communism.

The black legend swirling around Pacelli took shape in the bitter controversies over the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, and was manipulated by forces on both sides. Pacelli cannot be the person who is blamed for something that belongs in a complex way to the world community.

Arbeit-macht-frei-gates

From the beginning, Hitler and his closest followers were motivated by a pathological hatred for the Catholic Church, which they appraised correctly as the most dangerous opponent to what they hoped to do in Germany. There was radical divergence between the Nazis and the Catholic Church.

Pope Pius XII was not concerned for his reputation, but with saving Jewish lives and this was the only just decision, which clearly required wisdom and a great amount of courage. The Pope protested vehemently the persecution of Jews, but he explained in 1943 that he could not speak in more dramatic or public terms without the risk of making things much worse than they were. His was a prophecy in action, which saved the lives of countless victims of the neo-pagan Nazi reign of terror, rather than potentially counter-productive public statements.

During the Second World War, and up until five years after his death, Pius XII was greatly praised by many Jewish organizations, chief Rabbis of diverse countries and especially from the United States. Robert Kempner, a Jewish lawyer and public official at the Nüremberg trials, wrote in 1964, after the appearance of Rolf Hochhuth’s “The Deputy”: “Any propagandistic position that the Church would have taken against Hitler’s government would have not only provoked suicide… but it would have hastened the execution of still more Jews and priests.”

One of the unpleasant “secondary” consequences of this black legend that falsely portrays Pope Pius XII as indulgent toward Nazism and indifferent to the fate of the victims of persecution has been to sideline or even obliterate the extraordinary teaching of this Pope who was a precursor of the Second Vatican Council. Pius XII must be remembered for his encyclical on the liturgy, his reform of the rites of Holy Week – the great preparatory work that would flow into the conciliar liturgical reform.

It is the same Pope who, in the encyclical “Humani Generis,” takes evolutionary theory into consideration. Pius XII also gave notable impetus to missionary activity with the encyclicals “Evangelii Praecones,” in 1951, and “Fidei Donum,” in 1957, highlighting the Church’s duty to proclaim the Gospel to the nations, as Vatican II would amply reaffirm.

Auschwitz

Papa Pacelli opened up the application of the historical-critical method to the Bible, and in the encyclical “Divino Afflante Spiritu,” established the doctrinal norms for the study of Sacred Scripture, emphasizing the importance of its role in Christian life. After Sacred Scripture, the Council’s documents cite no single author as frequently as Pope Pius XII.

Since Pacelli’s death the Church has taken great strides in forging closer relations with the Jewish faith. Pope John Paul II made Jewish-Christian relations a priority of his pontificate. He repeatedly defended the actions of Pope Pius XII while at the same time spoke of the silence and inaction of some Catholics during the Holocaust.

On Friday August 19, 2005, I was present in the historic Synagogue on Cologne’s Roonstraße as Pope Benedict XVI addressed the large assembly. In his moving address, Benedict XVI, the German Pope who grew up during the Second World War, spoke these words to the Jewish community of Cologne and representatives of Judaism in Germany, returning in spirit the meeting that took place in Mainz, Germany on November 17, 1980 between Pope John Paul II and members of the Central Jewish Committee in Germany and the Rabbinic Conference.

Benedict said:

“And in the 20th century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry. The result has passed into history as the Shoah.

…I make my own the words written by my venerable Predecessor on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and I too say: “I bow my head before all those who experienced this manifestation of the mysterium iniquitatis. ” The terrible events of that time must “never cease to rouse consciences, to resolve conflicts, to inspire the building of peace” (Message for the Liberation of Auschwitz, 15 January 2005).

KZ-RR-tracks-Auschwitz

Then in New York City on April 28, 2008, the Park East synagogue gave Pope Benedict XVI a warm welcome. The visit on the eve of Passover, the Jewish holiday marking the exodus from Egypt, was only the third by a pope to a Jewish house of worship after Benedict’s visit to the Cologne Synagogue in 2005, and Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Rome synagogue in 1986.

Pope Benedict XVI ended his warm address to the Jewish assembly with these words: “I encourage all of you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighborhood.”

This Papal path from the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City to Rome’s Synagogue, Cologne’s Synagogue and New York’s Park East Synagogue was opened by Eugenio Pacelli’s heroism, courage and prophetic gestures during a dark period of world history. Pacelli has been called many names. He was also known as the “Pastor Angelicus” and “Defensor Civitatis.” He is now a Servant of God, on the path to Beatification and Canonization in the Catholic Church.

It is our hope that the Salt and Light Television documentary “A Hand of Peace: Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust” sheds light and truth on this great man’s life, prophetic actions, courageous words and his significant contribution to humanity. Let us learn from his example as we extend our hands and arms in gestures of friendship and peace to the men and women of our time. Let us continue to build bridges of justice and peace to the many different ethnic and religious groups around us.

Marie of the Incarnation: one badass saint

Portrait_de_Mère_Marie_de_l'Incarnation

badassery

[MASS NOUN] North American informal

Behaviourcharacteristics, or actions regarded as formidably impressive: few of us can attain her level of badassery

The other day I read an article that used the word ‘badassery’. I couldn’t believe it: had the word finally crossed the Rubicon and become a legitimate word? I checked the Oxford dictionary. Yup, there it was. That got me thinking: the word has some social heft.

It’s not a word that you toss out there for casual emphasis. No, ‘baddassery’ is a word that should be used to describe only the most substantial, the most impactful of characters.

Now, the article I read used the term in reference to an actor who had taken on some interesting roles – hardly badass, I thought.  You know who are ‘badass’?  The missionaries to New France. These men and women had courage. And there’s no one with more true grit than St. Marie of the Incarnation!

Let’s recount.

The Raw Deal

From a young age St Marie knew she had a religious calling but her parents couldn’t see their daughter being cloistered, so they married her off to a silk merchant instead.  Tragedy soon struck. Her husband died and left Mary Guyart a widow at nineteen with a six-month-old child. She also inherited a bankrupt business and lawsuits.

But this would be first opportunity for Marie to show what she was made of.

Ingenious Entrepreneur

Turns out she had a knack for business, and not only did she make the silk merchant business profitable, from there she went on to run her brother-in-law’s transport company.  She took care of everything: the inventory of goods, the drivers, even the 60 horses.

Again she wanted to enter the convent but her relatives thought her totally irrational.  Even after she entered they tried to persuade her to leave – her son went so far as to raid the convent!

And that’s just the beginning of her trials and tribulations.

Intrepid Missionary

Once she got permission to go to New France to be a missionary – and let’s be clear the closest analogy today would be if she decided to sign up for the Mars Mission – there’s the perilous voyage there, the work of setting up the mission and learning the native languages.

But get this, once she accomplishes all this, the whole convent burns down and she has to start again!  She’s in mounds of debt, without shelter, and its winter. Nevertheless she fights on and rebuilds.

Unswerving Servant of God

What’s so impressive about St. Marie of the Incarnation is despite the obstacles she faces she never loses faith. And because of this, God forges her into someone altogether exceptional.  She becomes a formidable woman. A saint!

Check out this badass CV:

  • Founder of Canada
  • First female missionary to North America
  • Founder of the Canadian Church
  • Fluent in Huron, Algonkian, Montagnais, and Iroquois
  • Authored first catechism in Iroquoi
  • Eminent historical source of Catholic, French, and Canadian history

All this is to say that although ‘few of us can attain her level of badassery, but with a little faith (and humility) nothing is impossible for God.

St. Basil the Great: Father of Communal Monasticism

Basil the Great 1
Basilian logo

Basil the Great was a strong supporter of the Nicene Creed – the profession of faith that is most commonly used when we come together to celebrate Mass. In the Universal Catholic Church, we celebrate his feast day on January 2 and so do the Anglican and Lutheran Churches. We also call to mind the incredible spirituality and impact that St. Basil the Great left on the Church in Europe.

When we begin looking at his early life, we know that St. Basil the Great was born around the year 330 AD. He came into this world through the support of a very wealthy family, in Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia. Today, Cappadocia is most widely known as Kayseri, Turkey. Shortly after he was born, his family moved to Pontus. It was at Pontus where he was schooled at home by both his father and grandmother.

Basil then returned to Caesarea in Cappadocia around the year 350-51, where he began his formal studies. It was at school where he met his life-long friend, Gregory of Nazianzus. Both Basil and Gregory studied under Libanius in Constantinople. They also spent six years in Athens. For a brief period, St. Basil practiced law and taught rhetoric in Caesarea, after returning from Athens around the year 355.
Basil the Great 2

In his most significant move yet, St. Basil put aside his legal and teaching aspirations in order to devote his life to God. In 357, St. Basil travelled to Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia to study ascetics and monasticism. Upon his return, he along with his brother Peter started a monastic settlement on his family estate. His mother Emmelia, sister Macrina and several other women joined them in living out a more fruitful and pious life.

Basil was a strong character, a burning lamp during his time. But as the fire from this lamp illumined and warmed the world, it consumed itself; as the saint’s spiritual stature grew, his body wasted away, and at the early age of forty-nine he looked like an old man. He was a great theologian, a powerful preacher, a gifted writer, the author of two rules for monastic life, a reformer of the Oriental liturgy. He died in 379, hardly forty-nine years old, yet so emaciated that only skin and bones remained, as though he had stayed alive in soul alone.

St. Basil the Great is the patron Saint for both hospital administrators and reformers. More than that, he is the patron saint for the region of Cappadocia in Turkey. This is quite significant because being a Patron Saint for the region of Cappadocia serves as a reminder to all that Christianity has a long history in that particular region, especially in Russia.

On this day, most especially, we give thanks to God for the gift of St. Basil and for the many religious women and men who serve in congregations under his patronage. We remember especially the Congregation of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers of Toronto). St. Basil, pray for us.

St. Basil, pray for us.

“It is the Holy Spirit by whom we are restored to paradise, ascend into the kingdom of heaven, and come to be adopted sons.  The Spirit gives us the confidence to call God Father, to share in Christ’s grace, to be called children of the light, to have a share in eternal glory, to be filled with every blessing, in this age and in the age to come, to see as in a mirror, as if they were already present, the gifts promised us and which, in faith, we look forward to enjoying.  If the pledges are such, what will the fulfillment be like?  And if the first-fruits are so great, what shall we say of the fullness?”
–St. Basil of Caesarea, Treatise on the Holy Spirit XV, 36

“The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry;
the clothing which you store in your closets to the naked;
to the bare-footed the shoes which are rotting;
to the needy the silver which you have buried.”
–St. Basil of Caesarea

Basil & GregoryO what union and what estrangement!

How I was joined to a body, I do not know.  How I am the image of God and kneaded together from clay, I do not know.  This body, when it is doing well, makes war on me and when it is oppressed, it grieves me.  I love it as a fellow servant, yet turn my back on it as an enemy: flee it as a prison, and am ashamed of it as a co-heir with me.  I struggle to waste it away and I do not have any collaborator to use for the best undertakings, since I know for what purpose I have come to be and that I must ascend to God through my actions.  I spare it as a collaborator, and I have no way in which I may flee from its rebellion, nor any way in which I may not fall away from God, since I am weighed down by shackles which drag me down and hold me to the earth.  It is a gracious enemy and a treacherous friend.  O what union and what estrangement!

I embrace what I fear and fear what I love.  Before making war on it, I am reconciled with it, and before making peace discord breaks out.  What is this wisdom about me and what is this great mystery?  Perhaps since we are God’s portion and have come down from above God wants us to look always to him on account of the struggle and battle lest, having exalted and raised ourselves up on account of our dignity, we despise the Creator.  God wants the weakness which has been joined to us to serve for the education of our dignity, so that we may see that we are at once very great and very lowly, of earth and of heaven, temporal and immortal, heirs of light and fire as well as of darkness; to which ever way we might incline.  This is our mixture which, as it appears to me, exists for this reason: as we have been exalted by the divine image we bear, so may we also be humbled by our clay.  We must, brothers, care for our body as for a kinsman and fellow servant.  And if I accuse it on account of the suffering it causes, I nevertheless embrace it as a friend on account of the One who has bound us together.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Friend of St. Basil
Sermon 14, On the love of the Poor

Joseph: The Faithful and Wise Servant, a reflection by Fr. Thomas Rosica

Joseph4

St. Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus, whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely.  He is often overshadowed by the glory of Christ and the purity of Mary. But he, too, waited for God to speak to him and then responded with obedience. Luke and Matthew both mark Joseph’s descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge about him: he was “a righteous man” a “just man” (Matthew 1:18).

Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been engaged, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary quietly according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. Joseph was also a man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome.  When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all of his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).

We are told that Joseph was a carpenter, (more likely a builder), a man who worked to provide for his family. Joseph wasn’t a wealthy man, for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb.

Joseph revealed in his humanity the unique role of fathers to proclaim God’s truth by word and deed. His paradoxical situation of “foster father to Jesus” draws attention to the truth about fatherhood, which is much more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children.  Joseph was keenly aware, as every father should be, that he served as the representative of God the Father.

The Gospel, as we know, has not kept any word from Joseph, who carries out his activity in silence. It is the style that characterizes his whole existence, both before finding himself before the mystery of God’s action in his spouse, as well as  when — conscious of this mystery — he is with Mary in the Nativity. On that holy night, in Bethlehem, with Mary and the Child, is Joseph, to whom the Heavenly Father entrusted the daily care of his Son on earth, a care carried out with humility and in silence.

Joseph protected and provided for Jesus and Mary. He named Jesus, taught him how to pray, how to work, how to be a man. While no words or texts are attributed to him, we can be sure that Joseph pronounced two of the most important words that could ever be spoken when he named his son “Jesus” and called him “Emmanuel.” When the child stayed behind in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched frantically with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48).

As Pope Benedict has taught us:

What is important is not to be a useless servant, but rather a “faithful and wise servant”. The pairing of the two adjectives is not by chance. It suggests that understanding without fidelity, and fidelity without wisdom, are insufficient. One quality alone, without the other, would not enable us to assume fully the responsibility which God entrusts to us.

What great words for St. Joseph, because in Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a “just man” (Mt 1:19) because his existence is “adjusted” to the word of God.

Joseph, the “foster-father” of the Lord reveals that fatherhood is more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children.  Real fathers and real men are those who communicate paternal strength and compassion.  They are men of reason in the midst of conflicting passions; men of conviction who always remain open to genuine dialogue about differences; men who ask nothing of others that they wouldn’t risk or suffer themselves.  Joseph is a chaste, faithful, hardworking, simple and just man.  He reminds us that a family, a home, a community, and a parish are not built on power and possessions but goodness; not on riches and wealth, but on faith, fidelity, purity and mutual love.

How could I speak of St. Joseph here in the Crèche Museum of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal without saying something about the dreamer and architect of this magnificent place, Brother André Bessette, the Canadian Church’s newest Saint.

Brother_Andre2Brother André wanted Saint Joseph honoured on this mountain. In 1890, he took a young student with him on one of his regular Thursday meditation walks. Taking the student up to the mountainside across the street from the College Notre Dame, he told him, “I have hidden a medal of Saint Joseph here. We will pray that he will arrange the purchase of this land for us.” For six years he persevered in prayer for that intention, and in 1896, his prayers were rewarded. The Holy Cross Congregation purchased the land and Brother André put a statue of Saint Joseph in a little cave on his chosen site. Placing a bowl in front of the statue, he planned on collecting alms from Saint Joseph’s petitioners, alms which would be used to build a chapel.

What started out as a fifteen-by eighteen foot chapel in 1904 became a minor basilica in 1955, and was completed — interior and all — in 1966. In his lifetime, the shrine became big enough to warrant having a full-time guardian, a job to which Brother André was appointed in 1909.

The piety that St. André had toward the Patron of the Universal Church was simple and childlike too:

When you invoke Saint Joseph, you don’t have to speak much. You know your Father in heaven knows what you need; well, so does His friend Saint Joseph. … Tell him, ‘If you were in my place, Saint Joseph, what would you do? Well, pray for this in my behalf.’

To the people who came to him with their troubles — and thousands did — the friend of Saint Joseph recommended the use of sacramentals, like Saint Joseph’s oil or a Saint Joseph medal. Most of all, he recommended persevering and confident prayer, usually prescribing a novena to his powerful benefactor.  Because he learned how to pray with fervour, persistence and joy as a child and young religious, Brother André was able to urge people to pray with confidence and perseverance, while remaining open to God’s will.

He admonished people to begin their path to healing through commitments to faith and humility, through confession and a return to the Sacraments. He encouraged the sick to seek a doctor’s care. He saw value in suffering that is joined to the sufferings of Christ. He allowed himself to be fully present to the sadness of others but always retained a joyful nature and good humour. At times, he wept along with his visitors as they recounted their sorrows. As he became known as a miracle worker, Brother André insisted, “I am nothing … only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph.”

God our Father,
You gave Brother André of Montreal,
your humble servant, a great devotion to St. Joseph
and a special commitment to the sick and the needy.
May the example of his life and ministry inspire us to ever-greater works of charity, in generous service to our brothers and sisters in need.
Give us the strength to surrender ourselves to Your will,
and to be instruments of your loving mercy.
Help us to follow Brother André’s example of prayer and love,
so that we too may come into your glory.
Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Television Network

(CNS photo/archives of St. Joseph’s Oratory)

Go set all on fire!

FrancesXavier

St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and St. Peter Favre, the first founders of the Society of Jesus.

Remembering Francis Xavier on his feast day

Fracnis Xavier

Francis Xavier

In 1541 King John of Portugal asked Ignatius of Loyola for Jesuit priests to send to the missions in India. Despite knowing he would never see his beloved companion again, Ignatius chose Francis Xavier for the mission. The last words that St. Ignatius said to Francis Xavier before he was sent on mission were: ‘Ite inflammate omnia!’ Go set all on fire!  Francis left for India, arriving at the city of Goa in 1542.

For the next ten years the missionary Francis Xavier traveled from Goa to Cape Comorin in south India, then to the East Indies, Malacca, and the Moluccas, and onward to Japan. It was Francis Xavier’s great ambition to get permission to enter China as a missionary. He died in 1552, at the age of 46, exhausted from his labours and fasts, on a small island off the coast of China with a single companion at his side.

St. Francis Xavier’s great ambition was to bring the world to Jesus Christ. Armed only with his breviary and a book of meditations, Francis preached the Gospel to the poor and sick, spending most of his time ministering to their needs. His nights were taken up in prayer. His only attention to his personal needs was to have a pair of boots. He barely ate enough to stay alive. He left behind flourishing churches that were the foundations for the Catholic faith in Asia.

FrancisStatue

Statue of Ignatius in Jesuit Curia in Rome

I have always been impressed by the remarkable Apostolic creativity of this great teacher, pastor and missionary. As a tool for memorization of the catechism, Xavier frequently used songs and music to hand on the faith, especially with young children. He is remembered as the great baptizer.  Everything begins for us Christians through baptism. Francis Xavier offered solid catechesis in preparation for the sacrament of baptism and then he baptized the multitudes. At the end of his day at times he could no longer hold up his arm any longer due to the huge numbers of Baptisms he would do. After he finished his missionary work in one place, he would leave behind well-formed catechists to carry on with the mission of forming the people in the community. It was never about him, but about the lay catechists whom he formed and the people whom he served with such devotion. Now more than ever we  need zealous lay leaders, catechists, co-workers and partners in ministry to help us carry on the task of the first evangelization and the new evangelization.

Francis Xavier also had a very keen understanding of inculturation. While travelling to Japan, Xavier had to learn the social mores and customs of another country. If he dressed in rags, the Emperor would close his mind and heart to this itinerant Jesuit missionary. Xavier therefore dressed in the most elegant clothes fashionable and gave gifts to the Japanese Emperor, thereby winning the Emperor’s friendship and opening up the door to the preaching of the Gospel message in Japan. Is this not what St. Paul had in mind when he wrote: ‘I become all things to all men so as to win as many to Christ as possible.’

At the end of his exhausting days, Xavier spent hours in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament, praising the Lord, thanking the Lord and imploring for the sanctification and salvation of the people God placed in his path. May Xavier attain for us the fire of intensity in our prayers and in our acts of penance!

The favorite prayer of Xavier was ‘Give me souls!’ In the Office of Readings for the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, in a letter written to St. Ignatius, there is a passionate appeal for more workers to gather in the harvest, specifically reproaching the proud and learned at the Universities of Europe (especially Paris).  The words of Xavier explode with apostolic zeal and intense suffering for the salvation of immortal souls. Those words still speak to us today:

‘Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman. Riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: What a tragedy:  how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you! I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them.’ (Office of Readings, Dec. 3, Feast of St. Francis Xavier)

FrancisFire

Notice the fire extinguisher carefully placed next to founder of Society of Jesuits and his famous words: “Go set all on fire!”

 

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

Canonizations_Christ

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

The blesseds who are to be canonized on Sunday are:

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

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

Kristallnacht: Night of the Broken Glass

blog

Kristallnacht: Night of the Broken Glass
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

On the night of November 9–10, 1938, the Nazis staged violent pogroms—state sanctioned, anti-Jewish riots—against the Jewish communities of Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. These events came to be known as Kristallnacht (commonly translated as “Night of Broken Glass”), a reference to the broken windows of synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers, and homes plundered and destroyed that night. Instigated by the Nazi regime, rioters burned or destroyed 267 synagogues, vandalized or looted 7,500 Jewish businesses, and killed at least 91 Jewish people. They also damaged many Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes as police and fire brigades stood aside.

Kristallnacht was a turning point in Nazi anti-Jewish policy that would culminate in the Holocaust—the systematic, state-sponsored mass murder of the European Jews.

On March 26, 2000, at the conclusion of his historic Jubilee pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Pope John Paul II visited the Western Wall, remnant of the ancient Jerusalem Temple, and placed a prayer in a crevice in the wall as Jews have done for centuries. This act crowned his lifelong commitment to furthering Catholic-Jewish understanding. The Pope’s prayer struck the major themes of his thoughts on Jews and Judaism: that Christians share with Jews reverence and worship of the same God, the common ancestry of Abraham to all who look to the Bible for inspiration, the unjust suffering directed against Jews over the millennia and the need for forgiveness for Christians and others who caused this suffering, the need to resolve to improve one’s future behavior in order to achieve genuine repentance, and, finally, recognition of Jews as the continuing people of God’s ongoing and eternal Covenant. After meditating at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the Pope placed in the wall a written prayer to God expressing deep sadness for all wrongs done to Jews by Christians. The prayer read:

ben“God of our fathers,
You chose Abraham and his descendants
To bring Your name to the nations;
We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those
Who in the course of history have caused these children of Yours to suffer
And asking Your forgiveness
We wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood
With the people of the Covenant.”

j2

Throughout his priestly, episcopal and Petrine ministry, Pope John Paul II consistently condemned anti-Semitism as a sin and acknowledged the suffering of Jews throughout the ages and in the Holocaust. He used the Hebrew word ‘Shoah’ to speak about the Holocaust. John Paul II became a true embarkation point for Christians and for Jews. He taught both Christians and Jews not to be afraid of each other, nor to fear our deep, biblical narratives that unite, rather than divide us. Nothing can remove our sense of belonging to, participating in, and being the beneficiaries of God’s saving encounter with Israel and with the broken world, which occurred in the crucifixion of Jesus, who we Christians believe to be son of Israel and Son of God.

The photo below is of the Berlin Synagogue after it had been destroyed on this night. The other photos represent the healing that has taken place between Christians and Jews through the heroic gestures of St. John Paul II and Popes Benedict XVI and Francis.

blog25

Award-winning Documentary Reveals the Modern True Story of Heroic Polish Martyr

Messenger of Truth

On November 16, 2014 Salt + Light will air Messenger of  the Truth, a film based on the life of Blessed Father Jerzy Popieluszko, the courageous chaplain of the Solidarity movement in Poland in the early 1980’s.

Narrated by Catholic activist and actor Martin Sheen, Messenger of the Truth chronicles Father Jerzy’s opposition to Poland’s oppressive Communist leaders, who harassed, arrested, threatened, imprisoned and, eventually, murdered him for speaking the truth in a country full of propaganda, oppression and social injustice.

“A must-see documentary for all who believe in the rights of religious liberty, the dignity of the human person, and those who are lovers of freedom and defenders of the truth,” says His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

At Fr. Jerzy’s funeral, an estimated one million people surrounded his church in Warsaw and promised to continue his struggle for freedom through non-violence. Blessed Pope John Paul II, a son of Poland and advocate for the end of communism in his country and around the world, admired Fr. Jerzy’s courageous stand for freedom and truth. In 1987, shortly before the fall of communism in Poland, Pope John Paul II prayed at his gravesite in a remarkable sign of his support for the young priest’s life and death. Fr. Jerzy was beatified on June 6, 2010, in Warsaw and is expected to be canonized in the near future.

Messenger of the Truth was awarded first place in the documentary category at the 28th International Catholic Film Festival in Warsaw,  Poland and was awarded the Christopher Award for the category of TV documentary on May 15th from The Christophers at their 65th annual award gala in New York City.

Messenger of the Truth will air on Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 9 pm EST/ 6 pm PST.

Additional dates and times:

November 17 – 1:30 pm EST / 11:30 pm PST

November 18 – 9:30 am EST / 6:30 am PST

November 20 – 9:00 pm EST / 6:00 pm PST

November 21 – 1:00 am EST / 11:00 pm PST

November 21 – 1:30 pm EST / 11:30 am PST

The Beatitudes: Blueprint for Holiness

Saints cropped

Solemnity of All Saints – Saturday, November 1, 2014

The following words of Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, spoken during the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in 2008, still resound in my mind and heart on this Solemnity of All Saints:

Jesus says: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). For more than 2,000 years men and women, old and young, wise and ignorant, in the East as in the West, applied themselves to the school of the Lord Jesus, which caused this sublime commandment to echo in their hearts and minds: “You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48) […]

Their library was largely composed of the life and the words of Jesus: blessed are the poor, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the gentle, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who are persecuted. The saints, understanding that the Beatitudes are the essence of the Gospel and the portrait of Christ Himself, became their imitators. 

The Beatitudes: Blueprint for Holiness

The Beatitudes in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) are a recipe for extreme holiness. As has been pointed out by many others in the past, though the Mount of the Beatitudes is a few dozen feet above sea level, it is the really the highest peak on earth! On this holy mountain in Galilee, Jesus proclaimed the new law that was expression of Christ’s holiness. They are not an abstract code of behavior. Jesus is the poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted, the peacemaker. He is the new “code of holiness” that must be imprinted on hearts, and that must be contemplated through the action of the Holy Spirit. His Passion and Death are the crowning of his holiness.

Holiness is a way of life that involves commitment and activity. It is not a passive endeavour but rather a continuous choice to deepen one’s relationship with God and then to allow this relationship to guide all of one’s actions in the world. Holiness requires a radical change in mindset and attitude. The acceptance of the call to holiness places God as our final goal in every aspect of our lives.

Looking at Jesus, we see what it means to be poor in spirit, gentle, and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say to each of us, “Come, follow me!” The call of Christ is not simply, “Do what I say.” He says, “Come, follow me!” 

Taking stock of our treasury of Saints

The Saints and Blesseds are travel companions along our journey, in our joy and in our suffering. They are men and women who turned a new page in their own lives and in the lives of so many people. This was the core of Saint John Paul II’s message to humanity: holiness is not a gift reserved for a few. We can all aspire to it, because it is a goal within our capacity – a great lesson articulated by the Second Vatican Council and its call to universal holiness (cf. Lumen Gentium).

The Solemnity of All Saints is a wonderful opportunity for the whole Church to take stock once again of the way that Pope John Paul II changed our way of viewing the Saints and Blesseds. In nearly 27 years of his pontificate, he gave the Church 1,338 Blesseds and 482 Saints!

John Paul II reminded us that the heroes and heroines the world offers to young people today are terribly flawed. They leave us so empty. The real “stars” are the Saints and Blesseds who never tried to be regarded as heroes, or to shock or provoke. To believe greatness is attainable, we need successful role models to emulate. There is a desperate need for real heroes and heroines, models and witnesses of faith and virtue that the world of sports, cinema, science, and music simply cannot provide.

Standing at the radical centre

Many think that sainthood is a privilege reserved only for the chosen few. In fact, to become a saint is the task of every Christian, and what’s more, we could even say it’s the task of everyone! How many times have we thought that the Saints are merely “eccentrics” that the Church exalts for us to try to imitate – people who were so unrepresentative of and out of touch with the reality of the human scene? It is certainly true that all of those men and women were “eccentric” in its literal sense: they deviated from the centre, from usual practice, from the ordinary ways of doing things, the established methods. Another way of looking at the saints is that they stood at the “radical centre.”

Be the Saints of the New Millennium

Saint John Paul II spoke powerfully to young people about the call to holiness and their vocation to be saints. In his message for World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, he wrote to his “dear young friends” throughout the world unforgettable words that became the rallying cry for the greatest celebration of the Jubilee Year:

Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! Be contemplative, love prayer; be coherent with your faith and generous in the service of your brothers and sisters, be active members of the Church and builders of peace. To succeed in this demanding project of life, continue to listen to His Word, draw strength from the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. The Lord wants you to be intrepid apostles of his Gospel and builders of a new humanity.

Two years later for our World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, John Paul II took up the theme of holiness and saints with renewed vigour:

Just as salt gives flavor to food and light illumines the darkness, so too holiness gives full meaning to life and makes it reflect God’s glory. How many saints, especially young saints, can we count in the Church’s history! In their love for God their heroic virtues shone before the world, and so they became models of life which the Church has held up for imitation by all. […] Through the intercession of this great host of witnesses, may God make you too, dear young people, the saints of the third millennium!

At the concluding World Youth Day Mass at Downsview Park in Toronto on July 28, 2002, Saint John Paul issued a stirring challenge:

And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in America and so many other young people have done.

Pope Benedict XVI continued the momentum of John Paul’s invitations and exhortations to holiness at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany. At the opening ceremony on August 18, 2005, Benedict addressed the throng of young people gathered from across the entire world:

Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession.

Benedict XVI continued this theme at the great Vigil on Saturday evening, August 20, 2005 at Marienfeld:

It is the great multitude of the saints – both known and unknown – in whose lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us and turned over the pages; he has done this throughout history and he still does so today. In their lives, as if in a great picture book, the riches of the Gospel are revealed. They are the shining path which God himself has traced throughout history and is still tracing today.

Then Pope Benedict XVI cried out in that great assembly of over one million young people gathered in prayer at Marienfeld in Cologne:

The saints…are the true reformers. Now I want to express this in an even more radical way: only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.

The core of the proclamation of Saints and Blesseds

Every crisis that the Church faces, every crisis that the world faces, is a crisis of holiness and a crisis of saints. Holiness is crucial because it is the real face of the Church. The core of the proclamation of the Saints and Blesseds was always hope, even in the midst of the darkest moments of history. It’s almost as if in those times of darkness the light of Christ shines ever more brightly. We are living through one of those times, and the Lord is still taking applications for his extreme form of holiness and sanctity.

Believers in Jesus and his message must allow themselves to be enticed and enchanted by his life and his message contained in the Beatitudes. Today we must hold up the Beatitudes as a mirror in which we examine our own lives and consciences. “Am I poor in spirit? Am I humble and merciful? Am I pure of heart? Do I bring peace? Am I ‘blessed,’ in other words, ‘happy’?” Jesus not only gives us what he has, but also what he is. He is holy and makes us holy.

[The readings for the Solemnity of All Saints are: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; and Matthew 5:1-12a.]
All-Saints-Rosica

John Paul II: A Saint for Canada

JPIICanoe

I once had a teacher who knew exactly how to keep her students focused during the day. She promised us that if we were very good, she would read us a few pages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. She would only have to give the gentlest reminder that we would not have time for The Hobbit and there would be a swift end to our cavorting and carrying-on. As you can imagine, she had us eating out of her hand.

My love for a great story has continued, and I’ve found that the best stories are always those “based on a true story.” At Salt + Light we have a storytelling ritual, you could say, and Fr. Thomas Rosica is one of the best storytellers I know. Whenever Fr. Rosica returns to the office from a trip, he gathers everyone to celebrate Mass, and following that it’s time for our meeting around the conference table. After we have prayed and he has given us all a little token from his travels -usually a prayer card, a spiritual booklet, or some chocolates- he settles down to tell us about everything that happened.  As I said, Fr. Tom Rosica is a masterful storyteller. By the time the meeting has concluded, we feel as if we have lived through it all – the highs and the lows: the lost luggage, the inevitable poor internet connection fiascos, the exceptional encounters, the developments and the messages of encouragement.

My favourite stories, however, are the ones where he tells us of his encounters with Pope John Paul II. These stories are an incredible source of insight.  Sure, there’s something to be learned from reading great encyclicals, but to know a person firsthand and to get a sense of who he was and why he did what he did – this can only be imparted through personal experience; anything else simply doesn’t have the same impact. Moreover, Fr. Rosica’s stories are always full of meaning. Significant dates in history have moods and feelings attached to them, and there’s always a deep sense of what these things mean for us and for the world. As a scripture scholar, Fr. Rosica’s biblical imagination imbues his commentary on events with a profound love of scriptural images and also a great sense of humour.

Not everyone has the opportunity to listen to these stories firsthand, but you will certainly feel as if you are sitting around the Salt + Light conference table when you pick up the new release  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada. It’s a short book that can be read at a leisurely pace in a few hours. Filled with Fr. Rosica’s personal reflections on Pope John Paul II,  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada is a delight that will leave you with a deep appreciation for this saint and what he means for us in Canada.

To get a taste of what you can expect, you’re invited to watch our latest Catholic FOCUS featuring John Paul II.

Photo description: Father Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, is pictured reading in a kayak in this photo dated from 1955. Three years later, he was on the water with friends when he learned he had been called to Warsaw for the announcement that he was to be made a bishop. He was canonized on April 27 with Pope John XXIII. (CNS photo)