Cardinal Andrea Yeum Soo-jung’s Address at Korean Martyrs Beatification Mass


Address by His Eminence  following the prayer after communion at Mass for the Beatification of Korean Martyrs

August 16, 2014

Holy Father,

The welcome you with joy together with the laity, religious and clergy of the whole church in Korea. I am honored to be in his presence to keep this speech of greeting. The Catholic Church in Korea has already 103 saints and martyrs in addition to these, through the beatification of today, it also has 124 blessed.

This area around Gwanghwamun is the historic site where many were martyred ancestors of our faith. In it were located also also the main departments of the Chosun Dynasty. The Catholic Church in Korea has grown on the blood of the martyrs and has proven to be a good example for Korean society by promoting justice and human rights. So I think that the beatification of today will be an occasion reminder to make the harmony and unity of Catholics not only Koreans but also the Korean people and all other peoples of Asia, through the exchange of universal brotherhood.

The Korean Church will always try to be the light and salt for the evangelization of the world, and also to be a church that serves the poor, the oppressed and marginalized by making them feel the joy of the Gospel. Holy Father,  Thank you again and I ask you to pray and bless the Church in Korea.

Thank you!


Pope Francis’ Homily for Korean Martyrs Beatification Mass

korean martyrs
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis

Mass for the Beatification of the Korean Martyrs Seoul,

Gwanghwamun Gate August 16, 2014

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:35).  With these words, Saint Paul speaks of the glory of our faith in Jesus: not only has Christ risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, but he has united us to himself and he grants us a share in his eternal life.  Christ is victorious and his victory is ours!

Today we celebrate this victory in Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 companions.  Their names now stand alongside those of the holy martyrs Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and companions, to whom I just paid homage.  All of them lived and died for Christ, and now they reign with him in joy and in glory.  With Saint Paul, they tell us that, in the death and resurrection of his Son, God has granted us the greatest victory of all.  For “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).

The victory of the martyrs, their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which received growth from their sacrifice.  Our celebration of Blessed Paul and Companions provides us with the opportunity to return to the first moments, the infancy as it were, of the Church in Korea.  It invites you, the Catholics of Korea, to remember the great things which God has wrought in this land and to treasure the legacy of faith and charity entrusted to you by your forebears.

In God’s mysterious providence, the Christian faith was not brought to the shores of Korea through missionaries; rather, it entered through the hearts and minds of the Korean people themselves.  It was prompted by intellectual curiosity, the search for religious truth.  Through an initial encounter with the Gospel, the first Korean Christians opened their minds to Jesus.  They wanted to know more about this Christ who suffered, died, and rose from the dead.  Learning about Jesus soon led to an encounter with the Lord, the first baptisms, the yearning for a full sacramental and ecclesial life, and the beginnings of missionary outreach.  It also bore fruit in communities inspired by the early Church, in which the believers were truly one in mind and heart, regardless of traditional social differences, and held all things in common (cf. Acts 4:32).

This history tells us much about the importance, the dignity and the beauty of the vocation of the laity.  I greet the many lay faithful present, and in particular the Christian families who daily by their example teach the faith and the reconciling love of Christ to our young.  In a special way, too, I greet the many priests present; by their dedicated ministry they pass on the rich patrimony of faith cultivated by past generations of Korean Catholics.

Today’s Gospel contains an important message for all of us.  Jesus asks the Father to consecrate us in truth, and to protect us from the world.

First of all, it is significant that, while Jesus asks the Father to consecrate and protect us, he does not ask him to take us out of the world.  We know that he sends his disciples forth to be a leaven of holiness and truth in the world: the salt of the earth, the light of the world.  In this, the martyrs show us the way.

Soon after the first seeds of faith were planted in this land, the martyrs and the Christian community had to choose between following Jesus or the world.  They had heard the Lord’s warning that the world would hate them because of him (Jn 17:14); they knew the cost of discipleship.  For many, this meant persecution, and later flight to the mountains, where they formed Catholic villages.  They were willing to make great sacrifices and let themselves be stripped of whatever kept them from Christ – possessions and land, prestige and honor – for they knew that Christ alone was their true treasure.

So often we today can find our faith challenged by the world, and in countless ways we are asked to compromise our faith, to water down the radical demands of the Gospel and to conform to the spirit of this age.  Yet the martyrs call out to us to put Christ first and to see all else in this world in relation to him and his eternal Kingdom.  They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for.

The example of the martyrs also teaches us the importance of charity in the life of faith.  It was the purity of their witness to Christ, expressed in an acceptance of the equal dignity of all the baptized, which led them to a form of fraternal life that challenged the rigid social structures of their day.  It was their refusal to separate the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor which impelled them to such great solicitude for the needs of the brethren.  Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded; and where Christ continues to call out to us, asking us to love and serve him by tending to our brothers and sisters in need.

If we follow the lead of the martyrs and take the Lord at his word, then we will understand the sublime freedom and joy with which they went to their death.  We will also see today’s celebration as embracing the countless anonymous martyrs, in this country and throughout the world, who, especially in the last century, gave their lives for Christ or suffered grave persecution for his name.

Today is a day of great rejoicing for all Koreans.  The heritage of Blessed Paul Yun Ji-chung and his companions – their integrity in the search for truth, their fidelity to the highest principles of the religion which they chose to embrace, and their testimony of charity and solidarity with all – these are part of the rich history of the Korean people.  The legacy of the martyrs can inspire all men and women of good will to work in harmony for a more just, free and reconciled society, thus contributing to peace and the protection of authentically human values in this country and in our world.

May the prayers of all the Korean martyrs, in union with those of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, obtain for us the grace of perseverance in faith and in every good work, holiness and purity of heart, and apostolic zeal in bearing witness to Jesus in this beloved country, throughout Asia, and to the ends of the earth.  Amen.


Installation Mass of Bishop McGrattan Available for Purchase

Most Reverend Auxiliary Bishop William McGrattan was appointed as the 12th Bishop of Peterborough in April after the resignation of Most Reverend Bishop Nicola De Angelis, C.F.I.C. The installation of Bishop William McGrattan was celebrated on Monday, June 23, 2014 at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter-in-Chains.

DVD_mcgrattan-250x250Bishop William McGrattan was born in London, Ontario on Sept. 19 1956. He received his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering (B.E.Sc.) at the University of Western Ontario, followed by a Master of Divinity from St. Peter’s Seminary in London. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 2, 1987 with the Diocese of London. Following three years of service with St. Joseph’s parish in Chatham, Bishop McGrattan continued his studies in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he received Licentiate in Fundamental Moral Theology in 1992.

Bishop McGrattan served on the faculty of St. Peter’s Seminary in London as associate professor, vice-rector and dean of theology and was appointed to rector of the Seminary in 1997. He was appointed to Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto on Nov. 6, 2009. Currently, Bishop McGrattan serves as a member of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and on the Episcopal Commission for Doctrine, in addition to being the Bishop with the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada and the National Spiritual Advisor with the Catholic Women’s League of Canada.

“Installation Mass of the Most Reverend William T. McGrattan” is available on the Salt and Light Store for $14.95. Don’t miss your chance to relive the beautiful ceremony that celebrates the Diocese of Peterborough’s newest bishop.

Steubenville Toronto Day 1


Steubenville Toronto kicked off early yesterday evening with over 2300 teens and 200 plus volunteers.

As conference organizers ran around with earpieces looking like the newest member of the Secret Service, teens shuffled into the Mattamy Athletic Centre, ecstatic and excited to begin the weekend.

Our Salt + Light production team arrived bright and early(ish) to begin setting up for our broadcast and live stream, but we hit a few roadblocks- they wouldn’t let us unload right away!

But eventually we made it inside and began to set up to prepare for our broadcast!

The evening began with the Friday opening music session led by Ike Ndolo!


And Host Bob Rice introduced us to the rest of the ministry team- Mary Bielski, Michael Gomer, Jackie Francois (and baby) and Fr. Dave Pivonka, who blesses all the teens, volunteers and everyone involved with #SteubieTO!


To cap off the night, #SteubieTO is paid a special visit by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

God’s presence was so powerful that night that the confession line went on out the door! Over 40 priests were present that night to celebrate reconciliation with the youth at #SteubieTO

At the end of the evening, the teens went home with tired bodies and hopeful hearts. Come back tomorrow to see what Saturday has in store for #SteubieTO!

Check out more photos from the day and follow our livestream at saltandlighttv/steubenville.

Toronto Hosts First-Ever Steubenville Conference


For close to 40 years, Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio has been inviting young people into an encounter with Jesus Christ through the execution of the ever-popular and growing Steubenville conferences. This year, the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Office for Catholic Youth bring the city of Toronto the first ever Steubenville Toronto.

Steubenville Conferences, through the sacraments of the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit, strive to introduce the youth to Christ’s love and encourage them to open their hearts, become His disciples and embrace the mission of the Catholic Church. For the past few years, the combined effort of 15 lay and clergy professionals and over 200 volunteers, led by the Rev. Frank Portelli, worked through the many ups and downs to bring Steubenville Toronto into fruition from July 4-6.

“The layers of details [that go into] this conference is mind-boggling,” Fr. Frank said. “From building up the design of the conference (the Steubenville Conference logo , which was designed by Salt + Light’s Dominic Gomes) to printing banners, signs, individual kneelers, cinch bags, water bottles and the list goes on.”

His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins, who appointed Fr. Frank to the Office of Catholic Youth in late 2011, also appointed the Special Projects Manager of the Archdiocese of Toronto Matthew Sanders as the Assistant Conference Director. His tasks were broad in scope and included being the primary contact for the day-to-day operations, to makings sure the conference sold out and making sure the food arrives on time.

Approximately 2,400 teens and 200 volunteers from 78 parishes Canada-wide registered for the sold out Steubenville Toronto, which will be the first largest Catholic Event in Canada since World Youth Day Toronto in 2002.

“The most surprising thing about planning this conference was selling out so quickly!” Sanders said. “It was naturally a delight to witnesses so many people’s enthusiasm for youth ministry across Ontario, but it certainly put the onus on us to deliver the best Steubenville Conference ever delivered. I hope the participants, volunteers and presenters leave Steubenville Toronto with a greater awareness of the love of God for each one of them.”

Steubenville Toronto will be held inside the Mattamy Athletic Centre, formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens and the current home of the Ryerson University Rams. Leslie Gyulay, event coordinator for the Archdiocese of Toronto, was tasked with taking care of the entire interior event logistics for the center, coordinating with all the exhibitors during the conference and arranging hotels for the youths and parishes attending the conference.

With the conference only a few hours away, the entire Steubenville Toronto Conference team waits with great anticipation for what is sure to be a spectacular and life-changing conference.

“There has been no major conference in southern Ontario and we wanted something here to expose the youth to the person of Jesus Christ,” Gyulay said. “As someone who was born and raised in Toronto, I wish I had an event like this growing up. It lets the youth know that are not alone in their desire to strengthen their faith and a conference like this creates a Catholic Christian community across the province. The conference sold out quickly and that shows a real hunger that the youth have to strengthen their faith. It’s going to be a great show.”

Salt + Light Media will stream and broadcast live from the Mattamy Athletic Centre beginning Friday, July 4, 2014 at 6:45 pmFor full coverage schedule, see below:

July 4, 2014

Opening Music: Ike Ndolo   6:45 p.m. ET   3:45 p.m. CT

Introduction: Bob Rice   7:15 p.m. ET   4:15 p.m. CT

Talk Series on ‘God Is…”: Mike Gormley, Mary Bielski, Bob Rice   8:30 p.m. ET   5:30 p.m. CT

Eucharistic Adoration: Fr. Dave Pivonka   9:15 p.m. ET   6:15 p.m. CT

July 5, 2015

Morning Prayer: Bob Rice   8:30 a.m. ET   5:30 a.m. CT

Keynote God is Real: Fr. Dave Pivonka   9:00 a.m. ET   6:00 a.m. CT

Mass: Most Rev. Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa   9:45 a.m. ET   6:45 a.m. CT

Explanation of Workshops: Bob Rice   10:45 a.m. ET   7:45 a.m. CT

Workshop God is in Media: Jackie Francois Angel   11:15 a.m. ET   8:15 a.m. CT

Entertainment: Jackie Francois Angel   1:30 p.m. ET   10:30 a.m. CT

Workshop God is in the Day to Day: Mary Bielski   2:30 p.m. ET   11:30 a.m. CT

 Share the Glory: Most Rev. Gary M. Gordon   6:45 p.m. ET   3:45 p.m. CT

Keynote God is Saviour: Mary Bielski   7:30 p.m. ET   4:30 p.m. CT

Eucharistic Adoration: Fr. Dave Pivonka   8:30 p.m. ET   5:30 p.m. CT

July 6, 2014

Morning Gathering Music: Ike Ndolo   10:00 a.m. ET   7:00 a.m. CT

Closing Mass: His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins   10:45 p.m. ET   7:45 a.m. CT

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates LIVE from Mattamy Athletic Center! Use #SteubieTO


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at Invocation for Peace


The President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, delivered remarks to the participants in the Invocation for Peace here at the Vatican on Sunday evening. Below, please find the full text, in English, of President Abbas’ prepared remarks.

In the Name of God, the Most Gracious and Most Merciful
Your Holiness Pope Francis
Your Excellency President Shimon Peres,
Your Beatitudes, Honorable Sheiks and Rabbis
Ladies and Gentlemen 

It is indeed a great honor for us to meet again with His Holiness Pope Francis in fulfillment of his kind invitation to relish his spiritual and noble presence, and listen to his opinion and crystal wisdom, which emanate from a sound heart, vibrant conscience, as well as an elevated ethical and religious sense. I thank your Holiness from the bottom of my heart for initiating this important gathering here in the Vatican. Simultaneously, we highly appreciate your visit to the Holy Land Palestine,  and in specific to our Holy city Jerusalem and to Bethlehem; the city of love and peace, and the cradle of Jesus Christ. The visit is a sincere expression of your belief in peace and a truthful attempt to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

Oh God, we ever praise you for making Jerusalem our gate to heaven. As said in the Holy Quran,

“Glory to Him who made His servant travel by night from the sacred place of worship to the furthest place of worship, whose surroundings We have blessed.” You made pilgrimage and prayer in it as the best acts the faithful can make in your praise, and made your truthful promise in your say:  “Let them enter the Masjid as they did for the first time.”  God Almighty has spoken the truth.

O, Lord of Heaven and Earth, accept my prayer for the realization of truth, peace and justice in my country Palestine, the region, and the globe as a whole.

I beseech You, O Lord, on behalf of my people, the people of Palestine – Moslems, Christians and Samaritans – who are craving for a just peace, dignified living, and liberty, I beseech you, Oh Lord, to make prosperous and promising the future of our people, and freedom in our sovereign and independent state; Grant, O Lord, our region and its people security, safety and stability. Save our blessed city Jerusalem; the first Kiblah, the second Holy Mosque, the third of the two Holy Mosques, and the city of blessings and peace with all that surround it.

Reconciliation and peace, O Lord, are our goal. God in His Holy Book has addressed the faithful: “Make peace among you,”  Here we are, O God, inclined to peace. Make firm our steps and crown our efforts and endeavors with success. You are the promoter of virtue and preventer of vice, evil and aggression. You say and you are the most truthful, “And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He is the Hearer, the Knower.” In the saying of Prophet Muhammad, “Spread the peace among you. “

Today, we reiterate after Jesus Christ addressing Jerusalem: “If only you had known the path of peace this day” (Luke 19:42). As well let us remember the words of Saint John Paul II when he said?: “If peace is realized in Jerusalem, peace will be witnessed in the whole world” Simultaneously, in our prayer today, we repeatedly call after those who advocate peace:  “Blessed are the peace makers,” and “Call for the peace of Jerusalem”  as came in the Holy Scriptures.

Accordingly, we ask You, O Lord, for peace in the Holy Land, Palestine, and Jerusalem together with its people. We call on you to make Palestine and Jerusalem in particular  a secure land for all the believers, and a place for prayer and worship for the followers of the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and for all those wishing to visit it as it is stated in the Holy Quran.   

O Lord, You are the peace and peace emanates from You. O God of Glory and Majesty grant us security and safety, and alleviate the suffering of my people in hometown and Diaspora.

O Lord, bring comprehensive and just peace to our country and region so that our people and the peoples of the Middle East and the whole world would enjoy the fruit of peace, stability and coexistence.

We want peace for us and for our neighbors. We seek prosperity and peace of mind for ourselves and for others alike. O Lord, answer our prayers and make successful our endeavors for you are most just, most merciful, Lord of the Worlds.

Israeli President Shimon Peres speaks to peace gathering


The President of Israel, Shimon Peres, delivered remarks at the Invocation for Peace gathering in the Vatican on Sunday evening. Below, please find the full text, in English, of President Peres’ prepared remarks.

Your Holiness Pope Francis,
Your Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas,

I have come from the Holy City of Jerusalem to thank you for your exceptional invitation. The Holy City of Jerusalem is the beating heart of the Jewish People. In Hebrew, our ancient language, the word Jerusalem and the word for peace share the same root. And indeed peace is the vision of Jerusalem.

As it is said in the Book of Psalms:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.

During your historic visit to the Holy Land, you moved us with the warmth of your heart, the sincerity of your intentions, your modesty, and your kind ways. You touched the people’s hearts – regardless of their faith or nation. You emerged as a bridge-builder of brotherhood and peace. We are all in need of the inspiration which accompanies your character and your way.

Thank you.

Two peoples – Israelis and Palestinians – still are aching for peace. The tears of mothers over their children are still etched in our hearts. We must put an end to the cries, to the violence, to the conflict. We all need peace. Peace between equals.

Your invitation to us to join you in this momentous ceremony to call for peace, here in the Vatican garden, in the presence of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Druze leaders, graciously reflects your vision of the aspiration we all share: Peace.

On this moving occasion, brimming with hope and full of faith, let us all raise with you, Your Holiness, a call for peace between religions, between nations, between communities, and between fellow men and women. Let true peace become our legacy soon and swiftly.

Our Book of Books commands upon us the way of peace, demands of us to toil for its realization.

It is said in the book of Proverbs:

“Her ways are ways of grace, and all her paths are peace.”

So too must our ways be. Ways of grace and peace. It is not by chance that Rabbi Akiva captured the essence of our Torah in one sentence: “Love your neighbor like thyself.” We are all equal before the Lord. We are all part of the human family. For without peace, we are not complete, and we have yet to achieve the mission of humanity.

Peace does not come easy. We must toil with all our strengths to reach it. To reach it soon. Even if it requires sacrifice or compromise.

The Book of Psalms tells us:

“Whoever loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.”

This is to say, we are commanded to pursue after peace. All year. Every day. We greet each other with this blessing. Shalom. Salam. We must be worthy of the deep and demanding meaning of this blessing. Even when peace seems distant, we must pursue it to bring it closer.

And if we pursue peace with perseverance, with faith, we will reach it.

And it will endure through us, through all of us, of all faiths, of all nations, as it is written:

“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

The soul is elated upon the reading of these verses of eternal vision. And we can – together and now, Israelis and Palestinians – convert our noble vision to a reality of welfare and prosperity. It is within our power to bring peace to our children. This is our duty, the holy mission of parents.

Let me end with a prayer:

He who makes peace in the heavens shall make peace upon us and upon all of Israel, and upon the entire world, and let us say Amen.

Pope Francis’s Words to Presidents of Israel and Palestine at Invocation for Peace


Pope Francis delivered remarks to the Presidents of Palestine and Israel, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and delegations representing Jews, Christians and Muslims, all of whom were gathered in the Vatican Pentecost Sunday evening to pray for peace in the Middle East and throughout the world. Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks.

Distinguished Presidents,

I greet you with immense joy and I wish to offer you, and the eminent delegations accompanying you, the same warm welcome which you gave to me during my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

I am profoundly grateful to you for accepting my invitation to come here and to join in imploring from God the gift of peace.  It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide.

I also thank Your Holiness, my venerable Brother Bartholomaios, for joining me in welcoming these illustrious guests.  Your presence here is a great gift, a much-appreciated sign of support, and a testimony to the pilgrimage which we Christians are making towards full unity.

Your presence, dear Presidents, is a great sign of brotherhood which you offer as children of Abraham.  It is also a concrete expression of trust in God, the Lord of history, who today looks upon all of us as brothers and who desires to guide us in his ways.

This meeting of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and in the entire world is accompanied by the prayers of countless people of different cultures, nations, languages and religions: they have prayed for this meeting and even now they are united with us in the same supplication.  It is a meeting which responds to the fervent desire of all who long for peace and dream of a world in which men and women can live as brothers and sisters and no longer as adversaries and enemies.

Dear Presidents, our world is a legacy bequeathed to us from past generations, but it is also on loan to us from our children: our children who are weary, worn out by conflicts and yearning for the dawn of peace, our children who plead with us to tear down the walls of enmity and to set out on the path of dialogue and peace, so that love and friendship will prevail.

Many, all too many, of those children have been innocent victims of war and violence, saplings cut down at the height of their promise.  It is our duty to ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain.  The memory of these children instils in us the courage of peace, the strength to persevere undaunted in dialogue, the patience to weave, day by day, an ever more robust fabric of respectful and peaceful coexistence, for the glory of God and the good of all.

Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare.  It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity.  All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity.

History teaches that our strength alone does not suffice.  More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it.  That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God.  We do not renounce our responsibilities, but we do call upon God in an act of supreme responsibility before our consciences and before our peoples.  We have heard a summons, and we must respond.  It is the summons to break the spiral of hatred and violence, and to break it by one word alone: the word “brother”.  But to be able to utter this word we have to lift our eyes to heaven and acknowledge one another as children of one Father.

            To him, the Father, in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, I now turn, begging the intercession of the Virgin Mary, a daughter of the Holy Land and our Mother.

            Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!

We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms.  How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried…  But our efforts have been in vain.

Now, Lord, come to our aid!  Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace.  Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!”; “With war everything is lost”.  Instil in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.

Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters.  Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister.  Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace, our trepidation into confident trust, and our quarreling into forgiveness.

Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation.  In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman.  Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands.  Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be “brother”, and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam!  Amen.


INVOCATION FOR PEACE Vatican Gardens, June 8, 2014

Pope Francis prays in front of the Israeli security wall in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 25. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, pool)

Below you will find the full texts for the Invocation for Peace ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on Pentecost Sunday evening.  Pope Francis, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinain President Mahmoud Abbas and their delegations will take part in the ceremony. Salt and Light Television will begin coverage of the ceremony at noon (ET). Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB will host the broadcast.

Vatican Gardens, June 8, 2014

Musical meditation


May the Lord give you peace!

We have gathered here, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, so that each of us can offer his or her own that each of us can express his or her desire for peace for the Holy Land and for all who dwell there.

Together with Pope Francis, who greatly desired this moment, Patriarch Bartholomaios of Constantinople and all those present, Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas will join in this calling, voicing the desire of their respective peoples to invoke to God the common longing for peace.

This evening’s meeting will consist of three parts, followed by a conclusion.
Each part will be devoted to an invocation by one of the three religious communities, in chronological order: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Each part will itself unfold in three moments. The first moment will consist of an expression of praise to God for his gift of creation, and for his having created us as members of the human family.

In the second moment, we will ask pardon from God for the times we have failed to act as brothers and sisters, and for our sins against him and against our fellow men and women.
In the third moment, we will ask God to grant the gift of peace to the Holy Land and to enable us to be peacemakers.

Each of these three moments will be framed by a brief musical interlude. A musical meditation will conclude each of the three main parts.

Prayer (in Hebrew)

Psalm 8
To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O LORD, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 147
Praise the LORD!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
The LORD lifts up the downtrodden;
he casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
He grants peace within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down hail like crumbs—
who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his ordinances.
Praise the LORD!

Brief musical interlude

Prayer (in Hebrew)

Psalm 25
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD,
and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!
Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who are they that fear the LORD?
He will teach them the way that they should choose.
They will abide in prosperity,
and their children shall possess the land.
The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart,
and bring me out of my distress.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
O guard my life, and deliver me;
do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles.

Psalm 130
A Song of Ascents

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the LORD
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.

Prayer from the Yom Kippur
(Day of Atonement) service

Your servant David said before you: “Who may discern errors? Cleanse me from hidden faults”. Cleanse us, O Lord our God from all our transgressions, purify us from our impurity and cast pure water on us and purify us, as is written by Your prophets: “I will cast clean water upon you, and you shall be cleansed from all your impurities and from all your contamination I will purify you”. And it is said: “Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer up the fruit of our lips.” You are merciful, accepting those who turn back to You, and with regard to repentance You promised from the beginning , and with regard to repentance, our eyes look hopefully to You. And out of Your love or us, O Lord our God, who loved Israel Your people in Your mercy, and in Your compassion with which, You had compassion on the children of Your covenant, You granted us forgiveness of sin and the pardon of transgression and the atonement of iniquity.

Brief musical interlude.

(in Hebrew)

Prayer of Nahman of Breslav

Lord of Peace,
Divine Ruler, to whom peace belongs!
Maker of Peace, Creator of all things!
May it be Your will to put an end to war and bloodshed in the world,
and to spread a great and wonderful peace over the whole world,
so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
Help us and save us all,
Let us merit to cling tightly to the virtue of peace.
Let there be a truly great peace
between every person and his fellow, and between husband and wife,
and let there be no division among people not even in the heart.
Let every person love peace and pursue peace
Always in truth and integrity
Let us never cling to division
Not even when it comes to those who do not agree with us.
Let us never shame any person on earth, great or small
And may we merit to truly keep the commandment
to “love your neighbor as yourself,”
with an entire heart, body, soul and possessions.
And let what is written be fulfilled in us:
“I will grant peace in the land,
and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid;
I will remove dangerous animals from the land,
and no sword shall go through your land.”
God who is peace, bless us with peace!
Prayer for Peace from the Daily Service
Grant peace, goodness, blessing, grace, lovingkindness, and mercy;
on us and all your people Israel and on the world.
Bless us all as one by the light of Your countenance our Father.
For by the light of Your countenance,
You have given us O Lord our God, a Torah of Life, loving kindness,
and righteousness and blessing and mercy and life and peace.
May it be Your will to bless us all with Your Peace.

Jewish musical meditation.



Psalm 8

A reading from the Book of Isaiah 65:17-25
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord–and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent– its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Pause in silence

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father,
we gather here together,
we, your children, Jews, Christians and Muslims,
all recognizing you as our Creator.
We come to give you thanks
for the beauty and wonder of Your creation.
It is You, Creator God, Father of us all,
who has placed us in the Holy Land,
especially blessed among all the lands
because there the history of our salvation has unfolded.
May our shared thanksgiving for all Your blessings remind us
that we are brothers and sisters,
beloved of One God our Father,
through Christ our Lord.

Brief musical interlude.

Prayer (in Italian)
A reading from the prayer of Saint John Paul II

Let us turn with trust to God our Father,
who is merciful and compassionate,
slow to anger, great in love and fidelity,
and ask him to accept the repentance of his people
who humbly confess their sins,
and to grant them mercy.

Let us pray that contemplating Jesus,
our Lord and our Peace,
Christians will be able to repent
of the words and attitudes
caused by pride, by hatred,
by the desire to dominate others,
by enmity towards members of other religions
and towards the weakest groups in society,
such as immigrants and itinerants.
Let us pray for all those who have suffered offences
against their human dignity
and whose rights have been trampled.

Pause in silence.

Most merciful Father,
your Son, Jesus Christ, the judge of the living and the dead,
in the humility of his first coming
redeemed humanity from sin
and in his glorious return he will demand
an account of every sin.
Grant that our forebears, our brothers and sisters,
and we, your servants, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit
turn back to you in whole-hearted repentance,
may experience your mercy and receive
the forgiveness of our sins.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Pause in silence

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father,
give us the grace to come before you in humility
and beg your forgiveness for our offenses
against You and our brothers and sisters.
We have not been custodians of Your creation
and especially in Your Holy Land we have waged wars,
engaged in violence,
taught contempt for our brothers and sisters
and thus deeply offended You, Father of us all.
Give us the grace to recommit ourselves to “do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)
through Christ our Lord.

Brief musical interlude

Prayer (in Arabic)

A reading from the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Pause in silence.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father,
gathered here together we ask You
to make us instruments of Your peace,
seeking justice, agents of pardon
and builders of reconciliation.
Open our hearts to be filled with Your spirit,
open our eyes to see Your image in everyone we meet,
open our hands to join with those of our brother and sisters
to build together a world in which all can live in peace.
Pour down your blessing on the Holy Land,
so that from there this peace
can spread to the ends of the earth,
in the name of Christ our Lord.

Christian musical meditation

Prayer (in Arabic)

Praise be to God, who created the heavens and the earth, made darkness and light, brought everything out of nothing, created us as the best part of creation, formed us in the best of forms, bestowing on us hearing, sight, intelligence, and heart. Blessed be God, best of creators.

Oh God, to you all praise, O Lord, to you all praise, O Creator of the heavens and the earth, O You who know the unknown and the manifest, O Lord of everything and its sovereign, we testify that there is no god but You alone and You have no partner, we seek refuge in You from the evil in ourselves and the evil of Satan, his partners, his godlessness and his whispering, and we seek refuge in You from godlessness and want, and we seek refuge in You so that we do not bring evil upon ourselves or bring it upon anyone else.

O God, to You all praise, much praise, good and blessed, we praise You for all the grace bestowed upon us, seen and unseen, in religion or in the world, for Your graces cannot be counted or calculated, and we ask You, our Lord, that they last forever, be preserved and blessed, and that they might help us to remember You, thank You and worship You better, until we worship You, remember You and thank You as You desire, and to You all praise, O Lord, as befits the splendor of Your face and the greatness of Your power.

O God, You are all able and we are unable, You possess all and we have nothing, You know all and we know nothing, You know hidden things, we praise You, we thank You for all that You have showered upon us and all You have done so well for us in religion and in this world, to You praise, our Lord, in first things and in the hereafter, to You praise in good times and bad, to You praise until You are gratified and to You praise when You are satisfied, to You praise after satisfaction, there is no power and no strength but in You.

Brief musical interlude

Prayer (in Arabic)

O God, our Lord and our God there is no god but You, You created us and we are Your servants, and we are committed to You as best we can, we take our refuge in You from the evil we have done, we return to You by the grace You bestow on us, and we return from our transgressions and our sins, forgive us, for there is no one who forgives sins except You.

O God, our Lord, God whose name is sanctified in the heavens, Your command is in the heavens and on earth, as Your mercy is in the heavens, so let Your mercy be manifest on earth, forgive us our transgressions and our sins, You are the Lord of those who are good, pour down upon us Your mercy, Your pardon, Your goodness and Your healing, Most Merciful of the merciful.
O God, inspire us to tell the truth, to do good, to instruct in virtue, to put an end to what is forbidden, seeking Your generous face, O Master of splendor and honor, so that we do only good for the good of all, all people, removing injustice from the oppressed, so that we may receive Your mercy which encompasses all things, and help us, O Lord, to do right with what is right, in matters of justice and charity, and put an end to indecency, all that is forbidden, evil, injustice and aggression.

O God, we seek refuge in You from going astray or being led astray, from slipping or causing others to slip, from doing wrong or suffering wrong, from committing aggression or having aggression committed against us, forgive us for whatever sins we have committed in all of this, O Most Merciful of the merciful, for our hope is in Your mercy, and we fear Your retribution, do not put us among the unjust violent ones, O Lord of the worlds, help us to come to the assistance of the unjustly oppressed, so that we are granted in this Your mercy, Your pardon and Your satisfaction.

Brief musical interlude

Prayer (in Arabic)

Praise to God, merciful, compassionate, king, holy, peace, faith, sovereign, precious, mighty, proud, creator, maker, former.

O God, You are peace, and peace is from You, and to You peace returns, You are blessed and You are glorified, O Master of splendor and honor, inspire us, O Lord, with peace and reveal to us peace and make us dwellers in the realm of peace, among those who do not live in fear or sorrow.
O God, we seek refuge in You from injustice and oppression, from illegitimate aggression, and we ask You, our Lord, to make us rightly guided, not going astray nor leading astray, believing in You and trusting in You, guide us, O Lord, to the most preferred of words, guide us, O Lord, to the most perfect of acts, guide us, O Lord, to the best of morals, for no one can guide to this except You, and You are able to do all things.

O God, make us, O Lord, keys to all that is good, locks to all that is evil, we ask of You what is good and proper, that You provide us with safety, peace, security and faith, for us and for our peoples, our families, our fathers and mothers, our sons and daughters, and for all humanity and all nations, and all creatures in Your great creation, give us, O Lord, in this world good, and in the Hereafter good, and protect us from the torment of the fire.

O God, bring about peace in the land of peace, O Master of splendor and honor, and remove injustice against the oppressed in this land, feed its people who hunger, and secure them against fear, and keep them from evil and evil doers, from unjust aggressors, O Lord of the Worlds.

Muslim musical meditation



Let us now listen to the words of Pope Francis, followed by those of the two Presidents, each calling for peace for peace.

The two Presidents and the Holy Father will conclude by shaking hands and by planting a small olive tree together as an enduring symbol of the mutual desire for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

Invocation of the Holy Father Francis

Invocation of President Peres

Invocation of President Mahmoud Abbas

Sign of Peace

Commencement Address to the Class of 2014 University of St. Thomas


Ignite the Revolution of Tenderness and Mercy… 

Commencement Address to the Class of 2014 University of St. Thomas  
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
Reliant Arena – Houston, Texas – May 17, 2014

On Saturday morning, May 17, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, delivered the commencement address to the 64th graduating class of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. Over 6000 people attended the ceremony in Houston’s Reliant Arena. The University of St. Thomas was founded by the Congregation of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers) in 1947 and is Houston’s only Catholic university, with a total enrollment of 3,589 that includes 1,609 undergraduate students. Fr. Rosica is CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada and is President of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario (Canada). He is English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office at the Vatican and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the University St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.

Distinguished Guests, Dear Friends,

When I was invited to deliver the commencement address to the University of St. Thomas Class of 2014, my first reaction was: Who remembers what anyone says in a commencement address? I certainly don’t recall what was spoken at my commencements or graduations! There are other things to do on such a momentous day like today! Get the diploma and run! There’s a party waiting for us! Breathe a sigh of relief that the academic ordeal is over! Or perhaps there is a feeling of dread that the real world of work awaits me and the student loan payments must now begin! Then of course there are the parents and grandparents who made all of this possible and who are waiting with baited breath for that photo and that bear hug from dad! There are surges of pride deep in their hearts! “My son or daughter made it!” “They are no longer kids,” they say with tears in their eyes! And perhaps you are saying to yourself: “Ah shucks… it’s all so emotional!”

I have prayed long and hard these past weeks that a few of my words would stick today, unlike other commencement addresses we may have endured! I want to speak with you this morning about dreams and hopes and to stir things up on your graduation day. I want to invite you to start a revolution when you leave this arena today. First let me tell the story of two, famous, public, revolutionary figures known to each of you in this arena. You certainly heard about them in your history or political science courses. Evoking their memories always stirs up an audience like this one!

One year ago, we commemorated the 50th Anniversary of a great man’s dream – the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. When he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 28, 1963, and looked out over a quarter of a million people who marched on Washington, he electrified the nation with his magnificent rhetoric in the now famous “I have a dream” speech.

Dr. King didn’t say, “I have a complaint.” Instead, he proclaimed to the massive crowd: “I have a dream.” He launched a revolution of civil rights, human rights and equality; of justice and freedom that were absent from what we believed to be the land of the free and home of the brave. Dr. King had a voice that inspired you to listen. His message was so well crafted and so powerfully delivered. Throughout that famous address, King repeated many times, “I Have A Dream.” That message still brings tears to the eyes of any of those who listen whether they are black or white, young or old, American or Canadian, French or Italian, Palestinian or Israeli, Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew.

There was much for Dr. King to complain about for black Americans at that critical moment in American history. But Dr. King taught us that day that our complaints or critiques will never be the foundation of movements that change the world – but dreams always will. To spend our energies constantly saying what is wrong will never be enough to change the world. Nor will it ever change the Church.

Fr. Rosica with Dr. Robert Ivany, President of the University of St. Thomas

Fr. Rosica with Dr. Robert Ivany, President of the University of St. Thomas

Let me tell you about a second great world hero. Last December, the world mourned the death of the great Nelson Mandela of South Africa. He, too, had a dream and spoke about it in his Inaugural Speech as President of his country in May 1994. In that memorable address, he strove to motivate his people to move past the pain of their past so they can build their future. There had been a change in South Africa including the release of Mr. Mandela from prison. He has chosen to fan the flames of this change and move his country forward. Mr. Mandela wanted his people to understand that they are all important to their country, no matter what their origin. Through his speech Mr. Mandela began a revolution of his own to counter Apartheid and separation. He united his people together in an attempt to further the needs of the country as a whole. He inspired them to remember their dedication to the country they love and to work together to move forward.

I also want to speak to you this morning about four other individuals whose dreams and hopes, lives and witness, made a big difference in our world. You may not have heard about them in political science courses. But you certainly heard their names at UST- because their lives and visions are so intricately woven into the fabric of this university. Their names are Angelo from Italy, Karol from Poland, Josef from Germany and Jorge from Argentina. Three weeks ago Sunday, these four individuals were brought together in a very unique way in a piazza in Rome – we could say that it was an extraterrestrial party of sorts – with two watching from above and two taking part in the festivities from below. It was known as the Sunday of four Popes: two celebrating a canonization mass and two more in heaven graduating “summa cum laude” with the highest honors of our Church: they were proclaimed saints!

What united the four men was this fact: each of them experienced a name change in a small chapel in Rome; each was led to places they would have never chosen; each became a leader of a major world religion. Each was successor of Peter, a Galilean fisherman and each a Vicar of Christ on earth. Each had some wild dreams and hopes for the Church and even launched quiet revolutions by their lives. By virtue of the fact that you are soon to be a UST alumnus or alumnae, you are automatically revolutionaries for their causes.

Angelo Roncalli – St. John XXIII

First let me tell you about Angelo Roncalli, from a poor family of sharecroppers from the town of Sotto il Monte near Bergamo in northern Italy. At the age of 12, he entered the diocesan seminary at Bergamo and came under the influence of progressive leaders of the Italian social movement. He was a ordained priest in 1904, and learned early on about forms of social action and the problems of the working classes. In 1915 he was conscripted to the Italian army in World War I and served on the front lines in the medical and chaplaincy corps. In 1921 he was called to Rome by the Pope and made director of the office for missions in Italy. He was consecrated archbishop in 1925 and sent first to what was then ecclesial outposts on the periphery: Bulgaria, then to Turkey and Greece.

At the age of 64, Roncalli was chosen for the difficult post of papal ambassador to Paris, where he worked to heal the divisions caused by the Second World War. At age 72, he was made cardinal and patriarch of Venice. Known for his conservatism and deep humanity, he quickly won the affection of just about everyone. In 1958, at nearly 77 years old, he was elected Pope upon the death of Pius XII. He was expected by many to be a caretaker and transitional Pope, but he astonished the Church and the world with his energy and reforming spirit. He revolutionized the Church by calling for the Second Vatican Council in 1959 to address the burning questions of divided Christians and to bring the Church into the modern era.

On the night of October 11, 1962 – a day that began with the solemn opening of John’s greatest achievement, the Second Vatican Council, as he struggled with fatigue and the cancer ravaging his body, Papa Giovanni flung open the windows of the apartment in the Apostolic Palace and spoke to 400,000 young people who streamed to the Vatican that night. His voice still reverberates amidst the colonnades of that famous piazza 52 years later:

“I hear your voices. Mine is only a single voice. But what resounds here is the voice of the whole world; here all the world is represented. …My own person counts for nothing – it is a brother who speaks to you, who has become a father by the will of the Lord … but everyone together, in paternity and fraternity, and the grace of God, everything, everything … Let us continue, therefore, to love each other, to love each other so, by looking at each other in our encounters with one another: taking up what unites us and setting aside anything that might keep us in a bit of difficulty…

[May] our feelings always be just as they are now as we express them before heaven and before the earth: Faith, Hope, Charity, the love of God, the love of our brothers and sisters; and then everyone together helped by the holy peace of the Lord, in doing good works.

John concluded his moving address on that unforgettable, magical night:

“When you go back home, you will find your children: and give them a hug and say, “This is a hug from the Pope. You will find some tears that need to be dried: speak a good word: “The Pope is with us, especially in times of sadness and bitterness.” And then all together let us encourage one another: singing, breathing, weeping, but always full of faith in Christ who helps us and who listens to us, let us continue on our journey.”

On the day of John’s “graduation” three weeks ago in St. Peter’s Square, the current Successor of Peter said of Angelo Roncalli as he proclaimed him a saint:

“In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader. This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit.”

What does John teach us today? Just because you have an amazing degree from this prestigious university, never let it go to your head! Be humble. Be grateful. Allow yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit, whatever your religious tradition may be. To be great, become a servant-leader. In your newly acquired scholar’s vocabulary learned at UST, remember that the most important words you can speak in any language are “Thank you” and “I’m sorry.”

When you leave this arena today and go out into that real world, you will find your moms and dads, brothers and sisters: give them a hug and say, “Thanks for putting up with me during my university studies.” Throw your arms around your grandparents and tell them that you love them. You will find among family and friends some tears that need to be dried: speak a good word! And like St. John XXIII: encourage one another: singing, breathing, weeping, but always full of faith in Christ who helps us and who listens to us along the journey.

Karol Wojtyla – St. John Paul II

Let me tell you about another great man who launched a revolution: Karol Wojtyla, the one from the foreign country who was called to Rome in 1978 to light the world on fire. He grew up in the backwoods of Krakow, Poland, in the little town called Wadowice, not far from Auschwitz where many of his Jewish friends perished in the atrocity of the Shoah. From the beginning Karol was familiar with grief, suffering and loss, having lost his mother, father and brother at a young age. He knew the emptiness and evil of communism and the fleeting ideologies of his day. He worked in a rock quarry hauling huge stones on his back.

The young Karol heard the suffering and pain of his fellow Poles. He was a philosopher and actor who at age 58 would walk onto the world stage as Vicar of Christ. He was the center stage for nearly 27 years, and where he went, the world followed. He spoke truth to power and brought evil empires to their knees in a velvet revolution that marked the end of the communist regime. Walls and iron curtains came tumbling down before him because of his immense faith in God and in human beings. He bonded with young people in an incredible way… first as the robust, athletic, mountain-climbing pope, then as a broken, bent over, immobilized man ravaged by Parkinson’s disease. His mantra and call to arms was:

Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid.”

On the day of his “graduation” three weeks ago in St. Peter’s Sqaure,

Pope Francis said of Karol Wojtyla: “In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family.” Pope Francis went on to say:

“[Angelo Roncalli and Karol Wojtyla], were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history…”

Graduates of 2014: Learn from “Papa Wojtyla” how to cross thresholds, open doors, build bridges, embrace the cross of suffering and proclaim the Gospel of Life to the people of our time. Learn from this truly great man how to live, to forgive, to suffer and to die unto the Lord. Pray for a small portion of the fidelity of Peter’s witness and the boldness of Paul’s proclamation that were so mightily present in Karol Wojtyla – now Saint John Paul II.

Joseph Ratzinger – Pope emeritus Benedict XVI

There is still another man who teaches us a profound lesson today: the brilliant, humble, kind German theologian and master teacher, Joseph Ratzinger, now known to the world as Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI.

With John XXIII, it was a language of brotherhood, fatherhood, motherhood, goodness and kindness. With John Paul II, it was ‘Be not afraid’ – an invitation to the Church to recapture its boldness and missionary self-confidence after years of inward reflection, rumination and self doubt that followed the years of the Second Vatican Council. With Benedict XVI, it was a revolution of the intellect and his leitmotif was that reason and faith need one another. Human reason shorn of religious faith becomes skepticism and religion shorn of the self-critical capacity of human reason becomes fundamentalism and extremism. His sweet refrain and gentle plea: we must be friends with Jesus if we wish to truly live.

Your years of study at UST took place during the momentous papal transition of 2013. Previous graduates of UST would have heard the question: “Where were you on 9/11?” Your class has perhaps heard another question: “Where were you on 2/11 – February 11, 2013, the day that the pope resigned?

St. John Paul II taught us the profound lesson of suffering and death with dignity. Joseph Ratzinger taught us the meaning of sweet surrender – of not clinging to power and the throne, of prestige, tradition and privilege for their own sakes. He taught us what it means to serve the Lord with gladness, humility and joy.

What lesson can we learn from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI today? By his bold and courageous decision to resign from his Petrine Ministry, Benedict told us that we must be painfully honest with the human condition, that we cannot be enchained by history. A man who had been the champion of tradition and labeled “conservative” left us with one of the most progressive gestures made by any pope. This man known for brilliant writing, exquisite kindness, charity, gentleness, humility and clarity of teaching, offered us the epitome of a courageous and humble decision that will forever mark the papacy and the life of the Church.

If today we are basking in Pope Francis’ light, we must be forever grateful to Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI who has made Francis possible for the Church and the world. We owe Benedict immense gratitude.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis

How could I end these thoughts without a word about the current occupant of the Papal office – Jorge Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis? I am certain that every single person in this assembly today has been touched in some way by this great man. For the first time in many years, ordinary people in the street are taking a new and more appreciative look at the pope and the Church. He has introduced to us a new way of speaking as he revolutionizes the ancient papacy and brings it into the modern world. Francis’ words ring out across the face of the earth with these sayings and so many more:

“How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!”

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! Even the atheists. Everyone!”

“We have fallen into a “globalization of indifference.”

“I want things messy and stirred up in the church.  I want the church to take to the streets!”

“I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.”

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

“God never tires of forgiving us.”

“I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life.”

“An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.”

“Mercy is the greatest of all virtues.”

“The Church is not a tollhouse.”

“We need to promote a culture of encounter.”

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Aboard his return flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome last July and in response to a journalist’s question about a gay person’s spiritual life, Pope Francis stunned the world with five simple words: “Who am I to judge?”

Last Monday there was yet another zinger during his daily homily in the chapel of his residence in the Vatican guest house. Francis said that if a band of Martians showed up tomorrow wanting to be baptized as Christians, he would happily do so. He added a rhetorical question to join his “Who am I to judge?” line about gays as a signature expression of his pastoral approach. “Who are we to close the door?”

Fr. Rosica at the podium

What lessons is Francis teaching us? He has not come to overturn doctrine and age-old beliefs that are the bedrock of our Catholic Christian faith! He wants to make those teachings understandable and part of our lives. Pope Francis opens doors to a faith that offers attractive, compelling answers to questions deep in the hearts of all men and women. There is something incredibly appealing here not only to Catholics, but to Christians… in fact to all men and women of good will. His words are addressed to an ecumenical and interfaith audience. Is it any wonder, then why the world is listening to him? Knowing we’re made for something more, knowing we have responsibilities toward one another and the freedoms we enjoy, makes us leaders in the renewal of our lives, families, communities, institutions, country, and culture.

Francis rejects the reduction of Catholicism to hot-topic moral issues. He does not want to reduce the church to discussions of abortion, gay marriage, contraception and homosexuality. In his comments, he makes a distinction between dogmatic and moral teachings, reminding us that they do not hold the same weight. With Pope Francis, the church must re-enter public discourse with a full-throated defense of the common good that rises above bitter partisan divisions.  

Especially for those in the United States of America and for each of you graduates in particular, Francis stands for something much greater than division, rancor, labeling and meanness of spirit that have dominated politics and infected the Church. He calls for a church ‘of and for the poor’ that is not turned in on itself, but ‘in the streets.’ The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.” Francis speaks with authority and integrity because he has lived the church’s social teaching in his own ministry. He walks his talk and walks the walk.  

Listen to Pope Francis’ words to you – the Class of 2014, to the 194 graduates of the School of Arts and Sciences, the 454 graduates of the School of Education, to the first 27 graduates of the UST School of Nursing, to 276 graduates and undergraduates of the Cameron School of Business, to graduates of the other departments of this great university. In his stunningly beautiful and profound Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis writes:

“All around us we begin to see nurses with soul, teachers with soul, politicians with soul, people who have chosen deep down to be with others and for others. But once we separate our work from our private lives, everything turns grey and we will always be seeking recognition or asserting our needs. We stop being a people.” (#273):

He continues:

“True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.” (#88)  

Today 1038 of you graduate from this prestigious and authentically Catholic University of St. Thomas in Houston Texas. You have been marked by the lives of these six great individuals I presented to you today: Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and four great popes and leaders of the Catholic Church: Angelo Roncalli, Karol Wojtyla, Josef Ratzinger and Jorge Mario Bergoglio. They were dreamers and revolutionaries in their day and in our day. They were infused with the presence of God and the power of his Holy Spirit.

I dream that you will be articulate, intelligent defenders of the dignity and sacredness of every human being.

I dream that you will be courageous witnesses and citizens, reasoned, principled, articulate defenders of the faith and bearers and teachers of our tradition. Then the world will stop, sit up and listen to you, just as the world has stopped to listen to Martin, Nelson, Angelo, Karol, Josef and Jorge.

My great dream for you, graduates of the class of 2014, is that you join Pope Francis’ revolution of tenderness and mercy. The current Bishop of Rome continues to ignite his “merciful revolution” inside the Church and outside in the world by words and actions. And his holy fire is spreading across the face of the earth.

Become revolutionaries of tenderness, holiness and joy. Dream big dreams and share them with your friends. Hand them on to future generations. Don’t just complain and name all the things that are wrong with the world and the Church, but become the change you would like to see.

Share the goodness, discipline, knowledge and experience of community that you learned here at UST with the world around you! Go out to the geographical and existential peripheries of society to repair, rebuild and heal the Church and the world! And do it as grateful alumni of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas!

God bless you and may the Force be with you!  

- Photos courtesy of Kim Coffman of the University of St. Thomas Marketing and Communications Office.