Fr. Rosica’s address to the Ontario Provincial Meeting of Development and Peace

  


May 12, 2012, Toronto - 
I am very grateful to Luke Stocking and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace for the invitation and privilege of addressing you this morning during this important provincial gathering.  More than anything, it is an opportunity for me to express once again my gratitude to each of you for your commitment, witness and perseverance.  I cannot stand before you without evoking the tremendous collaboration we enjoyed together ten years ago as we prepared for World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto and celebrated our Catholic Christian identity and mission on a grand scale.  Through the great generosity of Development and Peace, we were able to have made in the barrios of Colombia, South America over 500,000 small wooden crosses that Pope John Paul II presented to each young pilgrim who took part in World Youth Day in Canada.  Through your generous contribution, we had made by women’s cooperatives in Chiapas, Mexico, the beautiful stoles for 500 priest confessors who celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation with the tens of thousands of young people of the world in Duc in Altum Park and at Downsview Park. Working closely with your regional leaders, we involved over 100,000 young people in the service projects that took place on the Wednesday afternoon of World Youth Day week.  And seizing the tremendous good will of your volunteers, we prepared the famous red pilgrim bags that had been stitched together in the prisons of Quebec.  It was the World Youth Day of 2002 that allowed Development and Peace to launch a new outreach to young men and women in this country.  Many of you at that time called the World Youth Day a “refounding” moment for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

Now ten years later, I come before you to encourage you once again in the important ecclesial mission entrusted to Development and Peace, and to reflect on what it means to be a convinced and convincing witness to Jesus Christ and the long, rich tradition of the social teaching of the Church.   You have asked me to speak about “Catholic Communications, Identity and Mission,” a theme that has been at the heart of my ministry especially over the past 10 years since the establishment of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network.  I will situate my remarks in the context of the “Year of Faith” that has been announced by Pope Benedict XVI – a year that will begin on October 11, 2012, the date that marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  The Year of Faith will conclude on the Solemnity of Christ the King, on November 2013.

Rediscovering Gaudium et Spes

To begin our reflection, let us consider one of the most important documents of the Second Vatican Council – Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World - that serves as the raison d’être of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. Gaudium et Spes was the longest document of the Council, in fact the longest document ever produced by any of the 21 Ecumenical Councils in a 2,000 year history!  Gaudium et Spes demanded of us an intense engagement with the world. The Council Fathers who prepared this document had experienced two World Wars, the horror of the Holocaust, the onset of a nuclear era, the hostility of communism, and the awesome and only partially understood impact of science and technology.  All these factors led them to an understanding of the Church not only in terms of her internal life, but also in terms of her mission to the world.  The message of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World is, in many ways, the compendium of the hopes and goals of the entire Second Vatican Council.

Gaudium et Spes proposed a pastoral strategy which emphasized a critical conversation with the world (a conversation which includes both listening and speaking) along with principled cooperation with other social institutions and communities of people.  It dealt with the dignity of the human person, the community of men and women, and human activity in the universe.  One of the great gifts of Gaudium et Spes was its appeal for the personal witness and “illuminating” initiatives of lay people- encouraging them to assume greater roles in the life of the Church and the world.  (cf. GS, 43). This still remains one of the great urgencies and hopes of the Church of our times.

Above all, Gaudium et Spes presents Jesus Christ as the Light of the world, the “lumen gentium” who illuminates the mystery of man, not only for Christians, but also for the entire human family; he reveals man to himself; he calls everyone to the same identical destiny, and, through the Holy Spirit, “offers to everyone the possibility to come into contact” with his definitive victory over death (GS, 22).  We could sum up the entire document with these five points:

  1. The Church works to build a world that acknowledges and promotes the dignity, life and freedom of each human person.
  2. The Church works to create conditions of justice and peace in which individuals and communities can truly flourish.
  3. The Church is present in the activity of the international community.
  4. The Church’s universal religious mission does not allow her to be identified with any particular political, economic or social system.
  5. The Church contributes to the establishment and consolidation of peace within the human community in accordance with God’s law, a peace that is the fruit of the work of true justice.

Development and Peace is the agency par excellence entrusted with bearing, modeling, offering the message and mission of Gaudium et Spes to the Church in Canada and far beyond.  You are an organization entrusted with fostering communion between the universal Church and the particular Churches, as well as communion between all the faithful in the exercise of charity.  At the same time you are called to help bring the Church’s message to political and social life internationally.  You are called to work in converting people’s hearts in openness towards our brothers and sisters, so that everyone, in full respect for his or her freedom and in the full acceptance of his or her personal responsibilities, may always and everywhere act for the common good. You are commissioned to bear this message because it flows from the person and saving mission of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church.

You know as well as I do that when the Church commits herself to works of justice on a human level (and there are few institutions in the world which accomplish what the Catholic Church accomplishes for the poor and disadvantaged), the world praises the Church.  But when the Church’s work for justice touches on issues and problems which the world no longer sees as bound up with human dignity, like protecting the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death, or when the Church confesses that justice also includes our responsibilities toward God himself, then the world rejects our message.

The work of Gaudium et Spes is not over.  In fact, only now is the message of the Second Vatican Council being realized: we are a global church and we are responsible for our brothers and sisters throughout the world.  We need further integration of social mission into the centre of Catholic life. We need to insist that social ministry is an integral part of the life and mission of the Church.  We need to strengthen our sense of mission. We can no longer speak of “social justice”, “Development and Peace” as alternatives.  Our incorporation and implementation of the social teaching of the church must become normative and constitutive.  The discussion of orthodoxy and identity are very important; but the Church does not exist for itself, but to preach the gospel in word and in deed, to serve the poorest of the poor, the weakest of the weak, those on the fringes and borders of society.  As Gaudium et Spes says in its opening words known to so many of us:  “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.” (GS 1).

The ultimate evaluation of Vatican II, and for that matter, of all of our pastoral, spiritual and educational endeavors will be if we judge our efforts according to the mind and heart of Christ.  He is the Lord of history.  Our world and our times belong to him.  Let us evaluate everything we are and do in terms of how well we have opened our eyes and the eyes of others to the radiant beauty of Christ. If we wish to be ambassadors, instruments, bearers of the message of Gaudium et Spes in the world today, if we truly desire to be workers of the authentic justice articulated so powerfully in the Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, we must be in direct contact with Jesus of Nazareth, who is the joy and hope of the human family. We encounter this Jesus in the Church, in the sacraments and in the liturgy.  But our partaking in the liturgy is always in view of the mission entrusted to us: “Ite missa est…”  Go, carry this message into the world.  The words of the concluding rite of the New Roman Missal capture this very well: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

The heart of Catholic Social Teaching

The Social Teaching of the Church is neither “left” nor “right”, neither “liberal” nor “conservative” – within the contemporary politicized use of those words.  “Social justice” is the way that we put into practice the Social Teaching of the Church in our daily lives.  And yet the term “social justice” seems to have become a lightning rod that divides Catholics because it touches upon things that matter to every human being.  Social justice is an integral part of Church teaching. It is based on the rights that flow from and safeguard human dignity, and it compels us to work with others to help make social institutions better serve the common good. The Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes an entire section (#1928-1948) to the topic of social justice.  Similarly, the 2004 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a required reading for all who are part of Development and Peace, gives a magnificent overview of the wider topic of the Church’s social doctrine, and teaches clearly the meaning of social justice.

If we are serious about our involvement with the Canadian Catholic Orgranization for Development and Peace, we can no longer be concerned with titles or labels of being “liberal” or “conservative”.  Our sole desire should be this: to be simply a Catholic Christian who seeks to inform my political participation in accordance with principles derived from my faith which we believe will help to structure a truly just and compassionate society, a society based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dignity and Sacredness of Human Life

In the past, social justice was interpreted excessively in economic terms, as if the economy were the only sphere in which social justice operates. Blessed John Paul II worked to counteract this, by declaring that nowadays the greatest social injustices to be seen in the world are those attacking human life, especially where it is most vulnerable. Pope Benedict has followed suit. In Caritas in Veritate, he clearly states that “Openness to life is at the centre of true development,” denouncing an “anti-birth mentality” and calling a growing lack of respect for life a new form of “poverty and underdevelopment.”

Pope Benedict XVI writes:

In economically developed countries, legislation contrary to life is very widespread, and it has already shaped moral attitudes and praxis, contributing to the spread of an anti-birth mentality; frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other states as if it were a form of cultural progress.”  Benedict sums up the current global economic crisis with these words:  “Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.”

The “big picture,” which Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have seen and brilliantly proclaimed on behalf of the Church, transcends the artificial separation of the “pro-life” and “peace and justice” camps that we often find in the Church in North America. The contemporary loss of the sense of God has led to a culture of death that is fundamentally violent and unjust. The remedy is found when we turn our gaze upon Christ, who is both the Lord of Life and Prince of Peace.

We know well that human life has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers.  Our contemporary culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents that encourage an idea of society exclusively concerned with efficiency.  There is no room in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure or anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them and can only communicate through the silent language of profound sharing of affection.

Abortion is the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. It is important to recall Benedict XVI’s provocative words at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, on July 17, 2008:

And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space – the womb – has become a place of unutterable violence?

The Roman Catholic Church holds a consistent ethic of lifeThe Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and dignity of the human person.  Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice.  We must strive to see the whole picture.  Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons – all of these things and more poison human society.

Many of you present here today have been frustrated by the hijacking of pro-life issues by the so-called extreme right.  Obstinate fundamentalist attitudes, open hostility or blatant indifference to opposing views are recipes for failure no matter how infamous the self-proclaimed expert, how self-aggrandizing or condemnatory his or her blog or inaccurate or sensational the website.  When sustained anger is a signature emotion of those claiming to be on the side of life, there is nothing prophetic or credible about such behavior.  When Gospel charity is absent in their words and deeds, when hope is not palpable, the effort is not Christian.  Some individuals, blinded by their own zeal and goodness, and misguided by poor leadership and ignorance, have ended up defeating the very cause we must all defend with every ounce of energy in our flesh and bones.  Being pro-life does not give any one the right and license to say and do whatever we wish, to malign, condemn and destroy other human beings who do not share our views.  We must never forget the principles of civility, Gospel charity, ethics, and justice.  Jesus came to engage the culture of his day, and we must engage the culture of our day.

In 2009, Cardinal Séan O’Malley wrote to the people of Boston with these important words:

If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us… Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.

What is also very troubling is that those who claim to be on the “left”, perhaps many of you in this room, always work hard on matters of human and civil rights, respecting and upholding the dignity and freedom of others.  This of course has included the protection of individual rights, and the efforts of government to care for the weak, sick and disadvantaged.  Why then are the extension to the unborn of the human right to life, and opposition to the culture of death, not central issues on the “left?”  They must be, for they are clearly matters of justice and human rights.  

The great social injustices in our contemporary world are those that attack human life in its most vulnerable forms.  We cannot forget the words of Pope Benedict XVI:  “Openness to life is at the centre of true development.”  This is the big picture for which we must strive each day.

Three witnesses of joy and hope for our times

There are some among you who feel beleaguered, discouraged and perhaps terribly perplexed at different events taking place in the world, in the Church and in Canadian society. Your very identity and mission have been attacked and questioned.  You may have been judged falsely and wrongly.  As serious oversights and errors emerged in the projects you have funded and overseen, you may question the leadership and administration of the projects “on the ground.”  There has been confusion about your mission. Some of you consider the recent federal government funding cuts to Development and Peace to be a serious affront and obstacle to the future work of your organization. May I suggest to you another way to interpret all that has happened and continues to happen to Development and Peace?  Together let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our discernment of what the Lord is trying to teach us through these events.

This is a privileged moment for the Canadian Catholic Organization of Development and Peace to return to its roots and origins, to recommit itself to Jesus Christ and his Gospel, and to work closely with the Catholic Church in its mission of transforming the world.  The time has come to rise up, to correct errors, purify motives and intentions, to be diligent in our efforts to transform the world and to see our charitable and development work as opportunities to evangelize in the name of Jesus Christ.  Now is the time to renew the relationships and collaboration with the bishops of this country who stand firmly with you, respect you and bless your efforts.  We are blessed beyond belief with the quality of episcopal leaders in Canada: their fidelity, intelligence, pastoral sensitivity and fraternal unity must never be taken for granted.  I can assure you that working with many bishops and episcopal conferences of the world, I give thanks to God for the unity that exists in the Canadian Church.  The Church needs you to be ‘gaudium et spes’ for the world today.

I hold up for you three holy role models and sterling examples of what Development and Peace stands for at its best.  Three individuals whose lives and witness transformed the world of their time and our time.  Three holy people who intercede for us in the presence of God.  Beg them to be with you as you recommit Development and Peace to truly be ‘gaudium et spes,’ ‘caritas in veritate,’ and ‘salt and light’ in our day.

Blessed John XXIII

During the Year of Faith and the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II, let us recall with affection and gratitude the beloved figure of Angelo Roncalli, the third of 13 children, who was born to a family of sharecroppers on Nov. 25, 1881, at Sotto il Monte 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 ordained on Aug. 10, 1904, and soon appointed the secretary to the new bishop of Bergamo, learning from him forms of social action and gaining an understanding of the problems of the working classes. He also taught at the diocesan seminary.  In 1915 he was called to the 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 Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Italy. He was consecrated archbishop in 1925 and sent to Bulgaria. In 1934 he was sent to Turkey and Greece.

At the age of sixty-four (1944), Roncalli was chosen by Pius XII for the difficult post of nuncio to Paris, where he worked to heal the divisions caused by the war. At age 72, he was made cardinal and patriarch of Venice and he had charge of a large diocese for the first time in his life. Known for his conservatism and deep humanity, he quickly won the affection of his people, visiting parishes, caring for the working classes, establishing new parishes, and developing forms of social action.  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 expanded and internationalized the college of cardinals, called the first diocesan synod of Rome in history, revised the Code of Canon Law, and called the Second Vatican Council with the specific purpose of renewing the life of the Church and its teachings and reuniting Christians throughout the world.

In his opening address of the Second Vatican Council, on October 11, 1962, Pope John said,

In the every day exercise of our pastoral ministry, greatly to our sorrow we sometimes have to listen to those who, although consumed with zeal, do not have very much judgment or balance. To them the modern world is nothing but betrayal and ruination. They claim that this age is far worse than previous ages and they go on as though they had learned nothing from history — and yet history is the great teacher of life.

They behave as though the first five centuries saw a complete vindication of the Christian idea and the Christian cause, and as though religious liberty was never put in jeopardy in the past. We feel bound to disagree with these prophets of misfortune who are forever forecasting calamity — as though the end of the world is imminent. Our task is not merely to hoard this precious treasure of doctrine, as though obsessed with the past, but to give ourselves eagerly and without fear to the task that this present age demands of us — and in doing so we will be faithful to what the Church has done in the past 20 centuries.

On that same evening of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Papa Giovanni appeared at his window in answer to the chanting and singing below from a crowd estimated at half a million people assembled in St. Peter’s square. Many were young people who came in procession with candles and singing.  His body was already filled with cancer; he was aging and tired, but in his characteristic high-pitched voice, he endeared himself to humanity in what has come to be known as the “Discorso della luna”, the moonlight speech:

Dear sons and daughters, I feel your voices! Mine is just one lone voice, but it sums up the voice of the whole world.  And here, in fact, all the world is represented here tonight. It could even be said that even the moon hastens close tonight, that from above, it might watch this spectacle that not even St Peter’s Basilica, over its four centuries of history, has ever been able to witness.

…My own person counts for nothing — it’s a brother who speaks to you, become a father by the will of our Lord, but all together, fatherhood and brotherhood and God’s grace, give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love, love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord’s holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.

When you return home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: ‘This is the hug and kiss of the Pope.’ And when you find them with tears to dry, give them a good word. Give anyone who suffers a word of comfort. Tell them ‘The Pope is with us especially in our times of sadness and bitterness.’ And then, all together, may we always come alive — whether to sing, to breathe, or to cry, but always full of trust in Christ, who helps us and hears us, let us continue along our path.

Blessed John XXIII’s impromptu window speech that night is now part of Rome’s legends.  On that first night of the Second Vatican Council, a new era began for the Church.  The Holy Father thought that the Council would conclude within months, but instead he was to die before its second session. When he returned to the Father on June 3, 1963, he had won the widespread affection of Christians and non-Christians alike. “Papa Giovanni,” as he was called, endeared himself to millions of people throughout the world.  With an infectious warmth and vision, he stressed the relevance of the Church in a rapidly changing society and made the Church’s deepest truths stand out in the modern world.

Beatified in June 2000 by his successor, John Paul II, Pope John XXIII’s feast day has been established not on the date of his death, June 3, but rather on October 11, the opening day of the Second Vatican Council.  As we remember John XXIII and behold his bold, daring vision for the Church and for humanity, let us beg his intercession for Development and Peace in Canada as it recommits itself to its initial inspiration from the Second Vatican Council and strives to make God’s Word known and loved in the Church and in the world.  For all your words, writings and efforts in this Post-Conciliar Church, let us pray that they be first infused with the deep and stirring humanity of Blessed John XXIII who revived the Church from her historical and ecclesial slumber at a moment when no one really expected it.

Archbishop Oscar Romero

I offer you a second friend, witness and intercessor in the person of Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Goldamez, born in 1917 in the town of Ciudad Barrios, in the mountains of El Salvador near the border with Honduras.  Leaving school at twelve the young Oscar began an apprenticeship as a carpenter, showing promise as a craftsman, but soon thought about ordination, against the desires of his family.  Padre Oscar served as a country priest before taking charge of two seminaries.  He was appointed in 1967 as Secretary General of the El Salvador National Bishops’ Conference.  He earned a reputation as an energetic administrator and his inspirational sermons were broadcast across by five radio stations.

Padre Oscar became bishop in 1970, serving first as assistant to the aged Archbishop of San Salvador.  Within three years he was Archbishop of San Salvador.  At that time there was growing unrest in the country, as many became more aware of the great social injustices of the peasant economy.  His pulpit became a font of truth when the government censored news.  He risked his own life as he defended the poor and oppressed.  He walked among the people and listened. “I am a shepherd,” he said, “who, with his people, has begun to learn a beautiful and difficult truth: our Christian faith requires that we submerge ourselves in this world.”

Murdered in cold blood by an assassin’s bullet as he celebrated Mass in a hospital on March 24, 1980, his last words in the sermon just minutes before his death reminded his congregation of the parable of the wheat.

Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ, will live like the grain of wheat that dies.  It only apparently dies.  If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain.  The harvest comes because of the grain that dies…

Oscar Romero is buried in the cathedral of San Salvador where he preached justice and defended the faith fearlessly, with boldness and courage.  The spirituality and faith behind his struggle for life flows from his belief in the God of the living who enters into human history to destroy the forces of death and allow the forces of life to heal, reconcile, and lift up those who walk in the valley of death. Archbishop Romero taught us that poverty and death go together.

Romero did not finish the celebration of the Eucharist.  Neither was the Eucharist of his funeral Mass finished. Gunfire and death were again present, and people had to rush into the cathedral for cover.  Many see his unfinished Eucharist as symbolic of what yet needs to be done in El Salvador and in every place throughout the world where people suffer in their struggle for liberation.

Who will finish the Eucharist? It is now up to us.  The Eucharist is the re-enactment of the drama of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  What Romero was doing when he was killed was re-living the Paschal Mystery.  He was doing in ritual what he had done throughout his life: offering himself with Christ as a peace offering, so that the earth might be reconciled with its creator, and sins be forgiven.  So must it be for each and everyone who commits himself or herself to the authentic work of justice and peace.  The life and death of Archbishop Romero will be as fruitful as we choose to make it.  May this great shepherd of El Salvador intercede for Development and Peace in Canada as you recommit yourself to the Gospel and walk with the Church.

Dorothy Day

Finally, I would like to hold up to you a special woman in the Christian tradition, one closer to home for each of us: Dorothy Day.  Her story captivated me as a high school student.  I met her once at a rally in Rochester, New York, along with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers.  She is a remarkable, prophetic woman of our times who transmitted the good news by her life and actions, and at times by her words.  Born on November 8, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York, Dorothy Day was neither baptized nor raised in the church.  After dropping out of college in 1916, she pursued the radical causes of her day: women’s suffrage, free love, labor unions, and social revolution.  But when a decade of protest and social action failed to produce changes in the values and institutions of society, Dorothy converted to the Catholic Church and the radicalism of Christian love.  The triggering event for Dorothy’s conversion was the birth of her daughter.  After an earlier abortion, Dorothy had desperately wanted to get pregnant.  She viewed the birth of her daughter as a sign of forgiveness from God.

For 50 years, Dorothy lived with the poor, conducted conferences, and published a newspaper, relying entirely upon donations.  Seventy-five houses of hospitality were established during her lifetime, where the hungry were fed, the naked clothed, the homeless sheltered, the sick cared for, and the dead buried.  She was put in jail, for the first time, at the age of 20 while marching in support of women’s suffrage.  She was put in jail, for the last time, at the age of 75 while marching in support of the United Farm Workers.  She was an avid peacemaker and a prolific author.  Dorothy died on November 29, 1980.  She was an average person who read her bible and tried to live and to love like Jesus.  She challenges each of us to take seriously the message of the gospel.

In March 2000, the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York City, formally announced the opening of the Beatification Process for this great woman of faith, calling Dorothy a Servant of God.  In his letter, he wrote:

It has long been my contention that Dorothy Day is a saint – not a “gingerbread” saint or a “holy card” saint, but a modern day devoted daughter of the Church, a daughter who shunned personal aggrandizement and wished that her work, and the work of those who labored at her side on behalf of the poor, might be the hallmark of her life rather than her own self.”

The conversion of mind and heart that she exemplified speaks volumes to all women today on two fronts. First, it demonstrates the mercy of God, mercy in that a woman who sinned so gravely could find such unity with God upon conversion. Second, it demonstrates that one may turn from the ultimate act of violence against innocent life in the womb to a position of total holiness and pacifism. Her abortion should not preclude her cause, but intensifies it.

Cardinal O’Connor said of her:

…Like so many saints of days gone by, she was an idealist in a non-ideal world. It was her contention that men and women should begin to live on earth the life they would one day lead in heaven, a life of peace and harmony. Much of what she spoke of in terms of social justice anticipated the teachings of Pope John Paul II and lends support to her cause.

Dorothy Day’s life is a model of authentic social justice in action.  This Servant of God, procured an abortion before her conversion to the Faith. She regretted it every day of her life. After her conversion from a life akin to that of the pre-converted Augustine of Hippo, she proved a stout defender of human life.  May this prophetic woman of our own time give us courage to defend our Catholic faith, especially to uphold the dignity and sacredness of every single human life, from conception to natural death.  May she inspire us to recognize Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor who are around us and among us.

Conclusion

Dear friends, dear co-workers of Development and Peace in Canada, this is not a time of retrenchment or retreat, but rather a time to refocus, recommit, renew and refound your organization which has done so much good for so many people for so many years.  For many Catholics and Christians of other churches in Canada, you have provided the vehicle and expression of what it means to be Church in this post-Conciliar period.  In this Year of Faith, when we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Council that gave us our roots, wings and vision, let us reclaim the treasure that has been entrusted to us to be ‘gaudium et spes,’ ‘caritas et veritate,’ and ‘salt and light’ for the world today. Let us engage Canadian Catholics at the grass roots in the constitutive and normative work of social justice.  Let us find in the lives of Blessed John XXIII, Archbishop Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day, examples and models of authentic social justice.

I leave you with the the stirring words of Pope Benedict XVI during the mass of the inauguration of his Petrine Ministry seven years ago, on April 24, 2005.  May these words inspire you to be about the work of Gaudium et Spes and justice and peace in our day.

The net of the Gospel pulls us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendour of God’s light, into true life. It is really true: as we follow Christ in this mission to be fishers of men, we must bring men and women out of the sea that is salted with so many forms of alienation and onto the land of life, into the light of God. It is really so: the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world.

…If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.

Thank you and God bless you.

Fr. Thomas Rosica has been a priest in the Congregation of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers) since 1986.  A scripture scholar and lecturer in New Testament, he was chaplain of the University of Toronto before becoming National Director and CEO of World Youth Day 2002 and the visit of Pope John Paul II to Canada.  Following World Youth Day, he became the founding CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, Canada’s national Catholic Television network.  In October 2008, he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as the English-speaking Media Attaché of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God at the Vatican.  In February 2009, Fr. Rosica was appointed by Pope Benedict as Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.  As of December 1, 2011, Fr. Rosica is also President of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario (Canada).

Watch: Pope John XXIII Video Reflection on YouTube
by: Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.

Jean XXIII: souvenir d’un bienheureux pape
Père Thomas Rosica, c.s.b.