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Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Thirtieth World Youth Day 2015

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5: 8)

Dear Young Friends,

We continue our spiritual pilgrimage toward Krakow, where in July 2016 the next international World Youth Day will be held. As our guide for the journey we have chosen the Beatitudes. Last year we reflected on the beatitude of the poor in spirit, within the greater context of the Sermon on the Mount. Together we discovered the revolutionary meaning of the Beatitudes and the powerful summons of Jesus to embark courageously upon the exciting quest for happiness. This year we will reflect on the sixth beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8).

1. The desire for happiness

The word “blessed”, or “happy”, occurs nine times in this, Jesus’ first great sermon (cf. Mt 5:1-12). It is like a refrain reminding us of the Lord’s call to advance together with him on a road which, for all its many challenges, leads to true happiness.

Dear young friends, this search for happiness is shared by people of all times and all ages. God has placed in the heart of every man and woman an irrepressible desire for happiness, for fulfillment. Have you not noticed that your hearts are restless, always searching for a treasure which can satisfy their thirst for the infinite?

The first chapters of the Book of Genesis show us the splendid “beatitude” to which we are called. It consists in perfect communion with God, with others, with nature, and with ourselves. To approach God freely, to see him and to be close to him, was part of his plan for us from the beginning; his divine light was meant to illumine every human relationship with truth and transparency. In the state of original purity, there was no need to put on masks, to engage in ploys or to attempt to conceal ourselves from one another. Everything was clear and pure.

When Adam and Eve yielded to temptation and broke off this relationship of trusting communion with God, sin entered into human history (cf. Gen 3). The effects were immediately evident, within themselves, in their relationship with each other and with nature. And how dramatic the effects are! Our original purity as defiled. From that time on, we were no longer capable of closeness to God. Men and women began to conceal themselves, to cover their nakedness. Lacking the light which comes from seeing the Lord, they saw everything around them in a distorted fashion, myopically. The inner compass which had guided them in their quest for happiness lost its point of reference, and the attractions of power, wealth, possessions, and a desire for pleasure at all costs, led them to the abyss of sorrow and anguish.

In the Psalms we hear the heartfelt plea which mankind makes to God: “What can bring us happiness? Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord” (Ps 4:7). The Father, in his infinite goodness, responded to this plea by sending his Son. In Jesus, God has taken on a human face. Through his Incarnation, life, death and resurrection, Jesus frees us from sin and opens new and hitherto unimaginable horizons.

Dear young men and women, in Christ you find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness. He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises. As Saint John Paul II said: “He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives” (cf. Discourse at the Prayer Vigil at Tor Vergata, 19 August 2000: Insegnamenti XXIII/2, [2000], 212).

2. Blessed are the pure in heart…

Let us now try to understand more fully how this blessedness comes about through purity of heart. First of all, we need to appreciate the biblical meaning of the word heart. In Hebrew thought, the heart is the centre of the emotions, thoughts and intentions of the human person. Since the Bible teaches us that God does not look to appearances, but to the heart (cf. 1 Sam16:7), we can also say that it is from the heart that we see God. This is because the heart is really the human being in his or her totality as a unity of body and soul, in his or her ability to love and to be loved.

As for the definition of the word pure, however, the Greek word used by the evangelist Matthew is katharos, which basically means clean, pure, undefiled. In the Gospel we see Jesus reject a certain conception of ritual purity bound to exterior practices, one which forbade all contact with things and people (including lepers and strangers) considered impure. To the Pharisees who, like so many Jews of their time, ate nothing without first performing ritual ablutions and observing the many traditions associated with cleansing vessels, Jesus responds categorically: “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mk 7:15, 21-22).

In what, then, does the happiness born of a pure heart consist? From Jesus’ list of the evils which make someone impure, we see that the question has to do above all with the area of our relationships. Each one of us must learn to discern what can “defile” his or her heart and to form his or her conscience rightly and sensibly, so as to be capable of “discerning the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). We need to show a healthy concern for creation, for the purity of our air, water and food, but how much more do we need to protect the purity of what is most precious of all: our heart and our relationships. This “human ecology” will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beauty, from true love, and from holiness.

Once I asked you the question: “Where is your treasure? In what does your heart find its rest?” (cf. Interview with Young People from Belgium, 31 March 2014). Our hearts can be attached to true or false treasures, they can find genuine rest or they can simply slumber, becoming lazy and lethargic. The greatest good we can have in life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Do you realize how much you are worth in the eyes of God? Do you know that you are loved and welcomed by him unconditionally, as indeed you are? Once we lose our sense of this, we human beings become an incomprehensible enigma, for it is the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives. Do you remember the conversation that Jesus had with the rich young man (cf. Mk 10:17-22)? The evangelist Mark observes that the Lord looked upon him and loved him (v. 21), and invited him to follow him and thus to find true riches. I hope, dear young friends, that this loving gaze of Christ will accompany each of you throughout life.

Youth is a time of life when your desire for a love which is genuine, beautiful and expansive begins to blossom in your hearts. How powerful is this ability to love and to be loved! Do not let this precious treasure be debased, destroyed or spoiled. That is what happens when we start to use our neighbours for our own selfish ends, even as objects of pleasure. Hearts are broken and sadness follows upon these negative experiences. I urge you: Do not be afraid of true love, the love that Jesus teaches us and which Saint Paul describes as “patient and kind”. Paul says: “Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-8).

In encouraging you to rediscover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone, deprived of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility. Dear young friends, “in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage to ‘swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy” (Meeting with the Volunteers of the XXVIII Word Youth Day, 28 July 2013).

You young people are brave adventurers! If you allow yourselves to discover the rich teachings of the Church on love, you will discover that Christianity does not consist of a series of prohibitions which stifle our desire for happiness, but rather a project for life capable of captivating our hearts.

3. …for they shall see God

In the heart of each man and woman, the Lord’s invitation constantly resounds: “Seek my face!” (Ps 27:8). At the same time, we must always realize that we are poor sinners. For example, we read in the Book of Psalms: “Who can climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24:3-4). But we must never be afraid or discouraged: throughout the Bible and in the history of each one of us we see that it is always God who takes the first step. He purifies us so that we can come into his presence.

When the prophet Isaiah heard the Lord’s call to speak in his name, he was terrified and said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Is 6:5). And yet the Lord purified him, sending to him an angel who touched his lips, saying: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven” (v. 7). In the New Testament, when on the shores of lake Genessaret Jesus called his first disciples and performed the sign of the miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter fell at his feet, exclaiming: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Jesus’ reply was immediate: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be fishers of men” (v. 10). And when one of the disciples of Jesus asked him: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”, the Master replied: “He who has seen me has seen the Father (Jn 14:8-9).

The Lord’s invitation to encounter him is made to each of you, in whatever place or situation you find yourself. It suffices to have the desire for “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter you; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 3). We are all sinners, needing to be purified by the Lord. But it is enough to take a small step towards Jesus to realize that he awaits us always with open arms, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation, a privileged opportunity to encounter that divine mercy which purifies us and renews our hearts.

Dear young people, the Lord wants to meet us, to let himself “be seen” by us. “And how?”, you might ask me. Saint Teresa of Avila, born in Spain five hundred years ago, even as a young girl, said to her parents, “I want to see God”. She subsequently discovered the way of prayer as “an intimate friendship with the One who makes us feel loved” (Autobiography, 8,5). So my question to you is this: “Are you praying?” Do you know that you can speak with Jesus, with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, as you speak to a friend? And not just any friend, but the greatest and most trusted of your friends! You will discover what one of his parishioners told the Curé of Ars: “When I pray before the tabernacle, ‘I look at him, and he looks at me’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2715).

Once again I invite you to encounter the Lord by frequently reading sacred Scripture. If you are not already in the habit of doing so, begin with the Gospels. Read a line or two each day. Let God’s word speak to your heart and enlighten your path (cf. Ps119:105). You will discover that God can be “seen” also in the face of your brothers and sisters, especially those who are most forgotten: the poor, the hungry, those who thirst, strangers, the sick, those imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Have you ever had this experience? Dear young people, in order to enter into the logic of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must recognize that we are poor with the poor. A pure heart is necessarily one which has been stripped bare, a heart that knows how to bend down and share its life with those most in need.

Encountering God in prayer, the reading of the Bible and in the fraternal life will help you better to know the Lord and yourselves. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35), the Lord’s voice will make your hearts burn within you. He will open your eyes to recognize his presence and to discover the loving plan he has for your life.

Some of you feel, or will soon feel, the Lord’s call to married life, to forming a family. Many people today think that this vocation is “outdated”, but that is not true! For this very reason, the ecclesial community has been engaged in a special period of reflection on the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world. I also ask you to consider whether you are being called to the consecrated life or the priesthood. How beautiful it is to see young people who embrace the call to dedicate themselves fully to Christ and to the service of his Church! Challenge yourselves, and with a pure heart do not be afraid of what God is asking of you! From your “yes” to the Lord’s call, you will become new seeds of hope in the Church and in society. Never forget: God’s will is our happiness!

4. On the way to Krakow

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Dear young men and women, as you see, this beatitude speaks directly to your lives and is a guarantee of your happiness. So once more I urge you: Have the courage to be happy!

This year’s World Youth Day begins the final stage of preparations for the great gathering of young people from around the world in Krakow in 2016. Thirty years ago Saint John Paul II instituted World Youth Days in the Church. This pilgrimage of young people from every continent under the guidance of the Successor of Peter has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative. Together let us thank the Lord for the precious fruits which these World Youth Days have produced in the lives of countless young people in every part of the globe! How many amazing discoveries have been made, especially the discovery that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life! How many people have realized that the Church is a big and welcoming family! How many conversions, how many vocations have these gatherings produced! May the saintly Pope, the Patron of World Youth Day, intercede on behalf of our pilgrimage toward his beloved Krakow. And may the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, all-beautiful and all-pure, accompany us at every step along the way.

From the Vatican, 31 January 2015
Memorial of Saint John Bosco

Possible Beatification of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI

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Upon receiving dozens of requests yesterday for confirmation of the details about Pope Paul VI’s imminent beatification, at the conclusion of October’s Synod of Bishops, it is important to remember that before speaking or writing authoritatively of approval of a miracle or an established date for the ceremony, the Congregation of Saints must meet, approve the findings of a miracle and then the Prefect of the Congregation would present them to Pope Francis for his final approval and signature.  This has not yet been done.  Therefore it is best to wait for the decree before announcing and writing about the date of his beatification.

In the meantime, numerous individuals and news agencies asked me to provide a   It may be helpful to you.

The Servant of God Pope Paul VI (1963-1978)

Pope Paul VI was born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini on September 26th 1897. He was the Pope from June 21st 1963 to his death on the 6th of August 1978. Cardinal Montini, upon his election to the papacy, took the name Paul VI to indicate a renewed worldwide mission to spread the message of Christ. He re-convoked the Second Vatican Council, which was automatically suspended with the death of John XXIII, and gave it priority and direction. In his first Papal address he committed himself to a continuation of the work begun by John XXIII with the opening of the Second Vatican Council. On September 14th 1965 he announced the establishment of the Synod of Bishops called for by the Council fathers. He was one of the most traveled popes in history and the first to visit five continents.

Before his pontificate Montini served in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State from 1922 to 1954. During World War II Montini was responsible for organizing the extensive relief work and the care of political refugees.

In 1954, Pius XII named him Archbishop of Milan, the largest Italian diocese. Montini took possession of his new see on January 5th 1955 and soon made himself known as the “archbishop of the workers.” He revitalized the entire diocese, preached the social message of the Gospel, worked to win back the laboring class, promoted Catholic education at every level, and supported the Catholic press. His impact upon the city at this time was so great that it attracted world-wide attention. At Pope John’s first consistory Archbishop Montini was one of 23 prelates raised to the cardinalate. His response to the call for a Council was immediate and even before it met he was identified as a strong advocate of collegiality.

To those who knew him best, Paul VI was described as a brilliant man, deeply spiritual, humble, reserved and gentle, a man of “infinite courtesy.”  He is noted for his rigorous reform of the Roman curia, his well-received address to the UN in 1965, his encyclical Populorum progressio (1967), his second great social letter Octogesima adveniens (1971)—the first to show an awareness of many problems that have only recently been brought to light—and his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, his last major pronouncement which also touched on the central question of the just conception of liberation and salvation.

Paul VI sought dialogue with the world, with other Christians, other religions, and atheists. He saw himself as a humble servant and demanded significant changes in favor of the poor. After a period of ill health Paul VI died on August 6th 1978. In 1993 the cause for Paul VI’s canonization was started and as of December 2013, Vatican officials stated that a miracle attributed to the intercession of Paul VI was “medically unexplainable” and once confirmed, Venerable Paul VI would be called “Blessed”.

If in fact Pope Paul VI is proclaimed Blessed in the near future, he would become the tenth Roman Pontiff who has the title “Blessed”.  At present the others are:

1. Blessed Victor III

2. Blessed Urban II

3. Blessed Eugene III

4. Blessed Gregory X

5. Blessed Innocent V

6. Blessed Benedict XI

7. Blessed Urban V

8. Blessed Innocent XI

9. Blessed Pius IX

Brother André: Montreal’s Porter and Heaven’s Gatekeeper – A Reflection on St. André of Montreal

Among those canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at the Vatican was Canadian Brother André Bessette, of the Congregation of Holy Cross.  For nearly 40 years Brother André worked as a porter at the College of Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur in the Montreal neighborhood of Côtes-des-Neiges.  Speaking about his assignment as doorman, he once quipped, “When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door.”

As porter of the College, Brother André lived in a small room located near the main entrance that also served as his office.  He urged people who came to him to pray with confidence and perseverance, while remaining open to God’s will. He admonished people to begin their path to healing through commitments to faith and humility, through confession and a return to the sacraments. He encouraged the sick to seek a doctor’s care. He saw value in suffering that is joined to the sufferings of Christ. He allowed himself to be fully present to the sadness of others but always retained a joyful nature and good humor. At times he was seen weeping along with his visitors as they recounted to him their sorrows and difficulties.  Word spread quickly when many of those with whom he prayed were healed. As Brother André was becoming known as a miracle worker, he insisted all the more, “I am nothing…only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph.”
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“What John Paul II asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do” – Full text of beatification homily

The following is the full text of the homily of Pope Benedict XVI, preached today at the Mass of Beatification of John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square.

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Beatification of Pope John Paul II
Sunday, 1 May 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor’s entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering. Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!

I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you who on this happy occasion have come in such great numbers to Rome from all over the world – cardinals, bishops and priests, official delegations, ambassadors and civil authorities, consecrated men and women and lay faithful, and I extend that greeting to all those who join us by radio and television.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.

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Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin: A Canadian Witness for Holy Week

In 1858, four Sisters of St. Ann traveled from Montreal to Canada’s West Coast aboard the SS Seabird with Victoria’s first Bishop, Modeste Demers (a relative of their current Bishop!).  They made the two-month voyage via a circuitous route through the Isthmus of Panama. Their goal was to aid the Bishop in his mission to the local Aboriginals, and so they began in earnest their work of providing them education and health care.   In 1871 a large brick building, St. Ann’s Academy, was erected and in 1876 Saint Joseph’s Hospital was finished.   In 1941, Mount Saint Mary’s extended care facility was constructed as an extension to Saint Joseph’s Hospital.  It was there in 2005, while studying at the University of Victoria, that I first met the Sisters of St. Ann.

Today, April 18th, is the feast of Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin.  She was born Esther Blondin in Terrebonne, Quebec on April 18th, 1809. Raised in a devout farming family, she learned piety from her mother and unwavering patience in the midst of suffering from her father.  Nineteenth century colonial America was simply about survival and so education usually fell by the wayside.  For Esther it was no different, for at 22 she couldn’t read or write.

After briefly working as a domestic in the Convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame, she entered as a novice, however ill health forced her to leave.  At the age of 24 Esther became a teacher in the hopes of helping other children acquire the education they deserve.  The only problem was that, at the time, the Church required separate schools for boys and girls and, unfortunately, many parish communities could not afford two schools. So in many cases no schools were built.

At 48, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Esther brought before her Bishop a plan to found a religious community dedicated to the education of poor children, solving the issue of running two schools by simply having boys and girls together in one school.  Her Bishop agreed, and on September 8th, 1850, the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Ann was formed.

Esther, now Mother Marie-Anne, became the first superior of her fledgling community.  God blessed the community with vocations and soon it became apparent that they would need to expand into another motherhouse.  It was at this time that the new chaplain of the community, Fr. Marechal, began taking over control of the sisters’ affairs.  Difficulties between Fr. Marechal and Blessed Marie-Anne led the Bishop to ask for her resignation and her promise not to accept the nomination if re-elected as Superior.  From this point on, and until her death in 1890, Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin lived a life of persecution, forced to perform the most menial tasks in her community and kept out of all administration.  Her sisters were not even able to acknowledge her as their spiritual mother despite several attempts to re-elect her as their Superior!

The paradox of Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin’s life is that despite the best efforts of her chaplain and Bishop, she became more useful to the growth of her community. By consciously suffering injustices in reparation for her sins and the sins of her community, she ensured the blessings of God.  Her example becomes all the more poignant during Holy Week, for Jesus himself suffered the most injustices and insults.  Yet God in his eternal wisdom gives some of us the blessing of suffering for his sake.  For St. Paul says in 1 Col 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.”  During this Holy Week, we would do well to contemplate more deeply Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin’s life and her witness of humble service.

Charter for Christian Living and Recipe for Extreme Holiness — A Biblical Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

As the Church continues her pilgrim journey throughout history, we need a vision to sustain us and give us hope in the midst of our shadows, ambiguities and sins, our joys and hopes and victories.  That biblical vision is found in the great Christian charter in today’s Gospel passage.  Today’s Gospel often called “the Sermon on the Mount” [Mt 5:1-12a] is the first of the five discourses [5:1-7:29] that are a central part of the structure of Matthew’s Gospel.  The Lucan parallel is the “Sermon on the Plain” [Luke 6:20-49], although some of the sayings in Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” have their parallels in other parts of Luke.

The careful topical arrangement of the sermon is probably not due only to Matthew’s editing; he seems to have had a structured discourse of Jesus as one of his sources. The form of that source may have been as follows: four beatitudes [Matthew 5:3-4, 6, 11-12], a section on the new righteousness with illustrations [5:17, 20-24, 27-28, 33-48], a section on good works, [6:1-6, 16-18], and three warnings [7:1-2, 15-21, 24-27].  Unlike Luke’s sermon, Matthew’s text is addressed not only to the disciples but to the crowds.

The formulation “Blessed are (is)” used in today’s Gospel passage occurs frequently in the Old Testament in the Wisdom literature and in the psalms. Although modified by Matthew, the first, second, fourth, and ninth beatitudes have Lucan parallels (Matthew 5:3; Luke 6:20; Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:21, 22; Matthew 5:6; Luke 6:21a; Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 5:22-23). The others were added by the evangelist and are probably his own composition.

The meaning of the beatitudes

The beatitudes are the great charter for Christian living.  They reveal God’s ultimate justice and outline Jesus’ prophetic outreach to those who live on the fringes of society.  So many people– the sick, the lame, the poor and the hungry converge on Jesus on that Galilean hillside.  In this awesome biblical scene overlooking the Sea, Jesus puts biblical justice into practice by proclaiming the beatitudes.  Authentic justice is a bonding of one’s self with the sick, the disabled, the poor and the hungry.  The crowds that listened to Jesus were awestruck because he spoke with authority, with the force of someone who knew the truth and offered it freely to others.  He was a teacher like no other.

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Message on the Beatification of the Venerable Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, by Fr. Thomas Rosica

Dear Friends of Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network,

I am presently attending the World Youth Day 2011 International Preparatory Meeting of the Episcopal Conferences of the World, leaders of International Youth Movements, and the Spanish National Team for World Youth Day 2011, taking place in the Royal Monastery of El Escorial in the mountains outside of Madrid in Spain.  The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops asked me to represent them at this international gathering of Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious and several hundred youth leaders from every corner of the globe.

Today, shortly after noon, the meetings were interrupted and Cardinal Stanislas Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity at the Vatican, announced to the large assembly that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the miracle attributed to the Venerable Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, thus clearing the way for his Beatification.  Cardinal Rylko then announced that Pope Benedict, himself, will formally proclaim Pope John Paul II “Blessed” on Sunday, May 1, 2011 during a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

This year, May 1 happens to be the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday.  Nor is it a coincidence that May 1, known as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker in the Catholic Church, is also known as “May Day” on secular calendars.  Communists and Socialists around the world commemorate May Day with marches, speeches, and festivals.  How fitting that in addition to being Divine Mercy Sunday this year, the man who was a unique instrument and messenger in bringing down the Iron Curtain and the deadly reign of Communism and godlessness, will be declared “Blessed” on May 1.

The news of Pope John Paul II’s imminent beatification was fitting in this assembly of youth leaders and shepherds who oversee pastoral ministry to young people throughout the world.  Following Cardinal Rylko’s announcement, Bishop César Franco, head of World Youth Day in Madrid announced that one of the principal patrons of World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid would be Blessed John Paul II.  A thunderous, sustained, standing ovation followed the announcement.  Many sitting near me in the large meeting room in Spain’s “El Escorial” Monastery were weeping openly upon hearing this news.

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On S+L Saturday: Beatification of Chiara Luce Badano

In her short time on earth Chiara Badano lived a life of great love and holiness.  Chiara’s story cannot help but touch all who hear it. Salt + Light is bringing you the next chapter in Chiara’s story. Tomorrow, Saturday September 25th, Chiara Luce Badano will be named Blessed.  Her beatification marks the first for the Focolare Catholic Lay Movement to which she belonged.

BADANO-BEATIFYChiara is a shining reminder that Saints do exist in modern day. Her story begins with her birth in the town of Sassello, Italy. Her parents had tried to conceive for 11 years before they were blessed with their new baby girl. She is described by those who knew her as an abundantly kind and giving person with a deep devotion to Jesus. She joined the Focolare Movement in her teens. The founder of the movement, Chiara Lubich, gave her the nickname Chiara ‘Luce’ meaning light. She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 17.  She accepted her illness with grace saying that if this is what Jesus wanted, then she wanted it too. She died in 1990 at the age of 19. Her cause for sainthood began in 1999. Now just 20 years after her death, Chiara Luce Badano will be declared Blessed.

Salt + Light is proud to bring you the events of the day live from Rome, starting with Chiara Luce Badano’s Beatification Mass at Castel Leva, Rome at 10 am ET/7 am PT.  Later on in the day we’re airing live from Rome at 3pm ET/12:00pm PT a two hour program celebrating her beatification.

Be a part of this next chapter in Chiara’s Legacy. Share in this special occasion for the Focolare movement and young Catholics everywhere.

Photo: CNS

Cardinal Newman, Undefined

Who really is Cardinal John Henry Newman? Back when I was a student involved in the Newman Centre at Queen’s University, I confess that I knew nothing about the life and works of the centre’s namesake. Now, having spent the past few weeks researching him for Catholic Focus, I’ve learned that it’s not an easy question.

Cardinal John Henry NewmanThose who try to keep up with Catholic opinion must feel besieged by the dozens of commentaries about Newman. The heavyweight authors include Conrad Black, who, like Newman, was a convert to the Catholic faith. Black’s hagiography elevates Newman to the “exalted realm of Shakespeare and Churchill”. (While he’s at it, he pens glowing praise for Pope Benedict XVI, ranking him as “one of the greatest intellects who has held that office in several centuries.”)

Then just today, the semi-official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published a tribute by Tony Blair—yet another convert. The former British Prime Minister credits Newman for the concept of the development of doctrine. Moreover, he even attributes to him the concept of development itself, reasoning that “We probably would not be using the terms ‘Millennium Development Goals’ or ‘international development’ today if he had not first used the word in his theology.”

Blair maintains that Newman “was, and is, a Doctor of the Church,” adding that “there is still time to proclaim him as such.”

A consensus has emerged that Newman truly is Blessed, as he will be proclaimed in Birmingham, England this Sunday. Yet so much ink has been spilt on the question of whether Newman’s legacy belongs to the Church’s traditionalists or its reformers. Pundits from both camps find evidence to claim him as one of their own. Instead of enjoying Newman’s broad appeal, the ideologues will spoil their weekend, fuming over the thought of their opponents applauding the beatification.

The rest of us can simply rejoice. And in the mean time, we can learn more about the only person that Benedict XVI has chosen to personally beatify.

On tonight’s Catholic Focus, we meet a priest who likely knows more about Newman than most of the commentators combined. As the superior of Toronto’s Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Fr. Jonathon Robinson belongs to the same congregation as Cardinal Newman. He was involved in the launch of Newman’s cause for sainthood in 1958.

Catholic Focus airs tonight at 7 & 11 pm, repeating Saturday at the same times. S+L will broadcast Cardinal Newman’s beatification Mass live this Sunday at 5 am (all times Eastern).